Our favourite Australian touring routes
With thanks to guest blogger Jennifer Adams of Places We Go.
Driving adventures are one of our favourite kinds of holiday. The freedom to pack all your gear in the car, make yourself comfortable, turn up the radio, and drive to your choice of destinations gets my pulse racing.
There are always so many spontaneous experiences and surprises waiting to be uncovered, and for me the journey is always as good as the destination.
We’ve also discovered the keys (pardon the pun) to making a driving adventure fun and entertaining for the kids so it really is an experience for the whole family.
In my book, the ultimate driving adventure is one where you don’t have a final destination. Instead, it is all about the journey; stopping in a number of different places and discovering treasures in between them all.
We have explored most of this country by road and love the vast contrasts that this country offers. Here are our favourite paths.
1. The Great Ocean Road, Victoria
Truly one of the iconic drives of Australia, the Great Ocean Road will treat you to scene after scene of incredible rugged beauty, epic landscapes, and natural treasures as it hugs Victoria’s southwestern coastline.
The 250km road was first built by veterans who returned from World War I and was dedicated to soldiers in that war who never returned, making it the world’s largest war memorial. Today, it stretches between the towns of Torquay and Allansford, taking in charming seaside towns and villages plus plenty of natural wonders.
A drive along this incredible coastal road will reward you with a different view around every bend, and you simply have to remember to steal your eyes away from the scenery if you are driving!
The turquoise Pacific Ocean glimmers in the sunshine and crashes against rugged cliffs and beautiful sandy beaches. Groups of surfers are regularly spotted along the coast as they make the most of the famous swells. Further west, as you reach the Shipwreck Coast at Cape Otway, you will learn how those waves claimed a whopping 638 vessels.
The natural erosion in the limestone cliffs from the power of this section of coastline is visible in the formations that have evolved, such as the iconic Twelve Apostles and Loch Ard Gorge.
However, there are plenty of safe and calm beaches along the route, making the Great Ocean Road an absolute favourite when it comes to summer holiday destinations. The coastal towns of Anglesea, Lorne, and Apollo Bay are a hive of activity each summer. To best appreciate this epic path, stay in several locations along the way and take your time to appreciate all that the road has to offer.
One of our favourite treasures along the Great Ocean Road is the hamlet of Wye River. Named for the river that snakes through the town to meet the sea, Wye River is set in the Wye River Valley and the Great Otway Ranges. It is a charming village of just a couple of hundred permanent residents who, along with the visitors that flock here year around, enjoy the serenity of the national park behind them and the spectacular swimming beach before them.
BIG4 Wye River Holiday Park sits a stone’s throw from the beach, on 25 acres that reaches The Otways behind it. The location means it is a popular place for wildlife to visit, and the sight of koalas, kangaroos, and abundant birdlife is not unusual. The kids are treated to pedal karts, a jumping pillow, and fantastic playground in between visits to the beach and the bush.
The Wye General Store and Café sits right next to the park and is a drawcard for locals and visitors. It is not just any old café and store; it offers some of the most incredible baked goods, artisanal products, brunches, and coffee to be found in the region.
2. Red Centre Way, NT
Nothing beats a drive in the outback. Surrounded by the red desert, the huge blue sky, and ancient landscapes, it is the ultimate way to discover the heart of Australia.
For us, that means cultural, spiritual, and physical discoveries, from inimitable scenery to indigenous sites and history. It is all waiting to be found on the Red Centre Way.
We started our journey in Alice Springs, where an emerging café culture can be found alongside an epicentre of indigenous art. Galleries line the streets and artists can also be found dotted about town working on their craft.
In addition, Alice Springs Desert Park, the School of the Air, and the Alice Springs Telegraph Station are among the many first-rate attractions that allow you to capture the essence of this desert oasis.
BIG4 MacDonnell Range Holiday Park is the ideal place to base yourself before you set off on your driving adventure, and don’t forget the pancake breakfasts hosted by the owners each Sunday!
The Red Centre Way is an incredible 4-5-day drive out of Alice through the astounding landscape that surrounds it, including many Red Centre icons. It begins with the West MacDonnell Ranges and its collection of gorges and chasms. Essential stops include Simpsons Gap, Ellery Creek Big Hole, and Ormiston Gorge.
