Road Trip in Australia: An Itinerary for the Whole Country!
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G’day mates, I’m here to take you on a 6 month long road trip in Australia. Well, I’m not actually taking you (although maybe I’ll get the chance to do guided road trips around this beautiful country at some point, watch this space!), but, with this 6 month itinerary for the ultimate Australian road trip, you’ll know exactly where to go and when.
This Australia road trip planner is customizable depending on your wishes, but I’ve added suggested lengths of times in each location. I’m recommending at least six months to orbit Australia (this Australia road trip itinerary takes you into the centre as well). Australia is big and some days will consist of just driving. Also, this itinerary doesn’t include for rest and admin days – so do take that into account when you plan your road trip in Australia.
I’ve also got dozens of more detailed itineraries for different segments of the road trip, as well as city and region itineraries for different parts of the country. You can click through to them using the links below – all links open in a new window.
So wherever you’re visiting on this island, and whether you’re backpacking in Australia or on a road trip with toddlers, you can use this 6 month itinerary to plan your ultimate Australia road trip. Shall we begin?
When to take the road trip in Australia?
I recommend that you begin the road trip in Melbourne in March or April.
Of course, you don’t have to begin at this time, or even in Melbourne. Most travellers fly into Melbourne or Sydney, and as Melbourne is the most temperamental weather – wise, I thought it would be nice to give you two chances to see it in its glory. Plus, Tasmania, which I’ve put on the end of this road trip Australia itinerary, is accessible from Melbourne. I’d recommend starting your road trip from Melbourne in March or April, as this should give you the best weather everywhere – it’ll be a bit cold in the south at first, but it will quickly warm up. Then once you’ve returned to Melbourne, you’ll have a summer there!
Of course, if you want to start in Darwin (which is the cheapest place to fly into from Asia), then you could do this loop starting in September or October, skipping the rainy season in the north and arriving back there for the high season.
Bear in mind that some parts of the north, like Kakadu and the Gibb River Road, are inaccessible during the rainy season. The south is still great during the winter, but may be a bit chilly and it is more rainy. Some rough outback roads all over the country can be closed when it rains.
What to pack for the Australia road trip
I’m going to be writing a full road trip Australia packing list very soon, but here’s some staples you’re not going to want to forget:
- A car or van (lol, just in case you forget!)
- High quality tent if you’re not sleeping in your car/ van
- High quality sleeping bag suitable for both tropical and temperate climates
- Mattress – a blow up, camping mat or full on double inflatable mattress (you might want to opt for the latter if you’re camping for six months).
- An esky – that’s Australian for coolbox, by the way – or a cooler bag.
- A camping stove
- Gas for said stove
- Pots and pans
- High quality torches
- A tarp
- Coolant, oil, jump leads, and a spare fuel tank for the car
- Ask for some of these gifts for campers for Christmas as some extras!
If you haven’t left your home country yet, check out my what to pack for Australia list to check you’ve got all of the essentials covered.
Where to stay during your road trip around Australia
I’m presuming you’ll be camping around most of Australia – download the app WikiCamps to help you find free and paid campsites, and check out my free camping in Australia post to get the basics. In places where campsites, free or paid, aren’t readily available, I’ve recommended some hostels and hotels. You can also of course use Airbnb (click here for money off your first booking) and Couchsurfing, depending on your travelling style.
Road Trip Australia Itinerary for 6 Months on the Road
Melbourne: 3 Days
There’s so many things to do in Melbourne; it’s been voted the world’s most liveable city time and time again for a reason. From the wealth of museums to the amazing coffee, to cultural attractions like the AMCI and the Victoria Art Gallery, to the many vintage stores, to the beautiful library, you certainly won’t get bored during your time here! You might not quite have 7 days in the city, but this Melbourne itinerary will help you get to grips with the place. Oh, and are you conscious of not spending too much at your first stop? I got ya! I had an erm… interesting time in Melbourne where I only had about $14 to my name. Check out my tips for visiting Melbourne on a budget here.
