This epic 20-day self-drive adventure explores Australia's diverse landscapes and iconic destinations. Over 20 days, you'll take in dazzling Sydney and witness the magnificent Uluru. Continue to Melbourne to cruise the Great Ocean Road and see the Twelve Apostles. Then road trip along the beautiful east coast from Brisbane to Sydney, soaking up the laid-back vibes of Byron Bay, Port Macquarie, the Hunter Valley, and more.


  • Soak up the sights of beautiful Sydney and Melbourne
  • Venture into the outback to visit Uluru and Kata Tjuta
  • Cruise along the Great Ocean Road and see the Twelve Apostles
  • Drive from Brisbane to Sydney, stopping at Byron Bay, Port Macquarie, and the Hunter Valley

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Sydney Sydney
Day 2 The Rocks Walking Tour, Sunset Dinner Cruise Sydney
Day 3 Bondi Beach & Watsons Bay Sydney
Day 4 Self-Drive Day Trip to the Blue Mountains Sydney
Day 5 Fly to Alice Springs, Heart of the Outback Alice Springs
Day 6 Drive to Kings Canyon via the Mereenie Loop Kings Canyon
Day 7 Kings Canyon Rim Walk, Drive to Uluru, Astro Tour Uluru
Day 8 Explore Uluru-Kata Tjuta, Sounds of Silence Dinner Uluru
Day 9 Fly to Melbourne, Free Time Melbourne
Day 10 Explore Melbourne, Lanes & Arcades Tour Melbourne
Day 11 Drive the Great Ocean Road to the Twelve Apostles  Port Campbell
Day 12 Drive the Great Ocean Road to Warrnambool, Return to Melbourne  Melbourne
Day 13 Fly to Brisbane, Explore South Bank Brisbane
Day 14 Drive to Byron Bay, Australia's Most Easterly Point Byron Bay
Day 15 Free Time to Explore Byron Bay Byron Bay
Day 16 Drive to Port Macquarie, Australia's Koala Capital Port Macquarie
Day 17 Drive to the Hunter Valley Wine Country Pokolbin
Day 18 Full-Day Uncork the Hunter Tour Pokolbin
Day 19 Drive to Sydney, Coogee Beach Coogee
Day 20 Depart Sydney  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Sydney

Life in Sydney is centered around the expansive, blue Sydney Harbour

G'day and welcome to Sydney! This Australian city is a must-visit destination for good reason. With a dazzling natural harbor, epic beachside walks (not to mention beaches), a world-class restaurant and bar scene, excellent live music and theater, and an unquenchable thirst for fun, you'll never get bored in this city. Take a private transfer from the airport to your accommodation and settle in.

Life in this city revolves around the expansive, blue Sydney Harbour, so spend the rest of your day exploring the waterfront. Visit the beautiful Royal Botanic Gardens and stop at Mrs Macquarie's Chair for the best view of the famous Sydney Harbour Bridge and the iconic Sydney Opera House. Stop for a wine at the Opera Bar and drink up your first stunning sunset in Australia.

Day 2: The Rocks Walking Tour, Sunset Dinner Cruise

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

This morning you'll uncover the secrets of Sydney's heritage 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 an unforgettable and exhilarating experience. Later, embark on a deluxe sunset cruise accompanied by a delicious three-course dinner. Admire iconic sights such as the bridge, Opera House, Fort Denison, Luna Park, and more. Snap photos as the sky is set alight at sunset and the city skyline comes alive.

Day 3: Bondi Beach & Watsons Bay

Bondi Icebergs
Bondi Icebergs is one of Australia's oldest swimming clubs

This morning swap the inner city for the beach. Choose to while away the day at Bondi Beach, Australia's most famous stretch of sand. The jewel of Sydney's laid-back beach lifestyle is home to one of the oldest surf lifesaving clubs in the world. 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. Stop 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: Self-Drive Day Trip to the Blue Mountains

View over the landmark rock formation "Three sisters" in Blue Mountains
Views over the Three Sisters rock formations in the Blue Mountains

Pick up a rental car and hit the road for the stunning beauty of Blue Mountains National Park, just 1.5 hours west of Sydney. Here a dusty blue horizon of eucalyptus trees appears to stretch on forever. Set out on foot to explore some of the 87 miles (140 km) of walking tracks, admire the native bushland, marvel at the impressive rock formations, explore underground caves, and more.

