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This is the third post in Amy Cham’s guest post series. We also had a great experience hiring a campervan from Darwin – Alice Springs and highly recommend it as the best way of getting around Australia.
One thing that absolutely, positively does not disappoint about the big ole land that is Australia, is Mother Nature. She’s one big bootiful mama and damn doesn’t she know it.
Now, the only way to truly appreciate the land, sea and sky in magical Oz is to grab yourself a road map, plenty of water, and get yourself a trusty campervan and go on that movie road trip you’ve always dreamed of. What better way to get away from it all?
There are plenty of operators out there for you to choose from, but for our money Wicked Campervans were worth every cent. Not only are they cheaper than their competitors, but also their funky recognisable vans make for a great on-the-road community. Choose your van carefully. Sure, go for the cheapest of the cheap, get the van with no air-con and no power steering, but consider driving that (more likely older) van in the sweltering outback heat for long never-ending hours. Yeah, pay that little bit more for the extra comfort! Bear in mind too that unless you’re gunning for a wild adventure way off the beaten track, you won’t need a 4WD. Oh, one last thing. In case you are prudes (we prefer sensible!) like us then make sure you request a tame van!
We were given lovely Dorothy for 3 weeks who took us all the way from Perth, down along the SW coast towards Margaret River, Walpole, Denmark, Esperance, up to Norseman, across the great (‘treeless’) Nullabor, Great Australian Bight, Port Augusta, up to Coober Pedy, Uluru and Kata Tjuta, King’s Canyon and finally Alice Springs…phew!
We won’t lie, it was a long, often times lonely journey, but we loved every minute of it. There are countless road trips you could make in Oz, and ours was just one of the many routes, so we won’t bore you with our trip highlights of the many weird and wonderful things we encountered. Instead here are some essential survival tips on the road in Australia:
1) Before you drive off check your van thoroughly yourself. Do not trust the quick check that the van hire mechanics do for you. This will save you time and frustration once you’re out on the road, learn from our mistakes!
2) Water, water, water. Australia, especially the outback, is swelteringly hot, and dry. Don’t rely on being able to top up your 2L bottles of water throughout the day, the distances are long and you may be going some time before you hit the next roadhouse. Also, in the outback water is a precious commodity so often you will not be able to use their tap water for free.
3) For the love of god change the record! Yes, music is vital, essential even, to keep you and fellow road-trippers sane. Get a 20 pack of blank CD’s (believe me a rotation of 10 CD’s soon becomes boring!) and burn baby burn, make sure you pack it with lively sing-alongs. That mellow acoustic tune may relax you at home but on the road you want to keep awake.
4) Plan well. One thing that is often overstated, yet is true every single time, is that the distances in Australia are long, make that elongated long. Think you can make 800km in a day? Nah mate, you really can’t. Factor in things like constant comfort breaks, and stops for photos, the hours will soon add up. Plan sensibly and make sure you’re aware of when the next roadhouse is. Across the Nullabor our roadhouses were 250km apart, so we made sure our petrol was constantly topped up (this goes for you too!). Map wise we actually found that the roadmap at the back of the Lonely Planet was sufficient enough, so don’t bother investing in a more detailed one unless you’re going way off the beaten track.
5) No night driving you naughty people. Yes we know, night driving seems like the quintessential thing to do in that road fantasy of yours, but the fact of the matter is that the roads belong to the animals at night in Oz. Those weird yellow road signs aren’t just there for show – wild kangaroos, camels, and emus can frequently appear on the roads at night and CAN total your car. Not cool for you, the poor dead animal or your bank balance. Also, don’t you want to stop driving at some point anyway?
6) The calories. You will put these on, it’s a fact. Not only are you stationary for a long stretch of time, but also you will soon eat up your supply of healthy fruit and nut snacks. You WILL succumb to eating the roadhouse cuisine that is PIES. Embrace this. You can always swim/ surf the calories off if you’re taking a coastal route!
7) Rest stops. Okay, here’s a myth that they don’t tell you when you book the campervan. Just because you’re moving your hotel room around with you does not mean you can park anywhere and everywhere for free overnight. Avoid car parks; you will be caught out by rangers. The best places are rest stops that are way out of town. Sometimes you may have no choice anyway as the sun sets and the nearest town is 200km away. Fact is two of our favourite stops were rest stops – literally out in the middle of nowhere – with an amazing 360ºC sunset view like no other we’ve ever seen – and all for free. However, you won’t want to pee in the bushes and go without a shower for consecutive days, so when you have to pay to camp National Parks are often your cheaper best bet than Caravan Parks, and let’s face it nicer too!
8) Giving other Wicked/ Travellers-autobarn/ insert whichever company you went with drivers the finger! No not that finger you insolent people, the cool nonchalant acknowledgement of your fellow campers on the road. Okay it’s not a survival tip but still, it’s nice to wave like a she-banshee at your fellow campervanner and sneer like T-Birds at the rival companies!
9) Enjoy! Believe us, there’s nothing quite like the experience of having your own freedom, and literally being out there on the wide open road. Get driving, that’s an order!
Firstly, some background. My partner and I had a crazy notion last year, we decided to pack our jobs in (with a recession we thought it’d be only charitable to give our jobs to those less fortunate!), sell all of our belongings, rent our house out and book a one way flight out of the country. 6 months on we have travelled to China, Thailand, Vietnam, Japan, Cambodia, Malaysia and Australia.