CHASING THE HORIZON
From our iconic coastal touring routes to the sweeping sun-scorched bitumen of the outback, this is your must-see guide to Australia’s major highways!
WORDS BY GRANT HANAN AND LINDA BLOFFWITCH, PHOTOGRAPHY BY MY AUSSIE TRAVEL GUIDE
Follow in the footsteps of explorer John McDouall Stuart along this major north-south corridor through Australia’s red centre
ANCIENT AUSTRALIA IS CALLING
Spectacular landforms, red deserts, and deep blue skies are just some of the things to experience along the sparsely populated Stuart Highway. Driving this highway is by no means boring!
The tropical and cosmopolitan city of Darwin welcomes all travellers. You’d easily keep yourself busy here for weeks here – and many do: Darwin is a popular winter home-away-from-home for thousands of Aussie Nomads. Once you’ve left Darwin, the remoteness of the Stuart Highway will soon kick in. Many smaller towns have minimal services, so be prepared!
Pack your walking shoes to see highlights such as Kakadu and Litchfield National Parks and Katherine Gorge. Remember to pack swimmers for visiting Mataranka and Berry thermal springs – and as for Daly Waters pub, any traveller will tell you that it’s an institution! Marvel at the granite boulders known as the Devil’s Marbles as they defy gravity precariously balancing on one another.
Base yourself at Alice Springs and take your time to explore the West and East MacDonnell Ranges before venturing further to Uluru.
Once you’re over the border in SA, check out the excellent Woomera Heritage Centre. Try opal noodling at Coober Pedy and stay in the uniquely different underground accommodation.
Road conditions along the Stuart Highway vary. The maximum speed limit in the Northern Territory is 130km and is used by a high volume of long-haul trucks. Overtaking lanes are frequent.
Some of Australia’s best coastal free camping hotspots lie along the Bruce Highway!
YOUR GATEWAY TO UNFORGETTABLE TROPICAL TOURING
Looking for a tropical paradise? Then look no further as you can find it travelling the Bruce from Brisbane to Cairns. With the coast on one side and rainforests on the other, your hardest decision will be which way to turn!
Turn off the highway at the Sunshine Coast to explore a little: this stretch of coastline has something for everyone. Beautiful hinterland towns, rolling green hills and the Glass House Mountains will refresh your soul.
Further north you definitely can’t miss world heritage listed Fraser Island for its natural beauty. The Capricorn Coast is abuzz with attractions, and we have Captain Cook to thank for the quaint town of 1770. Don’t miss this oasis: the water views and sunsets will make you feel like you’ve reached paradise.
The Bruce Highway, although busy and borderline dangerous, provides access to some of the state’s not-to-be-missed coastal hotspots.
Fishermen, adventurers, golfers and free spirits – the Eyre Highway calls to them all!
The Eyre highway, linking South Australia and Western Australia, passes through Australia’s infamous treeless and arid Nullarbor Plain.
The section known as the 90 Mile Straight will have you locking in the cruise control, but keep an eye out for wandering wildlife. The roadhouses are few and far between, so break your journey and fill up at these welcome stopovers when the opportunity arises. It’s worth a detour to the Head of the Bight, 20 km from the Nullarbor roadhouse, for some spectacular views.
As you cross the Nullarbor, take the time to have some fun – and a respite from driving – and tee off at some unique holes in the longest golf course in the world.
Visitors are welcomed at the Eyre Bird Observatory located in the restored Telegraph station by Cocklebiddy.
Base yourself at Ceduna to visit surrounding conservation parks and for fishing. The agricultural district of Kimba welcomes visitors with its Big Galah before the highway ends at Port Augusta.
GREAT NORTHEN HIGHWAY
Australia’s longest highway showcases rugged outback regions and our coast’s spectacular red cliff line
There’s not much that this highway can’t deliver, beginning with a stretch that goes right through the heart of the Swan Valley wineries!
You arrive in the golden outback before you know it, driving through the Murchison region. The gold rush era may have been short-lived, but the area is rich in mining history, and when the wildflowers are in season, they’re simply stunning.
If you can hear the Pilbara calling, the highway continues to the amazing Hamersley Range, home to the stunning Karijini National Park. The red dirt, beautiful gorges, and spectacular swimming holes will leave you breathless. Iron ore mining is happening everywhere around here and the massive trucks and trains need to be seen to be believed.
Take your time through this special region as it’s overflowing with fantastic things to see and do.
Driving along the Great Northern Highway with its huge number of trucks and oversized loads is enough to put the wind up anyone. But the longest highway in Australia leads to some drop-dead gorgeous attractions, so don’t hurry – give yourself all the time you need to enjoy this magnificent journey.
Visit towns of yesteryear when you head up the Hume
The quickest route from Melbourne to Sydney, the Hume Highway is a dual carriageway nearly all the way, but expect tolls. Although the highway now bypasses many small historic towns, it’s easy enough to detour and explore these gems.
Places like Gundagai ooze old time charm with its Dog on the Tuckerbox monument drawing travellers from all parts.
A submarine isn’t exactly what you’d expect in a small country town, but check out the high and dry HMAS Otway in the main street at Holbrook.
The highway passes through bushranger country and the town of Glenrowan has loads of information to share about the Kelly Gang.
Where there is water, there has to be a camp. You just need to choose which side – will it be Albury or Wodonga, or both?
Do a couple of short detours off the Hume and you can visit beautiful Bright and Snowy Mountains Country. Another detour will have you in the Rutherglen region where there are wineries galore.
NEW ENGLAND HIGHWAY
Travel the inland route between Sydney and Brisbane for picturesque free camping spots
This alternative route to its coastal cousin beckons the RVer with some stunning scenic landscapes. Add to this a load of welcoming tourist towns and you have a great excuse to travel this route between Sydney and Brisbane.
As you pass through the Granite Belt country of Tenterfield, the friendly Celtic population of Glen Innes will tempt you to stay a while.
Tour the spectacular Waterfall Way in Armidale before livening things up by boot-scooting in Australia’s country capital, Tamworth.
Reach the Hunter Valley from Scone, Australia’s Horse Capital, and base yourself in the coal-mining centres of Singleton and Muswellbrook as affordable alternatives when touring the Hunter Valley wineries.
The New England Highway is predominantly a two-lane carriageway with 100km speed limit. There are many overtaking lane opportunities so be patient, and avoid driving around dusk when wildlife frequently ventures roadside.
Experience everything beyond the black stump and visit the home of Waltzing Matilda as you drive along this iconic outback highway.
Chase the regal ribbon that showcases some of the best coastlines of our southern states
Experience nature at its best and spectacular coastal vistas as you cruise the Pacific Highway
Country hospitality and tranquil riverside camping – the Barrier Highway has it all