Australia is an amazing country, factor in the scenery, rural expanse, and one-of-a-kind places, and you could even say we take the cake when it comes to sheer road trip adventure. Whether you head out on a highway or take the scenic route, it’s one of the best ways to see the country, here’s a look at 15 of the wildest and most scenic must-drive road trips that you need to do, whether you’re 25 or 52.
|Queensland and Victoria
1. Eyre Peninsula, South Australia
Eyre Peninsula road trip: From Adelaide to Port Lincoln
When you’ve got a fever, and the only prescription is more peninsula, you need to be in South Australia. Blessed with the right coastal topography, there’s a greater quantity of peninsula action in South Australia than any other state in the nation. Though it might be a long day’s ride from Adelaide, the Eyre Peninsula is the most rewarding in the region, and by far the ‘peninsula less traveled’. From Whyalla to Port Lincoln then up the west coast to Ceduna, you’ll taste some of the freshest seafood in the world around these parts, and some of the most incredible wildlife and stunning coastal scenery in which to enjoy it.
A view from Eyre Peninsula
Travel from Whyalla to Port Lincoln and on to Ceduna where you’ll see incredible native wildlife, taste fresh seafood at the local eateries, and explore the most stunning coastal scenery South Australia has to offer
2. Kangaroo Island, South Australia
Road trip to Kangaroo Island, from Adelaide to Penneshaw
Blessed with 1,600 kilometers of road, most of them unsealed, you can’t get a wilder South Australia road experience than along Kangaroo Island. The trip there is half the fun: from Adelaide to Cape Jervis, the stunning Fleurieu Peninsula dishes up two hours of glorious coastline and vineyards, courtesy of the world-famous McLaren Vale wine region. Still, the island itself is the next level: remote wild beaches, insane cliff-faces, abundant wildlife, and more. Factor in pit stops at Flinders Chase National Park, Admirals Arch and Remarkable Rocks, Cape Borda lighthouse, and the swell at Stokes Bay.
Road trip at Kangaroo Island
3. The Nullarbor Plain, South Australia
Some might call it Nullar-boring, others might call it ‘plain’. Colonial explorer Edward John Eyre called it a ‘hideous anomaly’. Whatever the case, for those of us who’ve never taken on the epic stretch from Western Australia’s Norseman to South Australia’s Ceduna, a stint in a 4WD across the epic Nullarbor is a timeless and righteous Australian road trip experience. Riddled with myth, legend, space junk, meteorites, spooky UFO stories, and very little trees, prepare your stops and keep your eyes wide open on this monotonous yet spirited desert highway
The Nullarbor Plain can be reached from the major cities of Adelaide, Perth or Melbourne and is one of the experiences you should tick off on your travel bucket list
4. Adelaide to Pink Lakes, South Australia
Pink lake MacDonnell
You may not know it but scattered across the beautiful state of South Australia, are spectacular pink lakes, varying in fluorescent hues. Traveling from Adelaide, the lakes (Lake MacDonnell, Lake Eyre, Lake Bumbunga, Lake Hart, and Lake Albert) are located varying hours away. From a mere hour-and-40-minutes’ drive to Lake Bumbunga, to a short plane ride and 45 minutes by car to stunning Lake Eyre. The bright pink hue is achieved thanks to salt-loving algae, attracted to the high salinity levels found in the lakes – and voila, we’re pretty in pink!
5. Gawler to Melrose, South Australia
Heading north from Gawler, the road first passes through farmlands before gradually climbing into the hills of the Clare Valley, one of the most scenic wine regions in the country. Home to well-known labels and smaller boutique wineries, there are plenty of opportunities to sample the local product.
Soak up the country air on a bike ride along the Riesling Trail, following an old rail alignment through bushland, farms, vineyards, and even past the odd cellar door. If you don’t have your own wheels, bikes can be hired locally.
Riesling Trail at Clare
For a change of scenery, check out Gladstone Gaol. This well-preserved prison housed inmates from 1881 until 1975 and was the setting for the 1980 film, Stir, starring Bryan Brown.
Further north, the peaks of Mt Remarkable National Park, in the southern Flinders Ranges, rise up behind the pretty village of Melrose. The park is a bushwalking hotspot, with treks taking anything from 20 minutes to a couple of days.
6. Perth to Ningaloo - Western Australia
Road tripping your way from Perth to Ningaloo Reef is a bucket-list item all on its own, and it doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg.
Taking in just under 1,200 kilometers is this stunning road trip from Perth to Exmouth and Ningaloo Reef. Travel along the spectacular Coral Coast past the places you’ve heard all about — Cervantes, Geraldton, Monkey Mia, and Carnarvon, as well as the World Heritage-listed Shark Bay and Kalbarri National Park. There is an abundance of wildlife along this coast as well as a colorful carpet of flowers that blanket the area between June and September.
