The Great Australian Road Trip
Driving around Australia is the best way to explore it
Australia is celebrated the world over for its incredible unbroken coasts, endless summers, world famous landmarks and its unique wildlife. The question we faced when we had just picked up our campervan from the rental company was "So where do we start?" If you're planning a road trip around the largest island in the world, we have some great advice to help you make the most of this legendary trip.We spent over 3 months in Australia, most of that time were spent living in a campervan and driving over 20,000km. Campervan life inherently comes with challenges, but in our opinion, it was the best way to see the country. We had the freedom to choose and change our route whenever we pleased, we spent every night sleeping under the stars and we were closer to some magnificent wildlife than we have been in our entire lives.As you'd expect, there is an abundance of things to see and do in Australia and our trip covered half of the country. So I will break this down into smaller posts featuring sections of our trip. We were lucky enough to have sought out some incredible eats during our time in Australia, so we will be sure to signpost our best picks!
Melbourne to Adelaide (via Great Ocean Road)
The Great Ocean Road is one of the most famous roadtrips in the world featuring breathtaking ocean views, rugged cliffs and of course, the Apostles. While there's a bit of a drive from Melbourne to the beginning of Great Ocean Road, there are many things you can do along the way. Some of our highlights included discovering New World wineries and gorging on fresh foods sold by local farmers. Once you reach the Great Ocean Road, you will be directed through small villages serving locally sourced foods, a plethora of lookouts where you can enjoy the views and self-guided walks through the rainforests and countryside. On our roadtrip we discovered a number of things to do, see and eat that were worth a stop. Check out our articles on the
Adelaide to Alice Springs
Prepare yourself, this is one heck of a drive. It was easy for us to pace ourselves over a few days to complete this leg, largely due to the allure of the wineries in the regions surrounding Adelaide. As the miles fall away, you'll find yourself surrounded by undulating plains and a surprising amount of greenery nestled amongst the fiery orange sands.
This area is also home to some of the country's most authentic indigenous cultures.Our time in the Outback lasted just short of two weeks and it was one of the most memorable parts of our Australian roadtrip. You won't find fancy restaurants or picturesque AirBnB's to enjoy, this is roadtripping at its most real. You'll be struck by both the beauty and the monotony of this drive and by the time you've reached Uluru (Ayer's Rock), you'll be a hardened roadtripper.
While we are here with tips for your trip, you'll still have to learn some things the hard way (see Tips for Campervan Travel).
Alice Springs to Darwin
Say goodbye to Frontier Town and hello to Crocodile Country. As you venture into yet another eco-system you'll see the auburn sands fall away as you are surrounded by pristine wilderness. We drove through wildfires, dodged resident wallabies in campsites and spent our nights battling the biggest insects known to mankind!
On this stretch of the roadtrip, we found ourselves the closest to wildlife than ever before. Darwin City is ringed with, arguably, some of the best national parks that Australia has to offer. Our route enabled us to explore these parks before reaching the city where we finally had a nice, long shower!
Darwin to Cairns (Great Barrier Reef)
As you drive beyond the city of Darwin, you will find a vast amount of farmland scenery flashing past. Before we left Darwin, we did a little research on this leg of our drive and many of the other bloggers suggested that there wouldn't be much to see. Honestly, we tended to agree with this, while there were some towns to visit en route, they lacked the frontier-like charm of the towns in the earlier stretches of our Outback journey.
We powered through and managed to reach Cairns within 2 days. Feeling human again, reaching Cairns was a revelation - restaurants galore, sweeping ocean views and of course... the Great Barrier Reef. We did a total of four GBR dives across the different sections of the reef system and the Agincourt Reef in northern Cairns was by far the best.
This leg of the journey also includes a short detour to the wildlife paradise of the Tablelands and Cape Tribulation (where we spotted a wild crocodile).
Cairns to Brisbane
This is the quintessential east coast drive. As you move closer to Sydney the travelling becomes easier and you'll notice the abundance of highways that connect you to major cities along the coast.
We spent some weeks completing this stretch of the journey. Our time was mostly spent chasing the best snorkeling/diving spots to see the different reefs and this stretch alone incorporated two of the best quality reefs we've ever seen. From remarkable diving spots, luxurious beaches to adrenaline-pumping sky-dives... Cairns has you covered!
The legendary Whitsunday Islands, Fraser Island, Sunshine Coast and Rainbow Beach are all in this leg too. Plus, we met some locals who told us about a dolphin centre (where you can feed wild dolphins!) north of Sunshine Coast. While missed by most day-trippers this dolphin centre is popular amongst the locals and a memorable experience for those who take the time to discover it (coming soon).
Brisbane to Sydney
Most of the population lives within a 20km distance off the coast, the ocean represents nourishment, vocation, life and adventure to the people who live alongside it. As a tourist you're lucky enough to enjoy a taste of this by feasting on exquisite, fresh seafood or taking your first ever surfing lesson at the renowned Byron Bay.
If you're lucky, you may catch sightings of marine life, such as manta rays, dolphins, seals and enormous sea turtles.In mere hours you can travel from coast to mountain and explore the Blue Mountains, perhaps catch a fish or enjoy visit the home of New World Shiraz - Hunter Valley.
Sydney to Melbourne (via Canberra)
Now you're going to explore Sydney! Synonymous with vibrant and stylish, you'll find plenty of things to discover here. If its world class arts/culture scene doesn't appeal, a buzzing shopping scene and some excellent eateries are waiting to be discovered.
Why not make a detour and stop in the country's capital city, Canberra? This city is a stark contrast to the others in Australia since it's a planned capital and as a result lacks some of the idiosyncratic charm and character when compared to them. However, the Parliament buildings are open to the public and are interesting to explore on one of their free guided tours, especially if they are in session.
The journey southwest to Melbourne will give you a taste of the wild Australia in the national parks as well as the opportunity to admire the spectacular views from the pleasant patios of the Yarra Valley wineries. It's worth the detour to Wilson's Promontory and Phillip Island, but check out this article to find out why!
Once you find yourself in Melbourne, you may feel as though you want to swap out your jeans for dungarees and a pair of Toms as you enter Australia's most Hipster city. Gigs, bars, restaurants, shopping and beaches offers plenty enough for travellers to explore.
Australia, the island continent, is home to a range of eco-systems, wildlife and people. Coupled with the continued developing of its major cities and towns, the country attracts visitors from across the globe. There exists a beautifully eclectic mix of cultures, all of which have had an influence on their way of life. I will always maintain, the best way to see the country is to drive it. Trust us, you won't regret it!
For more practical advice on roadtripping, see our post on Tips for Campervan Travel and 10 Things you should know about living in a Campervan.