There aren’t many places to free camp near Melbourne – I slept rough in my car a bit, but I’m not sure if I’d 100% recommend that – I also stayed at Urban Central Hostel which is decent (although no free parking). You can book in by clicking here. Victoria Hotel Backpackers is 5km from the city centre, but does have free parking. Click here to book.
Want to stay somewhere a bit more upscale? The Novotel Melbourne is a good option, close to the centre and with free parking. Click here for rates and to reserve.
Melbourne to Sydney: 1 week
The Melbourne to Sydney road trip is one that’s well-trodden with travelers, but it still isn’t hard to find somewhere that’s a little off the beaten path. Highlights include Wilson’s Promontory National Park, Lakes Entrance, Eden, camping in a NSW state forest and Jervis Bay. Once you reach Jervis Bay, if you want, you can take a detour inland to Canberra, the nation’s capital and to the beautiful Blue Mountains National Park – a must-see about 3 hours west of Sydney.
Sydney: 3 days
Sydney’s the most famous city of Australia, and one that all tourists want to visit, but there’s more here than just an opera house. Once you’ve seen the crowning glory from a few different angles – from Darling Harbour, Mrs Macquaries Seat and of course, up close are my favourites – check out some of the other things to do in Sydney. It’s famous for its beaches of course; Bondi, Glebe and Manly are firm favourites.
There are some really great hostels in Sydney – although they’re bladdy expensive. Bounce is really well facilitated, but it’ll set you back around $40 for a dorm room. I also really like YHA Railway Square, where you can stay in dorms in train cabins! Click here to book. If you’re wanting free parking, you’ll need to stay a bit further out. I’ve also stayed in Cambridge Lodge Budget Hostel which is near Newtown – it has cheap dorm rates (for Sydney) and free parking. Click here to book.
If you’re looking for a hotel, Veriu Broadway is in a good location and has free parking. Click here to book.
Sydney to Brisbane: 1 week
The Sydney to Brisbane road trip takes in some amazing nature spots, as well as my favourite place in the world, Byron bladdy Bay. Driving north, you’ll reach Newcastle fun things to do in this town here(check out some ) and Port Macquarie before turning inland towards the Waterfall Way. This hinterland is beautiful, so give yourself a bit of time to properly absorb it all. Then head out toward Coffs Harbour and up to Yamba, a chill beach town with some great natural spots.
Then it’s time for Byron Bay and its surrounds – check out these great things to do in Bryon Bay and don’t forget to see its hinterland. Then you’ll cross into Queensland – the Gold Coast is your first point of call, with Surfer’s Paradise being a place to let your hair down before relaxing on some of the other beaches! Finally, you’ll arrive into the capital of the sunshine state, Brisbane.
Brisbane: 3 days
Brisbane is often an overlooked Australian city, but it’s well worthy of a spot on your road trip around Australia. It’s a chilled out, breathable place, with lots of attractions to pass a few days in. Check out the Brisbane Botanical Garden, the Brisbane Museum, the City Beach and the sunset from Kangaroo Point Cliffs. This 3 days in Brisbane itinerary will show you some of the best of the city.
If you’re already missing nature, head to Stradbroke Island which is very close to the centre and feasible as a day or overnight trip. You could even go camping at Adder Rock if you don’t want to return to the city for accommodation!
City Backpackers HQ is my preferred Brisbane hostel – and it has free parking! It’s reasonably priced and has a bar, a pool, a terrace with city views and $10 nightly dinner deals. Click here to book.
For a hotel option, Ibis Styles is a great option in the middle of the city. Click here for rates and book today.
Brisbane to Cairns: 3 weeks
The most popular one of all the Australian road trips, Brisbane to Cairns is the one where you’ll see the most travellers – and for good reason. There are tons of amazing spots here, and it’s also the perfect spot to make some friends! Highlights include Noosa National Park, Fraser Island, surfing at Agnes Water, the Aboriginal cultural centre at Rockhampton, the Whitsunday Islands, Magnetic Island, diving or snorkeling the Great Barrier Reef, and the beautiful Daintree Rainforest.
