Self drive itinerary for Australia we’ve got you covered! We bought a car, made a plan and travelled in 6 weeks (February – mid-March) from Melbourne to Adelaide, from Adelaide to Darwin, Darwin to Broome and from Broome down to Perth. We had the best time ever!
Our Self Drive Itinerary: Melbourne to Adelaide
As we had already been to the Great Ocean Road, we skipped it for this time and went straight to the Grampians. The Grampians are located 1.5-hour drive from Melbourne. We spend 2 days here but we could easily spend a couple of more days to explore the whole area. If you love hiking and nature, it is a dream! We did a beautiful 11.4km hike which leads you to the Pinnacles via the Grand Canyon. This trail is supposed to be only for the really adventurous, so perfect for us!
From Grampians National Park it is a 530km drive to Adelaide. We decided to skip Adelaide as we are both more into nature than cities but if you have plenty of time I would recommend going to Adelaide. Instead of Adelaide, we decided to go to the Barossa Valley. A long day driving through the countryside of Australia but definitely not boring.
The Barossa Valley is a beautiful wine region located 70km north of Adelaide. Barossa Valley is well known for Riesling and Shiraz. As we are both wine lovers, and especially when it comes to red wine, we had to do a few wine tastings here. All the wine tastings in Barossa are for free and the wines are some of the best we have ever tasted. We did spend 2 days here enjoying the beautiful wines, and one of our favourite self drive itinerary stops.
Adelaide to Alice Springs
After all the wine tasting in the Barossa Valley, we continued our journey to the Flinders Ranges. The Flinders Ranges is South Australia’s largest mountain range and located 400km from the Barossa Valley. With impressive mountain scenery and a huge amount of wildlife and flora, the Flinders Ranges is a must visit in the Australian Outback.
It was very interesting to see the scenery changing from lush and green do dry and empty. People have warned us at the start of our road trip about long and boring drives, I have to say till now I love it! The roads are long, but definitely not boring. We have spotted so many kangaroos, wallabies, emus, parrots and eagles along the way and the scenery is really different and interesting. We spend 2 days hiking in the Flinders ranges, it was hot but so beautiful.
After 2 beautiful days in the mountains, we continued our journey to Coober Pedy via the Oodnatta Track. The Oodnadatta Track is 620km long outback track that takes travellers from Marlee, which is close to the Flinders Ranges National Park to Marly. The track is a rough, unsealed road that you will never forget. The road takes you through the driest and emptiest region of Australia, the South Australian dessert. If you are planning on adding the Oodnatta Track to your self drive itinerary make sure you have a 4×4.
After a long and dusty drive, we reached the Opal capital of Australia, Coober Pedy. Coober Pedy is a small town and a mining mecca for these gemstones in the middle of the dessert. We had the feeling that we drove into a post-apocalyptic wasteland, but it is definitely interesting and another favourite of ours! We spend 2 nights here exploring this interesting area.
After a long and dusty drive from Coober Pedy, we arrived at the mighty Uluru. Maybe the most famous natural wonder of Australia and the place where the longest culture of the world is still active. Everyone has seen Uluru on a picture, but to see it with your own eyes, it is definitely impressive! We spend 3 days in this area to explore Uluru and Kata Tjuta.
After watching sunrise and sunset around Uluru hiked around the Valley of the Winds and the Uluru base walk it was time to go to Alice Springs. Alice Springs, the only “bigger” town on the way from Adelaide to Darwin, a perfect place to top up your groceries and a perfect getaway to visit Uluru (Ayers Rock), which is probably the reason why 99% of people visit this town. We stopped her for 1 night before we continued on the Stuart Highway to Katherine.
Alice Springs to Katherine
One of the joys of travelling the Stuart Highway is the remarkable outback pubs which are along the road! Besides that, you can stop at many other places such as Mataranka and Devils Marbles, we were in a bit of a mad dash north but you could easily extend self drive itinerary between Alice Springs and Katherine.
We stayed overnight at the Devils Marbles. Devils Marbles are located 393km north of Alice Springs. It is a stunning place and an important place for the aboriginals.
After our overnight around the Devils Marbles, we continued our journey to Mataranka. The Thermal Pool at Mataranka it a beautiful place with palms trees and crystal clear (34°C) warm waters which are perfect for swimming. It has been an icon for visitors for many years.
On the next day, we visited Katherine and Nitmiluk National Park. Nitmiluk National Park, located just 30km, on a sealed road, of the town of Katherine is a small but beautiful national park full of gorges and hiking trails. It is owned by the local Jawoyn people and Katherine Gorge is the main attraction of the park.
