14 Best Road Trips in Australia For The Solo Traveller
I have been travelling solo in Australia for nearly 15 years now. I have collected many memories over the years. And they are all different. I went through the first solo backpacking trips to tours with a group, to single road trips.
Driving around Australia by myself has been a fantastic experience. One of those I treasure more than others. Although driving in Australia is something everyone can do, you will also go through different knowledge and adventures. The environment and the landmarks change dramatically from North to South, from the Eat to the West, so the spectrum of road trips is truly vast.
Today I’m not sharing the most touristy drives, but the lesser-known places of Australia I have travelled alone and would go back at any time.
Here is the list of my favourite Australian road trips that every solo traveller should do.
The East Coast – Best Road Trips
The East Coast of Australia is likely to be the starting point for many solo travellers. I started my first backpacking trip in 2004, and where I kept going back almost every year. Of course, I have done different sections of the long coastal drives.
And I have covered all, by car and by bus. As a solo traveller in Australia, you need to weigh up a few things for driving the east coast of Australia alone. It’s a long way to go, from Sydney up to Brisbane and Cairns. If you go south, Melbourne’s drive to Sydney is an excellent option and less challenging than going up north from Sydney.
Here are my favourite road trips I did over the years. From the North to the South East Coast, here are some east coast road trips:
1. A Road Trip of the Atherton Tablelands
In 2014 I went on three road trips in three different regions, with entirely different environments. I also experienced camping alone for the first time in the Atherton Tablelands and Cape Tribulation. While camping had been more challenging than I had imagined, I enjoyed my week touring the Atherton Tableland, north of Cairns.
Usually, tourists go on day trips from Cairns, which is also an option. You can drive from Mareeba to Atherton and go to the beautiful lakes along a scenic drive through the forests and the wetlands. It’s a vast region if you like to taste the food and local produce. It’s a paradise for tropical fruits, liquours, teas, as well as cheese.
With tall trees, waterfalls, and superb walking trails, the picturesque landscapes make it for a great holiday. It’s a great winter road trip, or ideally a Spring trip in September, I think, the best time to visit Cairns and North Tropical Queensland.
2. Exploring the Gold Coast Hinterland by car
Many people go to the Gold Coast for its beaches and coastal trails, but not many know that the Gold Coast hinterland has some of Australia’s most beautiful national parks. For nature lovers and those who love hiking, a real paradise. All these trails are the only 1-hour drive from Broadbeach or any other places along the Gold Coast.
I went on three road trips because I was house sitting and had to be back in the evening. If you can, I’d recommend staying overnight in one of those lovely villages like Tamborine Mountain. If you love mountains, you could also enjoy a road trip to the Blue Mountains in New South Wales near Sydney, which could be a one or three day trip depending on your itinerary.
3. From Sydney to Jervis Bay
Jervis Bay is one of Sydney’s best short drives and a beautiful place that you must add to your itinerary. It had been long on my bucket list, but because I only used public transportation like trains and buses on the first solo trips in Australia, I couldn’t go. There are no buses that take you there. And you need a car to visit Jervis Bay.
I went on a 3-day road trip from Sydney and fell in love with this place. I had booked my car from Wollongong, 30 km south of Sydney. Jervis Bay is all you need for a relaxing time; you will feel embraced by nature and a truly pristine ecosystem. Spring and Autumn is the best time to visit. During public holidays it gets jam-packed with families and kids.
4. Brisbane To Byron Bay
Byron Bay is 2 hours easy drive from Brisbane and is a great day trip. Byron Bay is a beautiful place known for its beaches and is quite popular among backpackers. Byron Bay has Australia’s most easterly point and the iconic Cape Byron lighthouse. Besides its spectacular beaches, the region is also known for its unique shopping and dining experiences and world-class festivals.
5. Cairns to Cape Tribulation Road Trip
The Great Barrier Reef is one of the iconic natural wonders of Australia and the whole world. If you wish to experience it, then this is the road trip for you. And it’s not just the Great Barrier Reef that you can experience on this road trip. Some other amazing places like Port Douglas and the Daintree Forest are worth your time. The best time for this road trip is probably during winters, as it’s the least humid then.
