Home Road Trip Ultimate Australia Road Trip Guide: Top Routes & Essential Tips for an Unforgettable Journey

Ultimate Australia Road Trip Guide: Top Routes & Essential Tips for an Unforgettable Journey

Ultimate Australia Road Trip Guide: Top Routes & Essential Tips for an Unforgettable Journey

Are you preparing your road trip in Australia and thinking about your itinerary? Or you are already in Australia and preparing your road trip? We have listed for you the most popular driving routes to discover this amazing country from North to South, East to West! So be ready for your next trip! Check out our Australia road trip itinerary.

Main road trip itineraries

East Coast Road Trip – Sydney to Cairns

The East Coast is the most touristy region of Australia and the most popular road-trip route among travelers. It is lined with numerous beaches (patrolled), boasts a pleasant climate, and offers a great diversity of landscapes. The main cities on the coast are Sydney, Brisbane and Cairns. They are all very touristy, lively, dynamic and multicultural.

For those of you who are not too accustomed to road-trips, who love the ocean, and who do not want to feel too isolated from cities, this is the perfect route! Apart from the large metropolises and their vastness, their skyscrapers as far as the eye can see, travelers particularly enjoy visiting the Whitsunday Islands and the Great Barrier Reef. The lush, verdant rainforests of the country’s North are also not to be missed.

First of all, be aware that to cover the stretch from Sydney to Brisbane (1,200 km), you will need about ten days. To be honest, 7 days are enough if you travel quickly, but 15 days would be the perfect duration if you want to take more time and wander as you wish. The midseasons, which fall between February and April or between September and October, are the ideal times to visit this region. During the winter period, it tends to be quite cold.

Please note that near the Gold Coast, Mackay, and Byron Bay, free camping spots (free camps) are rather rare. You will need to budget for paid campgrounds (caravan parks).

Road Trip 1 – Sydney to Brisbane

Time needed: around 10 days (7 days if you are in a hurry, 15 days if you take your time)
Distance: 1 200 km
Best seasons: It’s best to travel during mid-season, which is Feb-April and September-November.
Where to sleep? Free campsites can be hard to come by on certain parts of the Coast (Gold Coast, Mackay, etc.) So think about having a small budget to pay for caravan parks.
More info: Road Trip de Sydney à Brisbane

Road Trip 2 – Sydney to Cairns

Time needed: more or less three weeks
Distance: 2500 kilometres
Best seasons: The North and the South have two different seasons. Therefore, it’s best to travel during mid-season, which is April-May and September-October. Beware of the wet season from November to February (North Australia) and winter in the South (Sydney, Melbourne..).
Where to sleep? Free campsites can be hard to come by on certain parts of the Coast (Gold Coast, Mackay, etc.) So think about having a small budget to pay for caravan parks.
More info: Road Trip Sydney to Cairns

Main attractions on this itinerary

Download the complete Guide for a Road Trip on the East Coast

Our FREE 52-page guide brings together all the info you need for your East Coast Road Trip in Australia:

  • Preparations (seasons, budget)
  • All the best spots to visit on the coast
  • The best tours & activities
  • Spots to park and sleep in a campervan

Road Trip from North-East to the Center: From Cairns to Alice Springs

This somewhat bewildering itinerary will allow you to discover the endless landscapes of Australia.

Indeed, you will move from the maritime landscapes of the East Coast to the desert horizons of the center. Goodbye to the tropical forest, coconut trees, white sand, and dream beaches with clear waters! Now, say hello to the “Red Center,” with its mountain ranges, arid plains, incredible gorges, and ochre-colored earth.

Here, you’ll uncover the secrets of an indigenous people: the Aboriginals, Australia’s first inhabitants, and the riches of a vibrant culture! In the country’s center, you will find mysterious places steeped in the stories of their ancestors; don’t miss Ayers Rock/Uluru, Kata Tjuta National Park, and Karlu Karlu/Devils Marbles Conservation Area. Around Alice Springs, make sure to visit the sublime national parks of West and East MacDonnell and Watarrka and the mythical Kings Canyon! You will not be disappointed!

Before you start your journey from Cairns, go and discover the majestic Daintree Forest. This lush rainforest is one of the oldest on the planet, giving you an idea of its grandeur. It is full of treasures that deserve to be explored.

During your road trip to the Northern Territory, it’s true that there aren’t a ton of things to see, or at least not as obviously as when crossing the East Coast, for example. However, we still recommend making a stop at Townsville/Magnetic Island, Mount Isa, and Tennant Creek. Townsville is a charming seaside town with its marina, esplanade, and impressive Aboriginal art galleries. You can take the ferry to Magnetic Island and discover its sublime beach sunsets, underwater wreck, cute pademelons, and iconic koalas. The old mining town of Mount Isa also has many surprises in store. Dive into the heart of mining by exploring old mines, visiting the Riversleigh Fossil Centre, or simply touring the town for a leap back in time. Finally, Tennant Creek is a small town where Aboriginal culture, cattle ranching, and the gold rush blend together.