7. Gibb River Road, Western Australia
This 660km road slices through the Kimberly from Derby to Wyndham passing the remote wilderness of ancient lands. See outback cattle stations and sacred indigenous sites or stop at Bell Gorge and take a dip in the cool waterholes fed by the thundering waterfalls above. The Gibb River Road has only two roadhouses — one at Mt Barnett that sells petrol and diesel, and another at Imintji that sells diesel only. The fuel will be expensive
8. The Savannah Way, Western Australia
The Savannah Way is one of the ultimate road trips in Australia across the top part of the country, stretching from Cairns in Queensland to Broome in Western Australia.
Morning at Savannah Way
This giant road trip takes you on a 3700km adventure from Tropical North Queensland to WA’s Kimberly region, linking Cairns to Broome via the Northern Territory. The Savannah Way passes through five World Heritage-listed areas and 15 national parks weaving past cattle stations, waterfalls, and magnificent turquoise waters. Spot wildlife and explore landscapes and characters unique to this region of Australia
9. Broome to Perth, Western Australia
We love the coast of Western Australia. This 3,900 kilometer stretch of coastline will expose you to some of the best landscapes and beaches in the country.
Chilling at Karijini National Park
No matter where you’re setting off from, experiencing the sight of a camel train along secluded West Australian beach is worth a road trip alone. You’ll be privy to this one-of-a-kind moment at Cable Beach, just one of the many excellent adventures along with the Broome to Perth coastal route. So too, the otherworldly Pinnacles Desert, the award-winning Karijini National Park and the flat out spectacular Ningaloo Reef.
10. The Pilbara, Western Australia
Magnetic, ethereal, timeless: jut a few pithy adjectives to clothe the billion-year-old Pilbara region. Given its eye-arresting landscapes of red earth, regional fauna, and iron ore, it’s surprising that this part of the country doesn’t get more of a road-trip mention – the scenery here is top-notch, especially the waterfalls, swimming holes and gorges in and around Karijini National Park. For a swell way to get it all in, kick-off at Port Hedland and head south through Marble Bar to Newman, then through Karijini to Tom Price, and up through Midstream to Pt. Samson (if time allows, Dampier, Karratha, and Onslow are superb additional extras).
Miaree Pool, Karratha
11. Perth to Darwin
For the serious road trippers amongst us, Perth to Darwin is a bucket list no-brainer. Though technically there’s probably a few ways to get from P to D, your best bet is to extend your run from Perth to Broome and keep on keepin’ on. From Broome, head out through Fitzroy Crossing via the epic Kimberley, on through Purnululu and Kununurra, all the way across to D-town (with the Litchfield and Kakadu detour as an optional tack-on).
12. The Outback Way
The Outback Way: the longest road trip
Arguably the nation’s greatest cross-continental bush blockbuster, the ride from Cairns to Perth is certainly one of the longest shortcuts around, a heroic mission that few of us will ever get to tackle. Though it technically only covers Winton in Queensland to Laverton in Western Australia (2800 kilometer), we suggest you tack on an extra couple of thousand clicks and touch base at each coast.
Spending a night at Kings Canyon
The Pros? You don’t need a 4WD, there are plenty of motel choices along the way if you don’t want to sleep in your van or camp along the way, and it’ll take you through some of the country’s most iconic sights: Uluru, Kings Canyon, Alice Springs, Warakurna, and beyond. The Cons? There aren’t really any. Factor in a fortnight or so, and go drive the dream.
13. Darwin to Litchfield
A simple day trip that will reward you with the sandstone slopes, waterfalls, and rainforests of Litchfield National Park. Set out in a 4WD and you can even access the ‘Lost City’ – a collection of natural sandstone marvels that look like they were carved by humans (but they weren’t).
14. Explorer’s Way
A beautiful day for driving at Tennant Creek
John McDouall Stuart was one of Australia’s most accomplished inland explorers, and you can follow in his footsteps with this trek from South Australia to Darwin. The Explorer’s Way cuts through the entire length of the NT and will take you to many of its most famous sites, including Uluru, Kakadu National Park, Nitmiluk National Park, and Tennant Creek
15. Darwin to Alice Springs
From Darwin to Alice Springs: 1,497 km
A slightly easier (but no less fun) way to see the NT’s big sights is to take the highway from Darwin to Alice Springs. On the way, you can check out awesome attractions like Katherine Gorge, the Mataranka Hot Springs, numerous natural waterholes, and some incredible Aboriginal heritage sites. Don’t miss Karlu Karlu, aka the Devil’s Marbles – a unique rock formation crafted by nature over millions of years.
