This 19-day self-drive itinerary bounces between Australia's most famous sights and beautiful landscapes. Kick off with a cruise on the Sydney Harbour, then marvel at the Uluru monolith and hike Kings Canyon in the outback. Return to urban life in Melbourne, then drive the Great Ocean Road and see the Twelve Apostles. Finally, drive along Australia's east coast from Brisbane to Sydney, stopping at the relaxed coastal towns of Byron Bay and Port Macquarie, with wine tasting in the Hunter Valley.


  • Check out the iconic city sights in world-class Sydney, Melbourne, and Brisbane
  • Witness the beauty of outback Australia, including Uluru and Kata Tjuta at sunset
  • Journey along the Great Ocean Road, one of Australia's most spectacular drives
  • Drive down Australia's sunny east coast, from Brisbane to Sydney via Byron Bay
  • Spend a full day tasting wines and lunching with a local guide in the Hunter Valley

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Sydney, Sunset Dinner Cruise Sydney
Day 2 The Rocks Walking Tour, Free Time Sydney
Day 3 Explore Bondi Beach & Watsons Bay Sydney
Day 4 Fly to Alice Springs, Visit Museums & Kangaroos Alice Springs
Day 5 Drive to Kings Canyon via the Mereenie Loop Kings Canyon
Day 6 Kings Canyon Rim Walk, Drive to Uluru, Astro Tour Uluru
Day 7 Explore Uluru-Kata Tjuta, Sounds of Silence Dinner Uluru
Day 8 Fly to Melbourne, Free Time Melbourne
Day 9 Explore Melbourne, Lanes & Arcades Tour Melbourne
Day 10 Drive the Great Ocean Road to the Twelve Apostles Port Campbell
Day 11 Drive the Great Ocean Road to Warrnambool, Return to Melbourne Melbourne
Day 12 Fly to Brisbane, Explore the South Bank Brisbane
Day 13 Drive to Byron Bay, Beach Time Byron Bay
Day 14 Free Day in Byron Bay Byron Bay
Day 15 Drive to Port Macquarie, Free Time Port Macquarie
Day 16 Drive to the Hunter Valley, Free Time Pokolbin
Day 17 Full-Day Uncork the Hunter Tour Pokolbin
Day 18 Drive to Sydney, Relax on Coogee Beach Coogee
Day 19 Depart Sydney  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Sydney, Sunset Dinner Cruise

Sydney harbour
Check out views of the iconic Sydney Opera House on Sydney Harbour

G'day and welcome to Sydney! Life here revolves around the city's brilliant blue natural harbor, world-class surf beaches, and amazing restaurant and bar scene. A private driver will transfer you from the airport to your accommodation in the city. Drop your bags, and then go explore the beautiful Royal Botanic Gardens along the waterfront. Make sure to visit Mrs Macquarie's Chair for one of the best views of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Opera House.

Sydney is all about the harbor, so venture down to the port in the late afternoon. Step aboard a yacht and enjoy a dinner cruise on Sydney Harbour, where you'll watch day turn to night and feast on a delicious Australian barbecue dinner paired with wine or beer. Your captain and host will share the city's rich history as you pass by famous landmarks, and you can even go swimming, fishing, or kayaking if you wish.

Day 2: The Rocks Walking Tour, Free Time

The Rocks Walking Tour
Take a walking tour through The Rocks, Sydney's oldest neighborhood

This morning, you'll learn more about Sydney's unique history as you explore The Rocks on a guided walking tour. Enjoy amazing views over the Sydney Harbour and the Campbells Cove Wharves as your guide leads you along narrow laneways and atmospheric courtyards to discover some of Sydney's oldest buildings, including Cadman's Cottage, dating back to 1816 and the Garrison Church, built in the 1840s.

The rest of the day is yours—you could take a ferry to Milson's Point and walk back to the city center via the bridge. Or tackle the BridgeClimb and walk over the arch of Sydney's "coat hanger" for a memorable and exhilarating experience. 

Day 3: Explore Bondi Beach & Watsons Bay

Bondi Icebergs
Overlooking Bondi Beach, Bondi Icebergs is one of Australia's oldest swimming clubs

This morning, swap the inner city for the beach. Start the day at Bondi Beach, Australia's most famous stretch of sand and the perfect place to enjoy the city's laid-back beach style. Browse boutique shops along Gould Street and sit down at a trendy café, then lace up your sneakers and walk the famous coastal pathway from Bondi to Bronte.

