Planning an Australian road trip is an overwhelming task, especially for overseas travellers. Before even getting on the road you will need to arrange your visas, flights, car, camping gear, travel route and budget. It is a lot to plan, but it is worth it.
Road tripping Australia is one of the most exciting travel adventures you can have, and the best way to travel around Australia. After road-tripping across the Nullarbor and back and along the entire East coast, I am compiling all the information I have learnt on the road into this road trip planner Australia.
This is everything you need to know about planning an Australia Road trip adventure.
Planning a trip to Australia
If you are still in the early stages of planning your trip to Australia, this article will tell you everything you need to know about visas, flights, accommodation and more. If you are already in Australia and have these things sorted, keep reading this road trip planner Australia to find the information relevant to you.
The best time to road trip Australia
Australia’s weather varies greatly across the country, so the best time to road trip depends greatly on where you are going. In the north of Australia, winter is the ideal time to road trip to avoid the high temperatures and humidity. In the south of Australia, summer is the ideal time as it will be warm, but not too hot like in Northern Australia.
Planning your road trip route around Australia
Taking this into consideration, you should plan your route around the time you will be visiting Australia. If you are coming in the middle of Summer (December to February), consider road tripping the Southern end of Australia. If you are coming in winter (June to August), plan to road trip the Northern End. Or plan your route then match it to suit the weather.
When planning your Australian road trip route, the first thing you should consider is how long you have in Australia?
If you have less time, you will be better off planning to see less. You want to be able to enjoy destinations as opposed to just driving through them.
You should then consider your interests.
- Do you want to be along the coast?
- Is it a surf trip?
- Do you want an outback adventure?
- Do you like mountains and hiking?
- Are there any Australian attraction that you can’t miss (The Great Barrier Reef, Uluru, Lucky Bay, Wineglass Bay etc)
- What are the places/destinations/attractions that you can’t miss? Check out this Australia Bucket List for inspiration.
Use your answers to these questions to help you decide on your Australian Road Trip Route.
The perfect amount of time to Road Trip Australia
The perfect amount of time to road trip Australia is the amount of time you have.
In two weeks you will have an amazing experience, but if you can afford to spend 1 year on the road, that would be incredible too.
The perfect amount of time on the road really just depends on how much time you have and what you want to see.
Example Road trip routes and timeframes
- The Great Ocean Road (Melbourne to Adelaide) – 2 weeks
- Cairns to Melbourne – 2 months
- Cairns to Gold Coast – 3 weeks
- Cairns to Cape Tribulation – 2 weeks
- Tasmania Road Trip – 2 weeks
- Entire Aussie Road trip – 6 – 12 months
- Perth to Esperance – 2 weeks
- Perth to Darwin – 1 – 2 month
- Perth to Broome – 2 – 4 weeks
- East to West (or West to East) across the Nullarbor – 1 – 3 months
Finding the perfect car for road tripping Australia
The first thing you need to decide is if you want to rent or buy a car for your road trip. This decision will come down to the amount of time you have in Australia.
Buying vs renting
For short trips, you will be better off renting and for long trips you are better off buying.
Renting a car for your Australia Road Trip
For a road trip and camping adventure, a campervan is what you will need. Some Australian companies that rent campervans include:
- Wicked Campers
- Apollo Motorhomes
You will need to work out the cost of renting a campervan (including insurance).
The benefit of renting a car for a short term trip is the fact that it will be a new car and you will have full assistance if your car does break down.
If you plan to stay in hotels or hostels, you could rent a regular car. This will be cheaper than a campervan but will cost more once you account for accommodation costs.
Buying a car for your Australia Road Trip
The good thing about buying a car is that you can sell it at the end of your trip and reclaim some of your money.
Lots of travellers buy and sell cars for their road trip, so you will easily be able to find a used car. A good place to look for your perfect vehicle is Gumtree or Carsales. You can also check out backpacker Facebook groups or noticeboards in your hostel.
Before buying a car, consider how you want to use it.
- Do you want a van you can sleep in?
- Are you looking for a car that includes a camping set up?
- Will you be 4WDing?
- Where are you travelling to? Some parts of Australia require a 4WD?
- Will you be staying in hotels, hostels or Airbnb’s?
- Do you want a small economical car?
- How much are you willing to spend?
Answering these questions will help you narrow down your search and find the right car for you.
In my opinion, a 4WD with a camp set up is the best way to travel in Australia, especially if you plan on travelling across the country. If you don’t plan on going off the beaten track a van or smaller car would be fine.
