Australia is big country and it lends itself to big road trips - that’s why most of the Aussie road trips you’ll find guides for stretch to at least 10 days, if not much longer. What few people realise however is that there are quite a number of stunning road trip routes that can be completed in the course of a long weekend - perfect for when you manage to take a Friday off work or get to enjoy a Monday public holiday. With Australia Day coming up, we’ve brought together a few of the very best short road trips in Australia to help you find your next great adventure.
Great Ocean Road
Widely regarded not only as an iconic Australian road trip but as one of the greatest coastal routes in the entire world, the Great Ocean Road in Victoria is perfect for a long weekend holiday. Although it’s possible to drive from Torquay to Allansford along the coast in around 4 hours, rushing along this route would be a criminal waste. With a generous selection of beautiful wineries to visit along the way, rolling hill country and spectacular rock formations, all in a temperate southern setting, the Great Ocean Road is perfect for a brief summer getaway.
Although there are countless beautiful vistas along this coastal road, for most the highlight will undoubtedly be the Twelve Apostles, a series of giant limestone pillars jutting up from the sea in spectacular fashion. Located off the coast of Port Campbell National Park, these striking formations provide the perfect excuse to stay a while in the Port Campbell area. Whether you choose to take a leisurely walk through the scenic Loch Ard Gorge, go reef or wreck diving off the coast or opt for a spot of fishing in Port Campbell’s rivers and inlets, you’ll soon find the perfect way to unwind in this idyllic environment.
With wine tours, nature walks and world renowned scenery on the cards, the Great Ocean Road has certainly earned its place as one of Australia’s best short road trips.
Perth to Margaret River
Heading south from Western Australia’s biggest city, you’ll be treated to a series of startlingly beautiful seascapes, a very special national park and of course the gourmet food and fine wines of Margaret River. This isn’t an excessively long route, so it could be worth spending a little time in Perth
before heading on your way. Whether you opt for a scenic trip through the leafy suburbs that line the Swan River or enjoy a more urban-oriented day of shopping, arts, culture and dining in and around the city centre, there’s plenty in Perth to keep visitors intrigued and entertained.
Once you start your journey south, try to stick to coastal roads as much as possible - sometimes this may mean taking a slightly longer route but it will be more than worth it for the sea views along the way. For example, following the 10 through Vasse and Metricup might be the most efficient way of reaching Margaret River, but it would mean missing highlights like Dunsborough and Yallingup. After the drive down from Perth, Meelup Beach in Dunsborough will come as a welcome relief. This isn’t one of those crowded megabeaches that Australia’s east coast is known for, but rather a secluded place with white sands and clear aqua-blue waters. Just a short drive to the west in Yallingup you’ll find another natural way to escape the heat: by descending into the cool depths of Ngilgi Cave. You’ll need to book ahead for a guided tour which can be done before you depart or from Margaret River, once you arrive.
Which brings us to Margaret River itself. This slice of Western Australia is known far and wide for its sumptuous dishes and fine vintages, so indulging in a little culinary epicureanism while you’re in town is pretty much compulsory. If you can arrange to arrive in Margaret River in time for Gourmet Escape this will really take your taste experiences to the next level but regardless of whether you can juggle your schedule to fit around the food and wine fest, this town heaven for the avid foodie.
If you’re keen for a little more coastal exploring, make sure to head to Augusta to see the Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse - there are also a number of caves that dot the coast, and a few sheltered areas like Bunker Bay and Shelley Cove which are perfect for a quick dip or a spot of fishing.
Perfectly balancing the delights of nature and the fruits of civilisation, this trip is fantastic for those hunting for a relaxing getaway.
Launceston to Hobart
This road trip route may not be quite as well known as some others, tucked away as it is in Australia’s southernmost state, but that’s certainly not a reflection on the superb sights and experiences along the way. Before you head too far from Launceston with your car airport car hire
, take a quick trip out to Cataract Gorge, just 15 minutes from the city. The Gorge is a perfect wilderness playground right on Launceston’s doorstep with walking and hiking trails, gardens and an impressive suspension bridge - not to mention the longest single span chairlift in the world. St Helens is the next stop on your trip: the gateway to Bay of Fires, one of the hottest travel destinations on earth. If you have more than 3 days to work with, a few of them should definitely be spent exploring the Bay’s pristine coastal environment.
