Most Aussies will assure you that every single nook and cranny in this wide brown land is a natural paradise or culturally significant site. And they’re 100 per cent correct – it’s an unspoiled wonderland, full of breathtaking sights. But if we absolutely had to, we could come up with a few spots that are a little overrated – this is the birthplace of tall poppy syndrome*, after all! We’ve done some honest soul searching and come up with five places that could… maybe… perhaps… not live up to the hype.
For every person that loves Bondi Beach, you’ll find two others who can’t understand why. Sure, it’s a great beach, if you can see any sand or surf in between the tens of thousands of tourists who flock there every single day. It’s definitely not the best beach in Australia. If Sydneysiders were being honest with themselves, they’d admit that it’s not even the best beach near Sydney. It’s just that it’s super close – like, just 15 minutes from the CBD close. Its reputation is also propped up by a community of cool young things who look like they’ve fallen out of the pages of a Vice magazine, as they’ve chosen the surrounding village for their cafes, design studios and artisanal pubs.
If you’re headed to Tasmania’s Museum of Old and New Art and are expecting the National Portrait Gallery, you’re going to be sorely disappointed. If you’re headed there knowing that it’s an anti-establishment gallery set up by a provocateur who won his fortune playing poker, then you’ll have a great time. The whole place seems designed to give those among us who think modern artists are self indulgent tosspots, ammunition for their arguments. Which is fair enough, considering one of the most famous installations is a machine that exists to mimic the human digestive system (read: it makes poo).
You should go to Cairns. Just don’t stay there. The best thing about Cairns is that it’s a gateway to some of the best natural wonders in Queensland – the Great Barrier Reef, Daintree National Park, Barron Gorge National Park, Cape Tribulation. When you consider the wealth of natural beauty available just a short drive or cruise away (at prices even backpackers can afford), it just doesn’t make sense to hang out on an esplanade that overlooks mud flats.
Everyone who has been to Uluru speaks breathlessly about the life-changing sight of the luminescent pink rays of light creeping magnificently over this monumental desert attraction. And they’re right – it’s a beautiful thing to look at. But probe a little further and you’ll soon uncover discontent. What did they think of the heat? The flies? The never-ending bus loads of tourists? The achingly dull town of Alice Springs? Uluru is worth a visit, but not an overly long one. Stop in to see the big rock, and then get back on the road to see the bigger collection of smaller rocks, known as Kata Tjuta. It’s a lesser known but equally breathtaking natural site.
It feels harsh, but if we’re being honest, you can probably rule the entire city of Canberra out of your Australian travel itinerary. Plenty of people travel to the country’s capital and have a great time, but if you listen closely, they’ll always start their glowing reviews with, “It’s not as bad as you’d think” or “It’s better than we expected” or “We were pleasantly surprised!”. These positive reviews of Canberra always seem to be based from very low expectations. That being said, there’s nothing explicitly wrong with Canberra. But aside from the Australian War Memorial, there’s not a lot there – museums, cafe culture, government buildings – that you couldn’t find in Sydney or Melbourne with a load more va-va-voom.
*Tall poppy syndrome is a term to describe the Australian tendency to cut down those around us who we feel have become too successful or think too highly of themselves.