6. Fraser Island 4WD Trip
Fraser Island on Australia’s east coast is no ordinary island. It’s the world’s largest sand island, and for obvious reasons, it is UNESCO World Heritage-listed. The island offers plenty of natural wonders, such as freshwater lakes, dunes, rainforests, and a spectacular night sky. This road trip is for you if wanna go off-road and do some beach driving.
7. Brisbane to Airlie
It is one of the longer East Coast road trips but is totally worth it. This coastal road trip is quite popular among backpackers and caravanners as there is so much to see and do along the way. Along this 17ookm coastal trip, you can experience islands like Moreton Bay, Fraser Island and the Bunker Group of Islands. Along this road trip also lies the Sunshine Coast, one of Australia’s popular tourist destinations, and has a few coastal towns, where you can enjoy beach activities or golf or some great cafes. Some other popular destinations you can experience o this road trip are Bundaberg, Agnes Water, Gladstone, and Rockhampton.
Road Trips near Melbourne
Melbourne is my favourite city in Australia because its surroundings offer so much for the solo female traveller. Being Melbourne close to many beautiful national parks and coastal attractions, it’s the ideal getaway to many short road trips or longer road adventures. There are many short day-trips from the city that you can do over a week or more, but I also recommend the coastal drive to Sydney.
Here below a few of my picks for your Melbourne road trip itinerary.
8. Wilsons Promontory National Park and Tidal River
Wilsons Prom is a top place to visit when in Melbourne. I have been there in 2013 and 2017. And I cannot wait to go back soon again. Next year I’m organising a women-only tour in Wilsons Prom, a get-together for women travelling alone and hiking together. The Prom is my favourite national park for walking and seeing wildlife, for swimming and sunset photography.
While you can go there on a day trip, I’d highly recommend planning 3-4 days to do justice to this place. It’s one of Australia’s best well-kept national parks, with excellent facilities to stay overnight from comfortable cabins, huts, and basic camping to glamping. The road trip is a journey in itself. If you plan to go to Phillip Island first, from there, you can get to Wilsons Promontory along the Cape Petersan scenic drive, absolutely amazing.
9. Marysville Dandenong Ranges
If you like Melbourne, you will love the Dandenong Ranges, and the more you explore, the more you will fall in love. Over the years, I have been touring this region on several occasion, by myself and with friends. I love it because there is always a little place to uncover or a new walking trail.
Marysville is known in Australia for Black Friday in 2009 when the bushfire destroyed the entire village and the forests nearby. Well, I learnt about this on my road trip on a Sunday, after checking out the lovely Healesville and its Sunday market. It is one of the best day trips around Melbourne that you can plan when visiting the city.
Exploring South Australia on a Road Trip
If South Australia is on your bucket list, you must be prepared to drive long hours or go on tours. You can start the long road trip to Uluru, but it’s about 1.500 km by yourself! Or the Outback trip to Flinders Ranges is another option. However, there are quite a few shorter road trips from Adelaide that you can do without crossing the country from south to north. Here are my picks:
10. Driving on Kangaroo Island
In 2004 I spent one day on Kangaroo Island and instantly knew I had to come back. In 2013, I hired a car in Penneshaw and went on a road trip around the island. Kangaroo is isolated and pretty, with coastal and inland scenic drives, spectacular rock formations, secluded beaches, and a pristine environment.
It is famous for seeing wildlife, the sea lions colony, the kangaroos, wallabies, and many more. But it has good food and even excellent wines. I loved driving alone around Kangaroo Island. It’s comfortable and safe to drive on the island and ideal for beginner solo travellers. A short round trip is about 300km, but you can extend it and do more of the driving routes.
11. Discover the beautiful Yorke Peninsula
I have lovely memories of this road trip in 2015. I hadn’t planned it. When I was travelling, I decided while I got to Adelaide, I hired a car from Europcar and went on a 3-day road trip adventure. The landscape was amazing, vast sweeping yellow fields covered by all kinds of cereals; this is where most hops grow. It was a revelation.
