The Best Road Trips in Australia
Ahh, Australia, where else can you find kangaroo jerky, hats with corks and Vegemite on bananas?
Whether you want to explore the outback and catch glimpses of native wildlife, or head out to the coast and go swimming at some of the world’s most stunning beaches, an exhilarating road trip awaits you in Australia.
Because it’s so large and so diverse, having a rental car
to explore every nook and cranny is the best way to take your time and see what Australia truly has to offer. You won’t have to rely on public transport, so you’ll really be able to dive into even the most remote locations that offer breathtaking landscapes.
To help you plan an Australian adventure that you’ll never forget, we’ve compiled a list of some of the best road trips to embark on while you’re down under. Are you ready to road trip like an Aussie?
Best Pit Stops Along the Great Ocean Road
One of the most popular Australian road trips is the Great Ocean Road, which is 243 km (151 miles) long, from Torquay to Allansford.
You can start roughly 90 minutes from Melbourne, and as you drive south, you’ll come across some of the country’s most incredible landmarks, such as the Twelve Apostles
limestone rock formation, which is found in Port Campbell National Park. Plus, you can stop off and explore beautiful beaches, so this is a wonderful choice for any nature lover who wants to get outside as much as possible.
Be sure to visit Torquay and Bells Beach
, where you can go surfing. Or, if you’d rather do something a little less intense, visit Aireys Inlet
and tour the lighthouse. Also, expect that the Great Ocean Road will become increasingly scenic as you make your way between the ocean and Otway Ranges
and its forests. Then stop off at Apollo Bay
to explore waterfalls before spending some time in Cape Otway
, where you’ll be able to spot the adorable koalas that call it home (have your camera ready!), as well as check out the country’s oldest mainland lighthouse.
Road tripping in March? Make some time to head into Port Fairy village for their annual folk festival
, a four-day music festival that’s loads of fun and a great way to make new friends while unwinding with delicious food and drink.
Give yourself at least three days to explore all of the sights that you can find along the Great Ocean Road. If you want quieter roads and higher odds of seeing whales in their natural habitat, consider taking this trip from June to August.
Driving Australia's Pacific Highway
Two of the most popular places in Australia, Brisbane and Sydney, are your start and end points for this exciting road adventure. Start in Brisbane and then follow the Pacific coast, making your way from one beautiful beach to the next. Sounds like absolute perfection, doesn’t it? Just be sure to give yourself anywhere from five to nine days to fully enjoy everything that this trip has to offer.
Along the way, you can stop at Bouddi National Park
, where you can stretch your legs with cycling, hiking, swimming, and snorkeling. Then, once you make your way to Lennox Head and Byron Bay, you can go surfing in the waves to really get your adrenaline pumping. Stop off at Hunter Valley to explore some of the area’s lovely vineyards, and try some extraordinary cuisine like kangaroo prosciutto. Then head to Port Stephens, where you’ll be able to play on some photo-worthy sand dunes. Finally, make your way into Sydney, where you can enjoy views of the Opera House and relax while having a delicious meal at one of the top restaurants in the city, such as Ester Restaurant and Bar
Something really neat about this particular drive: it runs parallel to the migration of humpback whales as they make their way south towards Antarctica. Consider stopping just about anywhere on this route and keep an eye out for whales—or, better yet, book a whale watching trip to get closer to these magnificent creatures. On this route, it’s not hard to spot many of Australia’s extraordinary birds including parrots, lorikeets and cockatoos. If bird-watching is your thing, invest in a guide before you go.
Experience the Wonder of the West Coast
If it’s a wild road trip that you’re after, with fewer tourists along the way, definitely check out the west coast from Perth to Broome. You’ll make your way through habitats that can get you close to some of Australia’s amazing wildlife—experiences that you won’t soon forget.
As you make your way through the pristine outback, you’ll find yourself immersed in national parks and quiet beaches. Visit Rottnest Island
, just offshore from Perth, and take photos of quokkas living in this protected natural reserve. Then check out Monkey Mia Beach
, where you can meet some friendly dolphins, or swim with whale sharks in Ningaloo Reef
. Hike through Karijini National Park
to see ancient geological formations, and relax in the serene beauty of Shark Bay
Finally, end your trip in Broome by lounging on Roebuck Bay’s red beaches. Really, does it get any better for a nature lover? We think not!
