Unplug and embrace the wild amid these spectacular local black spots. Embark on a digital detox and embrace the wildest parts of Australia.
There are few things more liberating than accepting you’re out of range for mobile reception. Once your devices are rendered useless, you’re free to enjoy your surrounds without the constant connectivity that can sometimes stifle your everyday existence. Whether it’s a national park that doesn’t support your smartphone habits or a retreat that’s left Wi-Fi off the list of inclusions, here are Australia’s best digital detox destinations.
While it’s possible to catch a phone signal inside three Kakadu locations (Jabiru, Cooinda Lodge Kakadu, and Bowali Vistor Centre), the rest of this Switzerland-sized national park is a mobile reception black spot – one that allows you to turn your eyes to the expansive black sky above, plus its accompanying concert of stars. To breathe in an Arnhem Land sunset near the rock art sites at Ubirr in the northern part of the park is to fall deep under nature’s spell.
Trek the 12-kilometre Barkk walk at Nourlangie Rock and you will see ancient rock art depicting everything from spirits and animals to ships and people. You should also make time for a sunrise cruise along Yellow Water Billabong – wetlands patrolled by black cockatoos, sea eagles, crocodiles, and barramundi. Set up camp at Gunlom Falls, to render your phone useless, and trek the one-kilometre walk to the top of the falls to gaze out at the lush plains below. While you’re based in the southern section of the park, visit other emerald-hued waterfall havens, such as Maguk and Jim Jim Falls.
Ubirr Sunset, Kakadu National Park.
Hinchinbrook Island’s much-lauded Thorsborne Trail is a 32-kilometre sash of beaches, rainforests, and mountaintops with wonderfully sketchy mobile reception. Located just shy of Townsville, this island environment is so remarkable and singular, in fact, that to keep it protected, no one is permitted to live here. And in fact just 40 people can explore walk or kayak the island at any one time – leaving plenty of play space for resident dingos, dugongs, and dolphins. Swap your walking boots for a snorkel if diving is more your style. Hinchinbrook Island’s surrounding waters (which sit within the Great Barrier Reef catchment area) are home to several shipwrecks, including sailing ship, the Belle. Within no time, connectivity will be a distant memory.
The view from the top of Zoe Falls, Hinchinbrook Island.
Only pockets of mobile reception exist on the wild west coast of Tassie, and it drops away completely once you enter the World Heritage-listed Franklin-Gordon Wild Rivers National Park. As well as Aboriginal and convict sites, the region’s dense parkland is blanketed in ancient, cool-climate forest – including 3000-year-old Huon pines and mountain formations cast from former glaciers. Raft or canoe the Franklin and Gordon Rivers in summer, or take a cruise departing from Strahan. Nearby digital black spots include Macquarie Heads, 30 minutes from the quaint seaside town of Strahan, and Trial Harbour, a former mining town set beneath a backdrop of rugged mountains. If you’re partial to surfing or a spot of fishing, the latter is a great spot for catching waves (albeit in a wetsuit) and casting a line.
Nelson Falls in Franklin-Gordon Wild Rivers National Park.
4. MacDonnell Ranges, Tjorta National Park, Central Australia
The MacDonnell Ranges beyond Alice Springs are mobile reception-free, yet based a mere 100 kilometers away from urban living, which means you have quick access to good coffee, sourdough, and lively bars. Hire a car, wind down the windows, and drink in the painterly landscapes of Central Australia as you travel out of town. Make your first stop at Ellery Creek Big Hole for a waterhole swim beneath red cliffs, then travel on to the Aboriginal-run Standley Chasm before heading deeper into the outback. Glen Helen Resort offers a great base for exploring the Finke River. At nearby Ormiston Gorge, the four-hour Pound Walk is an achingly pretty trail that lets you soak up vistas of ghost gum-lined creek beds and sprawling valleys – and do so under the watchful gaze of soaring sulphur-crested cockatoos.
Settling in for the evening; Charlie’s Camp, Larapinta Trails (photo: Graham Freeman).
Two ancient, erupting volcanoes triggered the geological majesty of modern-day Lamington National Park. It’s home to Queensland’s section of the Gondwana Rainforest – the world’s most extensive subtropical rainforest. Cascading waterfalls, sprawling views, and dense bushland all form part of the quilt work. So, too, does a cast of rare, endangered, and eye-catching fauna – like the red-backed fairy red and crimson rosella. Indulge in overnight, unplugged forest bathing here by glamping at Nightfall Wilderness Camp. This rustic safari-style stay sits beside the headwaters of Christmas Creek and allows just six guests at any one time.
Sunshine in the Lamington National Park.
Read up on our outback safety tips for those travellers heading out of range.
Book a ‘power down’ package at a QT Hotel near you. Under the package rules, devices must be handed to reception staff for a 12-hour block between 7 pm and 7 am; you’re given access to a wellness coach; and a menu of nourishing, healthy foods is also part of the deal – as is a small bounty of indulgent gifts, such as bath soaks and yoga mats.