140 mile long beaches and 500 national parks. Endless reef on all sides, and over two and a half million square miles of outback. You’d be forgiven for thinking the only way to see it is on a backpacking odyssey stretching anywhere between a few months and a few years.
Wrong! You’d be amazed at how far some of us lot at STA Travel have managed to get in two weeks with our own set of wheels and a sense of curiosity driving us forth.
If you’ve got a set time frame to work with, your best bet for doing and seeing exactly what you want in Australia is definitely by hiring your own camper. (Psst – its hella cheap, too).
That’s why we thought we’d put together these two ultimate itineraries that’ll suit roadtrippers who are heading Down Under for a few weeks of holiday, or are perhaps taking time off from the ‘work’ part of their year-long working holiday to see some of the country. They include all the highlights of Australia’s East and West coasts, and start in the hubs of Sydney and Perth, where you’ll be able to pick up your trusty camper.
Koalified to drive? Good. Now make up your mind – which side of Oz do you want to see?
Australia’s East Coast in two weeks
Day 1: Set off from Sydney and drive six hours north to Coffs Harbour, a chilled out coastal town famous for its ‘big banana’ – what’s not to love? Be sure to stop off on Port Stephen’s amazing beach for a lunchtime barbie, halfway.
Day 2-3: It’s just a three hour drive up the coast from Coffs Harbour to Byron Bay. You may want to spend an extra day in Byron, getting a load of the awesome nightlife and surfing (or just the fit surfers).
Day 4: Just an hour from Byron Bay are Gold Coast’s beautiful beaches of Surfer’s Paradise and Burleigh Heads. Hit them via a whizz around Springbrook National Park’s amazing plunge pools, waterfalls and rock formations – an hour west of the coast.
Day 5: After a day at the beach, it’s another short drive to Brisbane, where you can spend the night soaking up the cosmopolitan city’s bar scene.
Day 6: It’s time to hit the Sunshine Coast! Set off early in order to give yourself as much time as possible to soak up some sun as you drive north. We recommend you spend most of your day in Noosa, which is bang in between Brissy and your next overnight stop, Rainbow Beach.
Day 7: Lock up the van, get perfecting your new profile picture pose, and jump off the mainland to explore Fraser Island.
Day 8: It’s a long drive from Rainbow Beach to Airlie today – we recommend setting off early, switching drivers halfway through and stopping for regular rest breaks… trust us, the view of the Whitsunday islands that greets you as you reach town will be worth it.
Day 9-10: Set sail from Airlie Beach to the amazing Whitsunday Islands on an overnight cruise– although technically not on land, they’re still the highlight of anyone’s east coast roadie.
Day 11: Drive north to Mission Beach via Townsville. Mission Beach may have you glued, so choose to spend the whole of Day 12 here too, or shoot off to Cairns.
Day 12 or 13: Drive the short distance to Cairns, park up the van for the last time, check into one of Cairns’ vibrant hostels and soak up the best of the Great Barrier Reef, Daintree National Park or Atherton’s waterfalls.
Australia’s West Coast in 2-3 weeks
You contrary thing, you. For many roadtrippers with their own wheels, West Coast = Best Coast. The diversity of experiences available, rare wildlife spotting opportunities and emptiness of landscapes (hellooooo, perfect Instagram shot!) makes for a magical off the beaten path experience. We’d recommend you allow a little longer for the West Coast than the East coast, due to the sheer distance between some remote places on this itinerary. Having said that, if you’re pushed for time, you could easily spend a few less days on Shark Bay and Exmouth or opt out of exploring the Kimberleys on a tour to keep within two weeks.
Day 1: Before you hit the open road, we recommend you head from Perth to Rottnest Island to meet its gorgeous fuzzy residents. If 2014-16 were the years of all things ‘pug’, and 2017 was ruled by the sloth, we predict 2019 may belong to the quokka. It’s love, guys.
