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Australia Road Trip Planner: How To Plan The Perfect Road Trip In Australia

Last updated on Feb 4, 2019

So you’ve sorted your visa and have booked flights for Australia, and you’re now getting ready and planning the perfect road trip in Australia. Australia is an extremely popular backpacker destination and road trips along the stunning coastline of the land down under are almost a rite of passage for many. In this Australia road trip planner I’ve tried including everything you might need to know about planning your own Australia road trip, including how to find the perfect vehicle, when to visit, where to go, what to pack and more. So start reading and planning your ideal Australia road trip!

The Milky Way seen from somewhere along the Pacific Coast Way, Australia

The Milky Way seen from somewhere along the Pacific Coast Way, Australia

Best time to road trip Australia

Australia is a huge country (bigger than the whole of Europe!) and is characterised by a wide variety of climates and landscapes. As such there isn’t really a specific time of year that is better than another to visit, it all depends on where in Australia you are going. Queensland and the northern parts of the country have an almost tropical weather and you can expect high temperatures all year round, if you head south to Melbourne and surroundings you can expect to find all four seasons like in Europe. Just remember that the seasons are opposite compared to Europe and that when it’s summer in Europe it’s actually winter in Australia.

Befriending the locals at Cape Hillsborough Beach in Australia

Befriending the locals at Cape Hillsborough Beach in Australia

Finding the right road trip vehicle

This one largely depends on how long you are planning on being in Australia for. For a short road trip the easiest things to do is rent a car, however if you’re looking to spend a long time on the road in Australia you might want to consider purchasing a vehicle. There is a big working holiday and road trip culture in Australia, which makes it very easy to buy and sell used cars. A good place to look for your perfect vehicle is Gumtree; a site where people buy and sell used things. You can also check out backpacker Facebook groups for the city you are staying in or the noticeboards of your hostel, chances are that other backpackers who are done with their Australia road trips are looking to sell their vehicles.

Driving on the beach on Fraser Island, Australia

Driving on the beach on Fraser Island, Australia

Before purchasing your vehicle just make sure you take into account everything you want and need it to do. For example; will you be staying in hostels along the way or do you want to camp? Where do you want to road trip and what are the roads like? What is your budget? These and others are all things to take into account that will help you narrow your search and find the ideal vehicle for your trip. If you’re just looking to get from A to B and will be sleeping in hostels you might be happy with a simple and efficient hatchback, if you want to camp you might be looking for an iconic Aussie van, if you’re going into the outback you might want a 4×4. Make sure to take everything into account and search for a car that ticks all the boxes.

The Great Ocean Road sign

Driving on the Great Ocean Road

How long do you need for the perfect Australia road trip?

Lots of young backpackers visit Australia on a 1-year working holiday visa, and often extend it to 2 years after doing 3 months of farm work. If you don’t have months or years to spend in Australia don’t fret or feel like you’re not getting the real experience. Australia is a huge country and you need time to see it, but you can have the perfect Aussie road trip even on a 2-week vacation from work. I spent just over a month in Australia, during which I did two main road trips; on the Australian East Coast for 2 weeks and on the Great Ocean Road for a long weekend, plus other trips to Uluru, Melbourne and Sydney. Regardless of how long you have in Australia make sure to take into account for long driving times.

View over Sydney Opera House and Sydney Harbour from Pylon Lookout

View over Sydney Opera House and Sydney Harbour from Pylon Lookout

Sample Australia road trip itineraries

We’ve gone through all the essential road trip information like how to find the right vehicle, when to visit Australia and what to pack, so by now you might be wondering where should you even be road tripping in Australia? There are a number of iconic road trips in Australia that you should consider adding to your travel bucket list.

Great Ocean Road

The Great Ocean Road is one of the most famous and iconic road trips in the world. Characterised by its stunning coastline in 2017 it received 5 million visitors. The road itself is only 244 km and can be driven in 8 hours. You need to adapt your itinerary depending on how much time you have and how much of the Great Ocean Road you want to see. We started in Melbourne and spent 2 days on the Great Ocean Road and found it a good amount of time that allowed us to see all the main landmarks without rushing. From sunset at the Twelve Apostles and the Bay of Islands, to chasing waterfalls in the Great Otway National Park, our weekend itinerary covered it all. Obviously if you have longer you can spend more time at every stop and see more of the Great Ocean Road.

