Easy ways to explore Australia
80% of Malaysians think the best way to see Australia is on a guided tour.
There’s no doubt Australia is a big country, but it’s surprisingly easy to navigate. With plenty of established driving routes and countless hidden gems to discover along the way, there are distinct advantages to striking out on your own. Here are just some of the different ways you can see the country your way.
Answer the call of the open road
Taking to the open road in a car or campervan is the perfect way to see the country at your own pace, and it’s easier than you might think. Even in the outback you'll generally find regular gas stations, friendly towns and plenty of special places to stop and explore. Whether you want to cruise a scenic ocean route, discover the north on a tropical drive or make your way along one of Australia’s most famous outback roads, there’s a self-drive option for everyone. With plenty of options for rental vehicles in every major city and hotels and campgrounds for every budget along the way, it’s easy, safe and fun to choose your own adventure.
Make your own tracks
One of the best ways to discover Australia on your own is to take to the trails. With hundreds of national parks across the country and plenty of curated trails in and around major cities, you can immerse yourself in some of the world’s most breathtaking scenery. A favourite for visitors and locals alike is the Bondi to Bronte coastal walk along Sydney’s famous coastline. It’s particularly beautiful in October and November when the landscape is transformed into a temporary sculpture park. Tasmania is home to the best air on the planet and tracks winding through ancient wilderness and along rugged coastlines. Wilsons Promontory (just under four hours south of Melbourne) offers trails through uncrowded beaches, eucalypt forests, rainforest gullies and rocky mountaintops. From a few hours to a few weeks, Australia has a walking trail to take your fancy.
Leave the crowds behind and seek out hidden gems
There’s no doubt about it - Australia is a big country. Hopping on a guided tour is certainly a stress-free way to see the highlights, but there are benefits to taking your itinerary into your own hands. Leave the crowds behind and seek out adventure by heading to some of the best ‘undiscovered’ parts of the country. These hidden gems will reward your efforts with awe inspiring landscapes, wildlife, star-filled skies and a chance to connect with nature in a way that few get to experience. The Grampians National Park is just three hours from Melbourne, yet feels worlds away. The area is famous for quality red wines, hiking trails and Aboriginal history. The craggy peaks and rocky gorges of South Australia’s Flinders Ranges require a five hour road trip from Adelaide, but are well worth the journey. Explore the 100 kilometre (62 mile) crater that is Wilpena Pound, taste kangaroo and emu at an outback pub, and glamp under the stars at Arkaba Station.
Give it the time it deserves
The Great Ocean Road is one of Australia’s most famous highways - and for good reason. Home to the world-class surf at Bells Beach and the craggy limestone spires of the 12 Apostles, it’s easy to see why visitors are drawn to the area. Most guided tours will take groups up and back in a day trip, but the area has so much to offer beyond the main attractions. From koala colonies to artsy coastal towns and fine dining on an organic farm, there are a number of must-see attractions that will make you want to extend your trip. If you’re driving the Great Ocean Road on your own, you’ll have all the time you need to discover the magic lying just beyond the main road.
Take one of the world’s greatest train journeys
If you’d prefer to leave the driving to someone else, but still want a unique travel experience through the outback, Australia’s train journeys are an excellent option. The Ghan goes from north to south (Darwin to Adelaide), or vice versa, traversing wide open spaces, the rusty Red Centreand lush greens of the Top End on a journey of three or four days. The Indian Pacific begins its journey in Sydney and travels for four days across the entire continent to Perth in the west (or vice versa). It passes through landscapes as varied as the spectacular Blue Mountains and the endless flat, otherworldly stretches of the Nullarbor Plain. Both offer comfortable cabins, superb service, excellent food, quality wines and fascinating day trips.
Head off road
While there are many beautiful drives you can explore on a guided tour, there are just some places that a tour bus can’t go. The Great Beach Drive, a 200 kilometre (124 mile) wave-washed highway on the Sunshine Coast, is the perfect example of an incredible experience you can only have by hopping behind the wheel. You'll need a 4WD and a sense of adventure, but you’ll never forget the feeling of sand beneath your wheels as the waves crash just metres away. You’ll drive past the famous cliffs known as the Coloured Sands, and Carlo Sandblow, a massive sand dune that towers over Rainbow Beach. Extend your trip by taking your vehicle on the barge to Fraser Island - the world’s largest sand island. Drive along the beach to its northern tip or tackle the sandy rainforest tracks through the island's centre, spotting wild dingoes along the way.
