Gibb River Road, Kimberley, WA (Photo: Tourism Australia)

The top five greatest Aussie roadtrips

  • BY Kerry Lorrimer and Michael Gebicki |
  • March 04, 2010

Time to go walkabout? Hit the road armed with a list of five quintessential trips.

THE TRADITION OF going walkabout has been around since the first Australians arrived on the continent some 50,000 years ago. But from citygoers looking to experience some of Australia's endless natural splendours to backpackers renting a Kombi van and loading up a few mates, everyone quickly comes to the same realisation: Australia is a truly vast place - with more adventure than you can poke a stick at.

Whichever way you skin it, distance has to be your first consideration when you’re mapping out your great Aussie road trip. If you’ve only got a few days or weeks, it’s best to choose a select area or two to explore. If you’ve got six months to a year, you can cover some serious ground. The second consideration is your choice of chariot, which will depend on how long you’re travelling and where you’re going. The outback has an extensive network of roads, but once you get into remote areas, they often dwindle to dirt tracks – so while the Kombi may look cool in Coolangatta, it’s not going to make it up WA's Canning Stock Route.

Over a few weeks, you could cruise the east coast north from Sydney to Cairns. Stop off in Yamba or Byron Bay and explore the hinterland around Mullumbimby and Nimbin before hitting the bright lights of Surfers Paradise. If you’re travelling between July and November, you can see humpback whales breaching off Hervey Bay and if you want a break from the driving, detour to the islands of the Great Barrier Reef to dive or snorkel among tropical fish and corals.

The great Aussie road trip

The coastal explorer's way wends its way along the Great Ocean Road between Melbourne and Adelaide, along one of the most spectacular sections of the Australian coast. Watch surfers at Bells Beach ride the famous Southern Ocean swells. Stop to count the remaining Twelve Apostles – giant rock stacks carved from the coast over millions of years.

The most compact state to drive around is Tasmania. In a couple of weeks you can head north from Hobart to Freycinet National Park and take the walk to Wineglass Bay – regularly voted as one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. Get an adrenaline rush careering down 1050 vertical metres on a mountain bike, on the Ben Lomond descent. And Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park has some of the best hiking in Australia.

A roadtrip to the Red Centre is hard to pass up. Watch the sunrise as you lope through the desert on a camel and get an insight into the spiritual significance of ‘The Rock’, on a base walk with an Aboriginal guide.

If you’ve got time, attempt to conquer Highway 1 – it’s the longest highway in the world, over 25,000 km. Stick to it and it will take you right around the rim of Australia – but don’t take it lightly: you’ll need nine months or more to make it all the way around.

Brilliant coast snakes south from Sydney to Melbourne and the Great Southern Way to Adelaide. From here you can cross the immense flatness of the Nullarbor Plain, where the stormy Southern Ocean lashes the cliffs of the Great Australian Bight on one side of the road, and the desert stretches to infinity on the other.

Network of stock routes forms basis of many tracks

A network of stock routes was developed over the last 150 years to enable graziers to move their cattle to water and to market. Names such as the Strzelecki, Tanami and Birdsville Tracks and the Gibb River Road are woven into Aussie folklore. The Canning Stock Route, at 2000km, is the longest stock route in the world. Its single set of wheel tracks leads through some of the harshest and most remote terrain on earth, traversing the Gibson and Great Sandy Deserts.

Whenever you head off the beaten track in Australia, you need to be properly prepared. Check out our bush survival skills before setting off.

However you slice and dice the great Aussie road trip, taking a few weeks to explore one stretch of coast, or embarking on the epic round-Australia odyssey, you’ll find adventure around every corner. It’s just a matter of time.


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