This article is sponsored by Ampol.
With road trips back on the menu for Aussies across the country, many people will be gearing up for some long drives and fantastic scenery along the way. We are fortunate here in Australia to have some incredible road trips available to us – if you had a spare six months, you could drive around the whole mainland.
But if you’ve got a little less than six months and you’re looking for some fresh travel inspo, we’ve got you covered. Here are some of the most beautiful scenic drives that end somewhere out of the hustle and bustle.
Legendary Pacific Coast, NSW
Drive north from Sydney and continue for about 820km until you hit Tweed Heads for some incredible sights and some of the best beaches in NSW. There are so many places to stop along the way like Port Stephens, Port Macquarie, Coffs Harbour and Byron Bay. End in Tweed Heads, which is right on the border of Queensland, for more surfing, good food and great weather.
You can even stretch this trip out to five days and take the time to enjoy the stops along the way.
After leaving Sydney, head to Lake Macquarie and go for a swim at Catherine Hill Bay Beach or Blacksmiths Beach. Make sure to explore some of the sea caves and rock pools at Caves Beach.
Then, head to Newcastle and go for a dip at Merewether Beach. You could also squeeze in some whale watching if that’s something you enjoy. Next up is Port Stephens and its many beaches and sand dunes. If you want some amazing views, head over to Tomaree Head Summit Walk.
Take the scenic way to Port Macquarie through the Great Lakes region and stop for a swim at Bluey’s Beach. Port Macquarie also has the highest population of koalas on the east coast of Australia so why not head to the famous Koala Hospital and see the work they’re doing there?
When you get to Coffs Harbour, you’ve got to stop for a snap at The Big Banana, then head to the fun park for some laser tag or ice skating.
Then, it’s time for Byron Bay to shine. Stop at the Minyon Falls lookout for some amazing views of the waterfall and rainforest.
Only 45 minutes north of Byron, you’ll find Tweed Heads, with its uncrowded beaches, great surfing and even some fantastic art.
Lithgow to Mudgee, NSW
Still in NSW, you can see some outstanding Aussie country scenery and colonial-era settlements on this road trip from Lithgow to Mudgee via Bathurst, Orange, Canowindra, Cowra, Parkes and Dubbo. You’ll also be enjoying some incredible farm-to-table food and discovering microbreweries, distilleries and cellar doors.
You can stretch this trip out to four days from the foothills of the Blue Mountains. Here, you can enjoy some delicious lollies and chocolates from around the world at Lolly Bug before heading to the Craft Works Whisky distillery — if whisky isn’t your thing, there’s also a pub.
Next, head on over to Bathurst’s Vine & Tap, an Italian bar and restaurant with a leafy courtyard.
Then, you’re going to drive another 45 minutes to Orange and spend some time wine tasting at some of the incredible wineries in the area. You can also get a fantastic sunset view at Sister’s Rock Restaurant at Borodell Estate.
Canowindra is next on your list, where you’ll be able to enjoy more delicious wines and cheeses. Stop at the Royal Hotel Canowindra, a rustic pub with a weekend farm-to-table restaurant.
In Cowra, take a stroll in the Cowra Japanese Garden and Cultural Centre and enjoy some Japanese cuisine at the cafe. Or head on over to Quarry Restaurant & Cellar Door to enjoy their seasonal, regional menu.
Explore space at the Visitor Discovery Centre in Parkes and learn about The Dish, which famously beamed the 1969 Apollo 11 moon landing to the world.
Head to Dubbo and visit their Farmer’s Market, held every first and third Saturday of the month, then go to Red Earth Estate for a wine tasting and Lazy River Cafe for a relaxed lunch.
Regardless of whether or not you’ve got kids, you’ll want to visit Taronga Western Plains Zoo to get up close to the giraffes, rhinos, elephants and big cats.
Next up is your final destination: Mudgee, where you’ll find tasty wine and food. Grab some lunch at Zin House and taste some wines at Robert Stein Wines and De Beaurepaire Wines.
Cairns to Cape Tribulation, QLD
Start in Cairns for this incredible drive that takes you through Palm Cove, Port Douglas and the ancient Daintree National Park and enjoy the beautiful beaches that Cape Tribulation has to offer. If you wanted to take this trip further, you could go to Cape York and enjoy being in Australia’s northernmost point.
Cairns to Cape Tribulation isn’t a very long drive — about three hours — but you’ll need to take a ferry across the Daintree River. So, if you wanted to, you could do this in a single day, or you could stop in Port Douglas for the night to stretch it out a bit further.