For more beachside explorations, move on to Watsons Bay and South Head. Take the bus or taxi to Robinson Park and make a brief detour to the Gap Lookout, where you can climb the steps for an incredible view back across the city. Consider stopping by Watsons Bay Hotel for lunch or a drink, then head to Camp Cove Beach to swim and sunbathe or walk off lunch on the 2.5-mile (4 km) return track to the Hornby Lighthouse.

Day 4: Fly to Alice Springs, Visit Museums & Kangaroos

Alice Springs
Start your outback adventure in Alice Springs, known as "Alice" to locals

A private driver will transfer you to the airport this morning for your three-hour Alice Springs flight. On arrival in Alice Springs, collect a rental car and prepare for your great outback adventure. Known to the locals as "Alice," this town offers the quintessential Australian spirit, from its ancient desert location to the Indigenous culture woven into the fabric of life here. Today, you're free to explore the big town at your own pace.

For starters, you could visit the Royal Flying Doctor Service Museum to learn more about the essential work of aerial medical service and the heroic tales of servicing this isolated region. Learn about the history and the activities of the RFDS's pilots, engineers, doctors, and nurses, as well as the experiences of the patients. Then, visit the showstopping Desert Park, where you can choose between bird shows, nocturnal tours, and Indigenous experiences. If you have time left in the day, visit the 188-acre (76 ha) Kangaroo Sanctuary to meet rescued orphaned baby and adult kangaroos.

Day 5: Drive to Kings Canyon via the Mereenie Loop

Take a detour on the unsealed Mereenie Loop for a more rustic driving experience

When you're ready this morning, it's time to explore Australia's Red Centre! While the road is completely sealed on the 3.5-hour drive between Alice Springs and Kings Canyon, today you can opt to add in the adventurous Mereenie Loop. This unsealed dirt road is a "must-do" for adventure lovers traveling through the desert. It takes you along the less traveled road through some beautiful landscapes in the Central Australian outback. You might even see a handful of wild camels or dingoes along the way.

First, leave Alice Springs and head toward Glen Helen in the West MacDonnell Ranges. Stop for a swim at Redbank Gorge Pools, 12 miles (20 km) west of Glen Helen. If you have the time, buy an inner tire tube from Glen Helen Resort and splash your way through the gorge. Arrive at Kings Canyon in the afternoon. Enjoy the vast outback and head to bed early, as you'll be exploring the famous Kings Canyon Rim Walk at sunrise tomorrow.

Day 6: Kings Canyon Rim Walk, Drive to Uluru, Astro Tour

Kings Canyon Rim Walk
Take a spin on the Kings Canyon Rim Walk in the morning before the heat of the day

Rise bright and early to tackle the Rim Walk, a 3.7-mile (6 km) circuit around Kings Canyon. It usually takes 3-4 hours to complete, depending on your pace. The walk starts with about 500 steep steps, but it gets easier from there! From the top, marvel at the incredible views and see the sandstone domes known as the Lost City. From here, you can venture down into the picturesque Garden of Eden filled with lush greenery. After exploring Kings Canyon, continue your 3.5-hour drive through the vast outback to get to Uluru.

Uluru is one of the greatest natural wonders of the world. Feel a powerful presence when you see the 1,150-foot-high (348 m) monolith. UNESCO-listed Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park holds a special cultural significance for the local Indigenous people, the Anangu. Later, join a stargazing experience beneath the southern night sky. Learn about the evolution of the universe and use telescopes and binoculars to view the night sky. Learn how stars are formed, why they produce light, the life cycle of a star, the theory of the Big Bang, and much more.

Day 7: Explore Uluru-Kata Tjuta, Sounds of Silence Dinner

Uluru - Base Walk
Take a guided walk around the base of Uluru within Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park

Start your day in the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park at the Cultural Centre to learn more about the significance of Uluru to its traditional owners, the Anangu. Learn about Indigenous law, moral systems and culture, and the history of the park. It's only a five-minute drive from the center to Mala Carpark, where you'll start the guided Mala Walk. This 1.5-mile (2 km) route takes you along Uluru's base, through the caves where the Anangu's ancestors first settled, and past ancient rock art to get to Kantju Gorge.

