The Great Barrier Reef
Day 1: Brisbane to Bundaberg (Optional diversion to Fraser Island)
Just north of Brisbane, the Sunshine Coast is a spectacular region stretching from the seaside town of Caloundra to Noosa's famous Hasting Street. So take your time and do ‘brunch' with the locals at Café LeMonde, Cato's or countless other trendy cafes on the beach strip. Have a swim at Noosa's famous Main Beach. Optional: on the way to Noosa, detour via Landsborough to visit Australia Zoo – home of the ‘Crocodile Hunter'. A 40 minute diversion from the Bruce Highway at Maryborough will take you to Hervey Bay, where you can catch a ferry to Fraser Island, the world's largest sand island and home to Kingfisher Bay Resort & Village. Fraser Island is a World Heritage Listed National Park with lush rainforests and clear blue-water lakes. It is suggested to take an extra 1 or 2 days to visit Fraser Island. Day tours depart from Hervey Bay, or overnight on the island. Another ‘hour up the road' is Bundaberg, gateway to the ‘Coral Coast'. From here you can access the Southern Great Barrier Reef including Lady Elliot and Lady Musgrave Islands by either flight or launch. Bundaberg has a rich agricultural economic base and is the home of Bundaberg Rum. Mon Repos Beach is the largest mainland turtle rookery in Australia and every year humpback whales pass close to the pristine beaches, which stretch from Woodgate to Bargara.
Day 2: Bundaberg (or Fraser Island) to Rockhampton
Rockhampton is the gateway to the Capricorn region and bears the proud label of ‘Beef Capital of Australia', with 2 million cattle within a 50km radius of town. Before departing Rockhampton, stop at the ‘Spire' to record your crossing of the Tropic of Capricorn.
Day 3: Rockhampton to Whitsundays
It's a long drive to the Whitsundays, so break your journey with regular rest stops. The coastal town of Sarina is a good place to stop for lunch and a refreshing swim.
Day 4: Whitsundays
The Whitsundays are one of Australia's premier holiday destinations and home to many of the island resorts that are synonymous with the Great Barrier Reef. The main town is Airlie Beach, a major departure point for reef excursions, home to many of the sailing and diving operators, and a variety of accommodation styles to suit all budgets. To the south-west of Airlie Beach and Mackay, Eungella National Park, Queensland's largest rainforest park, allows visitors to view platypus in the wild. The drive through the Pioneer Valley to the park provides spectacular views and many walking tracks.
Day 5: Whitsundays to Townsville
Townsville is one of Queensland's premier event destinations, with an exciting annual line up of sporting, aquatic, historical and cultural events. Townsville also provides easy access to the islands of Magnetic, Dunk, Bedarra, Orpheus and Hinchinbrook.
Day 6: Townsville to Cairns
The route from Townsville to Cairns is known as the Great Green Way with sandy beaches, world heritage rainforests and plunging waterfalls. Some 50km to the west, Australia's highest waterfall, Wallaman Falls, is an enchanting realm of natural beauty that captivates visitors from all around. It's worth a detour from the highway. Stop on the way for a picnic at picturesque Josephine Falls Wooroonooran National Park, 75kms south of Cairns.
Day 7: Cairns & Great Barrier Reef
Cairns is the gateway to Tropical North Queensland, the Great Barrier Reef and tropical rainforests. Cairns has a wide range of experiences and activities. Dine at one of the many restaurants and cafes, browse at an art gallery or two or shop to your heart's delight. If relaxation is what you're after, visit Cairns' Northern Beaches of Holloways, Yorkeys Knob, Trinity Beach, and Palm Cove, or Port Douglas. Here you can enjoy a village atmosphere and some great beachside dining experiences. Further north are the tropical rainforest and World Heritage Listed National Park areas of the Wet Tropics, including the Daintree River and Cape Tribulation areas. Numerous day touring options are available from Cairns on a daily basis.
Pacific Coastal Run
Day 1: Sydney to Lake Macquarie
Head north, the first stop is the Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park, one of New South Wales best National Parks (especially stunning during the wildflower season). If you're feeling a bit hungry and it's a Sunday, why not stop at the Australian Reptile Zoo (Pacific Highway, Somersby) where you can join Eric the crocodile, for a sausage sizzle? A little further north is the coastal town of The Entrance, where the pelicans that flock around the town get an official feeding every afternoon. Next is Lake Macquarie, Australia's largest permanent coastal saltwater lake which measures a whopping four times the size of Sydney Harbour.
Day 2: Lake Macquarie to Nelson Bay
On your journey to Nelson Bay stop at Newcastle, Australia's second oldest and sixth largest city. Take a walk around the chic harbour front markets, to the five kilometre Bather's Way coastal walk where you can see world famous beaches such as Mereweather and Blacksmiths. If its water activities you're after, you will love Nelson Bay, where you can fish, scuba dive, and explore the untamed natural wilderness and extensive sand dunes of Stockton Beach. Nelson Bay is also home of the Port Stephens fishing fleet and a departure point for dolphin watch cruises.
Day 3: Nelson Bay to Port Macquarie
Port Macquarie was established as a penal settlement in 1818. For a taste of convict life visit the Port Macquarie Musuem (Clarence Street, Port Macquarie), built in 1836 using convict bricks and labour. Take a camel ride along the beach near Port Macquarie and experience the magnificent beaches from a very different point of view!
