1. Great Ocean Road, Victoria
It’s heavily marketed as one of the greatest drives in Australia, and the Great Ocean Road road trip certainly lives up to the hype thanks to its coastal scenic route. Not only do you get to see the dramatic rock sculptures called the 12 Apostles, which stick out from the coast like giant stalagmites, but there are also wonderful beaches, a variety of wildlife, good eateries and magnificent rainforest walks. With a long history of shipwrecks, it’s probably safer to explore by car rather than by boat!
Great Ocean Road runs from Allansford to Torquay, which then offers easy access to Melbourne. At 224 km, you can make a number of stops on the route in towns such as Lorne, Apollo Bay and Peterborough to make the most of your road trip.
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2. Sydney to Melbourne
For some lovely scenery, you could travel north up the coast from Sydney to Brisbane by car, but arguably the better drive is to follow the ocean from Sydney to Melbourne. Expect a string of coastal towns and villages, including Kiama, Milton, Lakes Entrance, Bermagui and Narooma, lots of national parks, such as Croajingolong National Park, Wadbilliga National Park and Deua National Park, wild camping spots and turquoise lagoons. There’s a strong Aboriginal presence in parts too, as well as perfect fishing spots, birdlife galore and plenty of kangaroos – especially at Pebbly Beach, where they pose for photographs beside the surf.
You can easily spend a day at many of the stops between Sydney to Melbourne, so plan ahead.
3. The Nullarbor Plain, South Australia heading to Western Australia
If you have a handful of days to spare, then set off from Ceduna in South Australia and head west for some 2,000 km to Perth across the wide, almost treeless, expanse of the Nullarbor. It might be dry and have a reputation for being a harsh environment, but it’s certainly not a desert. Wooded hills flatten out to plateaus studded with bluebush. Mobs of roos line the road, and giant wedge-tailed eagles patrol the skies. You’ll need a four-wheel-drive if you plan to leave the highway, but otherwise it’s an easy driving route on a powerful scale.
4. Uluru to Kings Canyon, Northern Territory
Fancy a road trip through real red earth country and skies bigger than you could ever think possible? Then take off on this three-hour drive along the Lasseter Highway from Ayers Rock to the breathtaking Kings Canyon. Look out for wild camels along the route. To extend your Outback journey, start off at Alice Springs and take on the Red Centre Way. You’ll need about five days, with stops at historic towns and ancient Aboriginal rock art sites.
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5. Heritage Highway, Tasmania
The historic road between Hobart and Launceston was built by convict gangs in the early 1800s, and was once a well-known haunt of highwaymen. Why drive here now? Well, the beautiful towns and villages of Longford, Evandale, Cressy, Perth and the lush countryside are big draw-cards, as is the gourmet food and the getaways in old, atmospheric cottages. Although the drive will only take you a few hours, you can easily make this road trip last a few days with stops en-route.
Once you’ve taken in the sights of Heritage Highway, you can discover more about the history at the Heritage Highway Museum and Visitors Centre in Campbell Town.
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6. The Alpine Way, New South Wales
Head out from Jindabyne, New South Wales and up into the hills towards Corryong in Victoria for a road trip with dramatic alpine scenery. You drive through Kosciuszko National Park, and you can camp among wallabies and wombats on the banks of the Snowy River. When the snow thaws in late spring, you can hurtle down a mountain bike trail, or explore the gum tree slopes on an alpine walking route.
7. Kangaroo Island, South Australia
Hire a car on Kangaroo Island itself or take your own on the SeaLink ferry from Adelaide. There are some 1,600 km of roads here, and several driving itineraries on offer. Don’t miss the wind-sculptured rock formations, and a stroll through a colony of fur seals. Just outside Flinders Chase National Park you can spot dozens of koalas hanging in the trees, while near the town of Penneshaw you can see little penguins returning to their night time burrows beside the beach.
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8. Great Alpine Road, Victoria
Another wonderful alpine road trip starts off at Wangaratta, Victoria and follows a disused railway track (now used by cyclists) through a long valley studded with wineries and alpacas. Then drive up to Mount Buffalo National Park for unique rock formations, waterfalls and horse riding through the eucalypts. On the way back, stop at beautiful Bright for golden trees in Autumn, walks along the pristine Ovens Rover and boutique beers from the local brewery.
9. Grand Pacific Drive, New South Wales
On the doorstep of southern Sydney, the Grand Pacific Drive road trip takes in the Royal National Park before hugging the coast on the route to Shoalhaven for 140 km. The most dramatic attraction is the Sea Cliff Bridge, which whirls away from the cliffs and swings out and above the vivid blue ocean, but the cliff top lookouts are mesmerising too. Don’t miss the booming blowholes at Kiama, or one of the whitest sand beaches in the world at Jervis Bay.
10. Kuranda, Queensland
Take off from the tropical beaches of Cairns, and before too long you’ll be experiencing the cool World Heritage-listed rainforest air around the mountain retreat of Kuranda. Wind down your window along the route and you’ll be hit by a piercing wall of sound – the humming of millions of cicadas from among huge buttress tree trunks.