Seven Great Australian Road Trips Worth Hitting the Road For

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 hitting the road if you have the time to soak up the scenery between hot spots.

Depending on the kind of Australian road trips you’re after you could go for a route that involves lots of stops in cute towns and villages along the way, or for the chance to 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 what you want to do, 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 do a little number crunching and compare the cost of car including any one-way drop off fees with the price of buying a second hand car on a site like Gumtree and then selling it again at the end.

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 a good tip when it comes to booking accommodation, most places on Booking.com have 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 for you? 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.

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 (though I have o say it somehow looks a lot smaller when you’re all grown up).

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 tthe 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.

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.

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. Meanwhile Brockley Estate is a country property on 10,000 acres of farmland and just a 20 minute drive from Triabunna, 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.

Watch the landscape change on the Coral Coast drive from green farmland to red dirt, with plenty of turquoise water and soft white sand beaches 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?

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 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 to Broome in Western Australia’s Kimberley.

You’ll want a 4WD for the Savannah Way road trip 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.

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 Tourist Resort which is also a home to orphaned wallabies. The Cicada Lodge is right next to Katherine Gorge and Nitmiluk Gorge and has an outdoor 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 this Aussie 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 that will take you around the whole continent.

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.

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. Remember, most places have 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.

This post contains some affiliate links, so if you click on a link and book something I will earn a small commission but don’t worry, it’s at no extra cost to you. Thank you.

Australian Road Trips

About the Author

As a journalist who loves to travel and is fond of a chat I'm oh so happy when I'm sharing travel tales and tips. When I'm not travelling or writing about it I can be found out and about with friends, curled up at home with a good book or watching an addictive tv show promising I'll stop after one more episode. Amanda on Google +

Leave a Comment