Road trippin’! 10 classic Australian touring routes
Oh those views!
Australia’s landscapes sparkle like a diamond, providing frame after frame of jaw-dropping vistas, best enjoyed while on a classic road trip.
Want to appreciate rainforest, reef, or rugged surrounds? Tourism Australia will steer you in the right direction with this superb selection of touring routes. Or check out our full list of detailed driving routes.
Let’s hit the road…
1. Great Ocean Road, VIC
The famous cliff-hugging curves, endless sea views, pretty coastal towns and dramatic rock formations combine to make Victoria’s Great Ocean Road one of the world’s best. A historical war memorial built by returning soldiers, it takes in lush rainforest of the Otway Ranges as well.
Do the 250km drive from Torquay to Warrnambool in a day, or better still, over a few. Torquay is the perfect starting point, with golf and glorious beaches.
Halfway along the drive at Apollo Bay, enjoy the sparkling ocean and regional views.
2. Pacific Coast, NSW/QLD
Do the entire 950km from Sydney to Brisbane or just a section of it.
At Port Macquarie, don’t miss the Billabong Zoo Koala and Wildlife Park where you can pat a koala. Hang out in Byron Bay, where the surf is spectacular and the restaurants, such as Italian at the Pacific, are world class.
Be dazzled by the legendary stretch of sand at 2018 Commonwealth Games host city, the Gold Coast, stretching from North Stradbroke Island to Rainbow Bay.
3. South West, WA
This Western Australia southwest drive is 1200km long, so allow plenty of time.
From Perth, head to Margaret River for famous wineries such as the region’s legendary pioneer, Cape Mentelle. Then drive south through massive karri forests to Cape Leeuwin and climb the lighthouse to see where the Indian and Southern oceans meet
Stop at William Bay National Park, home to Greens Pool and Elephant Rocks before joining Naturaliste Charters to see the world’s biggest pod of orcas (in season).
A good six hours’ drive along the coast and you can bask on the beach with kangaroos sunning themselves in Cape Le Grande National Park. Further on, Esperance is home to some of the whitest sand and bluest water on the planet.
4. Coral Coast, WA
The Indian Ocean Drive from Perth north to Geraldton, along the west coast, takes in 1250km of gorgeous beaches and teeming wildlife. This coastline is considered some of the most undisturbed in the world.
Don’t miss Jurien Bay Marine Park, a unique eco-system and breeding ground for Australian sea lions, the rarest sea lions on the planet.
As the drive cuts inland to Exmouth, still more than 1000km in the distance, be awestruck by the Pinnacles, extraordinary rock formations in the lunar landscape of Nambung National Park.
Visit Carnarvon Space and Technology Museum and learn about the role Carnarvon played in the Space Race. Spend time at Ningaloo Reef, which is so close to shore you don’t even need a boat and is home to amazing whale sharks.
5. Gold Coast to Fraser Coast, QLD
The 450km road trip from Surfers Paradise to Hervey Bay is like a tasting platter of the very best of Australia’s coastal lifestyle.
Sample the Gold Coast, breakfasting at Broadbeach cafés and dining at amazing Surfer’s Paradise restaurants, such as Salt Grill by Luke Mangan, with lots of beach time in between.
Don’t miss O’Reilly’s Tree Top Walk in World Heritage-listed Lamington National Park rainforest. Explore the funky villages and idyllic beauty of the Sunshine Coast and the art galleries and artisan producers of its hinterland. Kayak with dolphins and turtles with Epic Ocean Adventures and go whale watching at Hervey Bay with award-winning Hervey Bay Whale Watch.
6. Eyre Peninsula, SA
The triangle of land jutting into the sea between Adelaide and the Great Australian Bight is one of the country’s best-kept holiday secrets.
Spend a week or so tracing the 700km of coastline, starting at Whyalla where you can do a tour of the OneSteel steelworks and feast on oysters; this area is the seafood capital of Australia. Try the Oyster Shed at Coffin Bay then head south to walk along the deserted beaches of the Eyre Peninsula.
Join Baird Bay Ocean Eco Experience to swim with sea lions and dolphins. Go shark cage diving at Port Lincoln, one of the best places in the world for viewing great whites. Choose eco-operator Adventure Bay Charters, which has a submarine experience for those who don’t dive.
7. Great Eastern Drive, TAS
Stop at Orford for the walk from Shelley Beach to Spring Beach. The old convict road along the Prosser River is a fascinating walk. It still shows convict bricks in the ground and other convict-built ruins.
Wineglass Bay is the well-known, must-see beach on the Freycinet Peninsula and Freycinet National Park, and with good reason; it’s a perfect formation of coastal beauty. See it from above with Freycinet Air.
Try local wines and dine in cafés and restaurants along the way.
8. Darwin to Katherine, NT
An action-packed 450km drive across the top of the Northern Territory. Stop by the waterholes of Litchfield National Park and bathe in the beautiful waterfalls.
Take a scenic flight to see the Katherine region from the air, including Katherine Gorge, Leliyn (Edith Falls), and more. Coolibah Air is just one operator providing flights.
Take a side trip to Territory Wildlife Park, 50km out of Darwin, to see an array of local wildlife up close, and the town of Adelaide River another 50km further on, which is rich in World War II history and a great place to jump on a crocodile-sighting cruise.
9. Australian Capital Territory to Snowy Mountains, ACT/NSW
Explore the Snowy Mountains on a 500km alpine loop from Canberra that encompasses parts of New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory and travels through the heart of Kosciuszko National Park. Snowbound in winter, in spring it’s a show of wildflowers.
Take to the Thredbo Valley Track on foot or by mountain bike to see it at its best. Explore the five Yarrangobilly Caves full of stalagmites, stalactites, and cave corals. Or visit the Tumbarumba wine country on the southwest slopes of the Snowies.
If you want to keep going, loop to the south coast of New South Wales for laid-back country towns such as the foodie enclave of Berry and whale watching at Jervis Bay.
10. Cairns to Cape York, QLD
Drive the 335km along the Captain Cook Highway from Cairns up to Port Douglas in Queensland to experience a road that hugs the coastline and offers magnificent views of rainforest spilling down mountainsides to the sea.
The road beckons, but stop at Palm Cove only 27km from Cairns for a look at Far North Queensland sophistication. Restaurants and spas and jumping off points for Great Barrier Reef trips abound.
Head into the world’s oldest rainforest, the Daintree Rainforest, and do the skywalk through the canopy. At Cape Tribulation, look out to the Great Barrier Reef.
Then hit the Mulligan Highway to Australia’s northernmost tip, at Cape York.
What is your favourite Australian touring route? Tell us about your bitumen-bounding adventures in the comments section below.
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