Whether you are first time visitor to Australia or someone who grew up in our beautiful country, you are guaranteed to find a road trip route that will woo you. A country of extreme contrasts, Australia promises landscapes from the picture-perfect sets of Queensland’s beaches to the quiet rugged rusty-red roads of the Top-End. These are three of the best road trips Australia has to offer; each will give you, quite literally, a front-row seat to some of Australia’s most famous landmarks and a taster of the unique, colourful contrasts our country has to offer.
While you can rent a car for many of these trips, many longer-term visitors to Australia find buying a car or camper van and taking a slow travel approach, the perfect way to travel deeper into some of the most beautiful, untouched parts of the country (find out more here).
3 of the Best Road Trips in Australia
The Pacific Coast
A 914-kilometre trip, there are two ways you can get to Sydney from the Brisbane; inland on the New England Highway or via the famous coastal Pacific Highway. Heading west on the New England Highway will carry you through some of Australia’s most gorgeous country towns and cities such as Uralla, Armidale and Tamworth. Or travel on a little further to pull in for the night in the iconic Hunter Valley where you can enjoy some of Australia’s best wines accompanied by the fresh farm to table food. Grab a coffee or some breakfast in the once again thriving Newcastle or the pretty Central Coast suburb of Terrigal on your way into Sydney.
If you take the Pacific Coast route, get started early if you are travelling on the weekend as you’ll miss some of the traffic that builds on the stretch between Brisbane and the Gold Coast. Stop in for breakfast on the Gold Coast or Byron Bay to one of their many amazing Byron Bay cafes, a little further south, before tackling the rest of the trip.
Related: A Healthy Travel Guide to Byron Bay
If you are looking for somewhere to spend the night, the laid-back surfing town of Yamba is one of Australia’s best-kept secrets and a great place to stay with kids. While Port Macquarie and Forster are also popular places to stop on your way into Sydney, we love Blueys Beach. It is a much quieter spot, with plenty to do during your stay from fishing to swimming with dolphins or their famed foodie trail.
The Great Ocean Road
The Great Ocean Road is a must-do for anyone visiting Australia, whether you are travelling solo, as a couple, family or with friends. It is also a stretch that you can drive quickly in a weekend or ideally at a more leisurely pace over three to five days. The Great Ocean Road officially starts in Torquay. If you’re driving to Torquay from Melbourne, stop off in beautiful Barwon Heads for lunch or even a one night stay.
From Torquay, you will wind your way along the breathtaking coastal road. This road trip offers a little of everything; the famous Bells Beach swell, home to the Rip Curl Pro, Apollo Bay and the nearby rainforest (ideal for hiking enthusiasts, lovely Lorne; a nice place to spend a night, the iconic Twelve Apostles (of which only eight stacks remain), not to mention the food and wine delights offered along the Otways Harvest Trail and surrounds.
Red Centre Way
There is nowhere in the world quite like Australia’s Red Centre. It not only looks different, it feels different. There is a calm that settles over you in this part of the country. You’ll need a 4WD for the loop from Alice Springs to Kings Canyon and back again. Spend a night in Alice Springs before you head south. Grab a coffee at one of the cute hipster cafes, head to Anzac Hill which offers a great vantage point across the outback town and spend the afternoon perusing the locally art galleries and book stores.
There are a few different routes taking you on the Red Centre loop; depending on whether you want to take sealed roads or you’re happy to kick up a bit of red dust. Kings Canyon lies halfway between Alice Springs and Uluru and is a great place to stop for a night to tour the Watarrka National Park and get that perfect Insta-worthy shots of sunrise atop the rich red rock walls. After driving from Kings Canyon to Uluru, spend a night or two in Uluru. Of the many things to do in Uluru, make sure you cycle or walk around the rock, take the time to visit Kata Tjuta and pre-book tickets to the Field of Light, an incredible art installation which has now open until December 2020.
Take your time with this trip. Stop to hike into the gorges for a picnic lunch or a swim and feast on the scenery. No matter how much of the world you have seen, a road trip to this region will leave a marked impression on you.
Skye is the founder and editor-in-chief of The Fit Traveller.
She is a journalist, writer, photographer, intrepid traveller and a former personal trainer with a passion for helping others reach optimal health.
As a TV journalist and producer, Skye has worked for household names such as 60 Minutes, Sunrise, TODAY and Nine News. She has also written for Women’s Health, Fodor’s Travel and Yahoo7 Travel, among many others.
Equally comfortable in a 5-star resort or hiking a far-off mountain, Skye loves the unexpected and enriching life experiences that each trip brings and can often be found in a backstreet chatting to locals with her camera in hand.
Skye is based in Sydney, working to master the balance between motherhood and her appetite for adventure.
Read more about Skye’s story here.