The Twelve Apostles on the Great Ocean Road

Driving around Australia; the best routes for your Aussie road trip

My cousin visited from the UK a couple of years ago. He was staying with my family in Western Sydney, but thought he could just pop on over to Uluru and take a quick trip through the Barossa Valley. He couldn’t believe it when I told him both would require hours of flying.

Non-Australians often don’t grasp just how immense Australia really is!

That vastness lends itself spectacularly well to Australia self-drive tours. While I have done a few routes myself, there are many left so I called in the troops to get recommendations from other bloggers on the best drives in Australia to add to your Australia Itinerary.

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New South Wales

Sydney to Wagga Wagga drive

Paula from Truly Expat

Crisp Galleries Bowning, courtesy of Truly Expat

Wagga Wagga is the largest inland city in NSW with a population of 64,000 residents. Wagga, as it is known by locals, is approximately 250kms from Canberra and 460kms from Sydney CBD.

Wagga is a quaint country town, full of wineries, great restaurants, amazing museums and art galleries and some fascinating boutique-style shops. I feel like every Aussie drama was written about this unique town, with its mix of country flair and big city living.

The drive from Sydney can take just under 5 hours if you choose not to stop, however stopping along the way at some great places is what the road trip is all about. Some of the best stops along the way are;

  • Heatherbrae Pies in Suttons Forest: What is an Aussie road trip without the great Aussie pie? Why not stop for breakfast, lunch or dinner at this old-style diner, it is open from 6am to 9pm every day except public holidays.
  • Suttons Forest cafe: If pies aren’t your thing, then head over to Sutton Forest Cafe, for some well deserved hot coffee and pastries. While you are there cross the road to ‘The Everything Shop’, you will be amazed at what you find.
  • Goulburn: Not many people stop at this town anymore, but the iconic Big Merino remains. While there you should drive up to the Rocky Hill Memorial and Museum, or walk if you have the time. The view from the top is impressive.
  • The Crisp Galleries: The Crisp Galleries was by far my favourite stop, the estate is amazing from the time you walk in. Walk around the gardens, eat from the delicious cafe and venture over to the museum and gift shop for a little look around. The slumped glass is beautiful, and so are the welcoming staff. They do hold significant events there, so check ahead of time.


Northern Territory

Alice Springs to Uluru drive

Cat from Walk My World

Aerial photo of road from Alice Springs courtesy of Walk My World

There’s nowhere quite like the Red Centre and a trip between Alice Springs and Uluru will take you right through the heart of the Outback. You might think there’s not much to see on a desert road trip, but this one will definitely surprise you. Keep an eye out for dingoes, camels, brumbies and of course the ubiquitous kangaroos!

There are a couple of routes you can pick; one is fully paved and is the quickest option, but if you have access to a 4×4 we’d recommend taking the Mereenie Loop. This unpaved road is pretty rough but will give you by far the best wildlife watching opportunities.

Before you start your road trip, spend a few days soaking up the sights in Alice with a visit to the Kangaroo Sanctuary, the Flying Doctors and the School of the Air. If you have more time, there are many beautiful gorges just outside the town centre.

Once on the road there are many stops you can make along the way including some of the Outback’s best hiking opportunities. There are also dozens of stunning waterholes to cool off in afterwards. An absolute must do is Kings Canyon where you can walk along the deep red canyon walls which offer breath-taking views, especially at sunset.

Once you arrive at Uluru prepare to be blown away by the huge monolith which glows particularly red in the early morning light. You can hike or cycle for 10km around the base and check out the indigenous art etched on to the walls. It’s an amazing sight and definitely one for your Australian bucket list. A visit to nearby Kata Tjuta (more incredible rock formations) is equally impressive and often overlooked.

Round off an amazing road trip with a night spent staring up at the starry skies, we’ve never seen the milky way so clearly!

Check out Uluru Tours.


Darwin to Katherine drive

Stephanie from Navigating Adventure

Nitmiluk Gorge Katherine, Northern Territory. Courtesy of Navigating Adventure

The journey between Darwin and Katherine in the Northern Territory is one of my all-time favourite road trips. We experienced this drive many times while living in Darwin.   Despite it being only 315 km one way heading south on the Stuart Highway, there are many opportunities for detours which provide some of the most unique experiences of the Top End.

