5 unusual sustainable travel options around Australia

The demand for sustainability is shaping the way we travel. Get set to be energised by five eco attractions around Australia that harness the power of the elements.

The Byron Bay Train makes its way through the bush.
  • Rachel Gray
  • September 2019

From the world’s first solar train in Byron Bay to the massive engineering feat of the Snowy Hydro, Australia is leading the way in sustainable tourist attractions that are useful and fun to visit.

Jump on board the Byron Bay Train, NSW

Take a joy ride on the world’s first sun-powered locomotive. Charged by rooftop solar panels that feed into a lithium-ion battery, the Byron Bay Train opens in new window chugs through eucalypt-scented bushland and over the tea-tree tinted Belongil Creek on its trip between Byron Beach and North Beach stations. The scenic journey takes about 10 minutes and costs AUD $4 each way or you can upgrade to the Ride in Style package, which is AUD $25 return and includes a meal and a drink at a local restaurant.

Taste green wine at Yalumba, South Australia

You might not get to see all 5384 solar panels installed at three Yalumba opens in new window sites but this Barossa Valley winemaker (which has been on the eco-friendly bandwagon since the mid-90s) partnered with AGL in 2016 to create Australia’s largest solar installation at a winery. In the last few years the family-run business has managed to reduce its annual CO2 emissions by an estimated 1200 tonnes – that’s the equivalent of taking 340 cars off the road. Take a trip to Yalumba’s Angaston winery, where you can celebrate this achievement by raising a glass of The Signature, a blend of cabernet sauvignon and shiraz.

A hand fills a blonde-haired woman's wine glass with red Yalumba wine.
Enjoy a drop of South Australia's finest at Yalumba's solar-powered winery in the Barossa Valley.

Tour the turbines at Hepburn Wind Farm, Victoria

Be astonished by the magnitude of the two turbines at Hepburn Wind Farm opens in new window, about 90 minutes’ drive north-west of Melbourne in Leonards Hill. These hardworking 21st-century windmills pump out enough clean energy to power more than 2000 homes and are also pieces of public art – the characters painted on the towers by artists including Ghostpatrol are nicknamed Gale and Gusto. Register your interest for an open day or tour of this community-owned project and to stay with the eco theme, stop for the night at Melbourne’s Alto Hotel opens in new window on Bourke – it’s 100 per cent green powered.

Take a power trip to the Snowy Hydro, NSW

The Snowy Hydro opens in new window, a massive water-powered electricity scheme nestled in the Snowy Mountains near the southern border of NSW, is one of the civil-engineering wonders of the world. Completed in 1974, it took 100,000 people from 30 countries around 25 years to build – today it redirects water to drought-ridden farms and provides electricity for towns from Queensland to Tasmania. Starting at Cooma’s Snowy Hydro Discovery Centre, a 1.5-hour drive south of Canberra, head out on a self-guided tour of this marvel and stop to gape at points along the eco-giant’s 145 kilometres of tunnels, 16 major dams and 80 kilometres of aqueducts.

Drive along the Solar Highway, ACT and NSW

Choose an eco-scenic route through the capital region on your next Sydney to Melbourne road trip. A detour off the Hume Highway onto the Federal Highway will reward with views of the magnificent Capital and Woodlawn wind farms from rest stops that look out over Lake George. Keep driving south on the Majura Parkway, which skirts Canberra’s east, and on to the Monaro Highway for a half-hour journey along the “Solar Highway” – a 40-kilometre stretch of road that glimmers with endless rows of silicone solar panels basking in the sun.