When it comes to road trips, Australia and New Zealand are literally riddled with routes. From highways that skirt dramatic coastlines to narrow roads that weave through pretty countryside, and others that scale mountain passes, there’s no better way to explore Australia than by a self-drive family holiday.
Whether you’re planning a short family getaway for the next school holidays, or a longer summer road trip here are six of our favourite self-drive routes.
Explorers’ Way, SA & NT
We love it because it’s one of the most epic road trips you can do in Australia. Be mesmerised by the beauty of the Outback, with kangaroos aplenty and golden sunsets guaranteed as you travel the Stuart Highway in an Apollo 4WD Adventure Camper. Check out the underground community of Coober Pedy, that famous red rock, Uluru, and eclectic Alice Springs. You’ll then want to call into Nitmiluk and Litchfield national parks for a swim, before wrapping up at Darwin’s popular Mindil Beach Sunset Market (open April – late October). Allow two weeks, as you’ll be covering a lot of ground. The best time to tackle the route is during winter (Jun-Aug), when temperatures are lower and there’s less humidity in the NT.
Convict Trail, TAS
We love it because you can learn about Australia’s fascinating convict history while passing through some of Tasmania’s prettiest towns. Check out Australia’s oldest bridge in Richmond, soak in the stunning views from Eaglehawk Neck lookout, and visit the impressive and culturally significant Port Arthur Historic Site, on the Tasman Peninsula. Allow three days to do the main trail, but stretch it to five by checking out the tessellated pavement, great hiking trails and seal colonies of the peninsula. January and February are the most pleasant times to visit, when Tasmania’s weather isn’t too wild.
Great Barrier Reef Drive, QLD
We love it because it’s one of the most beautiful routes in the country, with the highway skirting the ocean and travelling past laid-back communities. Check out the fun city of Cairns, the best base for boat trips to the Great Barrier Reef, before grabbing a healthy lunch in Palm Cove and going for a swim in tropical Port Douglas. Spend a day scuba diving here, and then make your way via refreshing Mossman Gorge to Daintree National Park, in the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area. Allow five days to soak up the highlights, overnighting in holiday parks along the way. The dry season (Apr-Oct) is the ideal time to see Tropical North Queensland, and you won’t have to worry about stingers in the water then, either. Want to keep going? Why not drive the entire Pacific Coast Way from Cairns to Brisbane? There are Apollo branches at either end.
The Legendary Pacific Coast, NSW
We love it because it really doesn’t get better than this if your happy place is the ocean. From Sydney to Brisbane, this 930km route is dappled with fishing villages and old-school surf towns, so plan for plenty of seafood picnics. Check out the tourist hub of Terrigal, popular with Sydney weekenders, laconic Crescent Head, great for beginner surfers, the much-loved family favourite, the Big Banana, and hipster capital Byron Bay, where you’ll be in smoothie-bowl heaven. Allow one week so you have plenty of time to hit all the beaches. The NSW Pacific Coast is great any time of year but if you want to avoid peak-season crowds while still enjoying sunny skies, make the trip in the shoulder seasons of spring and autumn.
Great Ocean Road, VIC
We love it because the coastline is wild and rugged, and it’s a playground for surfers. Don’t forget to take your board – or hire one. Check out one of Australia’s best surf spots, Bells Beach, as well as the pretty village of Lorne, with its quaint boutiques. You’ll also want to climb to the top of Cape Otway Lightstation (dating back to 1846), set up camp at beautiful Johanna Beach (a hidden gem), and then be awestruck by the iconic 12 Apostles. Hold onto your hat as it gets windy here. Allow seven days to soak in the coastal vibes and head there at the end of summer (Feb), when holidaymakers have returned to school and work, but the water temperature isn’t too crisp.
The Great Alpine Highway, NZ
We love it because it’s one of New Zealand’s lesser-known routes but showcases some of the South Island’s most picturesque countryside. And it’s easy to reach. Check out the cool art scene in Christchurch before travelling over Arthur’s Pass, the highest pass in the Southern Alps. You’ll want to hit up some hiking trails here, before making your way to pretty Greymouth for sea kayaking and beachcombing. Allow five days so you can really make the most of each stop while still enjoying some down time. You’ll want to see this alpine region in summer (Dec-Feb) so you can really make the most of the hiking trails and beaches.