Australia is made for road trips. And these five classics will make sure you experience everything this vast country has to offer
Sunset over the Twelve Apostles (Shutterstock.com)
Arguably Australia's most famous road trip, this 250-kilometre drive along the southern coastline reaches its climax at the Twelve Apostles, the sandstone stacks that feature in every tourist ad for Australia.
That's not to say that the rest of the drive is boring, though. Torquay boasts the world's largest surf museum and the iconic Bell's Beach. Lorne and Apollo Bay offer a lively cafe scene, backed by the Great Otway National Park with its soaring manna gums and mountain ash. But the coastline is the undoubted star, with each corner along the winding road revealing a new vista of cliffs, islands and a pounding sea.
Koolpin Gorge, Kimberley (Shutterstock.com)
The Kimberley is one of Australia's most iconic – and empty – regions of Australia. Tucked up in the north-west corner of Australia is a wild, arid area of plateaus and gorges where cattle stations measure in the millions of acres.
The only road across the Kimberley is the Gibb River Road. Originally a cattle track, the 660-kilometre road runs from Kununurra to Derby. The highlights are the gorges, where water brings the parched landscapes to life. Manning Creek on Mount Barnett Station is a favourite with drivers, with its large rock pool lined by pandanus palms and dotted with water lilies. Gibb River is dotted with gorges too, each offering a blissful respite after a long, hot day of driving.
4WD essential. Car Hire offices in Kununurra and Broome offer one-way rentals.
Glass House Mountains in the mist (Shutterstock.com)
This stunning drive takes inland from the stunning beaches and resorts of Noosa, past vast pineapple plantations and Australia Zoo, to the Blackall Ranges, where waterfalls tumble from escarpments into subtropical rainforest.
Look out for the Glass House Mountains, steep-side volcanic peaks that are the cornerstone of local Aboriginal lore with short, sharp bushwalking tracks that will leave you gasping for breath. For a more relaxing experience, stop a while in Montville, a pretty village perched in the Blackall Ranges with cafes, views across the coast and reserves where you'll spot wallabies, bandicoots, whipbirds and bowerbirds.
Busselton Jetty (Shutterstock.com)
This 200-kilometre route from Cape Naturaliste to Cape Leeuwin is short by Australian standards but it packs quite a punch. From rolling farmland and forests of karri trees, to surfing beaches and world-class wineries, there's something for every taste.
In spring, visitors are treated to a wildflower spectacular, when the landscape – and the verges – erupts into colour. And in June and August, Cape Leeuwin, where the Pacific and Indian Oceans meet, is a great place to spot whales. A slight detour will take you to the vineyards of Margaret River and the perfect place to stock up on an award-winning Sauvignon Blanc.
Roadsign Nullabor Plain (Shutterstock.com)
If you've got the time, you could always drive all the way around Australia following Highway 1. Over 25,000 kilometres long, it's the longest highway in the world and will take you past most of the country's iconic sights including the Great Barrier Reef, the Nullabor Plain, the Twelve Apostles and most of the big cities. You'll also experience dramatic coastlines, forests ranging from tropical to temperate gum forests, giant karri stands, scrubland, deserts, and huge tropical swamps.
If you're feeling really adventurous, swing by one of the backpacker car markets in Sydney and buy a car for the journey. You'll find a motely array of old station wagons and 4WDs in various states of disrepair, sometimes with camping equipment thrown in as part of the deal. You can take some comfort in the fact that most of the cars on sale have already done the journey – a number of times – and there'll be a fresh batch of travellers willing to buy it off you when you arrive back to sell it after your trip.
Main image: Kangaroo road sign (Shutterstock.com)