Things you need to know before travelling in Australia

You’re thinking about visiting Australia, and want to make the most of your time here.

You’ve checked the web for the best places to visit, and come up with your list of places to see. If you’re like most people that list will include

  • Sydney Harbour Bridge & Opera House
  • Bondi Beach
  • Uluru
  • Great Barrier Reef

All of those places are on the top most visited sites in Australia. But before you start planning your itinerary and making your bookings, there are some things you need to consider.

Don’t try to fit too much in

Colourful fish and coral on the Great Barrier ReedFor most people it’s a long way to go just to visit Australia so you want to see as much as you can while you’re here. But remember – distances between places in Australia are vast. Really. Vast.

You cannot get from Sydney to the Great Barrier Reef, then to Uluru, and back in one day. Not even in three days. At least, not if you want to actually leave the airport at any of those places. Even a week won’t leave you much time to explore. Have a look at the distances and times below

  • Sydney to Cairns = 2,250k, 27 hour drive, 3 hr flight
  • Cairns to Uluru = 2,500k, 30 hr drive, 2.5 hr flight
  • Uluru to Sydney = 2,800k, 30 hours drive, 3 hr flight

Vista of Uluru at sunset, reflecting red and goldAnd that hasn’t even covered half of the country.

If your time is restricted, limit the number of places you want to see and spend more time actually enjoying them.

You can see Uluru just by driving past it, but that’s not the same as spending 5 hours (yes really) walking around it. Give yourself a couple of days at least. While at Uluru you should also visit Kata Tjuta, it’s in the same national park and covered by your Parks Permit.

Aboriginal culture isn’t restricted to the outback

Didgeridoo playing at Circular Quay, SydneyPrior to white settlement Sydney was well populated by Indigenous people. It still is. If you’re interested in learning more about Aboriginal Australia around Sydney, both past and present, have a look at the Sydney Expert website.  Or Time Out’s Indigenous Walks and Tours in Sydney

The same applies to all capital cities, and many outback towns. Lots of places have a Cultural Centre, and they all welcome everybody to drop in and find out more about the area and the culture.

The weather in Australia varies greatly

Purple sunset from the verandah of an outback pub in QueenslandAustralia is a big country and ranges from tropical in the north, down to temperate in Tasmania. There are also alpine regions where it can snow, even in summer, and desert. Sydney has a different climate to the Barrier Reef, which is different again to Darwin, even though they’re both tropical. Uluru is in the desert and can get very cold or very hot depending on the time of year. It has even been known to snow at Uluru.

If  you’re planning on visiting a few different places you need to pack accordingly.

You don’t need a 4WD to get around the outback

Driving on wide open spacesMany people want to drive around the outback to visit some of the major sites, so they rush out and hire a 4WD with all the gear.

Unless you are planning on doing a lot of off road driving, and bush camping you don’t need a 4WD.

Most places, and certainly the major tourist attractions are accessible in a bog standard 2WD family sedan. Uluru is on tar (though you might have to drive the long way around from some places ). You can drive from Melbourne to Karumba (in the Gulf of Carpentaria) via tar, from Sydney or Melbourne to Perth, from Adelaide to Darwin, and all around the coast from Cairns to Broom all on tar. And around Kakadu.

Even many dirt roads are well graded and don’t need a 4WD with the full Daktari treatment. Before hiring a 4WD, have a look at where you want to go, and what roads you will be driving on. You might save yourself a small fortune.

Australia has a western side

Sunset camel ride on Cable Beach, BroomeMost people come to Australia and concentrate on the east coast. Sydney – Gold Coast – Great Barrier Reef, perhaps with a trip to Melbourne.

There are good reasons for this – they are beautiful places to visit, and if you’re short of time they’re not too far apart so are easier to travel between.

But there is also a west coast of Australia.

Perth, Fremantle, Broome, the Kimberly coast, Ningaloo Reef, the horizontal waterfalls, and the Margaret River are all beautiful places on the west coast of Australia, and have the added bonus of not being as busy as the east.  Then there’s the Kimberley in the north of Western Australia, stretching from the coast across to the Northern Territory (three times larger than England), the Bungle Bungles, Kalgoorlie, and many other outback places in Western Australia.

You might even see the southern lights from the south coast of the state.

And a southern one

Don’t forget Adelaide for some of the best wines in the world. For my money, the Adelaide Hills has the world’s best sauvignon blancs. And of course there’s the Barossa Valley, Clare Valley, and McLaren Vale all within a short drive of each other.

If you’ve ever wanted to swim with a great white shark (and who hasn’t?), South Australia is the place to do it. That’s where Jaws was filmed.

The outback isn’t all blokey and difficult

Wildflowers blooming in the desertIf you watch the 4WD shows, or Outback Wrangler, or any of those programs, you would be forgiven for thinking that the outback is a ‘man’s’ country. That women are out of place.

That’s not true. There are many women living or travelling in the outback (including me), and the countryside can be stunningly beautiful. The desert in bloom is a sight that has to be experienced. It is magnificent.

You’d be surprised at what you might find out there.

The wildlife is unique and beautiful

Rock wallaby Ormiston GorgeKangaroos, koalas, echidnas, wombats, platypus, wallabies. All unique to Australia, and you don’t have to go very far from the city to see them.

But watch out for drop bears!

Whatever you choose to do in Australia, I’m sure you’ll love it. It’s a beautiful country. I wouldn’t live anywhere else for quids!

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