Best Journeys in Australia
Published: 23 October 2012 Editor: Alex Stewart
Travel in Australia is all about the journey; the people you meet, the places you see, the discoveries and experiences you encounter 'beyond the icons'.
From the very beginning, the Aboriginal people knew that the 'journey' was key to understanding the land in which they lived. Creation myths tell of legendary totemic beings who wandered over the continent in the Dreamtime, singing out the name of everything that crossed their path - birds, animals, plants, rocks, waterholes - and so singing the world into existence. Their invisible pathways criss-cross Australia, known to Europeans as songlines, to the Aboriginals as the 'Footprints of the Ancestors' or the 'Way of the Law'.
And so it remains today. Travelling in Australia is not merely about getting from A to B. It's about discovering diversity, embracing enormity and enjoying the threads that tie the land together: natural beauty, local characters and warm Australian welcomes.
Short or long, by road or rail, on your own or as part of a tour, Australian journeys make for memorable holidays. Here we outline a few possibilities.
PACIFIC COAST TOURING ROUTE
New South Wales & Queensland
Starting in Sydney, explore the sparkling beaches and lush hinterland of the Central Coast, the wineries of the Hunter Valley and the picturesque inlets of Port Stephens. Work on your swing at a rainforest golf course on the Coffs Coast and channel your chakras at bohemian Byron Bay. Dive the clear waters of the Solitary Islands and into the bright lights of Surfers Paradise. Finish up in Brisbane, the sophisticated capital of sun-drenched Queensland.
SYDNEY TO MELBOURNE COASTAL DRIVE
New South Wales & Victoria
This blockbuster drive from Sydney to Melbourne will see you basking on the beaches of Jervis Bay (said to be the whitest in Australia), spotting whales in Eden, boating on the tranquil Gippsland Lakes, walking through the wilderness of Wilson's Promontory (Australia's southernmost tip), and peeking out at penguins on Philip Island.
GREAT TROPICAL DRIVE
You won't miss an inch of Queensland's tropical splendour on this 12-day self-drive journey. Starting in Cairns, travel north to Cape Tribulation, where the ancient Daintree Rainforest meets the Great Barrier Reef, before venturing inland to the historic gold mining towns, lush plantations, prehistoric petroglyphs, bird-rich wetlands and rainforest walks of the Tropical Tablelands. From Townsville, follow the coast as you return to Cairns, enjoying day trips to Wallaman Falls, Tully Gorge National Park and magical Mission Beach.
RED CENTRE WAY
This five-day self-drive is an unforgettable adventure through Australia's ancient Red Centre. Immerse yourself in Aboriginal art and pioneer history in Alice Springs. Swim in Glen Helen Gorge and spot rock wallabies at Simpsons Gap, both in the West MacDonnell Ranges. Climb to the rim of Kings Canyon and swim in the Garden of Eden. Enjoy a dawn camel trek around Uluru and wander between the steep russet domes of nearby Kata Tjuta (the Olgas). Journey through red desert sands, spinifex and mulga forest, and learn about the area's Aboriginal history from the people who've lived here for more than 20,000 years.
INDIAN OCEAN DRIVE
Discover white beaches, coral reefs, salty fishing towns and rugged national parks on this spectacular journey along Western Australia's Coral Coast. Head north to taste fresh crayfish in Geraldton and mouth-watering tropical fruits in Carnarvon. Swim with whale sharks on Ningaloo Reef (March to July) and career through the canyons of the Cape Range National Park. Meet the dolphins of Monkey Mia, along with whales, rays and turtles in the wider Shark Bay World Heritage Area. And see seasonal wildflowers burst into bloom all along the coast, from Cape Range to the cliffs and gorges of Kalbarri National Park.
Discover towering forests, tranquil farmland and wild beaches on this long-distance walking trail through Western Australia's south-west corner. Stretching almost 1,000km from Kalamunda in the Perth Hills to Albany on the south coast. The best of the route can be seen though on a series of guided walks over four days, where visitors are shuttled between the assorted highlights by private transport, returning each evening to luxury spa accommodation near the town of Denmark.
MELBOURNE TO ADELAIDE VIA THE GREAT OCEAN ROAD
Victoria & South Australia
Hire your own car or join a guided tour and travel along the country's breathtaking south-east coastline. Drive the Great Ocean Road past the iconic surf spots of Torquay and Bells Beach to the holiday haven of Lorne and the magnificent Twelve Apostles. Walk past waterfalls in Great Otway National Park and watch whales from historic Warrnambool. Soak up seafaring history in Port Fairy and Portland. Taste wine in Coonawarra and see the fossils of giant marsupials in the World Heritage-listed Naracoorte Caves. Then cruise the Coorong and explore the beaches and wineries of the Fleurieu Peninsula before arriving in Adelaide.
South Australia & Northern Territory
Taking its name from the Afghan cameleers who carried supplies to remote telegraph stations, The Ghan is recognised as one of the world's great train journeys, running from Darwin in the north to Adelaide in the south (or vice versa) via Alice Springs and the Red Centre. The full 2,979km journey is a great way to see the verdant greens of the Top End, deep reds of central Australia and the fertile wine regions of the south. From April 2013, the three-day journey will be fully inclusive of meals, drinks and off-train tours that fit around the train's schedule.
EAST COAST ESCAPE
Immerse yourself in the beauty of Tasmania's east coast on this attraction-packed self-drive. Sea kayak on Maria Island, sample farm-fresh berries and wine near Swansea and take in the contours of Wineglass Bay. Stop in Bicheno, where you can cling to the coastline on a motorised trike ride. Bushwalk in the rainforest of Douglas-Apsley National Park and game fish or dive from the picturesque port of St Helens Park. Swim in the waters of Binnalong Bay and follow the Bay of Fires past Aboriginal middens and powder-white beaches. Then finish your journey in an eco-lodge with soul-stirring views.
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