Looking for the best trips to Australia? There are plenty to choose from! Australia is packed with spectacular natural wonders like the Great Barrier Reef, Daintree Rainforest, the Blue Mountains, Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, Kakadu National Park, Kangaroo Island and Bondi Beach to name just a few. Then there are the iconic man-made attractions like the Sydney Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge. If you’re planning to explore Australia, this post will give you lots of inspiration for your Australia trip.
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Best trips to Australia: Logistics of travelling in Australia
In my opinion, the best way for you to explore Australia is on a road trip either in a car or a motorhome. A road trip in Australia allows you to travel between the lush rainforests and beautiful beaches, between the mountain ranges and the national parks. It puts you in complete control over your Australia trip so you can plan to visit the best places in Australia and see all of the popular destinations in a wide area rather than basing yourself in one of the major cities for a trip.
On an Australia road trip, you can also decide where to focus your time – you get to choose the perfect place to spend a few days so you can book day tours to explore more deeply. This also means you can choose which destinations don’t interest you as much so you can speed on to the next destination without wasting much time in between. A road trip in Australia really does give you the best travel experience and the most flexible opportunities to explore!
I’ve been lucky enough to do a few of the best road trips in Australia already and I’ve seen a lot of the highlights of Australia, but there are a few more holiday road trips on my must-do list (the Great Ocean Road is right up there!). I’d also realllllly love to do the big lap of Australia one day too. I’d love to explore without having to rush and allow myself time to enjoy the beauty of Australia, to explore the white sandy beaches, to learn more about the Aboriginal culture, to visit the UNESCO World Heritage sites, to enjoy exploring the wine regions and to marvel at the red dirt in the Australian outback.
I’m so excited about having new experiences and discovering new places in Australia. The idea of seeing sea turtles laying their eggs, being able to swim with whale sharks at Ningaloo Reef and watching dolphins and dugongs on a boat trip are special experiences. Travel really does feed the soul.
Right now, with two kids in high school and the third approaching, the time isn’t quite right for us to do such a long, big trip but I know the school years will fly by quickly so that big lap is on our horizon. In the meantime, I am going to enjoy taking holidays in Australia instead!
This post assumes that, like me, you are exploring Australia on holiday rather than travelling the entire lap of the country in one go. A road trip is the best way to enjoy this beautiful place in smaller chunks of time. Just because you only have one to four weeks to spare doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a unique experience! Travelling in smaller blocks of time also makes it a lot less expensive too!
The challenging thing about planning a trip in Australia is working out exactly where to go, so hopefully this post will give you some ideas of some road trip options to get you started with your travel itinerary for Australia.
Best trips to Australia: Starting and ending your road trips
The key thing to remember with road trips in Australia is you have to decide how to make the best use of your time. If you’re keen to just see the main sites along the coastal routes, you’re likely to want to begin and end your roadtrip in different locations so you don’t have to backtrack.
If you’re arriving in Australia from another country, this is easy as you can fly into one city and fly out from another.
If you live in Australia already, you might be flying to the starting point of your road trip so again you can just fly back to your home from the end destination. If you’re setting off on a road trip from your home city and hiring a car or motorhome from your home city in Australia, there is still the option to drive one way and leave your vehicle in the office at the end destination (most hire places have offices in all of the major cities) and then fly back home at the end of it.
However, if you’re setting off from your home city in Australia and taking your own vehicle, you will need to factor in time to drive back. One way of keeping the drive back interesting is to either plan your stops for different locations on the way there and the way back, or you could drive a circular route so you take in the coast on the way there and the inland route on the return journey. It’s all about keeping the journey interesting!
Best trips to Australia: Planning your road trip time and budget
Before you get too busy choosing the best trip to Australia, you need to consider these two important factors: How much time do you have for your Australia trip and how much money do you have? Time and budget are both really important when you’re planning your Australia vacation or holiday.
Don’t overstretch yourself when it comes to time – Australia is so much bigger than you realise and you don’t want to spend all of your time on the road!
When it comes to time, remember if you stop somewhere and want to book a day trip, you’re going to need to allow enough time for this. When planning day trips or tours during our travels we usually like to get to the place the afternoon before and stay at least the night after the tour, so a tour day can take at least two nights of your trip (and sometimes if it’s a big tour you might even want an extra night to recover after it, too!).
If you’re planning a big add-on experience (like a Whitsunday Island cruise for a few days), I also always advise you arrive with plenty of time to spare. You don’t want a traffic delay or flat tyre or something random to stop you from joining the start of the tour/trip.
For things like island day trips, you can usually book these at short notice but for any big trips that are important to you (like a cruise adventure), lock them in in advance and get there in plenty of time so you don’t miss out.
In terms of time, look at a map and check a site like RACQ’s Route Planner and consider how long you want to drive between stops.
I have kids who hate being on the road for more than two or three hours. We can do longer if we travel at night or early so they can sleep. Before we had kids, my hubby and I did lots of road trips and we’d often drive for hours, stop for a quick lunch break and some fresh air and then carry on again. We liked to binge our way through the big legs of the journey to get to the places we wanted to stop (especially in rural Western Australia where there might not be anything to see for miles on end!)
