Epic Australian road trips you have to take in 2022

Avoid the crowds, feel the wind in your hair and choose your own adventure with these classic Australian road trips.

While the road trip has been a popular holiday of choice for generations, in a post-pandemic world, it is set for a renaissance.

Your car remains a private and hygienic space so it’s the safest way to explore a world that we have had limited access to in the past year and a half.

We’ve rounded up the best Australian road trips across every state and territory so you can embark on your own Thelma and Louis Adventure.

Explorer’s Way
Explorer’s Way – just one of eight of the best Australian road trips © Greg Sullavan/Discovery Parks – Glen Helen

Great Eastern Drive, Tasmania

Travel time: 5 days

If finger-licking-good seafood and powder-white beaches is your idea of a good getaway, then you can’t go past this Australian road trip.

The journey runs between Hobart’s waterfront and the bright-orange boulders of the Bay of Fires. Pass through the pretty-as-a-postcard Swansea, Bicheno and St Helens en route.

What to do

Book into the Mona Ferry’s Posh Pit and sample complimentary Moo Brew beer, Morilla wine and canapes.

Pull into one of the many fabulous cellar doors that line the coastline for a tasting. Priory Ridge and Devil’s Corner are always winners)

Hike to Freycinet’s stellar Wineglass Bay Lookout. Continue to the beach itself to take a dip among the lapping azure waters.

Add an extra day or two to hike, camp and bike around the captivating, car-free Maria Island.

Taylors Beach
Taylors Beach – make a pitstop along the Great Eastern Drive © Stu Gibson/Tourism Tasmania

Where to stay

Right on the cliff’s edge of a private peninsula overlooking Great Oyster Bay, is Thalia Haven. It’s home to that Insta-famous bathtub with an equally dreamy view.

The four rustic stone cottages are all self-reliant – water, electricity and warmth are drawn from the surrounding land, wind and sunshine. Up north, bunker down in one of Bay of Fires Bush Retreat’s 10 king bell tents, just a 2.8-kilometre drive to Binalong Bay’s main beach.

Bay of Fires Bush Retreat
Bay of Fires Bush Retreat © Adam Gibson

Great Ocean Road, Victoria

Travel time: 3 days

For the most quintessential of Australian road trips head out on the Great Ocean Road. The 250-kilometre ride from Torquay to Warrnambool showcases the most scenic coastline in the country.

What to do

Discover pockets of lush rainforest, sheer limestone cliffs, around 700 shipwrecks, calm seaside towns, dairy farms and glorious beaches… stopping along the way is the best part.

Don’t miss the Twelve Apostles (of which there are now eight). Visit the koala spotting capital of Kennett River. Try your luck at whale watching from Cape Otway Lightstation’s observation deck. Or take a walk among the towering redwoods at Beech Forest.

Twelve Apostles at Sunset
Twelve Apostles at Sunset © Emily Godfrey/Visit Victoria

Where to stay

Right across from the beach BIG4 Beacon Resort comes complete with an indoor heated swimming pool and a mud day spa. Add to that free yoga and pilates, a 24/7 fitness studio, a coffee delivery service and swanky villas.

For those looking for something more romantic, the self-contained Sky Pods located on a private wildlife refuge on the rugged coast of Cape Otway make for a memorable stay.

Two Bedroom Villa at BIG4 Beacon
Two Bedroom Villa at BIG4 Beacon

Nature’s Way, Northern Territory

Travel time: 7-10 days

The 800-plus-kilometre Nature’s Way highlights the very best of the Top End.

This is one of the best Australian road trips because it links the only tropical capital city with the swimming hole- and waterfall-laden Kakadu, Nitmiluk and Litchfield national parks.

What to do

Take in the stunning views of Kakadu’s wetlands from Ubirr’s Nadab Lookout. Explore the many gorges of Nitmiluk via canoe, foot, boat or helicopter.

Learn about living off the land with the Top Didj Cultural Experience. And drop by Darwin’s Mindil Beach Sunset Markets for some of the best street food in the country.

Diving into Maguk Falls in Kakadu
Diving into Maguk Falls in Kakadu © Kylie Hunter & Hayley Anderson/Tourism NT

Where to stay

Bamurru Plains is an extraordinary bush experience on the edge of Kakadu. There are no TVs, mini-bars or telephones in any of the nine suites, so as not to distract from the wildlife.

If you wish to stay more central, go glamping at Cooinda Lodge or head to Hideaway Litchfield. It consists of two shipping containers turned lavish escapes in the heart of the wilderness.

