Last Updated on May 4, 2021 by Red Nomad OZ
I was WAY too young to remember much detail from my first Aussie road trip.
I’m a road-tripper from WAY back!
But the photo of me and my sister on the Mt Kosciuszko summit in the good old days when you could actually drive almost to the top of the highest point in OZ is a dead giveaway.
That trail-blazing family adventure holiday was the first of many Aussie Adventures on many thousands of kilometres on roads covering much of Australia I’ve had since then.
SO … that gives me some serious road-tripper cred, right? RIGHT???
Well, not quite.
Because although I’ve been on lots of different variations of the great Aussie road-trip, there’s one version missing from my repertoire. That’s the great Aussie sea-trek – and it’s all about cruising in Australia.
What makes a good road trip?
Australia’s vast distances make turning your holiday into an Aussie Adventure easy. It’s absolutely the best way to a) see a LOT of Australia up close; b) see a LOT of your travelling companion/s up close; c) see a range of attractions from the ridiculous to the sublime as you trek from A to B; and d) make unforgettable memories – all in one (sometimes life-changing) (and mostly BIG fun) journey.
Changing the top three trip variables – Transport, Accommodation, Budget – will majorly determine the type of journey you have. The secondary trip variables – Distance, Stopovers, Travelling Companions – will determine just how life-changing and fun it really is!
Of course I don’t know how far you want to travel, how many stopovers you’ll take, and with whom you’ll choose to travel – that’s all up to you. But take a quick squiz at this snapshot of five Aussie Adventure trip variations – all with different choices of transport, accommodation and budget.
Yep, they’re all several kinds of fun, but only YOU will be able to tell which would be the MOST fun for you and your travelling companions.
#1 – The Relationship-Tester
Self-drive, take your own accommodation – tent, camper, caravan – and save money by staying in no- or low-budget camp-grounds for a ‘no frills’ Aussie Odyssey. Long days on the road, then setting up camp with limited facilities and planning meals each night means you and your fellow travellers will be together 24/7.
Lower costs make this option good for a longer trip, or even a Big Lap (right around OZ, geddit?) but it won’t take much to turn ‘Relationship-tester’ into ‘Relationship-breaker’ if your travel buddies aren’t as committed to pitching in and helping out as you are!
#2 – The Cop-Out
Self-drive, but when you’re done driving for the day, stay in a motel, cabin, cottage, B&B, farmstay, guesthouse – or go glamping! Staying in smaller towns will help keep costs down AND you can contribute to the local economy by eating out at the local pub, cafe or bakery. Or all three. You’re still spending 24/7 with your travel companions, but there’s not so much post-driving work to be done at the end of each day.
Try this option for trips with more accommodation choices in towns along the way such as Victoria’s Great Ocean Road, especially if you don’t like booking ahead.
Actually, this one’s only called the ‘Cop Out’ by people who’ve survived #1. That’s because they want YOU to suffer by roughing it as much as they did.
#3 – The Half-and-Half
Yep, this is exactly what it sounds like. Fly/train/bus there, then hire a car and drive back. Or vice versa. You can even use your own car if you drive across the Nullarbor then put it (and yourself!) on the Indian Pacific to get back home. Or fly to Darwin, hire a car and drive home.
This one’s best if time is limited, because although it’s more expensive, you can fit a LOT more sightseeing into your adventure because you’ve got a LOT more time on the road!
This option is also sometimes called the ‘Cop Out’ by people who’ve survived #1 or #2.
#4 – The Outsource
When your own vehicle isn’t up to the road standard of your proposed adventure route, there’s no shame in saving it (and costly repairs) by outsourcing the transport and booking an all-inclusive tour in a suitable or sometimes purpose-built vehicle. This one’s best for treks like the Gibb River Road – 600 km of tyre-shredding rocky road surfaces, rugged river crossings and endless bull dust – impassable in a standard car.
It’ll cost more, but you won’t have to do any planning as meals and accommodation are provided. Sure, you can’t choose your travelling companions, but you won’t be with them 24/7 unless you’re sleeping in a dormitory!
This option is also known as a ‘Major Cop Out’ by people who’ve survived #1, #2 or #3.
#5 – The Sea-Trek
Switch your transport from car to ship, your tent for a stateroom and the dodgy highway for the sea when your Aussie Adventure is an Australian cruise.
