From the lush green rainforests to the almost 25,000 miles (40,000km) of coastline to the red dust of the Outback, the sheer scale of scenic road trips on offer in Australia makes it almost impossible to rival.

Grab a vehicle with 4WD and assemble your best playlist for a truly unforgettable experience. Here are our 10 favorite Australian road trips.  

National Parks of New England, NSW

Start – Coffs Harbour; End – Yamba; Distance – 884km/547mi (approx 5-7 days)

Family around camp fire, night (Digital Composite)
The joys of forest camping in New South Wales, Australia © David Trood / Getty Images

While most visitors are obsessed with the beaches from Bondi to Byron, discerning travelers know a New England detour opens up national parks, historic towns and Australia's country-music capital.

Leave the coast behind and head for the hills – the drive from Coffs Harbour to Armidale is one of New South Wales' prettiest. From there, it's southwest to Tamworth, that big-hat capital of all things country. Once you've grown tired of line dancing, it's time to pack up your cowboy boots and take the scenic route north and then east. The roads empty and a string of national parks and lovely towns (where you can strike it rich in more ways than one) will delight you all the way to Yamba.

The Pacific Coast – Sydney to Byron Bay, NSW

Start – Sydney; End – Byron Bay; Distance – approx 952km/592mi (7 days)

Children play on a beach in early morning in Byron Bay
Enjoy a day at the beach on this classic Australian road trip © Pete Seaward / Lonely Planet

One of the best-loved road trips anywhere on earth, this coastal odyssey connects two Aussie icons, with many a beautiful surf beach and wild coastal national park in between.

Tearing yourself away from Sydney's singular charms is made easier by what lies ahead on this journey up the northern New South Wales coast. Classic beach resorts like Coffs Harbour share the road with more family-oriented places like Port Stephens and Port Macquarie, as well as national parks that protect some of the coast's more dramatic stretches. The hippie paradise of Nimbin is worth a slight detour as your pacific coast road trip comes to an end...but what a high note to end on. Byron Bay is utterly beloved for too many reasons to count – rolling waves, pristine beaches, stunning sunsets, a wealth of gastronomic delights and a multitude of excellent pubs in which to enjoy a sundowner before you fall into bed smiling.

Uluru & Red Centre – Northern Territory

Start – King's Canyon; End – Kata-Tjuta; Distance – approx 1180km/734mi (10-14 days)

Uluru the biggest monolith rock in the world, Northern Territory, Australia.
Uluru is a massive sandstone monolith in the heart of the Northern Territory’s arid Red Centre. © Getty Images

Welcome to Australia's Red Centre, home to the country's most magnificent and utterly unforgettable outback landmarks.

If you make one trip through the Australian outback, make it this one. Uluru is an extraordinary, soulful place utterly unlike anywhere else on the planet. Nearby, Kata-Tjuta (the Olgas) and Kings Canyon leave spellbound all who visit, while the West MacDonnell Ranges capture the essence of the Red Centre – red earth, red rocks and ghostly gums in a spiritually charged landscape.

Alice Springs to Darwin – Northern Territory 

Start – Alice Springs; End – Darwin; Distance – approx 1493km/928mi (5-7 days)

Aerial view over Florence Falls
Florence Falls is every Darwin locals' favourite day trip with its waterfalls and water holes, bush walks, four-wheel drive tracks, birds and wildlife. © Rob Mulally / Tourism Northern Territory

All the monotony and magnificence of the outback is on show on this long, lonely desert crossing. From Alice Springs north, the air is tinder dry and the color cast shifts from red to yellow to green the further north you travel. By Katherine, you're in a different world, where the outback meets the tropics, and the latter very much takes hold by the time you pull into Darwin.

