The Best Road Trips in Australia

The 9 Best Road Trips in Australia

Australia is the perfect destination for a road trip. Home to some of the world’s longest highways (Highway Number 1 clocks in at a staggering 9,000 miles as it circumnavigates the entire country), you’ll love renting a campervan, popping up your rooftop tent, and exploring the best of Australia on four wheels. 

Visit iconic East Coast cities like Sydney and Brisbane as you drive the Pacific Highway, breeze past the 12 Apostles on the Great Ocean Road, or camp out on remote beaches in Western Australia. Adventurous drivers can tackle the Nullarbor, where you’ll find the longest stretch of straight road on the planet, and if you’ve got a four-by-four, the Red Centre Way or Outback Highway await you. 

With so many great road trips in Australia, you might not know where to begin. That’s why we’ve compiled our list of the absolute best Aussie road trips for you. Stick to these fun and unique itinerary recommendations, and there’s no doubt you’ll have an amazing time exploring this gorgeous part of the world! 

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The 9 Best Road Trip Destinations in Australia

1. Sydney to Brisbane

Best Road Trip in Australia: Sydney to Brisbane

Sydney to Brisbane is a classic East Coast driving itinerary, and if it’s your first time in Australia, it’s a must-do. Covering a distance of some 600 miles between the capitals of New South Wales and Queensland, this road trip route follows the Pacific Highway, offering a smooth introduction to driving and navigation in Australia (there’s not much chance of getting lost!). 

Climb Sydney Harbour Bridge, explore The Rocks, take the ferry to Manly, and surf the waves at Bondi Beach, then drive inland to the spectacular Blue Mountains. Heading north, you can stop in Newcastle, Port Macquarie, Nambucca Heads, and Byron Bay. 

Cross the border into Queensland, and you can enjoy the high-flying delights of the Gold Coast before leaving the car on the mainland on a short hop over to Moreton Island. Finish in Brisbane, where you can visit the Queensland Museum, cruise along the Brisbane River to the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary, and hike to Mount Coot-Tha before heading home. 


2. The Great Barrier Reef Drive 

Australia Road Trip Destinations: Great Barrier Reef Drive

One of the most epic Australian road trips, The Great Barrier Reef Drive is a short but spectacular 90-mile journey through Far North Queensland. Starting in Cairns, this tarmacked road takes you alongside the Barrier Reef and into the heart of the Daintree Rainforest. 

This is where the reef meets the rainforest. Leaving Cairns, you can stop off in resort towns like Palm Cove and Port Douglas, lesser-known gateways to the Great Barrier Reef. Continue north and you can take a hike through Mossman Gorge before searching out saltwater crocodiles on the Daintree River.

Cross the river and you’ll find yourself amid the humid greenery of the world’s most ancient rainforest. Learn more at the Daintree Rainforest Discovery Centre, hike to freshwater swimming holes in the forest, and enjoy nighttime walks with local guides. The tarmac road ends at Cape Tribulation, a remote stretch of rainforest-lined beach. Beyond this, you’ll need a four-by-four to reach Cooktown.


3. The Great Ocean Road 

Road Trip through Australia: Great Ocean Road

One of the most famous road trips in Australia is the Great Ocean Road, a meandering coastal route taking in the dramatic shores of southern Victoria. 

This scenic route is only 150 miles long, but from Torquay to Allansford, the road takes in incredible natural attractions like the 12 Apostles and other beautiful rock formations, gorges, waterfalls, and beaches that line the Victorian coast.

The Great Ocean Road can be traversed in a day or two, but you can extend the route by starting in Melbourne, and you could even follow the coastal roads all the way west to Adelaide. 


4. The Nullarbor Plain

Best Road Trip in Australia: Nullarbor Plain

Stretching for some 700 miles and connecting South Australia to Western Australia, the Nullarbor Plain is home to the longest, straightest length of road in the entire country. Part of the Eyre Highway, the longest, straightest, and most famous stretch of tarmac in Australia clocks in at a whopping 91 miles with zero turns. 

This is fantastic road trip territory, and your journey begins (or ends) in Ceduna, a coastal town some 450 miles west of Adelaide, where the Eyre Highway begins. The route ends in Norseman, over the border in Western Australia, after a mammoth road trip covering over 700 miles of remote highways and lonely gas stations. Add a little fun to the endless driving by participating in the Nullarbor Links, the longest golf course in the world! 


5. Perth to Broome 

Australia Road Trip Destinations: Gibb River Road

Escape the crowds as you tackle one of the longest road trips in Australia from Perth to Broome. Starting in Perth, the most remote capital city in the world, you’ll see the best of Western Australia as you drive over 1,500 miles north to Broome.

You’ll really begin to appreciate the sheer size of Western Australia as you follow Highway 1 north along the coast. Pass through seaside towns like Geraldton, admire the lunar-like landscapes of the Pinnacles National Park, and explore the remote beaches and stromatolites (some of the world’s oldest living organisms) in Shark Bay.

