10 Tips On How To Plan A Road Trip In Australia

One of the best ways to experience Australia is on a road trip.

Australia road trip
UNSPLASH Gilles Rolland-Monnet

One of the best ways to experience Australia is on a road trip. With so much terrain to explore and seemingly endless routes to pursue, you’re guaranteed to have a fun and truly unforgettable adventure no matter where you go.

Whether you head along the east coast of Tasmania, road trip across the Great Ocean Road in Victoria, cross Savannah Way from Queensland to Northern Territory to Western Australia, cruise along Coral Coast Drive from Perth to Exmouth, or drive through the heart of the Outback along Central Arnhem Highway, road tripping in Australia needs to be on your bucket list. Here are ten tips on how to plan a road trip in Australia!

1. Make Sure To Plan Ahead

Australia is a massive country, covering an area nearly 3 million square miles (about 7.7 square kilometers) and boasting more than 16,000 miles (over 25,000 kilometers) of coastline. By comparison, the U.S. is only slightly larger than Australia in terms of overall land mass and the entire continent of Europe can comfortably fit inside of it. With so much land to explore, you need to plan your route in advance to avoid getting lost. As a general rule of thumb, you should plan on driving no more than 620 miles (1,000 kilometers) per day.

2. Bring Good Maps, Guidebooks And GPS

With so many potential routes to explore throughout Australia, bringing roadmaps, guidebooks and GPS is very important. As convenient and useful as eBooks and GPS may be, make sure to bring along a good quality paper road map. Just in case you run out of battery for your devices or perhaps you’re receiving wrong directions from your GPS, there’s really nothing as reliable as a physical map.

3. Renting Or Buying A Vehicle

Renting or buying a vehicle for your road trip will be the biggest question you face. There are certainly pros and cons to both options. Purchasing a vehicle, for example, is a great option because you can take your time, not worry about where you go, rental fees or how the vehicle looks like at the end of the trip. However, this means you’ll need to spend more money upfront to purchase the vehicle, not to mention, selling it after the trip will be another issue.

On the other hand, if you plan on taking a one-way trip with no side trips or excursions planned and just want to get explore moving in one direction, then renting a vehicle will make a lot more sense. And once you arrive at your destination, simply leave the vehicle at the rental location and that’s it. Look for rental companies that offer unlimited kilometers and prepaid petrol (if possible) to get the best value for your rental.

4. AWD VS 4WD Vehicles

Speaking of vehicles, you’ll need to decide between AWD or 4WD vehicle for your trip. AWD (all-wheel-drive) vehicles are popular amongst travelers because it’s cheaper and can do almost as much as a 4WD (4-wheel-drive) vehicle.

Though both vehicles are similar in capability, 4WD vehicles allow for two-wheel drive, which means if you get stuck in the mud the engine can allocate the available torque to the vehicle’s two free wheels and pull it out without much trouble. With AWD vehicles, however, all four wheels share equal torque, so you’ll probably need to call a tow truck to get out if you’re in this situation.

Regardless if you opt for 4WD or AWD, having reliable 24/7 roadside assistance – including car battery replacement, fixing a flat tire or unlocking your car if you accidently locked yourself out – is an absolute necessity when road tripping across Australia. Check out NRMA, which offers fast and reliable road service anywhere in Australia within an hour or less of your location and the My NRMA app makes it easy to request help any time, anywhere.

5. Accommodation 

Part of the fun of road tripping in Australia is camping and there are plenty of free or cheap campsites or caravan parks to choose from. Besides campsites, a good alternative is to park your car for the night at national parks, though it may be a bit pricier compared to traditional campsites. For camping, make sure to call ahead to ensure there’s availability.

For any hotel bookings along popular routes, it’s a good idea to book in advance, at least 1-2 months beforehand, especially during holidays. Remember, December is summertime in Australia and peak season for traveling, so booking your campsites or hotels in advance is important.

6. Entrance Fees

Entrance fees to national parks and attractions will certainly add up, so it’s worthwhile to save some money and purchase a national park pass in advance. There are even some passes that are good for unlimited park entry for four weeks, plus low cost per vehicle for entry.

7. Weather Conditions And Seasons

Decide when you want to travel in Australia, as seasonal changes in rainfall and weather in the country can vary quite drastically depending on the time of year you visit. For example, Northern Australia is known to be tropical and humid, and has a wet season feel to it, which stretches from December to March. Before you head out on your trip, make sure to do your research to ensure the best possible conditions for your journey.

8. Never Drive At Night

You may have heard this said many times before, but driving at night, or even at dawn or dusk, in Australia is definitely not recommended especially in the Outback. Many animals are nocturnal, such as kangaroos or emus, and sleep in the day, but move and hunt during the night. Not to mention, these animals are widely known to hop onto roadways unexpectedly and with low visibility at night, it’s not worth it to drive and risk an accident.

9. Don’t Drink And Drive

It should be common sense by now, but don’t drink and drive. There have been lots of accidents reported in Australia due to people getting careless and thinking it’s okay to drive since no one is really around. The legal alcohol limit for driving is 0.05 in Australia, and police are known to set up speed traps and checkpoints to lookout for reckless driving.

10. Don’t Over Plan, Be Spontaneous 

Though it’s always a good idea to plan and be prepared, make sure to not over do it either. It’s just as important to be spontaneous and flexible. Remember, road tripping across Australia is all about being free, exploring new routes, meeting new people and seeing where the road may lead.

Perhaps the weather will force you stay put in one place longer than expected; or a new road opens up and you decide to explore it; or you meet some incredible travelers along the way and decide to venture forth together. Whatever you do, make sure to embrace each moment and simply have fun!


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