The Best Road Trips in Oceania


Part 3 of the Series: Best Road Trips Around the World

We asked some of the brightest new writers their suggestions for their favorite road trip destinations around the world. We couldn’t believe how many excellent routes there were to choose from.

In fact, two countries that came up again and again were Australia and New Zealand. So many, in fact, that we decided to give them their own post.

You may not yet recognize the authors who wrote these. But get used to them as they are the future stars in the travel writing world.

Don’t take my word for it. Read on for some of the Best Road Trips in Oceania by some of the sharpest new travel writers today!

New Zealand North Island Road Trip

by Wes Ellery from Walkabout Wes

Photo Credit: Wes Ellery

New Zealand must be one of the best places for a road trip.  It’s small enough to travel to many different places, and each place offers something different and unique.

Most international visitors will arrive in Auckland (find out more about Auckland here: 21 Free Things To Do In Auckland) so this is a good place to start the road trip.  There are many car rental companies here, so shop around for availability and the best price at the time.  

The best North Island Road Trip would be Auckland – Coromandel – Mount Maunganui – Rotorua – Taupo – Raglan – Auckland.  Give yourself at least a week to do this trip.

The Coromandel and Mount Maunganui are perfect beach destinations to kick start the trip.  The drive has spectacular coastal scenery throughout, and highlights in these two areas include Hot Water Beach, Cathedral Cove and climbing Mount Maunganui.  

Dig your very own hot pool spa at Hot Water Beach, a must-do activity.  Cathedral Cove, near the small town of Hahei, has many interesting walking tracks culminating with Cathedral Cove itself, formed over millions of years of eroded ignimbrite rocks.  Rent a kayak here to explore more of the coves. 

Next, head inland to Rotorua for a complete change of scenery.  Rotorua is home to unreal geothermal parks where you can experience exploding geysers, boiling mud pools and vibrantly colourful lakes all thanks to volcanic activity in the region.  Rotorua is also the best place in the country to find out more about the history and culture of the indigenous Mauri people.  

Taupo is full of adrenaline filled activities to suit every need, you can find activities here including parasailing, jet boat rides, skydiving, fishing trips and the highest cliff-top Bungy Jump in New Zealand.

For the final stretch, head to the small chilled out surfer town of Raglan on the West Coast.  Have some surfing lessons and enjoy the laid-back cafés and restaurants.

Finally circle back to Auckland to complete your trip.   


Australia – Adelaide to Darwin

by Tom Stevenson from The Travelling Tom

Photo credit: Tom Stevenson

Australia is a country made for road trips. The size of the country means driving is the best way to get around to see its lesser-known sights. Out of the many possible routes, an Adelaide to Darwin road trip is one of, if not the best.

This trip goes from the bottom of the country in South Australia to the top in the Northern Territory. Along the way, the scenery changes as a whole continent is traversed. 

From the barren outback landscape of Coober Pedy to the termite mounds in the north, it’s a journey through the heart of Australia. The route also passes by some of Australia’s most iconic sights. 

Uluru is known around the world and the giant rock is a must stop on this trip. As is the nearby Kata-Tjuta rock formation. Walking around both sights, you get a feel for their size and their importance to the local aboriginal people. 

A lesser-known spot is the Mataranka thermal pools in the Northern Territory. This is a great spot to take an hour or two off from driving and relax in the refreshing, warm pools.

The beauty of this road trip is its otherworldly feel. A trip through the outback is a visual and visceral journey as one of the most inhospitable environments passes by. Its length, beauty and the surprising amount of things to see and do make it one of the best road trips you can do anywhere on the planet.


New Zealand – South Island

by Shireen Ahmed from The Happy Days Travels

Photo by Danny Postma on Unsplash

New Zealand is made up of the North and South Islands. The islands share several similarities: stunning landscapes, unique Maori culture, epic ocean views and world class road trips. 

On the South Island / Te Waipounamu, you will find adrenalin towns, hiking havens, spectacular wildlife like whales and seal colonies and unbelievable stargazing. The very best way to see all of this is on a New Zealand South Island road trip

Most people will do a loop of the perimeter of New Zealand’s South Island, so you could start in the north at Nelson in the Tasman Bay Area and drive to the east coast toward Kaikoura and through must-see places like Christchurch and Dunedin.

Further inland, check out Lake Tekapo for the stars and Arthur’s Pass for the mountains. On the west coast, you’ll find the unmissable stop of Queenstown, the adrenaline capital of the world. 

Do some research to find smaller towns and regions to explore because every place has something to offer in New Zealand. Throughout your journey, be sure to stop at the many ‘dairies’ (mini-stores) and get a classic New Zealand pie from the hot windows because they are a specialty in New Zealand and worth stopping for. 

Need to know: You drive on the left-hand side, most rental cars are automatic, roads are huge and there’s hardly anyone on the open roads. 

New Zealand is a beautiful country with friendly people and breathtaking scenery that makes a perfect road trip. 


Australia – Great Ocean Road 

By Audrey Chalmers from See Geelong 

Photo credit: Audrey Chalmers

With its dramatic coastline, towering rock formations, and lush forests, the Great Ocean Road is easily one of the best road trips around the world. The road stretches from the southern Victorian coastal town of Torquay to Allansford, near Warnambool. 

The road was built by returned servicemen to commemorate those who lost their lives in World War 1 and it’s thought to be the world’s longest war memorial. 

It’s not a difficult drive but it is has many bends so it takes longer than people think. I recommend spending at least two nights on the road, that way you’ll have time to enjoy its many attractions. 

Popular things to see along the way include windswept beaches, tumbling waterfalls, lush rainforests, lighthouses, limestone formations, and Australian wildlife – koalas! You can also hike, surf, ride helicopters (and jump out of them), follow gourmet food trails, and wander seaside towns.  

