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Driving Around Australia: Seven Great Aussie Road Trips

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Australia is such a big country that it’s much faster to take to the skies than get behind the wheel of a car. But it’s so beautiful that there’s a lot to be said for driving around Australia if you have the time to soak up the scenery between hot spots.

Depending on the kind of Australian road trip you’re after you could go for a route that involves lots of stops in cute towns and villages along the way, or opt for a trip that lets you really feel Australia’s wide open spaces and the meditative calm that comes from driving for hours with nothing to see but the occasional kangaroo.

If you’re visiting from overseas or live locally but don’t have a car yet, there are two main ways to get your wheels. You can hire a car but depending on how far you’re going and how long you want to be on the road, it could be cheaper to buy one and sell it to the next adventurer at the end of your journey.

When you’re in your research phase you can compare hire car company prices here, and then do a little number crunching and see how the cost of car including any one-way drop off fees stacks up against the price of buying a second hand car and then selling it again at the end.

Read: Road Trip Hacks – 14 tips you need to know

If you do decide to buy, make sure you invite a mechanic along so they can have a good look under the hood before any money changes hands. And if you fall in love with a car at night, do go back and see it in the cold light of day for another test drive, just in case.

Some great Australian road trips will need 4WDs to get around

While a lot of people may not realise it, even when you’re in the car with the windows up that strong Aussie sun can damage your skin. So wear sunscreen even when you’re driving.

And while some people will be hitting the road in a motorhome or getting their adventure on with a hard roof top tent, if you’re going to be booking a hotel make sure you can get your money back if your plans change. Booking.com has a full refund booking option so if you change your mind and spend longer than expected somewhere along the way, you can cancel or change your booking. Just check the conditions when you book your hotel here. Simple.

Now all you have to decide is which road trip is calling your name. Here are seven top Australian road trips to choose from.

The Legendary Pacific Coast: NSW and Queensland

For a lot of Australians this drive brings back memories of school holiday trips, and while it may be nostalgic for some of us, it’s a cracker of a trip to do for anyone.

This legendary road stretches 900km from Sydney to Brisbane along the Pacific Coast corridor and is one of the most travelled roads in the country.

Read: The best luxury pet friendly accommodation in NSW

There are 48 national parks and 12 state forests to get out and stretch your legs in, beachside and riverside towns to visit and you’ll want your swimmers handy for the seemingly endless line of surf beaches.

Australians have a thing about Big Things on the side of the road, and this trip has one of the classics, the Big Banana. This, as the name suggests, Big Banana at Coffs Harbour has been making children smile for more than 50 years, and while the banana may be a lot smaller than it looked when I was a kid, these days they also have a water park so it’s even more fun than before.

The Big Banana, Coffs Harbour Australian Road Trips

And for an adrenalin hit, the Ourimbah State Forest has the world’s longest roller coaster zipline.

Where to stay?

There are so many great options along the way, with standouts including the beautiful historic home the Bangalow Guesthouse which is just five minutes’ walk from Bangalow’s boutique shops, cafes and market, and the Anchorage Port Stephens with Hamptons style guesthouses.

Read: Sydney to Brisbane Road Trip, the New England Way

Or you may want to take some time out in Byron Bay with a stay in a holiday home or hotel. As you can see below, there are a whole lot to choose from right in the heart of town.

Great Eastern Drive, Tasmania

Tasmania is not only gorgeous it’s easy to drive around, and the Great Eastern Drive has become an Australian road trip favourite in recent years.

The drive takes visitors through some of Tasmania’s most beautiful countryside, so they take in the mountains, beaches, vineyards for a little wine tasting, and the island’s tallest waterfall. You can also graze your way through some of Tasmania’s famous produce including fresh lobsters, oysters and scallops in fishing villages and award winning cheeses and cool climate wines.

Read: Green and gorgeous – Australia’s best sustainable holiday homes  

Leave the car behind for a day or two and take the ferry over to the Maria Island. This national park is home to lots of Tasmanian devils, wombats and kangaroos, and has historic ruins, cliffs made out of fossils, and beautiful bays.

Australian Road Trips

If you like to strap on your hiking boots the Freycinet Walk and Bay of Fires Walk are among Australia’s best walking trails, or you can go for a less challenging stroll along pristine beaches including Wineglass Bay which has been recognised as one of the world’s best.

Where to stay?

The award winning eco lodge Freycinet Lodge has 60 villas on the waterfront in Freycinet National Park with panoramic views of Great Oyster Bay. Meanwhile Lyenna is a luxury beach side holiday home in the quiet holiday town of Orford, and just ten minute’s drive from where ferries leave for Maria Island.

The Coral Coast, Western Australia

Drive between the desert and the sea as you say goodbye to the city of Perth and head up to Ningaloo Reef, the best place in the world to swim with whale sharks and where you can also spot dugongs, manta rays, dolphins and real whales when you take to the water.

Read: New Perth Hotels – the latest ways to stay in WA

Watch the landscape change on the Coral Coast drive from green farmland to red dirt, with plenty of turquoise water, soft white sand beaches, and the UNESCO listed Shark Bay World Heritage Area along the way.

Tuck into fresh seafood in fishing towns, stock up on fruit straight from the orchards on the side of the road, and pay a visit to the ancient rock formations the Pinnacles and the One Mile Jetty as you wind up the coast.

