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 on my first solo backpacking road trip in 2004 on small group tours and many solo road trips. Driving solo in Australia has been a fantastic experience. Although driving in Australia is something everyone can do, you will also go through different knowledge and adventures. And you will have to choose the type of self-drive experience you want depending on your driving experience, road conditions and, first and foremost, the distances. Click to read more about all things to know about driving in Australia if you are unfamiliar with the country.
The environment and landmarks in Australia change dramatically from North to South, from East to West, so the spectrum of road trips is vast. I’m not sharing the most touristy drives, but the lesser-known places of Australia to best travel solo and to those I would return at any time.
Here is the list of favourite Australia road trips for the solo traveller.
The Best Road Trip of The East Coast of Australia
The East Coast of Australia will likely be the starting point for many solo travellers. I started my first backpacking trip in 2004, and I kept returning 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 before driving the east coast of Australia alone. It’s a long way to go, from Sydney 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 Australian road trips I did alone, and you can do solo too. Here are some of the best road trips from the North to the South East Coast of Australia for that any solo traveller to Australia can alone.
1. 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, this is your road trip. And it’s not just the Great Barrier Reef that you can experience on this road trip. Some other unique places like Port Douglas and the Daintree Rainforest are worth your time. The best time for this road trip is probably winter, as it’s the least humid. Here you can read about the best Cairns Day Trips.
2. 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.
Some prefer going on day trips from Cairns, which is an option. You can drive from Mareeba to Atherton 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, and cheese. With tall trees, waterfalls, and superb walking trails, the picturesque landscapes make it a great holiday. It’s a great winter road trip, or ideally, a Spring trip in September, the best time to visit Cairns and North Tropical Queensland.
3. The Gold Coast Hinterland By Car
Many people go to the Gold Coast for its beaches and coastal trails. Still, 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 natural paradise. All these trails are only 1-hour drive from Broadbeach or the Coolangatta on the Gold Coast.
I went on three road trips because I was house-sitting and had to return in the evening. I’d recommend staying overnight in one of those lovely villages like Tamborine Mountain if you can. 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 road trip, depending on your itinerary.
4. From Sydney to Jervis Bay
Jervis Bay is one of Sydney’s best day trips and short drives. It’s one beautiful place to add to your itinerary. It had been long on my bucket list, but because I only used public transportation like trains and buses on my 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 pristine ecosystem. Spring and Autumn is the best time to visit. During public holidays it gets jam-packed with families and kids.
5. Brisbane To Byron Bay
Byron Bay is a 2-hour easy drive from Brisbane and is a great day trip from Brisbane. Byron Bay is a beautiful place known for its beaches and popular among backpackers. Byron Bay has Australia’s most easterly point and the iconic Cape Byron lighthouse. Besides its spectacular beaches, the region is known for its unique shopping and dining experiences and world-class festivals.
6. Brisbane to Airlie Beach
This is one of the longer East Coast road trips, but it’s worth it if you are a bit more expert driver and can take a longer journey. This coastal road trip is quite popular among backpackers and caravanners as there is so much to see and do. Along this 17oo km 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. I recommend this road trip to expert drivers.
Road Trips near Melbourne
Melbourne is my favourite city in Australia because its surroundings offer so much for solo female traveller. Being Melbourne close to many beautiful national parks and coastal attractions, it’s the ideal getaway for many short road trips or longer road adventures. There are many short-day trips from Melbourne that you can do over a week or more. If you are up for driving solo 1000 km, you will love the coastal drive to Sydney from Melbourne.
7. The Great Ocean Road Trip
If you are not afraid of driving on a scenic coastal drive with lots of bends and twits, you can do the GOR (Great Ocean Road) independently. I went on this road trip first with a small group and then with a friend. I was swapping the drive and found it okay. As a solo driver, you will definitely need to plan quite a lot of stops along the way to admire the beauty of this fantastic coastal drive. A road trip is not for the beginner driver but worth it if you are used to driving all kinds of drives. The scenery is truly rewarding for the solo drive.
8. A Road Trip to The Wilsons Promontory National Park and Tidal River
Wilsons Prom is a top place to visit when in Melbourne. I was there in 2013 and 2017. The Prom is my favourite national park for walking and seeing wildlife, 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, you can get to Wilsons Promontory along the Cape Petersan scenic drive, which is fantastic. This is not an arduous drive; everyone can do it alone.
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 occasions, 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.
The Red Centre Of Australia
If you are headed to Alice Springs, you will want to visit Ayers Rock and Kings Canyon. I recommend driving to Uluru and not joining a tour, as this kind of trip is more enjoyable when you are either solo or with a travel companion. I don’t recommend tours to Uluru because a group is not what you need in this special place of Australia, and everything is super easy to visit on your own.
10. Uluru Road Trip
I encourage you to hire a car and go on your own. The drive is easy, pleasant and 4 hours. Straight ahead and on well-maintained roads. If you want to experience the Red Centre of Australia in its essence, then you must go on an epic solo road trip to Uluru. The best way is to fly into Alice Springs and hire a car, then go in a loop from Alice Springs to Ayers Rock, stay there for two nights, and then return to Alice Springs via Kings Canyon.
South Australia Road Trips
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.
11. A Road Trip to the Kangaroo Island
In 2004 I spent one day on Kangaroo Island and instantly knew I had to return. 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 lion colony, kangaroos, and wallabies. But it has good food and even excellent wines. I loved driving alone around Kangaroo Island. It’s comfortable and safe to go 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.
12. A Yorke Peninsula Road Trip From Adelaide
I have lovely memories of this road trip in 2015. I hadn’t planned it. While travelling, I decided I had to go from Adelaide. I hired a car and went on a 3-day road trip adventure. The landscape was unique, vast sweeping yellow fields covered by cereals, and this is a place where most hops grow. I got lost a few times, driving through a maze of 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 the right spot for pensioners too.
Best Road Trips around 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 on 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 South West Australia by car, which is easier to drive in a more relaxed environment. Here are the best road trips from Perth:
13. A Road Trip to 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 you can do over a weekend.
However, I can tell you 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 or sports events for which Margaret Rivers is known worldwide.
14. A Road Trip From Perth To Albany In South Western Australia
Another great place in South Western Australia is Albany. I had heard a lot about it from friends and travellers on my trips to Perth. I loved this road trip. Albany is a real gem 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, it’s only 440km and an easy drive. On my way back to Perth, I went 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 was nearly 1000 km. Fortunately, I could stop in Pemberton and see more of the stunning southwestern coastline.
15. From Kununurra to Lake Argyle
If you plan to travel to North-Western Australia, you will likely have Kununurra in your itinerary. The Kimberley region spreads 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, travelling at night in the Outback is not allowed, so I’d recommend staying overnight after the Lake Argyle sunset cruise.
These are the 13 best road trips for solo travellers to Australia
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First published in 2018, last updated in March 2023
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