Cairns is another place you’ll probably be wanting to stay in a hostel – all of the free campsites are quite far out. Gilligans has free parking, and the rest – it’s a really well facilitated place, with lots going on, but is only for those who are dedicated to partying! If you want somewhere a bit more chilled, Cairns City Backpackers has free parking as well and has a calm courtyard and good atmosphere. It’s a 15 – 20 minute walk from the centre. Click here for rates and book today.
Want a hotel? Double Tree Hilton Cairns is a great place to relax and unwind! Click here for rates and book today.
You’ll need a four-wheel drive for this segment of the road trip; and it’s somewhere really off the beaten track. Think rainforest, crocodiles, rugged tracks and beautiful beaches, eventually making it to the tip of Australia. Accommodation on the way will be free camping, and there’s only the odd roadhouse or pub – this is proper off the grid living. Cape York was a spot I didn’t make it to (and I can’t wait to return to Australia and go!) – here’s a great 7 day itinerary for the trip to the tip.
Cape York to Uluru: 1 week
From the base of Cape York, rejoin the highway and head Westwards, towards the Northern Territory border. You’ll see a really distinct landscape here as the terrain changes, and experience towns like Karumba and Burketown (if you take highway one) or Charters Towers and Mount Isa (if you take the A6). Either way, it’s a lot of country towns, desolate scenery and hot temperatures!
Once you reach the Stuart Highway, turn down and head towards your ultimate destination: Uluru. You’ll be able to see the attractions on the Stuart Highway on the way back up, but by all means stop at them on the way down as well!
Uluru is an unmissable place in Australia and at least 2 full days should be spent here. Don’t climb Uluru, but take some time to walk around the base and see the rock art, do some of the walks in the area to the gorges, and see Katja Tutja on the Valley of the Winds walk.
Uluru to Darwin: 2 weeks
After some time at beautiful Uluru, make your way north. If you have a 4WD or an AWD (or you can do it in a 2WD if you’re daring – do double check road conditions before you head out though!) take on the Red Centre Way. This is a loop that takes you to King’s Canyon and then to Alice Springs the back way.
You’ll get to check out the West McDonnell Ranges, which are really spectacular, and drive along rough, outback roads. You might see wild ponies and camels! Then head to Alice Springs for a couple of nights. Next, head north to Tennant Creek, stopping in Wycliffe Well – the UFO capital of Australia – and at the Devil’s Marbles.
You’re approaching the top end now; after Tennant Creek spend a night at Daly Waters, a fantastic pub and campground. Mataranka has some beautiful springs and sweltering Katherine is your next stop, with the Nitmiluk National Park. Then it’s on to Kakadu National Park and finally, to Darwin.
Darwin: 3 days
I love and hate Darwin at the same time. It’s a great place to let your hair down and party, if that’s your scene – but the backpacker crowd is typically pretty OTT. There are some fun things to do in Darwin, however – the Military Museum is a must, as is the Art Gallery and Museum of the Northern Territory. If you have the funds, a day trip to the Tiwi Islands is a must-do as well. Plus there’s Charles Darwin National Park and the lagoon which is perfect for a dip on a sweltering Darwin day.
Darwin hostels are… interesting. If you’re there to party and don’t mind sacrificing on sleep and erm a certain standard of cleanliness, Youth Shack is an option – I found the dorms and bathrooms not the cleanest, but there is a really nice pool area. (Have I sold it? Click here if you want to book after my rave review 😉 ) Melaleuca has higher cleanliness, but is even more of a party place (if possible!). Click here for more information.
If you want somewhere chill on a budget in Darwin, I’d recommend staying at a campsite out of the city, finding somewhere on Airbnb – use this link for $44 off your first booking – or Couchsurfing. I’ve done all of these in Darwin!
The Argus Hotel is modern, comfortable and clean and has a pool and on-site restaurant. Click here for rates and to book.
Darwin to Broome (via the Gibb River Road): 2 weeks
Heading south, your first stop should be Litchfield National Park. I don’t find it as breathtaking as Kakadu, but it’s worth the stop. Then head west, towards the border with Western Australia. It’s a long old drive, but once you’ve crossed it, head into Kununurra and check out some of the town’s attractions. Then it’s time for Lake Argyle – this beautiful spot is perfect to kick back in for a couple of days. Make sure you stay in the Lake Argyle campsite and enjoy its amazing infinity pool!
