Road trip around Australia
So the time is fast approaching to take that long-planned road trip around Australia, or perhaps you’re already on the road and want to make the most of your hard-earned time and money. There are a number of ways to maximise your big lap around Australia. Plus, we round up handy tips for making the trip around OZ by yourself, as a couple and with children.
Planning your trip around Australia
Bring equipment and accessories
If you have a hobby or interest, bring along the toys you need: fishing gear for the fisherfolk, binoculars for the bird and animal lovers, a torch for spotting nocturnal animals, a pick and shovel for fossicking, an inflatable kayak, a surfboard, you name it.
Choose an itinerary that meets your interests: if the kids are coming along and they love dinosaurs, then Australia’s Dinosaur Trail in Qld between Winton, Hughenden and Richmond won’t disappoint. Planning ahead will reduce stress on travel days. Pick a destination that doesn’t involve too much driving and allows for a few stops along the way.
Plan your accommodation
Knowing where you are going to camp is important. Choose a campground or caravan park based on your needs: does it allow dogs, is there a pool for the kids to swim in, is it within walking distance to the shops? If you have a large rig, ring ahead to make sure there is a large site for you.
Maps and technology
If you have a road atlas that includes maps of various towns, you’ll already know how to get to your destination. A laptop with wireless broadband internet access (Telstra’s Bigpond has the widest coverage) will allow you to research caravan park and national park websites and to log on to maps (Sensis, Google Maps, etc.). You can also log on at local libraries, internet cafes, etc.
Plan your road trip by region
If time is limited, you are better off concentrating on one region rather than covering vast distances. For example, if you only have a month, focusing on the Qld section of the Savannah Way is better than attempting the entire journey from Cairns to Broome.
Finding temporary working
There are also a number of websites that will help you find temporary jobs. This sort of work can extend your time on the road and give you years of touring instead of just weeks or months.
Gathering information for your road trip
Information centres are great sources of, well, information: look for a blue or yellow italicised ‘i’ to indicate accreditation, which means you’ll get unbiased help. They generally have free maps of the region, along with brochures and other publications. If you have a special interest, such as bushwalking or birdwatching or four-wheel-driving, ask for specific help on that. Also ask about guided tours, ranger-led tours in national parks and so on. Often, tourist information centres have displays that lend an insight into the area.
If you’re a member of an automobile association, you’ll have reciprocal membership rights in the other states which entitles you to free or discounted maps, accommodation guides and the like at branch offices and other local outlets.
Of course guidebooks and field guides can also enhance the journey. Don’t overlook information from locals and other travellers either: they can often point you in the direction of unexpected adventures or experiences. And as you travel, keep an eye out for points of interest along the way: free museums in small towns, memorials, botanical gardens, interpretive and nature walks, historical sites – the list is endless.
Tips for making the trip around Australia
Travelling around Australia alone
For the lone traveller, a camp setup that is easy to manage is essential. A campervan might be the go, or a camper trailer that is easy to erect. A small van will also work so long as you can hook it up on your own.
When travelling alone, it won’t be long before campground neighbours have invited you over for nibbles and drinks. Staying in national parks will allow you to join ranger-guided activities and to meet other campers. Information centres will be able to provide details of local clubs such as the historical society, bowls club and walking club that welcome visitors.
Trip around Australia as a couple
Perhaps the greatest source of marital strife when travelling is reversing the caravan onto a site, and then hooking up again to leave. Find a way to work out this aspect of travel ASAP, and everything else should be smooth sailing.
Getting involved in a hobby such as fishing or fossicking will also enhance your travels – some caravan parks, such as the Gemtree Caravan Park north of Alice Springs, NT, cater especially to fossickers. Destinations such as the Gulf towns of Karumba, Qld, and Borroloola, NT, can have fisherfolk feasting on barramundi for months at a time.
Another aspect to long-term travel for couples is that, after a period of time in the one place, you might become bored. The Volunteering Australia initiative has a website called GoVolunteer where you can find volunteer opportunities that might just be the highlight of a trip. Also, Conservation Connect can alert you to a nearby national park that may need volunteers to plant trees or help rangers clear invasive species.
Road trip around Australia with children
The main priority for travel with children outside school holidays is education. The first contact should be with your children’s school to develop a program you can work on every day to keep up their studies. Don’t underestimate the time that this will take. Travel in itself is an education, and the amount of educational information that is out there is staggering.
National parks almost always have interpretive centres and signs explaining the geology, the flora and fauna, both indigenous and exploration/settlement history, and guided walks and talks hosted by rangers. By taking full advantage of this, your children won’t just keep up with school back home but be way ahead of the game. A late afternoon spent watching kangaroos in the Grampians, Vic, followed by some reading on the reproductive behaviour of marsupials, is a lesson with a lot more impact than it would have in a classroom.
Occupying children on travel days may seem like a challenge, but again, there is an opportunity to learn. Give each child a map and points of interest to look for along the way, such as historic telegraph stations and WWII sites along the Stuart Hwy. Assign camp chores and, to give the parents a break, bring along bicycles so that children can go off for a ride.