The Best Road Trips in Australia to Put on Your Bucket List
Buckle up and get set for the drive of your life. These are the best Australian road trips for the ultimate adventure holiday.
Forget planes and trains, the open road is the only way to explore Australia’s breathtaking landscapes. A place where desert, rainforest and rugged coastlines collide — an Aussie road trip proves that it’s always worth taking the scenic route. Wind your way through windswept beaches or brave it through bushland on the dirt tracks of the outback, Australia has plenty of open roads just waiting to be explored.
So crank up the stereo, put your foot down and set off on one of these bucket list Australian road trip adventures.
Best Road Trips Australia: Northern Territory
Red Centre Way
Every Aussie should visit the outback at least once. When you’re mapping out your trip, skip the Stuart Highway (which goes between Uluru and Alice Springs) and take the picturesque route along the Red Centre Way. Once called the Mereenie Loop, this is one of the most epic road trips in Australia, it twists and turns its way through the landscapes, canyons, gorges and hiking trails of the West MacDonnel Ranges – it really is jaw-droppingly beautiful. To admire and explore the red-tinged landscapes in all their glory, pack sturdy hiking shoes and allow enough time for a stay near Uluru. That way, you can catch the dramatic sunset and wake up to picture-perfect views of the iconic site.
Uluru, Kata Tjuta National Park, Alice Springs, Kings Canyon, Glen Helen Gorge
Where to stay
One of the best outback road trips Australia calls for a 14-day itinerary, and we're not complaining! This adventure through the heart of the country spans from Adelaide to Darwin and unfurls the diverse tapestry of the Outback's marvels. Along this route, each day offers an exciting chapter: from the otherworldly charm of Coober Pedy and the spiritual grandeur of Uluru and Kings Canyon to the historical tapestry of Alice Springs. This road trip is designed to pass some of Australia’s favourite natural icons and will lead you to peaceful swimming spots at Mataranka and Litchfield, hot springs, and you will even get to hike through stunning gorges. Trace the path of the renowned explorer John McDouall Stuart, the first European who traverse Australia from south to north, establishing a route to the coastal region of the Northern Territory.
Uluru and Kata Tjuta, Watarrka National Park/Kings Canyon, MacDonnell Ranges, Karlu Karlu/Devils Marbles, Nitmiluk National Park and Litchfield National Park
Where to stay
Best Road Trips Australia: Victoria
The Great Ocean Road
Ask any Aussie, and they’ll tell you that driving the Great Ocean Road is a rite of passage. Stretching 243km along the southern coast of Victoria from Torquay to Allansford, this scenic stretch of road is home to the rugged rainforests of the Otaway Ranges, sunburnt cliffs, and the famous Twelve Apostles. In between, there are charming beach towns, fishing villages, and waterfalls, plus a 19th century shipwreck (Loch Ard Gorge) and an iconic lighthouse (Cape Otway). It also has a storied history; the Great Ocean Road is a tribute to the 3,000 soldiers who worked on the road during WWI. Start at Torquay – the ocean side of the road. Top tip: give yourself a week or more to fit in every tourist spot.
Bells Beach, Lorne, Apollo Bay, Cape Otway, Port Campbell National Park (where the Twelve Apostles are located), Gibson Steps, Triplet Falls, Teddy’s Lookout and Port Fairy.
Where to stay
Best Road Trips Australia: Western Australia
The Indian Ocean Drive
Sitting at around 1200km, this drive is epic in every sense of the word. It follows WA’s Coral Coast from Perth to Ningaloo – a stretch of coastline that’s Mother Nature’s finest work. After setting off from the city, you’ll weave your way through the dazzling beach towns of Cervantes, Geraldton, Monkey Mia and Carnavon. Beyond beautiful beaches, you can stop at the surreal desert towers called The Pinnacles (at Nambung National Park), feed the dolphins at Monkey Mia and swim with whale sharks at Ningaloo Reef, a colourful underwater playground that’s home to over 500 tropical fish species. You can admire the wildflowers and dramatic rock canyons of Kalbarri National Park, and tick off its many hiking trails. Or get snap-happy at Shell Beach, which is carpeted with billions of tiny white shells.
Monkey Mia, Ningaloo Reef, Kalbarri National Park, Nambung National Park, Cable Beach, Shell Beach, The Pinnacles Desert
Where to stay
Gibb River Road
The Gibb River Road beckons to those seeking an authentic outback adventure. Famed for its unique 4WD tracks, it's hailed as one of the best outback road trips in Australia. This route guides adventurers off the beaten path, leading them through rugged ranges into the untouched Kimberley wilderness. Originating in the 1960s for cattle transport, this 660-kilometre passage unveils hidden marvels within the Kimberley's landscapes. The view, of course, is breathtaking and unmatched. Aside from witnessing the enthralling gorge country for a genuine look into the remote Australian terrains, explorers can spot Aboriginal rock art sites. Be sure to respect their cultural significance by not disturbing or touching these sacred sites.
Dalmanyi (Bell Gorge), Adcock Gorge, Emma Gorge waterfalls
Where to Stay
If you want to clear your mind, then following the Nullarbor Plain is perhaps the best outback road trip in Australia for you. Spanning from the goldfields of Western Australia to South Australia's Eyre Peninsula, the Nullarbor stretch offers a diverse journey that links Adelaide or Perth. With the sealed Eyre Highway guiding the way, thorough preparation is crucial as remote areas necessitate extra fuel, water, and food, along with a reliable 4WD for off-road excursions. Amidst this expansive route, adventurers can marvel at whales beneath towering sea cliffs, cruise along Australia's longest, straightest road, and tee off at the world's lengthiest golf course. There's always something to see!
