Last Updated: September 28, 2020

7 Best Road Trips in Australia

It’s not a secret that Australia’s immense size, the diversity of its landscape, the coastline, and the outback make it the best country in the world for taking a road trip. Australian road trips, either short or long, are the perfect chance to explore the pristine natural habitats, vibrant cities, and thousands of  years of history. All you need is a car or a campervan, and you’re ready to set off.

We gathered the 7 best road trips in Australia and the stunning places you can stop by en route. We also got some smart tips to help you prepare for each of these journeys.

great ocean road australia

Great Ocean Road

Stretching for over 243km (150mi), the Great Ocean Road is one of the most famous road trips in Australia. The highlight of the road trip is no other than the Twelve Apostles, the striking limestone stacks in the shore of Port Campbell National Park. Today, only eight of the twelve formations remain, but they are equally stunning. On the way, you will relish the Pacific Ocean and the skilled surfers that tame the enormous waves. This is a great opportunity to do some outdoor activities yourself, such as watersports, biking, horseback riding, or a helicopter ride to watch the Twelve Apostles from above.

The landscape is so diverse to that extent that while you’re driving, you will come across tropical forests, the extensive coastline, wild nature, and waterfalls. You’ll also see some koalas, kangaroos, and ostriches. Certainly, Australian road trips are not complete without tasting some of the local delicacies, like seafood and savoring a glass of quality wine.

Stops Along the Great Ocean Road

There are so many different and interesting things to see. We present to you our favorite stops from our list.

Great Ocean Road Memorial Arch: The monument is dedicated to the soldiers who died during World War I. It was constructed between 1919-1932 by soldiers who returned from the war, and it is the largest war monument site in the world.

Loch Ard Gorge: Only 5 minutes from the Twelve Apostles, you will find the Loch Ard. The gorge is named after a 19th-century shipwreck where 52 people lost their lives. It is said that only two of the passengers survived, Tom and Eva. The best time of the day to make it to Loch Ard Gorge is at sunset when the sun slowly hides behind the huge rocks.

Rain Forest: Hiking at the rainforest of the Great Otway National Park is just mesmerizing. Follow one of the pathways, and you’ll be stunned by the beauty of the dense vegetation.

Tips

Start your journey from Torquay for the best views and the easiest way to pull over for lookouts. Driving in this direction means that you’ll be on the ocean side of the road.

But, if you’re setting off from Melbourne, the Great Ocean Road is a 90-minute drive from the city’s center.

red centre norther territory

Red Centre in Northern Territory

Australian road trips have everything for every traveler regardless of preferences. This is the place for those who can’t get enough of the Australian desert landscape. The Red Centre in Northern Territory is home to Alice Springs, situated next to the World Heritage site of Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park. The city of Alice Springs is your starting point and where the adventure begins. You can go on a short 3-day road trip or a longer one, lasting 7-9 days, so you can see everything. No matter how many days you wish to spend here, it is a safe bet that you’ll leave this place having the best memories. Get ready to feel thrilled by the sacred sites of Aboriginals and their rich cultural heritage.

Stops Along the Red Centre

The more days you spend in the Red Centre, the more things and places you can visit. However, you can’t miss the following three stops, even if your trip is short.

Uluru National Park: At these breathtaking rock formations, you’ll experience the Aboriginal past, as well as the rich plant and animal life. The highlight here is watching Uluru changing colors during sunrise and sunset. Other activities include various walks, like Walpa Gorge walk or Kuniya Walk and Mutitjulu Waterhole. Take a guided rock art tour to learn about the 30,000 years history of Uluru and the stories behind the cave paintings.

Kings Canyon: Kings Canyon in Watarrka National Park is a three-hour drive from Uluru. Explore this majestic region either on foot or by 4×4 tracks. An early morning camel tour is something you didn’t expect here, but it is definitely worth the try. Since you made it to King Canyon, it will be a pity not to take an unforgettable helicopter ride to watch the red rock cliffs from above. Accommodation options include camping to feel close to nature or resorts for more luxury stays.