I got lost a few times, driving through a maze of small tiny gravel roads, but it was such good fun, to get lost, make wildlife encounters and find your way again. The Innes National Park is the highlight of the Yorke Peninsula. However, there are many more lovely places like Ardrossan for its beautiful coastal town and peaceful beaches. A place for the holidaymaker and a right spot for pensioners too.
Best Road Trips in Western Australia
If South Australia is where the challenge starts when you get to the West Coast of Australia, you must prepare for more extended self-driving of all Australian road trips. The North-Western regions are challenging and best suited for 4-WD, and if you aren’t an expert, I’d recommend going on a guided group tour.
Tours aren’t cheap, though, and you may go on day-tours or 2-3 days to cover the most challenging parts. I only made a few road trips in the North. For the solo traveller, I’d recommend exploring by car the beautiful South West, which is easier to drive in a more relaxed environment. Here are the best road trips from Perth:
12. Lake Argyle
If you plan to travel to North-Western Australia, you will likely have Kununurra in your trip itinerary. The Kimberley region spreads across over 1 thousand km from Broome to Kununurra. Lake Argyle is one of the top attractions in Eastern Kimberley.
I visited in 2011 and was lucky enough to drive there. While the drive is okay during the day, at night is something challenging. It’s pitch dark, and the road conditions aren’t the best. On top of that, it’s not allowed to travel at night in the Outback, so I’d recommend staying overnight, after the Lake Argyle sunset cruise.
13. Trip Margaret River From Perth
I have beautiful memories of this trip to Margaret River because it was my first solo road trip in 2013, and I was very excited. The route from Perth is straightforward. It’s 300km south of Perth, an easy drive that you can do over a weekend.
However, I can tell you there are many things to see and do, from Dunsborough to Augusta. From wineries and local producers to beaches and coastal tracks to caves. It is also worth visiting during one of the many food events or sports events for which Margaret Rivers is known worldwide.
14. Albany South Western Australia
Another great place in South Western Australia is Albany. I had heard a lot about it on my trips to Perth from friends and travellers. I loved this road trip. Albany is a real gem nestled among national parks and one of Australia’s best drives with beautiful scenery, a stunning harbour, and many small islands. However, it had a few challenges.
I drove to Albany through Perth’s inland Highway, and it’s only 440km and an easy drive. On my way back to Perth, I drove along the coastline. The weather wasn’t dry, so I had to drive after a storm with windy conditions. It took a lot of concentration as the distance is considerable, nearly 1000 km. Fortunately, I could stop along my way in Pemberton and see more of the stunning southwestern coastline.
These are my top 14 road trips for solo travellers to Australia! If you want to share your road trip ideas, feel free to add them here below.
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First published in 2018, last updated in Jan 2021
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September 26, 2018 @ 4:33 pm
That Gold Coast region has it all Michela. Heck; never visited for more than 2 hours but the descent and also endless travel blogger posts show the coast, and hinterland, provide travelers with an unforgettable experience.
October 2, 2018 @ 2:46 am
Wow! That’s an amazing list! I have been to Great Ocean Road and Yarra valley. Melbourne is an excellent base for all beautiful road journeys.
October 15, 2018 @ 11:36 am
Tidal river always gets priority to me. Nice tips and ideas. Thanks a lot.
March 18, 2019 @ 6:57 pm
Hi Michaela, I too have done most of these trips as a solo traveller and can also recommend them. Sounds very much like we have been on parallel journeys! I’m just planning another trip to far north Queensland myself and could not agree more about allowing time for the Atherton Tablelands. Also, the scrublands behind the great divide are truly rich in wildlife as well. Great country! I have also travelled solo within the Kimberley, staying on stations, which was also pretty amazing. So remote and the scenery is breathtaking. There is now a group, called Rolling Solo, for women travelling alone around Australia, who are happy to come to each other’s aid in the event things go wrong or for catch ups, skill sharing and to have some social time. I also found solo travel through Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador and Chile wonderful and Canad is another fabulous destination for solo travel. Like you, I have travelled solo extensively across Europe as well! Happy solo travels!