Top Tips for planning an Australia Road Trip

Where to go and what to see in our own great big backyard

The thing about living in a country as big as Australia is that many of us only ever see a small corner of it. Are you a city dweller who has never explored the Outback? An East Coaster who has never ventured to the West Coast? We’ll give you a hand planning an Australia road trip so you can see more of our beautiful country.

Tops Tips for your Australia Road Trip

A few reminders before you go

  • Mobile coverage can be patchy so don’t rely on online maps for navigation. If your car doesn't have its own navigation system, it’s worth investing in a portable GPS and even buying a paper map! 
  • Fuel up before you go – it can be a long way between petrol stations and rest stops so make sure you and your car both have plenty in the tank.
  • Consider domestic travel insurance to help cover things like rental vehicle excess and personal items

Queensland road trip

Keen to explore the world’s largest coral reef, visit ancient tropical rainforests, and check out one of the world’s most scenic coastal drives? Put Queensland at the top of your Australia road trip itinerary. 

Great Barrier Reef Drive

Allow: 4-6 days

This gem of a road trip is a great option if you're looking for a shorter journey that's packed with adventure as well as breathtaking scenery. 

It’s a modest 140km along the Great Barrier Reef Drive from Cairns to Cape Tribulation but ignore the 2hr 43 minutes estimated drive time on Google. You’re off to see one of the seven wonders of the natural world, so take some time to enjoy it. There’s so much to see and do along this scenic stretch of coastline that you can easily fill four to six days.

The tropical paradise of Cairns is the perfect place to relax into holiday mode and begin your trip. Known as the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef, you’ll also want to allow some time here to enjoy the cafes, browse the markets and relax on the beaches.

When it comes to visiting the reef, there’s something here for every kind of adventurer whether it's by helicopter, submarine, underwater scooter, or under sail. Book a snorkelling or diving trip for a chance to see fabulous marine life up close.

Port Douglas is the place to stop for beach resorts, high-end restaurants and boutique shopping and it also boasts some of the country’s best golf courses. If you’re serious about relaxation, stop off at Palm Cove, the spa capital of Australia. The Daintree Rainforest is an absolute must-see on this road trip. This UNESCO World Heritage site has been in existence for 180 million years and is an awe-inspiring place. Here, you can find crystal-clear rock pools and rushing waterfalls, spot unique wildlife, and take part in a guided Ngadiku Dreamtime Walk led by the local indigenous community.  Cape Tribulation is the final stop on this trip. Here, you can experience the Great Barrier Reef and the tropical rainforest side by side, with the forest reaching right down to wonderfully secluded beaches. There’s no better place to disconnect and enjoy the untouched beauty of nature.  


Looking at map 

Queensland to New South Wales

Beginning in Queensland’s laidback capital city and finishing with the bright lights of Sydney, along the way you’ll drive through the Hunter Valley wine country, experience the cruisy Byron Bay lifestyle and enjoy some of Australia’s best surf beaches.

The Legendary Pacific Touring Route

Allow: 9-10 days

They don’t call it legendary for nothing. This 1,000km drive along the Pacific coast is often described as one of the best road trips in Australia.
Your starting point, Brisbane, is a city with a distinctly relaxed vibe, basking in sunshine for up to 300 days of the year. Locals love the outdoor lifestyle, but you can choose how active you want to be here. Walk or cycle along the Brisbane Riverwalk, browse the farmers’ markets, cuddle a koala at the Koala Sanctuary or even go diving amongst shipwrecks.

It’s a short one-hour drive from Brisbane to the Gold Coast and here the pace picks up – but only if you choose. Let your inner child loose at the famous theme parks and check out the waves at Surfers Paradise. Head to the Hinterland if you’re looking for something a little calmer and enjoy a stroll through the rainforests of Springbrook National Park.

Famous for its hippie culture, Byron Bay is certainly a place to come for relaxation. You’ll find Pilates studios and yoga retreats aplenty, but also award-winning restaurants, luxury accommodation and plenty of opportunities for an adventure. Add skydiving and whale-watching to the to-do list alongside shopping in the local boutiques and, of course, enjoying the beautiful beach.

If you’re a fan of diving, snorkelling and marine wildlife, Coffs Harbour is the place for you. Here you’ll find the Solitary Harbour Marine Park and a spectacular array of marine life. The Wildlife Sanctuary is another opportunity to see dolphins, penguins and seals up close. We should probably also mention the Big Banana. If you leave Coffs Harbour without taking a photo of this iconic landmark, were you even there at all?

You’ll be ready for some refreshments once you reach the Hunter Valley, particularly if you’re a fan of exceptionally good wine and gourmet delights. With over 150 cellar doors to choose from you’re in for a treat. Even if wine tasting isn’t your thing, you’ll find something to entertain you here. The vineyards often play host to live music events so it’s worth checking the calendar to see what’s on while you’re there.

Enjoy the history and culture of one of Australia’s oldest cities when you reach your next destination, Newcastle. Check out the amazing street art, tour the city by bike, or take a nighttime ghost tour if you’re feeling brave! Take a dip at the Newcastle Ocean Baths, or at least a photo of this fabulous Art Deco pavilion.

Sydney is the final stop on this road trip, and it makes for a fantastic finale. The Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Opera House are the obvious places to visit, and we highly recommend that you do, but how about some of the lesser-known spots? Explore the laneways for the hidden bars and some of the city’s best eateries or hop on a ferry and head to the zoo with arguably one of the world’s best views. 


Start your road trip with a city fix in Melbourne before enjoying the contrast of magnificent, rugged coastline and lush rainforest as you follow one of the world’s most scenic coastal drives.

