Australia's 10 best road trips
An Australian road trip should be on everyone's bucket list © Judah Grubb / Shutterstock
From the lush green rainforests to the 40,000km of coastline to the red dust of the Outback, Australia is a country that dares you to venture out. Grab a vehicle with 4WD and assemble your best playlist for a truly unforgettable experience. Here are our 10 favorite Australian road trips.
Editor's note: Please check the latest travel restrictions before planning any trip and always follow government advice.
New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory – New England
The trip: 5-7 days 884km/547mi
While most visitors are obsessed with the beaches from Bondi to Byron, discerning travelers know a New England detour opens up national parks, historic towns and Australia's country-music capital.
Leave the coast behind and head for the hills – the drive from Coffs to Armidale is one of New South Wales' prettiest. After Tamworth, that big-hat capital of all things country, the roads empty and a string of national parks and lovely towns (where you can strike it rich in more ways than one) will delight you all the way to Yamba.
Enjoy a day at the beach on this classic Australian road trip © Pete Seaward / Lonely Planet
New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory – Sydney to Byron Bay
The trip: 7 days 952km/592mi
One of the best-loved road trips anywhere on earth, this coastal odyssey connects two Aussie icons, with many a beautiful surf beach and wild coastal national park in between.
Tearing yourself away from Sydney's singular charms is made easier by what lies ahead on this journey up the northern New South Wales coast. Classic beach resorts like Coffs Harbour share the road with more family-oriented places like Port Stephens and Port Macquarie, as well as national parks that protect some of the coast's more dramatic stretches. And don't miss the chance to go hippie in Nimbin!
Northern Territory – Uluru & Red Centre
The trip: 10-14 days 1180km/734mi
Welcome to Australia's Red Centre, home to the country's most magnificent and utterly unforgettable outback landmarks.
If you make one trip through the Australian outback, make it this one. Uluru is an extraordinary, soulful place utterly unlike anywhere else on the planet. Nearby, Kata-Tjuta (the Olgas) and Kings Canyon leave spellbound all who visit, while the West MacDonnell Ranges capture the essence of the Red Centre – red earth, red rocks and ghostly gums in a spiritually charged landscape.
Northern Territory is where the outback meets the tropics © Getty Images
Alice Springs to Darwin – Northern Territory
The trip: 5-7 days 1493km/928mi
All the monotony and magnificence of the outback is on show on this long, lonely desert crossing. From Alice Springs north, the air is tinder dry and the color cast shifts from red to yellow to green the further north you travel. By Katherine, you're in a different world, where the outback meets the tropics, and the latter very much takes hold by the time you pull into Darwin.
Lamington National Park soothes mind and soul © Maclerin Mines / EyeEm / Getty Images
Queensland – Southern Queensland Loop
The trip: 7 days 374km/232mi
The journey from Brisbane to Lamington National Park confirms that there is more to southern Queensland than the wham-bam thrills of the Gold Coast's famous theme parks. North and South Stradbroke Islands and Burleigh Heads serve as reminders of why this coast is so coveted, while Springbrook and Lamington National Park soothe mind and soul with their lush, world-famous rainforests.
South Australia – Clare Valley & the Flinders Ranges
The trip: 7-10 days 462km/287mi
Rarely is there such a contrast between where a journey starts and ends – begin sipping world-class wines in the lush Clare Valley and finish up beneath the blood-red escarpments of the outback.
Clare Valley has plenty of competition, but it has always been one of South Australia's top wine regions. Vineyards carpet valleys that radiate out from lovely little townships like Mintaro and Sevenhill. Before reaching the outback, there's the aptly named Mt Remarkable, then it's arid landscapes and remote settlements all the way into the peerless Flinders Ranges.
The Magic Cradle Mountain was sculpted by ancient glaciers © offlines /G etty Images
Tasmania – Western Wilds
The trip: 7-10 days 620km/385mi
The west is literally wild in Tasmania, where the Southern Ocean thunders ashore, tall-timbered rainforest scratches at the sky around the takayna/Tarkine wilderness, and peerless Cradle Mountain stands sculpted by long-gone glaciers.
To this, add the historic towns of Stanley and Sheffield, the striking beauty of Boat Harbour Beach and Marrawah's relentless surf, and it becomes clear that just about everything good about Tasmania lines up along this route.
Victoria – Great Ocean Road
The trip: 5-7 days 535km/332mi
One of the most beautiful coastal road journeys on earth, this world-famous road hugs the rugged western Victorian coast, passing world-class surf beaches, iconic landforms and fascinating seaside settlements.
The Great Ocean Road begins in Australia's surf capital of Torquay, swings past Bells Beach and then winds along the coast to the wild and windswept koala heaven of Cape Otway. The Twelve Apostles and Loch Ard Gorge are obligatory stops before the road sweeps on towards Warrnambool, with its whales, and Port Fairy, with its fine buildings and folk festival, before the natural drama peaks again close to the South Australian border.
Western Australia is a road-tripper's playground © Realfeel / Getty Images
Western Australia – Coral Coast to Broome
The trip: 10-14 days 2383km/1480mi
Australia's western shore and the Pilbara desertscape are simply magnificent – a road-tripper's playground that takes in the cerulean Indian Ocean, ancient pinnacles and gorges, Aboriginal culture and offbeat mining towns.
The road from Perth to Broome connects two different worlds, one urban and the other remote, tropical and on the cusp of the outback, with the vast Indian Ocean keeping you company much of the way. There are fabulous places to break up the journey, including many that highlight the intersection of desert and coast that is such a feature of this route, from the Pinnacles Desert to Ningaloo Reef.
Western Australia’s Southwest Coast
The trip: 7 days 933km/580mi
Most visitors to Western Australia's southwest make a beeline for Margaret River, but there's so much more to explore. Whale watching is one of the more memorable highlights of this wild and dramatic shore where beaches stretch to eternity and dolphins draw near in the shallows. Best of all, large swathes of the coast have been protected from development, leaving beaches and forests rich with nature and wildlife to explore.