West MacDonnell Ranges: A refreshing dip in the water holes is what you need the most on a hot day and after many hours of driving. The most famous are Ellery Creek Big Hole, Ormiston Gorge, Redbank Gorge, and Glen Helen Gorge. The park is a refuge for rare species, like the Peregrine Falcon. Here, you’ll also see an ancient site sculpted by the natural elements for thousands of years now.

Tips

Even if you’re not a camping enthusiast, this is the time to make an exception. Camping is a guaranteed way to connect with nature and the history of the area.

For safety reasons, avoid driving at night and take provisions with you, like food and a first aid kit.

Sea Cliff Bridge

Sea Cliff Bridge in the Grand Pacific Drive

Australia road trips along the coastline make it to the top of the bucket list of most travelers who visit the country. The Grand Pacific Drive is probably one of the most idyllic coastal drives in the world. It is an easy road to drive, spanning for 14km (87 miles). It begins south of Sydney in the Royal National Park. If you’re wondering why you should take this coastal road trip, we have some compelling reasons to show you why. On one side, you have the turbulent Pacific Ocean, and on the other, the rugged rocky landscape. Drive until you reach the spectacular Sea Cliff Bridge across the rock face on the Illawarra escarpment.

Stops Along the Grand Pacific Drive

The Sea Cliff Bridge is your road trip’s highlight, but there are also other areas that excite every visitor.

Kiama region: The region is famous for its blowhole and the amazing beaches, coastal walks, and rainforest trails. In Kiama’s Kangaroo River, you can go kayaking and find the highest zipline in the country.

Shoalhaven: The white sand beaches, the national parks, the picturesque towns, and the rolling hills attract many tourists to this coastal area. Stop by Cambewarra village to taste the local wine and other traditional products.

Southern Highlands: For more cozy vibes and tranquil vacations, head to the Southern Highlands. The area is known for its restaurants, galleries, boutiques, and the Tulip Time Festival. Fitzroy Falls, The Illawarra Fly Treetop Adventures, and Wombeyan Caves are only a few of the natural treasures to discover here.

Tips

Visit Kiama in late May – July or September – November to see the migrating whales.

Most visitors recommend spending five or six days to explore the whole area.

east coast australia

Australia’s East Coast

While a complete Australia road trip to the East Coast would last four to five weeks, especially if you go a little “bush” and head all the way up Cape Tribulation via Cooktown. However, you can see many of its top destinations in a far shorter period. On this side, you’ll see the coastal face of the country, pristine beaches, rainforests, wildlife, but also vibrant cities. The diverse nature of the East Coast calls for packing a surfboard but also hiking boots.

Stops Along the East Coast

Below are our favorite places to visit in this immense area.

The Great Barrier Reef Drive: While driving from Cairns to Cape Tribulation, you’ll be in awe to behold the coastline that is home to two world heritage sites, the Great Barrier Reef and the Wet Tropics rainforest. Must-do activities in the Great Barrier Reef are snorkeling or a dive trip. The tropical beaches of Port Douglas are the best way to cruise the Great Barrier Reef.

Cape Tribulation: Cape Tribulation is the absolute tropical getaway. It is embedded between the Daintree Rainforest, which is the world’s oldest rainforest, and the Great Barrier Reef. Disconnected from the modern world and the city’s noise, this place is the much-needed detox we all need once in a while. Go on a guided walk or a horse ride, or maybe explore the rainforest tracks by 4WD.

Tips

A road trip to the East Coast can take from two weeks to even six months, depending on time and budget. If you’re planning to spend more than two weeks there, then hiring a campervan will minimize the costs, such as accommodation and food expenses.

Gibb River Road

The Gibb River Road, Western Australia

The 660 kilometers (410 miles) route, stretching from Derby to Kununurra, is among the most fantastic Australia road trip destinations. The Gibb was originally built in the 60s for driving cattle from Wyndham to Derby. Today, it is a magnet for travelers who are looking for an epic adventure. Along the way, you’ll see ancient gorges with fresh waters, magnificent waterfalls, Aboriginal rock art and sites, and cattle stations. In each of these stations, there are rivers and gorges, such as Chamberlain and Emma Gorges in El Questro Station or Barnett River Gorge and Mornington Wilderness Park in Gibb River Station.