Hideaway Litchfield
Hideaway Litchfield © Tourism NT/Hideaway Litchfield

Legendary Pacific Coast, New South Wales and Queensland

Travel time: 7-10 days

This 1,000-kilometre grand voyage from Sydney to Brisbane is a spectacular snapshot of our East Coast.

It takes in the lofty sand dunes of Port Stephens, the uncrowded shores of the Coffs Coast, the sparkling beaches of Byron Bay and much more.

What to do

Enjoying a refreshing dip at Newcastle’s Merewether Ocean Baths. Tackle the 2.2-kilometre walk to Tomaree Head summit.

Sail among the splendours of the Solitary Islands Marine Park. Take in the views from Smoky Cape Lighthouse and chasing waterfalls in the Gold Coast hinterland.

Zenith Beach, Port Stephens
Zenith Beach, Port Stephens © Alexandra doncello/Destination NSW

Where to stay

Spoil yourself with ocean views at one of six architecturally-designed Premium Villas at Reflections Holiday Parks Seal Rocks. Each sleep up to five guests and are complete with rainfall showers, coffee machines and spacious verandahs.

The Guest Lounge is decked out with board games, books, giant chess set and communal fire pit.

Reflections Holiday Park Seal Rocks
Reflections Holiday Parks Seal Rocks © Edwina Richards

Further north, glampers are well catered for at Reflections Holiday Parks Bonny Hills. It’s host to a Deluxe Beach Tent, which doesn’t skimp on a single mod-con. Expect a fully-equipped kitchenette, ensuite and Foxtel.

Pooch parents should opt for the pet-friendly Premium Villas. They feature floor-to-ceiling windows, outdoor showers and expansive outdoor dining areas.

Sleek digs at Reflections Holiday Parks Bonny Hills
Sleek digs at Reflections Holiday Parks Bonny Hills

Reflections Holiday Parks Moonee Beach and Reflections Holiday Parks Clarkes Beach boast three adorable Tiny Homes and a vintage Jayco Airstream for two, respectively.

For those with little ones in tow, BIG4 Gold Coast Holiday Park’s latest drawcard is a thrilling water park. With water slides up to 10 metres tall, and a tipping bucket that holds a literal tonne of water the kids will never be bored.

BIG4 Gold Coast Holiday Park waterpark
BIG4 Gold Coast Holiday Park waterpark

For something particularly quirky, check in to one of the two portable Glamtainers. The kitted-out shipping containers are currently at NRMA Ocean Beach Holiday Resort.

If you love all things retro, book one of the two Airstream caravans at Brisbane Holiday Village. Named Betsy and Maisie, each comes with a full kitchen, air conditioning, a 75-inch smart TV and Wi-Fi.

Airstream Area at Brisbane Holiday Village
Airstream Area at Brisbane Holiday Village

Gibb River Road, Western Australia and Northern Territory

Travel time: 14 days

This 660-kilometre outback odyssey cuts through Kimberley from Derby to Kununurra. It’s made this list of the best Australian road trips thanks to its vast starry skies, red dirt, hidden-away gorges and waterholes, and cattle stations the size of small countries.

What to do

Wade through pools of water along Tunnel Creek to hike through WA’s oldest cave system. Then paddle to the edge of the natural infinity pool at Bell Gorge.

Board a scenic flight over the four-tiered Mitchell Falls, braving the Pentecost River Crossing. Soak in the thermal pools at Zebedee Springs and admire the fossilised remains of marine life on the limestone walls of Windjana Gorge.

En Route to Purnululu from Mimbi Caves, Gibb River Road
En Route to Purnululu from Mimbi Caves, Gibb River Road © Matt Deakin

Where to stay

Now under G’day Parks management, El Questro caters to all budgets and tastes. It has a 10-suite homestead, rooms on the banks of Pentecost River, a number of camping sites and safari-style tented cabins at Emma Gorge to choose from.

Further up the road, Discovery Parks – Lake Kununurra sits at the gateway to the dramatic rock formations of Mirima National Park, the Bungle Bungle Ranges in Purnululu National Park and the dazzling sunsets of Lake Argyle. Dogs are welcome, and the deluxe cabins sitting on Lake Kununurra’s waterfront make for a dreamy stay.

El Questro
El Questro

South Coast, New South Wales

Travel time: 4-7 days

Come summertime 2022 the stunning NSW South Coast might just be the most popular of all Australian road trips.

