The 10 Best Road Trips in Australia

Travelling on the sea cliff bridge coastal drivel along the Grand pacific drive, East coast of Australia
Travelling on the sea cliff bridge coastal drivel along the Grand pacific drive, East coast of Australia | © Ross Tomei / Alamy Stock Photo

Australia is home to a few world-renowned scenic drives. The Great Ocean Road meanders along the country’s beautiful coastline, while the Red Centre Way cuts across the arid Australian Outback. Whether you do it in your own vehicle or a vintage RV, these Australia road trips are the stuff of dreams.

Great Ocean Road

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Road leading down to Twilight Cove. The road is part of the Great Ocean Drive
© Paul Kingsley / Alamy Stock Photo

Let’s start with the most iconic Australian road trip. The Great Ocean Road begins about 90 minutes from Melbourne in Torquay, and stretches 243 kilometres (151 miles) along the coast to Allansford. Things to do along the Great Ocean Road include seeing the Twelve Apostles’ infamous limestone stacks; visiting Great Otway National Park and doing the Otway Fly Treetop Walk; spotting all of the Australian animals at Tower Hill Wildlife Reserve; and walking down to Loch Ard Gorge.

Grand Pacific Drive

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Sea Cliff Bridge on Grand Pacific Drive
Sea Cliff Bridge on Grand Pacific Drive | © Ross Tomei / Alamy Stock Photo

Starting 45 minutes south of Sydney’s CBD, Grand Pacific Drive is a 140-kilometre (87-mile) highway connecting Royal National Park to the Shoalhaven Region. The road trip’s most iconic landmark is the Sea Cliff Bridge, which hugs the coast like a snake for 665 metres (2,200 feet). Top stops along the scenic Grand Pacific Drive include Nan Tien Temple, the Southern Hemisphere’s largest Buddhist Temple; Kiama and its famous blowhole; and Jamberoo Action Park and Symbio Wildlife Park for road-tripping families.

Red Centre Way

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West MacDonnell Ranges, Northern Territory
West MacDonnell Ranges, Northern Territory | © Genevieve Vallee / Alamy Stock Photo

The Red Centre Way is a 1,135-kilometre (705-mile) loop from Alice Springs. Set aside at least five days to tackle this remote route, which takes in some of Australia’s top natural attractions, including Uluru and Kata Tjuta National Park, Kings Canyon in Watarrka National Park and the West MacDonnell Ranges. Spend time in Alice Springs, Australia’s indigenous art capital, where you can relax in West MacDonnell National Park’s many gorges, do the Kings Canyon Rim Walk, and see the sunrise at Uluru.

Great Barrier Reef Drive

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Cove above Thala Beach on the Great Barrier Reef Drive in FNQ Australia
Cove above Thala Beach on the Great Barrier Reef Drive in FNQ Australia | © Randell Burke / Alamy Stock Photo

Another popular road trip with locals and tourists alike, the Great Barrier Reef Drive between Cairns and Cape Tribulation links two World Heritage Sites: the Wet Tropics Rainforest and the Great Barrier Reef. The 2.5-hour journey might be short, but it’s packed with potential stops. This includes Cairns’ Northern Beaches, Mossman Gorge, Palm Cove, Port Douglas and Daintree Village. Before embarking on the Great Barrier Reef Drive, explore its namesake with a day trip from Cairns to Fitzroy or Green Islands.

Gibb River Road

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Gibb River Road (eastern section), The Kimberley
© robertharding / Alamy Stock Photo

Located in Australia’s remote Kimberley region, the Gibb River Road is recognised as one of Australia’s most iconic journeys. The challenging 4WD road trip follows a former cattle route for approximately 660 kilometres (410 miles), connecting Derby to Kununurra. Travelling through the Australian Outback, along Gibb River Road you’ll pass plenty of gorges, Outback stations and national parks. Ensure you spend time exploring both Windjana Gorge National Park and El Questro.

Pacific Highway

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The Australian coastal road the Pacific Highway
The Australian coastal road the Pacific Highway | © Kathy Alsop / Alamy Stock Photo

Perhaps not as iconic as America’s Pacific Coast Highway, the 10-hour journey from Sydney to Brisbane along the Pacific Highway is still a very popular route for international travellers visiting Australia. Start in Sydney, with its plethora of attractions like Bondi Beach and Darling Harbour. Then head north and take in the beaches of Newcastle; stop at Bouddi National Park for a coastal walk; and relax in hip Byron Bay. Once you cross the border, prepare to party on the Gold Coast before reaching Brisbane. If you have time, continue north to the spectacular Sunshine Coast.

Western Australia

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Lakes and seascape at Rottnest Island in Western Australia
Lakes and seascape at Rottnest Island in Western Australia | © Elizabeth Given / Alamy Stock Photo

See some of the best sights in Western Australia by following the coast from Perth to Broome. In Perth, don’t miss visiting King’s Park, hip Fremantle and Rottnest Island. Heading north, top attractions include the Pinnacles in Nambung National Park; the World Heritage-listed Shark Bay and its neighbour Monkey Mia; Ningaloo Reef, where you can swim with whale sharks; and Karijini National Park’s many refreshing swimming holes and gorges. Around 2,500 kilometres (1,550 miles) later, you’ll reach your destination. Broome is home to Cable Beach, pearl farms and a historic outdoor cinema.

Savannah Way

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Bungle Bungle mountain range in Purnululu National Park
Bungle Bungle mountain range in Purnululu National Park | © robertharding / Alamy Stock Photo

Savannah Way is a cross-continent road trip that connects Cairns to Broome in northern Australia. Over 3,500 kilometres (2,175 miles) from start to finish, Savannah Way takes you through two states, one territory, 15 national parks and five World Heritage sites. Start in tropical Cairns, which is gateway to the Great Barrier Reef. Then head past historic Outback towns, before crossing into the Northern Territory and visiting the thermal springs of Elsey National Park and Katherine Gorge in Nitmiluk National Park. In WA’s Kimberley region, recommended stops before reaching Broome include Lake Argyle, El Questro Wilderness Park and the Bungle Bungle Range in World Heritage-listed Purnululu National Park.

Tasmania

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Queenstown Road in Tasmania
© William Robinson / Alamy Stock Photo

Although there’s no catchy name involved, no one regrets doing a Tasmanian road trip. Starting in Hobart and heading in a clockwise circle, visitors can see naturally beautiful and historic attractions like Cradle Mountain, lovely Launceston, the Bay of Fires, Wineglass and Coles Bays in Freycinet National Park, Maria Island and Port Arthur. In Hobart, popular things to do include visiting MONA, checking out the weekly Salamanca Market and summiting Mount Wellington.

Great Alpine Road

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Australian Alps and Alpine National Park from the Great Alpine Road
Australian Alps and Alpine National Park from the Great Alpine Road | © Peter Ptschelinzew / Alamy Stock Photo

A play on the Great Ocean Road, the Great Alpine Road instead traverses through inland Victoria. It’s a 339-kilometre (211-mile) route from Wangaratta to Metung, along Australia’s highest sealed road that’s accessible year-round. Passing through the Victorian Alps, popular stops along the Great Alpine Road include Milawa, which was Australia’s first designated gourmet region. Then there’s Rutherglen, known for its fortified wine industry, and Beechworth, which is a former gold rush town with Ned Kelly connections.

These recommendations were updated on July 17, 2020 to keep your travel plans fresh.