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5 most iconic Australian road trips

23 September 2019

5 most iconic Australian road trips

Road trips are a chance to explore at your own pace, see things at ground level and share good times with the air-con on and the music up. Just make sure you play by these unofficial Australian car rules and your journey won't go wrong.

In Australia, we're pretty lucky to live in a country overflowing with natural beauty and unparalleled scenery. Best of all, you could spend months exploring by road and still not see it all. To help with your next driving adventure, we've hand-picked five of the most iconic road trips to take around the nation, as well as provided some handy tips to save money along the way.

1. Pacific Coast: Tweed Heads to Lake Macquarie

Running along the east coast of Australia, the Pacific Coast drive takes you from one state to the next, past relaxing coastal towns that you'd regret not scratching off your map.

Let your hair loose in the hippie town of Byron Bay, dip your feet in the water at the family-friendly Coffs Harbour and stop in the Hunter Valley to discover its gourmet produce.

This one is for families with young kids, beach lovers and romantics who relish the idea of putting their feet in the sand and hiking to viewpoints to catch the sun as it pops above the horizon.

How long do I need? 4 days

When should I do the drive? Summer

Money saving tip: The coast is littered with free barbecue facilities in reserves close to the beach and local parks. Ditch the restaurant, hit the supermarket and cook up a storm for the crew.

2. Savannah Way: Cairns to Broome

Enjoy one of the most geographically diverse drives in Australia. Capture the changing scenery of the top end of Australia, from the tropical rainforests of Cairns through ancient crags of the Katherine region and onto the sandy beaches of Broome, along the Savannah Way.

Not for the faint hearted, there's a total of 3,700 kilometres to clock up and 15 national parks to explore, so load up the car and prepare enough tunes to soundtrack your journey.

This trip is for the explorers, the sunshine lovers, the history buffs and the families who love to pack up and get away for long periods at a time.

How long do I need? 10 days

When should I do the drive? Winter and spring

Money saving tip: This is a long trip and while most of it is on highways and major roads, certain stretches run on quiet dirt roads where supplies are few and far between. Plan your itinerary well and monitor your supplies and petrol. Purchasing these in larger cities such as Cairns, Georgetown, Katherine and Halls Creek can generally keep costs down.

3. South West Coast of Western Australia: Perth to Esperance

Drive down the Western Australia coast and you’ll enjoy a trip full of unique, off-the-beaten-track experiences.

The scenery dramatically swings between the untouched beaches of Albany and the elephantine rock formations of Denmark, to the gigantic Gloucester trees of Pemberton and the stunning pink lakes in Esperance.

This journey is for the adventure seekers, the Instagram-lovers and the bucket-list tickers who prefer to road trip a little differently.

How long do I need? 8 days

When should I do the drive? Winter

Money saving tip: The road from Perth to Esperance is lined with free camp sites. Scope them out and work your pit stops around them to save a bundle on accommodation.

4. The Nullarbor: Norseman to Ceduna

The Nullarbor's greatest claim to fame is for being the longest, straightest and flattest road in Australia. It runs from Norseman (outside of Perth) all the way to Ceduna (outside of Adelaide) with 1,256 kilometres of open space in between.

The view is a mix of bushland, scrub and plains. And while at times not the greatest view, driving it will bestow upon you a hefty load of bragging rights.

This trip is for adventure seekers who long to kick up the dust behind the wheel of a sturdy 4WD in search of off-road antics.

How long do I need? 7 days

When should I do the drive? Winter

Money saving tip: Not so much a money tip as a survival tip, it's worth investing in a SIM with a network that offers excellent coverage in remote areas. Make sure you also have an up-to-date roadside assistance membership and travel insurance if things go sideways.

5. Great Ocean Road: Torquay to Warrnambool

It goes without saying that no ultimate list of Aussie road trips is complete without the largest war memorial in the world, aka the Great Ocean Road. It's 243 kilometres of winding coastal road, charming seaside towns and tree lined roads. It can be driven within a day, although we recommend at least two.

The pinnacle of the trip is undoubtedly the iconic 12 Apostles rock formations, though other icons on the trail include Cape Otway Lightstation, London Bridge, Bells Beach and Tower Hill Wildlife Reserve (just beyond Warrnambool).

This drive is for every Aussie who hasn't yet seen the 12 Apostles or driven the road in full.

How long do I need? 2 days

When should I do the drive? Autumn and spring

Money saving tip: The natural sights and sounds along the Great Open Road are free to view - this includes the 12 Apostles and Tower Hill Wildlife Reserve. Spend your time at them and skip Cape Otway Lightstation which has an entrance fee.

Getting away on the iconic roads that cut through our great Australian scenery is on the bucket lists of many Aussies. If you’re considering taking the plunge and buying a campervan, make sure you check our handy guide to buying a second-hand campervan.

By Stephanie Yip

Stephanie Yip is the travel editor at Finder, Australia’s most visited comparison site.

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