Eric and I travelled to Australia for a month,
in august/september of 2002. We flew in to
Sydney, and drove to Darwin in a
rented campervan. On the way up the east coast, we made
detours to the Blue Mountains, Hunter
Valley, and Fraser Island. After
a three-day diving trip at the
south end of the Great Barrier Reef, we drove through the
Outback of Queensland and the
Northern Territory. In the Top End,
we visited Litchfield and Kakadu
Parks, before flying out from Darwin to Singapore. We
softened the blow of returning home with a three-day
stopover in Singapore, and
then returned to Amsterdam. Click on one of the links
above (or in the "map" at the top of the page) for more
details on any particular area we visited. The map
below shows our route through Australia.
page, you'll find some general info on the trip in
general: (links within this page)
Transportation in Australia:
about the rental campervan, and about driving it from Sydney
Getting there & away
Where to stay
When to go & the weather
Links to maps of Australia
campervan & driving to Darwin
We (and our V&D travel agent) took some time to compare
the different campervan rental agencies in Australia.
We wanted to rent the smallest (2-person) campervan,
without shower or toilet, and without airconditioning,
and we figured out that Hertz was cheapest. Make sure
whether there are drop-off charges if you
make a one-way trip
whether there is an extra charge if you take the
campervan to the Northern Territory
or Western Australia.
Renting a campervan isn't cheap.
In addition, the Hertz people in Sydney talked us into
getting an additional insurance, which covers
damaged windshields. Apparently lots of campervan
windshields get cracked by rocks, especially in the
Northern Territory. Ours didn't...
About driving the campervan from Sydney
to Darwin. Our total trip was close to 6000 km
(3750 miles). All
of our long-distance driving was along the country's
major highways: the Pacific Highway up the east
coast, Capricorn Highway from Rockhampton to Mount Isa,
Barkly Highway to the west of Mount Isa, and Stuart
Highway up to Darwin. The Pacific Hwy and the Highways
in the Northern Territory were in good shape, and Capricorn
was pretty good, but the roads from Mt. Isa to the
Northern Territory border were very bad. Very good
means two lanes (one per direction) and sometimes
a third (overtaking) lane. Very bad means one narrow,
ragged lane, that the road trains barrel right down
the middle of. They don't stop, or even move aside,
for campervans, and you certainly don't want
to challenge them, which means you have to deflect
into the rough gravel next to the asphalt, and come
to a grinding stop. Visit my Outback
page for a picture of the highway at (more or less)
When the roads were good, driving in
outback Queensland and the
Northern Territory was very easy as there was little
traffic. We could stop in the middle of the highway to
take off a sweater or have a drink, and I even amused
myself (kept myself awake) by driving on the right side
of the highway once or twice (you normally drive on the
left in Australia). I absolutely loved the way in which
all drivers in the outback greet oncoming traffic with
a wave of the hand, and made sure I always waved back.
"Hey, look honey, a car!" Road trains are a small
problem. I noticed a lot of people pulling half off
the road when a road train came the other way, and thought
this was a little overdone until I read about several
accidents in which campervans were swept off the road by
these monster trucks, killing all inside. They have a
strong wake, so you'd better hold on to your steering
wheel. The road trains are also largely responsible for
the enormous numbers of dead kangaroos we saw along the
highways in the outback. Hundreds and hundreds of them,
at a certain point I counted one every one hundred meters.
Apparently, they came to the highway looking for water,
because of the drought, and there's no way the road
trains can brake in time to stop from hitting them. That
was a very sad sight to see.
Driving took more time than we'd
estimated beforehand, as driving was a lot slower
than it is in Europe. The campervan was not particularly
fast - it made 110 km/hr on flat areas, and 60 or so
uphill. It turned out to be surprisingly sensitive to
wind (and there was a pretty gusty wind a lot of the time).