If you have a 4WD or AWD (I did it in an AWD, much to a lot of people’s disbelief!), take on the Gibb River Road. This is my favourite part of Australia – 660 kilometres of gorges, waterfalls, secluded campsites and unmissable nature. You’ll get off the road at Derby, from which it is a 2-hour drive to Broome.
Broome to Perth: 3 weeks
Spend a few days recharging in beautiful Broome, making sure you don’t miss a sunset! If you’re there during Staircase to the Moon, it’s well worth checking out. Gantheaume Point is amazing for dinosaur footprints and cliff jumping, and if you have a 4WD Cape Leveque is a great spot to head up to. Broome town centre has some interesting attractions which nods to its Indigenous heritage and history as a pearling town.
If you’re wanting to stay in the heart of Broome or Cable Beach, you’ll need to pay for accommodation. I spent a month at Cable Beach Backpackers, which is a small hostel with a really nice atmosphere. Click here for more information and to book. If you want to stay in Broome town Kimberley Klub YHA is a good option. Click here for rates and book today.
For somewhere a bit more private, try Broome Vacation Village. Click here for more information and to book.
Once you hit the road again, your first stop will be 80 Mile Beach and then Port Hedland. From Port, you can head southwards to Karijini National Park – one of the best in Australia. Then head out to the west coast to Exmouth and the Ningaloo Reef. If it is the right time of year, you can go snorkeling with whale sharks here; a bucket list experience. Diving at the Navy Pier is also incredible.
From Exmouth, head south to the country town of Canarvon and then Shark Bay. Going south more will take you to Kalbarri National Park, Geraldton and then the Coral Coast. The Indian Ocean Drive here is incredible, as you drive right next to the sea. The Pinnacles, Lancelin and New Norcia round off your west coast itinerary, before arriving in Perth.
Perth: 4 days
Perth is my favourite Australian city. I love the spaciousness, the blue skies, the copious amounts of water. Spend a day in the CBD, seeing the attractions there like Elizabeth Quay and King’s Park. Day two should be spent in funky Fremantle, a hip suburb with lots of attractions. On day three, head to the Perth Hills to see another side of the city. Finally, take a ferry over to Rottnest Island for a slice of island livin’.
Billabong Backpackers in Perth offers free parking and also has a pool, a large common area and free breakfast. Click here for more information and to book. If you’re wanting to stay in Fremantle, the Old Fire Station is the one – check out my review here and book using this link. OFS does have parking but it’s kind of expensive – I used to park at South Beach and take the free CAT bus there.
For a hotel option, Tribe Perth is clean, contemporary and has free parking. Click here for more information and to book.
Perth to Esperance: 1 week
Once you’ve had your fill of Perth, head back down south (you could stop back into Freo on the way down, I wouldn’t blame you!) toward Margaret River. This is a beautiful area where you could easily spend a few days. Next on your trip is the karri forests of Pemberton and swing by D’entrecasteaux national park. There are some amazing beaches around Denmark and Albany, as well as some intriguing natural attractions.
Then head to Fitzgerald River National Park and check out the unique biosphere here. After, it’s time for Esperance, which has a picturesque ocean drive. Head to Cape le Grand National Park after, which has famous white sand beaches and lots of kangaroos. If you have a 4WD, Cape Arid National Park is worth a visit too, before you head back to Esperance and start the drive north to the Nullarbor Plain.
The Nullarbor: 3 days
The Nullarbor Plain is a place of mystery; it’s a long, arid stretch of road with not much at all to see. But it’s really beautiful, and the feeling of being so in the middle of nowhere is unbeatable. Take 3 days to drive it, as you’ll want to take it in properly and avoid driver fatigue.
Highlights include Australia’s longest straight road, various quirky road houses and the beautiful Great Australian Bight. You can free camp near here and watch the sunrise in the morning – it’s a magical experience. At the end of the Nullarbor, the seaside towns of Ceduna and Streaky Bay are worth popping into.