Further along the loop is my favourite Red Centre treasure – Kings Canyon. The 6km rim walk is one of the highlights of this attraction, with breathtaking views over the floor of the canyon and the incredible surrounds of Watarrka National Park.
And a little further south, your drive will take you to the heartbeat of Australia: Uluru and Kata Tjuta (The Olgas). Take the 9km walk around the base of Uluru and be sure to view it at sunset and sunrise. The Sounds of Silence dinner is a true experience, and a walk through Kata Tjuta will cap off your Red Centre experience.
3. The Great Eastern Drive, Tasmania
We love Tasmania for its incredible wilderness, pristine coastline, amazing produce, top-notch wines, the freshest seafood, and passionate locals, and you will find all of this and more on a road trip along the East Coast.
The Great Eastern Drive takes in some of Tasmania’s most famous treasures, rewards you with many hidden secrets, and delivers unforgettable memories.
From Orford in the south (about one hour northeast of Hobart) to St Helens 175km north, the journey will take you through Swansea, Coles Bay, Freycinet National Park, Bicheno, Scamander, and St Helens.
Two of Australia’s most famous beaches are on the itinerary – Wineglass Bay and Bay of Fires – and you are treated to an absolute feast of seafood farms, berry farms, wineries, and more.
Wilderness experiences abound, such as kayaking the Freycinet coastline or bushwalking in Douglas Apsley National Park. But for people more inclined to sit back and relax, there are countless views to enjoy, uncrowded beaches to wander, and towns to meander through to pick up local cheeses, browse galleries, or dine in amazing restaurants.
What we love so much about this drive is that there are no huge distances to travel. Every hour or less there is something new to stop at and see, and your days are mainly spent discovering, rather than driving. Take your time and make sure you have the flexibility to stop spontaneously, as there are enticing things to see and do around every corner.
Two of our favourite holiday parks are along this route. Firstly, BIG4 Iluka on Freycinet Holiday Park in Coles Bay is directly opposite a beautiful swimming beach and adjacent to Freycinet National Park.
And then BIG4 St Helens Holiday Park – the gateway to the Bay of Fires – is perfectly positioned to take advantage of this world-famous stretch of coastline, the incredible little fishing village within walking distance, and some of the freshest seafood we have ever eaten.
4. Aberfeldy 4WD Track, Gippsland, Victoria
While we love a driving adventure, we are not diehard 4WD enthusiasts. We have an SUV and love a few thrills but all in the name of soft adventure. We discovered one of Victoria’s newest 4WD tracks was open to all-wheel-drive vehicles and novice drivers for one of its main routes and decided to check it out.
The Aberfeldy 4WD Track traces the route of the original Aberfeldy track from the 1800s when it was built and used as a horse-and-cart transport route to service the gold rush. It was recently re-opened, and visitors are able to retrace the heritage of the area, plus be treated to the incredible natural beauty, wilderness, and stunning views.
The journey begins in the small town of Walhalla, around 2.5 hours east of Melbourne. Once the epicentre of the gold rush with a community of around 4000 people, it now about 20 permanent residents. Yet its buildings and history have all been restored and preserved, making it a popular destination for tourists who love the feeling of stepping back in time.
The 4WD track itself then cuts a figure eight circuit around the town of Aberfeldy, and drivers usually cover it in 2-3 days. There is a ‘difficult’ track for experienced drivers with 4WD vehicles, but we took the ‘easy’ graded Donnelly’s Creek Loop, which still gave us all the thrills of rugged terrain, river crossings, and spectacular climbs, but was really doable in our AWD vehicle.
The track has clear interpretation signs along the way, and it was fascinating to learn the history of the track and its former residents. We could stop at historical markers and remnants, including the Red Jacket Cemetery and the old mines.
Plus, there were plenty of opportunities to get out and immerse ourselves in nature, with walking tracks, lookout points, and even fishing spots.
There are toilets and campgrounds on the route, but you do need to bring everything else.
What are your favourite driving holidays or experiences around Australia? Tell us in the comments section below!
For more travel information and inspiration visit placeswego.com
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