Katherine to Broome
We drove from Katherine to Broome, taking the Savannah Highway. A 1500km road which takes you through the Kimberly’s, Unfortunately, our 4WD was being problematic to take the adventurous unsealed roads through the Kimberly’s so we have to come back another time to do that. The Savannah highway is long, but definitely not boring. The landscape is beautiful and there are lots of national park and free campsites along the road. As we didn’t have enough time we basically drove the 1500km in 2 days to get as soon as possible from the Northern Territory to the West Coast.
After a 1500km long drive on the Savannah Highway, we finally reached Broome, located on the West Coast of Australia. Broome is a tropical beach town and very popular with locals for a weekend getaway and honeymooners.
The first morning we went to Cable Beach, the most iconic beach of Broome. This beach is very popular as it is safe to swim (April – October only), it is perfect for a sunset and you are allowed to drive on the beach with your 4×4. We also visited Gantheaume point. The Gantheaume point is located on the south side of Broome, it is the place where the red desert sand meets the ocean, which gives a beautiful contrast. It is a red rock cliff overlooking a white sandy beach and a turquoise coloured sea.
Broome to Perth
Our first stop after Broome was Karijini National Park. We did stop in Port Hedland for the night before we reached Karijni. Karijini National Park was definitely our favourite national park on the west coast of Australia. The gorges and surroundings are beautiful and easy to reach. In most of the gorges, you are able to swim, which is very welcome when you are in the outback in west Australia and so making it a self drive itinerary must.
From Karijni we drove to Exmouth for (finally) some beach and snorkel time. Exmouth is a small beach town and the getaway to the famous Ningaloo reef. Exmouth is famous for being the place where you can snorkel with whale sharks, the world’s biggest fish. The whale sharks are only around Exmouth from April to September and that is the time that the town get’s really busy. If you travel outside those months, it is a very sleepy town with nothing really going. But of course, the snorkel and dive activities are endless years round! We were there in March so not the best month to be in Exmouth but still beautiful to visit.
After Exmouth, we drove to Coral Bay, which is only a couple of hours away. Coral Bay, is together with Exmouth, the getaway to the Ningaloo Reef. This charming small beach town is a perfect place to stay while diving the Ningaloo Reef, snorkelling with Manta-Rays and swimming with Whale Sharks. Coral Bay has a beautiful beach which is very suitable for swimming and snorkelling. The water is crystal clear and spending a day just relaxing on the beach and enjoying the beautiful bay is definitely a must. The snorkeling was some of the best we’d done anywhere in the world, if snorkeling is one of your things add it to your self drive itinerary.
Time to leave this beautiful area and continue our self drive itinerary on the North West Coastal Highway to Shark Bay. Shark Bay is located on the most West point of Australia and is official a UNESCO World heritage sight. The crystal clear waters, sea-grass beds full of turtles and dugongs (sea cows), dolphins and much more makes it to a place which should definitely be on your bucket list to visit.
We drove in one day from Coral Bay to Monkey Mia via the 130km long World Heritage drive. The drive starts at the Overlander Roadhouse via North West Coastal Highway all the way to Monkey Mia. It’s a beautiful drive passing viewpoints, beaches and lots of wildlife. I’ll definitely recommend staying minimum 3 nights around Shark Bay on your self drive itinerary as there is so much to see and to do.
After a few beautiful days around Shark Bay and Monkey Mia it was time to make slowly our way down to Perth. We first stopped at Kalbarri National Park, a perfect stop along the west coast for snorkelling, hiking and relaxing. This beautiful area is divided into two parts. The ocean cliffs have beautiful snorkel spots, look out points and short walks along the coast whereby the river gorges area has beautiful gorges and longer desert hikes.
Only a couple of hours drive from Kalbarri and 5 hours away from Perth, we stopped at Waminda Wildlife Sanctuary for the night. We found this hidden gem via the Wikicamps app. You can make a booking by sending a message to Ian, the owner, and his wife Chaliaw. In exchange for helping with the animals and a small donation, you can stay at their campground. You will find lots of different animals at Waminda who all came in injured or who had lost their mum. At the moment they have dingoes, kangaroos, wallabies, emus, parrots, goats, ducks, geese, chickens, a peacock and the friendliest and laziest Rottweiler in the world called One.
After the sanctuary, we made it to Perth! The end of our road trip. Of course, we were planning on going to visit Rottnest Island, Fremantle and the Swan Valley but our beloved KIA could finally take a break now. Our little Kia had made through the outback and down the west coast without a mechanical hiccup.