If we were looking for some heart stopping action, our first detour was a left turn onto the Arnhem Highway, about thirty minutes into our journey. A further twenty minutes down the road we reach the Adelaide River where we would board a boat to see the amazing jumping crocodiles leap from the water right in front of us. On our way back, we would stop in for lunch at the iconic Humpty Doo Hotel – a true Territorian pub.

Once we were back on the Stuart Highway, we continue south for a short distance and take a right turn onto Cox Peninsula Road before stopping in at the tranquil Berry Springs for a swim. If we had time, we would keep going to Litchfield National Park and stay overnight. Here we loved to explore the huge termite mounds, stunning waterfalls, spectacular rock pools and great hiking tracks.

Once we had returned to the Stuart Highway we would call into the small town of Adelaide River to visit the war memorial and learn about the history of WWII in the Top End.

Approximately two hours later we reach Katherine where our must-do activities are the natural hot springs, and Nitmiluk National Park. We would either take a guided cruise or if we were feeling energetic we would hire a canoe to paddle down the Katherine Gorge. The ancient Aboriginal rock art and awe-inspiring scenery of this sacred place was always a magical ending to our adventure.

Check out Katherine Tours.


South Australia

Adelaide to Uluru drive

Emma from small footprints big adventures

Sunrise at Uluru courtest of Small Footprints, Big Adventures

In 2018 my family and I slowly drove from Adelaide to Uluru and back again and we loved the whole experience.

We found many amazing caravan parks to stay in and we tried a few free camps too, of which there were many to choose from. We also booked a campsite at Mount Remarkable but halfway up the mountain we had to turn back as it seemed our engine might blow up! Apparently towing caravans uphill is not as easy as I thought.

The camp we had to abandon is said to be one of the most beautiful campsites in Australia, but we still found many amazing views. The Lake Hart Salt Lake was pretty, and Bowman Park in Crystal Brook was a beautiful place to stay. We watched a goanna in a tree very close to our van, and a kangaroo with her joey bounded right past us one morning.

Another highlight was the town of Coober Pedy, where most residents live underground as it gets so hot. We did a tour of an opal mine, enjoyed the underground bookstore, found the best playground of the trip, and had a great experience at the Indigenous art gallery and native wildlife rescue centre.

And, of course, the best part of the trip was Uluru itself. We loved staying at Ayers Rock campground and exploring around Uluru and Kata Tjuta. We hired bikes to ride one day, hiked on others and watched the sun rising and setting from amazing lookouts. We also took some workshops both within the resort township and out in the bushland, which were excellent.

It was a magical road trip that gave me and my whole family a better understanding of the different landscapes and lifestyles of inland Australia.

Check out Uluru Tours.



Hobart to Launceston drive

Holly from Four Around The World

Port Arthur Tasmania. Courtesy of Four Around the World

Tasmania is one of the most scenic parts of Australia. The entire island state is known for beautiful landscape and historic sites. And the best way to see it is by road trip.

We explored Tasmania from bottom to top, Hobart to Launceston, however, you can easily do it in reverse! Whether you take a campervan around Tasmania or hire a car and stay at some unique accommodation along the way, you will love this trip.

Starting in Hobart, take some time to enjoy the city. Visit Salamanca Markets for delicious food and local wares. Make sure you take a drive up Mt Wellington too for some incredible views. We also recommend making a day trip to Port Arthur too!

Leaving Hobart, you have plenty of choices of which route to take. You can road trip around the coast and enjoy stunning ocean scenery as you make your way to Launceston. Or take an inland route, as we did.

We recommend a visit to Strahan, a village by the water famous for their steam train and boat tour. Then head to Cradle Mountain for a chance to ditch your wheels for a while and enjoy a hike or two in the area.

Once in Launceston, you can’t miss Cataract Gorge, with many different activities you can do, including the scenic chairlift. It is also a great area for walks and wildlife spotting.

If you have the time during your road trip, do your best to fit in Wineglass Bay & Freycinet National Park along the way. You may need around 10 to 12 days to fit everything in but it will be worth it!