Time: 3 weeks minimum
Distance: 3 390 km between Cairns and Alice Springs (through Mount Isa)
Best Season(s): end of winter or late spring (at the latest). This avoids the rainy season in Cairns as well as the intense summer heat and chilly winter nights in Alice Springs. Until October, it’s the best season for swimming near Cairns.
Where to sleep? Free camps can be found in the center of Australia. There are also, of course, paid campgrounds, especially around Uluru and Alice Springs.

Road trip on the East – South coast – From Sydney to Melbourne

This journey connects two major cities and passes through charming coastal towns. Don’t miss Jervis Bay with Hyams Beach, one of the most beautiful beaches in Australia. Let yourself be impressed by its crystal clear water and fine sand for snorkelling or kayaking. Dolphins and whales are often present in the bay.

Then head to the sublime Sapphire Coast. A visit to Eden, a small fishing village will be in order. This spot is famous for observing humpback whales if the season is right (from the end of August to the end of October).

You then enter the state of Victoria! Raymond Island is famous for being a reserve of koalas and kangaroos, it will be the ideal place to observe them in their natural environment. Then comes the unmissable stop at Wilsons Promontory National Park, Victoria’s most popular national park. As you get closer to Melbourne, stop off at Phillip Island, best known for its little penguins!

Time needed: between 7 and 10 days
Distance: 1,370 km between Sydney and Melbourne
Best season: It is best to travel during the mid-seasons. Between September and November for example, or between March and May.
Where to sleep? Most national parks in Victoria and New South Wales offer campsites at around $15/person. Freecamps are also found along the coast or inland to enjoy wilder places.
More info: Road Trip Melbourne to Sydney

Main Attractions on this itinerary

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West Coast Road Trip – From Perth to Darwin

The particularity of the West Coast is it’s wild side. Apart from Perth, you don’t come across any big cities, only smaller towns and villages. Distances between towns are vast and nature still has the upper hand on this coast. Beaches, as magnificent as they are wild follow one and other and are sometimes completely deserted.

Ideal for adventurers and nature lovers, this route features wild canyons, deserted beaches, and unique wildlife encounters like swimming with whale sharks (from May to July). Key stops include Monkey Mia and Karijini National Park. This itinerary is perfect for those seeking off-the-beaten-path adventures. This road trip itinerary will show you many aspects of Australia you won’t see on the East Coast.

To make a road trip on the west coast, 2 routes are available to you. If you have a good month ahead of you, you can start in Perth and go up to Darwin. Conversely, if you are limited in time, a road trip itinerary between Perth and Broome via the famous Karijini National Park will be more appropriate.

Perth to Darwin

Time needed: Take about one month from Perth to Darwin
Distance: 4000 kilometres on the coast.
Best seasons: Same as with the East Coast, best to go in mid-season, (April-June or September-October)
Where to sleep? Free camp sites are easy to find on the West Coast, you won’t have any problems finding places to spend the night, for free or at minimal cost.

Perth to Broome

Time needed: Allow around 2 weeks from Perth to Broome
Distance: 3,000 km by coast
Best season: Avoid November to April (rainy season), prefer from April to October
Where to sleep? It is quite easy to sleep in free camps, whether in a tent or in a converted car. However, these areas are often off-centre.

road trip west coast and north australia

Main attractions on this itinerary

From North to South: Darwin to Adelaide

Traverse the heart of Australia and experience its vast landscapes and Aboriginal culture. This route will give you the opportunity to discover some amazing sites like the Kakadu National Park, Mataranka, the famous Daly Waters pub and also Uluru (Ayers Rock) You will pass less towns and more roadhouses, make sure you stock up on water and fuel.

-> North to South: Darwin to Alice Springs
Time needed: About 3 days if you’re travelling in a straight line, about 10 days if you want to visit Kakadu National Park and Litchfield National Park.
Distance: 1500 kilometres
Best season: Between June and August
Where to sleep? There’s a great number of free camp sites all along the Stuart Highway. Avoid being too isolated.

-> North to South: Darwin to Adelaide
Time needed:
Between 1 to 1 1/2 month
Distance: 3000 kilometres
Best season: July to October
Where to sleep? Free camp sites along the Stuart Highway.

-> Centre to South: Alice Springs to Adelaide
Time: More or less two weeks
Distance: 1500 kilometres
Best seasons: March-May or August-October

Main attractions on this itinerary

South Coast: from Melbourne to Perth through Adelaide

The scenery in between Melbourne and Adelaide is of magnificent beauty. You leave Australia’s most cultural city to discover the well-known ‘Great Ocean Road’ and the famous Twelve Apostles. If you can try a little detour to visit Kangaroo Island, a little slice of paradise, still well-preserved. Pass through Adelaide, the city of churches, in order to face the desert plains of the ‘Nullarbor’ with a straight stretch of 146 kilometres. This part of the route may sometimes seem quite long but cliffs and emptiness are part of the adventure. Thereafter, you will be able to refresh in the shade of the Valley of the Giants and discover the wild and beautiful beaches of the South-West region.

