From the coast to the country, Australia is straight up stunning – and we’re not saying that because we’re biased! Usually, the best way to explore a place is by foot, but since this country is so bloody big, you’re better off cruising it by car. And with our beaches, bushland and outback, Oz was pretty much made for the best road trips. So, gather the gals, pack some snacks, and take these scenic routes.
The Legendary Pacific Coast, NSW & QLD
Heading to Falls this summer? Save some cash with one of the best road trips up the coast to Byron Bay. The Pacific Coast is ‘legendary’ for a reason. It’s picturesque, and follows 900km of beaches, charming seaside towns, lush hinterland and national parks. It’s generally from Sydney to Brissy, but if that’s too long, do the nine-hour stretch to bohemian Bay. From Sydney, you’ll hop on the Pacific Highway and drive north through the Central Coast, Port Stephens (where you can ride horses on the beach), Newcastle, Coffs Harbour and Ballina before arriving in Byron Bay. If you decide to keep going, you’ll cross the QLD border, pass Tweed Heads and land in the Gold Coast. Cue throwback to schoolies in Surfer’s Paradise! While you can wake up at the crack of dawn and do the trip in one go, it’s way more fun to weave through the towns and make stops along the way. If you have tons of time, detour to the Hunter Valley and spend the arvo pretending your palate is more sophisticated than it actually is. #guilty
The Great Ocean Road, VIC
Stretching 243km along the southern coast of Victoria, The Great Ocean Road is beyond beautiful. It is a beast of a drive so you’ll want to have a few designated drivers on deck. The craggy road begins in Torquay, and passes the rugged rainforests of the Ottaway Ranges, Lorne, and Port Campbell National Park, which is home to the Twelve Apostles. Along the way, you’ll spot an iconic lighthouse (Cape Otway), as well as scenic cliffs, quaint fishing villages, chill beach towns and a 19th-century shipwreck (Loch Ard Gorge). It finishes up in Allansford. Try to give yourself a week to take it all in and turn the pitstops into overnight stays.
The Grand Pacific Drive, NSW
When the weekend rolls around, go on a mini-getaway to Jervis Bay. To get there, hop on the Grand Pacific Drive, which will get you to the white-sand beaches in around three hours. Before that, though, you’ll drive over the iconic Sea Cliff Bridge and through the cute coastal towns of Wollongong, Shellharbour and Kiama – where you can stop to see the Kiama Blowhole. Then you’ll continue on to Hyams Beach in Jervis Bay, the pristine stretch of sand that’s said to be the whitest in the world. We’ll take it! If you’re a ‘the journey is the destination’ type, pack your cossies and pop into the Royal National Park for a sneaky swim/hike/picnic.
The Indian Ocean Drive, WA
Buckle up, because you’re in for an EPIC ride. 1200km to be exact! The Indian Ocean Drive follows Western Australia’s Coral Coast from Perth to Ningaloo, and it’s seriously scenic. Once you leave the city, you’ll work your way through the sparkly seaside towns of Cervantes, Geraldton, Monkey Mia and Carnarvon. Swimming aside, you can feed the dolphins at Monkey Mia and wander down Shell Beach, which, instead of sand, is made up of billions of tiny white shells. Wear sneakers! If you’re partial to a national park, check out The Pinnacles, a bunch of beautiful desert towers at Nambung National Park, or the wildflowers and rock canyons of Kalbarri National Park. And if you’re a thrill-seeker, you can swim with the whale sharks at Ningaloo Reef, which is WA’s answer to the Great Barrier Reef. The crystal-clear waters are home to over 500 types of tropical fish.
The Great Eastern Drive, TAS
Are you an Aussie who’s travelled the world but hasn’t been to Tassie yet? With its lush wilderness, beautiful beaches and next-level food and wine scene, the island is a quiet overachiever, so book a holiday there ASAP. Then, rent a car for one of the best road trips, which hugs the island’s eastern coastline. In Hobart, stuff yourself silly at the city’s award-winning restaurants, sip on a sunset cocktail (or mocktail) by the pier, and go to MONA, a cool and controversial museum on the outskirts of the city. After that, cruise to Port Arthur and take a trip back in time. The area is one of the world’s most significant convict sites, and you can still see the signs. Jump back in the car and drive to Freycinet National Park, where there’s eye-popping beauty around every turn thanks to its granite mountains, azure waters, native wildlife and the pretty-as-a-picture Wineglass Bay. If you’re the outdoorsy type, wear your hiking boots and explore Cradle Mountain National Park, and if you’re more of a sit-down-and-drink-vino person, check out some of the state’s best cellar doors on the East Coast Wine Trail.
Red Centre Way, NT
To really, truly appreciate Australian history, you have to go to the source: the outback. For the most scenic road trip, skip the Stuart Highway (which connects Uluru and Alice Springs) and meander along the Red Centre Way. The rugged road takes you through the sunburnt landscapes, gorges, canyons and dirt tracks that make up the West MacDonnel Ranges, and its beauty reminds you of how lucky we are to live in this country. If you want to see the Red Centre up-close, stay for a night or two in the Kata Tjuta National Park (where Uluru is) and tackle the hiking trails around the big red rock. PS. Get into a good position for sunrise because it’s INSANE. On any given day, it’s red, purple, pink or a mix of all three.
The Great Barrier Reef Drive, QLD
Wear your cossies because we’re going to the tropics! This 140km drive starts at Cairns and travels across tropical North Queensland before finishing up at Cape Tribulation. Along the way, it takes in not one, but two World Heritage landscapes: the Great Barrier Reef and Daintree Rainforest. It’s safe to say you’ll want your phone fully charged for this one! Spend the first few days snorkelling or scuba diving through the Reef, then cool down with cocktails in Cairns. When you’re ready to leave, drive towards the Daintree to soak up the rivers, rainforest, and waterfalls.
Do you agree these are the best road trips? Where would you add?