Check out Launceston tours.


Tarkine Drive

Taryn from Happiest Outdoors

Tarkine Julius River Walk on the Tarkine Road, Tasmania. Courtesy of Happiest Outdoors

The Tarkine Drive in Tasmania is a great off-the-beaten-path road trip. It’s in the remote northwest corner of the state. Along the way, you’ll travel down the wild West Coast and through the brilliant green of the rainforest. There are lots of places to stop to go for a hike, enjoy a viewpoint or try to spot wildlife.

It’s a 200km loop that starts and ends in the small town of Smithton. You can drive the entire thing in a day, but you’ll be very rushed. To really enjoy it, spend the night in Arthur River about halfway along.

The Tarkine region is named for the Indigenous Tarkiner people who once called this area home. (And if you’re unsure, Tarkine rhymes with “fine”.)  There are lots of aboriginal heritage sites to discover including some truly enormous shell middens.

The region is also home to the world’s second-largest temperate rainforest, with lots of huge old-growth eucalypts, myrtle, leatherwood, and pines. Some of the plants, like the giant tree ferns, date back thousands of years to the time of the Gondwana supercontinent. One of the best places to experience the unique ecosystem is on the short Julius River walking track.

The area is also a great place to try to spot wildlife. It’s one of the least populated areas in Tasmania so it has lots of animals. It has the only surviving wild population of endangered Tasmanian devils. The highlight of my trip was spotting one at our campsite just as the sun went down.


The Bellarine Peninsula

Audrey from See Geelong

Point Lonsdale Lighthouse courtesy of See Geelong
Point Lonsdale Lighthouse

From the Big Lap to the Great Ocean road, Australia has some of the world’s best-known road trips. But if you’re looking for a road less travelled, then head to the Bellarine Peninsula. This secret gem on the Victorian coastline is just 90 km south-west of Melbourne and is one of the best road trips from Melbourne. It is best visited over several days.

Starting in Melbourne the route takes in one of Victoria’s hippest new destinations, the city of Geelong. Be sure to stop here for a stroll along the stunning waterfront and views back over the bay towards Melbourne, or take in the sunrise from a hot air balloon. Then it’s time to head to the Peninsula to enjoy some of the state’s best wineries and seaside fishing villages.

It’s a truly spectacular drive with stunning sea views, beautiful farmlands and the gorgeous Australian countryside. The area is also home to art galleries, museums, historic buildings, lighthouses, and chic cafes. There’s plenty to do out on the water too including, surfing, paddle boarding, diving and fishing. For the ultimate in fun join a tour and go swimming with dolphins and seals.

One of the great things about the Bellarine Peninsula is that it’s a relatively small region so you don’t have to spend great lengths of time in your vehicle. For a truly epic Aussie road trip experience, we recommend combining your Bellarine road trip with the Great Ocean Road.


The Great Ocean Road Trip

The Twelve Apostles on the Great Ocean Road

Few routes are as iconic as the Great Ocean Road Trip.

This stretch of road, built by returning soldiers and sailors after the first world war, follows the Victorian Coastline for 243 kilometres, offering exceptionally picturesque views of Australian scenery. It is

essential driving for locals and visitors alike.

While it forms part of a larger route between Melbourne and Adelaide, the actual Great Ocean Road runs between Torquay, where you can take a surfing lesson, and Allansford. The part of the coastline that runs between Cape Otway and Port Fairy is known as The Shipwreck Coast, known to be the final watery graves of over 600 ships.  The treacherous nature of the coastline means it is also home to numerous lighthouses, some of which are open to the public and offer views out to sea. At the right time of year you might catch whales migrating or raising their young in the Logan’s Beach Whale Nursery.

The road also winds through the Cape Otway National Park on one of the rare occasions it deviates from the coast, lush green forest on either side of the road. There is heaps to stop and see and do along this stretch so don’t rush.

Probably the most famous attraction along the Great Ocean Road is the Twelve Apostles, although only eight now remain, the others having succumbed to the seas over time. Get here in the morning to beat the busload of tourists from Melbourne and have the best light for photographs.


