In our opinion, there is no better way to explore The Land Down Under than on an Australian road trip. Not only do road trips in Australia allow you to see the country’s natural beauty, but it also offers a very cost-effective way to explore some of the most significant sights and attractions.
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Being such a vast country, Australia is made for adventurous road trips. The distances between states, cities, and major attractions can be mind-boggling, but it’s also what makes a road trip or lap around the country so unique.
Over the last few years, we’ve spent plenty of time on road trip adventures across Australia.
Most recently, we set off on a half-lap of Australia in our self-built Land Cruiser Troopy Camper in 2021. We spent 5 months on the road and covered more than 18,000 km, visiting some of Australia’s most iconic destinations.
With all this experience on Australian road trips, we’ve decided to round up the 10 best trips to do in Australia by road. Whether you have a week or many months, these epic road trips are definitely worthy of your bucket list.
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10 Best Road Trips in Australia
1. Sydney to Melbourne Road Trip
New South Wales to Victoria
This coastal drive follows the Princes Highway along what Sydney locals call the South Coast. It certainly rivals the raw beauty and diversity of the Great Ocean Road in Victoria, with stunning pristine beaches, dense green forests, and plenty of opportunities to enjoy the view.
This road trip spans over 1000 km but can easily be covered in a few days if you’re short on time. However, the trip is best enjoyed at a slower pace, with up to two weeks ideal for getting the most out of it.
If you take the coastal scenic route from Sydney to Melbourne, you’ll want to head south past the Royal National Park towards Wollongong and Shoalhaven. This drive section is known as the Grand Pacific Drive and crosses the iconic sea cliff bridge in Clifton.
As you head south, a popular stop is Jervis Bay. This town is just 200 km south of Sydney and is a great base from which to explore the incredible coastal region said to have the whitest sand in the world. From there, you can continue down the South Coast through the popular holiday destination of Batemans Bay and then through Eden into Victoria.
Driving down Victoria’s east coast is much quieter than NSW’s coast, and you’ll find plenty of small towns to stop at and enjoy the local hospitality.
Lakes Entrance and the Gippsland Lakes region are stunning spots to have a break from the long drive before you head into Melbourne.
2. Legendary Pacific Coast: Sydney to Brisbane
New South Wales to Queensland
The famous journey from Sydney to Brisbane is one of the most popular road trips for travellers looking to explore the best of the East Coast of New South Wales. This self-drive itinerary spans 1000 km along the Legendary Pacific Coast.
This famous East Coast road trip takes you on an adventure through lush national parks, stunning beaches, rolling green hills of the hinterland, and small yet vibrant off-the-beaten-track towns full of authentic Australian culture.
It’s one of the road trips in Australia that can be undertaken in as little as a weekend or one that can be easily extended to 2-3 weeks. No matter how much time you have, it’s worth allowing extra time to stop on the way.
As you drive north of Newcastle, you’ve got a lot of great coastal towns to visit on the way and enjoy the stunning coastal scenery. Port Macquarie is a popular holiday destination. Coffs Harbour is famous for its Big Banana, and Byron Bay has become an iconic town for its surf, sand, and wellness scene.
Once you head north of Byron Bay, you’ll finally hit the famous beaches of the Gold Coast before arriving in Brisbane. There are plenty of things to do around the Gold Coast and Brisbane, both on the coast and inland and in the many national parks which are a short drive away.
3. The Great Queensland Escape: Brisbane to Cape Tribulation
If you have added the legendary East Coast Australia road trip to your itinerary, then take our advice and keep going north for another epic road trip. We might be biased since we were based in Queensland for more than 3 years (well, more like 6 for Max), but we think it truly is the most beautiful and diverse region in all of Australia.
Then, make your way to Hervey Bay and Rainbow Beach to experience the sand dunes, rainforests, and beaches on Fraser Island (K’gari). This is the world’s largest sand island and is certainly one of the most unique places to visit in the state.
For true luxury and a romantic side trip, you should ditch your car for a few days and sail into the sunset in the beautiful Whitsundays. These islands are known for having some of the world’s most beautiful beaches, with stunning resorts to splurge on for a couple of days.
Of course, one of the ultimate bucket list experiences of Tropical North Queensland is diving in the Great Barrier Reef. This can be done from any of these coastal towns on organised diving boat tours. Make sure to choose a reputable and environmentally conscious tour operator for your dive in the Great Barrier Reef.
Finally, you’ll finish off your journey from Cairns to Cape Tribulation in a peaceful town located within the Daintree National Park and the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area. This incredible tropical paradise around Cape Tribulation is the perfect place to relax for a few days and cool off from the hot weather.
