In a nutshell: Diagonally from Cairns to Perth
Tell me more: Aside from a complete circumnavigation of the continent, the most epic roadtrip would have to be from the north-east to the south-west. Drive a diagonal line across some of the driest, most desolate land in the world – from the tropics to the Indian Ocean. Australia is criss-crossed with unsealed roads and tracks, and you’ll get a very real sense of getting well away from “it” all. The trip includes the wonders of the Red Centre – and there’s far more to it than just Uluru. Watch the landscapes change as many times as you change your underwear (well, for some of us anyway). Please Daddy, can we go too?
In a nutshell: Across the notorious Nullarbor Plain
Tell me more: The first European settler to cross this big bugger – roughly between Adelaideand Perth – was Edward John Eyre, who called the Nullarbor, “a hideous anomaly, a blot on the face of nature”. So not exactly love at first sight. In the ‘70s and ‘80s it was seen as a place of relative lawlessness, where outlaws laid low. The plain represents one of the continent’s most epic road journeys. That said, there is plenty of spectacular scenery, wildlife (some excellent seal swimming) and adventures to be had along the way. And an impressive feather for the cap.
In a nutshell: Go west, from Perth to Darwin
Tell me more: It’s a smorgasbord of magical sunsets, memorably weird landscapes and crazy wildlife. The west coast trail goes past the Pinnacles; the friendly dolphins of Monkey Mia; the much-underrated wonders of Ningaloo Reef (whale sharks, April-June); the princely beauty of Karijini National Park and onwards to Broome for Cable Beach. Here you’ll be glad for the opportunity to recharge the batteries with a bit of “Broometime”; then it’s off to the drunkenly-named (surely) Bungle Bungles and a whole lot more raw red scenery in The Kimberley, before hitting Darwin. Roadtrips don’t get much more memorable than this one.
In a nutshell: The east coast glory trail, from Sydney to Cairns
Tell me more: Go from the Big Banana up to banana country. In Coffs Harbour you’ll notice theBig Banana, one of Australia’s most loved (and laughed at) icons. Carrying on up north, an absolute must-see is the hippy-happy Byron Bay and it’s definitely worth checking out Sydneyand Melbourne’s socially-awkward younger cousin, Brisbane. In recent years the city has become much more sleek and cosmopolitan with plenty of things to see and do. A couple of hours drive north and a ferry-ride away is beautiful Fraser Island, then the Whitsundays,Magnetic Island, and so much more… All the classics, but at your own pace.
Road Less Travelled
In a nutshell: Sydney to Cairns, but inland
Tell me more: Pretty much everyone jumps onto the east coast carousel of booze and beaches (with good reason). But how about travelling between these two cities on an entirely different route, following the backroads, seeing the unseen Australia? Explore the tablelands of New South Wales, the Blue Mountains and Hunter Valley, the country music capital of Tamworth, then into Queensland and the Great Dividing Range, the spectacular secret that is Carnarvon Gorge and countless dusty outback drives and onto the remarkable lava tubes of Undara Volcanic National Park, through the Atherton Tablelands (unofficially known as Telly Tubby land) and onto Cairns for all the reef and rainforest action you can handle.
In a nutshell: The Great Ocean Road, betweenAdelaide and Melbourne
Tell me more: One of the shorter roadtrips, but pound for pound, excellent value. It got its name for a reason. The Great Ocean Road’s main attraction is the Twelve Apostles, which is actually eight (four fell over) isolated rocks protruding out of the ocean up to 45 metres high. Although a bunch of rocks don’t sound particularly impressive, take our word for it, they really are awe-inspiring, especially when silhouetted against a burning red sunset. But there’s plenty more to see along the road too, like the Great Otway National Park, gorgeous beaches and many wineries (but remember kids – don’t drink and drive). If, like a true road-tripper, you have a surf-board precariously balanced on your car roof, hit the waves at Bell’s Beach.
Let’s Off Road
In a nutshell: Into the Cape York wilderness
Tell me more: This drive is not for the faint-hearted, or those who can’t live without a comfy bed and a hair-straightener. Cape York is a barely disturbed wilderness of tropical rainforest and savanna land. It’s a challenging 4WD from Lakefield to the most northern tip of Australia and it’s best not to visit in the wet season (December-May) as some roads may be cut off by heavy rains. Be prepared for deep river-crossings, unpredictable dirt roads and crocs. it’s Indiana Jones territory this.
Let’s Off Road Some More
In a nutshell: Through the Kimberley drover style (sort of)
Tell me more: The Gibb River Road is a dirt track stretching 660km through the KimberleyRegion (WA). This 4WD adventure takes you through one of the more remote areas of Australia where you can fullfill your fantasy of surviving the rugged Australian landscape, just like Hugh Jackman. Roads are often closed in the wet season (December-March), with the peak tourist season being May to September. Visit Bell Gorge for a refreshing swim in the waterfalls and a great (crocodile-less) place to camp. At Windjana Gorge you may catch a glimpse of a freshwater crocodile, while at Tunnel Creek you can take a walk through the 750 metre dark sandy cave, the oldest cave system in Western Australia.
In a nutshell: Sydney to Sydney, the long way around
Tell me more: No, we don’t mean the Blue Mountains and back. Now, the above are all great roadtrips, but if time and money are at your disposal then this is the one you want: the king of roadtrips. Being arguably the best place to buy and sell a car (it has more potential buyers and sellers at least), Sydney is probably the best place to start and finish. Then, depending on the time of year (if it’s winterish head north, summerish stay south) head off for a complete circuit of this vast sunburnt continent. Hardly anyone leaves Australia thinking they’ve got it covered – yet this is the best chance of seeing the sights comprehensively. Don’t forget to nip to beautifulTassie, from Melbourne.
In a nutshell: Straight up the middle, from Adelaide to Darwin
Tell me more: Now the only place “The Ultimate” roadtrip might miss is the Red Centre. You seriously don’t want to miss the Red Centre. It’s magical. So at either Darwin or Adelaide don’t forget to detour towards the middle (and back). Those rock stars are well worth the extra miles.