1. Great Ocean Road, Victoria
It’s heavily marketed as one of the greatest drives in Australia, and the Great Ocean Road certainly lives up to the hype as a top class coastal scenic route. Not only do you get to see the dramatic rock sculptures nicknamed the 12 Apostles, sticking out from the coast like giant stalagmites, but there are some wonderful beaches, lots of wildlife, great eateries and magnificent rainforest walks. With a long history of shipwrecks, it’s probably safer to explore by car rather than by boat! Whilst you’re here, take a look at the top 10 things to do in Melbourne.
2. Sydney to Melbourne
For some lovely scenery you could travel north up the coast from Sydney to Brisbane by car, but arguably the better drive is to follow the ocean down the way from Sydney to Melbourne. Expect a string of pretty coastal towns, wild camping spots, vast national parks and turquoise lagoons. There’s a strong Aboriginal presence in parts too, as well as perfect fishing spots, birdlife galore, and plenty of kangaroos – especially at Pebbly Beach, where they pose for photographs beside the surf.
3. The Nullarbor Plain, South Australia heading to Western Australia
If you have a handful of days to spare then set off from Ceduna in South Australia and head west for some 2,000 km to Perth across the wide almost treeless expanse of the Nullarbor Plain. It might be dry and have a reputation for being a harsh environment, but it’s certainly not a desert. Wooded hills flatten out to plateaus studded with bluebush. Mobs of roos line the road and giant wedge-tailed eagles patrol the skies. You’ll need a four-wheel-drive if you plan to leave the highway, but otherwise it’s easy driving on a big scale. Car hire prices from Adelaide can be found here. For everyone that reaches Perth here is some fine reading on things to do in the Western city.
4. Uluru to Kings Canyon, Northern Territory
Fancy some real red earth country and skies bigger than you ever imagined? Then take off on this three-hour drive along the Lasseter Highway from the big red rock to the breathtaking Kings Canyon. Look out for wild camels along the route. To extend your Outback journey, start off at Alice Springs and take on the Red Centre Way. You’ll need about five days, with stops at historic towns and ancient Aboriginal rock art sites to get you out from behind the wheel and learning a bit about this fascinating culture. Here are some car hire prices from Alice Springs.
5. Heritage Highway, Tasmania
This historic road between Hobart and Launceston was built by convict gangs in the early 1800s, and was once a well-known haunt of highwaymen. Why travel here now? Well the beautiful villages constructed of stone and the lush countryside are big drawcards, as is the gourmet food and the getaways in old atmospheric cottages. Whilst you’re in Tasmania, don’t forget to visit Port Arthur and the spooky prison there – read about more creepy towns here.
6. The Alpine Way, New South Wales
Head out from Jindabyne and up into the hills towards Corryong in Victoria for some dramatic alpine scenery. You drive through Kosciuszko National Park and you can camp amongst Australian wildlife, including wallabies and wombats on the banks of the Snowy River. When the snow thaws in late spring you can hurtle down a mountain bike trail, or explore the gum tree slopes on an alpine walking route. Here are some car hire prices from Sydney. If you’re planning a stop in Sydney, hear from a local on the best things to do in the city.
7. Kangaroo Island, South Australia
Hire a car on the island itself or take your own on the SeaLink ferry from Adelaide. There are some 1,600 km of roads here and several driving itineraries on offer. Don’t miss the wind-sculpted rock formations and a stroll through a colony of fur seals. Just outside Flinders Chase National Park you can spot dozens of koalas hanging in the trees, while near the town of Penneshaw you can see little penguins returning to their night time burrows beside the beach.
8. Great Alpine Road, Victoria
Another wonderful alpine journey to take by car starts off at Wangaratta and follows a disused railway track (now used by bicyclists) through a long valley studded with wineries and alpacas. Then it’s up to Mount Buffalo National Park for unique rock formations, waterfalls and horse riding through the eucalypts. On the way back, stop at beautiful Bright for golden trees in Autumn, walks along the pristine Ovens River and boutique beers from the local brewery.
9. Grand Pacific Drive, New South Wales
On the doorstep of southern Sydney, the Grand Pacific Drive takes in the Royal National Park before hugging the coast en route to Shoalhaven. The most dramatic attraction is the Sea Cliff Bridge, which whirls away from the cliffs and swings out and above the vivid blue ocean, but the cliff top lookouts are mesmerising too. Don’t miss the booming blowholes at Kiama, or one of the whitest sand beaches in the world at Jervis Bay.
10. Kuranda, Queensland
Take off from the tropical beaches of Cairns and before too long you’ll be experiencing the cool World Heritage-listed rainforest air around the mountain retreat of Kuranda. Wind down your window along the route and you’ll be hit by a piercing wall of sound – the humming of millions of cicadas from among huge buttress tree trunks.
So, what are you waiting for? Hire a car, pack your bags and head off down the highway!
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