Besides well-known cities like Melbourne and Sydney, Australia boasts many urban and rural treasures scattered throughout the continent. One of the greatest things about this expansive, colourful continent is the abundance of roads and highways that can get you from one location to the other. And while traveling to and fro, you will cross amazing landscapes and breathtaking sites—so why not turn the entire adventure into a road trip!
You will find that road trips are suitable for families, couples, and even solo adventurers in every corner of Australia. Whether it’s a jeep rental in Perth for some outback driving or a van hire in Melbourne for a more rustic sleep-as-you-go auto adventure, there are tons of road trip options for you to take. If you’re interested in learning more about exactly what to see along the way, then take a look at our top five Aussie journeys.
1. Great Ocean Road
The Great Ocean Road extends from Torquay to Warrnambool in Victoria and features the appealing natural beauty preserved from the impacts of the mass tourism. Bells Beach, some 100 km away from Melbourne, is a paradise for surfers. If you aren’t one, you can still enjoy the gorgeous cliffs and rolling waves of the ocean.
The next stop should be Lorne, a perfect place for an overnight stay. This quaint town offers nice opportunities for beach walks and cycling by the coast. On your way to Apollo Bay, you will pass by the coastal town of Kennett River. Plan to spend some time there and examine cute koalas sleeping on the trees. You can also enjoy activities on the beach and surfing there.
Once you arrive in Apollo Bay, you will be very near the Great Otway National Park (NP). Experience panoramic views of Apollo Bay from the Mariners Lookout. As you enter the NP, the world of lush greenery, rugged coastline, sandy beaches and majestic waterfalls lies before you. Pay special attention to Triplet Falls, surrounded by tall trees and giant ferns. Finally, the last leg takes you to the Port Campbell NP, where you’ll enjoy many spectacular vistas. The park has tons of paths that lead to hideaway gorges, beaches, and hilltops.
For example, the Loch Ard Gorge is a pristine beach surrounded by colourful rocks covered with undergrowth. You can find walking trails leading to vantage points there. Bay of Islands, the Arch and the “London Bridge” are other impressive rock formations mercilessly shaped by the ocean and time. Try to visit the Twelve Apostles, the highlight of the Great Ocean Road, at sunrise.
2. Sydney to Brisbane Drive
Sydney to Brisbane Drive may be the most travelled Aussie road trip for its magnificent sites along the way. The Hunter Valley near Sydney is Australia’s celebrated wine region. Its wineries present various festivals all year long and you can board the hot-air balloons to admire the region from above. Approximately halfway between Sydney and Brisbane is Port Macquarie, one of Australia’s most popular holiday destinations.
The surrounding area boasts national parks, beaches, and rainforests. Surfing, kayaking, and building sand castles are popular activities there as well as wildlife encounters. Allocate some time to visit the Koala Hospital and exchange stares with pythons, snow leopards, kangaroos, and other exotic Aussie creatures. Next up is the Coffs Coast which is comprised of national parks, marine reserves, sandy beaches, and rainforests. Camel riding, whale watching, diving, dolphin swimming, and forest hiking are some popular activities you should enjoy there.
If you’re fan of festivals, make a stop at Byron Bay near Brisbane. Other unmissable cool features this town offers are sandy beaches, great shopping, even greater nightlife, and awesome food. Don’t forget your surfing board and make sure to take a stroll atop the nearby cliff. The name of the Gold Coast describes it completely accurately. This stretch of sandy beaches is among the finest in the world. You can also find additional options in first-class theme parks, nearby national parks, mountain regions, and in the hinterland rainforest.
3. Cairns to Cape Tribulation
By heading north of Brisbane, you will ultimately find the most enchanting Australian environment once you reach Cairns, Queensland. Everything you have heard about the Great Barrier Reef is true! Forested mountains protrude into the Coral Sea while snorkeling among colored corals and fish in the crystal-clear water is fantastic. Boat tours from Cairns head to some of endless islands and reefs.
Port Douglas is an ideal base for exploring the Reef and the Daintree Rainforest. The resort is also ideal for soaking the sun rays on the beach edged with palms. The Daintree Rainforest, near Cape Tribulation, is one of the oldest rainforests in the world, featuring tropical flora and rich wildlife. Many rare species inhabit the forest, and you would do well to take an insightful walking tour. Don’t miss the Mossman Gorge, a true hidden gem of the rainforest.
4. Broome to Perth
On the scenic road trip along the west coast of Australia, you will discover some of the country’s best landscapes and beaches. Cable Beach near Broome is a white sand expanse fringed with red ochre cliffs. Enjoy a camel ride during one of the most unforgettable sunsets you’ll ever experience. Next to Port Hedland, take an inland route leading to the Karijini National Park. There, you will find ancient and colourful gorges, cascaded waterfalls, and scale rocks.
Turquoise Bay, near Exmouth, boasts fine snorkelling and activities on the beach. The Ningaloo Barrier Reef, with many pleasant surprises waiting in the water, is only 50 meters away from the shore. For great water sports, excellent fishing and children’s delight, head to Sandy Bay. In the Pinnacles Desert, in the Nambung NP near Perth, you will see several meters tall ancient rock formations rising from the sand. As you get around, you may encounter sociable kangaroos.
5. The Eyre Peninsula
Finally, the popular road trip in South Australia takes you to rugged coastline lined with amazing beaches and natural heritage attractions. There will be many irresistible opportunities to enjoy splendid beaches and adventure tours all over the Eyre Peninsula.
From Port Lincoln, set off on an underwater experience with great white sharks and sea lions. From the Baird Bay, take a snorkelling tour with bottlenose dolphins. There are plenty of places to pitch a tent and set up camp for some star gazing. Finally, you can check out why the nickname of this region is the Seafood Frontier.
Runner-up Road Trips
There are still many great road trips in Australia that are definitely worth checking out:
- Red Centre Way, abounding with gorges, canyons, and hiking trails. A huge sandstone monolith Uluru is this centrepiece of the Northern Territory.
- Launceston to Hobart trip on the island of Tasmania introduces splendid coastline, marvellous beaches, charming towns, and enchanting nature.
- Gibb River Road, which is the most adventurous road experience in Australia.
Melbourne to: Torquay – 105 km/65 mi; Lorne – 142 km/88 mi; Kennett River – 165 km/103 mi; Apollo Bay – 199 km/124 mi; Port Campbell – 227 km/140 mi; Sydney – 878 km/475 mi.
Sydney to: The Hunter Valley – 200 km/125 mi; Port Macquarie – 392 km/243 mi; Coffs Harbour (Coffs Coast) – 564 km/350 mi; Byron Bay – 777 km/483 mi; Gold Coast – 855 km/531 mi; Brisbane – 927 km/576 mi.
Brisbane to: Cairns – 1682 km/1045 mi.
Cairns to: Port Douglas – 67 km/42 mi; Daintree Rainforest – 125 km/78 mi; Broome – 4087 km/2540 mi.
Broome to: Karijini NP – 945 km/587 mi; Exmouth – 1370 km/850 mi; The Pinnacles Desert – 2170 km/1348 mi; Perth – 2320 km/1442 mi.
Perth to: Eyre Peninsula – 2289 km/1422 mi.
Eyre Peninsula to: Melbourne – 1360 km/845 mi.