By Andrea Beattie
There are literally hundreds of iconic movie locations across Australia that feature in both home-grown and international films — and it isn’t hard to see why. Our landscape offers a plethora of jaw-dropping backdrops: from cityscapes, towering rainforests, and crystal clear tropical waters to sunburnt, arid plains.
Classic Aussie films have successfully showcased the diverse beauty of Australia to international audiences and do a much better job than most tourism campaigns!
This cool list of film locations will offer some inspo for your next road trip. We have also included some of the best parks or free camping spots nearby as well a few other must-see local attractions to put on your to-do list.
Kakadu National Park, NT; and McKinlay, Qld
Films don’t get much more Aussie than Crocodile Dundee. The 1986 box office classic starring quintessential larrikin Paul Hogan and Linda Kozlowski showed the world what we already knew — the Australian outback is home to some of the world’s most breathtaking spots. Oh, and that the Aussie sense of humour can be as dry as the Simpson Desert.
The film centres on croc hunter and local legend Mick Dundee (Hogan), whose antics lure New York City reporter Sue Charlton (Kozlowski) to his tiny town of Walkabout Creek. Created to lure more visitors to Australia, Crocodile Dundee did exactly that, and its filming locations still draw visitors from all over the world. Most are remote but still accessible for caravanners.
The majority of Aussie scenes were filmed in the gorgeous Kakadu National Park, namely Gunlom Plunge Pool, expected to reopen in May after seasonal closure. The picturesque waterfall and serene plunge pool has a cameo during a barramundi fishing scene and is about 3.5 hours east of Darwin along National Highway 1 to the Kakadu Highway.
The falls’ nearby picnic areas are shaded by tall gums, and camping is available at Gunlom Campground which has toilets and solar-powered hot showers.
Travel north-west towards Jabiru to visit Anbangbang Billabong walk, where Kozlowski showed us her bare behind in a very revealing swimsuit and was nearly dragged into the water by a hungry croc.
In the north-east pocket of the park is one of Kakadu’s most famous spots, and the location of one of the film’s most memorable scenes where Dundee stands atop the Ubirr rock outcrops gazing over the Never-Never. The breathtaking Ubirr Walk passes several incredible Indigenous art sites and leads to a stunning lookout over the Nadab floodplain. The nearby Merl Campground is perfect to enjoy a famous sunset from the top of Ubirr. From the campground, walk through rock formations down to Cahills Crossing for a bit of crocodile spotting. Further south, Anbinik Kakadu Resort has 15 peaceful campsites, each with its own toilet and shower.
Queensland also has a starring role. The Walkabout Creek Hotel, where Dundee wrestles a fake croc, is in the central Queensland town of McKinlay, population 20. Die-hard Dundee fans have been known to drive nine hours from Townsville airport just to drink a beer at its famous bar which features the original set. The hotel’s surrounds are also home to countless original film pieces, including Mick’s truck.
You can stay at the Walkabout Creek Hotel, Motel and Caravan Park which has 14 powered sites, 20 unpowered sites and showers and toilets.
The Julia Creek campground on Punchbowl Rd is also close by. It is free and has 20 sites suitable for caravans. Permits can be obtained from the visitor information centre in town. The campground has barbecues, tables and bins, but no toilets.
McKinlay attractions and campgrounds: outbackqueensland.com.au/town/mckinlay/ and atthecreek.com.au
Hobart, Mount Wellington, Marion Bay and Bruny Island, Tas
The multiple Oscar-nominated Lion showcases the beauty of various locations throughout picturesque Tasmania. Based on the true story of Saroo Brierly, who used his childhood memories and Google Maps to track down his birth parents, Tasmania is given every chance to shine in this 2016 feature film starring Nicole Kidman and Dev Patel.
Several locations around Hobart feature, including a scene with Patel and co-star Rooney Mara at kunanyi/Mt Wellington, 17km from the Hobart city centre. The gorgeous Marion Bay, 50km from Hobart, is the setting of a game of family beach cricket, and the towering cliffs of Cape Hauy in the Tasman National Park also get a look in. The park has plenty of space to climb or hike to take it all in. Lion also features North Bruny and South Bruny, tourist attractions known for a lighthouse, lookouts, boardwalks and wildlife habitats.
There’s plenty of camping options throughout Tasmania, with most featuring powered and unpowered sites as well as some free camping locations.