If you’ve got a 4×4 and extra time up your sleeve, you can even keep driving all the way up to Cape York. This is the northernmost point of the Australian mainland and an iconic landmark for road trippers.
READ NEXT: 18 Best things to do in Cape Tribulation
4. Western Expedition: Perth to Broome
Western Australia is certainly one of the most underrated states in Australia. Considering its vast size, driving over 3,000 km along the West Coast of Australia can be long and strenuous.
However, for those who undertake the journey, you’ll be rewarded with some incredible experiences. If you have a sense of adventure and plenty of time, we highly recommend ditching the crowds on the East Coast and taking the West Coast Drive instead.
Once you’ve soaked up the laid-back vibes of Perth, head north to Lancelin and enjoy some fun sandboarding in the dunes. Just up the coast from there is Cervantes, another sleepy town on the Coral Coast. Its main attraction is Nambung National Park, home of the mythical Pinnacles, which is an incredible spot to be at sunset.
Just a 4-hour drive north, you’ll come to a couple more iconic spots in Western Australia.
Hutt Lagoon is a stunning pink salt lake that you’ve likely seen in your Instagram feed at some point or another. Another worthy stop is Kalbarri National Park, which is often considered one of the most underrated national parks in Australia.
Further up, you’ve got Exmouth and Ningaloo Reef, famous for the incredible experience of swimming with whale sharks. A long 600km drive inland from there; you should try to explore the spectacular gorges of Karijini National Park.
Another 900 km north, and you’ll finish your road trip in Broome, home of the famous Cable Beach. If you’re completing a big lap of Australia, then from Broome, you can continue around to the Gibb River Road and over to the Northern Territory.
READ NEXT: The Ultimate Perth to Broome Road Trip
5. Gibb River Road
The Gibb River Road is one for the off-road and 4×4 adventurers. This incredible journey along 660 km of the remote Kimberley Region of northern Western Australia is not for the faint-hearted. It’s often referred to as one of the roughest roads in Australia, but with our Troopy, we loved every minute of the trip, and it turned out to be one of our favourite memories from our time.
The Gibb River Road is a legendary track connecting Derby to Kununurra on a road once used to transport cattle through the region. It’s now become a very popular road trip and has seen major improvements over the years for it to be manageable for most people with a 4WD.
Along the road, you’ll get to explore gorgeous swimming holes, beautiful waterfalls, rocky gorges, scenic lookouts, and incredible hikes. While you can do the whole road trip in a week, we recommend taking around 2 weeks for the perfect self-drive itinerary.
This road trip has a limited time window and is only accessible during the dry season, typically from May – October each year. You’ll want to make sure you plan ahead as well because fuel and food are in short supply once you set off.
READ NEXT: Gibb River Road Itinerary Guide
6. The Great Ocean Road
While it might be the shortest route on this list, some consider it to be the most picturesque road trip in Australia. The Great Ocean Road is a 243-kilometre stretch of road along the southeastern coast of Australia between the cities of Torquay and Allansford. The road passes through rainforests and beaches and provides access to some popular tourist landmarks like the 12 Apostles.
You can travel the Great Ocean Road in just a day by hopping aboard one of the many Great Ocean Road tours departing daily from Melbourne, but arranging car hire and making your own Australian road trip adventure is so much better.
There are some laid-back surfer towns along the Great Ocean Road, which are great places to stop and try some of the delicious local produce. Known as the Surf Coast, you’ll find plenty of places to surf if the swell is good, including one of the most famous beaches in the world, Bells Beach.
Otherwise, there are some remarkable rocks and unique formations along the coast, particularly in the Port Campbell National Park. Must-see stops include the famous Twelve Apostles, Loch Ard Gorge, and Gibson Steps.
If you’re more of a waterfall chaser, then just inland, you’ll find secluded and moody waterfalls in the Otway National Park and Rainforest.
If you get to the end of the Great Ocean Road, you can continue driving across to South Australia for the ultimate great southern touring route through both states.
7. Launceston to Hobart via the Western Loop
Travelling from Launceston to Hobart (or in reverse) is one of the most popular road trips when visiting Tasmania, otherwise known as the Apple Isle. If you’re short on time, you can take the Heritage Highway between the two cities to take in some of the historic towns from the early 1800s, including Oatlands, Kempton, and Brighton. This would also offer an option for a side trip to Freycinet National Park.
However, we recommend going further than just the 2-hour straight drive between the two cities and heading out on the Western Loop. For those with extra time and keen to get amongst some of the epic mountain ranges of the island state, we suggest heading west from Launceston.
