Planning an Australian road trip? We are Australians who have spent over 50 years driving around the Eastern and Southern Coast of Australia. So we have lots of local knowledge that can help you make the most of your trip to Australia and avoid making some of the mistakes overseas tourists frequently make.
Planning your itinerary
The biggest mistake we see tourists make is underestimating the vast distances in Australia. I’ve read blogs where travellers plan to travel from Sydney to Cairns, then back to Melbourne to do the Great Ocean Road, perhaps with a weekend at Uluru.
It simply can’t be done. With an itinerary like that, you will spend your whole trip driving non-stop. Even as experienced locals, we are often amazed at the distances. In regional Australia, it will often be at least an hour between towns, with very little in between.
So you are better off deciding what you really want to see and plan your road trip around that area, based realistically on your time schedule.
You can realistically drive from Sydney to Melbourne or Melbourne to Adelaide in one day. But that is without stopping to explore the many great sights along the way. Which is why we are road-tripping in the first place, isn’t it?
We are constantly adding to our road trip itineraries which we hope will provide you with some inspiration when planning your Australian road trip
Look at the weather
Despite our reputation for having endless sunshine, it can get very cold and rainy in Australia. So once you have decided where you would like to visit, check the weather to see the best time of year to visit. For example you won’t enjoy a road trip in Australia’s north as much during the wet season.
- Our summers run from December to early March, winter is from June to August. Temperatures can vary greatly from humid, tropical weather to freezing nights. If you are planning a beach holiday, you will of course want to make the most of our summer months.
- The southern states, including Sydney and Melbourne enjoy temperatures up to around 30C (86F) in summer and around 15C (59F) in the winter months.
- The northern states and outback have extremely hot, humid summers. Temperatures can soar as high as 50C (122F). It is also the wet season, so winter can be the best time to visit northern Australia. During winter, temperatures are around 20C (68F), however can drop down below 0C (32F) overnight.
- The shoulder season from October to November or March to April may provide more pleasant temperatures and fewer crowds. Accommodation will also be significantly cheaper outside school holiday times.
Once you’ve decided where and when you would like to visit, you need to decide on your accommodation options. Are you planning to camp, or are you looking for luxury hotels?
- There are a range of accommodation options available, depending upon your budget and tastes. Along the road you will find many budget motels which provide convenient, low cost accommodation.
- A self catering holiday home is also a great value accommodation option if you are planning a longer stay
- .Caravan parks offer not only powered sites for campers, motor homes and caravans, but also self contained cabins which provide comfortable budget accommodation.
Prices will vary according to the season and you may need to book for a minimum of one week during peak holiday times. Bookings may only be accepted from Saturday to Saturday during these peak times.
To give you an indication of accommodation prices, I’ve listed some popular accommodation options. Prices are in Australian dollars.
- One night for two at a motel $120
- Holiday rental for two for one week
- Low season $ 600 – $ 800
- High season $ 1200 to $ 2000
- Powered site at caravan park
- $ 40 per night low season
- $ 50 per night shoulder season
- $ 98 per night high season, minimum 7 day booking
- Ensuite cabin at caravan park
- $ 130 per night low season
- $ 150 per night shoulder season
- $ 225 per night high season, minimum 7 day booking
- If touring with a motorhome or caravan, there are many free camp sites around regional Australia. Facilities are often basic and there will usually be a limit to the number of days you can camp. However we have come across some magnificent free camping sites during our own travels. Free camping outside these designated sites is usually strictly policed and can attract fines.
- If you would like to be a little spontaneous and see where the road takes you, it is often best to ring and book at least a day ahead. In rural areas, motel receptions won’t be open late.
Unless you have your own vehicle, you’ll need to give some thought to what sort of car you need. The roads between most tourist attractions are sealed, so a 4WD isn’t necessary unless you are planning to do some serious off road driving.
Fuel prices in Australia are currently around AUD1.50 per litre, so if you are planning to stay in motel or cabin accommodation a smaller car will save you significantly in fuel costs.
You’ll need a bigger vehicle of course if you are planning to camp, so need to carry a lot more equipment. Do check that your hire vehicle comes with a GPS and is registered for toll roads if you will be driving in Sydney or Melbourne.
Phone and internet
Our phone and internet reception in Australia is pretty notorious, even with the locals. You will find many stretches of the road where you have no phone or radio connection. So make sure you have your playlist uploaded to your Iphone to plug into the car stereo system.
If you are planning to travel in regional Australia, you need your phone to be with one of the major carriers, such as Telstra or Optus. You may find cheaper plans, but you simply won’t get reception in regional and remote areas.
Tips for Driving in Australia
Driving time between regional towns will be at least one hour, depending upon road conditions.
- When driving , ensure you keep your fuel tank full. Distances between fuel stations can be up to 200 kilometres and they may not necessarily be open 24/7
- Always carry a supply of water and snacks when driving in case you do get caught beside the road.
- Remember to pull over and rest often. You will find frequent roadside rest stops, with toilets, picnic area and sometimes water.
- Avoid travelling at dusk or sunset. This is when you are likely to find wildlife on the roads. A collision with a kangaroo or wombat will cause serious damage to your car, not to mention your trip.
- 000 is the emergency services number in Australia
Travelling in the Outback
Visiting the great Australian Outback is a great experience. However climate extremes and the natural terrain can make it a very unforgiving and inhospitable place. So make sure you do your research and prepare properly before you go.
- Most places can be accessed via bitumen roads, with some dirt roads which you should be able to navigate with a 2WD vehicle. If the signs say “4WD only” heed the warning. Renting a 4WD vehicle if you don’t need it will be very expensive in fuel costs
- As mentioned above, don’t underestimate the distance between attractions. It will take you at least one day to travel between attractions in the outback and at least one day to explore. Try to pick the attractions you really want to see for a memorable experience, rather than trying to cram too much in and spending all your time driving. After all, you’ve come to experience the outback, not empty outback roads.
- Start the day early to avoid the heat, even in the winter months.
- Phone coverage can be very limited or non-existent. Renting a UHF radio with your vehicle could be a good investment.
- Always make sure you have a good supply of water, sunscreen and clothing to protect you from the sun’s harmful rays
- Unless you are very experienced in desert travel, don’t attempt a trip into the desert without an experienced guide.
- Be prepared for hot days and freezing nights.
- Always let someone know where you are going and when you expect to arrive at your destination.
With a little planning and a realistic itinerary, you can ensure a safe an enjoyable Australian road trip.