Australia's Most Scenic Coastal Drives
Australia has some of the most scenic coastal drives in the world. For visitors with a taste for adventure and a desire to experience Australiaâ??s smaller, more traditional towns, these relaxing, picturesque drives offer a marvelous way to add variety to a trip downunder.
The Great Ocean Road (Melbourne to Adelaide)
Australiaâ??s best-known coastal drive, the Great Ocean Road is a leisurely journey along one of Australiaâ??s southernmost points, through picture-perfect coastal towns and canopy-covered tropical rainforests, with dozens of â??mini-vacationâ?? adventures along the way.
Torquay, known as Australiaâ??s â??Surf City,â? is best appreciated from the beach or, if you feel adventurous, from atop a surfboard. From there, stop over in Anglesea to tee off among kangaroos at the Anglesea Golf Course. Afterwards, have a picnic in the Coogoorah Reserve, where boardwalks and bridges link bushland islands.
Cape Otway sits on Bass Strait, where you can kayak with sea lions in Apollo Bay, mountain bike in the Otway Rainforest or walk among the treetops in Otway National Park. Follow the road around the point, and youâ??ll arrive at the iconic Twelve Apostles in Port Campbell National Park, just waiting to be photographed. Port Campbell National Park is also home to the Bay of Islands, London Bridge and the Loch Ard Gorge.
Not interested in driving? The new Great Ocean Walk stretches 56 miles between Apollo Bay and Glenample Homestead. A five to eight day trek (with campgrounds along the way) or enjoyed in shorter sections, the walk affords access to idyllic beaches and spectacular views of the Twelve Apostles, rainforest, lighthouse and much more.
The North Coast (Sydney north to Tweed Heads)
Start in Sydney and venture north into an idyllic landscape of vast beaches, surfing towns and rolling, vineyard-covered hills.
Australia is known for its unique wildlife. A great place to meet these natives is at the Australian Reptile Park and Wildlife Sanctuary in Somersby, between Sydney and Newcastle. Get acquainted with reptiles, koalas and kangaroos, wombats, platypus and crocodiles. Next, move from koalas to cabernet. Turn your attention to a picturesque riverside driving tour of the Hunter Valley, known for its award-winning Semillon and Shiraz, and over a hundred scenic wineries.
Continuing north, youâ??ll pass several national parks rich with lakes and coastal scenery. You can stroll along the riverside breakwall of the Hastings River, take a camel trek on Lighthouse Beach, or visit the koala hospital in Port Macquarie. Along this eastern shore, the waters are especially alluring. Whitewater raft on the Nymboida River, scuba dive at the Solitary Island Marine Reserve, take a four-wheel drive safari in the National Park, or swim, surf or snorkel in the waters of Coffs Harbour.
Cape Byron is mainland Australiaâ??s easternmost point, and you can learn to surf, practice yoga or peruse contemporary art in the free-spirited tropical beach bohemia of Byron Bay. A popular holiday destination for many Aussies, Byron Bay attracts both backpackers and those with a taste for sophistication.
The South Coast (Sydney south to Eden)
The South Coast drive is known for its charming fishing and whaling towns and its scenic route through rural Australia.
Just south of Sydney and famous Botany Bay, the Royal National Park is home to over 70 types of reptiles and amphibians and 43 species of native mammals. After meeting the creatures, continue south through Wollongong to the quaint town of Kiama, where the famous Kiama blowhole erupts in a 200-foot geyser of water.
Between Point Perpendicular and St. Georges Head, Jervis Bay is home to a pod of year-round resident dolphins. While there, visit the white sands of Murrays Beach or take the dirt road to Pebbly Beach where you might see kangaroos cooling off in the ocean! A little further down the coast, stop and savor a famous Clyde River oyster at On the Pier restaurant in Batemans Bay.
Continue on to Narooma, where a boat can take you to Montague Island Nature Reserve, home to a huge colony of fairy penguins. In the nearby Tilba area, try spear and boomerang throwing or ochre painting among the Yuin Aboriginal people, or take a four-wheel drive tour of sacred Gulaga (Mount Dromedary) at the Umbarra Cultural Centre. Finally, relive whaling times at the Eden Killer Whale Museum or take a guided whale watching tour in Twofold Bay.