10 of Australia’s most iconic road trips
Feel the freedom of the open road with these unmissable road trips.
There’s no shortage of adventure on the spectacular Legendary Pacific Coast between Sydney and Brisbane, boasting the wineries of the Hunter Valley, the sparkling beaches of Port Stephens, the hippie-chic scene of Byron Bay and the glitz of the Gold Coast. It’s a wind-the-windows-down kind of road trip that embraces Australia’s coastal beauty and laid-back vibes, even passing one of the most iconic road trip pit stops: the Big Banana.
Coastal drives fit into a road trip category of their own, with the endless ocean on one side and sweeping landscapes on the other. One of Australia’s most spectacular coastal drives is New South Wales’ Grand Pacific Drive. Beginning just south of Sydney, the road clutches the coastline, unfurling onto the Sea Cliff Bridge, which seemingly levitates above crashing waves. Along the way, visit a dramatic blowhole in Kiama, stroll along the bone-white shores of Hyams Beach and witness ancient history.
The central Australian outback is a place of transformation. Ancient ochre landscapes, dynamic cultures and starry skies create an energy unique to Australia’s red heart. Driving the Red Centre Way, a loop beginning and ending in the outback town of Alice Springs, means meeting Australian icons at every turn. Uluru, Kata Tjuta and Watarrka National Park are the heavy hitters, but don’t overlook the dramatic gorges and cool swimming holes of Tjoritja (the West MacDonnell Ranges).
Not all great drives are long drives, even in a place as big as Australia. From the tropical city of Cairns to the wilds of Cape Tribulation, the Great Barrier Reef Drive offers more than its fair share of wonders. Where else can you stand on the border of two World Heritage Listed sites? Or spot the vibrant colours of both cassowary birds and coral? Amid your travels between the reef and the Daintree Rainforest, you can chill beneath palms, search for tree kangaroos and snorkel over the kaleidoscope of colours and creatures on the reef.
Meandering all the way from Adelaide to Darwin, the Explorers Way passes through a tapestry of ancient gorges, weathered peaks and red rock canyons. In South Australia’s outback, you’ll find the natural wonders of the 600-million-year-old Flinders Ranges as well as the underground city of Coober Pedy. After crossing the border into the Northern Territory, you’ll soon see the majestic Uluru and Kata Tjuta appear ahead as the earth turns red beneath your tyres.
From snow-capped mountains to sapphire-blue bays, Tasmania is overflowing with natural beauty. Take in Tassie’s coastal wonders as you follow one of the island’s grandest road trips – the Great Eastern Drive. Head north from Hobart to the Bay of Fires, where the beaches are white, the air is clean and the scenery is magnificent. Wander around the sandstone ruins of the World Heritage-listed Port Arthur convict settlement one day and find yourself admiring the perfect curve of Wineglass Bay the next.
If experiencing Australia’s wide-open spaces is on your wishlist, set your sights on the Nullarbor Plain, located along the Great Australian Bight. There are incredible experiences to be found as you drive along the open road, from wandering the wild coast of South Australia’s Eyre Peninsula to hitting the holes on the world’s longest golf course. Add in caves, old gold mining towns, the remains of a space station that crashed to Earth and character-rich roadhouses, and the Nullarbor becomes a bucket list Aussie road trip.
The centre of the Kimberley is as vast and majestic as its famous coastline. The Gibb River Road, which stretches from Derby (near Broome) to almost as far as Kununurra, is a legendary outback route for good reason. Offering secluded gorges, rocky ridges and that indescribable open-road feeling, it’s a drive that will transform you with each passing kilometre. Head off in a 4WD to explore bulbous boab trees, glimpse the rugged Cockburn Range and soak in glassy waterholes.
The route between Perth and Esperance truly has it all: blindingly white beaches, strikingly clear water, some of the tallest trees in the world and premium wineries. Lose yourself in the natural beauty, seclusion and tranquillity of the South West Edge road trip. Pay a visit to Lucky Bay’s beach-loving kangaroos, bounce along a walkway suspended in the treetops at the Valley of the Giants and join an expedition to see killer whales (between late January and April). And that’s just the start.
The Great Ocean Road is one of Australia’s most thrilling drives, studded with dramatic views of rugged coastline. Take it slow and enjoy the breathtaking views along this iconic stretch of road before heading inland to discover dense forests and misting waterfalls. Seize the chance to marvel at the famous 12 Apostles’ towering limestone rock formations – stunning at any time of day, but especially as the setting sun turns the cliff face a fiery red.