Australia’s past might be behind us, but its fascinating remnants are still scattered across the nation. From ominous old prisons to mighty stone forts, there are all kinds of historical attractions here that make for brilliant road trip itinerary ideas.
So what are you waiting for? Pick up your Australian rental car and check out these exciting places.
Hahndorf, South Australia
Nestled in the Adelaide Hills, just outside the South Australian capital, Hahndorf is the oldest surviving German settlement in the country, according to its website. In fact, the place just recently enjoyed its 175th birthday!
There are numerous cafes, restaurants and pubs here, in addition to a raft of charming galleries and heritage buildings.
Royal Exhibition Building, Melbourne
North of Melbourne’s buzzing CBD, you’ll find the centuries-old Royal Exhibition Building, built back in 1880. This fantastic example of how wealthy Melbourne was in the late 19th century has been carefully restored, and now regularly hosts world-class events and trade shows. If you’d like to see inside, but aren’t driving past in time to visit an event, book a guided tour via the neighbouring Melbourne Museum.
National Museum of Australia, Canberra
Arguably the most esteemed historical attraction in Oz, the National Museum of Australia is located outside Canberra’s CBD. Here you’ll find an insightful blend of modern, colonial and Aboriginal history, as the museum has a collection of over 200,000 items (though only 2 per cent of which are ever on show, according to its website). If you’re not learning about Australia’s participation in both World War I and World War II here, you’ll likely be viewing unique indigenous artwork, reading stories of the early settlers or perusing plenty of other exhibitions.
Sydney Harbour Bridge, Sydney
Sydney Harbour Bridge is one of the most easily recognisable landmarks of the city, standing 134 metres above the water, according to the Australian government. It took 1,400 men, 53,000 tonnes of steel and 6 million hand-driven rivets to build, being officially opened back in 1932. Don’t just drive over the ‘Coathanger’ as locals know it, but instead opt for a more hands-on experience.
With BridgeClimb Sydney, you’ll be taken on a guided walking tour along the narrow walkways atop this structure to get a spectacular panoramic view at its peak. This all accompanied by stories of the bridge, recited by friendly Climb Leaders.
Fort Scratchley, Newcastle
Be sure you travel north of Sydney to the city of Newcastle to visit the nearly 200-year-old Fort Scratchley. This defiant stone structure was commissioned to defend the coastline in case of attack, and was first known as Fort Battlesticks. Afterward, the local military continued to be wary of attack, so built a more permanent structure: Scratchley.
A guided tour of the fort will take you along the tops of the concrete walls, then weave its way down into the tunnels beneath the earth. As the guide tells you of this place’s interesting past, you’ll also be able to catch stellar views of Nobbys Beach below.
Maitland Gaol, East Maitland
Just 40 or so minutes up the road is your next road trip destination: Maitland Gaol, in the northern part of East Maitland. This eerie building was a functioning prison for 150 years, opening in 1848 and closing as recently as 1998. According to the building’s site, the way you see it now is exactly how it was left when the doors closed that fated last time. If you don’t want to go on a guided tour here with a small group and a friendly local, book a self-guided variant so you can walk at your own pace.