There’s only one way to see most of Australia – and that’s by car. Australia’s highways are a roadmap to adventure; start your exploration with one of these classic road trips, which cover wide open roads from the red centre to the coastal fringe.
Stuart Highway from Alice Springs to Darwin, Northern Territory
This road, cutting through the heart of the country between Darwin and Adelaide, is one of the great Australian adventures. And the 1500km section between Darwin and Alice Springs is a track to the best of the Northern Territory: there’s the Devils Marbles, ancient rock formations carefully balanced on top of each other like a cheerleaders’ pyramid, the hot springs at Bitter Springs and Mataranka, the eerie termite mounds of Litchfield National Park, the waterfalls and gorges of Nitmiluk National Park … and that’s not even mentioning the charismatic roadhouses along the highway (the one at Wycliffe Well is famous for alien sightings). This is a road trip full of personality.
Great Ocean Road, Victoria
This insanely picturesque route is the Australian version of driving along the Amalfi Coast. The Great Ocean Road winds its way between tree-covered mountains and the endless rolling surf and, just like in Italy, there are charming seaside towns here too, from the barista boomtown of Lorne to the picture-perfect cottages of Port Fairy. The road starts just south of Torquay and runs for 278km along the coast past famous landmarks like the Twelve Apostles and Cape Otway Lightstation. You could drive the route in a few hours, but follow the example of the locals and chill out, slow down and enjoy the scenery.
Savannah Way from Cairns, Queensland to Katherine, Northern Territory
This bumpy road connects Queensland with the Northern Territory through the heart of the Gulf country with its river crossings and crocs – plus the odd interestingly named roadside stop, like Hells Gate Roadhouse. After leaving Cairns, the Savannah Way quickly passes through the lush Atherton Tablelands on its way to more wild and adventurous territory, like the true-blue gold-mining towns of Croydon and Normanton, which proudly displays a statue of the biggest croc ever caught. From Normanton, it’s a 700km stretch of unsealed road through some of the best barramundi-catching territory in the country on the way to Katherine. Just watch out for road trains!
Princes Highway from Sydney, New South Wales to Melbourne, Victoria
As you sit crunching your feet into the white sand of Hyams Beach at Jervis Bay, you’ll ask yourself why you ever drove the Hume Highway. While the Hume is the quickest route from Sydney to Melbourne, the 1000km meandering coastal road along the Princes Highway is by far the more interesting. It starts just outside of Sydney and rolls by the South Coast’s famously laid-back coastal towns, like Ulladulla, Jervis Bay, Eden and Lakes Entrance. You can also duck into the protected coastal environs of Royal National Park, Ben Boyd National Park and Croajingolong National Park. And if that’s not enough to convince you – there’s also good coffee.
Crossing the Nullarbor from Ceduna, South Australia to Norseman, Western Australia
Crossing the Nullarbor means driving 1200km between Ceduna in South Australia and Norseman in Western Australia across the Nullarbor Plain, a massive featureless expanse where you’ll also find the 90-Mile Straight, a 146km stretch of straight road. It’s enough to strike terror into the heart of any driver. Luckily there’s plenty to distract you along the route if you know where to look, from the 200km-long Bunda Cliffs, where the Nullarbor drops off into the ocean, to the Nullarbor Links, potentially the longest golf course in the world, where the holes are stretched out along the length of the highway. Then there are the roadhouses, peopled by outback characters and, in one case, a NASA museum. Yup, it’s fair to say that the Nullarbor is as interesting as you make it.