Few places lend themselves to a great road trip than Australia: open roads, stunning scenery, remote places… Whether you like adventure or a leisurely drive, Australia has the perfect conditions for a road trip.
How to Plan the Ultimate Australia Road Trip?
There are many considerations for a road trip in Australia and to be successful, it does require some preparation. There is a long tradition of “driving around Australia”, so here is my advice on planning the trip of a lifetime.
I recently drove along the West Australia Coast and it was a fantastic experience!
The Best Time to go
The climatic conditions of Australia vary a great deal and the time to go depends on the season you prefer.
Also, considerations around the season and climate may help you decide whether you want to be travelling around Australia, or whether you prefer local and shorter road trips.
And remember that the seasons are the opposite than the northern hemisphere!
Summer: From December to February
Summer can be extremely hot and sunny in Australia, but it doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy your Australia road trip, on the contrary. The sky is blue, the beaches are so inviting and there is a holiday feel everywhere.
The top end of Australia is the only place I wouldn’t recommend as it gets very humid. North Queensland, the Northern Territory and the north of Western Australia are probably best to visit in other seasons.
Summer is the best time for Tasmania, South Australia and Victoria.
Autumn: From March to May
After the humid heat of summer, the lighter temperatures of autumn are a welcome relief. Autumn is a perfect season for a trip to Australia, heading north into winter.
Winter: June to August
Compared to the Northern Hemisphere, winter is generally mild in Australia, thus perfect for driving holidays. Winter is probably the best time to explore the north of Australia.
Tasmania, Victoria and New South Wales can get pretty cold in winter.
Spring: September to November
In the southern states of Australia, spring is fresh and often windy. Western Australia is fantastic in spring if you want to see wildflowers. Spring is also a good time to start a round trip, heading south into summer.
The Australia climate and weather is so broad, you have many options on where to start and choose some of the best road trips in Australia.
Accommodation in Australia
There is plenty of accommodation in Australia. It’s a great way to stay in unique places and meet the locals.
Local Road Trip or Grand Tour?
The grand tour of Australia is a dream for many, a life-changing journey. Many people undertake the journey when they come to work in Australia for a year. Imagine driving across Australia at your own pace, discovering new landscapes and territories…
If the grand tour is not an option, there are plenty of options to admire the Australia scenery. There are many Australian road trip routes to choose from… Pick up a road map of Australia and start on your driving route planner. You will also need to prepare a budget for Australia.
Great Australian Road Trips
Here are a few ideas for an East Coast road trip:
Sydney & NSW road trips
Blue Mountains: my first suggestion for a Sydney road trip
Road trips from Melbourne, Victoria
Great Ocean Road itinerary. You can do a Great Ocean Road day trip but it’s better to allow a couple of days.
Sovereign Hill is another, less known Melbourne road trip.
You can also do the Melbourne to Perth drive across the Nullarbor Plain.
Queensland Road Trips
Also on East Coast Australia, the Sunshine state has some great ideas for going on a road trip. Once you have explored Brisbane, have a look at these options:
Townsville to Mission Beach
Fraser Island is a great Queensland road trip
Daintree Forest & Cape Tribulation
There are also many road trips from Brisbane and the Gold Coast.
South Australia Road Trips
My South Australia road trip took me to Kangaroo Island.
Tasmania Road Trips
Western Australia Road Trips
Some of the best Australia road trips are in Western Australia.
Some great road trips from Perth include the South West and Albany.
For a complete Western Australia road trip itinerary, you should consider Kalbarri, Exmouth, Monkey Mia and Broome.
Northern Territory Road Trips
Kakadu National Park
Clockwise or Anti-Clockwise?
If you do the grand tour of Australia, you need to decide whether to go clockwise or anti-clockwise. I think your starting date should command this decision. If you start in spring or summer, head south for your first experience of self drive in Australia
And if you start in autumn or winter, head north first. Indeed, many people who start their journey in Sydney embark on an East Coast Australia road trip. Depending on where you start from, that’s your direction sorted. Either way, driving in Australia is quite easy.
How Much Time for the Grand Tour?
Well, how fast can you drive? And how much do you want to see on your trip around Australia? I wouldn’t recommend doing this Aussie trip in less than 6 months if you want to allow some time to really discover the country.
Six months is a long time to be on the road and you will need a comprehensive Australia road trip itinerary. I also recommend choosing some places to stay for several days or even weeks, in order to get a good rest and avoid road weariness.
Solo Road Trip or Couple Road Trip?
If you are wondering what to bring on a road trip, a partner is a good idea! I have done road trips in Australia both solo and with my husband, and I love both. I love driving on my own, listening to my own playlist or podcasts, but it does get lonely. Couple travel is what I would recommend as Australia self drive will require some long stretches of road.
What to Pack for a Road Trip?
Things to take on a road trip
The list of things to pack for a road trip can be long and really depends on your travelling style. Whether you decide to camp, travel in a minivan or stay in accommodation every night, I recommend limiting your road trip essentials to the equivalent of “hand luggage” on a flight.
Google Maps work very well in Australia, so long as there is an internet connection… There will be plenty of places without internet or phone reception, and even if you have a local SIM card, maps could cost you a lot of data.
I recommend downloading the necessary maps to your smartphone before you go, so you don’t have to worry.
Podcasts, audiobooks, playlists
Even if you travel with a partner or a friend, conversation will dry up at some point… Podcasts and playlists can be some fun road trips essentials. Spotify is a great place to start for playlists!
