View Full Version : Australia Travel Advice?
01-02-2003, 09:48 PM
As someone used to independent a solo travel in the USA, I find the options for going Oz daunting. Considering a 3-week trip, am I better off going on a 'tour', rather than renting a car and doing it day-by-day? Yes, I realize that long drives may be involved, but I love road trips.(I went from San Diego to Key West and back in '02)
Probably an IMHO thread really...
I'd recommend against going on a scheduled, bussed tour, especially if you like road trips. Bill Bryson has written a few books on trips he has driven / flown in Australia, these are funny and fascinating for a local (he's seen and done more stuff here than any local I know!), so you should find them a good read.
If you like driving, hiring a car in Melbourne and driving to Cairns, (bottom right hand corner, to almost the top right hand corner of the continent, about 4000kms), you'd have a ball of a time, sticking to the coast, with a few trips inland for special things if you wanted.
You'd want to get some guidebooks to point out the interesting things along the way that you might miss (Giant Prawn, etc), and some maps if you like exploring. Depending on how much you like to rough it, you can camp along the way, or stay in a no-frills motel for something like $25US a night.
Of course, you could also drive the 4000-odd kms from Melbourne to Perth, or Perth to Darwin (careful!), or spend the whole time inland, cos there's heaps of cool stuff to see.
With my initial suggestion, the roads are excellent to average, there are townships every 20 to 60 kms, friendly locals, AWESOME beaches, and a million things to do and see.
Let me again recommend Bill Bryson's books, as they offer a good selection of some possibilities. It's hard to provide much detail without knowing you, but if you wanted to give some more details, I am sure the Aussie members of this 'board and myself would be able to help you more. Anything you have heard about that you particularly want to see? Type of thing? Specific places?
I should say that while it's an awesome country all year round, the east coast is great in summer especially, which started in December and ends at the start of March, of course. Towards Cairns, it gets very hot and humid in summer, however.
PS, when you come, look out for drop bears.
01-02-2003, 10:28 PM
Yeah those drop bears are a real concern. Unfortunately my travel partner was felled by a drop bear just out of Didjabringabeeralong :(
01-02-2003, 10:36 PM
Off to IMHO.
01-02-2003, 10:36 PM
There are some excellent 4-wheel drive tours of the Outback (trust me, you do NOT want to drive solo in the Outback), if you want something a little less conventional.
A great deal depends on which parts of Australia you want to see. Three weeks is a very short time frame, and you may find that you'll see more of our country by flying or training it between major cities than if you drive between them (AFAIK, there aren't the same, vast stretches of "nothingness" in the US as their are in the interior of our continent).
01-02-2003, 11:10 PM
Driving in Australia is not like driving in the US. Even some of our major highways offer far from relaxing driving and trips can be very time consuming.
I've been all over Australia but the only places I would drive to are between Brisbane or Melbourne, they take about 12 hours each from Sydney. Cairns, Adelaide, Perth, Darwin, Alice Springs I flew and rented a local vehicle.
If you are happy to play it by ear with accomodation, wotif (http://www.wotif.com/accommodation/default.asp) has great deals for standby rooms up to 10 days in advance. Your dollar will go twice as far.
Remember to sponge off local Dopers as much as possible.
01-03-2003, 01:11 AM
Originally posted by yawndave
Considering a 3-week trip, am I better off going on a 'tour', rather than renting a car and doing it day-by-day? Yes, I realize that long drives may be involved, but I love road trips.(I went from San Diego to Key West and back in '02)
If you really want a 'road trip', there's a big difference between an East Coast trip and one that gets into the outback. On the East Coast and, to a lesser extent, some way inland there are lots of small towns scattered about the place. It's also a great way to see some of the country that's a little way, if not too far, off the beaten track.
On the other hand, the distances are significant and you'll find that a lot of the three weeks you've budgeted won't get you a lot of time to actually do stuff because the distances are so freaking huge. OTOH, if you actually enjoy the driving, you might like it. It also gives you an easy means of escape if you accidentally find yourself in Melbourne.
Outback driving is another matter. Settlements are far apart - often at least a couple of hundred km - and things can go badly, badly wrong.
The scenery's very samey, too - especially once you get into South Australia and Western Australia. If you don't stray far from the main roads you won't see much. Then again, a trip around the Territory and the West may be your only chance to see things such as the Devil's Marbles or some of the most spectacular desert scenery around. You're more likely to make it out to places like the Barossa this way. If you're lucky you can even meet a crew from a nightly tabloid TV show who will make you cavort around for the camera in exchange for a rescue.
If you're after rainforest scenery, make sure you're coming at the right time of year - show up in the wet season and you're going to have issues with roads being flooded. Again, you're going to be a long way from anywhere if something goes wrong, and the drop bears have been pretty bad this year.
Give some thought to seeing Tasmania by car, too. It's a small and insular place, but truly spectacular and almost made for this sort of thing. Youth hostels offering good accommodation are everywhere down there, so it can be a fairly cheap trip.