Experience the Daintree Rainforest
One of Australia’s greatest natural treasures is the Daintree Rainforest, the oldest tropical rainforest in the world. Drive just 2.5 hours from Cairns to visit this ancient forest, beginning your journey at the Daintree Discovery Centre, where you can stroll along aerial walkways and viewing platforms. You can explore the many hiking trails on your own, or sign up for a tour to learn ancient traditions from an Aboriginal guide or spot saltwater crocodiles from a river cruise. Don’t miss the magnificent Mossman Gorge, where clear waters cascade over granite boulders in the Mossman River, creating freshwater swimming pools. Check the safety conditions at the Mossman Gorge Centre, the gateway to the gorge.
Explore on two wheels
Cycling is another great way to explore and enjoy Australia. Most of Australia’s cities are bicycle-friendly with cycling paths, giving access to rides throughout the cities. You can rent a bicycle with Melbourne Bike Share or Rentabike@Federation Square and cycle along Yarra River in Melbourne to enjoy the sunset view. Alternatively, take a joy ride in Rottnest Island to explore stunning beaches and bays, and meet the happiest animal on earth – the quokka! To the adrenaline junkies, take part in L'Étape Australia by Le Tour de France run under professional conditions for amateurs in Jindabyne, New South Wales. For an off-road adventure, challenge yourself and embark on a mountain bike trail in Tasmania.
Unwind in regional Victoria
Regional Victoria is home to some spectacular spots that are best explored at your own pace. Given the relatively small size of the state, you’ll be pleased to discover that you can see a range of beautiful landscapes - from tall mountains to sweeping coastlines - in a short time. Take Victoria’s Go Beyond Melbourne Touring Route and road trip through the Yarra Valley and Dandenong Ranges, Phillip Island and through to the Mornington Peninsula and the Bellarine. You’ll taste wine, see wildlife and relax in hot springs. If it’s autumn, be sure to drive through Marysville to see the changing autumn hues. Alternatively, take a five-day trip along the Great Southern Touring Route, which includes the Great Ocean Road, Grampians National Park and the historic town of Ballarat.
Marvel at Lake Macdonnell
Pink lakes have become a must-see for photographers, nature-lovers and adventurers alike. In South Australia, you can visit vibrant pink lakes across the state. Located on the Eyre Peninsula, a short flight and drive from Adelaide, Lake Macdonnell boasts a bright pink hue due to a high salt concentration. The drive to Lake Macdonnell is unlike any other, with the dirt road splitting the lake’s pink water on one side and green water on the other. At the end of the road, you’ll find the beautiful Cactus Beach, known for powerful waves and picturesque coastline. Lake Macdonnell isn’t the only pink lake you’ll find in South Australia. Tick off a pink lake bucket list when you visit the Clare Valley’s Lake Bumbunga, the Fleurieu Peninsula’s Lake Albert or the outback’s Lake Hart and Lake Eyre, all of which show off impressive shades of pink.
Soar above the hinterlands in a hot air balloon
Heading inland from the coast will lead you to discover Australia’s hinterlands. Quaint towns, lush rainforests and wine regions make for the perfect backdrop when you explore from above. In a hot air balloon you can soar above the clouds and watch the sunrise over the countryside. In Canberra, your flight will take you above the city where you can spot Parliament House and other attractions. Float over the vines in wine regions including the Hunter Valley near Sydney and Yarra Valley near Melbourne. You’ll drift above perfectly manicured vineyards before descending to a champagne breakfast. It’s an exhilarating and romantic way to start your day.
Road trip Australia's south
Australia’s north holds several iconic attractions, but the country’s southern states have surprises of their own. Hit the highway on a road trip through Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania to uncover decadent food and wine, incredible accommodation and serene coastal beauty. Choose from among 2,300 esteemed labels on the Royal Mail Hotel wine list in Victoria, take a guided walk through windswept mountains to white sand beaches or follow Tasmania’s Tamar Valley Wine Route to discover one of Australia’s lesser-known - but equally bold - wine regions. As you weave through Australia’s south, you’ll find adventure around every bend.