A road trip through Australia has to be one of the most popular bucket list items on any gap year. Here are some of the best road trip itineraries to inspire you to take one of your own.
Taking a road trip through some of Australia’s most stunning landscapes is almost a backpacker rite of passage at this point, a traditional adventure that marks the end of the banana pancake trail through south east Asia and the start of every backpackers Australian experience. It has been this way for generations and to this day remains one of the best ways to see this enormous country.
Naturally you will have to do a little bit of planning for your big trip. Choosing the right vehicle is essential, and whether you pick a solid ‘ute’ (to go full native) or a more traditional camper van for the hippy backpacker experience, you have to make sure that it is right for you. The traditional Australian road trip is an adventure like no other, and your mode of transport will be as much a part of your trip as your friends who are travelling with you!
Australian road trip packing essentials.
- Snacks. And lots of them! Haribo’s are essentially a rule.
- Lots of water. You’ll need to stay hydrated and have some in case of an emergency breakdown.
- A good first aid kit.
- Entertainment. Old fashioned CD’s and books here kids, no fancy wifi in the outback!
- An old fashioned map. Again, no Google with no wifi!
- An extra can of petrol.
You will also have to plan the route carefully, leaving a lot of room for spontaneity of course, and taking into consideration any pre trip health and safety concerns, but once you have got all the initial planning out of the way you are free to enjoy Australia on the independent adventure of your lifetime with one of these classic routes.
The Great Ocean Road, Victoria.
Melbourne to Adelaide.
This is one of the most popular and famous routes in Australia, with over 150 miles of stunning coastal scenery, wildlife and small beachside towns, not to mention of course the famous 12 Apostles for that must have Instagram shot, making this a perfect choice for nature and wildlife lovers.
As well as the 12 apostles you can take in Port Campbell National Park for some of the best coastal scenery in Australia, not to mention the hikes and the reminders of how inhospitable the sea can be along the shipwreck coast! Otways National Park for hikes up through pristine forest to spectacular waterfalls, Kennett river for a chance at wild Koala spotting. You can take in some quaint seaside towns such as Lorne or Apollo Bay.
The Red Centre Way.
Uluru to Alice Springs.
This is an adventure into the Australian outback that even Mick Dundee would be proud of and there is no better place in Australia to go walkabout! The scenic route between Uluru and Alice Springs (or vice versa of course) takes in some of the best gorges, canyons and desert of the West MacDonnell Ranges, and is just filled with hiking trails and campsites for you and your beloved road trip vehicle to rock up at.
Allow yourself plenty of time to just camp out in the outback before you take in the heart of Australia at Uluru (taking in the new ban on climbing and responsible travel considerations of course) and the nearby Kata Tjuta. You can also do some hiking in Glen Helen Gorge and Kings Canyon to stretch your legs before you get back on the road.
The Pacific Highway.
Brisbane to Sydney.
For those who can’t decide whether they love cities or beaches more, this route is perfect. Taking in two of Australia’s largest cities, Sydney and Brisbane, as well as beach hopping some of the country’s most famous and popular beaches, from the Gold Coast to Byron Bay, the Bouddi National Park and beyond.
This is where taking a road trip really comes into its own too, as you will see so many small towns, hidden beaches and inlets and coves that flying between Brisbane to Sydney will just miss. This coastal drive also runs parallel to the migration route for Humpback Whales to Antarctica, so there are many whale watching trip providers, just make sure you choose a responsible and ethical one.
The Stuart Highway.
Adelaide to Darwin.
This classic South to North route mirrors the famous journey made by John McDouall Stuart, the famous Scottish explorer, and takes you through the harsh desert terrain of central Australia and the heart of the Australian outback.
Classic stops along the way take in Uluru, Flinders range, Kings Canyon and Katherine gorge for some truly stunning outback adventures. This is one of the longest and most arduous (but still doable) routes in all of Australia, and completing it is seen as a fair achievement worthy of a round of beers!
The West Coast Trek.
Perth to Broome.
This itinerary along the Western coast really gets you off the tourist trail. The long stretch of road between Perth and Broome is not as busy as the more popular eastern coast but has just as many national parks and stunning stretches of coastal scenery to admire from the car window.
For those travellers dreaming of seeing the cutest animals on the planet, Rottnest island is where you can see the famous Quokka, just a short diversion from the route.
Ningaloo Reef and Marine Park is a must see stop along the highway for a few days of diving and snorkelling, then of course you have to see Shark Bay, the most Western point in Australia and a UNESCO world heritage site for some truly out of this world natural landscapes, as well as Karijini National Park, before you hit the popular holiday hub of Broome to explore the rest of the wild Kimberly region.
There are of course many more routes and itineraries that you can choose for your Australian road trip, and of course you can always extend your travels and combine two or even more! That is the fun of independent travel! But I hope these routes give you a taste of what you can do and inspire you to grab a vehicle and have your own Australian adventure.
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