A road in Victoria’s Dandenong Ranges is framed by autumn foliage.
Road trip

Four road trips to celebrate autumn

The best spots to go ‘leaf-peeping’ in April and May across Australia’s east coast.

By Shell on Apr. 14, 2022

Autumn is in the air – the leaves are changing, the weather cooling, open fires crackling, whales breaching. The shift in seasons also brings with it bountiful produce, from earthy truffles and rock lobsters to new wine vintages. Whether you’re in Queensland or Tasmania, now’s the time to pack the car for a scenic road trip.


Southern Highlands, NSW

Getting there: 100 kilometres south-west of Sydney

Southern Highlands, NSW

Grand gardens ideal for leaf-peeping. Atmospheric villages lined with twee antiques stores. Mist-covered hills stacked with neat rows of grapevines… the bucolic countryside of the Southern Highlands is particularly pretty when the weather cools.

Bonus – it’s truffle season, which means that guided hunts are in full swing. See how they’re harvested at Robertson Truffles, or indulge at restaurants around the region. Like Eschalot in the historic town of Berrima, where the menu heroes produce from the owners’ gardens.

You can also visit suppliers directly: set your GPS for Pecora Dairy to taste mountain blue cheese or fresh curd; stop past Centennial Vineyards to sip your way through eight sparkling wines; or try a beer flight at Bowral Brewing Company. And if you’re still not sated, sign up for the Wine & Canapés experience at PepperGreen Estate.


Northern Tasmania, TAS

Getting there: Stanley is 200 kilometres west of Launceston

Northern Tasmania, TAS

Departing Launceston, take a deep breath – that’s (officially) some of the cleanest air on the planet you’re inhaling. Much of this journey toward Stanley hugs the Bass Strait coast. Make your first stop the Mersey Bluff lighthouse in Davenport to appreciate just how wild the body of water separating you from the Australian mainland really is; keep your eyes peeled for whales during migration (June through October), because this is one of their favourite playgrouds. 

While in town, visit Southern Wild Distillery and pick up a bottle of Dasher + Fisher gin for sunset cocktails. Whiskey fans can do the same at nearby Hellyers Road Distillery. In between there are charming towns with quirky names, like Lillico, Cooee and Penguin.

Steel yourself for drama writ large as you approach Stanley, a fishing village at the foot of The Nut, an ancient volcanic plug rising 150 metres from the sea. Catch the cable car to the summit for views over the town’s well-preserved colonial buildings, and glimpse the giant crayfish perched rooftop at Hursey Seafoods. Dine here for platters loaded with rock lobsters, or take away fish-and-chips and watch little penguins suit up on Godfreys Beach.


Dandenong Ranges, VIC

Getting there: 40 kilometres east of Melbourne

Dandenong Ranges, VIC

As you leave the towers of Melbourne behind, your GPS set for the Dandenong Ranges, scenic mountain roads appear on the horizon, wending through the grapevine-clad hills of the Yarra Valley (autumn is harvest) before the volcanic ranges cast their spell. Think fairytale ferny groves and towering mountain ash forest creating a patchwork of colour over Mount Dandenong, the atmospheric namesake village replete with artists’ studios, craft stores and cute cafes.

This is the gateway to numerous hiking tracks across national parkland; lace up your walking shoes and tackle the 1,000 Steps (aka the Kokoda Track Memorial Walk) – it’s challenging, but staggeringly beautiful, your route swathed in rainforest with clearings offering glimpses of the city. Perhaps the only outlook more impressive is that from the SkyHigh Mount Dandenong, set at 630 metres and offering unbroken vistas to Port Phillip Bay.

From this aerie, you’ll also spot some of the state’s finest cool-climate gardens. But we recommend motoring to the RJ Hamer Arboretum to witness the 150 species of native and exotic trees up close. Then there are the fiery colours of the delicate gingko and maple trees that cloak the Alfred Nichols Memorial Gardens. These are the settings that inspire creatives like the late potter William Ricketts, who called Mount Dandenong home for 60 years and over that time created sculptures that peek from behind ferns and tangle with vines amid the sanctuary named after him.


Tamborine Mountain, QLD

Getting there: 70 kilometres south of Brisbane; 40 kilometres north-west of Surfers Paradise (Gold Coast)

Tamborine Mountain, QLD

There are few places in the world where you can pack up your surfboard and in minutes be surrounded by 100,000 hectares of World Heritage-listed Gondwana rainforest – the Gold Coast is one. Tamborine Mountain takes pride of place here, amid wild valleys, misty waterfalls and rugged peaks.

For a bird’s-eye view, follow the road toward Tamborine Rainforest Skywalk to traverse the tree canopy – green as far as the eye can see. Back at ground level, there are dozens of mountain trails to choose from, made all the more pleasant thanks to autumn’s mild temperatures.

The only thing more pleasant is a sip or two of something strong. Make your first foodie stop Tamborine Mountain Coffee Plantation, where the aroma of house-roasted coffee greets you at the cafe. You can also tour the estate. Continue on to Tamborine Mountain Distillery (take away a bottle of lemon myrtle vodka), Mount Tamborine Vineyard & Winery or Witches Falls Winery – the latter has storybook grounds where you can lay out a picnic rug and enjoy cheese and charcuterie stocked at the cellar door.

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