Europcar---road

7 Australian road trips everyone should take

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

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.

Car hire companies like Europcar are available at major airports, making it easy to fly into a destination, pick-up the car keys and go.

Ready to roam Australia? To get you started here are our top picks of the best Aussie road trips per state to leave memories you won't soon forget (and the car hire deals to make it a bargain holiday).

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Best road trip in NSW: The Pacific Coast (Sydney to Brisbane)

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  • Ideal for: Summer beach holidays
  • Recommended trip length: 3-5 days
  • Distance: 920km
  • Highlights and attractions: Byron Bay, Coffs Coast, Port Macquarie, Hunter Valley, Central Coast. See here for more.
  • Best time to drive: Spring and summer to catch the best of the beach weather
  • Recommended car: Medium sized sedan

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.


Best road trip in Victoria: Great Ocean Road (Melbourne to Allansford)greatoceanroad-shutterstock_273439982

  • Ideal for: Capturing our unique landscape
  • Recommended trip length: 3 days
  • Distance: 243km
  • Highlights and attractions: The Twelve Apostles, Bells Beach, Teddys Lookout (Lorne), Cape Otway Lightstation, The Grotto and Lord Ard. Read our full list.
  • Best time to drive: Winter allows you to avoid the crowds and potentially spot migrating whales.
  • Recommended car: Small-medium sized car

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.


Best road trip in Tasmania: Hobart round trip

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  • Ideal for: The school holiday family getaway
  • Recommended trip length: 4-5 days
  • Distance: 1,300km
  • Highlights and attractions: Cradle Mountain, Wineglass Bay, St Clair National Park. See here for a full list.
  • Best time to drive: December to March. This is summer however Tasmania never gets too hot so it's comfortable for a drive around the island.
  • Recommended car: Medium-sized sedan

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.


Best road trip in Queensland: The Great Tropical Drive (Cairns/The Daintree to Townsville)

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  • Ideal for: Ticking that Natural Wonder of the World off your bucket list
  • Recommended trip length: 5-7 days
  • Distance: 350km (Cairns to Townsville straight)
  • Highlights and attractions: Great Barrier Reef, Daintree Forest, Hinchinbrook Island, Mission Beach. See here for a full list.
  • Best time to drive: April to September as the weather is cool and dry.
  • Recommended car: Medium-sized sedan

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/The Daintree 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 Black Mountain National Park (where imposing black granite boulders speckle the landscape), Paluma Range National Park (a lush rainforested area) and Eubenangee Swamp National Park (a coastal swampland teaming with waterbirds and crocodiles).


Best road trip in Western Australia: The Coral Coast Drive (Perth to Broome)

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  • Ideal for: Having that great Aussie outback adventure
  • Recommended trip length: 5-days
  • Distance: 1,716km
  • Highlights and attractions: Monkey Mia, Ningaloo Reef, the Pinnacles, Cape Range National Park and Carnarvon
  • Best time to drive: Winter and spring provide cool and dry weather conditions for sightseeing.
  • Recommended car: Campervan

A campervan and some good company is a great combination when tackling this drive that combines 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 Facebook DP.

If adventure is on the cards, upgrade your campervan to a 4WD that will come in handy for crossing the rugged outback territory on your route.

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).


Best road trip in Northern Territory: The Stuart Highway Drive (Darwin to Alice Springs and Uluru)

uluru

  • Ideal for: Exploring the Red Centre
  • Recommended trip length: 9-days
  • Recommended trip length: 5-days
  • Distance: 2,375km
  • Highlights and attractions: Uluru, the Olgas, King's Kangyon and Kakadu National Park.
  • Best time to drive: Winter is best for the outback as the weather is cool. However, it's also prime time for travellers due to the comfortable temperatures.
  • Recommended car: 4WD

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, starting in Darwin and ending in Port Augusta in South Australia. Stop by Kakadu National Park for a boat tour through this enormous wetland, then continue south to Alice Springs and into 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.


Best road trip in South Australia: The Wine Tour (Adelaide to the Barossa)

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  • Ideal for: Foodies and wine connoisseurs
  • Recommended trip length: 1-2 days
  • Recommended trip length: 5-days
  • Distance: 256km, roundtrip
  • Highlights and attractions: Barossa Valley, Adelaide Hills, Clare Valley and McLaren Vale
  • 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.
  • Recommended car: Luxury vehicle

Fine wine and food are the name of the game on this weekend trip away from the hustle and bustle of city life. Unlike most 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, Clare Valley and McLaren Vale each offer plenty of cellar doors for you to whet your whistle at. The big pickle you’ll find is deciding which places to explore, as they all radiate in different directions from Adelaide. To help (or hinder) things, the Barossa alone boasts over 160 wineries, including Penfolds and Yalumba. Meanwhile, Adelaide Hills includes Bird In Hand and Cake Wines, Clare Valley is home to Sevenhill (where wine is made by Jesuit priests), and McLaren Vale delights with its Hardys and d’Arenberg’s cellar doors. Better make that weekend trip a couple of days longer…

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Stephanie Yip

Stef is the Travel Editor at finder.com.au and has been writing about travel for over a decade. She's visited over 50 countries and has had some incredible experiences, including hot air ballooning over Cappadocia, hitchhiking across Romania and seeing the Northern Lights (twice!). And while she’d never say no to a luxury escape, she's far more likely to stretch her travel dollars as far as they can go by keeping her ear to the ground for unbeatable travel bargains. And she'll tell you all about them, too! Stef has had articles featured on Travel Weekly, Escape and Hostelworld.

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