12 Things to Know Before Going on a Road Trip around Australia
Table of contents
There’s nowhere quite as perfect for road tripping as Australia. Its size means that you really feel like you’ve achieved something by driving from north to south or east to west; but there are enough stops on each road trip route to keep you inspired. It’s a perfect way of travel for those who want to forge their own path, have a unique adventure and get a bit lost in the country’s wilderness. If you enjoy national parks, beautiful scenery, camping and driving with no fixed agenda, a road trip in Australia could be perfect for you.
Going on a Road Trip in Australia: Things to Know Before You Go
Daily showers become a thing of the past
And wet wipes become an adequate substitute. If you’re free camping around Australia, chances are you won’t be finding a shower every day. Some Wikicamp sites have free showers, sometimes you’ll want to pay for a campsite or hostel to have a wash, and sometimes you’ll find a public shower (there’s often facilities by the beach!).
But, if you don’t have access to a shower for a few days, revel in it, laugh at how filthy your feet have become, think of all the water you’re saving, and envision the utter bliss of standing underneath a hot water and feeling the cleanest you’ve ever felt when you do eventually find one. ‘That time I didn’t shower for a week’ will be a funny story once you’ve finished your road trip, I promise.
And paying for campsites becomes a luxury
There’s plenty of legal free campsites in Australia. But every so often, you’ll want a campsite with some extra facilities. You’ll start to feel like you’re seriously treating yourself when you splash out a whole $10-$30 on one of these, and you’ll revel in the chance to not only have a hot shower, but to use a camp kitchen, wash your clothes and sit somewhere with a light in the evening.
Many campsites have pools and other facilities, some have restaurants and bars, and occasionally you’ll get little surprising perks – a campsite I once stayed at in Litchfield National Park, an area with no mobile coverage, had super fast wifi!
You begin to appreciate being alone with nature
Going from a fast-paced lifestyle in Sydney or Melbourne to camping in the bush or travelling in the middle of the outback is a bit of a shock to the system, but you’ll quickly learn to revel in the silence and love the tranquility of it, relishing in it just being you and whatever beach, gorge or mountain that’s yours for the day.
Being within nature is a humbling experience – seeing the most jaw-droppingly beautiful places on a daily basis really puts life into perspective and gives you a fresher, well-rounded outlook. I’d argue that the space you have when road-tripping Australia really helps you grow as a person, makes you realise things about yourself and aids your evolution into the person that you want to be – at least, it worked that way for me.
Roadhouses become the most fascinating places
When you’re driving down the highway through the barren outback landscape, there ain’t much to look at. Don’t get me wrong, that’s part of the reason why I loved it; there’s a still beauty in arid landscapes that can’t be found in other places. But another thing it does is make the smallest things incredibly appealing – enter the humble roadhouse.
Roadhouses are really just glorified petrol stations; but once you’ve seen a few in the real outback, you’ll realise that they’re the most compelling petrol stations that you’ve ever visited. As they’re often the only place to stop in hundreds of kilometres, visiting a road house is sometimes the only human contact (other than from your travel mates) that you’ll have all day. What’s more, many roadhouses develop their own quirky character, meaning that they’re much more than just a place to fill up your car.
Some of my favourite roadhouses are the ‘UFO Capital of Australia’ which is located in Wycliffe Well, or the bustling Erlunda Roadhouse which is located at the intersection of the Stuart and Lassater Highways (and which, in comparison to the outback surroundings, resembles a small city). You’ll stop in these roadhouses out of necessity – to get fuel, food or just have a rest – but you’ll have some of your most entertaining rest stops in them .
A 4 hour drive is just a pop down the road
Unless you’re exploring Tasmania, you’ll probably drive some hella long distances in Australia; and soon, your perception of ‘far’ will significantly change. Due to Australia’s size and the fact that a lot of its best spots are relatively spread out (quite often across an entire outback), you’ll learn to drive distances. Long ones.
And you’ll begin to tolerate the long distance driving – and maybe even enjoy it. Because when the sun’s out, there’s no other cars on the roads, and you’re playing some of your best road trip songs, it really does feel like you’re in a world of your own.
Your only daily goal is to find a good camp spot for the night
Of course, other perks are nice – finding national parks, swimming in waterfalls and taking a great snap of that perfect beach are all great additions to a day of road tripping – and it’s normally good to get some kms under your belt too.
