Australia self drive tours introduce amazing scenery and amazing people in an amazing country. It’s an understatement to say that Australia is a big country, so don’t plan on making a cross-country drive unless you have weeks available to make the trip. For those with less time to spare, it’s still possible to hit the highway and explore. Many car rental agencies can equip you with the vehicles you need, and a good map and some planning can lead to successful self-drive tours. Plus, a vast network of highways radiates from the cities, especially those on the east and southern coasts. Along the way, sleepy coastal towns, beaches, national parks, and wildlife watching all could be added to your driving itinerary.
For instance, driving between Sydney and Melbourne could take about 8 hours at the speed limit, but a slow leisurely jaunt affords the opportunity to slow down and admire the scenery. The Gold Coast, too, has its share of scenic drives, as do the northern towns of Cairns and along the Pacific Ocean. And that’s just the beginning. Great driving tours could take you along the Indian Ocean through Perth, a circle tour of Tasmania, or travel through the outback to Alice Springs.
Here are some ideas for self-driving tours, starting in Sydney in the south and heading north to the Gold Coast and Brisbane, a 10-hour drive along the Pacific Highway. But if you slow down and take in the sights, it can take as long as you want.
As the most populous city in the entire Oceana region, Sydney has no shortage of cool places to add to a driving adventure. Darling Harbor is one of the first must-sees to stop and visit while in Sydney.
Once you've arrived by car, it's easy to walk the seaside neighborhood or take public transportation between the attractions. In the midst of an urban renewal project, Darling Harbor is home to the newly built International Convention Centre Sydney, plus the Harbourside Shopping Centre, aquarium, and Madame Tussauds. The iconic Sydney Harbour Bridge is open to automobile traffic, and a ride across the bridge gives amazing views of the Sydney Opera House and the city skyline.
How about parking the car and hopping aboard one of the ferries? A number of ships ply the harbor en route to such destinations as the eastern suburbs, Neutral Bay, and Taronga Zoo. For a literal taste of the harbor life, head over to the western suburb of Pyrmont, home of the Sydney Fish Market offering behind-the-scenes tours, cooking classes, and of course, fresh-caught seafood.
Hunter Valley Wineries
Scenic drives to the Hunter Valley will take you right into wine country, an easy drive away from Sydney. It takes about two hours to drive from Sydney to Newcastle (without traffic) along a scenic route passing by rivers, rolling greens, and endless vineyards. A number of the wineries are open to tour, and plenty of guides can be booked for more extensive visits. Many of the tours add on the chance to see kangaroos. The friendly marsupials seem happy to serve as ambassadors to the Hunter Valley.
In the north of the Hunter Valley, Port Stephens is an excellent place for scenic driving tours. The port city, named by Captain Cook himself, has grown into a center for watersports and other coastal fun with dolphin watching cruises, diving adventures, and 26 beaches with golden sand ready to enjoy. Plus, Port Stephens offers some amazing off-roading opportunities with ATV adventures, especially at Blue MountainsNational Park and along Wadgilliga Road Drive.
Port Stephens ATV Tour
Adventure enthusiasts also thrill to Port Stephens' unique activity, sandboarding. Much like snowboarding, there's a mountain (in this case, sand dunes) and a board, plus the thrill of the shred.
Continuing driving up the coast in between Sydney and Brisbane, Byron Bay sits at the easternmost tip of Australia's mainland. The mighty lighthouse that stands over Cape Byron has been standing proud since 1901. Located at the end of Lighthouse Road, the landmark is a favorite place for guided tours and spotting whales. The surrounding beaches are popular with surfer, while trails attract backpackers. The town of Byron Bay is a great place for exploring once the sun goes down with an abundance of restaurants and shopping. The artisan markets are held evenings from October into April, when the weather is warmest.
The aptly-named Gold Coast is the home of Brisbane, plus the Great Barrier Reef and rural outback adventures. The beaches have gained the status of legendary due to their natural beauty and surfing waves. More than 40 miles of uninterrupted beaches winds through the Gold Coast, couched between the ocean and rainforests and national parks. The locals—as well as the 10 million visitors who come a year—also have access to some of the best shopping in the region. On the weekends, the opportunities for shopping expand as vendors set up for the night markets. As artisans and treasure hunters sell their wares, entertainers fill the seaside air with music and restaurants serve their patrons on outside patios.
This is just a small sampling of the adventures available by car. With so much to do and so many options, it’s helpful to enlist the aid of professionals. Chan Brothers Travel has spent more than 50 years planning travel Down Under, creating packages that expertly blends must-sees with off-the-beaten path experiences sure to please. The Singapore-based company offers a 9-day self-driving itinerary from Sydney to Brisbane designed especially for self-driving tours. This once-in-a-lifetime package includes a rental car with GPS, plus activities and hotels in one of the most scenic countries on earth.