Day 4: Port Macquarie to Coffs Harbour
Before heading off, drop into the Koala Hospital in Macquarie Nature Reserve, who rescue over 200 koalas a year. The Hospital conducts hand feeding every morning at around 8am. Confirm details at the local information centre. Coffs Harbour is one of the largest regional cities in New South Wales, which also happens to be the biggest producer of bananas, and, of course, is home of the Big Banana (free entry)!
Day 5: Coffs Harbour to Evans Head
About 20 minutes north of Coffs Harbour is the little coastal town of Woolgoolga, where you can grab a true Aussie hamburger from Woopi Takeaway. Take your burger up to the headland, pull out a blanket and enjoy the 360 degree views. After a couple of hours drive through the sub-tropical forest you will arrive at the quiet seaside resort of Evans Head, fantastic for surfing, fishing, and most importantly, relaxing on the uncrowded, long sandy beaches. Make sure you head to Razorback Lookout, that offers panoramic views of the area. On a clear day look to the north and see if you can spot the Cape Byron Lighthouse!
Day 6: Evans Head to Byron Bay
Continuing towards Byron Bay, take a quick break at Lennox Head and submerge yourself in the waterfall at Kitten Falls, and don't forget to visit the Macadamia Castle at Knockrow 15 kilometres north of Ballina for all your Macadamia nut needs. Byron Bay needs no introduction – top of the list of things to do is experience sunrise at Cape Byron lighthouse then soak up the vibe at The Buddha Bar & Restaurant, in the famous Old Piggery building.
Day 7: Byron Bay to Brisbane
For some ‘soul food', take a detour out to Nimbin (approximately 55 kilometres from Byron Bay). In 1973 the town became the focus of national attention with the now famous Aquarius Festival. Out of this a new, alternative community was born. Visitors are treated to a glimpse of the ‘Spirit of Aquarius' in the main street, with its colourful facade and psychedelic murals. Continue north to the border towns of Tweed/Coolangatta where you can lap up the Gold Coast surf beaches in all their glory and discover the trendy lifestyle in the beach cafes and restaurants. Back onto the highway for the final short trip to Brisbane.
Day 1: Adelaide to Kangaroo Island
On departing Adelaide detour via The Barossa, one of the world's greatest wine producing areas. This beautiful valley of sloping green hills is home to more than 50 wineries, ranging from some of Australia's largest wine companies to small independent winemakers, all offering wine tastings at their cellar doors. (Remember: Don't drink and drive). Another option is to head up into the Adelaide Hills and detour though the historic town of Hahndorf. After lunch, continue south to catch the vehicle ferry from Cape Jervis to Penneshaw on Kangaroo Island. The ferry will take about 45 minutes; check departure times in advance.
Day 2: Kangaroo Island to Victor Harbor
Kangaroo Island is home to the world's largest breeding colony of sea lions. The island has been carefully protected from mainland rabbits and foxes, so you'll find heaps of native fauna including the echidna, koala, platypus, goanna, glossy black cockatoo, albatross and the island's own species of kangaroo. Jump back on the ferry to Cape Jervis and drive across the Fleurieu Peninsula before arriving in Victor Harbor, a quaint little coastal village with heaps of character.
Day 3: Victor Harbor to Mount Gambier
While this is the longest sector on the journey,it rewards with marvellous coastal villages and stunning scenery. Firstly see Australia's only registered inland port, Goolwa, before heading north towards the historic village Strathalbyn. Head east through the Langhorne Creek wine region before reaching Wellington, where a free ferry will take you across the Murray River. The route passes Meningie on the shore of Lake Albert and the beautiful Coorong National Park before picking up the Princess Highway on the way to Kingston, and continues through Millicent all the way to Mt Gambier.
Day 4: Mount Gambier to Port Fairy
Departing the SA's second-largest city the first stop is Port Macdonnell. From here you will travel to Nelson, and then drive along the Portland- Nelson Road to Portland, the site of Victoria's first permanent settlement. From here follow the Princess highway that sweeps around Portland until you reach Port Fairy.
Day 5: Port Fairy to Apollo Bay
From Port Fairy head towards Warrnambool for a short, scenic drive. The highway then becomes the Princess Highway and tracks outwards from Allansford to the Bay of Island. From here, you will experience one of the best coastal sceneries in the world as you travel through Peterborough and onto Port Campbell. Continue on to Princetown, after which you will see lush farming countryside before hitting Lavers Hill. Head back towards the coast via Glenaire and you will reach the Great Ocean Road amongst the lush woodland of the Otway National Park, as you arrive at Apollo Bay.
Day 6: Apollo Bay to Queenscliff
Today's trip begins with spectacular scenic coast along the Great Ocean Road from Apollo Bay along the Kennett River, through Lorne, Aireys Inlet and Anglesea, before hitting Torquay, Australia's surfing capital. Continue the short Surfcoast Highway drive to the village of Barwon Heads. Cross the bridge and head across the Peninsula famous for its long, sandy surf beaches. Head towards Point Lonsdale where you can overlook the treacherous entrance to Port Phillip Bay, aka "The Rip", before the final short drive to Queenscliff.
Day 7: Queenscliff to Melbourne
From Queenslcliff it is a 30 minute drive to Geelong, the ‘city by the bay'. From Geelong, keep on the Princess and West Gate Freeways for the trip to Melbourne.