You’ll still travel thousands of kilometres and have sightseeing stopovers in interesting places along the way.
your transport is an all-purpose eating, entertainment and exercise area, purpose built for recreation while you’re on the road at sea!
If, like me, you know very little about cruising, take a look at Celebrity Cruises 13 day/12 night Great Barrier Reef Cruise from Sydney to Cairns and return as an example of what to expect.
With stopovers in Newcastle, Airlie Beach, Cairns, Port Douglas, Willis Island and Brisbane, the cruise covers a good cross-section of the east coast and offers a range of shore excursions.
What’s the Difference?
In comparison, spend the same 13 days driving the 2400 km (1500 miles) each way from Sydney to Cairns, and at 400-500 km per day you’d spend 9-10 of those days in the car.
Afraid you’ll max out the budget?
Compare the total costs for fuel, accommodation, food, entertainment, vehicle wear and tear and sightseeing you’d have on a 12-night road trip with the one-off up-front cruise cost covering everything (except on-shore excursions) and you’ll find the gap isn’t as large as you think.
There’s only one way to find out if the Sea-Trek really IS the new road trip – so next time you’re aboard, look out. That redhead languishing in the lounge, champagne cocktail in hand, just might be me!
Disclosure: This post was prepared in partnership with Celebrity Cruises and contains a sponsored link. All cruise photos are courtesy of Celebrity Cruises.
One of my big bucket list items is to road trip throughout Australia! I love that these itineraries cover land, sky and sea! What better way to truly explore everything that Australia has to offer? I would agree that traveling in a camper van is a relationship test. I feel as if I’m a veteran at road trips, but there are some unique obstacles in Australia, like kangaroos for example!
Haha, don’t drive at night in the rural areas, Martha – you SO don’t want to hit a roo! There’s so much to see and do down here, and road-tripping is my fave way to do it. Hope your Aussie bucket list item gets ticked off soon!!
I love to read some memories which are always very good to remember and loved your Aussie road trip. Your photo as a small beautiful gilr at Mt Kosciuszko Summit in 19?? looks very cute and adorable. You are very much right that Australia is vast country with many options to travel. Self drive is the thing which I love where we can plan and then change itinerary on our own. Also stopping and camping at various offbeat places during self driving is the favorite thing to do in a road trip.
Haha, I’m going to leave it at 19?? – but you can probably get a bit of an idea of how long ago it was by the clothing people are wearing 😀 Hope you get to do an Aussie road trip one day 😀
We love Australia but have yet to do a road trip through the country. We usually just fly from city to city. We’re thinking of renting a camper van for our next trip and timing it during the cheap one-way rental season. And you’re right, it’s a relationship tester. 🙂 A tour is tempting but the price point isn’t.
The rural areas are quite different to the cities, Debra, so prepare yourself for a lot more wide open spaces! A campervan is a great idea, hope it works out for you 😀
We’ve done a ton of road trips around the US, and love it (we’re more Option 2 people though). I will say though, we finally did a cruise and there is something so appealing about only unpacking once and being able to completely chill between destinations.
Sometimes it’s nice to just sit back and chill, Jen, even though Option one (with a camper trailer) is my usual mode of travel downunder!
It sure sounds like road tripping is in your blood! We have done a cross country road trip across the USA, but never in Austraila. I love that you mention switching it up to a cruise. That’s not a bad idea!
Road-tripping around Australia is one of my favourite things to do, Cecilia – I’ve also road-tripped through southern England a few years ago and even in New Zealand when I was very young! Cruising is just another version of the same thing – but you don’t spend all those hours on the road and you see the scenery from a different perspective!
Great post!! Your adventure sounds really appealing to me as I always wanted to travel in and around Australia in a camper with my own pace and will. I always loved traveling with the people who are close to you and can run with your pace so, I believe that if you are a person who is on the move most of the year than a relationship tester is a great way to see how the future looks for you and your partner.
Travelling at your own pace is the best way to see Australia if you’ve got the time, Daniel. And a long road-trip holiday where you’re with other people 24/7 is a sure-fire way of working out if you ever want to see each other again at the end of it 😀 Good luck if you ever try it!!