Norseman, Balladonia, Caiguna, Madura, Eucla, Border Village, Nullarbor National Park, Bunda Cliff, Ceduna
Where to Stay
Best Road Trips Australia: Tasmania
Best Road Trips Australia: Queensland
The Great Eastern Drive
One of Australia's most picturesque and dramatic coastal drives, Tasmania’s natural paradise is a beauty to behold – and the best way to see it is by car. From Hobart to the spectacular Bay of Fires, this Aussie road trip hugs the island’s eastern (and most peaceful) coastline and gives you a true taste of Tasmania. In Hobart, you can meander through galleries and eat your way through the city’s award-winning restaurants. Then, further along the route you can inject a little history into your holiday and explore one of the world’s most significant convict sites at Port Arthur. Detour – and linger overnight – at Freycinet National Park, so you have plenty of time to explore its granite mountains, azure waters, incredible wildlife and the perfect curve of sand that makes up Wineglass Bay. If you can’t go past a good drop, follow the East Coast Wine Trail to some of the state’s best cellar doors.
Wineglass Bay, Port Arthur, Freycinet National Park, East Coast Wine Trail, Cradle Mountain National Park
Where to stay
The Great Beach Drive
For adventurous, outdoors types, this road trip in Australia has your name written all over it. It begins at the Sunshine Coast’s Glasshouse Mountains, a picture-perfect landscape that caught Captain Cook’s eye when he sailed past in 1770. They’re just as impressive today – and some of them are open to rock climbers. If you have the kids in tow, stop at Australia Zoo before continuing to Mooloolaba for sun, surf, and buckets of fresh king prawns. Another half an hour in the car, and you’ll reach Noosa. Soak up the sun on the beach, or venture into the lush national park to hike, spot koalas and kayak down the rivers. Next up is the beautiful Rainbow Beach, a haven for surfers, watersports lovers, and thrill-seekers (you can skydive there). From that area, you can BYO 4WD over to the sand dunes, bushwalks and lakes that make up Fraser Island. The Indigenous word for it is ‘K’Gari,’ which means paradise, and that’s the perfect description. Back on the mainland, head south to stop at Maryborough, the birthplace of Mary Poppins author PL Travers.
Glasshouse Mountains, Australia Zoo, Noosa National Park, 75 Mile Beach, Champagne Pools, Maryborough
Where to stay
The Great Barrier Reef Drive
Heading to the tropics now, this 140km drive begins at Cairns and ends at Cape Tribulation. The journey through tropical North Queensland takes in not one, but two World Heritage landscapes – the Great Barrier Reef and the Daintree – so you can expect eye-popping beauty around every turn. Kick-off your Aussie road trip by snorkelling or scuba diving around the Reef, and then check out Cairns’ buzzy bars and restaurants. On day two, dart through the Daintree, and stop to chase waterfalls and see the towering trees, rivers and trails that make up the rainforest. Stay overnight in Cape Tribulation, where the lodges are as luxe as the rainforest-meets-reef surrounds.
Daintree Rainforest, Daintree River, Cow Bay, Cape Tribulation, Great Barrier Reef
Where to stay
Best Road Trips Australia: New South Wales
The Legendary Pacific Coast
As the name suggests, this is the classic coastal road trip in Australia. The picturesque Pacific Highway is bookmarked by two major cities – Sydney and Brisbane – and follows 900km of pristine beaches, seaside towns, unspoilt hinterland and national parks. The journey is a holiday in itself. And while you could do it all in one go, it’s best enjoyed at a leisurely pace, with plenty of leeway for spontaneous stops and swims. If you’re starting from Sydney, you’ll head north and weave your way through the Central Coast, Port Stephens, Newcastle, Coffs Harbour, Ballina and the bohemian paradise of Byron Bay. You’ll then cross state borders and cruise by Tweed Heads before ending in the glittery Gold Coast. Charge your phone, because you’ll want to snap everything, from the dolphins, koalas and camels to the rolling hills of the rainforest.
Bogey Hole, Terrigal, Avoca Beach, Bouddi National Park, Newcastle Ocean Baths, Port Macquarie Coastal Walk, Port Macquarie Camel Safari, Big Banana, Wategos Beach, The Pass, Surfers Paradise
Where to stay
The Grand Pacific Drive
Make your weekend a memorable one by cruising the Grand Pacific Drive, which stretches from Sydney to the white-sand beaches of Jervis Bay. If you were to drive directly, it would take 2.5-3 hours, but trust us when we say it’s worth packing your cossie and stopping off for a dip along the way. Soon after you leave the city to head south, you’ll be driving through the Royal National Park (fun fact: it’s the second oldest National Park in the world after Yellowstone in the USA). Jump out of the car to hike or picnic, and then hop onto the Grand Pacific Drive. It’ll take you over the iconic Sea Cliff Bridge and through the coastal towns of Wollongong, Shellharbour and Kiama. Make a pitstop to see the powerful Kiama Blowhole, before continuing to Jervis Bay.
Royal National Park, Sea Cliff Bridge, Kiama Blowhole, Hyams Beach