If you do decide to do your own road tour, give some thought to buying a car. Because of the costs and difficulties, it's not that unusual for tourists going long distances to discover that renting a car is more expensive than buying a bomb and selling it back at the end of the trip. There are a number of businesses that cater for exactly this sort of thing.
In general, though, Australia's not as well-suited for road touring as the US or Europe. Read Bryson's book, as Abby said, but remember that he made a number of targeted trips to accomplish what he did.
In short, it depends what you're wanting to get out of the trip. If you want to see highlights, take prearranged tours. If you want to get to the lesser-known places, grab your own car, but do your research first and accept that you're not going to see anything. If you want to know what small-town Australia's like, just rent The Dish. Things haven't changed much over the past thirty-odd years, except that Parkes is no longer at Forbes.
01-03-2003, 01:29 AM
A few years ago the wife and I spent 3 weeks in Oz. A week in Sydney and two weeks driving. It was great. We went north out of Sydney up to Brisbane and made a loop inland down to Melborne and then back up the coast to Sydney again. We never called ahead for reservations and had no trouble finding a room everynight. Except for Valentine's day in Melborne. Evidently it is an Australian tradition to take your SO to a motel on that day, a somewhat bigger deal than in the US. We stopped at every wide spot in the road and looked around. I doubt we made 200 miles in any one day.
BUT!!!!!! Driving on the wrong side of the rode can be daunting, expecially in the cities. Every time I didn't think about what I was doing, we were on the wrong side.
The people were very friendly and it's enough like the US that when the differences show up they are rather surprising.
01-03-2003, 03:25 AM
Having just completed a 2000km round trip west to see my parents and about to face a slightly longer trip north to see the in-laws I can only endorse to view of other locals.
Fly and hire is the way to go.
The romance of a road trip might be a living US legend, but it doesn't include the Hay plains, The Gunbarrel Highway, the Nullabor, Cameron's Corner et al.
Also we are in the midst of the worst drought in a century so the inland ain't quite like the green hills of Vermont. Also you'll be in with a better than average chance of getting one of our national symbols wrapped around the front of your vehicle.
01-03-2003, 07:35 AM
Double endorsement on studying Bill Bryson (especially Down Under) before you go - the man in a Master.
Three weeks is a ridiculously short time to try and see a country the size of continental USA, so define your targets rather than shoot too wide and come away disappointed.
For my two-bob's worth. It sounds from your OP that you're an adventurous sort, therefore don't go too much for arranged tours except where you have to, like the Barrier Reef. Play the rest by ear, subject to weather, friends you meet etc.
Don't drive around Queensland - fly, look and leave (Cairns & the far North are must see, but not mid-summer). One of the best trips is to drive Sydney to Adelaide via the coastal road. Great scenery, beaches, people, stays and you'll basically see how and where 80% of Aussies live. The stretch from Melbourne on the Great Ocean road alone is worth the cost of your whole trip to Oz.
01-03-2003, 08:53 AM
I just want to mention Youth Hostels, if you're looking for nice, cheap lodging. Check out http://www.yha.org.au for locations, pricing, and to book rooms at hostels in cities all over the country. You can book a room shared with several roommates for as little as $15AU a night.
As for travel - I'd recommend flying, if you want to see a good part of the country, just because it's so damn big, there's a lot of empty space between cities, and your time will be limited. But if you're set of driving, there's a lot of good advice above.
Best of luck, yawndave - hope you have a wonderful trip, travel safe, and mind the drop bears. Nasty buggers!
01-03-2003, 08:44 PM
When are you thinking of coming?
As has been pointed out, summer in the far-northern areas is hot and wet (monsoonal), and can mean that many regions are cut off by flooded rivers etc.....even on the 'main' roads. Travel in the outback is also ill-advised because it can be many hundreds of kilometers between settlements, and unless you are extremely well-equipped you might find yourself in a life and death situation very quickly.
Three weeks at this time of year would find me spending a week touring Tasmania, and two weeks driving the coastal road from Brisbane via Sydney to Melbourne. The scenery is pretty terrific, with mountains to your right and the Pacific Ocean/Bass Strait to your left. Although we are having a Very Bad Drought, the coastal areas have not born the brunt of it like the inland areas. And Tassie, being cooler and damper than the mainland has had the least effects from the lack of precipitation. It is also one of the most historically and environmentally significant areas of Australia, and being so small, a week there will give you some fantastic experiences.
Oh, and there aren't any dropbears in Tassie either.
01-04-2003, 10:11 AM
Thank you all very much...:)
01-05-2003, 02:55 AM
Originally posted by kambuckta
Oh, and there aren't any dropbears in Tassie either. True, but they've been pretty big this year (http://www.bundabergrum.com.au/media/dropbears.zip) up north (Achtung! Link goes to 2.6 MB zip movie file).
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