Travelling with kids has changed the way we travel now so we have to be a bit more organised and plan in more stops to keep them entertained. (If you’re travelling long haul to get to Australia with kids, check out this post about the best inflatable flight pillows).
Things you’ll need to budget for your trip in Australia:
When it comes to setting up a budget for your trip to Australia, you’ll need to consider the following costs:
- Vehicle hire (Check out Drive Away if you’re looking at hire cars and check out Motorhome Republic for motorhomes)
- Accommodation/A site for your motorhome overnight (Check out Booking.com for hotels, cabins and apartments)
- Tours, attractions and trips (Check out Get Your Guide for tours and trips)
- Insurance – travel insurance and vehicle insurance for your hire car/motorhome (Check out travel insurance prices at Cover-More)
- Souvenirs and spending money (Have you considered the benefits of a multi-currency account like a Wise Account? It’s super handy when travelling).
What sounds like a short trip can quickly add up when you start laying out the costs like this, but it’s well worth doing this before you get started because you can start to consider whether you need to visit the Red Centre AND the theme park AND the largest sand island or whether you’re better taking a smaller trip where you can really focus! Less can be more when it comes to budgeting! Keep your travel plans organised and your destinations in a logical order, and prioritise what it is that you REALLY want to see and do on the Australia trip.
I like to create a spreadsheet and list all of these costs so I can see at a glance how much we’re going to need to save up.
Best trips to Australia: 3 iconic roadtrips in Australia
Let’s dive right into the best trips to Australia that you can take…
Best trips to Australia: Road trip Australia East Coast
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The East Coast of Australia road trip from Sydney to Cairns is an iconic trip.
I think you really need to allow a month to enjoy the East Coast Australia roadtrip (more if you can). If you’re planning on doing any island tours as a day trip, be aware these often have early starts and late finishes meaning you can end up staying three nights to give yourself some rest time afterwards (you may also want to allow time to actually stay on some of the East Coast islands).
If you only have two weeks to spare, rather than rushing and trying to cram in the entire trip, you could split the East Coast Australia road trip in half and do either Sydney to Brisbane, or Brisbane to Cairns.
If you’re able to find the time to do the full East Coast Australia road trip, this is my suggested itinerary:
Sydney – Blue Mountains National Park – Port Macquarie – Coffs Harbour – Byron Bay – Gold Coast – Brisbane – Sunshine Coast – Hervey Bay – Bundaberg – Seventeen Seventy – Yeppoon – Mackay – Airlie Beach (and Whitehaven Beach) – Mission Beach – Cairns – Port Douglas
(Yes, I know the road trip technically ends at Cairns but Port Douglas is only an hour north and it’s well worth heading up there to come back down to Cairns!)
The east coast of Australia has some incredible islands that are accessible for day tours or overnight stays if you have the time. Many of these are just a ferry ride away (for some it’s advisable to prepare with seasickness tablets though!)
Some of the best easy islands to include on your east coast road trip are:
- Moreton Island off Brisbane
- North Stradbroke Island, off Brisbane
- K’gari Fraser Island off Hervey Bay (I have a post about K’gari Fraser Island here)
- Great Keppel Island off Yeppoon
- Heron Island off Gladstone
- Lady Musgrave Island off Bundaberg
- Magnetic Island off Townsville
- Lady Elliot Island (for this one you can take a flight from Hervey Bay, Bundaberg, Brisbane or Gold Coast)
(Remember, you won’t be able to do ALL of these unless you’ve got a healthy time frame and a healthy budget as island trips can quickly add a lot to your budget!) It’s well worth doing a couple of them though if you can.
On this East Coast road trip in Australia, you definitely must make the effort to go and see the largest coral reef in the world during your trip! You can do this on day trips from the Cairns region, or you can see the Barrier Reef from some of the East Coast islands. Shop for Barrier Reef tours here.
We had a ball on our Australia east coast road trip. We packed it full of theme parks and attractions, full of island tours, wildlife sanctuary visits, snorkelling trips and even did a few days sailing around the Whitsundays. There was so much to see and do and it was a full-on, exciting experience.
This is the best trip to Australia for those travelling with kids, especially teens who want to be kept busy and active all the time. You can pack the days out with fun things to do like visiting theme parks, buzzing cities like Surfers Paradise and have amazing island adventures at places like K’Gari Fraser Island.
Best trips to Australia: Road trip Western Australia
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For a West Coast road trip, my choice would be Broome to Perth. Again, it’s worth allowing four weeks for this as it’s a long way. This time, you’ll need to be prepared for much longer times on the road (unlike the East Coast roadtrip where you can build in lots of stops for food, coffee and fuel). For this WA road trip, a large part of the journey is very rural and you won’t see another vehicle for miles, let alone a coffee shop!
If you’re doing this trip, you’ll need to be prepared for rural travel – make sure you have plenty of water and food in your vehicle, and ensure someone knows your journey and expected arrival times for your own safety. Also, it’s essential to check your fuel carefully and make sure you fill up when you can as there can be quite a distance between petrol stations! Don’t let this put you off though – travelling in Western Australia is the most epic experience!