Palm Cove might be famous for its palm trees, but there are also incredible swimming spots, great restaurants and a rainforest walking track as well. It’s also an excellent spot to stop as there are so many restaurants, bars, hotels and resorts.
It’s worth making a stop at Ellis Beach, which you’ll come across not too long after leaving Cairns. Again, this is worth making a stop at.
If you want a bit of a wildlife experience, you can hit up Hartley’s Crocodile Adventures, where you’re guaranteed to see a croc.
One of the highlights of this trip is the drive itself, with The Captain Cook Highway winding through some of the most beautiful spots.
If you want to experience a walk through the Daintree Rainforest, park at the Mossman Gorge Visitor’s Centre for a 45-minute loop through the rainforest.
Cape Tribulation itself is where the rainforest meets the reef and it’s a highlight for those doing the drive.
Adelaide to Kangaroo Island, SA
The drive from Adelaide to Kangaroo Island is half the fun, but Kangaroo Island is next level beautiful.
Starting in Adelaide, head to Cape Jervis, along the Fleurieu Peninsula, AKA one of the best wine regions in the area.
Stop in McLaren Vale for food and wine, especially if you love Shiraz. You can also walk or bike ride the Shiraz trail — an 8km stretch that takes you from McLaren Vale to Willunga.
Then head to the Kangaroo Island ferry and go to Penneshaw, a tiny place but worth checking out for a coffee or a swim at Penneshaw Beach. You can also head to Dudley Wines for incredible views and from there, head to Cape Willoughby Lighthouse.
After that, you’re going to want to go to Pennington Bay, one of the best beaches on the island. If you like seafood, you can also go to the Oyster Farm for good food and wine.
Spend the night in Kingscote, the largest town in Kangaroo Island, and make sure to visit Bay of Shoals Wines for amazing views, wine tasting and hamper lunches.
Head to Stokes Bay for a beautiful walk and to admire the sunset. Later, head to Flinders Chase National Park and check out the Remarkable Rocks, some quite unique rock formations. Admirals Arch is another sunset spot that is not to be missed.
Vivonne Bay is the whitest beach on Kangaroo Island and is an excellent spot for snorkelling. Once you’ve had your fill there, head to Seal Bay and you’ll catch a glimpse of some of the thousands of seals that gather there every day.
The Coral Coast, WA
Drive north from Perth along the Coral Coast and enjoy stunning beaches, hikes and even a swim with whale sharks at Ningaloo Reef. This drive will take you 10 days and see you travel 2,800km.
Leave from Perth and head for Geraldton, where you can enjoy some swimming, jet skiing, flyboarding or stand up paddle boarding, to name a few. Afterwards, you’ll no doubt be starving, so grab some dinner from the Geraldton Fishermen’s Co-Op.
Before you leave, check out the HMAS Sydney Memorial, a tribute to the ship sunk in battle off the coast of WA in 1941, claiming the lives of 645 sailors.
You’ll then jump in the car to Carnarvon, where there are banana, mango and papaya plantations galore. If you love tropical fruit, stop in at a plantation for a tour.
Heading on to Exmouth, you can go snorkelling and enjoy the turquoise waters of Ningaloo Marine Park. This is where you can swim with the whale sharks, the world’s biggest fish. They can grow to 18 metres long.
After Exmouth, you’re heading to Coral Bay where there are plenty of hikes and lookouts. You’re going to want to head to Shark Bay for some other incredible sights like Monkey Mia, famous for the bottlenose dolphins that visit the shallow waters every day. The dolphins are used to people and will interact with you. You can also spot some other incredible sea life like whales, manta rays, turtles, sharks and dugongs.
Next, head to Kalbarri, where you’ll find some great walks at the National Park. Then, you’re on to The Pinnacles for even more beautiful beaches and some caves if you so desire.
Our tips for a successful road trip:
- For every two hours of driving, make sure you’re getting out for a rest for at least 15 minutes. More frequent breaks mean you’re less likely to experience driver fatigue. Plus, these road trips are all so beautiful, you’re going to want to get out of the car as often as possible.
- Try not to drive for longer than eight or nine hours to prevent any dangerous situations.
- Refuel every three hours, luckily, this is very easy given the fact Ampol has over 1,900 different locations across the country. So, you’ll be able to access quality Australian fuel wherever you are. They’re also the perfect places to grab some on-the-go snacks and essentials for your road trip.
- If you’re heading out for a long road trip, make sure to get your car checked out before you leave and ensure you’ve got a spare tire with you — this could save you lots of time and money along the way.
- Set a few checkpoints along the way, it’s good to have some goals in mind, but it’s also fun to be spontaneous, so don’t stress about deviating from the plan now and then.