Australia is a large and diverse country. And without a doubt, the best way to see the country in all its glory is to jump in a vehicle and hit the road. But a bit of planning should be done if you want to drive around Australia. Here are my suggestions to help you plan for driving the big lap of Australia.
Firstly, what is the Big Lap of Australia?
When we talk about the big lap of Australia we are talking about the journey of driving around it. Highway 1 skirts the entire way around Australia. It is made up of major highways like the Princes Highway, Eyre Highway, Great Northern Highway, Bruce Highway and the Pacific Highway. Together these highways make up around 14,500 kilometres of road. They link the major capital cities and will take you to many of iconic Australian sights. You can also deviate from the big lap route to include the Outback by taking the Stuart Highway that joins Darwin to Adelaide or hopping a ferry to Tasmania.
Who does the Big Lap of Australia?
Anyone and everyone can and does the big lap of Australia. From international and local backpackers to families with young children to empty nesters and grey nomads.
What to see during your Big Lap?
There is so much to see and do in Australia, just have a look at my map. It shows some of the iconic highlights you must include in your big lap and suggests how long to stay at each. This is just a taste though! The luxury about driving around Australia is that you can deviate at any time and can discover many other memorable things. Here is some inspiration.
How long will the Big Lap take?
The coach left Alice Springs on time at 8.30pm but soon the traveller sitting next to me enquired whether I knew how much longer it was until we’d e there? Her jaw dropped to the floor when I told her we weren’t due in Darwin until 3.30pm tomorrow afternoon. She looked at her watch and counted around its face. “But that’s another 17 hours” she exclaimed. “I know” I responded. All up the trip from Alice Springs to Darwin took 19 hours. Nine-teen very long hours!
As I recovered from my trip by the hostel’s pool, another girl joined me and soon revealed that she had just arrived in Darwin after a 33-hour bus journey from Cairns. Another backpacker then advised he had spent 56 hours on the bus coming from Perth to Darwin. I could go on with more stories like this, but I think you get the gist that Australia is a big country and there are long distances to travel.
To work out how long it might take you to travel around Australia you will need to consider what you want to see (see my map earlier) and how long you will stay at the place. Then consider the distances you will need to travel to be able to see them. Have a look at the example of distances following. If you are worried you may run out of money then pick up work along the way. Check out my Work Types page for some inspiration.
Some example distances in kilometres
You can roughly work out in hours how long it will take to drive. If on average you drive 100km per hour then for example, Perth to Sydney is 4057km therefore, it can take around 41 hours to drive – that doesn’t include breaks.
1540 Alice Springs (NT)
2103 3111 Brisbane (QLD)
5170. 2630. 4712 Broome (WA)
3545 2370 1703 4020 Cairns (QLD)
1198 2638 1347 5518 3050 Canberra (ACT)
2947 1407 3489 1865 2845 4295 3854 Darwin (NT)
2626 1086 3168 1544 2524 3895 3533. 321. Katherine (NT)
741 2181 1702 5649 3116 670 4125 3836 3373 Melbourne (VIC)
2770 3535 4492 2248 5905 3798 6914 4113 3792 3472 Perth (WA)
1394 2766 1019 5502 2722 328 3731 3967 3563 998 4057 Sydney (NSW)
The best time to undertake the Big Lap
Anytime is a good time to begin your travels in Australia however, the weather can be a big influence. Someone once said to me “I come from a country that has some of the coldest winters in the world – if I can follow the sun and avoid a winter, then I will”. It is possible to have year-round summer if that’s what you want. Simply stay in the southern states during the summer months (December, January, February) then head north during the winter months (June, July, August).
A big influence on the northern half of Australia is the Tropic of Capricorn, which runs through it. This gives the top half of Australia two seasons: wet and dry. During the wet season (November to April) days are hot and humid with a lot of rain and usually a cyclone or two which could lead to flooded roads and interfere with your journey. The best time to visit the northern half is usually during the winter months. So if you want to spend time in the Outback and the Great Barrier Reef, this is usually the best time to go.
Travelling the southern half is fine anytime but most spend the summer months doing this part of the country. This is because the southern states can be very cold during the winter months with snow on the mountains. If you like the snow you will enjoy the many ski centres in New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania during this time.
Overall though, it is your choice when you hit the road.
What kind of vehicle will you undertake the Big Lap
There are many different vehicles in which you can undertake your big lap. Your options can include, but are not limited to, buying or renting a vehicle which could be a car, camper van, car towing a caravan or even a bus. If you don’t want to drive yourself then consider a bus tour such as with Contiki or a bus pass with Greyhound Australia. Check out your options with RentalCars.com.
Where will you sleep during your Big Lap
The type of accommodation you will stay in will depend on your transport. If you have your accommodation with you, you are set however, if you need to find some each night there is a wide choice available from campsites to hostels to budget hotels to apartments to resorts. One way to find accommodation that lists many options is to check out accommodation booking sites such as Booking.com.
How much will a big lap of Australia cost?
There are a lot of variables when it comes to budgeting for your big lap of Australia. To work out a rough calculation consider putting together a spreadsheet listing items that could include the purchase or rental of a vehicle, fuel, supplies like camping gear, cooking utensils and bedding. Then you might include accommodation costs like camping fees or hostel costs, food and entrance fees to sights. And maybe add incidentals like clothes and souvenirs. Throw in a column for takeaway coffees and the odd trip to a coffee shop or restaurant and you could guesstimate how much it might all cost. If it scares you the amount you calculated remember you could pick up work along the way to keep you travelling. Visit my work page for some inspiration.
I hope this blog has helped you begin your big lap around Australia. Whether you have a few months or a couple of years, If you can’t do the big lap all at once consider smaller road trips. But wherever you decide to go and which ever way you decide how to do it and how ever long you decide to take to do it, please enjoy your big lap of Australia.
Sharyn was born and grew up in Sydney, Australia. Thanks to her dad who worked at Sydney Airport she spent many holidays travelling in and around Australia and overseas. She maintains this blog to help others live, work and play in Australia – just like she does. She currently calls Melbourne home.