This evening, you'll take part in a Sounds of Silence dinner, eating under the canopy of the desert night while listening to cosmic stories from your host. Your journey begins on a lone sand dune with 360-degree views of the Uluru monolith, the Kata Tjuta domes, and what might be the best sunset of your life. Enjoy a glass of sparkling wine and canapés, then savor a mouthwatering barbecue buffet of Australian delicacies, such as barramundi and kangaroo, while enjoying the quiet of the desert. Finish with a warm drink or glass of port wine.

Day 8: Fly to Melbourne, Free Time

 Australia's cultural capital is situated along the Yarra / Birrarung River

Today, you'll drop off your rental car and board a three-hour flight to Melbourne, the cultural capital of Australia. Collect your luggage and meet with your driver, who will transfer you to your accommodation. The afternoon is yours to explore as you wish. You could start by diving into the city's Indigenous culture. Take an immersive self-guided tour with the Koorie Heritage Trust, beginning in the city's heart at Federation Square. View a collection of artworks and artifacts, then choose to meet with a local guide for a cultural walk along the Yarra / Birrarung River.

Later, explore the creative and cool side of this eclectic metropolis. Wander down city laneways to discover hidden bars and trendy boutiques. You could also take a taxi or tram to St Kilda Beach, where you can take photos at St Kilda Pier followed by a sweet treat at one of Acland Street's renowned pâtisseries.

Plan your trip to Australia
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.

Day 9: Explore Melbourne, Lanes & Arcades Tour

Join a guide and get lost in Melbourne's colorful laneways and arcades

Start today in Melbourne's pulsating city center. A good way to tick off Melbourne's top sights is by boarding the free City Circle tram at Flinders Street Station. The tram passes by top attractions such as St Paul's Cathedral, Parliament House, and the Royal Exhibition Building. You can jump off at Flagstaff Station and walk to Queen Victoria Market, a Melbourne landmark for over a century. Grab a flat white from Market Lane Coffee and a tasty treat, such as a spinach and cheese börek from the Borek Shop

Later, get lost in Melbourne's back streets, laneways, and arcades with a guide who will show you hidden secrets. This city is famous for its laneway culture, and on a three-hour afternoon walk, you'll discover designers and specialty retailers, quirky cafés, and cool street art—all while hearing local tales from your guide. These 19th-century arcades and alleyways have been reinvigorated with world-famous street art, and you'll find gems at every turn.

Day 10: Drive the Great Ocean Road to the Twelve Apostles

Twelve Apostles, Great Ocean Road
Finish today's self-guided road trip with a view of the Twelve Apostles

Today begins your five-hour road trip adventure on the iconic Great Ocean Road, which means you need wheels. Pick up your rental car and head to your first destination, Bells Beach in Torquay, a famous surf spot known for hosting Rip Curl Pro, a world surfing competition. If you're curious, visit the Australian National Surfing Museum here. Continue to Aireys Inlet, a quaint seaside town. Enjoy a walk to the Split Point Lighthouse, which offers prime photo opportunities.

Continue to Lorne for lunch and visit Teddy's Lookout. Then, check out Erskine Falls, Henderson Falls, Phantom Falls, and Sheoak Falls if time allows. Continue to Apollo Bay, stopping halfway at Kennett River to spot local koala colonies. From Apollo Bay, continue to Cape Otway Lighthouse, the oldest surviving lighthouse in Australia. Finally, you'll reach the famous Twelve Apostles, a set of limestone columns that rise dramatically from the sea. Take in the views, then go check in to your accommodation in Port Campbell for the evening. 

Day 11: Drive the Great Ocean Road to Warrnambool, Return to Melbourne 

Choose between several photogenic stops today, including the Loch Ard Gorge

This morning's 4.5-hour drive starts with a return trip to the Great Ocean Road's most famous attraction: the Twelve Apostles. Witness the eight remaining pillars aglow with morning light. After, drive to nearby Loch Ard Gorge for a self-guided walk. Continue to the Grotto, the Arch, and London Bridge, a natural archway that collapsed in 1990. Descend the 86 stairs of Gibson Steps to access a beautiful beach backed by 230-foot (70 m) limestone cliffs, then make your way to the enormous offshore rock formations of Gog and Magog. Just make sure you check the tide times!