If you plan on buying a car, you will need roadside assistance. Roadside Assistance can be a huge help if your car breaks down. With roadside assistance, you can call your service provider and they will send someone to help you by either fixing the problem or sending a tow truck to get you to the nearest mechanic. Hopefully, you will never need to use this service, but it is a great thing to have just in case.
Budget for an Australian Road trip
The budget for your road trip will depend on a number of variables.
- Are you hiring a campervan?
- Do you have your own car and camp gear and are you ready to go?
- Do you need to buy a car?
- Do you need to buy camping gear?
- What type of car will you be driving?
- How many km does it last for
- How much does it cost to fill up?
I will leave it to you to answer these questions and work out your initial expenses. You can use my travel budget planner to assist.
Once these things are sorted, the other things to consider in your budget are:
- Cost of campsites
- Any activities you wish to do
For your road trip, you should estimate how many kilometres you plan to drive, and add a few extra hundred kilometres on. This is because you will undoubtedly veer off track every now and then so it is better to account for this upfront.
Then you need to work out how many kilometres your car lasts with a tank of petrol and how much it costs to fill.
Let’s say your car lasts for 400kms with a tank of petrol and costs $60 to fill up.
You can calculate the total kilometres of the trip divided by the distance your car lasts with a tank of petrol. You would then multiply that number by the $cost to fill your car.
For example, if you plan to drive 2000 km and your car lasts 400 km with a $60 tank of petrol.
2000 % 400 = 5
5 X 60 = $300
*The type of car you are driving will impact this figure.
If you choose to shop at the grocery store and cook your own meals, you could budget as little as $15 per person for food each day.
Some cheap and nutritious meal ideas include:
- Fruit and vegetable
- Rice and pasta dishes
- Beans and lentils
- Sandwiches and wraps
- Nuts and snacks
These ingredients are cheap but nutritious. Coles and Woolworths are some of the biggest supermarket chains in Australia.
You could spend even less on food if you needed to.
If you plan to eat out on your road trip, the budget will increase dramatically. A meal out in Australia generally costs between $15 – $25. So your expense for food will immediately double if not triple.
Budget tip – A bakery is a great place to get something to eat cheap, but it generally isn’t healthy.
Campsites generally cost between $10 – $50 depending on the type of campground you choose. Australia also has lots of free campsites, but facilities are generally limited. If you plan to camp, the CamperMate App is the best way to find campsites that suit your requirements, based on location, cost and facilities.
Don’t forget to factor roadside assistance into your road trip budget. Roadside assistance costs upward of $100 for a year membership. Some popular providers include NRMA and RACQ.
For more information on how to create a travel budget, visit this guide to affording travel.
And for more advice on creating a travel budget for Australia, click here.
Camping in Australia
If you are road tripping in Australia, it is safe to assume that you will be camping for the majority of the time. Camping is a great way to save money on the road and get a truly unique Australian experience. You will find campsites everywhere in Australia, ranging from luxury campsites with all the facilities you could need to free campsites on the side of the road.
If you are on a budget, you could easily camp in free and low-cost campsites for the majority of your trip.
The further you get away from the cities, the cheaper and more abundant the campsites will get.
To find campsites in Australia that meet your budget and have the facilities you require, use the CamperMate App.
Places to stay in Australia
Airbnb is one of the best ways to find cheap and homely accommodation options in Australia. You can book an Airbnb here. Alternatively, you can search for hotels below.
Packing for an Australian Road Trip
If you will be camping while road tripping, you will need:
- A gazebo
- Bedding – an air mattress, pump, pillows and blankets
- Camp chairs
- An esky
- Cooking utensils
- Drinking water
You will also need to pack enough clothes and toiletries for the trip. I will leave it to you to pack your personal items.
Head to my road trip essentials article to make sure you aren’t forgetting anything for your Aussie Road Trip.
Things to consider when road-tripping in Australia
- In Australia, we drive on the left-hand side of the road.
- If you are visiting from overseas, you must apply for an IDP (International Driving Permit) in advance.
- Your budget will depend on how many detours you take, the type of vehicle you drive, what you choose to eat and how often you eat out vs cook for yourself.
- Kangaroos come out at dusk and dawn, so you should avoid driving at this time.
- Use the FuelMap Australia app to find your nearest petrol station. It is best to fill up more often than not because certain areas have limited fuel availability.