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Top 10 Road Trips in Australia

VO: Rebecca Brayton WRITTEN BY: Nicholas Roffey
From stunning coastlines to the nation’s rugged red heart, these are the greatest road trips in Oz. Welcome to MojoTravels, and today we're counting down our picks for the top 10 road trips in Australia. For this list, we're looking at the most epic and iconic road trips down under.

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Top 10 Road Trips in Australia

From stunning coastlines to the nation’s rugged red heart, these are the greatest road trips in Oz. Welcome to MOjoTravels, and today we're counting down our picks for the top 10 road trips in Australia. For this list, we're looking at the most epic and iconic road trips down under.

#10: The Nullarbor, South & Western Australia

Australians call it the “Nullar-boring”. And southern Australia’s vast, barren flatland isn’t for everyone. Its name comes from the Latin for “no trees”, and at first glance, there’s little here besides stunted bushes and the country’s longest stretch of straight road. But the surreal, seemingly infinite emptiness is also part of the draw; and upon closer inspection, there’s still a lot to to see on this epic, 750 mile journey - from emus and kangaroos scrounging in the desert, to southern right whales swimming past the dramatic cliffline of the Great Australian Bight. “Nullar-boring or not”, crossing the Nullarbor is an Australian rite of passage. Just make sure to fill up on essentials before you hit the road.

#9: Great Beach Drive, Queensland

The Lucky Country is rightly famous for its beaches, and this road trip is all about sun, sand, and sea. Connecting Noosa and Hervey Bay, famous for its humpback whale visitations, the Great Beach Drive encompasses Rainbow Beach’s multihued sand drifts and World Heritage listed Fraser Island. The largest sand island on the planet, Fraser Island is a diverse paradise of dunes, heaths, and rainforests, and a refuge for wild dingoes. Cool off in tranquil Lake McKenzie, and plan for frequent stops on the island’s stunning 75 Mile Beach. You’ll be on sand for much of the drive - so a 4 wheel drive is a must.

#8: Tasmania's East Coast

When it comes to road trips, Australia’s island state Tasmania is often overlooked. But the Apple Isle, as it’s affectionately known, is home to some of the nation’s most dazzling stretches of coastline. Running from state capital Hobart to the Bay of Fires, this 170 mile drive offers a slice of Tasmania’s best: white sand, green paddocks, turquoise waters, idyllic wineries, and picturesque coastal towns. Between Swansea and Bicheno, detour down the Freycinet Peninsula to feast on oysters and mussels and take in vibrant Wineglass Bay. To draw out the journey further, head inland to Launceston and down the rustic Heritage Highway for a glimpse into Tasmania’s colonial and convict past (xref: Heritage Highway).

#7: Perth to the Ningaloo Coast, Western Australia

Most travellers focus on Australia’s east coast, with Sydney, the Gold Coast, and the Great Barrier Reef taking center tage . . . which just leaves the rest of the country for those in the know. Rugged and remote, Australia’s west coast might just be its best kept secret. From laid-back, cosmopolitan state capital Perth, it’s a 775 mile drive to Exmouth along pristine, beach-fringed coastline. On the way, you’ll pass the bizarre geological formations in Pinnacles Desert and the ancient stromatolites in World Heritage listed Shark Bay. The highlight though is really Ningaloo: Australia’s longest fringing coral reef, swimmable from the beach, and the playground of dugongs, manta rays, and whale sharks.

#6: The Grand Pacific Drive, New South Wales

Sometimes the best road trips are short and sweet, and it’s amazing what the Grand Pacific Drive packs into its 87 mile stretch. Expect lush rainforest, flawless, talcum-powder colored beaches, and spectacular coastal cliffs - all in one two hour drive. The route starts just below Sydney, in the Royal National Park, well worth a stop for its 60 miles of walking and cycling tracks. Then it’s onward down the coastline and over the otherworldly Sea Cliff Bridge, before passing through Wollongong and on to Jervis Bay, famous for having some of the most blindingly beautiful white-sand beaches in the country.

#5: Cairns to Cape York Peninsula, Queensland

Australia is often described as “the sunburnt country”, or “the wide brown land”, monikers derived from verse by beloved bush poet Dorothea Mackellar. The popular image of Australia as a dusty, arid land, however, doesn’t do justice to the lush tropical regions at its northern extremities. Spanning 650 miles, this road trip for nature lovers and 4WD enthusiasts starts in Cairns, the perfect base for exploring the Great Barrier Reef. Stick to the coast to stop at Cape Tribulation in the primeval Daintree Rainforest before continuing north and inland up to the untamed, tropical wilds of the Cape York Peninsula.

#4: The Legendary Pacific Coast, New South Wales & Queensland

Australian road trips love their larger-than-life adjectives: “Great”, “Grand”, “Legendary” . . . Mind you, we’re not about to quibble; there really is something epic, and iconic, about the 570 mile Pacific . . . sorry, the “Legendary” Pacific Coast between Sydney and Brisbane. As well as encompassing the emblematic Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge, and the blossoming cultural scene in Sunshine State capital Brisbane, it showcases a bevy of beautiful beachside towns, including backpacker favourite Byron Bay. While in Byron, roll back the decades in hippy haven Nimbin, and chill out on seemingly endless Tallow Beach.

#3: The Great Ocean Road, Victoria

It’s the road trip that launched a thousand travel brochures. The storied Great Ocean Road traverses 151 miles of rugged, wave-worn coast, starting in surfing Mecca Torquay, just southeast of Melbourne, and winding around to Allansford in western Victoria, although many roadtrippers rest on their laurens several miles earlier in sleepy Port Campbell. There are great whale-watching opportunities in Apollo Bay, and fantastic nature walks in the Great Otway National Park. But without doubt the stars of the show are the Twelve Apostles, stunning limestone formations standing out in the crashing waves.

#2: Red Centre Way, Northern Territory

No Australian adventure could be complete without crossing through the country’s heart. The Northern Territory’s Red Centre is the ultimate outback experience, a geological wonderland of breathtaking immensity. It’s also the traditional homeland of several Aboriginal peoples, and a great place to learn about Aboriginal culture. Highlights on the 700 mile loop out of Alice Springs include glimpses of rare black-flanked rock-wallabies in Simpsons Gap, a dip in cool Ellery Creek Big Hole, and staring out over vast Kings Canyon - worthy lead ups to Australia’s iconic national monument Uluru. On the way back via the Stuart Highway, detour down to the Ewaninga Conservation Reserve for ancient rock art tens of thousands of years old.

#1: The Big Lap

It's one road trip to rule them all. Circumnavigating the entire continent, the Big Lap is the trip of a lifetime, an epic journey there and back again along Australia’s coastline. The main route follows the 9,000 mile Highway 1, the world’s longest national highway, which cuts across Queensland’s Cape York and much of the Northern Territory’s Top End. You’ll need a 4WD and several months for this ambitious odyssey. After all, there’s a lot to see on the way: from the golden beaches of the Sunshine State to the the majesty of the Great Australian Bight, and the underwater Edens of Ningaloo and the Great Barrier Reef. Sometimes more is just . . . more.

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