Have you ever wondered which Aussie towns are considered the best for tourism? Well, the results are in and it’s a very impressive lineup.
It’s no secret that Australia is home to some of the most beautiful towns the world over. We should know, we counted 100 of them. We’re not the only ones with a vested interest, however. Recently, some of our finest regional jaunts (with a population over 5,000) competed for the honour of being named Australia’s Top Tourism Town. The winners were announced by the Hon. Dan Tehan, Minister for Trade, Tourism, and Investment on October 28. Here are the Aussie towns that made the list.
Top Tourism Town for 2021
Mudgee wins the gold award
Romance on steroids, accommodation to die for, one of the best food and wine scenes in the country, Mudgee practically has it all.
The historical hub is located 268 kilometres northwest of Sydney, approximately three-and-a-half hour’s drive and is arguably the perfect distance for a short weekend road trip along the scenic Great Western Highway. While you’re there, you’ll find plenty to see and do; from enchanting nature experiences, a cultural hub of activities and plenty of memorable eats. Clearly a gold-winning combination.
Unmissable highlights: A cycling tour through the wineries, Drip Gorge, The Little Cooking School and a stay at Glenayr Farm.
Mudgee is the perfect setting for a romantic weekend escape. (Image: DNSW)
Noosa wins the silver award
We aren’t surprised to see Noosa take out second place. This coastal oasis has been luring travellers to its sun-drenched shores for decades.
It isn’t just about its pristine beaches (although it has a few of those too), this beautiful coastal break has a national park and lush countryside to explore, a cosmopolitan lifestyle and a climate that invites year-round swimming.
While you’re there, indulge in the region’s endless offering of outdoor adventure, delicious food and dining scene, creative community, fabulous shopping, and family-friendly activities, which all add up to an unforgettable holiday escape.
Unmissable highlights: Strolling along the Coastal Walk in Noosa National Park, shopping on Hastings St, the Noosa Food and Wine Festival and the famous farmers’ markets.
Hit the waves in Noosa.
New Norfolk wins the bronze award
New Norfolk is a charming town situated on the River Derwent, just 38 kilometres (or just over half an hour drive) north-west of Hobart. With a population of just 5,432, it wouldn’t surprise us if you’ve never heard of this historical gem.
New Norfolk is the third oldest settlement in Tasmania. It was established by prisoners from Norfolk Island (hence the name) after the gaol was abandoned in 1807. A short break here now rewards with plenty of character, alongside bouts of heritage architecture and antique stores – a special mention goes to The Drill Hall Emporium and Flywheel.
Unmissable highlights: A stay at The Woodbridge, The Kiosk at The Agrarian Kitchen, the River Derwent and the Willow Court Barracks (Australia’s first purpose-built mental asylum), which operated continuously for more than 170 years and pre-dates Port Arthur Historic Site.
New Norfolk landscapes could feasibly pass for the countryside of England. (Image: Stu Gibson)
Finalists for Top Tourism Town
The first honourable mention went to Ballarat – a Victorian city with a vibrant gold rush heritage, eclectic art offering and burgeoning dining scene, on par with those more commonly found in capital cities.
The Provincial Hotel, Ballarat.
WA’s Busselton is as iconic as a postcard picture. In fact, its 30-kilometre stretch of picturesque foreshore has been snapped for countless landscape photographs, appearing in countless travel books and personal albums around the world.
Busselton is as iconic as a postcard picture.
Next was Katherine – a place often referred to as the crossroads of the north. Encircled by stunning natural wonders, Katherine also has numerous thermal pools and relaxing accommodations to make the most of its iconic outback surrounds.
Soak in Katherine Hot Springs
The Yorke Peninsula is a rugged gem of South Australia. At its end is Moonta: a once-booming copper mining town that now lures families with its waterfront splash park and homemade gelato.
The rugged gem of Moonta.
Small Tourism Town for 2021
Berrima wins the gold award
Dubbed by us as ‘the cutest village in the Southern Highlands’, Berrima has all the charm and romance that comes with being frozen in time, and it now has the honour of being named Small Tourism Town of 2021 (in the population under 5,000 category).
Only 125 kilometres southwest of Sydney, Australia’s oldest Georgian village springs to life on weekends when Sydneysiders and visitors from further afield flock here to shop the boutique stores, enjoy picnics on the village green and score a table for cake and coffee at one of the many cafes.
Unmissable highlights: Tractorless Vineyard, the Surveyor General Inn (which continues to serve up some wicked pub grub and is said to be the oldest continually operating hotel in Australia) and Berkelouw’s Book Barn Bookshop & Cafe on Bendooley Estate.
Stop to admire the Georgian architecture of Berrima. (Image: DNSW)
Port Fairy wins the silver award
This jewel of the Great Ocean Road was voted the most liveable town in the world in 2012, so the inclusion of Port Fairy should come as no real surprise.
More than 50 historic buildings line the town’s wide streets, from whitewashed whalers’ and sealers’ cottages to colonial merchants’ homes and grand public buildings. Nearby, the 1856 Griffith Island Lighthouse that has faithfully guided ships safely to port since 1859 and still towers with its white and red solid stature.
Unmissable highlights: Griffith Island Lighthouse Walk, the Port Fairy Folk Festival, Merrijig Inn and the Stitched Textile Studio.
Find the pretty fishing village of Port Fairy at the end of the Great Ocean Road in Victoria.
Stanley wins the bronze award
The gem in the underrated northwestern coast of Tasmania, Stanley is a simple fishing village that boasts plenty of regional hospitality.
Settled in 1826 by employees of the Van Diemen’s Land Company, the simple town is chock full of heritage buildings and cutesy cottages. Almost every building is a B&B, the most prolific is the Ship Inn, which is also one of our 100 Unique Stays in Australia in the Unique Boutique Accommodation category.
Unmissable highlights: The Nut Chair Lift, The Speckled Hen Café, Cow n Calf Art Gallery and Touchwood Gallery.
Discover the secrets of Stanley, Tasmania.
Finalists for Small Tourism Town
Queensland’s tiny town of Agnes Waters was the first honourable mention. There are coastal rainforests and national parks to explore, uncrowded surf breaks, fishing, diving and abundant wildlife, and the sunsets are the stuff of legend; it is one of the few places on the east coast where you can watch the sun sink over the water.
Aerial of Agnes Inlet.
Next, choose your own adventure in Dwellingup: the adventurous heavy-hitter just 100 kilometres south of Perth. There are bubbling rivers, invigorating swimming holes, farm gate producers and spectacular national parks to explore.
And lastly; nestled between Melbourne and Adelaide on the Limestone Coast in South Australia, the tiny town of Robe (population: roughly 1,500) has long been considered one of our most beautiful historic jaunts.
Find the iconic Cape Dombey Obelisk in Robe. (Image: Elliot Grafton)