Sunset at the Twelve Apostles on the Great Ocean Road, Port Campbell National Park, Australia

Sunset at the Twelve Apostles on the Great Ocean Road, Port Campbell National Park, Australia

Australia East Coast: Pacific Coast Way

The Australian East Coast road trip seems to be a rite of passage for all backpackers in Australia. We spent two weeks road tripping from Cairns to Brisbane but some travellers go as far south as Sydney (and then all the way round to Melbourne if you really have lots of time available)! The wide variety of landscapes and climates makes this a truly unique road trip. In the same trip you can scuba dive on the Great Barrier Reef, you can see the Daintree Rainforest (the oldest rainforest in the world), the crystal clear water and white sand beaches of the Whitsunday Islands, the dingoes in Fraser Island and the surfers in Gold Coast. We found two weeks was a good amount of time for this road trip, any less would have felt very rushed with too much driving time, but if you’re not in a rush you can take it slower and spend longer at every stop.

The view of Whitehaven Beach from Cape Hinlet in the Whitsunday Islands, Australia

The view of Whitehaven Beach from Cape Hinlet in the Whitsunday Islands, Australia

There are plenty of other road trips you can do in Australia, I mean you could even drive around the whole country if you wanted to! Check out these guides on the ultimate Australia bucket list and the best road trips in Australia to give you some more inspiration on where to go during your Australian road trip.

Kangaroos on the beach at sunrise at Cape Hillsborough, Australia

Kangaroos on the beach at sunrise at Cape Hillsborough, Australia

What to pack for an Australian road trip

What to bring on an Australian road trip largely depends on how long you plan to be on the road for. I won’t get in the nitty gritty of how many pairs of socks or underwear you are going to need (I hope you can figure that one without my help!) but you can get some inspiration from my Australian outback packing list or my rainy season packing list (it’s based on my trip to Thailand but still relevant for any destination that experiences tropical weather). The items I’ve listed here are more specific to things you might need on the road if you plan to camp or spend very long periods of time driving.

Car entertainment

This one is a pretty essential part of any road trip packing list. During our Cairns to Brisbane road trip on some days we spent up to 8 hours driving and if we didn’t have some games to entertain us, we would have probably gone a bit crazy. It doesn’t have to be anything complex, but simple things like an AUX chord to plug in your phone to the car stereo and put on some music when there’s no radio reception can be a life changer. Even if you don’t have the space to play cards a deck of cards can be used for magic tricks and all sorts of higher vs lower games while you’re on the road. If you don’t want to add any weight to your bags, check out these 14 road trip games.

Getting up close to Hopetoun Falls, Great Otway National Park, Australia

Getting up close to Hopetoun Falls, Great Otway National Park, Australia

Kitchen utensils

If you’re buying or renting a camper van odds are that it will already come equipped with all the necessary gear to eat on the road. If it doesn’t however you will have to purchase everything from plates to cutlery, chopping boards, pots and pans, bowls, washing products, sponges or cloths and even gas stoves. If you’re planning on staying in hostels or apartments these usually come with fully equipped kitchens that you can use so you won’t need to purchase all the above. However if you think you might stop for a barbecue somewhere along the way it’s a good idea to pack at least the essentials to make sure you’re ready for a meal on the road.

A very Aussie barbecue

A very Aussie barbecue

Practical extras

Regardless of whether you’re planning on camping or sleeping in hotels, apartments or hostels there are some practical extras you might find useful on the road. For example toilet roll (might seem obvious I know!) so if a sudden need strikes in the middle of the outback you’re ready. A tank of extra fuel in the booth, since you don’t know how far the next gas station will be. Blanket and pillows as appropriate if you’re planning on sleeping on the road or just want to take really great naps while someone else drives (you can add ear plugs and sleeping masks to the mix if you want to take it to the next level). Bin bags so you can put together all the trash you accumulate in the car. These are just suggestions to help guide you in the right direction, think of the kind of road trip you’re planning and what you will need and pack accordingly.

