The idea of heading to an overseas destination currently sounds like the stuff of dreams. Or nightmares, depending on your perspective. But not all is lost, a holiday is still possible.
Fill up the tank, and prepare for the resurgence of the great Australian road trip.
With restrictions relaxing and the end in sight, here are some ideas to inspire your plans. Some destinations are only a two-hour drive from a major city while others might take you a couple of lazy days. You might even find the drive is just as epic as the destination.
ADELAIDE TO PERTH, VIA THE NULLARBOR PLAIN
Western Australia’s and South Australia’s border remains closed to nonresidents, but these are likely to reopen soon – so start planning this epic Aussie road trip between Adelaide and Perth.
Nine hours from Adelaide, stop at Lake MacDonnell on South Australia’s Eyre Peninsula, known as Watermelon Avenue, a thin track that divides dreamy pink waters with the neighbouring blue-green sea.
From there, take an outback adventure along the Nullarbor Plain on the Eyre Highway, Australia’s longest, straightest road. It has a desolate beauty, dotted with outback roadhouses but is a largely untouched and unpopulated part of southern Australia – epic in so many ways.
Eat: Seemingly in the middle of nowhere and marked by a whale sculpture out the front, Nullarbor Roadhouse does the impossible and serves fresh and healthy food every day – even gluten-free bread. The Murrawijinie Caves are only 10km away.
Stay: Get a taste of outback farm life at Fraser Range Station, an operational sheep station 100km east of Norseman in WA, where you can sleep in the historic stone shearers’ quarters. Otherwise, pitch a tent and sleep under the stars.
LORNE, VICTORIA – VIA THE GREAT OCEAN ROAD
City and country folk alike flock to the pretty township of Lorne all year round. In summer, the town’s crescent-shaped beach offers a sheltered spot for families to take a dip, while in winter, a stroll down to the end of the pier is worth the view, even in the blustery chill.
Away from the coastline, bushwalking tracks wind through the lush rainforest and lead to waterfalls and swimming holes, like the enchanting Erskine Falls.
Around two hours southwest of Melbourne on the iconic Great Ocean Road, the drive features hairpin turns opening up to famous surf breaks and sleepy coastal towns.
Eat: Melbourne tapas institution MoVida brings Spanish flavours to the seaside town with its latest iteration, located on the ground floor of the historic Lorne Hotel.
Stay: Qdos Art Gallery offers secluded cabins and tree houses in the heart of Lorne – the perfect place to reconnect with nature after iso hibernation.
STRAHAN, TASMANIA – VIA CRADLE MOUNTAIN
Tasmania’s southwest wilderness is arguably our last Eden, where a road trip from Cradle Mountain meanders through the alps, into dense forests and sleepy fishing villages.
Your destination is Strahan, a remote and wild place that hums along at a slower pace of life.
Eat: View 42º Restaurant creates dishes using Tassie’s renowned produce, like Macquarie Harbour whole baked trout and Woody Island oysters.
Stay: Captain’s Rest is a cosy, Insta-famous one-bedroom cottage in the secluded fishing village of Lettes Bay.
KANGAROO ISLAND, SOUTH AUSTRALIA – VIA THE SEALINK FERRY
Recovering from the devastation of last summer’s fires, the eastern side of Kangaroo Island is open for business and desperately counting on local tourists to return. Pack the tent and enjoy the leisurely 1.5-hour drive from Adelaide to Cape Jervis along the Fleurieu Peninsula, boarding the SeaLink ferry. On the island, see kangaroos, echidnas, koalas and, of course, the island’s rock stars, the sea lions.
Eat: In the heart of Heathcote, Cactus serves fish tacos and dumplings.
ULURU, NORTHERN TERRITORY – VIA THE RED CENTRE WAY
Could there be a more Aussie road trip than driving seven days through the heart of our country, beginning and ending in Alice Springs? If you haven’t ticked off this Aussie bucket list road trip, now is the time.
The famous outback town boasts the usual city-slicker creature comforts, but the real reason for a trip to the Red Centre is the adventure you can’t get anywhere else.
There’s the Big Rock, but you can also explore Kata Tjuta, Kings Canyon and the many gorges, waterholes and walking tracks of the monumental West MacDonnell Ranges.
Eat: Book a table at Sounds of Silence, an outdoor dining experience that offers the stunning view of Uluru every night, forever changing as the sun goes down.
Stay: Sleep under the stars in a swag or pitch a tent at one of the powered or unpowered campsites in West MacDonnell National Park. Ellery Creek Big Hole and Redbank Gorge swimming holes are your bath.
JERVIS BAY, NEW SOUTH WALES – VIA GRAND PACIFIC DRIVE
After enduring the devastating bushfire season only to fall into the shadow of the coronavirus pandemic, Jervis Bay’s tourism industry has been dealt a double punch blow. But despite all this, Jervis Bay’s crystal water still glistens and yes, its sand really is that white.
Super popular on Instagram, miraculously, the place hasn’t been ruined. From June, migrating whales frolic in the ocean, something whale and dolphin watching cruises are counting on drawing the crowds back.
Leaving Sydney, the Grand Pacific Drive provides a stunning drive through Royal National Park before hugging the coast on the route to Shoalhaven. Don’t miss stopping at Sea Cliff Bridge, or the blowholes at Kiama.
Eat: A short drive to the town of Milton, indulge in a long lunch at Cupitt’s and explore the estate’s winery, fromagerie (fancy!) and brewery.
Stay: With bookings low, now’s the chance to snap up a night or two at Paperbark Camp, which consists of 13 raised glamping tents overlooking a creek just a short drive from Hyams Beach.
SY DNEY TO CANBERRA, VIA THE SOUTHERN HIGHLANDS
The nation’s capital is your rewarding destination on this drive, filled with farm-to-plate eating, a buzzing bar scene (thanks to its potent mix of uni students and public servants) and world class galleries and museums.
Heading southwest from Sydney, detour to the rolling hills of the Southern Highlands and stop at the historic villages of Bowral, Berrima, Bundanoon, Gundaroo and Queanbeyan, filled with charming bed and breakfast stays, bakery cafes, antique stores and meticulously pruned gardens.
Bushwalking tracks around Fitzroy Falls in Morton National Park offer a good way to walk off all those pastries and pies.
Eat: Along the way, a trip to Bendooley Estate in Berrima with its wood-fired pizzas, airy book barn and wine tasting is always a good idea.
Stay: Book a night at Coralie, a tiny house in remote wilderness. It’s described as, “Close enough to civilisation to not feel weird, but far enough to be wild and free.” Swoon.
HERVEY BAY, QUEENSLAND – VIA GREAT BEACH DRIVE
Australia’s whale watching capital, Hervey Bay has everything an adventure-seeker craves: dreamy beaches, national parks and paths specially designed to ride rented bikes along.
To get there, deflate the tyres of a four-wheel drive and join the longest beach drives you can find on Earth, The Great Beach Drive, which features Rainbow Beach and 75 Mile Beach. You can drive it yourself – using your 4WD or hire one – or choose tour options which take in as much of the 325km trail as you have time to see.
Along the way, board the barge to get across to heritage-listed Fraser Island. Explore the hiking tracks in the rainforest along Wanggoolba Creek and stop at the equally beautiful Lake McKenzie, famous for its powder white sand and crystal clear swimming hole.
Once back on the mainland at River Heads, it’s a 20-minute drive to the town of Hervey Bay.
Eat: Treat yourself to an indulgent feast at Coast, a popular spot with the locals.
Stay: On Fraser Island, sleep under the stars next to your 4WD at either of the 45 camping areas, which are fenced to keep out the dingoes.