Where to stay in Australia
When planning a road trip around Australia, you will find various accommodation options:
Things you need to know for a road trip
Driving rules in Australia
People drive on the left side of the road in Australia. It does take a little getting used to and you will action the windscreen wipers instead of the indicator many times before you get the hang of it.
Travelling with Children
Children and babies must be restrained in an approved car seat or booster seat, up to 7 years old in some states.
Australian Toll Roads
Tolls are mostly in metropolitan areas. If your vehicle doesn’t have a toll tag, you can purchase a temporary pass. You have 72 hours to pay a toll. Make sure you have that in your road trip items as the fines can be high!
Australian drivers are pretty good, disciplined and mostly polite. You do get the occasional Fangio but generally people stay within their driving lane. Do the same and always slow down when you get to a small town.
The vast majority of people drive within the speed limit. There are police patrols, even in the bush and fines can be high! Also watch for speed cameras at the entrance of small towns.
Make sure you brush up on traffic rules in Australia.
Depending on whether you want to visit the more remote places of Australia, you may need a 4WD vehicle. However, that’s not a pre-requisite for a road trip, including the grand tour. Mostly, asphalt roads are in good condition and a lot of unsealed roads are very easily accessible to 2WD vehicles. Driving in Australia for tourists is not difficult as long as you are aware of a few dangers.
However, if a road is marked “4WD only” do not attempt it in a 2WD! Driving on sand also requires some knowledge and care.
Generally, there are rest stops every 80 to 100km.
Other Things You Need
At a minimum, you need to take Compulsory Third Party (CTP) insurance to cover injuries you could cause to others. Also, your vehicle must be registered.
You can drive for three months with a foreign licence in English. Beyond that, you will need an Australian drivers license. If your license is not in English, you need to get an International Driving Permit from the Automobile Association of your country.
Australia is a country of enormous proportions. If you come from Europe, this will take some getting used to. Even if you come from the US, the fact that you may need to drive for 5 or 6 hours just to get somewhere is something to take into consideration.
I recommend spending some time calculating distances on Google Maps, to give you an idea of how much driving you can fit into a day.
Driving day or night?
Most roads in cities or coastal areas are well lit and in good condition so daytime or night time driving won’t make much difference. In remote areas though, it’s very different. Even in rural areas, you may have to drive in pitch darkness and the animals tend to come out at night. In the bush, I would suggest driving during the day only, and also avoid sunrise and sunset.
If you have a long distance to cover, don’t neglect your sleep. If you are travelling as a couple, or with friends, talking late in the night can be tempting. But you really need your sleep. Don’t risk falling asleep at the wheel!
Family and friends
When you travel around Australia by car, you are bound to drive into fairly isolated areas or be gone for a few days. Every few days, let someone know how you are travelling.
Wildlife & Road Trains
Australian wildlife is plentiful and quirky, and fun for the most part. If you are planning a road trip to Australia, you’ve probably heard that “they’re all out to kill you”… Whilst not strictly true, wildlife can be a serious threat on the road.
Animals like kangaroos, wallabies, wombats and koalas can seriously damage your car if you hit them and this type of damage is not necessarily covered by insurance.
Animals tend to come out at dusk and night. In some places, you can drive with kangaroos bouncing everywhere…
If you come across an animal, do not swerve! Hit the brakes but do not swerve, as it is the best way to lose control of your vehicle.
This is an occurrence unique to Australia and you will only encounter them along the highways travelling from the Northern Territory to South Australia, or to Western Australia, across the Nullarbor Plain.
Road trains are not trains, but massive trucks pulling several trailers. A road train can measure up to 100m long! They travel fast and they own the road, so it’s best to stay out of the way and pull over to let them through.
Road Trip Essentials List for an Emergency
Check your vehicle thoroughly
When picking up your vehicle, make sure you check it thoroughly. If you buy a vehicle privately and especially if it’s second hand, make sure the paperwork is in order, the tyres are in good condition…
This is more relevant if you go off road, into more isolated areas but it can be a lifesaver in case of emergency or breakdown.
EPIRB or PLB
This is an emergency tracking device, a beacon you can activate if you become stranded. Again, this is relevant only if you go to seriously remote areas.
First aid kit
You should include a first aid kit to your road trip supplies, even for a short road trip.
Extra Water & Petrol
On long drives through the bush, a simple water bottle isn’t going to cut it. You need additional water supplies in your road trip kit, especially if you drive during the summer months.
The same goes for petrol, you may want to keep a spare jerrycan of petrol in your boot.
Snacks & Food
If you are camping along the way, you need to plan your meals and make sure you don’t run out of food between supply towns. All the same, if you are driving for shorter road trips, snacks should be on your road trip must haves. Driving can be tiring and a little food will help you along the way.
In case of B
If you have a breakdown in an urban area, a tow truck will easily come along… However, if you are in the bush, things could be a little more complicated…
Whatever you do, do not leave your vehicle and assume you can walk to the next town… People have died making that mistake!
Wait there, and flag down the first passing vehicle…
What to Include in your B
- Cost of the vehicle
- Food & Drink
- Accommodation or camping fees
- National Park fees. Having a National Park checklist is a good idea!
- Tours & activities along the way
Road Trip Essentials
Planning a Solo Trip
West Coast Australia
Now you know what to take on a road trip and you are ready to start driving in Australia. Tell me which way you are going in the comments below!
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