- East coast: Cairns to Brisbane
This drive between Cairns and Brisbane is one of the most popular road trip routes in Australia. The winding drive stays close to the coast and passes some of the country’s most impressive natural highlights – Fraser Island, the Whitsundays and of course, the Great Barrier Reef Islands. A great introduction to Australia, Queensland is the adventure centre of Oz, with skydiving, bungee jumping and rafting being just a few of the adventures you can choose.
The stunning shore of Queensland is reason enough to drive the entirety of the coastal route from Cairns to Brisbane, but the myriad of beaches and islands accessible from the road is another game-changer if you’re thinking of choosing this route! The road is well maintained with sections so close to the coast you’ll almost skim the water’s edge, so make sure you include Cairns to Brisbane as a surface sector of your round the world trip.
- Pacific Highway: Brisbane to Sydney
This route takes you between two of Australia’s largest cities, Sydney and Brisbane. Once you’ve left Brisbane you’re basically just hopping from beach to beach as you journey along the Pacific coast. The pretty rocks of Bouddi National Park and wide open beaches of Lennox Head and Byron Bay lead you south, with locals and travellers alike taking to the waves with their surfboards.
The east coast drive runs parallel to the humpback whales’ migration route towards Antarctica, so you can stop almost anywhere along the route and book on to a whale watching trip. Head inland to the Hunter Valley for a vineyard tour and sample a fine glass of Chardonnay before cruising into Sydney and settling into a quayside bar to watch the sunset behind the sails of the opera house.
- Great Ocean Road: Melbourne to Adelaide
One of the world’s most scenic coastal drives, the Great Ocean Road weaves its way alongside the windswept Southern Ocean. Home to some of Australia’s most famous surf meccas (Bells Beach near Torquay holds major championships) and the limestone towers known as the 12 Apostles in Port Campbell National Park, you’ll discover an unblemished coastline within an easy drive of Melbourne. Venture into the pristine rainforest for a bush walk to find an astonishing variety of native wildlife including koalas, kangaroos and maybe a platypus or two.
Discover delicious local produce in the quaint village of Port Fairy, see Cape Otway Lighthouse – Australia’s oldest mainland lighthouse, and learn about ancient aboriginal life at the Narana Aboriginal Cultural Centre.
- Adelaide to Darwin: The Stuart Highway
This classic route echoes the journey made by John McDouall Stuart to get from Adelaide to Darwin, the capital of the Northern Territory on the coast. Follow the lonely road through the heart of Australia and watch the scenery change from the mountainous Flinders Ranges into the red rock of the central desert and the huge gorges of the north. Nearly 3000km of road, this is the ultimate road trip that will lead you through the heart of the Australian outback.
Nothing says road trip like the deserts of Australia, where the best way to experience true Aussie spirit is to set off into the distance and not look back. This route through the wilderness to the northern coast of Australia was only completed by John McDouall Stuart and his team 150 years ago and travelling through the vast centre of the country is still seen as a huge achievement!
- Southwest edge: Adelaide to Perth
The long route along Australia’s southern coast is one of the most impressive drives on our list, largely thanks to the plains through which it snakes its way from Adelaide to Perth. The Nullarbor Plain (null – no arbor – trees) is a huge expanse and one of the harshest environments in the country, with stretches of road where you won’t see a soul or building for hundreds of kilometres. One 90 mile section of road is completely straight – you’d have to have pretty good eyes to see the end though! Don’t forget to stop in Cape Le Grand National Park for the beautiful beaches and Kalgoorlie to see the gold panning.
‘Crossing the Nullarbor’ is one of the classic Australian outback experiences and one of the ultimate Aussie drives. The open road and absence of cities mean it is one of the best places for stargazing – pull over, lie down on the bonnet and see if you can spot the ‘The Emu in the Sky’ and the Southern Cross. You won’t see these views if you fly from Adelaide to Perth!
- Tasmania’s Ocean Loop
Tasmania’s island status often excludes it from collections of great Australian road trips but we saw no need for that here. Tasmania is an easy ride from Melbourne on the ferry or a simple 1hr 15-minute flight and the ocean road loops right around the island meaning you can stay close to the rugged beaches that encase this beautiful isle. History, culture and wildlife await you in the jewel of Australia.
There is no better way to see Tasmania than to drive. The opportunity to stop and explore wherever you please is a massive bonus when visiting the island. Rather than sticking to the city, driving gives you the chance to uncover areas of Tasmania that are inaccessible by public transport. The distances are short and the views incredible; Tasmania has the recipe for the perfect road trip!