You’re barely halfway yet, and as you continue north, you can snorkel the Ningaloo Reef off the coast of Coral Bay, swim with whale sharks in Exmouth, and detour inland to visit the gorges and waterfalls of Karijini National Park. 

After a leisurely two weeks of road-tripping, you’ll make it to Broome, Western Australia’s best tropical getaway. Visit the Courthouse Markets, have a ginger beer at Matso’s Brewery, and chill on Cable Beach. 

Despite covering a huge amount of ground, when you finally reach Broome, you’ll still be in the same state. Extend the route by continuing along the highway northeast into the Kimberleys, take a four-wheel drive along the Gibb River Road, or keep on going to Darwin, where the tropical rainforests of the Northern Territory await you. 


6. Perth to Esperance 

Road Trip through Australia: Perth to Esperance

Western Australia is home to some of the best Aussie road trips, and if you’re starting your journey in Perth, you’ll have a tough choice to make. Do you go north, or do you go south? 

Choose the southern route, and one of the best road trips in Australia takes you from Perth to Esperance. Given southern WA’s mild climate, this road trip is best enjoyed in summer when you can camp on beaches and swim comfortably in the oceans. 

From Perth, you’ll make your way south to the vineyards of Margaret River, stopping in Fremantle, Bunbury, and Busselton. Follow the coast through the tall karri forests of the southwest, explore history and heritage in Albany (Western Australia’s oldest settlement), and cut inland to climb Bluff Knoll, an iconic mountain peak. 

The 800-mile journey continues along the coast to Esperance, where you’ll be awed by the pristine beaches of Cape Le Grand National Park and the friendly kangaroos that call the white sands home. 


7. The Red Centre Way

Best Road Trip in Australia: Red Centre Way

The Red Centre is the arid, dusty desert that sits at the heart of Australia. Encompassing the vast desert plains and dramatic mountain scenery of the Northern Territory, the Red Centre is home to iconic Australian destinations like Alice Springs and Uluru.

The Red Centre Way is a six-day, 700-mile loop that’s designed to take in the best sights around Alice Springs, including King’s Canyon, Kata Tjuta, and Uluru. We love this route because you can fly in and out of Alice Springs, the unofficial capital of the Red Centre, picking up a four-by-four or a camper van when you land and then dropping it back off at the end of your road trip. 

Alternatively, you can combine the loop into a longer journey along the Stuart Highway between Darwin and Adelaide


8. The Outback Highway

Australia Road Trip Destinations: Outback Highway

Fuel up your four-by-four, stock up on extra gas, water, and supplies, and get ready for a dusty off-road adventure on the Outback Highway, one of the coolest Australian road trips. Colloquially known as Australia’s “Longest Short Cut,” this 1,700-mile-long road trip takes you out across the little-visited Outback of central Australia. 

The Outback Highway connects Laverton, a remote town in Western Australia that’s almost 600 miles away from Perth, with Winton, an equally remote town in Queensland that’s over 800 miles from Brisbane. Along the way, the route passes through the Northern Territory, with the largest settlement you’ll visit being Alice Springs, with a population of 25,000 people. 

The “Highway” is largely composed of unsealed roads and dirt tracks, and it’s very easy to stray from the “road.” Given the extremely remote nature of the route, you’ll definitely need a four-by-four, and it’s advisable to travel in a convoy. 


9. The Big Lap

Road Trip through Australia: The Big Lap

The Big Lap is the ultimate Australian road trip. This epic journey sees dedicated drivers traversing approximately 9,000 miles of highway, as you drive around the entire country. The Big Lap is the best way to see as much of Australia as possible in a single road trip as you follow the coastal highway in a massive nationwide circumnavigation. 

You’ll need a few months at the very least to enjoy this road trip, and you’ll want to time your journey so you miss the rainy season in the tropical north and hit the summer sunshine in the south. 

The Big Lap follows Highway 1, a sealed road connecting all of mainland Australia’s state capitals and other major cities like Cairns and Broome. It doesn’t matter where you start because you’ll end up back in the same place several months later!

There you have it! The 9 best road trips in Australia. What’s your favorite road trip destination in Australia?


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Author

  • Richard Collett

    Richard is an award-winning travel writer based in Southwest England who’s addicted to traveling off the beaten track. He’s traveled to 75 countries and counting in search of intriguing stories, unusual destinations, and cultural curiosities.

    Richard loves traveling the long way round over land and sea, and you’ll find him visiting quirky micronations and breakaway territories as often as he’s found lounging on a beach (which is a lot).

    When he’s not writing for BBC Travel, National Geographic, or Lonely Planet, you can find Richard writing for the Wandering Wheatleys or updating his off-beat travel blog, Travel Tramp.

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