After you’ve been affronted with your fifth Starbucks or McDonald’s franchise on holiday, you’d be forgiven for craving something unique. Fortunately, Australia and New Zealand are bursting with truly original destinations guaranteed to leave their own mark.
Coober Pedy, SA
Coober Pedy is a surreal outback town halfway between Adelaide and Alice Springs. One of the strangest things about this town is where the residents live – because of the intense heat, there are hundreds of ‘dug-out’ houses, where most people hide from the sun. Many shops, malls and churches are also hidden, creating an amazing underground world.
The Coober Pedy Golf Course is easily one of the strangest golf courses in the world. Players are obliged to carry around a patch of artificial turf with them because it is set on brown dirt instead of lush green hills. Many of the players play at night with glow-in-the-dark golf balls.
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Nestled in the sub-tropical foothills of the eastern edge of an extinct volcano in Northern NSW lies Nimbin, commonly referred to as the Alternative Capital of Australia. This wacky town is so wary of capitalism that it has a local currency called Nimlets, and even encourages its inhabitants to barter rather than buy local produce.
Many residents live in rural communes, grow their own food, build their own houses, use natural energy and the atmosphere is so laid back that you’d be mistaken for thinking you’ve wound up at a bizarre reincarnation of Woodstock. Groovy!
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Silverton is as out-there as you can get. Half an hour’s drive into barren outback from Broken Hill is this little town with eccentric locals, a few camels and a donkey.
Most people know Silverton as a set for scenes in Mad Max II, Mission Impossible II and The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. Out front of ‘the local’, aka the Silverton Hotel, there’s a replica of Mad Max’s classic black interceptor. Stop by for a schooner and check out the history on the walls – photos and signatures from all the actors and other interesting people who have stopped by here.
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Smack bang on the NSW and Victorian border, Mildura can lay claim to being in both states. Add to this the fact that Mildura’s biggest claim to fame is that 95 percent of Australia’s dried fruit is produced there, and one of the town’s major exhibits is Big Lizzie – a 45-tonne tractor that took two years to be driven from Melbourne to Mildura – and you have an interesting town on your hands.
Mildura has an event list that is longer than your lounge room. One of the hottest tickets of the year is the Mildura Jazz, Food and Wine Festival which takes place in October / November.
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Dunedin, New Zealand
Dunedin is New Zealand’s oldest university city and is thus referred to as the country’s foremost centre of learning, but you only need to scrape its scholarly surface to discover a plethora of off-the-wall attractions.
Witness the hilarity of the annual Perfect Woman contest where women complete arduous challenges such as changing tyres, cracking open a bottle of local ale without using an opener and shearing sheep. Try the annual nude rugby international tournament or hurtle 30,000 Jaffas down the world’s steepest street at Dunedin’s Cadbury Chocolate Carnival.
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