Five winter road trips to make you leave the armchair behind

Forget about travelling from the comfort of your armchair – winter is the best time to hit the road and see the more adventurous parts of Australia. These five road trips travel through the places that make up the dusty and beautiful soul of Australia, but are too hot or too wet to see in summer and the wet season. So dust off the Akubra and pump the tyres. It’s time we got moving.

Savannah Way from Broome to Katherine, Western Australia and Northern Territory

Gibb River Road

If you’re after a big drive through big scenery, look no further than the Savannah Way from Broome to Katherine. This section of the epic cross-country drive takes you from the coast of Western Australia to near the top of the Northern Territory – and it’s all 2WD accessible, unlike the nearby Gibb River Road. This is your route to the heart of the Kimberley, an isolated and hardy road through frontier towns like Fitzroy River and past landmarks such as the river-carved walls of Geikie Gorge, the unreal striped domes of Purnululu National Park, and the huge man-made lake of Lake Argyle near Kununurra. This looks and feels like an epic adventure, but without requiring a 4WD.

Cairns to Cape York, Queensland

Elliot Falls, Cape York

This is a gnarly journey up into the wet and wild tropics of Cape York – you’ll definitely need a 4WD for this trip. But it’s all worth it on a quest to make it to the top of Australia. The tip is a 30-hour drive from Cairns, depending on which road you take. There’s the adventurous route along the highway and then the ‘good’ bypass roads on the cape, and then there’s the really adventurous route, which tackles the journey to the tip along the Bloomfield Track and the Old Telegraph Track, with river crossings, crocs and ancient rainforests galore. Whichever route you take, you’ll be passing through scenery more authentically prehistoric than Jurassic Park. When you make it to the top, the tip is typically understated – only marked by a rusty sign set on some rocks. But it’s a truly special experience that anyone who has done it will tell you is worth the journey.

Red Centre Way, Northern Territory

Kings Canyon

If anything could convince you to leave behind the armchair this winter, it’s the Red Centre Way, a 690-kilometre-long drive that loops through the red desert scenery of Central Australia on its way to some of the biggest attractions in Australia. And when we say biggest, we mean the biggest, from Uluru, one of the largest monoliths in the world, to the mighty walls of Kings Canyon. You’ll also drive past Ormiston Gorge, Ellery Creek Big Hole, Kata Tjuta and Mount Conner, to name a few. This is a land carved by the ancients – and the Red Centre Way, which is 2WD accessible (although a 4WD is recommended), takes you right into the heart of it. Sure, you could just fly into Yulara, the town that services Uluru, but where’s the fun in that?

Overlander’s Way, Queensland and Northern Territory

Barkly Homestead by TripAdvisor reviewer Zuluwarrior131

It’s a long way from the Great Barrier Reef at Townsville to Tennant Creek in Northern Territory – and we’re not just talking kilometres (although there are 1566 of those). It feels like you’re travelling from one world to another along this road, the tropical palms and waters of the east coast to the red outback of Central Australia. This is a long and occasionally lonely drive through wide open plains along a sealed highway, but with some memorable stops, from the historic gold town of Charters Towers to that stalwart against the long drive, the Barkly Homestead.

Melbourne to Broken Hill, Victoria to New South Wales

The Living Desert, Broken Hill

This can be a relatively straight-forward drive; after all, it’s only 9 hours from Melbourne to Broken Hill. But doesn’t that sound a bit … boring? To get the best of this trip, you’ll need to embrace the art of the detour, as you’ll discover the best of outback New South Wales just off the road. First, you need to get to Mildura. From Melbourne, the drive takes you up through Bendigo and into the mallee lands around the Murray. When you get to Mildura, forget about the direct Silver City Highway, and take the more meandering Darling River Run to Broken Hill. This road follows the Darling River and will take you through the dusty soul of New South Wales, from the dry prehistoric lakes and eerie sand formations of Mungo National Park to the iconic lakes of Kinchega National Park. It’s a drive full of character and characters (make sure to stop in the small towns along the way). When you do arrive in Broken Hill, you might decide that you’re having too much fun and keep going all the way up to Bourke.

  • Mark Cvetkovski

    I agree that winter is the best time to hit the road.
    I have bookmarked this list – great article! Thanks for the wonderful pictures and for the inspiration. Looks like these 5 are equally great adventures to try.