As hard as it might be to believe, the Bay of Fires isn’t even the most well-loved natural attraction on this trip. That honour goes to Freycinet National Park. Freycinet boasts numerous gorgeous beaches but none can compare to Wineglass Bay, declared by many to be among the 10 most beautiful beaches in the world. Again, if you have any time to spare, Freycinet is a fantastic place to spend it. Once you head south once more you’ll pass by Oyster Bay (keep an eye out for dolphins, fur seals and whales off the coast!) before continuing down the A3 to Hobart
If you’re seeking secluded beaches and lush natural environs, this is undoubtedly the trip for you. Don’t forget to visit Hobart’s Salamanca Market for a chance of pace before you head home.
Victoria Heritage Path
Reading about history isn’t always the most thrilling of prospects, but experiencing pieces of history firsthand is another matter entirely. Starting out in Ballarat
, this route traces its way through some of Australia’s old gold mining country. It’s not all about the past though. If you’ve got children along for the ride, don’t miss a visit to the Ballarat Wildlife Park before you set out. Glimpses of massive crocs, cuddles with koalas and feeding kangaroos is all on the agenda - kids will love it! After you head out of Ballarat it won’t be long before you’re right in the midst of the Pyrenees Wine Region.
Blessed with numerous vineyards and cellar doors, you could easily spend several days sampling the fruits of this land - specifically the cabernet sauvignon which is a particular stand out among the many excellent wines of this region. Once you’re done wining and dining your way across the Pyrenees region you’ll arrive in Bendigo, after possibly making an overnight stop in Avoca. Bendigo, like Ballarat, was instrumental in the Victorian gold rush of the 1850’s and 1860’s. One of the best ways to get a taste for the period is to descend into the darkness of the Central Deborah Gold Mine. Choose from several underground experiences (one of which is Australia’s deepest underground mine tour) and navigate the old tunnels by the light of your headlamp.
Heading on from Bendigo, you’ll pass through the Heathcote wine region, renowned for its shiraz, before arriving at your journey’s end in Alexandra. Although this marks the end of the Victoria Heritage Path, there’s plenty of fun to be had in the area if you’ve got a few days extra to spare. Skiing and hiking (depending on the season) at Mount Buller and watersports at Lake Eildon are just a few of the attractions around Alexandra.
Encompassing fascinating glimpses into Australia’s gold rush history and travels through idyllic wine country, a trip along the VHP will satisfy both body and mind.
Sydney to Canberra Round Trip
From the biggest city in Australia to the nation’s capital and back, this road trip will take you through rustic inland towns and along winding coastal highways - not to mention the urban attractions that await in the two major cities.
is one of the best places on earth for visitors passing through with an Australia car hire
. With minimal travel time you can discover the iconic Opera House, walk the Sydney Harbour Bridge, hit the beach at Bondi or explore the beautiful Royal National Park. Sydney’s opportunities are almost limitless, so be sure to tailor your time in the city to suit yourself and the people you’re travelling with. An impressive array of options makes it easier to craft a visit that you’ll love but a little research is recommended.
Goulburn provides the perfect opportunity for a rest stop on the way down to the capital. This charming historic town feels a world away from urban Australia with its Rail Heritage Centre and Pye Cottage, a slab hut that has been sitting on the main street since the late 1800’s.
Once you arrive in Canberra
itself, you’ll find plenty to explore and discover, especially if you have an interest in art, history or politics. The Australian War Memorial is one place you have to visit before you leave: while the experience can be a little sombering, it’s never boring. If you have kids along for the ride, there are immersive, interactive areas for them too - the AWM excels at making history fascinating without ever diminishing the gravity of the events it commemorates.
Instead of just heading straight back the way you came, take a trip along the B52 toward the coast and shoot up the A1 for your return trip. If you have the time, there are a bunch of lovely little beaches on the way back up that are well worth a stop. Bateman’s Bay, Kioloa and Ulladulla are a few of the beaches to keep an eye out for. A bit further up the coast you’ll discover Wollongong (or ‘The Gong’ as it’s known to locals). Those who could use a little refreshment after hours on the road can relax in the city’s picturesque botanic gardens or stop off for a picnic at the Wollongong Head Lighthouse.
Including two of the country’s most fascinating urban centres, the rustic charm of smalltown Australia as well as its gorgeous eastern coastline, this is the epitome of a well rounded road trip.