My two friends and i are heading to Bangkok in January and we are planning on reaching Australia in early April, We will be flying to Perth and then from Perth to Adelaide and from their we will be making our own way from Adelaide to Cairns.
We just wanted some advice on places not to be missed and the best way to travel - we are thinking of hiring a campervan between us. Does anyone have any advice on this??
Thanks in advance!
My top "highlights-that-you-absolutely-can't-miss" list:
Snorkeling off the beach in Exmouth
Ayers Rock and even more so, the Olgas
Wine tasting in the Barossa Valley
4x4ing on Fraser Island
Camping on the beach in Cape Tribulation (Noah's Beach)
A few other highlights that I thought were pretty awesome and probably shouldn't be missed because they are essential to the Australian experience:
The parks in Northern Territory - Litchfield, Kakadu and Katherine Gorge
Whitehaven beach in the Whitsundays
The Great Barrier Reef
Great Ocean Road
And then a few things that I thought were pretty cool and if you are in the neighborhood you should check them out:
The Pinnacles Desert
The Devil's Marbles
If you can acquire your own wheels then do it. Having a van will allow you to see so much more since many of Australia's highlights are far from the main road and bus routes. At least 6 of the list I just gave you would have been impossible to see with public transport (or at least in a way that made it a highlight). Another major advantage is that if you have your own van you can camp, which is much much cheaper, than hostels or hotels and is often free. Being able to carry and cook your own food will also save you a bundle. Camping also gets you into the wilderness that makes Australia such a fascinating country.
And it doesn't have to be expensive to get your own vehicle. I figured out that over the course of 11 months and about 25,000kms, my girlfriend and I spent almost the exact same amount buying, maintaining and selling a car, that we would have on bus tickets for the same ride. There are many ways to go about this - first, you can just buy a car. There are many travelers in Perth looking to get rid of their vehicles for cheap and they often come fully loaded with camping gear as a bonus. You can find ads at all the hostels and internet cafes. Or you can just buy a used car out of newspaper ads or car lots the same as you would at home. The major disadvantage of this option is that when the time comes to sell it, you may or may not get a good deal or it may take you a while to get rid of it and if you have to catch a flight then it kind of sucks. Some people just don't want to deal with that hassle.
Another option is to go with one of those guaranteed buy-back dealers like the Traveler's Auto Barn. Basically you buy a used car from them, and assuming you don't destroy the car, they will promise to buy it back from you when you are done. They don't give you a particularly good deal when they buy it back, but if you want to get rid of it in a hurry, then you have no worries. You are also free to sell it on your own for whatever price as far as i know. I've heard mixed reports from other travelers about this service. Some have reported feeling ripped off, and others have said they felt it was a good way to go.
And finally, there is the standard car rentals. There's lots of companies that specialize in vans for backpackers. A couple that I remember seeing often were "Wicked Campervans" and "Backpacker Campervans".
So what you have to do is start doing some research online. Find out prices of all three options based on how long you are going to be in the country and how far you plan to travel, and decide what option will be best for you.
Which way are you going to head from Adelaide to Cairns? You kind of have two options, to go north through the centre and visit Ayers Rock, the Olgas and the Devil's marbles then heading east at 3 ways or to head south along the coast and do the great ocean road and the east coast on your way.
Depending on how much time you have, you might be better off driving from Perth to Cairns because you'll be able to see more things - I'd head north from Perth and do the west coast, then east from Broome and visit Tunnel Creek, the Bungle Bungles and some Gorges in the Kimberley, drop in on Darwin and the surrounds (Litchfield and Kakadu) then head south to Adelaide and on the way visit Devils marble, Ayers Rock, and the Olgas, from Adelaide take the great ocean road to Melbourne, coast to Sydney and the Blue Mountains then head up the east coast to Cairns via byron bay, fraser island and the whitsundays. This would take a long time (greater than 3 months for a proper trip) but you'd be able to do pretty much everything on Degolasse's list.
In regards to hiring a car, I don't know, I just took my normal one
So.... How much time do you have?
Thank you for such a detailed list, from the research we have done so far they seem to match some of your suggestions, so i will look into the others!! I will start my research into car hire but from what you have mentioned i have a good start point - thank you!
We are planning on being in Aus from early April until the end of June so nearly 3 months! We were planning on spending a week in Perth then flying to Adelaide and from there working our way around to Sydney and up the East Coast.
THe flight to Adelaide can not be changes, however we have an open mind for the rest of the trip so different ideas are much appreciated.
Thanks - Rachel
Sounds good, I'm a Queenslander so I can give u some good advice about where to go in the sunshine state.
Start at the Gold Coast - Coolangatta is nicest for surf and scenery, whereas Surfers Paradise is where u should go for a good night out and for the more touristy stuff. But all the beaches are good. Then I'd head to Brisbane, the capital, head out to the Valley for the best bars, clubs and just a cool place and maybe check out Southbank and the city centre itself. Then hit the Sunshine Coast, my home, which is more chilled out than the Gold Coast but just as nice with great beaches and loads of sun - Mooloolaba and Noosa are the biggest drawcards, go to Noosa National Park for goannas, koalas and bush turkeys and go climb Mt. Beerwah - it's free and an awesome experience. Just north of Noosa is Double Island and then further north Fraser Island (world's largest sand island - massive sandblows, freshwater creeks and lakes, wildlife such as dingoes, humpback whales and dolphins), which feel like a world away from Noosa with their huge stretches of beach (both awesome for camping, 4 wheel driving and just chilling). Apart from that I think that Airlie Beach (nightlife, base for whitsundays) and the Whitsundays (Great Barrier Reef, amazing beaches and islands) are a must. I've never been to Cairns or the very north of Queensland so I can't comment. Try hit Queensland in the spring when it's nice and sunny but not too hot, easily the best state but I'm not bias.
Hope that helps you out, vanning around Oz is the only way to go. Happy travels!