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Road Trips: The Best Coastal Drives in Australia

May 9, 2016

bells beach
Photo by Reyes

by The Daily Telegraph, May 9, 2016

Australia has one of the most diverse and dramatic coastlines in the world. The country is pounded by three different oceans, each of which has sculpted the national shoreline into an endlessly spectacular series of beaches, coves, bays and cliffs. The scale of it all is vast.



The coast of the mainland furls and dips for more than 35,000 kilometres (22,000 miles) as it makes its way around the edge of six different states, taking in rainforests, surf breaks, islands and coral reefs.

It means, of course, that coastal road trips hold huge reward for visitors Down Under. Cathay Pacific flies into Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, Cairns, Brisbane and Perth, all cities that offer world-class potential as gateways for coastal exploration.

Whether you’re keen on driving through the tropics, steering along iconic beachside highways or simply finding your own isolated paradise, there’s ample choice.

The best known of these is the legendary Great Ocean Road. Famously built by returning servicemen after World War One, the road stretches for almost 300 kilometres (186 miles) along the wild, wave-bashed coast of Victoria, beginning a short distance west of Melbourne.

The highlights of this hugely scenic route are numerous – from the craggy limestone spires of the 12 Apostles to the fabled surf of Bells Beach – and the drive also takes in fishing villages, shipwrecks, migrating whales and national parks.

Part of the beauty of the Great Ocean Road is the fact that it can be enjoyed at the speed of your choice. Wind your way along its length in one unforgettable afternoon or spread the experience over several days – it’s even possible to walk it.

What’s more, its location between Melbourne and Adelaide also makes it ideal for those on the longer Great Southern Touring Route between these two cosmopolitan cities.

In New South Wales, meanwhile, Sydney offers excellent options of its own. The coastal road that snakes north from the city is a prime example.

It takes around nine hours of driving to cover the 770 kilometres (478 miles) between the shimmering state capital and Byron Bay, but it’s not a journey you’ll want to hurry. Known as the Legendary Pacific Coast, the region packs in wine, wildlife and watersports.

You can stop off at Port Stephens to swim with wild dolphins, take an Aboriginal cultural tour of the amazing Stockton sand dunes or make a short detour inland to drive the famous Waterfall Way.

And from Byron Bay – a colourfully alternative beach town offering some superb walks – it’s only a short distance across the Queensland border to Brisbane, which itself is the perfect base for a trip along the nearby Gold Coast, known for its long sands and 300 days of annual sunshine.

Up in northern Queensland, meanwhile, laidback Cairns forms the gateway to the Great Tropical Drive, a network of different touring routes that incorporate ancient rainforests, palm-fringed beaches and the incomparable Great Barrier Reef.  

Across in the magical expanse of Western Australia, the variety continues. The gleaming towers of Perth form a starting point for memorable trips heading both up and down the Indian Ocean coast.

Drive south via the arty marina town of Fremantle to reach the Margaret River wine region, or take an epic tour north along the Coral Coast to reach UNESCO-listed Shark Bay and the coral gardens of Ningaloo Reef.

The country’s super-sized coastline is a gift to visitors in search of authentic adventure. And no matter where you choose to focus your travels, you can rest assured that a coastal trip in Australia will always be one to remember.

And if there’s simply not time to fit in everywhere you want? That sounds like the perfect excuse for a return visit.

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This article was from The Daily Telegraph and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

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