Australia's most famous movie locations
Inspire your next holiday by walking in the footsteps of Crocodile Dundee, Mad Max and Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. Your guide to Australia's iconic movie locations.
- June 2018
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The success of Crocodile Dundee prompted a flood of international and domestic visitors to the Top End when it headed global box office lists in 1986. Most of the Australian scenes were filmed in Kakadu, Australia’s largest national park, unknown even to many Australians.
Images of its star Paul Hogan emerging from the Gunlom Fall’s plunge pool with a juicy barramundi on the end of his spear, or standing atop the Ubirr rock outcrops while gazing out over the Never-Never Country, made Australians wonder why they’d never added this place to their holiday plans.
Early in the film, Paul’s Mick Dundee wrestles a bogus crocodile in his local watering hole, the Walkabout Creek Hotel. The scene was filmed in the then Federal Hotel (it’s since been rebranded to match its silver screen name) in the central Queensland town of McKinlay.
Dedicated fans have been known to make the nine-hour drive from Townsville airport just to drink a beer at its famous bar.
One of Australia’s best-known natural attractions is the Great Barrier Reef, and it was here that the 1989 thriller Dead Calm, starring a young Nicole Kidman and New Zealand-born actor Sam Neill, was filmed.
The movie’s location looked as if it might have been miles from land in every direction. But it wasn’t. Filming was largely undertaken in and around the Whitsundays – particularly Hamilton Island - in Queensland.
Director Philip Noyce (The Hunt for Red October, Patriot Games) and Oscar-winning cameraman Dean Semmler (Dances With Wolves) did well to hide the holiday resorts and charter yachts and make it appear as if Nicole and Sam’s yacht was stranded in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.
Oh, and their yacht? It was the play-thing of Hamilton Island’s then-owner, Keith Williams.
Over the top
It was hoped that Baz Luhrmann’s Australia might boost international arrivals in the manner of Crocodile Dundee two decades earlier, enticing a few extra visitors to WA’s Kimberley region that primarily formed the cinematic backdrop.
The title of the film was a little grandiose, considering the film is set only in the Kimberley and Darwin regions. But all was not as it seemed. Thanks to generous funding from the Queensland government, the Darwin scenes were actually filmed in Bowen, an agricultural town known for its tomatoes and an oversized mango sculpture erroneously installed upside down.
Coober Pedy (SA) and Broken Hill (NSW) feature in the Mad Max franchise, where the film’s creator George Miller depicted a post-apocalyptic world almost totally bereft of vegetation. But the high-speed chases in the first instalment were actually filmed on dead-straight Victorian roads west of Geelong and around Clunes.
The Mundi Mundi Plains near Broken Hill were the setting for most of the action the second time around and the director was hoping to return there for the most recent chapter, Fury Road. But excessive rainfall and the resultant burst of colour from blooming desert wildflowers meant the entire set was moved to the dusty environs of the Namib Desert.
In Beyond Thunderdome, the cave of character Jebediah was set inside the Coober Pedy home of an eccentric local known as Crocodile Harry and although Harry has since passed away, you can still take a tour of his underground home.
In The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, the title character was the name of a bus that two Abba-obsessed drag queens and a transexual drove from Sydney to Central Australia in order to stage a cabaret gig at Lasseters Hotel Casino.
Most scenes were shot in Broken Hill – even some of those depicting Sydney - where Mitzi, Felicia and Bernadette check into Mario’s Palace (now the Palace Hotel), whose aesthetics mirror those of its sequined and feather boa-wrapped guests.
On the way they stop in Coober Pedy before continuing to the Red Centre, where filming was supposed to take place on top of Uluru. However, the producers relocated to Kings Canyon after understandable cultural misgivings were expressed by local Aboriginals.
Beyond the outback
Babe showed that Australia isn’t all about the outback. When it was revealed to have been shot around sleepy Robertson in New South Wales – and not England, as expected – the standard response was: “Where?”
Robertson is a transition point between the Southern Highlands and the coastal Illawarra region. Should you happen to pass through, you’ll notice a spherical concrete structure paying homage to the town’s robust potato industry on its outskirts. It’s arguable that a large pig might be more appropriate these days.