Wilsons Promontory

Michela from Rocky Travel

Wilsons Promontory, Victoria. Courtesy of Michela from from Rocky Travel

If you plan to visit Melbourne and want to start your trip with a relaxed but rewarding road trip to a unique place in Australia, I can recommend spending a couple of days at Wilsons Promontory. Another of the best road trips from Melbourne.

This road trip is a two and a half  hour drive South-East of Melbourne to a fabulous National Park with over 25 walking trails, from day-hikes to multi-day-hiking trails. It is a unique part of Australia where you can see lots of native Australian animals in the wild and also enjoy spectacular hiking trails and safe swimming without feeling overwhelmed. An unusual combination in Australia where the natural wonders often conceal many challenges and hazards.

If you like photography, the Wilsons Promontory offers many top-notch spots for sunset photos and many breathtaking lookouts out to the oceans and the beautiful coastline. The best time to visit is in Spring or Summer, but make sure you book your space well ahead, as this is a top-rated destination among the locals. If you are visiting, the best way to plan your road trip is to hire a car in Melbourne and spend a few days either camping at Tidal River National Park or book yourself into more comfortable cabin lodges. Either solo or with a companion, here are more info on how to plan your road trip to Wilsons Promontory in Victoria.

Take a Wilderness Cruise at Wilsons Promontory.


Western Australia

Perth to Margaret River

Cal and Mar from Once in a Lifetime

Vasse Feliz, Margaret River Western Australia. Courtesy of Once in a Lifetime

Imagine a remote and secluded part of Western Australia, where panoramic beaches meet rolling hills filled with vines and cattle. This is the Margaret River. Located around 3 hours from Perth, an already isolated part of the country, is a wine lovers dream that has made a name for itself as a premium vino destination since its first vines were planted in the 60s. A brilliant Australian road trip you can take is to traverse the wineries of this region by doing a loop from Perth back to Perth.

Due to its Oceanic terroir that allows for cool nights and warm days, it’s a favorable region for growing Bordeaux-style grapes. Start at the pioneer of the region Vasse Felix, founded by Thomas Cullity back in 1967. The other founding wineries in the region include Leeuwin, Cullen, Voyager and Cape Mentelle. Four of these five are still run by the same family, which makes visiting them an intimate affair.

The latter winery Cape Mentelle belongs to a holding company, LVMH, but is still a gorgeous visit with a stunning beach, cattle that create natural fertilizer and the odd kangaroo. Cullen is great for biodynamic and certified organic wines. Leeuwin is a hidden paradise at the end of a winding road with fine-dining dinners. Voyager is a nod to South Africa’s Cape Dutch architecture with 4WDR tours.

If you love the grape elixir or hate it, traveling to the distant Margaret River is a treat for the eyes and a more laid back road trip in Australia for those seeking true relaxation. There are also quaint farmers markets, craft beer joints and quality food.

Check out Things to do in Margaret River for Wine Lovers.


Perth to Monkey Mia drive

Ioana from The World is my Playground

Dolphins at Monkey Mia. Courtesy of The World is my Playground

One of the most adventurous and beautiful road trips in Australia is from Perth, northbound towards Monkey Mia, a total of 865 km one way.

Start with spending a couple of days in Perth, and explore the city centre, the waterfront, and the beaches, or stop at Scarborough Beach on your way out of town for breakfast and awesome sunrise views.

Next, drive toward Lancelin Sand Dunes and spend a few hours sandboarding or walking around for awesome panoramic views. Then head to Nambung National Park to check out the Pinnacles – unusual limestone pillars in the dessert.

Stop by the charming town of Geraldton for a few hours – or spend a night here – before continuing on to Kalbarri National Park. The park itself is huge. If you enjoy hiking, sleep in the vicinity and plan to hike in the park the next day. The weather gets very hot and the hike itself takes a few hours, so it’s best to start at daybreak and bring food and water.

Check out Hamelin Pool before continuing to Monkey Mia. Your best bet is to stay at the Monkey Mia resort, a remote and relaxing resort near Francois Peron National Park, another park worth exploring. Wake up early and head to the beach for the main attraction. The infamous Monkey Mia dolphins will come out to greet you around 9am. The dolphins live in the wild but come and hang out at the beach every morning.