You can explore the rugged beauty of the Walls of Jerusalem National Park or stop for a visit at the more famous Cradle Mountain National Park. These are two of the World Heritage sites in Tasmania and popular hiking destinations.
Then, stop in the small town of Corinna, one of our favourite off-the-beaten-track places in Tasmania. From there, you can drive through Zeehan and Queenstown and visit Lake St. Clair, another one of the most stunning places in the state.
If you have even more time, we recommend stopping in Mount Field National Park before ending your road trip in the vibrant city of Hobart.
READ NEXT: Things to do in Hobart, TAS
8. Red Centre Way
One of the most famous road trips in Australia, the Red Centre Way takes in the best of the Northern Territory and Australian outback. This incredible journey will lead you to Australia’s most famous attractions, including Uluru and Kings Canyon, located in the heart of the country.
There are a couple of ways to do this road trip.
Otherwise, for those incorporating Australia’s Red Centre with a longer road trip, you can reach the region by travelling on the Stuart Highway, which stretches from Port Augusta in South Australia all the way to Darwin in the Top End.
Either way, you’ll want to take your time on this trip because the distances between destinations are incredibly long and remote. Sometimes, the only way to pick up supplies on the way is from outback roadhouses.
To get the best out of the area, we suggest at least a couple of weeks, especially if you want to allow a few days at Uluru and Kings Canyon to admire these incredible natural landscapes.
9. Top End Road Trip
After the Red Centre, another popular destination in Australia’s Northern Territory is the Top End. This spectacular top half of the state includes some incredible rock formations, natural swimming holes, gorges, wildlife, and Aboriginal culture and history.
You can make a nice loop from the state capital, Darwin, which takes in the main attractions, including Kakadu National Park, Litchfield National Park, and Nitmiluk Gorge. This trip is best completed in the dry season because during the wet season, many of the roads can be washed out, and a 4×4 is required for most locations.
After exploring the vibrant markets and colourful sunsets in Darwin, you can head southeast to Kakadu National Park. This incredible part of the Arnhem Land Escarpment is home to Aboriginal rock art and spiritual places, making it one of 20 UNESCO World Heritage Listed areas in Australia.
You’ll then want to head down south to Katherine and pay a visit to Nitmiluk National Park, which is dominated by Katherine Gorge. Then, you can drive back up the Stuart Highway to Litchfield National Park, which is an absolute paradise for outdoor lovers. You can swim, hike, and camp all day long in a variety of natural swimming holes before completing the circuit back to Darwin.
10. Eyre Peninsula Road Trip
If you’re ready to brush off the red dust from the Northern Territory, a road trip down to South Australia should be on the cards. It’s one of the most underrated states in the country, and you’ll rarely see images of it in Tourism Australia ads. But, if you do go, you’ll find empty beaches, delicious fresh seafood, rolling hills covered in vineyards, and the fun and vibrant city of Adelaide.
Of South Australia’s incredible peninsulas, our favourite for road tripping is the Eyre Peninsula. Located west of Adelaide, you can follow the Eyre Highway to the peninsula, past Port Augusta, and down onto the coast.
A popular way to explore the peninsula is by following the east coast down the Lincoln Highway to Port Lincoln, a port town looking across the sea to Kangaroo Island, before taking the Flinders Highway up the west coast to Ceduna. This v-shaped road trip will take you to so many untouched beaches and coves and incredible campsites on the way.
We recommend taking around two weeks to really do this road trip justice, but you may find yourself lingering longer at some of the laid-back coastal towns.
Australia Road Trip Planner Tips
Decide On Your Time Frame
When it comes to mapping out your Aussie road trip ideas, figuring out how much time you have to explore is the first step. Every one of the road trips on our list is flexible, meaning that you can complete it in just a few days to a week or two, or you can even travel slower, enjoying the route for a month or even longer. How quickly you move – is up to you!
Choose the Right Road Trip Vehicle
Hiring a car in Australia can be expensive, so be sure to use a good car rental search engine, like Discover Cars, and find the right vehicle for your adventure. Consider a car that’s environmentally friendly, or choose to enjoy some of the best road trips in Australia with more than 2 people to reduce your CO2 emissions.
READY TO EXPLORE AUSTRALIA BY CAR?
Get the best car rental rates by booking ahead! Discover Cars compares prices across all major car rental companies, so you are guaranteed to get the best deal.
What are some of your favourite road trips in Australia? Leave a comment below, we’d love to hear what great adventures we might have left off our list!
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