Wow road tripping since childhood; you are a veteran now for sure! I have done several long road trips in the recent times but night halts have been always in a hotel. I must try out camping out in night. Outsourcing can be really harsh on pocket but definitely a better option to save your own vehicle. Great tips on expenses, very helpful post.
It’s easy to be a veteran road-tripper in Australia, Indrani! It’s such a BIG country!! Camping isn’t for everyone, but you won’t know if you like it until you try it!
I honeymooned one Australia and did a combo of the above. Would love to return and do mostly a roadtrip. Yes as you mentioned it’s a relationship tester but I have done it before in USA and in Scotland and I find it suits us if we can keep it to 10 days. I would not mind trying the cruise option but hubby is against it.
Haha, yes a road-trip time limit can certainly save the relationship, Jo! The cruise option isn’t for everyone either – but it’s just an alternative to long days on the road, and you see the scenery from a different perspective!
The first picture from Mt Kosciuszko Summit is so cute. I would love to do one of these Aussie adventures soon. The relationship tester sounds exciting but I am quite a fan of cruising too. I would like to experience everything from self-driving to being driven on bus to sea-trekking.
I climbed Mt Kosciuszko again more recently, Manjulika – the hike to the top is a lot longer than it used to be! Way back when I did it as a child, you could drive almost to the top which isn’t something many countries can say about their highest mountain! Hope you get to try out some of my road-trip options!!
Travel through Australia in a camper is my dream. But now we realize another dream – the US in a camper. We have been living in camper truck for five months now, 24/7 non-stop together. And this is a huge test for our relationship. You are right; it’s Relationship-Tester!
I hope our relationship will survive. All-inclusive trip it’s not in our style, so if we survive now, next trip will be Australia, but also in a camper;) I like your first memory and photo from Kosciuszko mountain. I hope I realize my Aussie road-trip one day.
We lived in our camper trailer on the road together 24/7 for about 11 months a few years ago, Agnes, and we’re still going strong! Road-tripping Australia is the best way to see everything, but the cruise gives a different perspective and can cover a lot of ground more quickly. Also, the cruise won’t take you to Mount Kosciuszko, haha! Hope you get to do it one day!
I did a lot of roadtrips in Australia when I was there earlier this year and I agree, the long distances actually make for some really long road trips, which are, to a great extent, also relationship testers whether you choose to live in a campervan or not. I would love to go back someday and experience a cruise as well!
I think a cruise could be just as much of a relationship tester as a campervan, Medha! There’s nowhere to hide outside the cabin at night, haha! Long distance road tripping isn’t for everyone, but it’s a great way to see Australia. IMHO!!
Love this blog post. I agree, a relationship tester is a good way to see if your partner can cope with a traveler. I did this with my wife way back when we first met. It was just a four week train trip around South-Eastern Europe which included eight countries. After a rocky first two or three days we actually got on good and since then, married, kids, 53 countries later….still going strong. Still to do Australia together. Hope we get to go through Kimba on our road trip around the island. 😀
Wow, a train trip is even more of a relationship tester than my option Danik! Congratulations on staying together since then, sounds like a match made in traveller’s heaven 😀 If you’re doing a road trip around OZ you can’t avoid going through Kimba – but you might find the Nullarbor Plain a bit like the Saskatchewan scenery!!! Let me know if you see any similarities …
I have done the relationship tester before when I was in Australia with my mums best friend. She has a camper trailer and we drove from Melbourne to Sydney for Christmas and then did a trip around there for a week. Had a great time, though I do like my space. Haven’t considered renting a car just one way as normally it is so expensive but in other countries I have done the bus tours which are great when you have a short holiday don’t want to book anything and want to see as much as possible. Never considered getting a cruise as a road trip, but I bet you get to see amazing views of the coastline, it looks like so much fun and I bet it is great if you just want a relaxing holiday and not do much.
Your relationship tester experience sounds great, Clare – it CAN work even for people like you and I who like our own space, you just have to be in the right frame of mind! I’ve never tried this, but apparently you can sometimes get good deals on one-way rentals if you’re the one taking the vehicle back to the starting point, I’ll have to look into this some more 😀 Bussing it can work too, although I haven’t travelled by bus for many years! Hope you get to come back some day and try out some of the alternatives!!