It’s getting to that time of the year when we start planning our next long-distance escape.
This got me thinking about the best on-road and off-road trips you can do in Australia. And we are certainly spoilt for choice here!
Close to home we can hitch up the camper and head to the High Country. With a bit of planning, we can start a trip from Yarra Glen, just outside Melbourne, and end up close to Katoomba, west of Sydney. Or you can do it the other way around, starting at Katoomba. They are both great four-wheel-drive trips.
Either way, allow yourself a minimum of a couple of weeks to experience the best camping spots and the most challenging tracks – some of which you won’t be able to take the camper on. Many of the tracks are also closed during winter, so plan your trip for the next couple of months or wait until next spring.
Cape York remains high on the list for most four-wheel drivers and, with around 40 trips to the Cape (not all to The Tip) under my belt, it’s probably my favourite long-distance drive.
Start in Cairns, head up the Creb Track to Cooktown and then through Starcke National Park to Lakefield NP before hitting the Overland Telegraph Line track for the run to The Tip. On the way back, head west at Pormpuraaw for a stimulating trip south to Normanton.
A Simpson Desert crossing is a challenging undertaking, and for many it is their first real taste of a tough 4WD desert experience. Still, many people return, so, like most, you’ll probably find one trip isn’t enough. Whether you start at Mount Dare or Birdsville and head east or west along the French Line, the WAA Line or Rig Road is entirely up to you. This year, with good rains in the region, it will be a trip to remember.
The Kimberley is a long way away from the populated east coast of Australia, but that doesn’t stop it from being one of the most favoured off-road adventure destinations in Australia.
Take the Gibb River Road – not because it is a great 4WD challenge but because it gives access to some of the best and most impressive gorges and waterholes in Australia. At the very least, head to the Mitchell Plateau and, if you’re looking for a tougher adventure, head out along the Walcott Inlet track once you have obtained a key and permit from Mount Elizabeth Station.
For desert lovers and those looking for a long-distance adventure, the Canning Stock Route rates as one of the best in the world, and one of the longest. From Wiluna to Halls Creek it’s about 1850km with just three fuel points along the way. You have to be well-prepared and experienced before you head along this route, but the experience, the ever-changing vistas and the sense of history make it all worthwhile.
Also making my Top 10 list is the Flinders Ranges, which offers easy 4WDing and awesome landscapes, especially in early spring and after good rains such as we’ve had this year, when the northern Flinders are at their finest.
A sojourn between Esperance and Ceduna along the beaches and cliffs of the Great Australian Bight is hard to beat, especially in spring and early summer, while the west coast of Tassie is an awesome place to experience in summer. Back up north, take on the Gulf Track this winter between Normanton in Queensland and Roper Bar in the Northern Territory, where fishing is high on the agenda of every traveller.
Last but not least on my Top 10 should be easy to choose, but there are too many great trips vying for a spot. You could head to Fraser Island in south-east Queensland, or strike west to the Coral Coast south of Exmouth in Western Australia. Maybe the New South Wales Corner Country is a bit closer to home and fits you better – start in Broken Hill, head north and end up in Innamincka on the banks of the Cooper. What could be a more Aussie trip than that?
Go on, go see Australia! Happy trails wherever you travel.