If you have a few extra days, you can continue past Monkey Mia and head to Broome, one of the most picturesque locations on the West Coast. You can drop off your rental car in Broome and take a small local flight back to Perth or drive back the same way but stopping at different attractions (like the Hutt Lagoon Pink Lake!).



Atherton Tablelands

Lauren from Faramagan

Atherton Tablelands Queensland. Courtesy of Faramagan

Many people associate Cairns with the reef and rainforest, but did you know it is also home to some of the best waterfalls in the country? One of the best Cairns day trips is to head for the Atherton Tablelands which are a lush, wetlands surrounding the city. The Atherton Tablelands Waterfalls Circuit is a 17km driving loop that will allow you to tick off the most famous of these falls all in one day. Best of all, no expensive tour is required – it’s super easy to plan your own self-drive tour thanks to plenty of signage and lots to see and do along the way.

Situated around a 2 hour drive from Cairns, most people choose to start with Millaa Milla, the most famous of the waterfalls before ticking off other favourites such as Dinner Falls, Ellinjaa Falls, Barron Falls and Josephine Falls (Which even has a natural waterslide for a road trip stop you’ll never forget!)

Unlike the sea in Queensland which is often frequented by crocs, sharks or jellyfish the majority of these waterfalls are safe to swim in, providing a refreshing break to stretch your legs before continuing the waterfalls route. Always check weather warnings and signage at the falls before you enter the water as heavy rainfall can drastically affect the water depth and pressure.

During your road trip, don’t forget to keep your eyes peeled for the abundance of wildlife in the area including kangaroos (especially if driving at dusk) echidnas, wallabies and platypus. From natural plunge pools to world-famous rainforest, the Atherton Tablelands will provide a road trip like no other!

Cairns to Cape Tribulation drive

Annie from Off Goes Annie

Cairns to Cape Tribulation courtesy of Off Goes Annie

Driving from Cairns to Cape Tribulation is one of the most rewarding yet easy road trips in Queensland. With a total non-stop return driving time of just five hours, it’s possible to see this beautiful combination of beaches, reefs and rainforests in one day. To make the most of your adventure, take your time to stop at plenty of the stunning spots along the way, or spend a night below the tree canopy of the Daintree Rainforest.

From Cairns, you’ll first find yourself on the Captain Cook Highway, which has all the beauty of a mini section of the Great Ocean Road. Think winding roads alongside stunning hidden coves, with a backdrop of green hills, whilst you enjoy many secluded beaches. Next, you’ll come to the sleepy palm lined resort town of Port Douglas – have a wander around the shops or check out their epic long sweeping beach.

As you approach the Daintree Rainforest, you’ll need to make the river crossing by ferry. There’s no need to plan a time in advance as they run every 10-15 minutes, and tickets of AUD$28 can be purchased at the dock. Once arriving in the rainforest itself, the driving becomes even more wonderful. Winding roads below the thick canopy take you to a multitude of walking routes, and eventually, to the beautiful Cape Tribulation beach. Here, two world heritage sites of the Daintree Rainforest and the Great Barrier Reef meet, in a place of outstanding natural beauty.

Check out Cape Tribulation tours.


Were all of these great road trips on your list? Let me know below!

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The vastness of Australia lends itself spectacularly well to self-drive tours. From the Great Ocean Road, Cape Tribulation and Uluru, check out this list of some of the best routes for driving in Australia.

The vastness of Australia lends itself spectacularly well to self-drive tours. From the Great Ocean Road, Cape Tribulation and Uluru, check out this list of some of the best routes for driving in Australia.

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11 thoughts on “Driving around Australia; the best routes for your Aussie road trip”

  1. There are some fantastic road trips there. Can I also suggest another amazing drive – from Adelaide to Perth across the Nullabor. Make sure you stop at Bunda Cliffs to watch the whale playing in the Great Australian Bite.

  2. I have never considered Australia for a road-trip although thanks to blogs like yours I am far more open to the idea. We are meeting so many Aussies in Europe that are seriously selling this beautiful country.

  3. What beautiful images!
    I kind of got stuck on the one of Adelaide, that one is really stunning! What kind of camera equipment are you using?

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