Australia is a vast and diverse country, known for its breathtaking landscapes, stunning coastline, and unique wildlife. One of the best ways you can explore this magnificent land is by embarking on an epic road trip. With its extensive road network and countless natural wonders, Australia offers some of the world’s ultimate road trip experiences. From the iconic Great Ocean Road to the rugged landscapes of the Kimberley, here are 10 ultimate road trips in Australia that should be on every traveler’s bucket list.
Great Ocean Road, Victoria
Stretching over 240 kilometers along the southern coast of Victoria, the Great Ocean Road is undoubtedly one of Australia’s most iconic road trips. This scenic drive offers stunning views of the rugged coastline, towering cliffs, and the famous Twelve Apostles rock formations. Many travelers choose to spend 3-4 days driving along this route, though you can definitely spend longer! With towns such as Torquay, Lorne and Apollo Bay dotted along the coast, you won’t be short of places to stay. There’s also plenty of beautiful lookouts to take in the breath-taking view so take your time and enjoy them. There’s a reason it’s at the top of our ultimate road trips in Australia.
The best time to head off down this epic road trip is November to May, avoiding the Australian school holidays. It’s a very popular destination for locals and travelers alike.
Red Centre Way, Northern Territory
For those seeking a unique outback adventure, the Red Centre Way is the perfect choice. This 1,000-kilometer journey takes you from Alice Springs through the heart of the Australian outback, passing by Uluru, Kings Canyon, and the stunning West MacDonnell Ranges. The rich aboriginal history and culture around Uluru and the Anangu people makes this is a must do road trip for those wanting to connect to Australia’s indigenous people. For those looking for options when it comes to terrain, there’re both 2- and 4-wheel drive tracks along the way, depending how rugged you want to get!
Adventurers usually allow at least 6 days to enjoy the full route and all of the distinctively Australian landscapes. May to September is the best time of year to head to the Red Centre of Australia. You can still go during the summer months but be prepared from some hot days!
Gibb River Road, Western Australia
Located in the remote Kimberley region of Western Australia, the Gibb River Road is a challenging yet rewarding 4WD road trip. This 660-kilometer track takes you through ancient gorges, pristine waterfalls, and rugged landscapes, offering an unforgettable outback experience. It’s another great trip to connect with Australia’s traditional custodians given the incredible rock art you’ll see along the way.
You will need a 4WD for this trip so make sure you have an appropriate vehicle before embarking on your journey. You will also need to make sure you have enough food, water and fuel. Alternatively, you can hop on with a tour company who will take you along this scenic road and organise all of the transport and accommodation for you. This is a good option especially for solo travelers – as the old saying goes, safety in numbers!
We advise you take at least 7 days for the drive, though the optimum time is 14 to make the most of this trip. The road is accessible from April to October depending on weather.
Nullarbor Plain, South Australia and Western Australia
Known for its vastness, the Nullarbor Plain is an epic road trip that spans over 1,200 kilometers across the southern coast of Australia between Norseman, WA and Ceduna, SA. You don’t need a 4WD if you plan to stick to the highway but you will need to be fully prepared with extra petrol and plenty of water and food. Driving across the Nullarbor offers a unique experience of endless horizons, stunning coastal cliffs, and encounters with abundant wildlife, including herds of wild camels and whales!
You should allow 6 days to cross the plain and factor in lots of rest stops so you don’t get too tired driving on Australia’s longest, straightest and flattest road.
The Legendary Pacific Coast Highway, New South Wales and Queensland
This coastal drive stretches over 900 kilometers from Sydney to Brisbane, showcasing some of Australia’s most beautiful beaches and coastal towns. This is the most popular road trip adventure for many travelers and backpackers visiting Australia – the East Coast is a well-traversed route, and you’ll be spoiled for choice with things to see and do along the way. From the vibrant city life of Sydney to the pristine beaches of Byron Bay, this road trip is a perfect blend of relaxation and adventure.
You’ll want 3 days as an absolute minimum to drive up this part of the East Coast of Australia, but it’s easy to spend a few weeks exploring all the Pacific Coast Highway has to offer. The summer months are the most popular time to journey up this coast, but you can enjoy quieter roads and beaches during winter, and still enjoy warm days at the beach.
Great Eastern Drive, Tasmania
Heading way down to Australia’s southern state, Tasmania’s Great Eastern Drive takes you along the stunning east coast of the island, covering approximately 176 kilometers. Prepare yourself for spectacular views of white sandy beaches, turquoise waters, and the iconic Wineglass Bay in Freycinet National Park. Stretching between Orford and St Helens, which is the gateway to the Bay of Fires, you will not be short of places to stop for a few hours or days and soak up one of the quieter ultimate road trips in Australia. You can zip up the coast in a weekend, though we reckon 5 days is best!
You’ll want to save your trip along this coastline for summer months between December-March to make the most of the amazing beaches and swim spots. Don’t forget Tassie is considerably colder than other parts of Australia so still bring your warm clothes just in case!
The Great Barrier Reef Drive, Queensland
Starting from Cairns and extending to Cape Tribulation, the Great Barrier Reef Drive is a spectacular coastal journey. This 140-kilometer drive offers breathtaking views of the World Heritage-listed Great Barrier Reef, lush rainforests, and beautiful tropical beaches. Palm Cove and Port Douglas are two beautiful coastal towns to stop at on your drive up and Mossman Gorge provides the opportunity to connect with the local Kuku Yalanji people who are the traditional custodians of this amazing part of Australia.
Some tackle this epic road trip in a day but 3-4 is a far better timeframe to ensure you have the time to stop and soak up those beautiful views.
If you’re planning a road trip in Australia, it’s important to research driving lengths and rules in advance. Australia drives on the left, so keep this in mind if you’re used to driving on the right. Obey speed limits and traffic rules – these are in place to keep everyone safe. Distances are long in Australia – it’s a big country! – and drivers should take lots of breaks. There are plenty of rest areas where you can stop and rest during long drives. Many toll roads are now cashless and payable by setting up an account and adding credit, or making one-off online payments. Depending on your destination, phone signal may be limited or non-existent. Download any digital maps you need before you set off, so you can access them offline. Write down roadside assistance and insurance numbers in advance, so they’re easy to find. If you’re traveling during peak season or holidays – or even busy weekends – it may be worth it to book your campsites or accommodation in advance. You don’t want to turn up somewhere and realise there’s nowhere to stay!
Research road conditions in advance of your trip. Some road trips are only suitable or accessible for those with a 4WD vehicle – and some routes can only be tackled in a 4WD with high clearance. For long drives and road trips in the outback, where there will be no mobile coverage, consider investing in a satellite phone. Always carry plenty of drinking water when traveling through remote areas, and keeping non-perishable, emergency snacks in the car. Fill up with petrol regularly – the more remote you go, the fewer service stations there will be! Make sure someone knows your route and intended finish time, and do regular check-ins.
These ultimate road trips in Australia provide travellers with unforgettable experiences and a chance to witness the country’s diverse landscapes, unique wildlife, and rich cultural heritage. Whether you’re an adventure enthusiast, a nature lover, or simply looking for a memorable journey, these road trips will leave you in awe of Australia’s natural wonders and the freedom of the open road. So, pack your bags, hit the road, and prepare to be amazed by the beauty that awaits you on these ultimate Australian road trips!