There are entire worlds within and around every city—often hidden from the casual visitor.
Now, culture, history and adventure are just around the corner. Thanks to geolocation technology and passionate travellers who are happy to share their knowledge, it’s now easy to peel back the tourist layers to navigate foreign places like a local, and explore your own city in new ways.
Here we’ve picked six of our favourite apps for charting new tracks and experiences in an unfamiliar place.
1. The Disappearing
One of the more unusual mapping apps is The Disappearing—an interactive project that connects poetry with places throughout Australia, from the iconic to the less well-known.
Designed by The Red Room Company in Sydney, The Disappearing collects original work from commissioned and emerging writers and pins their poetry to places. Each poem is based on the theme “disappearing”. The end result is a pocket-sized travel guide expressed through poetry, photography, video or audio. So check in wherever you are and explore the poetry around you—and if you feel inspired, write or submit your own. (Free on iPhone, iPad and Android)
2. Australia Bushwalking
From the Budawangs to the Bungle Bungles, Australia is a hiker’s heaven. However without proper preparation, bushwalking can be a perilous pastime.
Australia Bushwalking is a locally made app that aims to turn you into a master rambler. Compiled by travel writer and photographer Melanie Ball, all of the app’s 150 walks are drawn from her personal hiking experience. Each walk—graded by length and difficulty—pinpoints important geographical and historical sites that you will find along the way. Plus, there’s advice on shoes, gear and safety to get you trekking in comfort. (iPhone, iPad and Android)
One of the finest ways to explore any city is on your own two wheels. Wherever you are in Australia (or in some 50 cities all over the world), the Bikemap app, which combines geolocation with social networking, charts bike lanes, city routes and off-road trails.
You can choose from over 1,300,000 routes worldwide, crowdsourced by a global community of passionate riders. Along with detailed turn-by-turn directions, there’s a GPS tracking function so you can save and review your ride. Useful businesses, public transport, points of interest are named along the way. (iPhone and iPad)
4. Melbourne Peculiar
Melbourne’s a pretty weird city—and that’s just the way we like it. Melbourne Peculiar celebrates the city’s uniqueness.
Designed by novelist Narrelle Harris, this app will guide you to unusual sites around the city. With more than 140 entries on intriguing local history—such as the grave of Vegemite inventor Cyril P Callister, Rooftop Honey (an initiative to save our disappearing bees) and hidden street art—you’ll be directed to places even locals may not know. (iPhone, iPad and Android)
5. Sydney’s Living History
Sydney has more than its fair share of history, as this app makes vividly clear.
Uncovering stories behind some of the city’s most iconic buildings and streets, ‘Sydney’s Living History’ will guide you through haunted houses, air-raid shelters and colonial pubs. Put together by food and travel writer Sally Hammond, this app is a labour of love for her fair city. So if you're curious about Sydney's rich history and quirky facts, keep it handy for when you're out and about. (iPhone, iPad and Android)
If you're heading off the beaten path, your phone signal just might drop off. That's where ViewRanger can come in handy.
This app works by using the built-in GPS inside your smartphone or tablet, turning the device into a fully-featured GPS unit—even if it’s offline. ViewRanger helps you find trails and maps anywhere in the world from bike, hiking, walking, road cycling to climbing—the lot. You can search routes by place or sport. You can plot and save your journeys, and share your experiences with friends. We totally get why nature photographers are big fans! (iPhone, iPad, Android and Kindle Fire)