Melbourne to Perth

Time needed: between 3 to 5 weeks from Melbourne to Perth.
Distance: More or less 4000 kilometres
Best season: October-March
Where to sleep: A lot of free campsites all along the coast. You might have some difficulty finding free ones in the more touristy areas (Great Ocean Road for example).
Plan your trip and stock water and petrol when crossing the Nullarbor

Melbourne to Adelaide

Time needed: around 10 days
Distance : around 1 000 km
Best season: Between October and March
Où dormir ? A lot of free campsites all along the coast. You might have some difficulty finding free ones in the more touristy areas such as the Great Ocean Road.

Main attractions


Tasmania, the smallest state in Australia exists for 21 percent out of national parks. The landscape of the island is completely different to the Australian Outback. There you will find hills, deep forests, lakes,.. but also dream beaches with white sand and crystal clear water, especially on the East Coast. Tasmania is the only place in the world where you can spot the Tasmanian Devil in his natural habitat. You can reach Tasmania by ferry, from Melbourne (with or without vehicle) or you can fly by airplane to Hobart or Launceston.

Time needed: Take two weeks to do the whole tour
Distance: More or less 2000 kilometres
Season: October-March
Where to sleep? Tasmania has many campsites and most towns are equipped with area’s for free camping of at least cheap camping.

More Info: Things To Do in Tasmania

Main attractions

Evaluate your Road trip budget

Now that you know your itinerary, it’s important to work out what your budget will be! Some itineraries will be more expensive than others, such as excursions to the Great Barrier Reef and Fraser Island. Don’t hesitate to consult our dedicated article to find out how much you need to save for an unforgettable road trip.

Choosing your road trip itinerary according to duration

There are a multitude of places to explore in Australia! It’s a very big country, so it can sometimes be difficult to work out how long it will take to discover each region. What’s more, everyone travels at their own pace. So your road-trip itinerary will inevitably depend on how much time you want, or are able, to devote to it.

To cover all the possibilities, here are a few itinerary ideas for short road trips in Australia lasting a few days or weeks.

Road trip ideas for a few days

  • Travel to the Blue Mountains from Sydney
  • Visit the south of Sydney, especially Jervis Bay
  • Visit the Grampians from Melbourne
  • Explore the Great Ocean Road from Melbourne or Adelaide
  • Discover the area from Perth to Margaret River
  • Discover the Gold Coast or Sunshine Coast from Brisbane
  • Explore the Daintree Rainforest from Cairns

15-day road trip itineraries in Australia

  • Discover Tasmania
  • From Sydney to Brisbane: the Sunshine Coast
  • Sydney to Melbourne via Canberra
  • From Adelaide to the Red Centre and Uluru
  • Part of the West Coast from Perth

Practical Tips and Advice for Your Australian Road Trip

Embarking on a road trip across Australia is an adventure of a lifetime. To ensure your journey is as smooth and enjoyable as possible, here are some practical tips and advice, updated with the latest information:

Fuel Prices & Road Safety

Fuel costs can vary significantly across different regions in Australia. Generally, prices are higher in remote areas and lower in major cities. It’s advisable to budget accordingly and keep an eye on fuel price apps for the best deals. Remember, longer routes will require more fuel, so plan your refueling stops wisely.

Australian roads can range from well-maintained highways to rugged outback tracks. Always drive according to road conditions and adhere to speed limits. In remote areas, be prepared for unpaved roads and wildlife crossings. Australia is home to unique wildlife, which can often be encountered on roads, especially at dawn and dusk. Drive cautiously during these times to avoid accidents.

In case of emergencies, have a plan in place. Carry a first-aid kit, enough water, and some non-perishable food. Ensure you have appropriate vehicle insurance and breakdown cover. This is crucial for peace of mind, especially in remote areas where help might not be readily available.

Camping Regulations

Camping is a popular and economical option for accommodation during road trips. However, it’s important to be aware of the local camping regulations. Some areas require permits, and others might be protected lands where camping is not allowed. Utilize designated camping sites and always follow Leave No Trace principles to protect the natural environment.

Also read: Road Trip in Australia: Where to Camp

Best Travel Times

The best time for a road trip in Australia can vary depending on the route. For southern routes, like the Great Ocean Road, summer months (December to February) offer warm weather and longer daylight hours. For northern routes, such as Darwin to Broome, the dry season (May to October) is ideal to avoid the heavy rains of the wet season. Always check the local weather and road conditions before setting out.

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