A trip to the Blue Mountains World Heritage Area wouldn't be complete without a stop at Scenic World at Katoomba. Hop on the Scenic Skyway gondola across Jamison Valley to treat yourself to staggering views of Katoomba Falls, the Three Sisters, and Mount Solitary. You can also ride the Scenic Railway, the world's steepest incline railway that descends more than 1,300 feet (400 m) down the escarpment. Stop by viewpoints, such as Govetts Leap or Evans Lookout in Blackheath, and Elysian Rock Lookout in Leura, before returning to Sydney and dropping off the rental car.

Day 5: Fly to Alice Springs, Heart of the Outback

Tourist man holding orphaned baby kangaroo at sunset sunlight
Holding an orphaned baby kangaroo at the Kangaroo Sanctuary

This morning a driver will transfer you to the airport for your 3.5-hour flight to Alice Springs. On arrival, collect a rental car and prepare for your great outback adventure. Known to the locals as "Alice," this town embodies the quintessential Australian spirit, from the ancient desert location to the Aboriginal culture that is woven into the fabric of life here.

The rest of the day is yours to explore Alice Springs at your leisure. For a taste of local culture, head to the Araluen Cultural Precinct, which houses an art gallery and museum showcasing the region's history and Indigenous art. The Royal Flying Doctor Service Museum shows the essential work of the aerial medical service. Encounter nature, free-flying bird shows, and eye-opening Aboriginal experiences at Desert Park. Or visit the Kangaroo Sanctuary, a 188-acre (76 ha) wildlife sanctuary for rescued orphaned joeys and adult kangaroos.

Day 6: Drive from Alice Springs to Kings Canyon via the Mereenie Loop

Mereenie Loop
Mereenie Loop is an unsealed road in the Red Centre of Australia

 Leave Alice Springs this morning for an epic 4.5-hour drive toward Kings Canyon and Glen Helen in the West MacDonnell Ranges. Take a break and stop for a swim at Redbank Gorge Pools, 12 miles (20 km) west of Glen Helen. If you have the time, buy a tire tube from Glen Helen Resort and splash your way through the gorge.

Continue and head to the Mereenie Loop. This unsealed dirt road is a "must-do" for adventure lovers traveling through the Red Centre. It takes you along the road less traveled, through some beautiful landscapes in the Central Australian Outback. You might even see a handful of wild camels or dingoes along the way! Eventually, you'll reach Kings Canyon. Enjoy the vast outback scenery and go to bed early—you'll be up before sunrise tomorrow.

Day 7: Kings Canyon Rim Walk, Drive to Uluru, Astro Tour

Kings Canyon Rim Walk
Kings Canyon Rim Walk is a magnificent morning walk, best done 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 around three to four hours to complete depending on your pace. The walk starts with around 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. Next, choose to stay up top or venture down into the picturesque Garden of Eden filled with verdant greenery. After exploring Kings Canyon, continue on a 3.5-hour drive through the vast outback to Uluru. 

Uluru is one of the greatest natural wonders of the world. Feel a powerful presence the moment you see the 1,150-foot-high (348 m) monolith within the UNESCO-listed Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park. Bring a picnic dinner and enjoy the sunset while viewing the 36 red rock domes of Kata Tjuta. 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 lifecycle of a star, the theory of the Big Bang, and much more.

Day 8: Explore Uluru-Kata Tjuta, Sounds of Silence Dinner

Uluru - Base Walk
Lace up your shoes and walk around the base of Uluru within Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park
Plan your trip to Australia
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.

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 Aboriginal law, moral systems and culture, and the natural and human history of the park. From the center, it's only a five-minute drive to Mala Carpark, the meeting point for the free ranger-guided Mala Walk. This 1.5-mile (2 km) route travels along parts of Uluru's base, through the caves where the Anangu's ancestors first settled, and past ancient rock art before arriving at Kantju Gorge.

This evening, experience the spellbinding Sounds of Silence dinner beneath the starry canopy of the desert at night. Your journey begins on a lone sand dune with 360-degree views of the Uluru monolith, the Kata Tjuta domes, and perhaps 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. A star talker will share stories of the southern night sky as you finish with a warm drink or glass of port wine.

Day 9: Fly to Melbourne, Free Time

Melbourne is a creative and exciting city to visit

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 Aboriginal 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. Venture to the suburbs and visit the lively Prahran Market, renowned for its gourmet delis and specialty produce, and then walk down the funky Greville Street. Take a taxi to St Kilda Beach, where you can stroll along the esplanade and historic St Kilda Pier and enjoy a cake at one of Acland Street's famous pâtisseries.

