Can You Drive The East Coast Of Australia?

Can You Drive The East Coast Of Australia? Image | East Coast Tours Australia

Can you drive the East Coast of Australia? You can, and it's honestly one of the best ways to experience this vast and diverse country. Hopping from place to place by flight is a great way to see multiple Australian destinations in a short time. But if you have a few weeks or longer and you're looking to fully explore one area of the country at a more relaxed pace, a road trip is perfect. 

Australia's East Coast is an amazing place for a road trip. There are so many iconic attractions and hidden gems scattered along the coastline with efficient roads connecting them all. Plus, the drive along the coast is just beautiful, complete with golden beaches, palm tree-fringed roads, lush national parks, and quaint rural towns. Here are some tips for driving the East Coast of Australia and suggestions from our well-travelled local experts!

person driving a van near Airlie Beach, Whitsundays

Can you drive the East Coast of Australia?

You can drive the East Coast of Australia if you want to take your time experiencing the local culture and landscapes of the country. Driving along the East Coast takes much longer than flying, but it offers a more adventurous and authentic experience. You can drive the East Coast without a 4WD, though you will need one to access certain destinations such as K'gari (Fraser Island) and the coloured sands of Rainbow Beach. But otherwise, you can tackle the East Coast in any type of vehicle! The roads are well-maintained and easy to follow, and Google Maps has accurate navigation to most major destinations on Australia's East Coast

car driving along the coastline on K'gari (Fraser Island)

How long does it take to drive the East Coast of Australia?

The average road trip along the East Coast of Australia will probably take around one month. Every road trip is unique and you can plan your own East Coast drive to suit your preferences and time frame. Driving along the coast from Cairns to Melbourne is about 3,700km and takes around 40-45 hours of nonstop driving. Of course, you're going to make plenty of stops, so the amount of time you'll need just depends on how often you want to stop and for how long!

We'll summarise the best places to stop along the East Coast of Australia shortly. But the more stops you want to make, the more time you'll want to carve out for your road trip. If you make minimal stops and only spend a few days in each place, you can drive the East Coast of Australia in just 2 or 3 weeks. 4 weeks is a much more enjoyable pace, and you could easily stretch the drive out to 6 weeks or more if you really want to experience everything without rushing. If you're short on time you can also just drive part of the East Coast instead of the whole length between Cairns and Melbourne. 

girl driving a 4WD on the beach on K'gari (Fraser Island)

What is the best way to do a road trip around Australia?

Without a doubt, the best way to drive the East Coast of Australia is in a campervan. Whether you live here and you want to buy a van, or you're just hiring a vehicle, campervans roll your transport, accommodation, and living/kitchen facilities into one. Driving the East Coast in a campervan saves you the hassle of finding a new place to stay every night. You can just park your van, cook some dinner on the portable stovetop, have a picnic, and sleep in your comfy van! 

Campervans allow freedom and flexibility as well. You can go anywhere and stay anywhere without having to find availability for a bed. Also while camping at local campgrounds and parking areas, you'll get to immerse yourself in nature and meet other travellers. Of course, you can drive the East Coast in a normal car and just book hostels or hotels as you go. You can also carry camping gear and camp along the coast! But a campervan just makes your road trip planning much more straightforward as everything is included. 

couple cooking dinner at the back of a campervan in Australia

Where to stop on the East Coast of Australia

There are so many incredible cities, beaches, towns, islands, and national parks to see along the East Coast of Australia. The hardest part of your drive may be narrowing down the list of places to visit! In a perfect world, you would have months to travel along the coast and spend ample time in each beautiful place. But most travellers don't have that luxury. 

Here are 7 of the absolute best places to stop while driving along the East Coast of Australia. These locations are like milestones along the coast that you simply cannot miss. Each location has lots of nearby day trips and attractions to see as well!

But most East Coast Australia road trips will include these 7 destinations and the attractions that they are most known for. 

Cairns: Known for the Great Barrier Reef, Daintree Rainforest, Atherton Tablelands

Airlie Beach: Known for the Whitsunday Islands, Whitehaven Beach, Hamilton Island, Heart Reef

Noosa: Known for  surf beaches, Noosa National Park, Noosa Everglades, starting point for tours to K'gari (Fraser Island)

Brisbane: Known for world-class museums, street markets, easy access to the Gold Coast beaches

Byron BayKnown for trendy cafe culture, surf beaches, coastal walks, water sports

Sydney: Known for Sydney Harbour, Sydney Opera House, Bondi Beach, Blue Mountains, Royal National Park

MelbourneKnown for culture, museums, cafes, nightlife, street art, Great Ocean Road and the Twelve Apostles

girls standing in front of the sydney opera house

Is it worth driving the East Coast of Australia?

Driving is arguably the best way to experience the East Coast of Australia! It's worth hiring a campervan and taking your time while moving along the coast and getting to know the local landscape and culture. Though driving takes a bit longer than hopping from city to city on a plane, it allows you to see more of the real Australia! When you visit smaller, rural towns, chat with locals, dine at humble eateries, camp in the wilderness, and travel intentionally without rushing, you get a much more immersive and authentic Australian experience. So if you have the time and money to drive the East Coast of Australia, definitely do it!

car driving along a dirt road surrounded by rainforest

A campervan is the best way to travel along the East Coast of Australia! See what campervans are available for your travel dates, or contact our local experts for more info.

East Coast Tours acknowledges all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Traditional Owners of Country and recognises their continuing connection to land, sea, culture and community. We pay our respects to Elders past and present and extend that respect to all First Nations peoples.

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