Stops Along the Gibb River Road

We gathered the most visited places, which prove why the Gibb River Road is one of the greatest road trips not only in Western Australia but in Australia in general.

Bell Gorge: It may not be the easiest place to reach, but you won’t have any regrets when you finally get there. The waterfall is multi-layered, creating several natural pools. It is a perfect spot for swimming and photography. If you’re up to a short adventure, swim and cross to the other side of the creek to discover some perfect views of the waterfall and the gorge.

El Questro Wilderness Park: This national park has several gorges to swim in, thermal pools in Zebedee Springs, and boat cruises in Chamberlain Gorge. A helicopter tour to watch secluded waterfalls and panoramic views of the park is a must-do.

Tips

The best time to visit Western Australia and take a road trip to the Gibb River Road is from April to October.

Be aware of the fresh and saltwater crocodiles that inhabit the Durack and Pentecost rivers, Manning and Barnett gorges.

Freycinet national park tasmania

Wineglass Bay, Freycinet National Park, Image Courtesy of Tasmanian.Kris

Tasmania’s East Coast

Road tripping in Tasmania’s East Coast is a win-win situation for two reasons. It’s so blissfully tranquil and perfect if you have less than a week, as five days are enough to see some of the greatest natural landscapes in Tasmania. The East Coast of Tasmania is known to have some of the best wine, seafood, and cheese in the region, so if you always plan a trip driven by food, then this is what you were looking for.

Stops Along Tasmania’s East Coast

There are many remarkable places to visit while in Tasmania, but we cite here the ones that have a special place in our hearts.

Freycinet National Park: It is widely known for the Wineglass Bay with its crystal-clear waters, the white beach, and the most stunning views. The diverse landscape won’t stop wowing you. Rocky coves, secluded bays, sandy beaches, and the granite Hazards mountain are what make this park a natural treasure.

Bicheno: In Bicheno, there is the wildlife refuge where Tasmanian devils and other animals live. The Natureworld wildlife sanctuary offers guided tours, such as the Bicheno Penguin Tour or Devils in the Dark Experience. The coastal town is a favorite holiday destination for Tasmanians and other visitors because of the clean blue coast waters where you can swim, dive, and go on boat cruises. The cuisine here is just remarkable, and there are plenty of choices for accommodation.

Tips

Most travelers choose to fly from Melbourne to Hobart, which takes only an hour. You can find affordable airport car parking to park your car there for a few days, and hire one from the car rental companies in Tasmania.

Self-drive is the best way of transportation in Tasmania as you can get to see most of the major cities and natural attractions as well.

The weather in Tasmania varies all year round no matter the season, so bring a jacket with you.

Lucky Bay Australia

South West Edge, Western Australia

If your ideal Australian road trip is soaking up every ounce of sun and sea, then the coastline drive in South West Edge is the perfect match for you. The road will take you to wine regions, karri forests, and even a desert on the way back to Perth. Remnants of the historical past come alive in the ancient caves as well as the gold rush of the South West dating back to the 19th century. The ideal road trip on the coastline can last up to 11 days, covering 2000 kilometers (1242 miles).

Stops Along the South West Edge

The diverse landscape and plethora of activities call for some stops to a few worthwhile places.

Valley of the Giants: Located between Denmark and Walpole, this area is mostly visited for the 40-meter long Tree Top Walk canopy. The region is also praised for the natural attractions, food, wine, accommodation. It is ideal for visitors of all ages.

Lucky Bay: The white-sand Lucky Bay in Cape Le Grand National Park is a coastal gem. The resident kangaroos are the best companion for a stroll on the beach. Here, you can go fishing, canoeing, and kayaking, snorkeling, or experience scenic diving. For stunning views, follow the bushwalking trails over the Recherche Archipelago.

Tips

Tour boats can be canceled due to weather conditions. Interactions with dolphins must be conducted under the tour operator’s consultation and supervision.

It’s illegal to pick any wildflowers. Help preserve this magnificent natural wonder that is home to more than 12,000 wildflower species.

About the Author Roger Timbrook

Roger is a little obsessed with travel. He has been to over 40 countries, broken 3 suitcases and owned over 10 backpacks in 12 months. What he doesn't know about travel, ain't worth knowing!

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