Outback desert, stunning beaches as far as the eye can see, rugged coasts and steep mountains, pristine forests, rivers, gorges and canyons, Australia is full of natural treasures that are best discovered by car. From state to state, inland or on the coast, here is a selection of the best road trips in Australia.
Great Ocean Road, Victoria
Anglesea - Aireys Inlet - Lorne - Wye River - Kennett River - Apollo Bay - Lavers Hill - Port Campbell - Peterborough
You can't drive in Australia without taking the most famous of its roads, the Great Ocean Road on the Victoria coast. From Torquay, a surfer's paradise 62 miles south-west of Melbourne, to Allansford, the Great Ocean Road covers a breathtaking 150 miles of rugged coastline, dotted with long deserted beaches, secluded lighthouses, the imposing limestone stacks of the 12 Apostles, and enchanting eucalyptus forests.
Gibb River Road, Kimberley
Derby - Windjana - Lennards - Bells - Manning - Galvans - Barnett River - Mitchell - Emma - El Questro - Kununurra
'Road' is a bit of an overstatement for these 410 miles of track, which is only very occasionally tarred. But, the 410 miles of the Australian Outback in the arid Kimberley region of the north-west of the country offers breathtaking beauty as you drive through an ocean of red dust, under a bright blue sky through incredible scenery of craggy red rocks , gorges and natural pools. Be careful, the Gibb River Road or 'The Gibb' is a 4WD journey to be made outside the rainy season and you have to be self-sufficient as there are no service stations along the way.
Ceduna - Norseman - Eucla - Port Augusta - Balladonia - Cocklebiddy - Kimba
This road, which links South and Western Australia via the Nullarbor Plain for more than 994 miles, is renowned not for its twists and turns but rather for its long straight stretches. The longest extends for 90 miles and holds the record for the country's longest straight line. It is probably this long road that the first European explorer of the place, the English John Eyre (to whom the road owes its name), called a 'hideous anomaly, a kind of place where bad dreams take you'. But fans of wide open spaces, Mad Max and triple trailer trucks that you overtake frequently will love it. As a bonus, there are a few distractions when the road runs along Bunga's coast and cliffs, and turns into the landing strip for the Royal Flying Doctors Service!
Great Alpine Road, Victoria
Bright - Harrietville - Victoria - Omeo - Dinner Plain - Myrtleford - Bruthen - Swifts Creek - Ovens - Ensay
The Great Alpine Road is like the mountain version of its big coastal sister, the Great Ocean Road. Far from the vast expanses of the Nullarbor Plain, the Great Alpine Road covers 191 miles of rolling, green and mountainous scenery. It allows you to discover another side of Australia: its Alps, the highest of which peak at over 7,480ft. And on this route, there is something for everyone if you want to take a break: winter sports on Mount Hotham, biking and horseback riding in Mount Buffalo National Park, wine and cheese in the King Valley, canoeing and rafting on the Mitchell River and, for history lovers, a journey back in time to discover the villages of gold seekers.
Red Centre Way, Northern Territory
As its name suggests, it is in central Australia that the Red Centre Way unfolds in a loop of more than 620 miles: a red trail through West MacDonell Range National Park and its magnificent Glen Helen Gorge, Watarrka National Park with stunning views from the heights of Kings Canyon, and of course the famous Uluru (Eyre's Rock) - the iconic red monolith planted in the middle of the desert. In addition to its breathtaking scenery, the Red Centre Way also takes you back in time to the Aboriginal Dreamtime culture, right back to the Stone Age!
75 Mile Highway
Fraser Island, Queensland
Landing on Fraser Island, you discover a world of sand, dune rivers and lakes with crystal clear waters, and starkly white beaches. No wonder its earliest name, K 'gari, means paradise in the Aboriginal language. A paradise that is also the largest sandy island in the world, on which you can drive with a 4x4, along the 75 Mile Beach on the east coast of the island. 75 miles of fun riding on the beach with some must-see stops: the wreckage of the ship Maheno, stranded from 1935, Lake McKenzie where you can swim, Eli Creek for a picnic, and also discover the island's pristine forest and maybe meet some dingos!
Great Barrier Reef Drive, North Queensland
Cairns Tribulation Cape
Virgin forest on one side, ocean and coral reef on the other, the 87 miles that connects Cairns to Cape Tribulation runs along a beautiful coast where the deep green of the forest contrasts with the turquoise blue of the sea. On the gently rolling road, there are many mini wonders to discover: the beaches of northern Cairns, the charming village of Port Douglas, the Mossman Gorge and the Daintree jungle. Crocodile fans will even be able to scare themselves at Hartley's Park.
Pacific Coast Drive
Sydney - Brisbane
Next up on our list of the best roads in Australia is the legendary Pacific Coast Drive, from Sydney to Brisbane: 560 miles of coastline with stop-offs like Surfer's Paradise, Yamba, Angourie, Lennox Head and Coolangatta. Not to mention the laidback hippy haven of Byron Bay, the Hunter Valley vineyards and a handful of charming coastal towns including Port Macquarie and Coffs Harbour.
Tasman Highway, Tasmania
St Helens - Sorell - Orford - Scottsdale
'Tassie' is the smallest of the Australian states and probably the most spectacular in terms of landscape and history. The 105 miles between Hobart and Freycinet take the traveller to breathtaking bays like Wineglass Bay. While staying close to the sea, the road crosses a beautiful variety of landscapes: it winds between restful and sleepy mountains and runs alongside the pretty Prosser River which flows to Orford, before leaving for the Rocky Hills and their spectacular mountain peaks. And, to stretch your legs, a stroll through the beautiful Freycinet National Park is a must.
Macquarie Pass, New South Wales
Macquarie Pass National Park
Our final suggestion for the best roads in Australia is small but mighty. It's only five miles long and yet the Macquarie Pass Road is a mountain road that is long enough to give driver and passenger alike a scare or two. In the heart of Macquarie Pass National Park, south-west of Wollongong, New South Wales, the Macquarie Pass has sharp turns, hairpin bends, single-lane stretches and slippery surfaces - a theme park ride in the middle of the forest!