Australia is massive and so it can be hard to plan a route that includes everything you want to see and is also realistic. We were overly ambitious with ours, and ended up with a few 9-hour driving days that left us pretty drained by the end. Looking back, we would cover shorter distances and travel slower. Here's our route, 10,000 km in 5 weeks:
Choosing a vehicle
- Think carefully about the type of vehicle you want. Campervans are more expensive to hire/buy and use more petrol, but you have a more comfortable living arrangement. Cars are cheaper, but you have less flexibility on where you can camp in a tent and it's not so fun in the rain.
- For longer road trips, it will probably be worth buying a vehicle rather than hiring, it's more hassle but will save money in the long run. Vehicles are cheaper to buy in the south of the country than the north, so if you buy in Melbourne and sell in Darwin you may even be able to make money. Just make sure you look into vehicle registrations carefully as each state has different rules.
- If your dates are flexible, you can save a lot of money by looking into rental relocation deals. Hire companies will rent their vehicles for free and often also pay a petrol allowance to drive between two specific places during a certain time.
- After a lot of deliberation, we eventually decided on renting a campervan with Travellers Autobarn. There was nothing else available for our dates, so even though they have some bad reviews online we figured we'd give them a go. In the end, we were really happy with our decision. It was cheaper than the more established companies (Apollo, Britz etc.), the staff were all super helpful and the van was old, yes, but it was clean and in good working order. We were also given cooking utensils and kitchenware (much of it brand new), as well as sleeping bags, so we could pick up the van and head straight off on our trip. And when it came to the end of our trip, we had no problems getting our deposit back.
- Australia is really big on road safety, the speed limits change frequently and there are cameras everywhere, so keep an eye out for the signs and don't speed!
- Google maps is really useful for planning your routes, but in the Northern Territories the journey times were way off (it would predict 7 hours, but take us 4). There won't be any traffic and the speed limit will usually be 130 km/hour on the highways so just work out the time for yourself.
- When driving along the highways in the outback, drivers greet each other by raising an index finger from the steering wheel, which we dubbed the 'bush wave'. This seemed really silly at first, but after days of driving through monotonous landscapes rarely seeing other vehicles, it actually became a nice interaction with the outside world.
- Try not to travel outside of cities during dawn or dusk, this is when the kangaroos come out. There is so much road kill along the highways and you can do some serious damage to your vehicle (not to mention your nerves) if you hit a kangaroo.
- The best tool we used for finding campsites was the WikiCamps app. It was lots of up-to-date information and reviews about official campsites and free camping spots all over Australia and you can use if offline.
- Our most memorable campsites ended up being the most basic ones, in particular the one right behind the Devils Marbles. While it's nice to have running water or a place to put your rubbish, it's worth going without for a night or two to stay somewhere really beautiful. So don't get too caught up on facilities!
- If you're travelling across country, be prepared for the weather. We went from huddling under a wool blanket in sub-zero temperatures in Canberra, to sweating it out in 30 degrees in the Northern Territories. If you have a campervan without air conditioning in the back, just buy a fan (our biggest mistake!).
If you have any questions about planning your own Australian adventure, get in touch, I'd be happy to help!
For the full adventure, read all about our five-week road trip.