Where to stay?

Part of the Luxury Lodges of Australia family, Sal Salis is where the outback meets the reef with 16 luxury wilderness tents just metres from the beach. The Ningaloo Reef Resort is a short stroll from the beach and has beautiful views of Coral Bay and the outer reef. And you don’t have to be towing a caravan to stay at tourist parks like the RAC Monkey Mia Dolphin Resort.

The Great Ocean Road, Victoria

The Twelve Apostles may be the stars of Australia’s most famous road trip, but there’s so much more to the Great Ocean Road than these beautiful limestone stacks in the sea.

Stop for rainforest walks to see waterfalls and keep an eye out for koalas, echidnas and wallabies, potter around in charming villages and towns, or just lie back on a beach and listen to the waves.

Australian Road Trips

Surf fans can also check out Bells Beach, which lays claim to the longest running world championship level contest on the Rip Curl Pro’s World Tour. It’s also where the final scene of the original Point Break movie was set (even if it wasn’t actually filmed there).

There are cellar doors and farm gates along the way to try the local produce, and museums and galleries to check out along the way.

Where to stay?

This is such a popular road trip that Booking.com has an entire section for Great Ocean Road Hotels including the Deep Blue Hotel & Hot Springs which, as the name suggests, has its own spa and hot springs on the property, and the quaint Chianti Cottages where you can choose from a charming one bedroom cottage or a studio cabin.

The Savannah Way, Queensland, Northern Territory and Western Australia

This 3700km adventure takes you across the top of Australia from Cairns in Tropical North Queensland through the Northern Territory and over to Broome in Western Australia’s Kimberley region.

Sometimes the roads get rough when you’re driving around Australia and the Savannah Way road trip is not for every car. This is 4WD territory only as you’ll be going through lush rainforests, ancient gorges, dry outback plains and wetlands, with 15 National Parks, five World Heritage areas, and a whole lot of wide horizons along the way.

Read: Darwin’s best luxury hotels and holiday homesaway

Learn about Aboriginal and outback heritage, meet some great Aussie characters, and make sure you stop in Undara so you can walk through the world’s longest and largest lava tubes.

The Savannah Way can also be broken down into smaller sections if 3700km is too much for you to take on in the one trip.

Where to stay?

The movie “We of the Never Never” was filmed at Mataranka Homestead which has thermal pools to soak in and cabins, motel rooms and powered and unpowered sites for your stay. The Cicada Lodge is right next to Katherine Gorge and Nitmiluk Gorge and has a swimming pool and free canapés and drinks in the evening for guests.

The Nullarbor

Three days crossing a vast, treeless plain is meditative bliss for some, and Nullarboring for others, so when it comes to driving around Australia this road trip isn’t for everyone.

But if you want to drive the longest straight length of road in the world, all 146.6km of no bends to be seen, then this is the one for you.

This is also where you can play the world’s longest golf course. The Nullarbor Links is 1365km long, with a hole at each town or roadhouse along the way.

Australian Road Trips

The Nullarbor is about three times the size of Belgium and there are lots of remote areas, so you need to be stocked up with plenty of water and food for this trip.

At the right time of year you can see beautiful wildflowers, and keep an eye out for wild camels as well as kangaroos and emus. But be careful if you’re driving at dusk when they may dash across the road and give you a closer wildlife encounter than you’d like.

Where to stay?

The Nullarbor is more about roadhouse motels and caravan parks than hotels. The Nullarbor Roadhouse has motel units, a caravan park and a restaurant with the history of the Nullarbor shared through murals by Pam Armstrong. A detour to Kalgoorlie will give you a chance to see this outback mining town, and while you’re there you can stay at the Quest Yelverton Kalgoorlie apartment hotel which has a swimming pool for all guests and some studios have spa baths.

The Big Lap

You want big? This is the biggest one. The granddaddy of Australian road trips and the one where you’ll be literally driving around Australia.

With 40,000km or so to cover this is not one you’ll be able to squeeze into a few weeks’ holiday. This is more of a gap year or retirement trip as you’re going to want six months or more to do it right.

You’re also going to need a 4WD, and a reliable one at that. So let that friendly mechanic who’s checking your car know what you’re getting the vehicle into so they can make sure you’ve got a good one.

Read: How to road trip your way to all of the NSW silo art  

But oh the things you’ll see! From bright city lights to the lights of the milky way in the desert at night, you’ll drive through rainforests and dusty outback towns, swim in fresh waterholes and salty beaches.

To really do it all, take a detour off the Stuart Highway in the Northern Territory so you can see Uluru, Alice Springs and Kakadu.

Australian Road Trips

But make sure to check road conditions as you travel along. In the wet season roads can be closed when you’re travelling between Broome and Cairns, so the best time to drive is between April and September in the dry season if you can.

Where to stay?

In the whole of Australia?! Yeah, there are a few great places to try.

One good way to plan ahead is to check your destination and dates with Booking.com and see what you fall in love with. And while it may cost a little more sometimes we always like to go for the full refund booking option so if you change your mind and spend longer than expected somewhere along the way, you can cancel or change your booking and not lose any money along the way.

Australian Road Trips

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