But no matter what you get up to during the day – at the end of it, once you’ve found a peaceful camp spot, have a pot of something tasty cooking on your gas burner and an ice cold beverage in your hand (or a hot cup of peppermint tea, which was my road trip reality more often than not), you’ll feel like you’ve had a day well spent.
Mobile coverage becomes a treat, not something that is expected
It’s hard to imagine not having mobile data in the middle of Sydney or in Queensland’s backpacker hotspots. But if you venture through the middle of the continent or around Western Australia – and even in some more remote places on the east coast – you’re likely to be bereft of signal.
If you’re doing an outback adventure like the Red Centre Way or the Gibb River Road, expect to have no signal the entire time. You’ll quickly transition to becoming overwhelmingly excited about getting a message through, rather than exasperated because the internet won’t load. It’s all about the little things.
You’ll be able to visit the most spectacular national parks, beaches and outback scenes
There’s so much diversity in Australia – way more than it’s given credit for. Its national parks range from alpine terrain like the Snowy Mountains, to desert landscapes such as Karijini National Park, to lush rainforests like the Daintree. Depending on where you are road tripping, you’ll be able to see a variety of different landscapes and terrains.
And don’t forget the beaches – which are among the best in the world. The popular beaches in Australia – like Sydney’s Bondi Beach, Byron Bay’s Main Beach and Whitehaven Beach on the Whitsundays – are often crowded (although nowhere near the standards of British beaches on a rare hot day!) but if you venture west or to some of the less touristy spots, you’ll find plenty of beaches with nobody on them.
You’ll crave moving at your own pace
Part of the magic of road tripping is the fact that there’s no pressure. You can wake up in the morning, enjoy a nice breakfast of oats and bananas (what I consumed for months on end – you may want to opt for something a little more exciting!), and only then decide where you want to go today – or whether you fancy a long day of driving or just chilling out for some time.
Road tripping Australia is the ultimate freedom; but beware, it’ll make you feel strange when you have to return to the time constraints of every day life!
Entering any type of building starts to freak you out
Similarly, the concept of buildings suddenly seems foreign. Not being in manmade structures for weeks on end is a really surreal experience; it’s like you’re going back to the roots of humankind, and you’ll start to realise the futileness of modern day materialism and how little we actually really need.
I’m not saying that I’d give up buildings forever to live in the back of my car (although I’d be very tempted if I lived in a constant summertime with no rain), but it really makes you think about how we can be very happy with much less modern conveniences that we are used to.
You’re forced to be creative and practical at the same time
How do you wash your dishes with no washing up liquid? Or fix a broken tent pole with minimum equipment? Or arrange your possessions in exactly the right way so you’re not kept awake the entire night by a campsite light beaming right into your window?
You have to be resourceful, hands-on and creative. Sometimes the most irritating, frustrating and occasionally, disgusting situations can arise on the road, and you’ll sometimes forced to use an object for multiple purposes or get by on very little. But this kind of problem solving taps into a creative space of your brain, and it’s a great test of versatility! When you have to find a way to deal with an issue at hand, inspiration will always appear.
You’ll have seen more spectacular beauty in a 2 week road trip than you thought imaginable
I don’t think Australia gets enough credit. Everyone knows New Zealand is a place of extraordinary natural beauty, and thinks of its bigger neighbour as a place to party and laze on the beach. But come on, Australia is extraordinary.
In two weeks, you can drive from the tropical Daintree Rainforest to Brisbane, taking in the extraordinary Whitsunday Islands and the rugged and wild Fraser Island on the way. Check out my full east coast Australia road trip itinerary (which covers Cairns to Melbourne) here.
Or you could do an epic adventure from Broome to Darwin (click here for my itinerary), seeing the largest water-filled lake in the country and all the fairytale-esque spots of the famous Gibb River Road.
How about driving through the red centre, see the largest (and one of the most spiritual) rock in the world (but don’t climb it), be amazed at thousands of years of Aboriginal history, and see mountains and gorges that you’d never expect to find in the middle of the outback. This is amazing Central Australia – here’s an itinerary for the Darwin to Adelaide (or reverse) drive.
There’s so many more road trip itineraries for Australia, check out the rest of the trips I took by clicking the links below:
Yes, it is all spread out, but road tripping Australia is a lot more accessible than you may think – take it from someone who’s driven around the entire country.
If you liked this post, please share it or follow me on Facebook!