Australia's Ultimate Road Trips
Featured destinations: Australia
Published 24 June 2016
From jaw-dropping sea views on the Great Ocean Road to eerie red desert vistas on the journey to Uluru, rev your engines for these six awesome Australia road trips...
1. Perth to Albany
Distance: 260 miles
Ideal time: 6 days
Perth is one of the world's most remote cities – but with all of the award-winning vineyards, heavenly beaches and amazing wildlife encounters that lie just beyond the city limits, this is one lively road trip destination. Better yet, Western Australia is so sparsely populated that you'll feel like you've got the place to yourself – after all, nothing ruins a road trip holiday like a pesky traffic jam.
Just south of Perth you'll find Margaret River, a pretty little seaside town with over 100 wineries and a beautiful golden-sand beach. Stuff yourself silly with seafood, explore the spectacular limestone caves, and try your hand at surfing along this glorious stretch of coastline. Then, strap up your walking boots at Pemberton – home of wildlife-rich national parks and eucalyptus forests.
Finally, Albany awaits: Western Australia's superlative spot for whale watching and coastal walks. Here, you can stroll through wildflower meadows and white sandy beaches, keeping an eye on the horizon for breaching humpbacks and bottlenose dolphins. It's just as idyllic as it sounds...
Fancy this? Make tracks on a South West Highlights holiday
2. Great Ocean Road
Distance: 412 miles
Ideal time: 7 days
While the US is famed for Route 66, Australia has the Great Ocean Road up its sleeve: just as iconic, just as breathtaking, but far less crowded. Set off south from Melbourne, and gobble up the miles on coastal roads, pausing at viewpoints to spy whales in the ocean. There are camping spots and beautiful hotels along the way, so you can make the journey as leisurely as you like.
The area around Cape Otway, the southernmost point of Victoria, boasts vast sugary-sand beaches, lush rainforest with a fun canopy walking route, and water sports galore. Sign up for a sailing trip to really appreciate this gorgeous coastline.
The jewel in the crown of the Great Ocean Road – and one of Victoria's most awe-inspiring sights – is the view of the Twelve Apostles from a clifftop lookout point. These towering rock stacks jut out into the ocean, standing tall as they're whipped by frothy waves – a dramatic road trip finale. Best enjoyed with a glass of Victoria Sauvignon Blanc in your hand, or with a slap-up fish-and-chips picnic.
Fancy this? Get behind the wheel on a Great Ocean Road In Depth holiday
3. Brisbane to Port Douglas
Distance: 1,093 miles
Ideal time: 10 days
The east coast of Australia is blessed with some of the most enticing place names – think Surfers Paradise and the idyllic-sounding Sunshine Coast. Happily, everywhere lives up to its name: Surfers Paradise really does have incredible waves; the Gold Coast has gleaming rich sands; and nowhere does laid-back summer charm better than the Sunshine Coast.
Set off northwards from Brisbane for some unforgettable coastal driving – you'll want to make the journey last as long as possible, so plan plenty of stop-offs along the way. Hike through the rainforest of Noosa National Park, dine on just-caught seafood in Hervey Bay, and relax on the tropical white sands of Yeppoon – home to a handful of beachy boutique hotels.
The Gold Coast is famed for its paradise islands, so leave the car on the mainland while you venture to Fraser Island (with its lovely freshwater lakes and bounteous wildlife) and Hamilton Island (gateway to the Great Barrier Reef). At Port Douglas, your final destination, the adventure continues: this cosmopolitan town has the world's oldest rainforest (Daintree) on its doorstep – ripe for hiking and biking trips.
Fancy this? Take to the road on a Queensland Coastal Self-Drive holiday
4. Sydney to Brisbane
Distance: 571 miles
Ideal time: 10 days
As the lights of Sydney fade in your rear-view, stick on your favourite road trip tunes and breathe in that fresh sea air. Vast swathes of pristine coastline, quaint seaside towns and rolling vineyard-covered countryside await – the recipe for an incredible road trip.
There are stop-offs to suit every whim: animal lovers should make a beeline for the Koala Hospital of Port Macquarie, spot whales on a boat trip from Coffs Harbour, and meet the resident dolphins of Port Stephens. If you're a gourmet adventurer, Hunter Valley is home to vineyards and restaurants galore – all of which showcase the area's superb local ingredients.
Or, if you simply crave sun-drenched beaches lapped by turquoise waters, you'll be spoiled for choice. The coves around Port Macquarie are charming and largely untouched, while Byron Bay has restaurants, hotels and bars right on the beach – all with a sleepy, hippy-style charm.
Fancy this? Buckle up on a Legendary Pacific Coast holiday
5. Alice Springs to Uluru
Distance: 285 miles
Ideal time: 2 days
Deep in the heart of the Northern Territory, Alice Springs is your gateway to the magnificent Red Centre: a dusty desert playground with whopping rock formations, towering mountains and more wild kangaroos than you can throw a boomerang at. We recommend flying to this frontier town (it's over 930 miles from the closest city), then joining a small group tour to Ayers Rock. The terrain out here is unforgiving, so only the hardiest travellers should take on a road trip.
Make tracks southwards from Alice to the West Macdonnell and James ranges – here you can crunch your way along rugged hiking trails, over mountain streams, under weird rock formation tunnels, and up to breathtaking lookout points.
Along a dusty red highway, Ayers Rock (or Uluru, to give it its traditional Aboriginal name) awaits – a huge monolith that rises out of the desert like a rosy humpback whale. This iconic site is sacred to the Aboriginal community, so instead of climbing it we'd recommend a helicopter ride, circular hike or sunset dining experience to really appreciate its scarlet splendour. Once the sun goes down, recline under a blanket of stars and soak up the sweet silence of the desert.
Fancy this? Venture to Uluru on an Iconic Australia holiday
6. Launceston to Hobart, Tasmania
Distance: 122 miles
Ideal time: 5 days
Wild, wonderful Tassie has much to offer the intrepid road tripper. Most travellers don't venture to this windswept isle, but they're missing out big time: Tasmania is blessed with gorgeous countryside, blissfully quiet beaches, and some of the most welcoming locals you'll ever encounter.
Better yet, the island feels like it was made for road trip holidays, with modest distances between key stop-off points, few other drivers on the road, and lots of dramatic scenery to admire over picnics and photo stops.
The coastal loop from Launceston to Hobart is an easy trip, taking in the Tamar Valley vineyards, the heavenly beaches of Bay of Fires, the sapphire waters of Freycinet National Park, and Port Arthur's colourful heritage sites. Foodies will love the lobster and yellowfin tuna found all along the coast, while hikers will go wild for the rugged Hazards Range. You'll find us watching for dolphins in Wineglass Bay, a white sand crescent lapped by crystal clear waters... Bliss.
Fancy this? Get behind the wheel on a Tasmanian Explorer holiday
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Images: Tourism Australia