“The great home of the soul is the open road.” – H. Lawrence
For many, the open road represents the truest form of freedom: an endless journey where uniformity, procedure and schedule are all left behind.
Thousands upon thousands of kilometres of road run the length and breadth of the South Pacific, with every intersection representing a crucial decision, every fork offering two unique adventures. Road trips are the only way to see all the region’s rich sights and wonders.
It’s time to strap on a seatbelt, crank up the music, and hit the accelerator!
The Great Ocean Road, Victoria
The 352-kilometre journey between Torquay and Portland could be completed in one afternoon – but we don’t recommend it. It’s a better idea to travel slowly and absorb the beautiful landscapes.
Bells Beach, at the start of the Great Ocean Road, is part of the World Surfing Tour and a spot avid surfers must visit – particularly those who appreciate having their ability tested. Stay the night at Wyndham Resort Torquay and hit the waves in the morning!
Cape Otway, the southernmost point of your Victorian road trip, is an opportunity to turn inland and explore the immense Great Otway National Park. Famous for majestic waterfalls and native fauna, there’s a number of walking tracks offering full- or half-day immersions.
The Great Ocean Road itself is a blend of powerful waves, proud cliffs and unbelievable stone formations. Port Campbell is a requisite stop if you want to meet the 12 Apostles, as is Peterborough, which faces the limestone stacks at the Bay of Islands.
Towards the finish line lie well-known haunts of gentle ocean giants. Southern Right whales give birth off Warrnambool during winter, while a giant fur seal colony has made Cape Bridgewater home.
The South Island, New Zealand
New Zealand’s South Island is picturesque in any season – a spectrum of colour brings it to life in summer, and there’s a simple beauty to its winter bareness.
Touch down in New Zealand’s heritage heart, Christchurch, to start this looping road trip. Heading north, Nelson Bay is home to the bright Marlborough Sounds, a popular spot for kayaking, sailing, fishing and hiking. It is also one of New Zealand’s best wine producing regions.
In the west, State Highway 6 leads to the Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers. Tour operators can help you climb both – or skydive over them! New Zealand’s highest peak, Mount Cook (Aoraki), is one of nineteen in nearby Mount Cook National Park, a 173,000 acre reserve which is 40 per cent glacial.
Deeper south, the picture-perfect towns of Wanaka and Queenstown are just a short drive from four world-famous ski fields and a host of extreme attractions including jet boating, zip lining and bungee jumping. Stay the night at Wyndham Vacation Resorts Asia Pacific Wanaka and enjoy the array of fine dining experiences in the town, which are open until late.
Access Milford Sound by driving south to Te Anau and then cutting back to the northwest. Numerous boats tour these fiords, which are deep channels formed by glacial erosion and filled with still seawater, bordered by cliffs and vegetation-coated slopes.
Break up the Queenstown to Christchurch leg by stopping at Lake Tekapo. Ground rock particles give the lake a unique milky-turquoise colour while, during the warmer months, blooming grasses make its shores a kaleidoscope of colour. Part of a UNESCO Dark Sky Reserve, it is also an excellent spot for some contemplative stargazing.
Cairns to Cape York, Queensland
A Cairns to Cape York road trip is more than 1,000km and will definitely require more than one day.
The first part of this trip will take you past beautiful white sand beaches and some of the most visited parts of the Great Barrier Reef. Make sure you stop for the night at Ramada Resort by Wyndham Port Douglas and take a day for a tour of the reef or a diving expedition. The tropical waters are temperate all year around and humpback whales are present during winter.
The main road on this trip will take you past (and through) untouched reserves, including the Mungkan Kandju National Park, the Jardine River National Park, and the legendary Daintree Rainforest. Take some time off the road and enjoy one of the many walking trails.
Once in Cape York, you can explore isolated wetlands or find your own watering hole for fishing. The road trip does not have to end there, either: a trio of unique self-drives will challenge the mettle of the most serious four-wheel enthusiast.
East Coast Tasmania
The Tasman Highway promises a different experience around every corner. Walk beautiful beaches and try gourmet food and wine, then visit native wildlife and historical sites all in the same day or take your time and savour the diversity of experiences. The 279-kilometre trip looks short, but there are a host of places to stop.
Start in Hobart, Tasmania’s capital and cultural hub. The Museum of Old and New Art is one of the state’s key drawcards, with some of its exhibitions built into the Berridale Peninsula. The Hobart waterfront district is also a drawcard for foodies wanting freshly-prepared local food and wine. Stay the night at Wyndham Vacation Resorts Seven Mile Beach before starting your road trip.
The next stop is Triabunna, for a day trip to Maria Island – an island with no permanent inhabitants. Explore pristine forests and plains by foot or hire a kayak to see untouched beaches and cliffs. Darlington Probation Station, a World Heritage-listed convict site, is a must-see.
Further north, the Freycinet Peninsula is home to one of the state’s first national parks. Freycinet National Park offers walks ranging in length from a few hours to multiple days. A few kilometres further, you can watch penguins at night, or explore a marine sanctuary in a glass-bottomed boat.
Lonely Planet’s Hottest Destinations list made the Bay of Fires famous, and, luckily, this secluded harbour remains unspoiled. Fifty kilometres in length, it’s an untouched haven that will inspire you to explore.
Gibb River, Western Australia
Some drivers love cruise control and sealed bitumen – others yearn for less-travelled outback paths. Nothing symbolises the road tripper’s pioneering spirit more than an adventure through Australia’s sunburnt country. A trip along the Gibb River Road will bring out your inner road warrior!
Make sure you book a vehicle with the guts to tackle the trip – a regularly-serviced four-wheel-drive like a Landcruiser is recommended. The epic 916km adventure to Wyndham in north Western Australia starts on the Great Northern Highway, but the Gibb River Road leg is challenging enough to take two days. The red cliffs, wild scrub and the pristine rivers of the rugged Kimberley will make you linger for photos and many of the best spots involve leaving the main road.
The Windjana Gorge and mysterious Tunnel Creek lie to the southern side of the Gibb River Road, while a detour northwards will take you to the breathtaking Mitchell Falls and the town of Kalumburu (which requires an entry permit). Lennard, Bell and Galvans Gorges are all nearer to the Gibb River Road, while the picturesque cliffs of the El Questro wilderness park are close to where the road re-joins the Great Northern Highway.