On days when we had a head wind, we were happy
to make 100, while we pushed up to 130 when the wind
came from the back. The poor roads in outback Queensland
slowed us further, as did slow road trains that we didn't
All in all, this means that we only drove
500 to 600 km in a day, and close to 700 on one particularly
long day. It took us four days of serious driving to get
from Rockhampton to Litchfield (a few hours south of
Darwin). Eric and I have this weird thing that we really
wanted to see that there was nothing to see, in the outback,
so we actually enjoyed driving through the desert for four
days. I, for one, wanted to see this incredible emptiness
for myself, and that is simply not something you can do in
half a day. It takes a few days to realize how empty "empty"
really is. However, we were happy when we got to Litchfield:
four days was quite enough. If you don't have the patience
for four days of desert driving (and I think many people
might not), you might want to reconsider and fly to Darwin.
there & away
On the way in, we flew from Amsterdam to Sydney. Actually,
it was a little more complicated than that, perhaps because
we booked only a few weeks before we went: we flew from
Amsterdam to London Heathrow with British Airways, then
from London to Sydney with Qantas, with a 1-hour stop in
Singapore. The flight took about 24 hours, but with
travelling to and from airports, waiting times, and the
time difference of eight hours, it took pretty much
from saturday morning to sunday evening.
On the return trip, we first had a four-hour
Qantas flight from Darwin to Singapore, followed by a
Quantas flight from Singapore to Frankfurt three days
later. Finally, we flew from Frankfurt to Amsterdam
The entire flight cost us 1045 euro per
We only booked about 3 weeks before we went, but
had to be flexible in our destinations: flying in to
Darwin, and back from Sydney, was no longer possible.
We spent most nights in the campervan, in caravan
parks. They usually cost us somewhere between 14 and
22 Australian dollars, for a full hookup spot. There
was a brochure with hundreds of caravan parks in our
campervan, and we had no problem at all finding them.
We never made a reservation, and never ran into full
caravan parks. However, we heard that the caravan parks
along the east coast can get busy in high season.
In Outback Queensland we also tried some "dry camping,"
which was - naturally - free. We found that many older
Australian tourists, often retired and on very long
trips, did this. Try finding a picnic area just outside
of a town, and chances are you'll find a couple of
retirees camping there. You'll even have toilets,
but no electricity and probably no running water. I
got the impression that this is quite safe.
We stayed at Capitol Square Hotel in
Sydney (booked via the internet), which was very
In Singapore we stayed at the Concorde Hotel, which
was very luxurious.
We also took a 2-day trip to Fraser Island, where
we stayed at Eurong Beach Resort, which was good.
During a 3-day diving trip, we stayed on a boat. I
really missed our cosy campervan during these two
go & the weather
We arrived in Sydney on august 25th,
and left Darwin on september 21st, so
we were there in early spring. I'd say these times
are pretty good. It was a little chilly in the Blue
Mountains, close to Sydney, and it took us a few
days to adjust to the heat in the Top End. Perhaps
reversing the trip - driving from Darwin down to
Sydney - would have been better, but I'm not sure
if a few weeks makes all that much difference. We
had a few rain showers in Sydney, and one in the Top
End, and that's all the rain we saw.
There's another important consideration
to make: you can't enter the ocean along most of the
Queensland and Northern Territory coasts because
of the box jellyfish, in summer (roughly from
november - may). Another thing to keep in mind
is the "wet," which can result in an awful lot of
rain in the north, in the summer months (which is from
december to february, in the southern hemisphere).
Finally, we liked travelling in a
relatively calm time of year, not exactly the height
of the tourist season. Caravan parks always had room.
Often we reduced the average age at a caravan park
by a few decades, sometimes it seemed like there
was hardly anyone under fifty. If you're looking
for a party at a caravan park, it's obviously not
the thing, but if you want the caravan park for
sleep, it's great. The "grey brigade" will
probably not keep you awake at night.
We brought along three guide books:
Rough Guide: Australia
Lonely Planet: Australia
Lonely Planet: Islands of Australia's Great Barrier
For overall Australia, I'd suggest
using either the Lonely Planet or Rough Guide,
they're both very good.
We brought the "Islands" one as we were particularly
interested in diving.
Other reading I suggest, just to get
in the Down Under mood:
"Down Under" by Bill Bryson. Bryson describes
his various trips around Australia. Hilarious,
"We of the Never Never" & "The Little Black
Princess" by Mrs. Aeneas Gunn. The author lived
in the Northern Territory Outback in 1902 and describes
life in the Outback, and with the aborigines. The
books are from 1908 and 1905, and are Australian "classics."
Maps of Australia
Pick up a decent map of Australia right
More maps, as well as geological info, are found
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