Southern Queensland Loop – Qld

Start – Brisbane; End – North Stradbroke Island; Duration –  374km/232mi (7 days)

Waterfall at the green and lush Lamington National Park
Lamington National Park soothes mind and soul © Maclerin Mines / EyeEm / Getty Images

The journey from Brisbane to Lamington National Park confirms that there is more to southern Queensland than the wham-bam thrills of the Gold Coast's famous theme parks. North and South Stradbroke Islands and Burleigh Heads serve as reminders of why this coast is so coveted, while Springbrook and Lamington National Park soothe mind and soul with their lush, world-famous rainforests.

Clare Valley & the Flinders Ranges – South Australia

Start – Clare Valley; Finish – Flinders Ranges; Duration – 462km/287mi (7-10 days)

Australian vineyard at sunset
The sun sets over a beautiful vineyard in South Australia © BenGoode / Getty Images

Rarely is there such a contrast between where a journey starts and ends – begin sipping world-class wines in the lush Clare Valley and finish up beneath the blood-red slopes of the outback.

Clare Valley has plenty of competition, but it has always been one of South Australia's top wine regions. Vineyards carpet valleys that radiate out from lovely little townships like Mintaro and Sevenhill. Before reaching the outback, there's the aptly named Mt Remarkable, then it's arid landscapes and remote settlements all the way into the peerless Flinders Ranges.

Cradle Mountain Loop –Tasmania 

Start – Cradle Mountain; Finish – Queenstown; Duration – approx 620km/385mi (7-10 days)

The west is literally wild in Tasmania, where the Southern Ocean thunders ashore, tall-timbered rainforest scratches at the sky around the takayna/Tarkine wilderness, and peerless Cradle Mountain stands sculpted by long-gone glaciers.

To this, add the historic towns of Stanley and Sheffield, the striking beauty of Boat Harbour Beach and Marrawah's relentless surf, and it becomes clear that just about everything good about Tasmania lines up along this route.

Great Ocean Road – Victoria

Start – Torquay; Finish – Nelson; Duration – approx 535km/332mi (5-7 days)

Tourists looking a The 12 Apostles along the Great Ocean Road
There aren't many road trips that boast a view of the 12 apostles but the great ocean road never disappoints © James O'Neil / Getty Images

One of the most beautiful and scenic coastal road journeys on earth, this world-famous route hugs the rugged western Victorian coast, passing world-class surf beaches, iconic landforms and fascinating seaside settlements.

The Great Ocean Road begins in Australia's surf capital of Torquay, swings past Bells Beach and then winds along the coast to the wild and windswept koala heaven of Cape Otway. The Twelve Apostles and Loch Ard Gorge are obligatory stops before the road sweeps on towards Warrnambool, with its whales, and Port Fairy, with its fine buildings and folk festival, before the natural drama peaks again close to the South Australian border.

Coral Coast to Broome – Western Australia

Start – Perth; Finish – Broome; Duration – approx 2383km/1480mi (10-14 days)

Sand pillars in Pinnacles Desert in Australia
Western Australia is a road-tripper's playground © Realfeel / Getty Images

Australia's western shore and the Pilbara desertscape are simply magnificent – a road-tripper's playground that takes in the cerulean Indian Ocean, ancient pinnacles and gorges, Aboriginal culture and offbeat mining towns.

The road from Perth to Broome connects two different worlds, one urban and the other remote, tropical and on the cusp of the outback, with the vast Indian Ocean keeping you company much of the way. There are fabulous places to break up the journey, including many that highlight the intersection of desert and coast that is such a feature of this route, from the Pinnacles Desert to Ningaloo Reef.

Western Australia’s Southwest Coast 

Start – Cape Le Grand National Park; Finish – Bunbury; Distance – approx 933km/580mi (7 days)

Most visitors to Western Australia's southwest make a beeline for Margaret River, but there's so much more to explore. Whale watching is one of the more memorable highlights of this wild and dramatic shore where beaches stretch to eternity and dolphins draw near in the shallows. Best of all, large swathes of the coast have been protected from development, leaving beaches and forests rich with nature and wildlife to explore.

Introducing Australia

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Australia's 10 best natural wonders

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This article was first published September 2020 and updated June 2021

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