Hit the road again, continuing along the Great Ocean Road until Warnambool. Grab a takeaway lunch and turn north toward Ballarat, Victoria's largest inland city and a thriving hub of contemporary arts, food, wine, and heritage. Explore Sovereign Hill, an open-air museum that recreates the former gold-mining town of Ballarat in the 1850s after its gold discovery. Here, costumed characters bring the shops, hotels, theater, and underground mines to life over 25 acres (10 ha) of the original mining site. Continue to Melbourne, where you'll check into a hotel near the airport in preparation for tomorrow's flight. 

Day 12: Fly to Brisbane, Explore South Bank 

Streets Beach
Streets Beach sits at the heart of the South Bank Parklands on the bank of the Brisbane River

Drop off your rental car and catch a short flight to Brisbane, the capital of Queensland. On arrival, collect another rental car and check in to your accommodation. Freshen up and venture out to explore the rapidly evolving cosmopolitan city. Start with a walk along the Brisbane River—either exploring the beautiful City Botanic Gardens toward the hip Howard Smith Wharves area or on the other side of the river at South Bank. Take a dip at Streets Beach, Australia's only inner-city human-made beach, then submerge yourself in culture at QAGOMA galleries.

Spend the afternoon exploring downtown Brisbane, a mix of elegant old buildings, modern skyscrapers, and tranquil parks. Browse the heritage arcades and stores on Queen Street Mall, the city's shopping hub. Admire the former Treasury Building, and take a free tour up the clock tower of Brisbane City Hall for a bird's-eye view of the city. You can find almost every cuisine in Brisbane. For dinner, seek out Middle Eastern-inspired Gerard's Bistro, indulge in wood-fired pizza and fresh pasta at Julius Pizzeria, or try contemporary Chinese at Donna Chang in the CBD.

Day 13: Drive to Byron Bay, Beach Time

Byron Bay - Cape Byron, Aerial View
The beaches near Byron Bay have golden sands, surf swells, and beautiful blue water

Today, you'll hit the road south toward the state of New South Wales and the pinch-me-now town of Byron Bay. You have two driving options. The easy, direct route takes you 2.5 hours via Surfers Paradise, a beachfront Gold Coast suburb renowned for its glittering strip of skyscrapers, shopping, and nightlife. Or wind your way along narrow country roads for four hours toward Tamborine Mountain in the hinterland. If you choose the latter, drop into the historic St Bernard's Hotel for a pub lunch with epic views over the mountains, then cross the state border through rainforest and cane fields.

Arrive at Byron Bay, Australia's most easterly point, in the afternoon. With its enviable natural attractions and artsy community, Byron Bay is one of the world's best-known coastal towns. Enjoy some free time to explore the prime beaches, coastal trails, and trendy food scene. 

Day 14: Free Day to Explore Byron Bay

Cape Byron Walk & Lighthouse at Sunrise
The Cape Byron walking track is an easy loop, perfect at sunrise or sunset

The coastal town of Byron Bay seems to attract people from all walks of life, from surfers and brewers to artists, musicians, yoga teachers, and wellness gurus. The result is an eclectic, vibrant community with no shortage of things to do or ways to spend your day. Go surfing, kayaking, or hiking, or visit numerous art galleries and boutiques in town. Seek out a yoga studio, day spa, or wellness center. Or simply relax and enjoy a laid-back healthy meal at one of the trendy cafés in town. How you spend your free day is entirely up to you.

You could grab a takeaway coffee and then start the nearby Cape Byron walking track, an easy 2.3-mile (3.7 km) loop. Bring your towel for a dip at Wategos Beach and then stroll through the shade of palm trees before reaching the lighthouse. Reward your efforts with a tour of the local artisan brewery called Stone & Wood, followed by a bit of retail therapy in town.

