Highway 1 (Australia)

This article is an itinerary.
Australia's Highway 1

Highway 1 of Australia is with a length of 14,500 km (9,000 mi) the longest highway in the world. It can be considered a giant "ring road" as it except for a few shortcuts in the north follows the entire coastline of mainland Australia. Part of the road also traverses Tasmania.


Circumnavigating mainland Australia, this road goes through all states and their capitals and through or near most major attractions in Australia (two major omissions being Canberra and Uluru). Therefore, if you have time and don't mind long driving distances this is one of the best ways to see almost all of Australia.

Created in 1955 out of existing state and local roads and tracks, Highway 1 is actually a network of roads. It's marked "1", "M1", "A1" or "B1" depending on the type and the quality of the route.


Read up on driving in Australia before going on a trip like this.

Australian traffic rules may be different from what you are used to at home, moreover you may need to get an international driver's license to be allowed to drive in the country.

Australia is a huge country and doing the whole Highway 1 will certainly take several weeks; even the shortest of the sections below are almost a 1000km drive. Especially in the western two thirds of the country, expect there to be stretches of several hundred kilometres between roadhouses where you can get fuel, food and water.

Also, read up on the weather conditions for the time you plan to go. During the Austral summer, it can get extremely hot in the daytime which isn't only dangerous for travellers but also puts stress on your car's cooling system and battery. Heat and drought are also often followed by major wildfires. In Northern Queensland floods are common during the rainy season (Nov-Mar), something that may cut off roads for several days.

Get in

If you come from abroad you will probably arrive by plane to one of the state capitals and buy or rent the vehicle that you will make the trip with.


As this is a circular itinerary, you can complete it by starting at any point and travel either clockwise or counterclockwise until you're back where you started. In this article the trip goes clockwise and starts and ends in Sydney. Sydney itself is famous for its opera house and the Harbour Bridge and is probably the most common point of entry to Australia from abroad.

Sydney to Melbourne

See also: Sydney to Melbourne by car

The coastal drive from Sydney to Melbourne along Princes Highway can be done with an overnight stop within two days, although you could probably take some time and spend at least four days on the road, with a couple of hours at each stop to thoroughly enjoy the South Coast. Lots of wildlife from whales, dolphins to seals if you keep an eye out, and plenty of seagulls and pelicans. There are countless unspoilt beaches along the coast — white sand beaches, surf beaches, tidal river beaches — such that you might actually get sick of it all, and taking the Kings Highway just before Batemans Bay and then the inland drive via Monaro Highway could be an option.

Illawarra and Shellharbour

Shoalhaven and Eurobodalla

Hyams Beach at Jervis Bay

Sapphire Coast

Montague Island seal colony

The Sapphire Coast covers the southernmost coastal region of New South Wales. No daytrippers from either Sydney or Melbourne here.

Over the Victorian border

After this you will arrive in Melbourne, almost as large as Sydney and considered Australia's cultural capital.

Melbourne to Adelaide

The road is still known as Princes Highway, following the coastline to Geelong from where you can opt for a scenic sidetrip along the Great Ocean Road. Otherwise the road goes straight to Warrnambool, follows the coast for more than half of the way to the state border, goes inland to Mount Gambier and then mostly follows the coast to Adelaide.

Adelaide to Perth

See also: Eyre Highway, South Coast Highway, South Western Highway

The road is still known as Princes Highway for about 300km up to Port Augusta, a town which is one of the most important road and rail junctions in all of Australia. From here you can get north through the Red Centre all the way to Darwin, east back to Sydney and west to Perth, where this itinerary is going.

The section from Port Augusta to Norseman is called Eyre Highway, much of it being a long and lonely road. There are still some small towns and fenced farmlands on the South Australian side, but across the state border there is only wilderness. At some places the road goes passes near the Great Australian Bight, so close that fog may reach the road, creating dangerous driving conditions. The road also follows the southern edge of the vast Nullarbor Plain. Between Caiguna Roadhouse and Balladonia Roadhouse, there's the 90-mile-straight; an almost 150km long stretch of road without even one curve.

From Norseman you can drive straight to Perth, but Highway 1 goes back south to the ocean and follows the South Coast Highway and South Western Highway to Perth.

Perth to Darwin

See also: North West Coastal Highway, Great Northern Highway

From the West Australian metropolis, the road goes north to Geraldton, mostly inland. From here on the road is known as the North West Coastal Highway, but it will still mostly go inland. As with most of Western Australia, towns are far between here, larger ones being Carnarvon, Karratha and Port Hedland. Just before the latter, the road will be joined by the Great Northern Highway, the inland shortcut from Perth.

After the junction to Broome there is a stretch of 800km through the Kimberley with no real towns until Kununurra. After this the road is renamed Victoria Highway and soon you will cross into the Northern Territory, followed by some 450km of outback to Katherine. Here the highway actually divides itself in two; Stuart Highway to the north is the branch to Darwin, to the south you get further along the road if you want to skip Darwin and want to dig into the next big serving of desolate outback right away.

Darwin to Brisbane

Backtrack along the Stuart Highway to Katherine and continue for about the same distance to the Hi-Way Inn Roadhouse. Now follows probably the roughest part of the whole itinerary; the Carpentaria Highway and Savannah Highway across tropical savannahs almost out to the east coast, then along the unpaved Savannah Way into Queensland. After Normanton the road is paved again, and road quality improves gradually when you get closer to the Cairns and the Pacific coast.

From Cairns, the road, known as Pacific Coast Highway and Bruce Highway, follows the coast providing access to the Great Barrier Reef, yet another one of Australia's famous natural attractions. Eventually, you will arrive in Brisbane, the last state capital on this journey.

Brisbane to Sydney

See also: Pacific Highway

Back in the populated part of the country, the Pacific Highway along the coast passing the surf and beach destinations south of Brisbane and the Hunter Valley wine region. Beware that this is actually one of the most dangerous roads in all of Australia, despite being a busy road a large part of it is still two-lane highway with many twisty sections.


The road connecting Devonport (where the ferries from the mainland arrive) to Launceston and Hobart is also a branch of Highway 1.

See also

This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Wednesday, February 03, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.