5 great journeys in Australia

The Ghan – one of the world's most famous train journeys, (photo by Glyn Genin)
The Ghan – one of the world's most famous train journeys

This month we head Down Under for our Destination of the Month – Australia. Read our guide to the best journeys across this vast and breathtaking country.

 

Australia is a country where size really does matter. Outside the cities, the landscape is arranged on a stupendous scale: roads seem infinite, horizons endless, distances interminable. This can make exploration challenging, but the extraordinary range of natural wonders awaiting the visitor and the warm, down-to-earth hospitality that characterises rural Australia provide ample compensation.

 

Our top five journeys in Australia

 

The Great Ocean Road

Magnificent views, maritime heritage and some of Australia’s best beaches are on offer when you follow this route along Victoria’s southwest coastline. It’s possible to drive the stretch from Melbourne to Port Campbell that we have outlined in one day, but a more leisurely progression is highly recommended – consider breaking your journey for one or two nights. From Port Campbell, it’s possible to continue all the way to Adelaide, stopping at the Victorian towns of Warrnambool and Port Fairy and the South Australian towns of Mt Gambier and Robe on the way. To do this full trip justice, you’ll need at least four nights/five days.

Start your journey in Melbourne, stopping for lunch on the city’s outskirts at magnificent Werribee Park, a 19th-century pastoralist’s mansion set in gracious gardens. From here, it’s on to Victoria’s second city, Geelong, and then to the Great Ocean Road proper, which starts in the surf-obsessed town of Torquay, home to popular beaches and the world’s largest surfing museum, Surfworld

 

Torquay

 

Next stop is Anglesea, famous for its beach, rockpools and the kangaroo-filled Anglesea Golf Club. In relatively quick progression, the coastal hamlets of Aireys Inlet, Fairhaven and Moggs Creek – all with great beaches – are passed and you will arrive in Lorne, a large resort town offering gentle waves and a wide range of eating and accommodation options.

The most scenic stretch of the drive is between Lorne and Apollo Bay, gateway to the Great Otway National Park. You can visit the 1848 Cape Otway Lightstation or continue on to the magnificent Port Campbell National Park, home to the stunningly photogenic Twelve Apostles rock formations, from where you can make your way to the Wimmera, the Goldfields or on to Adelaide.

 

The Ghan

To travel from one edge of the continent to the other, hop aboard one of the world’s most famous trains, the Ghan. Traversing a route between Adelaide and Darwin, this rail journey through the Adelaide Hills, Flinders Ranges, Red Centre and Top End covers 2,979km (1,852 miles) and takes two nights/three days. You can break your trip in Alice Springs, close to Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, and at Katherine, home to Nitmuluk (Katherine Gorge) National Park. And of course you can set off from either Adelaide or Darwin. Along the way, the scenery is stark and the sunsets magnificent.

 

The Ghan

 

The Indian Pacific 

Stretching between the Indian and Pacific Oceans, the mighty Indian Pacific traverses 4,352km (2,698 miles) between Perth and Sydney and is one of the longest rail journeys in the world.

This three-night crossing of the continent sets off from Perth, making its way through the scenic Avon Valley, past the goldfields town of Kalgoorlie (pictured) and across the Nullarbor Plain to Adelaide. It then proceeds to the outback town of Broken Hill, continues through the Blue Mountains and arrives in Sydney. You can break the trip in Kalgoorlie, Adelaide and Broken Hill, and it’s also possible to take the journey from Sydney to Perth.

 

Kalgoorlie Hotel

 

The Overland Track

This internationally renowned six-day walk traverses 65km (40 miles) of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area from Cradle Mountain to Lake St Clair, passing mountains, waterfalls, lakes and dense native forest on the trail. 

The walk’s extraordinary popularity has led to concerns about environmental degradation and overcrowding, so numbers are now limited and it is essential to book a spot with the Tasmanian Parks and Wildlife Service and pay a fee during the peak walking season (1 November – 30 April). 

This is serious trekking, and it is imperative that walkers are fit, thoroughly prepared and suitably equipped. During the peak season, walkers are required to walk the track from north to south (Cradle Mountain to Lake St Clair). Aside from the main track there are also several alternative side tracks, including to the summits of Cradle Mountain and Mount Ossa, the tallest mountain in Tasmania. Taking these extends trekking time.

 

Sailing or Kayaking the Whitsundays

The Whitsunday Islands form one of the world’s most scenic adventure playgrounds. Hundreds of secluded bays, coves and beaches are dotted throughout these calm waters of the Coral Sea, sheltered by the Great Barrier Reef. 

Most people experience the islands by staying at an island resort, but the best way to travel here is by yacht or under your own steam in a sea kayak. By doing this you will avoid the resort crowds and associated tourist hoopla, sleep to the sound of lapping waves and enjoy uncrowded snorkelling and swimming in the crystal-clear waters. 

Most sailing companies and kayak-hire outfits are based at Airlie Beach, the departure point for the island group. Companies offering choices of sailing packages include Whitsundays Sailing Adventures and Whitsunday Bookings. Both offer a range of sailing holidays on catamarans, tall ships, luxury vessels and a variety of racing and cruising sloops, where you can choose to assist the crew or just lie back on deck and soak up the sun and sublime scenery.

To get even closer to the water, consider island hopping by sea kayak. Salty Dog Sea Kayaking offers a range of one-day or extended guided kayaking expeditions or will rent you a kayak if you want to go it alone. 

 

 

 

Explore Australia's culture

Read about life in the Australian bush

Visit Melbourne - Australia's food capital

Sink a pint at an Outback pub

 

 

Throughout October, we'll be posting articles on all things Australian; from the country's best beaches and world-famous wineries, to experiencing Aboriginal culture and witnessing unique wildlife. 

 

 

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