Whether you’ve got a long weekend coming up or are taking some time off work, here are some easy road trip ideas from Brisbane, Sydney, and Melbourne (in that order).

FYI – We’ve laid out each leg of the journey rather than each day, in case you’d like to spend an extra night somewhere!

1. Queensland: Take a trip up the coast

Leg 1: Brisbane to Bundaberg

Leave Brisbane early to avoid the holiday rush and head straight up the M1. Stop in at Noosa if you feel like a swim and a morning snack by the beach. Depending on what time you got away, grab lunch in Gympie or Maryborough (check out the big Ned Kelly white you’re there).

Once in Bundie there are tonnes of things to do, whether you’re staying for two nights or just dropping in:

the bundaberg big rum bottle in bundaberg queensland, well worth a multi-day road trip from brisbane

Image: BTBB1888

Leg 2: Bundaberg to Rockhampton

This leg is quite short, with just three hour’s driving to be done. Gladstone is about halfway between Bundaberg and Rockhampton, so stop and take a look around.

Once you’re in Rockhampton, there’s lots to do:

Leg 3: Rockhampton to Roma

On your way back to Brissy you can always drive back along the coast, especially if you’re keen to hit the beaches again! But to get a taste of Outback Queensland, head south to Roma. It’s a decent drive, but with lots of country towns to stop at along the way, you’ll never be left stranded (check out our guide to country driving here).

Once in Roma, here are a few things to keep you busy:

A cattleman at the Roma Saleyards on his phone

Image: Chris Fithall

Leg 4: Roma to Brisbane

The home stretch to a 5.5 hour drive, so we recommend getting away early. Pit stops include Dalby and Toowoomba if you take the southern approach, or Kilcoy and Caboolture if you opt for a more scenic route.


2. NSW: An easy trip through the Central West

Leg 1: Sydney to Newcastle

A quick drive up the coast kicks off this light-on-driving road trip, but there’s no need to do it quickly! For a more scenic route, leave the M1 at Berowra and take the Old Pacific Highway north. Drop into Pie in Sky for an early bite, then drive via Swansea for a great view of Lake Macquarie on your left. There are plenty of swimming spots along the lake or the ocean on this road, so pick a few and jump in!

Once you’re in Newcastle, here are a few activities we’d recommend:

Nobby's Lighthouse on the Newcastle skyline over the ocean at sunset

Image: Roanish

Leg 2: Newcastle to Mudgee

The drive west of Newcastle takes you through the Upper Hunter, one of the more picturesque parts of NSW. Take your time and stop in any of the charming towns of Denman, Merriwa, or Cassilis on your way through.

Mudgee has lots of activities waiting for you:

Leg 3: Mudgee to Parkes via Dubbo

Next, we head to Parkes through Dubbo, home to the Western Plains Zoo. You can drive around Dubbo Zoo, making it a kind of mini safari! Give yourself a couple of hours to check out the zoo.

Once in Parkes, take your pick of some of these activities:

the parkes radio telescope in NSW, as part of a multi-day road trip in australia

Image: Ian Sutton

Leg 4: Parkes to Sydney

The final drive is the longest of this entire road trip, but you’ve got a tonne of places to stop on the way. Stop in Orange for lunch and a glass of local wine. Then take a lap (or 1000) of Mount Panorama in Bathurst! On your way across the mountains there are dozens of towns you can stop and rest in… bonus points if you can catch the sunset from one of the many lookouts.


3. Victoria: A trip along the Great Ocean Road

Leg 1: Melbourne to Apollo Bay

There’s no excuse for a Melbourne local not to have driven the Great Ocean Road at least once. It’s arguably the best coastal drive in the world, and it’s right at your doorstep! The first leg of this itinerary is Melbourne to Apollo Bay, at the heart of the Great Ocean Road. Drop onto the coast road south of Geelong at Anglesea (don’t take the fast route on Google Maps, take this one). The drive to Apollo Bay is around 3.5 hours, but take your time and stop at a few lookouts – that’s the point!

Once you’re in Apollo Bay, enjoy everything the town has to offer:

Leg 2: Apollo Bay to Warrnambool

This is the leg of the trip you’ve been dreaming of! Around halfway along this 2.5 hour drive you’ll be confronted by the unmistakable sight of the 12 apostles… well, the 8 that remain. Turn into the car park on the right and walk under the road to the viewing area. Take your time here, it’s a very special experience.

Once you arrive in Warrnambool, there’s plenty to keep you occupied during your 12 apostles come-down.

Pro tip: If you can stay more than one night in Warrnambool, do it. It’s an awesome town with tonnes to do.

a board walk over the ocean in warrnambool victoria on the great ocean road

Image: Warrnambool City Council

Leg 3: Warrnambool to Ballarat

Look, no one will hold it against you if you head back to Melbourne via the Great Ocean Road again. Seriously, do it backwards – it rocks both ways. But for something different, a country drive to Ballarat is great fun, especially for Aussie history buffs.

Once you’ve made the quick, two-hour drive, here are a few things you might enjoy:

 

Leg 4: Ballarat to Melbourne

It’s a quick 80 minute drive back to Melbourne from Ballarat, but we recommend treating yourself with a slightly more scenic route, if the weather’s right. Head northeast from Ballarat to Daylesford then east to Woodend, in the heart of the Macedon Ranges. From there, embark on one of these three Macedon Ranges road tours (each is about 2 hours). These are spectacular around April and May thanks to the incredible Autumn Leaves you’ll drive past!

Handing Rock in the Macedon ranges, a great road trip destination

Images: Fernando de Sousa

About Tim Beau Bennett

Tim is an ex-journalist and radio presenter, and has been a professional writer for over a decade. He regularly writes about technology, lifestyle, and smart cities, and has written for news site including the ABC, SBS, and Australian Financial Review.