Day 15: Drive to Port Macquarie, Free Time

The iconic Minyon Falls on the Repentance Creek in the Northern Rivers region of New South Wales. Australia
 Take a detour to see the Minyon Falls lookout before continuing to Port Macquarie

Enjoy a relaxed breakfast in Byron, then hit the road south toward Coffs Harbour. Consider taking a detour to visit Minyon Falls Lookout and witness memorable views, or visit Bundjalung National Park for tranquil river scenery, secluded beaches, and freshwater lagoons. Make a special stop 20 minutes north of Coffs at Emerald Beach. Eastern gray kangaroos are often spotted nibbling grass along the Look At Me Now Headland Walk. Continue to Coffs Harbour, a relaxed coastal town where you can enjoy lunch at the Coffs Harbor Fishermen's Co-op

Snap a picture with The Big Banana, a kitsch yellow beacon and a must-see while in town. If you have time, check out the award-winning Forest Sky Pier view and discover the Gumgali Track, an Indigenous story trail. Continue on the road before continuing to Port Macquarie. This charming coastal town is home to the highest koala population on the east coast of Australia! Explore Port Macquarie at your leisure and make a booking for dinner at the Point Cafe Restaurant overlooking the Hastings River. Today's drive time is 4.5 hours without stops.

Day 16: Drive to the Hunter Valley, Free Time

Hunter Valley
Spend two nights in the Hunter Valley, Australia's oldest wine-growing region

Today, your final destination is Australia's oldest wine-growing region, the famous Hunter Valley. When you leave Port Macquarie this morning, venture along the pretty Ocean Drive via Laurieton before rejoining the highway. Continue south, making another detour to Forster-Tuncurry. Take a dip at Blueys Beach and stretch your legs, then follow the Lakes Way, which leads you through the beautiful Great Lakes region and past Myall Lake. Rejoin the Pacific Highway and then continue inland.

If you're ahead of schedule, consider a bonus pitstop at Port Stephens, a lovely seaside town that's home to a large pod of dolphins and the amazing Stockton Sand Dunes. Otherwise, continue toward the Hunter Valley, where more than 150 world-famous wineries sit alongside acclaimed restaurants, delicious local produce, and magnificent natural beauty. If you arrive early enough, you might be able to sneak in a cellar door visit or two or visit the beautiful Hunter Valley Gardens. Today's drive time is four hours, not including stops.

Day 17: Full-Day Uncork the Hunter Tour

Uncork the Hunter
Learn how to best combine cheese with wine on this full-day wine tour
Today, you'll indulge in the ultimate full-day wine-tasting tour in the Hunter Valley, packed with VIP tastings at boutique and big-name wineries. Wander through vineyards, savoring private cellar door experiences and local produce. On this guided adventure, you'll typically visit four or five vineyards while learning to pair classic flavors, such as chocolate and cheese, with the appropriate wines. You'll also recharge with a lavish seasonal picnic lunch amid the stellar vineyard landscapes. Conclude the fun with a beer tasting at Potters Brewery.

Day 18: Drive to Sydney, Relax on Coogee Beach

With calm water, Coogee Beach is one of Sydney's best beaches

It's time for your final drive to sunny Sydney, back to where your adventure in Australia began. On the two-hour drive to the city, you could stop and take a stroll at the breakwater below Nobbys Lighthouse in Newcastle or drop by the seaside town of The Entrance.

Once you reach Sydney, drive toward the popular beachside suburb of Coogee. Spend your final afternoon in Australia soaking up one of Australia's iconic golden beaches. There are free barbecues and grassy parkland to enjoy, plus great views from the headlands. Enjoy a swim at Coogee Beach and Wylie's Baths, or walk to Gordon's Bay. Coogee offers a vibrant café, bar, and restaurant scene when you're ready for a break. Stop by the grand Coogee Bay Hotel, a seaside retreat since 1873; the Coogee Pavilion, a multilevel eatery with a rooftop bar; or Barzura, a popular local café.

Day 19: Depart Sydney

Wave goodbye to beautiful Sydney

It's your final morning in Australia. Use the morning to unwind or sneak in one final swim at Coogee Beach before your flight home. From Coogee, it's just a 20-minute drive to Sydney's airport. Arrive with enough time to drop off your rental car and catch your departure flight home. Safe travels!

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Map of Australia's Ultimate Self-Drive Adventure - 19 Days
Map of Australia's Ultimate Self-Drive Adventure - 19 Days