Tasmania locations: discovertasmania.com.au
Camping in Tasmania: hemamaps.com/plan/location-guides/best-free-camps-tasmania-east-coast
Kimberley region, WA and Bowen, Qld
If you like your movies big, bold and brash, chances are you love director Baz Luhrmann. The visionary behind Aussie hits Strictly Ballroom and Moulin Rouge may not have garnered as much acclaim with his 2008 historical romance, Australia, but it was a fine film nonetheless.
Like Crocodile Dundee, the scenery is the leading lady. Apologies to Nicole Kidman, but who can compete with the breathtaking beauty of the Kimberleys?
The film, also starring Aussie hero Hugh Jackman, is set between 1939 and 1942 against a dramatised backdrop of events across northern Australia, such as the bombing of Darwin during WWII (although those scenes were shot in the Queensland town of Bowen, better known for growing mangoes than as a Hollywood locale).
Exquisitely shot to capture the Kimberley’s beauty, the film’s Faraway Downs homestead was built close to the Ord River, near Carlton Hill Station, about 40km north-west of Kununurra. The river is great for boating, fishing, water sports and birdwatching. Stay at the pet-friendly Lakeside Resort and Caravan Park, 2km from the Kununurra town centre, offering powered and unpowered sites.
The majestic orange cliffs of the Cockburn Range featured in the film, as did the sandstone domes and cliffs of the Purnululu National Park, near Halls Creek and Wyndham. The best way to take in this scenery is by helicopter, and accommodation options in the Kimberleys region are plentiful — there’s camping at public sites Walardi and Kurrajong, or at the private campground, Bellburn. About 100km from Kununurra you’ll find private wilderness park El Questro, a massive property boasting waterfalls, majestic gorges, forests, and four different river systems.
Further north you’ll find the spectacular King George Falls which also starred. It’s best visited in April and May after good rains.
Australia’s Darwin scenes were mostly filmed in the Queensland town of Bowen, with the town’s Grand View Hotel in Herbert St renamed The Territory Hotel for the film. Take your pick of accommodation options here, from waterfront caravan and holiday parks to various free camping spots.
The Dry was filmed across more than 15 towns in rural Victoria in 2019, including Beulah, Hopetoun, Birchip and Minyip (also known as fictional The Flying Doctors’ TV town Cooper’s Crossing), about 300km north-west of Melbourne. The Dry centres on AFP officer Aaron Falk (Eric Bana), who returns to his drought-stricken hometown to investigate an apparent murder-suicide committed by a childhood friend.
While the subject matter seems bleak and the devastation of the drought on surrounding regions is as apparent on screen as it is in reality, the film is brilliant and highlights how important tourism is to small towns. In Minyip, you can take some shots of the exterior of the gorgeous old Club Hotel that features in The Dry. Sadly, it’s closed to the public now, so you’ll have to venture down Main Street for a beer at the historic Commercial Hotel.
The Wimmera and Mallee region is a goldmine of sights for caravanners, including the silo art trail, the lovely Goroke State Forest, the Big Mallee Bull in the town of Birchip and Mount Jeffcott Wildflower Reserve, as well as numerous walking trails and wilderness parks. You’ll also find some locations from the Kate Winslet and Liam Hemsworth film, The Dressmaker, in nearby towns of Horsham, Hopetoun, Jung and Murtoa.
Stay at the Horsham Riverside or the Wimmera Lakes caravan parks. Both have powered and unpowered sites.
Wimmera Mallee Tourism: visitwimmeramallee.com.au
Wimmera caravan parks: wimmeramalleetourism.com.au
It looked like the English countryside, didn’t it? But the gorgeous, lush green scenery featured in 1995 pig hit Babe was actually the little town of Robertson in NSW, 50km west of Wollongong. While the farm sets which made up the Hoggett Farm are long gone, you can visit Fountaindale Grand Manor, located up the road from where the fictional farm stood, perched above Macquarie Pass and the Illawarra Escarpment.
While you’re there, don’t miss stopping at the Robertson Pie Shop and Cheese Factory, which are chock full of culinary delights. On the NSW South Coast, Bermagui also featured in the comedy The Man Who Sued God, starring Billy Connolly, and some scenes from recent hit The Invisible Man, starring Elisabeth Moss, were shot in nearby Gerringong and Kiama.
