Where to find Dune-inspired travel destinations without leaving your home planet

Aerial shot of winding sand dunes
Credit: Abstract Aerial Art, Getty Images.

As far as interplanetary sci-fi goes, Dune (2021) boasts an incredible grandeur when it comes to locations. Whether it's the lush, cool, and oceanic planet of Caladan, or the harsh, red sandscape of Arrakis, it’s hard to look past the natural beauty of the film’s settings - even if it is, at times, an eerie beauty.

So whether you’re a Dune-faithful, paying homage to your favourite scene, or you’re after a unique experience for your next travel adventure, read on to find out how you can have a Dune-inspired holiday, without leaving Australia.

Caladan-esque beaches

The planet Caladan’s skyscraping cliffs, all covered in vibrant, green scrub, and surrounded by deep, blue waters, were captured on film in Stadlandet, north-western Norway. While the COVID-19 pandemic might currently dampen any of your immediate overseas travel plans to this striking Norwegian peninsula, it doesn’t mean you can’t find something more local to tickle that Caladian itch. Here’s our top picks.

Wineglass Bay, TAS

A view of Wineglass Bay beach from the lookout at Mount Atmos. In the background there are mountains covered in vegetation and the water is cool and blue.
Credit: Andrew Bain, Getty Images.

Aptly named for its sweeping curve of white sand, Eastern Tasmania’s Wineglass Bay is tucked away in the Freycinet National Park. With views of the Hazards mountain range and greenery all around you, you’ll definitely feel like you’re in another place altogether.

Getting to ​​Wineglass Bay is about a 1.3km walk each way through the Freycinet National Park. Although the track is well-maintained, it’s worth noting that a decent level of fitness is required, as a lot of it is up-hill. For those taking extra precautions, travel insurance providers often cover low-elevation hiking, so taking out a travel insurance policy might be a good option.

Childers Cove, VIC

Looking down at the shore of Childers Cove beach from the stairs down to the sand. A small beach tucked between rocky cliffs.
Credit: Krzysztof Dydynski, Getty Images.

Nestled between colossal, jagged limestone cliffs, Childers Cove is a short detour off the Great Ocean Road near Mepunga. In its relative isolation, the inlet doesn’t attract the same numbers as the nearby Twelve Apostles, so in all likelihood you might have it to yourself for a time. So if you’re trying to recreate the scene when Paul Atreides (played by Timothée Chalamet) walks moodily along an empty beach (because, why not?), you might get your shot.

Arrakis-like desert landscapes

Monstrous alien sandworms aside, immersing yourself in a desert landscape can be a rewarding experience and one that might not be as barren and desolate as you might expect. While a large part of the film’s scenes on the planet Arrakis were filmed in Jordan and the United Arab Emirates, Australia is home to a few of its own breathtaking desert vistas.

Pinnacles Desert, WA

A desert landscape with natural columns of limestone that protrude out of the sand.
Credit: David Greenwood, Getty Images.

Walking through the Pinnacles Desert might feel like you’ve found yourself on an alien planet. With thousands of limestone pillars jutting out of the sand, this West-Australian desertscape in the Nambung National Park is as strange as it is beautiful. 

The Pinnacles Desert is 200km North of Perth and readily accessible by car. If you’re holidaying in WA and driving a rental, you’ll want to make sure your travel insurance covers rental car excess in case anything goes wrong on the road.

Great Victoria Desert, WA and SA

Golden, windswept sand dunes extending into the distance.
Credit: Ted Mead, Getty Images.

The Great Victoria Desert is the biggest desert in Australia and is largely untouched by civilisation. At times you might find yourself surrounded by rolling sand dunes for as far as the eye can see, but it’s also one of the most biodiverse habitats for reptiles. As opposed to Dune’s sandworms, however, the desert’s critters are more likely to scurry off in the opposite direction of any vibrations.

There are tour operators that offer multi-day treks through the Great Victoria Desert, but you can also take it easy if you fancy a bit of four-wheel driving. In any case, taking out a travel insurance policy before you head out into the desert is a good idea, as it’s an isolated part of the country and challenging terrain.

Simpson Desert, NT and SA

Chambers Pillar, a 50m tall sandstone pillar that stands over the Simpson Desert.
Credit: Stefan Mokrzecki, Getty Images.

The Simpson Desert, stretching over the Northern Territory and South Australia, is home to the longest parallel sand dunes in the world. One of the Simpson’s biggest dunes, Nappanerica or Big Red, stands at around 40m tall. Crazy, right? Well, not as crazy as the Big Red Bash: a drag race held in the desert where people race across the dunes to raise money for the Royal Flying Doctors Service of Australia.

A feature worth taking a look at is Chambers Pillar, a giant sandstone monument that towers at 50m above the desert plain. It was used by early explorers as an important way-finding landmark.

Thinking of going on a Dune-inspired travel adventure?

Before you go, make sure to read through some of our top travel tips, because while you might not encounter a giant sandworm out in the desert, it’s still good to be prepared for the unexpected.

Travel tips

Have adequate car insurance or rental car insurance

Most rental car providers won’t cover you for off-road or unsealed road activities (unless you pay a premium, or the car is an approved 4WD).

Check the entry requirements if you’re travelling interstate

Different states may have quarantine requirements due to the ongoing pandemic, so make sure that you factor in any extra time you might need, or if you’re even able to enter the state, before you book flights, accommodation, or travel insurance.

How to be prepared for desert travel

Deserts are a tough environment to cross for the inexperienced, so if you’re not a Bear Grylls-level survivalist, or it’s your first time, then it’s recommended that you find a tour operator to guide you through. The most important thing is to bring enough water, as it is a desert after all, and water is scarce. If you’re going without a tour guide, you’ll need to bring fuel, first-aid equipment, a satellite phone or radio, and tools, among other things.

Best times to visit the Great Victoria Desert

In the Great Victoria Desert, the Summer months are sweltering, with temperatures between 30-40 degrees Celsius. Considering there’s not a lot of shade out there, that’s quite hot! In Winter however, it’s not uncommon for parts of the desert to reach freezing point overnight, with frosts not that much of a rarity. So, the best time is in Spring, when the desert is sunny and the vegetation is blooming, but not too hot, or too cold.

Do you need a pass to enter a national park?

Some national parks require you to pay an entry fee if you’re driving in. It is always best to research your destination if it falls within the boundaries of a national park, in case you need to pay when you get there or pre-book a ticket. Usually, you’ll only be paying an entry fee at some of the more popular national parks, and the fees will go towards things like maintenance of visitor facilities, the protection of threatened species, and the conservation of historical and cultural sites.

Protect against the unexpected with domestic travel insurance

Domestic travel insurance policies can help cover some of the costs associated with accidents that might happen whilst travelling through Australia. They often cover things like travel delays and cancellations that could impede your journey. If, for example, your pre-booked accommodation or tour guide is cancelled due to extenuating circumstances, then your travel insurance policy might provide cover for part of the costs of fixing the issue.