But it’s Port Campbell National Park and the majestic Twelve Apostles that everyone comes to see. The world-renowned rock stacks were created by erosion of the limestone cliffs from the rugged Southern Ocean. Over time caves were formed, then arches, and when they collapsed the stacks stood alone, separated from the shore. 

Despite their name there are only 8 stacks left standing. They’re an incredible sight amongst the sheer cliffs and crashing surf as they change colour throughout the day. The best time to see them is either in the early morning or at sunset when you have the added bonus of watching the penguins come ashore.     


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Australia – Perth to Broome

by Chantae Reden from Chantae Was Here

Photo credit: Chantae Reden

Western Australia is one of the least-populated places on the planet, making it an incredible road trip destination for travelers in search of finding a beach all to themselves. To experience Australia’s version of the Wild West, venture on a drive that stretches over 2,300 kms (1,400 mi) along a coastal highway from Perth to Broome 

The road trip begins in Perth, Western Australia’s sleepy capital city. Enjoy beach café culture, surf lessons taught at busy beaches, and historic architecture in Fremantle. 

Next, drive north to Geraldton, stopping at Lancelin to admire sugar-white sand dunes and limestone spires at The Pinnacles in Nambung National Park.

From Geraldton, venture along the ocean road to Kalbarri, a desert-meets-ocean town with gorges and arches to explore. Kalbarri is one of the best hiking regions in Australia, and there’s a trail along its coastline where you might spot humpback whales. 

From Kalbarri to Broome, the scenery becomes a lot quieter as few people venture along this road per year. Travelers should stock up on food, fuel, and water whenever they see an outback petrol station. 

At Coral Bay, enjoy beach living at the local campground and snorkeling over Ningaloo Reef, a lively reef home to whale sharks, manta rays, sea turtles, and more. Exmouth, the next major town on the journey, hosts a whale shark festival each year. 

A few days’ drive will take travelers to Broome, a stunning small town famous for its ginger beer brewery. Here, you can follow the footsteps of petrified dinosaur prints, walk along Cable Beach, and see the Staircase to the Moon—a natural phenomena that looks as though the moon is connected to the sea via a staircase. 

All up, expect to spend at least two weeks completing this road trip.  


Australia – East Coast Road Trip

by Sinead from Map Made Memories

Photo credit: Sinead from Map Made Memories

A road trip along the east coast of Australia has to be one of the world’s best road trips because of the diversity that this incredible route has to offer. The 2,400-kilometre drive from Cairns to Sydney varies in temperature, landscape and attractions and offers fantastic wildlife opportunities. 

Starting in tropical Cairns, visitors can take a trip to the world-famous Great Barrier Reef or visit the rainforests at Mossman Gorge or Daintree National Park. Heading south, a small detour inland will bring you to the contrasting green landscapes of the Atherton Tablelands where visitors can tour tea plantations or swim in waterfalls. 

Driving further south, the coastal Bruce Highway winds past stunning beaches such as Rainbow Beach and Agnes Water. Feed the estuarine dolphins at Tin Can Bay, visit UNESCO World Heritage site Fraser Island, go whale watching at Hervey Bay or take a sailing trip to the Whitsundays. 

Take a detour inland to the flat terrain around Sapphire and Emerald where you can join a fossicking trip to search for precious gems in the dusty red outback soil. 

Learn to surf at Coolum Beach on the Sunshine Coast, enjoy a city break in cosmopolitan Brisbane or have fun in the theme parks of the Gold Coast. 

Entering New South Wales, the landscape noticeably changes to wooded valleys and farmlands. Visit bohemian Byron Bay, surf the sand dunes at Port Stephens or go fishing at Lake Macquarie. 

Eventually you will arrive at Sydney, a city packed with world class attractions and museums, and the end of this unforgettable, once in a lifetime road trip. 


Maui, United States

by Steve from Maps Over Coffee

You might think that an island that is only 48 miles long and 26 miles at its widest would be a pretty short road trip.

But you may be underselling how much there is to do and see in such a short space of time. In fact, we put 1,400 miles on our Jeep in just 10 days.

And no wonder! When you can learn to surf on the calm waters near Lahaina and Kihei. Or take a snorkeling trip to Molakini to see myriads of tropical fish swimming around.

Driving the Hana Highway offers countless little roadside stands with fresh fruit and enough hikes to make the drive take all day.

But beyond Hana are the Pools at ‘Ohe’o where you can camp next to the Pacific pounding at the cliffs below. Wake up and hike along the stream that makes the pools and into a forest of bamboo that seems to change the air to green.

Not to mention camping on Haleakalā where you aren’t just observing the stars, you are swimming in them. And you will get a front row seat as the sun greets the day to break up your little swimming party.

We could go on about the beaches, hiking, whale watching, Molakai side trip, and sitting in pools below a waterfall as the surf breaks at your back.

Suffice it to say, Maui may be one of the best little road trips in the world.


Wrap Up

What did I tell you? These are some amazing road trips in Oceania. Which one will you choose?

Truth be told, I have always wanted to go to Australia. Ever since Crocodile Dundee came out when I was a kid, I wanted to tie a piece of leather on my upper arm and go for a walkabout.

And as for New Zealand, I have determined it to be the top of my bucket list. However, I have not been for only 1 reason: I am afraid I will be disappointed by every other place I visit in the future.

But you don’t have to wait! Check out more details on each of these travel writer’s own websites. You can follow their links in their posts above.

Do you have an idea that didn’t make this list? Leave a comment below and we will see if we can’t revisit this in the near future.

More Road Trips

If you are itching for more road trip ideas, check out our guide to some of the top National Parks like Yosemite or Joshua Tree.

And if you happen to be passing through the midwest, check out our article on the best road trips from Kansas City.

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