There are fewer man-made attractions to enjoy in Western Australia but it’s the ideal place to relax and unwind as it’s all about the great outdoors and incredible landscape. Nature lovers will love all of the opportunities to interact with the wildlife such as swimming with whale sharks, watching turtles laying their eggs and seeing emus strolling besides the roads! The lack of light pollution makes star gazing in WA an amazing experience too!
This is my suggested itinerary for a West Coast road trip Australia:
Broome – Port Headland – Karratha – Exmouth – Coral Bay – Carnarvon – Monkey Mia – Kalbarri – Geraldton – Jurien Bay – Perth
Some of the best easy islands to include on your west coast Australia road trip are:
- Rottnest Island off Freemantle in Perth
- Mackerel Islands off Onslow
- Wilderness Island off Exmouth (a flight is recommended to reach this one although boat is sometimes available depending on weather)
- Penguin Island, Shoalwater Islands Marine Park
This Western Australia road trip is the best trip to Australia for couples and families that like a quieter experience that is more about wildlife, open space and star gazing. It’s much less full-on than an east coast road trip, but the scenery is that much more spectacular – the ocean is more turquoise and the sand much whiter than the east. You’ll visit less places, and spend more time on the road, but trust me, it’s worth it!
Best trips to Australia: Road trip Great Ocean Road – South Australia to Victoria
The next big road trip I’d like to share (which I’ve yet to take!) is Adelaide to Melbourne. It feels wrong to have lived in Australia for so long yet to have not yet travelled on The Great Ocean Road and seen the Twelve Apostles, but it’s definitely one of the most iconic road trips of Australia!
This is the itinerary I will be looking to do when we go!
Adelaide – Barossa Valley – Cape Jervis – Victor Harbor – Robe – Mount Gambier – Port Fairy – Port Campbell National Park – Cape Otway – Torquay – Geelong – Melbourne
Some of the best easy islands to include on your Great Ocean Road trip are:
- Kangaroo island off Cape Jervis
- Granite Island, Victor Harbor
- Philip Island (which is connected by a bridge at San Remo)
This Adelaide to Melbourne trip including the Great Ocean Road is a fantastic road trip for all the family with a great mix of things to see and do. As it’s not actually that long a drive, it means you can stop and enjoy more stops along the way, making it great for kids who don’t like long car journeys!
Best trips to Australia: When is the best time to visit Australia?
The best time to visit Australia really depends on two things: Which part of Australia you’re visiting and also what your tolerance to hot and cold weather is like! I’ve written posts about how beautiful Australia is in autumn, and how mild our winter can be. I personally LOVE the Australian summer, however I know the hot, humidity in Queensland isn’t everybody’s cup of tea. Consider what sorts of activities you might be doing on your Australia trip and where in the country you are heading as different states in Australia have very different weather.
Are you aiming for lots of boat trips, do you want to go scuba diving or snorkelling coral reefs? If so you might want to avoid storm seasons. If you’re a nature lover, you might want to co-ordinate your visit with major events such as turtle nesting season, or whale shark season.
I’ve travelled in Australia during all seasons and you just adapt to whatever the weather is doing at the time!
What to pack for your Australia trip?
You can travel quite light when you travel to Australia. Unlike when we visited New Zealand and needed thick clothes and lots of layers which made our bags heavy, Australia’s temperatures are mild to hot most of the year-round (depending on exactly where and when you’re visiting! Of course snow season in the mountains will involve warmer clothes!) If you travel between September and May, you will likely be OK in shorts/skirts/t-shirts and wearing sandals or thongs. It’s always a good idea to bring a jumper and raincoat with you. Jeans or trousers (long pants) can be handy for evenings out, especially if you tend to get bitten by mosquitoes.
Don’t forget, when the northern hemisphere is having their winter, Australia is having its summer. Our summer can be wet and stormy as well as hot and humid at times. And during our winter, things cool down so much we celebrate Christmas in July here so don’t be confused if you see ads for Christmas meals at the wrong time of year for it!
The best things to remember to pack for Australia are your sunscreen, mosquito repellent, sunglasses and hat. A good travel towel comes in handy, and bring a few sets of swimmers as you’ll likely be in and out of the water a lot. A rash vest/rash guard will protect your skin from the sun. A solid backpack as your hand luggage can be turned into your main day pack for days out.
Best trips to Australia
I know I haven’t even touched on the Northern Territory, ACT or Tasmania with this post! And what about the Flinders Ranges, and the Grand Pacific Drive south of Sydney in New South Wales? There is so much beautiful scenery in Australia. So many freshwater lakes, rock formations, sand dunes, tropical rainforests and there are so many road trip options for you to enjoy! I hope this post inspires you to check some of them out.
Has this post given you a good reason to book your long flight to Australia and explore this great place! Or if you’re lucky enough to already live in Australia, I hope it has got you thinking about your next Australia holiday!
Be sure to check out more travel experiences in the Discover Australia section of my site.
I hope you found this post about the best trips to Australia useful for your travel plans.