Day 10: Explore Melbourne, Lanes & Arcades Tour

Get lost in Melbourne's colorful laneways and arcades

Start today in Melbourne's pulsating city center. You could tick off Melbourne's top sights—board the free City Circle tram, starting at Flinders Street Station. The tram passes by must-see attractions such as St Paul's Cathedral, Parliament House, and the Royal Exhibition Building. Hop off at Flagstaff Station and walk to Queen Victoria Market, a Melbourne landmark for over a century. Grab a coffee from Market Lane Coffee and 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 the city's greatest secrets. This city is famous for its laneway culture, and on a three-hour afternoon walk, you'll discover local designers and specialty retailers, quirky cafés, and cool street art—all while hearing fascinating tales from your local guide. These 19th-century arcades and alleyways have been reinvigorated with world-famous street art, and you'll find hidden gems at every turn.

Day 11: Drive the Great Ocean Road to Twelve Apostles

Twelve Apostles, Great Ocean Road
There are actually only eight of the Twelve Apostles left

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. Nearby check out Erskine Falls, Henderson Falls, Phantom Falls, and Sheoak Falls if you have time. 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 12: Drive the Great Ocean Road to Warrnambool, Return to Melbourne 

The Twelve Apostles
London Bridge was also once connected to the mainland

This morning's 4.5-hour drive starts with a return 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 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. When you're ready, continue to Melbourne, where you'll check into a hotel near the airport in preparation for tomorrow's flight. 

Day 13: 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 with wood-fired pizza and fresh pasta at Julius Pizzeria, or try contemporary Chinese at Donna Chang in the CBD.

Day 14: Drive to Byron Bay, Australia's Most Easterly Point

Byron Bay - Cape Byron, Aerial View
Byron Bay Lighthouse sits at the tip of Cape Byron

Today you hit the road south toward the state of New South Wales and the famous town of Byron Bay. You have two drive 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 juxtaposed with pristine coastline. Or wind your way along narrow country roads for four hours toward Tamborine Mountain in the lush Gold Coast hinterland. Drop into 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 stunning natural attractions and eclectic community, Byron Bay is one of the world's most famous coastal towns. You'll be captivated by gorgeous beaches, breathtaking hinterland rainforests, spectacular coastal trails, amazing marine life, and a buzzing food scene. 

Day 15: Free Day to Explore Byron Bay

Cape Byron Walk & Lighthouse at Sunrise
The Cape Byron walking track is an easy loop, perfect for 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, Stone & Wood, followed by a bit of retail therapy in town.

Day 16: Drive to Port Macquarie, Australia's Koala Capital

The iconic Minyon Falls on the Repentance Creek in the Northern Rivers region of New South Wales. Australia
 The view from Minyon Falls lookout, with the creek cascading over the cliffs

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 unforgettable 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 grey 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 view from the award-winning Forest Sky Pier 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 at the Point Cafe Restaurant, overlooking the Hastings River, for dinner. Today's drive time is 4.5 hours without stops.

Day 17: Drive to the Hunter Valley Wine Country

Hunter Valley
The rolling vineyards of 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 Ocean Drive via Laurieton before rejoining the highway, a short detour, and a pretty drive. 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 18: Full-Day Uncork the Hunter Tour

Uncork the Hunter
Learn to combine cheese with wine on this full-day wine tour
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 a full-day winery tour, you'll typically visit four or five wineries, learn to pair the exquisite flavors of chocolate and wine, delight in the art of cheese and wine matching, and recharge with a lavish seasonal picnic lunch amid the breathtaking vineyard landscapes. Conclude the day with a beer tasting at Potters Brewery.

Day 19: Drive to Sydney, Coogee Beach

Coogee Beach is one of Sydney's best beaches located in the Eastern Suburbs

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 breathtaking views from the headlands. Enjoy a swim at Coogee Beach and Wylie's Baths, or walk to Gordon's Bay. Coogee boasts a vibrant café, bar, and restaurant scene. 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 20: Depart Sydney

Wave goodbye to beautiful Sydney

It's your final morning in Australia. Use the morning to unwind or sneak in one final salty swim at Coogee Beach before your flight home. From Coogee, it's just a 20-minute drive to Sydney 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 The Ultimate Australian Self-Drive Adventure: Outback, Great Ocean Road & Pacific Coast - 20 Days
Map of The Ultimate Australian Self-Drive Adventure: Outback, Great Ocean Road & Pacific Coast - 20 Days