Destination: Alice Springs
16. Brisbane to Cairns, Queensland
A trip is best done with the top down (a ’57 Chevy ought to do fine), Brisbane to Cairns subsumes the Great Beach Drive to form a bona fide Queensland highlight reel. It’s a quick shot north from Brisvegas to the sultry Sunshine Coast, where a dip in the drink is mandatory, before another brief leg to nourishing Noosa Heads. Fraser Island and Hervey Bay enter the scene here afterward, followed by rum hub Bundaberg, Yeppoon, and another decent stint to the chill vibes of Airlie Beach. On the way to Mission Beach (and its postcard perfection white sands and teal waters), Baz Luhrmann fans might like to check out Bowen – the flashy director filmed ‘Australia’ here. Lastly, if you’re able to peel yourself away from the relaxing beauty of Mission Beach, the home stretch to Cairns is but a two-hour ride away.
17. The Great Beach Drive
The Great Beach Drive: Sunshine Coast - Rainbow Beach - Fraser Island - Hervey Bay
While we’re considering semantics here, having the word ‘great’ in the mix means you’re probably in for something, well…pretty great. As well as being great, The Great Beach Drive wins the championship belt for ‘most literal’ name: it’s great, there’s a lot of beaches, and it’s a hell of a drive. The story checks out. You’ll discover and relish in this one along Queensland’s stunning Australia’s Nature Coast, a splendid 380 kilometers that link the ever-radiant Sunshine Coast with majestic Fraser Island and the Fraser Coast in the north
Fraser Island from above
18. 75-Mile Highway
Pack the 4WD and head to Fraser Island to see the world’s largest sand island and local dingo population. While you’re there, you’ll also see humpbacks migrating, magnificent sand dune systems, towering rainforests, and spectacular lakes. This World Heritage-listed island is home to one of the best coastal drives in the world — the iconic 75-Mile Beach Road
19. Cairns to The Whitsundays
Beach at The Whitsundays
The 622km of coastline between the two-holiday favorites is packed with unique experiences that ooze of Queensland spirit, and half the fun is uncovering them. From the world’s best beach and the second-most-irreplaceable natural environment in the world to a living organism that can be seen from space, and every little treasure you happen upon in between – there’s plenty of moments and memories to collect through the top-third of the state.
20. Outback Life - Outback Drive
Experience old-fashioned country hospitality and enjoy an Australian history lesson or two on one of the most epic Queensland road trips from the Capricorn Coast to the Queensland Outback – and back again.
21. Great Alpine Road - Victoria
Beautiful sunset over Great Alpine Road - aerial view
From beachside to the mountaintop, we shine the light here on rural Victoria once more, a lush ride across the very underrated Victorian Alps from Wangaratta in the north to Bairnsdale in the southeast. Cue 308 kilometers of rolling, sprawling, verdant country Victorian goodness, where the peaks shimmer white in the winter, and rugged, lush rainforest beckons in the warmer months (and plenty of memorable dips and turns along the way)
22. Great Ocean Road Drive - Victoria
The Great Ocean Road is one of the most scenic coastal drives in the world. It’s known for the dramatic Twelve Apostles rock stacks that emerge from the ocean, and while they are definitely a highlight, there is so much more to enjoy along the way.
The Great Ocean Road, Australia
Expect to see beaches, waterfalls, forests, lighthouses, limestone formations, koalas, and if you’re lucky, whales. You can hike, surf, ride helicopters, follow gourmet food trails, wander seaside towns, and much more.
23. Phillip Island
Sunset at Phillip Island
One of the most popular destinations, Phillip Island has an abundance to see and do. It isn’t even two hours drive from the city so prepare yourself for a fun-filled day
A mere two hours from Melbourne, Phillip Island is where you can see super cute fairy penguins in the wild as they make their daily walk from the sea up the beach. You can also see seals if you’re lucky. The township of Cowes is a very chilled beach town and is a great spot to crash for the night before you hit the road again
24. The Dandenongs
If you don’t want to spend heaps of time in the car, a trip to the Dandenongs is a great option as it’s only around one hour and 15 minutes from Melbourne. But it feels as if you’re worlds away. There are plenty of great walks and accommodation options and if you have kids on board they’ll love the Puffing Billy Railway. Pictured above is the very tranquil Alfred Nicholas Gardens, a lovely wooded garden park with a boathouse, waterfalls, and islands.
25. The Mornington Peninsula
If you want a perfect place to detox, unwind or just get rid of that Saturday night hangover then head to the Hot Springs in Mornington. There is no better place to sweat out. It has a wide range of soul-cleansing spas and Turkish baths. If you want beaches thereafter in Mornington, head to Safety Beach or Sorrento.