Australia’s Most Iconic Road Trips for 2023

WORDS: Diana Smith PHOTOGRAPHY Supplied

The beauty of Australia is absolutely unique ranging from gorgeous vast beaches, rainforests drowning in birdsong to shimmering rivers where dolphins play, and a mysterious red outback where the spirit of wild Australia lives on.

To be able to fully appreciate this great land of the Down Under in all its diversity, gather your stuff and pick up the road map. One of the best ways to see the country is on a road trip so here 6 iconic road trips you should take to fully experience what Australia has to offer.

The east coast route from Cairns to Brisbane

The drive between Cairns and Brisbane is among the most popular routes in Australia. It keeps you close to the coast and takes you through some of the country’s most impressive sceneries, such as the Whitsundays, Fraser Island, and the Great Barrier Reef Islands.

The breathtaking shore of Queensland gives plenty of reasons to drive the entire length of it from Cairns to Brisbane – the road is very well-maintained and numerous beaches and islands easily accessible from the road are simply begging to be visited!

The best time to visit Queensland is during the Australian winter, between June and September when the weather is dry and pleasant, particularly for driving. And, plan at least two weeks for this road trip to make sure you get to see all the highlights and relax as well.

The Pacific Highway from Brisbane to Sydney

This route connects two of Australia’s largest cities, Sydney and Brisbane. Once you leave Brisbane, you’ll be hopping from beach to beach as you progress along the Pacific coast – you’ll be stunned by the rocks of Bouddi National Park, and the wide open beaches of Lennox Head and Byron Bay where both locals and travellers alike venture the waves with their surfboards.

As this route runs parallel to the migration route of humpback whales on their way to Antarctica, you’ll be able to stop anywhere along the way and enjoy a whale-watching trip. The coast is quite rugged and shelters many beautiful inlets and coves waiting to be explored. The locals are friendly and welcoming, and the best time to go is spring and autumn with at least 9 to 10 days at disposal.

With so many days on the road, you should make sure your vehicle is in the best order and being so close to a major city such as Sydney makes that easier. Pink slip inspections, or as they are now referred to as e-safety checks in Sydney, are necessary to verify that your vehicle is road-safe, and this is a requirement in NSW for all lightweight vehicles more than five years old.

The Great Ocean Road from Melbourne to Adelaide

One of the world’s most iconic coastal drives, the Great Ocean Road meanders alongside the windswept Southern Ocean. It’s especially known for being the home of Australia’s most famous surf meccas of Bells Beach and the limestone towers in Port Campbell National Park known as the 12 Apostles. Make sure you stop by the pristine rainforest with a vast variety of native wildlife including koalas, kangaroos and a few more exotic species.

Faces and restaurants along the way offer delicious local food, there’s the Cape Otway Lighthouse, Australia’s oldest mainland lighthouse, and the Narana Aboriginal Cultural Centre where you can learn about ancient aboriginal life in the region.

The Southwest edge from Adelaide to Perth

The long route along Australia’s southwest edge is one of the most striking journeys you can take mostly due to the plains you will be passing through on the way from Adelaide to Perth. There’s the Nullarbor Plain, which literally means “no trees”, that’s an enormous expanse of an extremely harsh environment that offers an ultimate Australian outback experience on the road.  

In contrast, there is Cape Le Grand National Park with its beautiful beaches and Kalgoorlie, a city established during West Australia’s gold rush, whose name means “the place of silky pearls”.

The West Coast from Perth to Broome

If you’re yearning to get off the classic tourist trail, head west to Perth and Broome and pass through the bush into the real wilderness of Western Australia. This region of the country receives fewer visits than the east coast, so the impact of tourism is lower. This means you’ll get to enjoy the untouched outback, empty beaches, spot wild dolphins in Monkey Mia, and dive on the Ningaloo Reef.

Australia is a fascinating country and with so much to offer, your road trip will make you fall in love with all its mesmerizing places!