Want to add even more to your trip? Once you’re in Broome, you’ll be on the western edge of the ancient Kimberly region
, which is found in the northwestern corner of the country. Best if you have a 4WD vehicle, this is one of the planet’s last truly wild areas. You’ll be able to explore everything from swimming holes to canyons, while photographing the myriad species that call it home. When you need to rest, luxurious accommodations, such as those at Home Valley Station
and Ramada Eco Beach Resort
, await you.
To make the most of this road trip, consider heading out in the spring or fall to avoid the hot and rainy seasons. And give yourself at least 12 days to take it all in.
Travel Down the Centre of Australia on the Stuart Highway
Did you know that most of the population living in Australia is found along the coasts, with far fewer people living in the Outback? That makes this the perfect area to explore if you want to reconnect with Mother Nature.
If you wish to see the middle of Australia to change things up, rather than sticking to the coast all the time, you’ll definitely want to head out onto the Stuart Highway, which takes you from Adelaide in the south to Darwin in the north. For this road trip, setting aside at least 10 days to complete it is recommended, as it’s a whopping 3,000 km (1,864 miles) long. Completing it is considered a big accomplishment, and it is an incredible way to get away from it all when you’re hoping to do something different for your next excursion.
Throughout your journey, you’ll move through the heart of the country, and you’ll get the chance to see the scenery change as you make your way through the outback. You can start in Adelaide and then make your way to Port Augusta, Coober Pedy, Alice Springs, Tennant Creek, Katherine, and, finally, Darwin.
Experience extraordinary moments at Flinders Ranges
, where you’ll feel as though you were transported to another planet, with its deep craters, red roads, and ancient cliffs. Hike Kings Canyon
in the middle of the country, and maybe even camp there to catch the sunrise. And don’t forget to watch Uluru - Ayers Rock
(in Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park) dramatically change colour as the sun sets in the evening.
The best time to give this road trip a try is from April through early October, as the humidity will be lower and the temperatures will be cooler and more comfortable.
The Ultimate Australian Road Trip: The Big Lap
Referred to as the Big Lap, the ultimate Australian road trip will take you all around the entire country. Be prepared, though, as you’ll need a lot of time to get this done. Basically, you’ll follow Highway One, which is around 15,000 km (9,320 miles) long, and you’ll make your way through seven of the capital cities as you follow the coast.
Start in Sydney and follow the road to Brisbane, before going to Cairns, Darwin, and Broome. From there, it’s time to head to Perth, followed by Esperance and Adelaide. Finally, you’ll reach Melbourne and end your trip with a ferry ride over to Hobart in Tasmania.
For this trip, consider renting a car with 4WD
and extra insurance
to keep you covered in case anything happens. It’ll be an epic journey, as you’ll be able to explore everything from rainforests and outback, to beaches and seaside towns, as well as big cities and ancient sites.
Things to Consider Before Your Australian Road Trip
Before you hit the road in Australia, prepare yourself, as the rules of the road are a little different down under:
- Apply for your international driver’s permit, which will be required to drive in Australia. Carry your home country license as well.
- Australians drive on the left-hand side of the road, and drivers sit on the right side of the vehicle. This could take some getting used to if you’re from a country where the opposite is the norm.
- Be aware of speed limits. Generally, it’s 50 kph (31 mph) in built-up residential areas. Beyond those areas, the speed limit is generally 100 kph (62 mph). Speed limits may be higher in Western Australia and the Northern Territory.
- Take extra precaution if you’re driving in the outback as mobile reception and facilities may be few and far between.
Having the right car rental insurance
will give you peace of mind while you road trip your way through Australia. RentalCover
provides comprehensive protection depending on where you are from, along with stellar customer service, so you can focus on enjoying the scenery and taking it all in. On top of that, our insurance may cost less than what you’d have to pay the rental company, and our rental car damage insurance has zero deductible with fewer exclusions. So go ahead and save the extra cash to fuel up your vehicle and upgrade your snorkel gear!
Excited to Hit the Road?
Armed with your rental car, a GPS, a backup map, and some snacks to hold you over, your Australian road trip is ready to begin. Whether you want to stick to the popular tourist spots of the east coast or see what the quieter west coast has to offer, and whether you want to go all-out and circumvent the continent or just stick to making your way down the middle of the country, there’s an unforgettable adventure waiting for you.