The Best Unusual Road Trips in Australia
Not all road trips are about wide-open roads and amazing sunsets. Sometimes they can be about the odd, interesting, and frankly whacky things that you find across a country as vast as Australia.
The good news is that Australia has lots of both! Before you head out on your next road trip, look over this list of the more obscure of Australia’s tourist destinations. If you find one you like, use it as the basis of your next adventure (and yes, enjoy the sunsets on the way as well).
Jump to your city:
Unusual road trips near Sydney, NSW
If you’re based in Australia’s biggest city, here are some of the strange road trip destinations we can recommend.
The Giant Stairway
Just 90 minutes’ drive Sydney, from The Giant Stairway in the Blue Mountains isn’t unusual, but its history is a good yarn. The ranger who built the stairs that lead up to the most incredible view of the Three Sisters almost didn’t finish it!
Luckily it did get built, and you can now ascent 800 steps and 1000 feet. There are great edges to freak out those afraid of heights…
Wedding Cake Rock
Alas, you can’t eat it, but this incredibly fortunate erosion is less than an hour’s drive from the Sydney CBD – and it’s only here for a limited time!
Unlike the surrounding Sydney sandstone, Wedding Cake Rock is pure limestone, and a unique piece of Tasman coastline. However, it’s so precariously overhanging, it’s expected it will topple into the sea in under a decade.
See it while you still can!
Lightning Ridge and Grawin
The Gold Rush might be over, but Australia’s opal mining towns still host a bona fide outback frontier spirit that’s been lost in the last 150 years.
Opal can’t be mass-mined like gold and silver, so opal fields are still frequented by solo adventurers keen to strike it rich! Opal Miners are eccentric characters, and when they’re not underground, they’ll spin some great yarns about life off the grid.
6 hour’s drive from Sydney, Lightning Ridge offers plenty of mining fields full of mullock heaps and abandoned cars, but with more accessible mine tours and museums. For the original, more rugged Opal town experience, head to nearby Grawin for a pub crawl and a game of bush golf at the Club in the Scrub.
Newnes Glow Worm Tunnel
Until 1932 the Newnes Railway Tunnel hosted trains carrying shale oil, but it’s now home to tens of thousands of glow worms! Walk to the bend halfway through the tunnel and turn off your torch for a few minutes to see the place light up.
The tunnel is accessible by a 22km or 9km hike along the old railway track or fire trail, respectively. Newnes is a great camping spot, so consider pitching a tent.
Unusual road trips near Brisbane, QLD
If you’re enjoying the gift from above that is Queensland’s year round weather, you’re just on the edge of some of the most exciting parts of Australia. For lovers of the more eclectic, read on.
Two hours south of Brisbane in the Byron Bay hinterland is the quintessential Aussie hippie community, Nimbin. The 1973 Aquarius Festival brought a more alternative crowd to town, many of whom settled in after the festival ended.
An unusual but very welcoming local population now run a banger of a town, worth a visit for those keen to relax. Unfortunately, the fabled hemp museum burned down a few years back, but the town’s vivid history is still told by most of the locals.
Found on Fraser Island, a three-hour road trip north of Brisbane, Lake McKenzie is 100 metres above sea level. As a result, it’s comprised of just rainwater, and thanks to a high acidity has virtually no life in its waters, making it almost impossibly pure.
The impact of swimmers is impacting on the lake, so you’d best be extra responsible if you visit the cracker of a swimming hole. Just fyi, you won’t be able to drive on Fraser Island without a well equipped 4X4, so leave the car in Harvey Bay while you visit.
Paronella Park isn’t actually near Brisbane, but if you’re road tripping up to Port Douglas you can’t afford to miss it. The park hosts the ruins of an almost 100-year-old Spanish-style mansion, built by Spanish immigrant Jose Paronella.
Paronella built a great castle inspired by those in his home country, as well as the oldest hydro-electric dam in North Queensland. After generations of floods, fire, and cyclones, the ruins are all that are left, but are well taken care of by the Evans family, who run tours and host overnight stays at the on-site caravan park.
Other unusual road trips near Brisbane
Here are a couple of other spots you should check out on your oddball, unusual road trip experience.
SS Maheno. On the eastern side of Fraser Island is one of Australia’s best looking ship wrecks, the SS Maheno. It’s great to look at, but don’t try to go inside.
Kilcoy. A charming town in it’s own right, Kilcoy prides itself as being the home of Yowie!
Dularcha Rail Tunnel. For a natural hike with a man made twist, Dularcha National Park has made a feature of its abandoned rail tunnel, incorporating it into the parks hiking trails.
Big things near Brisbane
As far as big things go, Queensland has more than its fair share. It is a pretty big state though. With all that said, some of these are in northern New South Wales:
Unusual road trips near Melbourne, VIC
Travellers based out of Melbourne are lucky to have access to a state tightly packed with adventures, all quickly accessible from the state capital. Here are our recommendations for unusual road trips near Melbourne.
As if white sands and a marvellous ocean weren’t enough, Squeaky Beach has one extra selling point – squeaky sand! Thanks to the level of quartz in the sand, it squeaks as you walk through it.
Located on Wilsons Promontory three hour’s drive from Melbourne, Squeaky Beach also has picturesque headlands and some incredible granite boulders to explore. It’s also a great beach.
East Warburton Redwoods
Country Victoria is the last place you’d expect to see a vast forest of Californian Redwoods, but that’s exactly what you’ll find in East Warburton. It’s two hours east of Melbourne, into the Yarra ranges.
But wait, there’s more. Along with the thousands of towering redwoods, planted in a 1930’s revegetation program, the wooden art installations of David Digapony are scattered throughout the forest, giving the place a ghostly vibe, somewhere between the Cottingley Fairies and Blair Witch Project.
Taking the title of Australia’s largest hedge maze, Ashcombe Maze offers a simple, yet irresistible proposition. Get lost, then get out!
Live your Alice in Wonderland Dreams in reality just an hour’s drive south of Melbourne, enjoying the sights of the Mornington Peninsula en route.
Phillip Island Penguin Parade
Hardly under the radar, Phillip Island’s Little Penguins are certainly unusual. All the world’s Little, or Fairy Penguins live in Australia and New Zealand, but Phillip Island hosts 30,000 of them.
Each evening they walk from the sea to their cubbies on the land in the incredible Penguin Parade. Thanks to the low light and the penguin’s reflective eyes, photographing them is almost impossible, so you’ve got to see this one in real life.
Phillip Island is just two hour’s drive south of Melbourne (don’t worry, there’s a bridge to the island itself).
Other unusual road trips near Melbourne:
Here are a few other destinations worth getting to in Victoria, if you’re keen for something a little off the beaten track.
Hanging Rock. A distinctive former volcano and occasional concert venue, Hanging Rock was also the scene of one of Australia’s most famous novels, Picnic at Hanging Rock. As long as you don’t go missing, it’s still a great spot for a picnic!
Mungo National Park. The Willandra Lakes dried up 19,000 years back, but millennia of sediment deposits left some incredible rock formations behind.
The Ned Kelly road trip. For a real Aussie historical experience, these two single day trips from Melbourne will trace the life of Ned Kelly, Australia’s most famous bushranger. As well as the story of Kelly, it’s a great way to experience country Victoria quickly.