Whether on foot, on a scenic drive or off-road, discover just how simple (and rewarding) it is to leave the crowds behind and make your own way.
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 Centre and 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.
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