Day 2: Set off up the West Coast. It’s around a two-hour drive from Perth to Nambung National Park, home to the Pinnacles. After a day exploring here, bed down in your camper in Cervantes, a cute coastal town nearby.
Day 3: Check out Cervantes’ Thirsty Point for views of the Indian Ocean after brekky, before driving the four and a half hours to Kalbarri, where there are plenty of campsite options.
Day 4: Explore Kalbarri National Park for it’s colourful wildflowers and scenic sandstone cliffs. Take to a canoe or trek through the vast gorges.
Day 5: It’s around a four-hour drive to the first of your stops in the beautiful Shark Bay region. First stop, Shell Beach!
Day 6-8: With so many gorgeous beaches and wildlife encounters fit to rival Blue Planet, you’ll want a few days to explore Francois Peron National Park, Monkey Mia’s wild dolphin feeding grounds and Shark Bay’s amply other sandy enclaves at your leisure – they’re all within a short drive of each other.
Day 9: You can drive on to Coral Bay in three hours and pitch up for the night, or choose to rest and have lunch before continuing onto Ningaloo.
Day 10: It’s a short drive from Coral Bay beach to Ningaloo, where you can spend the day diving with whale sharks, snorkelling with turtles or boat tripping out to see humpback whales.
Day 11: Drive time between Ningaloo and Exmouth is under two hours. You’ll want to spend a few days in this heavenly beach bum’s paradise, soaking up more of the Ningaloo reef, and the marine life you missed at your last stop.
Day 13: It’s an eight hour drive from Ningaloo to Karijini National Park, so make sure you’re well rested – camping overnight under a blanket of stars here is a must.
Day 14-15: Rise early to take in Karijini’s landscapes on Day 14. On Day 15, set off on the five hour drive to Port Hedland for an overnight stop. These parts are remote, but there’s plenty of campsites with amenities.
Day 16: Port Hedland to Eighty Mile Beach is a three hour drive. Although the sea full of nasty critters you wouldn’t want to swim with, sunrise, sunset and the endless empty tidal flats here are made for photo opportunities, beers and general zenning out.
Day 17: On to Broome! Abandon your trusty campervan here, mount one of Australia’s million native camels (the Middle East does import them from here, you know) and ride down Cable Beach.
Days 18-20: Optionally tag an off-road adventure in the Kimberley region onto the end of your West Coast roadie. This area needs 4WD vehicle, so we recommend a tour.
Want more inspiration? Here’s some tried and tested tips from our Travel Experts…
Christmas on the East Coast from Rachael, Digital Marketing Exec
We roadtripped on the East Coast around Christmas, and camping each night which worked out so well, as the cost was nothing compared to how much hostels were over that time. It saved us heaps of cash and added diversity to our overnight stops.
We were able to have our own Christmas without the craziness of a hostel, the campsite was pretty empty due to the time of year so we got the kitchen all to ourselves for Christmas dinner, and we were a short drive from Brisbane’s beach (where we spent Christmas day).
My number one tip would be, if you’re camping over summer: pitch your tent in the shadiest spot so you don’t wake up at 5am and have to take your inflatable bed outside to sleep under the shade of a tree!
West Coast in a week, from Georgie, Digital Marketing Exec
If you’re after a real Aussie adventure, a speedy one-week road trip headed north from Perth cuts the mustard. First drive to Karrijini National park for iconic red rock gorges, natural waterfalls, tree-climbing and camping under the clearest starry sky (so clear you can legit see the galaxies). Then swing back to the coast starting with Exmouth and its incredible coral reefs, swimming with whale sharks and sundowners on the sand dunes. Make your way back to Perth stopping at Coral bay, Monkey Mia, Shelly beach, the pinnacles and back down.
My funniest part? Dodging SO many cows in the dark whilst trying to find a beach off the beaten track to pitch up at for the night.
Got longer Down Under? Look out for another ultimate Aussie road trip itinerary coming soon, which encompasses some of these routes, plus the red centre.
in the meantime, search and book campervans from £25 a day here!