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The sheer vastness of Australia makes going on a road trip one of the best ways to explore this marvelous country. No other means of travel lets you slow down and truly take in the unique scenery and landscapes of this eclectic continent. Sometimes even relatively unknown and uncharted destinations can be surprisingly rewarding. Whether you are visiting on a working holiday visa or backpacking, here’s what you should know about experiencing Australia on wheels.
Due to the long distances, driving in Australia can be dangerous for unprepared travellers. Aside from several coastal regions, the majority of the country is sparsely populated, which means help might take long to arrive. Before you set off on a road trip, be sure to purchase travel insurance. You can learn more about traveller’s insurance in Australia on this page. Running out of petrol in the middle of the outback is no one’s idea of adventure, so make sure you fill up whenever you are have under half a tank left at the first station you see. Print a list of stations in advance so you can always tell how far it is to the next stop.
Although all the main roads in Australia are covered in tarmac, there is a network of dirt tracks throughout the country, especially in the outback. If you are tempted to use these, bear in mind that unless you have a 4x4, it’s very unwise to do so. In the Northern Territory for example, it’s actually illegal to travel these roads in a 2wd vehicle. Aside from them being rough on your car, these tracks are literally off the grid, and if you run into a problem, help may arrive too late. On the other hand, if you have a vehicle and the experience needed, feel free to hit the dirt.
You are allowed to drive for three months provided you have an English language driving licence. In any other case, you’ll need an international driving permit or to convert your licence to an Australian one, which can be done for a small fee. Speed limits vary from state to state, so make sure you study these in advance. Lastly, road trains are a common sight on outback highways. They can be as long as 55m, so don’t be tempted to try and overtake one as you risk a serious accident. If you get stuck behind one, pull over to the side and have a break.
Getting a camper van is recommended if there are at least four of you, and you don’t want to stay in hostels. If you split the cost, it will be cheaper, and you won’t have the annoying moving in and out routines. The campervan rental market in Australia is competitive, so you’ll be able to find some reasonable deals. Finding a garage might be tricky once you hit the road, so unless you want to end up ‘in a fried-out Kombi’, as the hit song from the 1980s says, make sure you have the fluids, battery, spark plugs and filters checked by a reliable mechanic in the city.
An extension of the Great Ocean Road, the Adelaide-Melbourne route is the most popular road trip route in Australia. Check out the Twelve Apostles, The Grotto and London Bridge. Bells Beach in Torquay is a must if you love big wave surfing. Cut through the heart of Australia as you drive from Adelaide to Darwin and explore some of the strangest and most interesting places, some of them as impressive as Uluru itself. For many people, this is the best Australian trip you can take. The West Coast is considerably less populated than the rest of the country, which means the scenery and landscape are general unspoilt. Finally, with mountains all across the land, beautiful beaches and incredible scenery, Tasmania is an often unjustly forgotten road trip destination, although its beauties rival those of New Zealand.
Whoever has tasted the freedom of driving around Australia rarely goes on a guided tour again. Taking a road trip lets you see what you want, when you want. For many people, there’s no better option.