Views over the ocean from the Daintree Rainforest, Australia

Views over the ocean from the Daintree Rainforest, Australia

Where to stay in Australia

If you’re purchasing a van or camper van I’m guessing you want to camp during your Australia road trip. However occasionally if you want to sleep in an actual room with walls around you, there are plenty of hostels, hotels and apartments both in big cities and smaller towns in Australia. Especially in the main stops along famous road trip routes the local destinations are used to seeing lots of backpackers passing through. I personally found hostels to be rather expensive, some of them starting at 30 AUD per night for a bed in a shared dorm. Comparatively when there was 5 of us road tripping on the East Coast we sometimes spent less than that per person for a nice apartment with more than one bathroom and kitchen. Make sure to check all accommodation options online before booking (if you’ve never used AirBnb before, get $30 off here)!

Check out the latest prices and availability for accommodation in Australia here

Inside Loch Ard Gorge, Great Ocean Road, Australia

Inside Loch Ard Gorge, Great Ocean Road, Australia

Have you been on a road trip in Australia before? How did you find it? Let me know in the comments below! If you’ve been on an epic road trip in Australia and want to add anything to this guide let me know, I’d love to include your input to make it even more complete! I compiled this guide based on my own road trip experience in Australia, however I haven’t been on a prolonged camper van or camping trip, so I might be lacking some insight on that aspect. I hope you find this Australia road trip planner useful in planning the perfect Australia road trip!

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Planning a road trip to Australia? Check out this Australia road trip planner to find out everything you need to know to ensure you have the time of your life. Including information on how to find the perfect vehicle, where to go, when to visit, what to pack and much more! #australia #roadtrip #australiaroadtrip #traveladvice

Planning a road trip to Australia? Check out this Australia road trip planner to find out everything you need to know to ensure you have the time of your life. Including information on how to find the perfect vehicle, where to go, when to visit, what to pack and much more! #australia #roadtrip #australiaroadtrip #traveladvice

Planning a road trip to Australia? Check out this Australia road trip planner to find out everything you need to know to ensure you have the time of your life. Including information on how to find the perfect vehicle, where to go, when to visit, what to pack and much more! #australia #roadtrip #australiaroadtrip #traveladvice

Planning a road trip to Australia? Check out this Australia road trip planner to find out everything you need to know to ensure you have the time of your life. Including information on how to find the perfect vehicle, where to go, when to visit, what to pack and much more! #australia #roadtrip #australiaroadtrip #traveladvice

Planning a road trip to Australia? Check out this Australia road trip planner to find out everything you need to know to ensure you have the time of your life. Including information on how to find the perfect vehicle, where to go, when to visit, what to pack and much more! #australia #roadtrip #australiaroadtrip #traveladvice #oceania #australiatraveltips

Planning a road trip to Australia? Check out this Australia road trip planner to find out everything you need to know to ensure you have the time of your life. Including information on how to find the perfect vehicle, where to go, when to visit, what to pack and much more! #australia #roadtrip #australiaroadtrip #traveladvice #oceania #australiatraveltips

Planning a road trip to Australia? Check out this Australia road trip planner to find out everything you need to know to ensure you have the time of your life. Including information on how to find the perfect vehicle, where to go, when to visit, what to pack and much more! #australia #roadtrip #australiaroadtrip #traveladvice #oceania #australiatraveltips

Planning a road trip to Australia? Check out this Australia road trip planner to find out everything you need to know to ensure you have the time of your life. Including information on how to find the perfect vehicle, where to go, when to visit, what to pack and much more! #australia #roadtrip #australiaroadtrip #traveladvice #oceania #australiatraveltips

Disclaimer: This post was written in collaboration with Gumtree Australia. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

* This post contains affiliate links. Greta’s Travels is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.  As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. Greta’s Travels is also a participant with the Booking.com and GetYourGuide Affiliate Programs. All purchases or bookings you make through Greta’s Travels come at no extra cost to you. *

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