The Great Ocean Road

Allow: 4-5 days

The Great Ocean Road officially begins at the seaside town of Torquay, famous for its surf beaches and home to the Australian National Surfing Museum. Rather than dive right in, though, let’s begin your road trip an hour further east in the culture capital of Melbourne.

From art galleries to sports stadiums, live music venues to boutique shopping, there really is something in this city for every kind of traveller. We recommend giving yourself a couple of days to soak up the delights before you hit the road. 

Once you’re ready to swap city life for surf culture, Torquay’s beaches are well worth a visit. The surfing here is fantastic – just ask the pros who come here to compete at the annual Rip Curl Pro at Bells Beach – but you can also just sit back, relax and soak up the sun.
As you leave Torquay you’ll be joining the Great Ocean Road. Have the camera at the ready and plan to take plenty of rest stops to take in the magnificent views. The Lorne to Apollo Bay is one of the most stunning sections for clifftop views and breathtaking seascapes. 

Great Otway National Park is your next port of call. Here at the southernmost point on the Great Ocean Road, you’ll find beautiful rainforest, towering waterfalls and ancient trees. The historic Cape Otway Lightstation also makes for an interesting visit.
Next on your itinerary are the famous 12 Apostles. Carved by the mighty Southern Ocean, these 45-metre-tall limestone pillars tower out of the sea. Sunset is the best time to see these giants when their yellow rock turns magical shades of red and orange.

Finish your Great Ocean Road adventure at the pretty fishing village of Port Fairy. Sample some of the daily catch, browse the art and craft shops and stroll the historic walking trails. 


Taking photo from car roof in Australian outback

South Australia to Western Australia Road Trip

If adventure is what you’re looking for on your Australia road trip, then this epic journey from Ceduna in South Australia to Norseman in Western Australia is the one for you. It’s a remote journey that requires some careful preparation, but you’ll be well rewarded on this Outback experience.

The Nullarbor Plain

Allow: 6 days

Prefer your roads straight rather than windy? Perfect, you’re in the right place. It’s 1,200km across the Nullarbor Plain and on one section of the Eyre Highway, you’ll drive 146km without a bend! 
It can be extremely hot here in the summer, with temperatures reaching 50 degrees, and fuel stops can also be hundreds of kilometres apart, so good preparation is the key to success here. Planning your trip across the Nullarbor between May and October when the temperatures are cooler is a good idea. 

Another reason to plan your trip for this time is the chance to go whale watching. Your journey begins in the coastal town of Ceduna, which sits on the Great Australian Bight. It is home to a stunning array of marine life and an important gathering area for the endangered southern right whales. Whale watching season begins every year in mid-May when the whales arrive at the Head of the Bight.
Golf enthusiasts will relish the chance to play the world’s largest golf course – the Nullarbor Links. The 18-hole course covers 1365km and stretches from Kalgoorlie in Western Australia to Ceduna in South Australia.

Once you leave Ceduna, head to the iconic Nullarbor Roadhouse. It’ll bring a whole new meaning to the expression ‘the middle of nowhere’ but its isolation is exactly what you’ll love here. A good place to check out the night sky without any light pollution.

Stop in Eucla, just after you cross the border into Western Australia, to see the 100-metre-high limestone cliffs and visit the historic telegraph station hidden amongst the sand dunes.
Visit the Caiguna Blowhole and experience the ‘breathing’ caves. The blowhole is part of the underground limestone cave system beneath the Nullarbor Plain and the ‘breathing’ happens as the air pressure rises and falls, sometimes up to 70 kilometres an hour. 

Your journey finishes in the old gold mining town of Norseman. Look back in history with a visit to the Historical Museum and check out the Tin Camels, a tribute to the camel trains that carried freight to and from the town at the turn of the 20th century.

Northern Territory

Head to the very heart of Australia for a road trip like no other, starting and finishing in Alice Springs and taking in the wonders of one of Australia’s most iconic landmarks, Uluru, along the way. 

The Red Centre Way

Allow: 5-6 days

The gateway to the Red Centre, Alice Springs, is known for its magnificent desert landscapes and one of the best ways to enjoy the view is from a hot-air balloon. Take a trip as the sun rises and spot kangaroos and camels from the air.
To really see the desert come alive include a visit to the Alice Springs Desert Park on your itinerary. Here you’ll learn more about the desert habitats and the stories and history of the local Arrente people. Be sure to visit the swimming holes of the West MacDonnell Ranges and take a trip to the East MacDonnell Ranges to experience beautiful Aboriginal rock art.

The drive from Alice Springs to Kings Canyon is best done in a 4WD vehicle. If you’re in a 2WD vehicle, you will need to take the Stuart Highway and turn off at the Lasseter Highway and the journey will take around six hours. 4WDs can take the Mereenie Loop, but the road is unsealed, and you will need a permit to travel as the road crosses Aboriginal Land.

Remember to pack your hiking boots for this road trip so you can enjoy the hiking trails in Kings Canyon and Watarrka National Park. The Rim Walk will test your fitness with 500 steep steps to climb at the start, but the 360-degree panoramas from the top are amazing. 

Visiting Uluru is bound to be a highlight of this road trip, and there are more ways to view this spectacular sandstone monolith than you probably ever imagined. The most adventurous at heart will opt for a skydive and experience the magic of Uluru from the air. Climbing Uluru is no longer an option, but you can enjoy the walking trails at the base or even take a camel tour.

Complete your return journey to Alice Springs with an out-of-this-world visit to the Henbury Meteorites Conservation Reserve to see the 12 craters left by a meteor crash 4700 years ago; the largest is 180m wide.


Uluru under starlight

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