International travel is off the cards for the foreseeable future, meaning we can all spend the next 12 months exploring our own backyard.
If you’re anything like me (which I hope you aren’t), travelling overseas has always taken precedent over local trips, but that’s all changed. Now that I can finally leave my apartment in Melbourne and travel interstate, I want to discover what Australia has to offer, from the desert landscapes of the Northern Territory to the golden beaches of New South Wales and the gorgeous scenery of Tassie, Australia is our very own oyster and the best way to explore it is by car. If you’re unsure of where to start, here’s a handy guide to six road trips you must experience before you die.
The Great Ocean Road
Route: Torquay to Allansford (Victoria). Ideal trip length: 3 days. Highlights: 12 Apostles, Otway Ranges, Bells Beach and the Grotto.
Where to stay: The Apollo Bay Backpackers is situated in a retro beach house if you don’t mind dorm life, otherwise, if you’re after a little privacy, Marengo Holiday Park is adjacent to the beach and a good price.
Almost a rite of passage for Victorian’s, the Great Ocean Road is a picturesque coastal trip stretching from the surf town of Torquay to the rural town of Allansford. While you can complete the route in a day, it’s best to take your time and enjoy the stunning coastline, including several shipwrecks dotted along the cliffs and the famous 12 Apostles, although there are only eight left. Be sure to spend a night in Apollo Bay where you can dine on fresh seafood and see if you can spot a whale or three at your journey’s end near Warrnambool.
The Savannah Way
Route: Cairns (Queensland) to Broome (Western Australia). Ideal trip length: 2 weeks. Highlights: Kakadu National Park, Millaa Millaa Falls, Nitmiluk Gorge and the Horizontal Waterfall at Kimbolton.
Where to eat: Get a photo with one of the largest crocodiles (8.63m) ever caught while enjoying a pub meal at the famous Purple Pub in Normanton.
This one is for the nature enthusiasts. Taking in 15 national parks and five World Heritage sites across a whopping 3700 kilometres of land, this is one of the most scenic road trips you can take in Oz. While Kakadu National Park, Karumba and a trip down the Victoria River are a given, Boodjamulla National Park in Queensland is also a must-see. Lying on the traditional land of the Waanyi, you’ll be amazed at the orange cliffs and lush vegetation. It’s also a great spot for anyone who enjoys canoeing or kayaking.
Route: Ceduna (South Australia) to Norseman (Western Australia). Ideal trip length: 1 week. Highlights: The Murrawijinie Caves, Cactus Beach, the Great Australian Bight and Margaret River.
Must stay: Fraser Range Station is an operational sheep station just outside of Norseman that will give you an insight into life on the land.
Must eat: You won’t come across many restaurants as you drive along the seemingly endless limestone plains on the Nullarbor, so be sure to pack plenty of snacks. Typical Aussie roadhouses are where it’s at when it comes to something more substantial, with the Nullarbor Roadhouse and Cocklebiddy Motel two great spots for a feed and a few froths with an assortment of colourful characters.
The longest stretch of straight road (1675 kilometres) in the world, the Nullarbor is reminiscent of the post-apocalyptic world of Mad Max. There isn’t much to see at times, but venture off the beaten track and you’ll encounter cliffs, caves and other natural wonders. A vast variety of animals patrol this long stretch of road, so keep your eyes open. It’s also home to the world’s longest golf course and the historic Telegraph station at Eucla. While there might be a few dull hours, the drive is fairly easy going and certainly worth experiencing.
Route: Adelaide (South Australia) to Darwin (Northern Territory). Ideal trip length: 2 -3 weeks. Highlights: Ayres Rock, Wilpena Pound, Alice Springs, Katherine and Tennant Creek.
Where to stay: Live like a local and spend a night at The Underground Motel in Coober Pedy. When stopping in Alice Springs, the YHA Hostel is budget-friendly and the Hilton a must if you’ve got cash to burn.
Where to eat: Todd Mall Markets in Alice Springs offer a raft of different dining options, from the all-day breakfast at popular café Page 27 to the smorgasbord of pizzas, burgers and tapas available at Epilogue Lounge. Port Augusta doesn’t have a lot going on, but the Indian at the Standpipe Motel’s restaurant is surprisingly satisfying.
Straight up the guts of Australia, this epic road trip will open your eyes to how desolate yet beautiful the real outback is. You’ll pass through remarkable landscapes, including the natural open amphitheatre Wilpena Pound, Ayres Rock and the Flinders Rangers, along with experiencing the underground city of Coober Pedy and the UFO capital of Australia, Wycliffe Well. Driving Explores Way is a great opportunity to see another side of Australia and get in touch with the country’s origins and history, with plenty of Indigenous locals offering tours and workshops where you can learn about their culture at many of the major towns along the route.
The Pacific Coast
Route: Sydney (New South Wales) to Brisbane (Queensland). Ideal trip length: 2 weeks Highlights: The Big Banana, Byron Bay, North Stradbroke Island and Kingscliff.
Where to stay: The Byron At Bryon is ideal for anyone who wants to enjoy the area without being surrounded by backpackers. Jack’s Place, a spacious baby blue home in Port Stephens is great if minimalism and price are key to your trip.
Soak up the sun and surf with spectacular views during this 900-kilometre adventure. Wind down the windows and blast the tunes as you visit the Hunter Valley and sip on some of Australia’s best wines, sunbake on the beautiful beaches at Port Stephens, smoke pot with the hippies in Byron Bay, swim with the dolphins in Nelson Bay, and spend a night on the town when you reach Brisvegas. While two weeks is recommended, you can easily spend a month travelling up the coast getting lost in the laid-back lifestyle local’s claim is the reason why so many people move to the East Coast.
Tassie’s East Coast
Route: Hobart to the Bay Of Fires (Tasmania). Ideal trip length: 1 week. Highlights: Port Arthur, Freycinet National Park,
Must stay: Oxford Riverside Cottages on the Prosser River is a great spot to spend your first night. When in Freycinet, camping in the national park is a must, but if it’s not your bag there’s a raft of well-priced cabins and lodges, including Freycinet Eco Retreat for the environmentalists and Saffire Freycinet for the big spenders.
Tassie is simply stunning. From the snow-topped peak of Mount Wellington to the lush forests of Freycinet National Park and the exquisite white beaches at the Bay Of Fires, you can savour every environment possible while road-tripping this special part of Australia. Spend a few days in Hobart visiting MONA and indulging in fresh produce before slowly making your way towards the Bay Of Fires, stopping off at the World Heritage-listed Port Arthur, walking with wombats on Maria Island and having a dip at the quintessential seaside town of Bicheno. Great for couples looking to keep the romance alive.
Anyway, get out there and have a sniff around your Neck of the Woods!