The great Australian school holiday family road trip is officially back.

Bound by border restrictions and fewer flights during COVID-19, but bolstered by lower fuel prices and the safety of the family car, Australians looking to get away for the spring school holidays will be hitting the open road more than ever before.

That’s the trend that’s been picked up by some of the country’s top travel booking platforms as they identify the classic and emerging hot spots everyone’s heading in each state.

Car rental company Budget Australia has certainly picked up on the school holiday road trip trend, having seen a 35 per cent rise in rental demand across Australia compared with the winter school holidays.

“With some restrictions still in place, it’s great to see Australians are so keen to hit the road and support local tourism to get their family travel fix these school holidays,” Budget Pacific managing director Tom Mooney said.

“We’ve seen a large demand for Aussies renting cars to explore their own backyards during the upcoming break, and we’re proud to offer them safe, convenient vehicle hire options to do so.” said limited flights, concerns about health and cleanliness and the falling cost of fuel — which hit its lowest level in 21 years during COVID-19 — were behind a spike in car hire.

It also found the pandemic has brought on some other school holiday trends, such as longer stays and a push towards homelike holiday rentals and self-catered accommodation.

“After almost six months of being confined to a home office, it’s not just the kids who need a change of scenery these school holidays,” Wotif’s managing director Daniel Finch said.

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“Many parents, particularly with older kids, are embracing the option to work from where the Wi-Fi is and enjoy an extended stay.

“Extra room, the freedom to do things at your own pace and a kitchen to prepare your own meals are all increasingly important for families, particularly as capacity limits and social distancing requirements impact tradition holiday activities such as eating out.”

While most Australians have been given the freedom to travel — even if it is within their own state borders — there is some advice they should take on board, Expedia’s Australian communications director Justine Yusi said.

“It’s encouraging to see Aussies still keen to get out and explore their backyard, while supporting the local economy,” she said. “With the situation changing every day, our advice to Aussies planning a school holiday getaway is to consider flexible and refundable options to ensure peace of mind in case any changes need to be made.

“Families concerned with health and safety can also find a ‘Cleaning and Safety Practices’ section on the Expedia website where partners are calling out enhanced cleaning measures being taken at the property.”

Below are some the expert’s tips for most popular and emerging school holiday destinations in each state — with the exception of still-restricted Victoria — as well as some spectacular road trip inspiration from Budget Australia for these school holidays and beyond.


Most popular spots: Sydney, Byron Bay, Hunter Valley, Port Macquarie, Coffs Harbour

Trending spots: Yamba (interest up 270 per cent), Port Macquarie (220 per cent), Coffs Harbour (180 per cent), Lismore (170 per cent), Forster (160 per cent), Port Stephens (150 per cent)


Kosciuszko Alpine Way

If the breathtaking views of the Snowy Mountains and picturesque valleys weren’t enough reason to drive out to this incredible region, the quaint country villages, historic buildings, mountain biking and hiking trails and charming fishing spots will surely do the trick.


For a quiet beachside escape, look no further than Mollymook, a picturesque, three-hour south of Sydney, which is the perfect place for a relaxing beach holiday. Spend your days swimming and snorkelling and unwinding at night with a spectacular seafood dinner.


Most popular spots: Sunshine Coast, Gold Coast, Cairns, the Whitsundays, Brisbane

Trending spots: Hervey Bay (up 200 per cent), Maryborough (180 per cent), Warwick (110 per cent), the Whitsundays (up 110 per cent)


Rainbow Beach

Nestled between Fraser Island, Great Sandy National Park and the Pacific Ocean, just 150 km from the Sunshine Coast, Rainbow Beach is an idyllic getaway for beachgoers, ecotourists, fishermen and campers, and anyone looking for a chilled-out place to soak up the warmer weather.


Just 88km from Brisbane, the Sunshine Coast hinterland town of Maleny is renowned for its lush hinterlands, natural wonders and sensational local produce, thanks to the region’s renowned dairy farms. Stock up on as much milk, cheese, yoghurt and ice cream as you can manage.

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Most popular spots: Adelaide, Flinders Ranges, Eyre Peninsula, Barossa Valley, Limestone Coast

Trending spots: Kangaroo Island (up 180 per cent), Eyre Peninsula (120 per cent), Barossa Valley (100 per cent), Fleurieu Peninsula (90 per cent)


Bright pink lakes

Here’s one to really impress the kids: a drive to visit South Australia’s remarkable pink lakes, where high salinity, algae and pink bacteria have turned them a spectacular shade of bubblegum pink. Among the spots on the hit list are Lake Bumbunga, Lake MacDonnell and Lake Eyre.

The Great Southern Journey

For something more adventurous, hit the Southern Ocean Drive Road that runs from Mount Gambier and through the stunning Blue Lake and Umpherston Sinkhole and ends in the Coonawarra wine region. There’s something new and exciting to discover at every stop along the way.


Most popular spots: Launceston, Hobart, Cradle Mountain, Devonport, Port Arthur, Bicheno

Trending spots: Western Wilderness (up 130 per cent), North West Coast (130 per cent), Launceston (90 per cent), Eastern Coast (70 per cent), South Eastern Coast (50 per cent)


Bay of Fires

Named for the bright orange rocks on the otherwise white-sandy coast, the Bay of Fires on Tasmania’s northeast coast is one of Australia’s prime beach holiday spots, and has been named by Lonely Planet as the hottest travel destination in the world. It’s a very special place to unwind after the year we’ve had.

Cradle Mountain National Park

An Instagrammer’s delight, Cradle Mountain National Park offers a range of pristine walking tracks but if you head out between December and January, you can enjoy the epic purple wash of lavender in bloom at the Bridestowe Lavender Farm.


Most popular spots: Geraldton, Exmouth, Perth, Busselton, Margaret River, Broome, Bunbury

Trending spots: Busselton (up 360 per cent), Margaret River (330 per cent), Golden Outback (185 per cent), Mandurah (170 per cent), Coral Coast (160 per cent)



Less than two hours from Geraldton, the resort town of Kalbarri is renowned for dramatic sandstone cliffs, gorgeous river red gum trees, abundant wildlife and a plethora of water- and land-based activities for the whole family to enjoy, from kayaking to abseiling — or just sitting back and taking in the unique views.


Check out Busselton’s seaside cafes, alfresco restaurants, art galleries and craft breweries, all found within three driving hours of Perth. You can’t miss the famous Busselton Jetty — a 1.8km wood pier that stretches to the Underwater Observatory — or the view of the sunset from Busselton Beach.