Travel writer and author of The Big Lap, Lee Atkinson spent 10 months last year driving around mainland Australia. In this guide to road tripping, she explains why driving is such a great way to explore the country.
There is no greater freedom than hitting the road with nowhere to be and no fixed time to get there.
Australia is one of the best countries in the world for roadtripping. Sure, distances between stops can be long sometimes, but it’s a great way to really explore the country because you get a much greater understanding of how the landscape changes when you drive through it, rather than just fly over it. There’s plenty of other advantages as well, such as being able to travel with your pets (if you avoid National Parks), being able to prepare your own food whenever you want, no airport security hassles, long lines or lost luggage. A bonus is you can change your plans on a whim (or because you turned left rather than right) and you never know what surprises lie ahead.
To tow or not to tow, that’s the question! Caravan parks offer great value – many have the facilities of a resort – and almost all have cabins, so you don’t need to tow a caravan if you don’t want to, although many towns offer free overnight camping for those in self-contained caravans or motorhomes (those with chemical toilets). A 4WD and an off-road camper trailer will mean you can get to the really wild places off the bitumen, but if you’ve never been outback or off-road before a 4WD-training course is money well spent.
Choosing your route
The choices are endless when it comes to choosing where to go, but be mindful of the weather – avoid the northern half of the country during the wet season (Nov-April) when many roads are closed, and the outback in summer can be dangerously hot. Where you go really depends on how long you have and whether your rig is tough enough to cope with outback tracks, but whatever you do allow plenty of time – the secret to successful road tripping is to enjoy the journey, rather than rush from A to B.
Test drives for first time road trippers
Before you head off on the ‘big lap’ of the country take a few test runs to see if life on the road suits you – if you are thinking of investing in a caravan, motorhome or trailer hire one before you buy.
Here are a few great drives you can do in a couple of weeks: Great Ocean Road, a lap of Tasmania, Meerenie Loop Road (Alice Springs to Uluru and back via the West MacDonnell Ranges), Great Alpine Road (Albury to the coast via the Victorian Alps), The Waterfall Way (Coffs Harbour to Armidale) and the Flinders Ranges in South Australia.
Want to know more about what it’s like to spend 10 months on the road? Check out Lee’s new book, The Big Lap. Featuring hundreds of beautiful images, The Big Lap is the story of her trip around the country and is full of helpful tips on where to go, good spots to camp (and where not to camp) and handy planning advice. It costs $35, including postage to anywhere in Australia.