The Eyre Peninsula: 2 days
The Eyre Peninsula juts down at the bottom of South Australia, and is a great destination for 4WDing, beautiful beaches and wild camping. The terrain varies from what you’ve just experienced on the Nullarbor, and there are a few small towns that are worth checking out around the peninsula.
Port Augusta to Coober Pedy: 4 days
At the top eastern side of the Eyre Peninsula, arriving in Port Augusta will feel like you’ve reached a city. It’s time to head north, up the Stuart Highway, to a town called Coober Pedy. This is a 550-kilometre detour (plus the return trip) to see a population 3,500 town where everyone lives underground; and I do think it’s worth it. If you love the weird and wonderful, you’ll find lots of entertaining things to do in Coober Pedy. The drive up there is pretty mesmerizing as well!
Coober Pedy to the Flinders Ranges: 5 days
And the good news is you don’t have to go back the way you came; from Coober Pedy, you can head south east on the Oodnadatta Track – an unsealed but generally in good condition (check before you head out) road connecting the Stuart Highway with the Outback Highway.
You’ll drive around the south side of Lake Eyre (if you have a 4WD and a sense of adventure you might have the chance to go off the track and see it more) and experience even more outback living. It’s hard to ever get enough, really! The Flinders Ranges are a beautiful national park that twin mountains and outback – looking otherworldly.
Adelaide: 3 days
From the southern end of the Flinders Ranges, it is about a 5 hour drive to Adelaide (and this is their local national park – told ya Australia was big!). Adelaide, like Perth, seems to get a reputation for being ‘boring’ but it’s actually a bundle of joy. The city is really gorgeous, with markets, museums, a great state library and there’s lots of nature around the city, including beaches and vineyards. Make sure you check out the Barossa Valley.
Backpack Oz in Adelaide has a great atmosphere with a bar and organized trips, and is set in a historic building. There isn’t free parking right by the hostel, but there are spots nearby – the hostel staff can advise you. Click here for rates and to book.
If you’re after a hotel, Pullman Adelaide is a good option with free parking. Click here for more information and to book.
Adelaide to Melbourne: 1 week
Between Adelaide to Melbourne there are a few great attractions, both coastal and inland. Coolong National Park and Mount Gambier are great spots to visit with South Australia, and once you cross over the border, head north towards Gariwerd (The Grampians) National Park.
A couple of hours East from here is the historic city of Ballarat, with attractions geared around its gold-rush history. From here, zig zag back down to Warrnambool, where you can enjoy the gorgeous Great Ocean Road. Spend a few days here enjoying the beaches and attractions, before completing your loop and reaching Melbourne city once again.
Tasmania: 3 weeks
But your trip doesn’t stop here! From Melbourne, catch the Spirit of Tasmania over to Devonport. From here, you can do a circuit of the island state, enjoying attractions like the Bay of Fires, Wineglass Bay, the Tasman Peninsula, the capital Hobart (which is worthy of a few days in itself) and the mighty Cradle Mountain. Make sure you check out the north coast and the beautiful town of Stanley as well. 3 weeks is a great time to see everything properly, although because Tasmania is small compared to the rest of Australia, you can do it in less.
You’ll be able to free camp most of the way around Tasmania, but in Hobart, I recommend staying at Montacute Bunkhouse. It’s a beautiful boutique hostel with lots of features to make a really pleasant night’s stay. Click here for rates and book today.
If you want a bit more space, Riverfront Motel and Villas makes you feel like you’re still in nature while being very close to Hobart city! Click here for rates and to reserve.
Then take the spirit back over to Melbourne and conclude your road trip around Australia!
End: Melbourne, VIC in SEPTEMBER OR OCTOBER
You’ve done it! You’ve circumnavigated Australia, seeing the very best of the country. If you’re in the country on a year’s working holiday visa, you’ve arrived in Melbourne just as the summer kicks off and the city comes alive. You’ve even got time to do your regional work for another year down under!
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