Toby Hagon shares three epic Australian road trip ideas that are perfect for adventure seekers wanting to explore the real Australia, from the outback to the coast.
Cairns and the Far North, Queensland
Hugging the turquoise rim of the Pacific Ocean, the meandering coastal road north from Palm Cove (pictured top) provides a tantalising taste of Far North Queensland. It’s a short hop to the eateries and retreats of Port Douglas but it’s the lesser-known roads of the Atherton Tablelands, west of Cairns, that are a driver’s paradise. Twists to Mount Molloy kick things off and it’s a scenic trip south, taking in Mareeba and Ravenshoe. The intrepid can pack the four-wheel drive for the adventure north to Cape York, long on my bucket list.
The Kimberley, Western Australia
Few road trips start on one of the world’s best beaches but the hard-packed sand of Broome’s Cable Beach welcomes cars as much as sunbathers. Head east and it’s not long until monster boabs and craggy mountain ranges take care of the visuals. Four-wheel drivers can bound along the rocky Gibb River Road, where there are myriad side trips to stunning gorges, such as Bell or Lennard. The Great Northern Highway, further south, is easy motoring with iconic stopovers, such as Fitzroy River Lodge. I’ve done this drive a few times and would love to go back. Whichever route you take, it’s worth a night (or two) at Lake Argyle – about 20 times the volume of Sydney Harbour – where a boat tour includes a dip in the temperate water, freshwater crocodiles never far away.
The Nullarbor, Western Australia and South Australia
This is one of the big road trips I dream of doing. There’s a certain allure about endless expanses of outback. Even across the vast, barren plain of the Nullarbor, there’s the promise of mesmerising beauty interspersed with wildlife perfectly adapted to the harsh terrain. Australia does long stretches of blacktop so well, right down to the 90-Mile Straight on the western fringe of the east-west crossing. As our longest piece of straight road, it’s indicative of the terrain that rims the Bight; detour to Streaky Bay and Fowlers Bay for ocean glimpses further along the way. Need a break? Golfers can thwack a ball across the world’s longest golf course and remote roadhouses provide a respite from the endless white lines.