You can’t beat its soft-as-silk sand, fantastic fish and chippies on every street corner and friendly locals. Here, the coast meets the country in the most charming way possible.

What to do

Nibble on a cinnamon-smothered sweet from The Famous Berry Donut Van. Take a cruise in the nature-filled wonderland of Jervis Bay to spot seals, dolphins, penguins and whales.

Shop for antiques in the twin villages of Central Tilba and Tilba Tilba. Slurp oysters in Merimbula. Jump on a tour to the wildlife-rich Montague Island and snap a pic of the dramatic Horse Head Rock in Bermagui.

Dive Jervis Bay
Dive Jervis Bay © Jordan Robins/Destination NSW

Where to stay

Paperbark Camp features 12 glamping tents, with no luxury spared. Hot water thermoses for tea and coffee are dropped outside of tents every morning.

Picnic hampers and in-tent massages can be ordered in advance. And an on-site fine-dining restaurant surrounded by treetops dishes up seasonal dinners.

Paperbark Camp, Woollamia
Paperbark Camp, Woollamia © Jesse Smith/Destination NSW

Explorer’s Way, Northern Territory and South Australia

Travel time: 14 days

Meandering all the way from Adelaide to Darwin, the 3,000-kilometre might be the biggest of all Australian road trips.

Explorer’s Way cuts through the heart of Australia’s outback and passes some of our most legendary natural treasures along the way.

What to do

Winetaste in Clare Valley or go underground in the opal capital of Coober Pedy. Marvel at the sandstone walls of Glen Helen Gorge (aka our stunning cover).

Listen to creation stories at Uluru- Kata Tjuta National Park. Catcha a brilliant sunset at Kings Canyon and stand atop a giant granite boulder at Karlu Karlu.

Wilpena Pound
You’ll need to make a pitstop at Wilpena Pound one of Australia’s longest road trips © Tourism SA

Where to stay

Wilpena Pound Resort was taken over by NRMA Parks and Resorts and will undergo a $3 million makeover. The only accommodation located within Ikara-Flinders Ranges National Park currently offers plush glamping tents and a postcard-worthy camping ground.

The real drawcard is the resort’s guided cultural walks and scenic flights over the natural amphitheatre of Wilpena Pound.

The G’Day Group’s Glen Helen Lodge is the only accommodation in the West McDonnell Ranges National Park. It reopened in September as Discovery Parks – Glen Helen.

The group plans to develop the property to include glamping tents, cabins, an infinity pool and a restaurant overlooking Glen Helen Gorge. For now, enjoy helicopter rides across nearby gorges and 4WDing through 800-million-year-old landscapes.

Ikara Safari Camp
Ikara Safari Camp

South West Edge, Western Australia

Travel time: 10-12 days

WA makes for some of the best Australian road trips. The South West Edge encompasses world-class wineries, forests home to some of the tallest trees in the world and a long list of blindingly-white swimming bays.

Add to the mix fields of wildflowers come spring, and sperm whales, orcas and dolphins frolciking offshore. This 1,200-kilometre stretch from Perth to Esperance has it all.

What to do

Meet Lucky Bay’s beachcombing kangaroos as they bounce on a walkway amid the treetops at the Valley of the Giants.

Fly over the bubblegum-pink Lake Hillier. Splash around in Greens Pool and Elephant Rocks (both framed by huge boulders which act as a protective shore break).

Sip a glass of chilled chardonnay at one of the many Margaret River vineyards. Cape Mentelle, Vasse Felix and Voyager Estate are a good place to start.

Lake Hillier
Lake Hillier is a standout spot of all the Australian road trips © matteo_it/Shutterstock.com

Where to stay

At the edge of Lake Beedelup is RAC Karri Valley Resort’s rustic lakeside chalets. Their brand-new campsite are perfect for getting back to nature.

Explore the surrounding walking trails. Or hire a SUP, canoe, bike or fishing equipment. Meet faunal residents at the on-site animal farm, or wind down at the restaurant nestled beside the misty waters.

Be sure to include a side trip to the Discovery Rottnest Island to meet the famous friendly quokkas.

The first low-impact glamping experience on the car-free island, the property features 83 eco-tents connected by elevated boardwalks, to keep the landscape undisturbed.

Discovery Rottnest Island
Discovery Rottnest Island © travishayto.com

This Australian road trips story first appeared in volume 115 of Vacations & Travel magazine. Subscribe to the latest issue here.

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