While visiting the region you can also check out the awesome Illawarra Fly Treetop Walk, gorgeous Budderoo National Park and Belmore Falls.
There’s plenty of caravan parks and camping grounds in the southern highlands region including the charming Moss Vale Village Caravan Park, and the Carrington Falls campground, located right next to Kangaroo River.
MORE INFORMATION: visitnsw.com
THE ADVENTURES OF PRISCILLA, QUEEN OF THE DESERT
Broken Hill, NSW; Coober Pedy, SA; and Kings Canyon, NT
If you can dance or you can jive, you’ll have the time of your life following in the footsteps of Mitzi, Felicia and Bernadette — two ABBA-obsessed drag queens and a transexual — the central characters of Aussie cult classic, The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. While most scenes in the 1994 film were shot in Broken Hill, it also features Sydney, Coober Pedy, Alice Springs Silverton and Kings Canyon.
In Broken Hill, the characters stayed at The Palace Hotel in Argent Street at Sulphide Street (all the street names reflect the town’s mining history), where Bernadette has a run-in with the butch and bigoted Shirley. At the time of filming, the hotel was called Mario’s Palace, just up the main drag from where the girls also go shopping. Every year, the town hosts the Broken Heel Festival to celebrate Broken Hill’s role in the film.
Visit the iconic Pro Hart Gallery or the Big Winch, and stay at numerous caravan parks just outside town, most of which have powered and unpowered sites and are fur friendly.
In the film the trio’s bus, named Priscilla, breaks down on the Mundi Mundi Plain Lookout in Silverton (also seen in Mad Max 2) where they are rescued and given a lift to Coober Pedy, 980km west in central South Australia. The girls then run into more than they bargained for thanks to some rough-edged locals.
Here you can also see some of the props from Vin Diesel horror film Pitch Black. Explore the mining caverns of this ‘underground’ town, and make sure you pay a visit to the subterranean abode of infamous womaniser Crocodile Harry — Tina Turner did while filming Mad Max 3, and, alongside dozens of hats, flags and clothing items, a pair of her underpants are nailed to the ceiling. Accommodation includes holiday and caravan parks, including the unique Riba’s Underground Camping.
In Priscilla, the girls finally arrive in Alice Springs for their performance at Lasseters on Barrett Drive and who can forget Felicia’s pivotal ‘cock in a frock on a rock’ scene, the location of which was moved from Uluru to the spectacular Kings Canyon, located in the Watarrka National Park, 330km west of Alice Springs.
At Kings Canyon, camping options are limited. The Kings Creek campground is 30km from Kings Canyon, and is set amongst natural bush with views of the George Gill Range. It has grassed and un-grassed sites, with or without power plus toilet, shower and laundry facilities; and there’s a pool!
Broken Hill: visitnsw.com/destinations/outback-nsw/broken-hill-area/broken-hill
Coober Pedy: cooberpedy.com
Kings Canyon: traveloutbackaustralia.com
MAD MAX 2
Silverton and Broken Hill, NSW
This classic post-apocalyptic thriller showcases plenty of Australia’s stunning desert scenery and is lauded as one of the best road movies of all time. You can’t pay homage to this brilliantly gritty film without a visit to the small town of Silverton, 25km outside Broken Hill. It’s home to about 30 residents and inside the local pub, you’ll find Mad Max memorabilia, photos and information about all the other movies that showcase the pub including Dirty Deeds, Wake in Fright, A Town Like Alice and Razorback.
The town also has an incredible Mad Max 2 museum, complete with original cars and props. The film’s compound scenes were shot nearby at The Pinnacles, the scene where Max’s car rolls and explodes is Menindee Road, and the majority of the remaining scenes were shot in and immediately surrounding Broken Hill.
You can park your van or camp at the Eldee Station Caravan Park which has powered and unpowered sites, showers, laundry, camp kitchen, pool and Wi-Fi; the pet friendly Broken Hill Tourist Park, with drive-through powered and unpowered sites, pool, BBQ area, or the basic Penrose Park Silverton campground which has a camp kitchen, toilets and showers.
Caravan parks: eldeestation.com/camp.html; brokenhilltouristpark.com.au
Mad Max museum: silverton.org.au /experience/attractions/mad-max-museum/
Pictures: Destination NSW, Broken Hill City Council, Visit Victoria, Tourism WA, Tourism Tasmania, Tourism Queensland, Tourism NT, Tourism SA