Australian country towns have always played a crucial role in rural tourism. But during the twentieth century, the role of the country town shifted from being a base from which to explore the rural ideal, to being the central destination in which to experience what the rural ideal had to offer. This research identifies cycles in the ways that country towns have been represented in tourist media throughout the twentieth century, from places facilitating rural travel for health, to sites of modern comfort and amenities, to destinations of historic rural charm and as sites to sample gourmet produce and cherry-pick aspects of rural life. Media images of rural travel produced by local tourism campaigns, regional collaborations and state tourism bureaus all point to a significant shift in how travelers partake in the rural ideal. They suggest that the country town became the central expression of the Australian rural ideal for the twentieth century tourist.