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7 Australian road trips everyone should take

Our picks of the most unforgettable drives that Australia has to offer.

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Great Ocean Road at dusk

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Australia is a country that begs to be travelled by road. Its landscape is made up of stretches of coastline, wide-open plains and unique flora and fauna and with a car, you'll be granted the flexibility of seeing highlights over a weekend or the whole shebang over a year.

Ready to roam Australia? These are our top picks of the best Aussie road trips per state to leave memories you won't soon forget.


NSW: The Pacific Coast

During the warmer months, a road trip along the NSW coastline is a must. The Pacific Coast takes you from Sydney to Brisbane and is a tried and true fave for holidaymakers and families. For the most part, these roads hug the east coast of New South Wales and Queensland and pass through coastal hotspots like Byron Bay, Coffs Coast, Port Macquarie, Port Stephens, Hunter Valley and the Central Coast. Each location has its own unique character and small, coastal town feel that makes them impossible not to fall in love with.

Driving from Sydney to Brisbane takes a little over 10 hours, which is best broken up into a trip of 3 days or more. However, you don't have to travel the whole Pacific Coast to experience its wonders. Instead, you can take comfortable weekend trips to the Hunter Valley, Central Coast and Coffs Harbour.

Byron Bay

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Victoria: Great Ocean Road

The Great Ocean Road is one of the most iconic road trips in Australia, with a gorgeous stretch of coastline that runs for 243 kilometres between Torquay and Allansford. Having been built by returned World War I veterans in dedication of their fallen comrades, it is one of the largest war memorials in the world and bears a lot of significance for many Australians.

For a perfect three-day weekend trip, keep highlights including the Twelve Apostle, Bay of Islands, Cape Otway and Bells Beach at the top of your list when building your itinerary. Fill the rest of the days exploring sweet coastal villages like Lorne, Portland and Port Fairy, as well as the lush rainforest, wineries, caves and waterfalls scattered along your journey.

If you have more time on your hands, you can also take the Great Ocean Road as a scenic route between Melbourne and Adelaide.

Great Ocean Road

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Tasmania: Hobart round trip

Tasmania is one of Australia's top scenic destinations and is a dream to drive. The state's small size means it's possible to drive from top to bottom within a couple of hours. The scenery along the way changes frequently, moving between cityscapes, farmland, mountainsides and coastlines, with enough sleepy villages along the way to keep the kids from getting stir crazy.

Ignore the direct routes and hug the coast, driving northward from Hobart to Launceston and via Freycinet for a hike to the famous Wineglass Bay. Continue westward through Launceston and onto Cradle Mountain for another stopover before heading west around Cradle Mountain and the Lake St Clair National Park. This drive will take you through the Great Lakes region and home again.

Tasmania

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Queensland: The Great Tropical Drive

Queensland's tropical region is unique in Australia, offering a diverse range of landscapes from reef and rainforest to beach and outback. The Great Tropical Drive takes you between Cairns and Townsville where you can make side trips to the Great Barrier Reef, Daintree Rainforest, Cape Tribulation, Hinchinbrook Island and Mission Beach.

This route also takes you through some spectacularly unique National Parks, including Wooroonooran National Park (filled with natural swimming pools), Paluma Range National Park (a lush rainforested area) and Eubenangee Swamp National Park (a coastal swampland teaming with waterbirds and crocodiles).

Great Barrier reef

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Western Australia: The Coral Coast Drive

A campervan and some good company is the ultimate combination when tackling this drive. It comes the coast and desert seamlessly. The colours themselves are worth the journey, with the red earthy tones of the landscape contrasting with the turquoise blues of the ocean - a combination that makes for the perfect Insta shot.

Need to shorten your trip? You can finish at Exmouth instead of Broome without sacrificing the highlights mentioned here. Though, you will miss out on the gorgeous rock formations of Karijini.

Western Australia

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Northern Territory: The Stuart Highway Drive

Prepare to kick up some serious dust on this culturally rich exploration from the territory's capital to its sacred rock, Uluru. A 4WD and a pair of hiking boots are mandatory if you plan to do this right.

The Stuart Highway is one of Australia's main highways, taking you pretty much from the top to the tail of the country. It starts in Darwin and ends in Port Augusta, South Australia.

Stop by Kakadu National Park for a boat tour through this enormous wetland, then continue south to Alice Springs and onto the Red Centre. On your way to see Uluru and its neighbouring rock formation, the Olgas (Kata Tjuta), spend a day at King's Canyon to hike its rim and swim in the Garden of Eden - a green oasis of calm amidst the barren rocky landscape.

Uluru


South Australia: The Food and Wine Tour

Fine wine and food are the name of the game on this trip. Unlike other Aussie road trips, hiking boots are far from the required attire for this drive. Instead, a penchant for a good drop is ideal as you travel through some of Australia's finest wineries and historic buildings.

Barossa Valley, Adelaide Hills and McLaren Vale offer plenty of cellar doors for you to whet your whistle at. Barossa boasts over 160 wineries, including Penfolds and Yalumba, Adelaide Hills includes Bird In Hand and McLaren Vale delights with its Hardys and d'Arenberg's cellar doors.

Just don't forget to nominate your designated driver before you start on this one.

Barossa valley

  • Total distance: 234km (3.5 hours)
  • Route: Adelaide to McLaren Valey to Adelaide Hills to Barossa Valley to Adelaide
  • Highlights: Barossa Valley, Adelaide Hills, McLaren Vale and Hahndorf.
  • Best time to drive: Visit in April to May for the vineyards as this is the end of harvest and is festival season at the wineries.
  • Things to do: On top of the food and drink tasting, you can have a vineyard picnic, go on a scenic helicopter tour or learn the art of wine blending.
  • Eat at: Hentley Farm Restaurant in Barossa Valley, Pike & Joyce in Adelaide Hills, Indii of Clare in Clare Valley and The Currant Shed in McLaren Vale.

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