Australia’s iconic ‘Big Lap’ is a bucket list journey for many outback adventurers both homegrown and international. Circumnavigating the continent along the storied Highway 1 and covering more than 14,000 kilometres, it showcases the diverse landscapes, cultures, and attractions of Australia from the wild and windswept south to the teeming, tropical Top End. With so much ground to cover, it’s easy to take a wrong turn, so here’s our guide to making the most of this epic road trip.
Kick off your adventure in the bustling metropolis of Sydney, taking in the myriad of globally recognised landmarks from the Opera House to the Harbour Bridge to the Northern Beaches and beyond! If time permits, take a tour through the majestic Blue Mountains—just 90 minutes west but a veritable world away, with incredible scenic vistas, ancient rock formations, tranquil trails and waterfalls galore.
Northwards! The Pacific Coast is one of the most beautiful stretches of shoreline in all the land, with plenty of pretty towns to pop into along the way. You can spot dolphins in Port Stephens, have a lark at Coffs Harbour's Big Banana Fun Park, or take pause with the beautiful people at Australia’s answer to LA, Byron Bay.
For more diversions of the swimming, boating, thrilling and chilling varietals, an hour’s drive north will place you on the sunny Gold Coast, where some of the country’s most famous beaches, theme parks, and after dark amusements await. Carry on to capital Brisbane for standout cultural and culinary moments aplenty, including Queensland Performing Arts Centre, Gallery of Modern Art and Museum, as well as dining heavyweights Agnes, Rothwell’s, and Same Same, amongst many others.
Leave the city lights behind as you continue north, espying natural marvels from the Glass House Mountains to Noosa’s beloved National Parklands. Drive onto the ferry to K’gari (Fraser Island), the largest sand island on the planet, where wild and untouched environs make for spectacular camping and exploring. Beware the dingoes!
Push on past Rockhampton and Townsville to arrive at Cairns, the gateway to the magical Great Barrier Reef and majestic Daintree Rainforest—two of the world’s oldest and most awe-inspiring natural wonders. Deep dive both for a poignant and reflective moment unlike anything else you’ve experienced.
No Big Lap would be complete without a skip to the Tip, and the Cape York Peninsula is where unspoiled wilderness, indigenous communities, croc-infested waters, red rocky landscapes, and deserted beaches have enthralled travellers for centuries.
Time to begin your outback crossing. Cut down to Karumba then push on to iconic NT landmark and absolute must-see on your journey, the Daly Waters Pub, where you can eat, stay, play, and bask in quintessential outback charm.
Onwards! Nitmiluk National Park and incredible Katherine gorge lie just a few hours north, with historical Kakadu National Park further along again. Don’t miss the Aboriginal art at Nourlangie Rock. Stop for a croc spot at Adelaide River on your way to Darwin, where there are dining and entertainment options, plus family-friendly stays galore.
Push on west through the rugged Kimberleys region to seaside sweetheart Broome. You’ll pass many eye-catching sights along the way including the otherworldly sandstone Bungle Bungle range. Catch a Cable Beach sunset before heading south to World Heritage-listed Ningaloo Reef where you can dive with whale sharks.
Further south you go for a hiking and camping stay in Kalbarri National Park, then pop by Pinnacles Desert before scooting on to Perth. Enjoy an urban moment after your outback and coastal adventures, and be sure to pop over to Rottnest Island, best known for its cute quokka population and stunning crystalline waters. Wine time! Margaret River is a must for its globally recognised labels, splendid beaches and thriving dining scene.
From the forests of Western Australia to Albany's coastal splendor, the journey weaves through Esperance and across the Nullarbor Plain's striking landscapes to deposit you at Coffin Bay for an oyster shucking good time, before beelining to cultural and culinary wonder stop, Adelaide.
Melbourne is now within reach via the glorious Great Ocean Road—don’t miss this iconic stretch of coastline home of The Twelve Apostles and lush forested hinterlands. When you’ve managed to drag yourself from the vibrant Victorian capital, your final stretch will reveal the snowy slopes of Kosciuszko National Park and the Aussie capital Canberra’s cultural bastions from Parliament House to the Australian War Memorial.
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