I’ve had the privilege to have two quite amazing Australian holidays in my life – the first being a two week road trip around the state of Victoria, the second being a year long adventure that took in 60,000kms of this magnificent country.
But what if I had less than the luxury of a year, and more than just two weeks? What, if like some friends of mine soon will, I had about six weeks, and I happened to be flying into Sydney? Then what would I do?
Since this was the question that some friends of mine recently posed me, I decided to run a couple of blog posts on the subject. This post will deal with the things you need to think about when planning a trip, including the size of the place, the transport options and the weather.
The next post (which you can read here) will propose an itinerary, starting from Sydney, that I believe is worth considering for a six week adventure. I may follow up with further itinerary ideas in subsequent posts if you like the idea. For now though… lets tackle the things to consider!
Things to consider – size, cost, weather
Firstly, Australia is big. One of my favourite novels of all time, written by the late Douglas Adams, tries to explain how big space is. Replace “space” with “Australia” in the following quote, and you get roughly the same effect:
“Space is big. You just won't believe how vastly, hugely, mind- bogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it's a long way down the road to the chemist's, but that's just peanuts to space.”
So whilst I have heard of people who have successfully circumnavigated Australia in around six weeks, what that meant was they spent a lot of time having an incredibly long car journey. Trying to fit everything in in six weeks is really not a reasonable idea. This was what my 60,000km trip ended up looking like.. and see how much I still didn’t manage to do in a year!
Budget is a definite consideration. Australia is not a cheap destination by any stretch of the imagination, made even less so by, at the time of writing, the very strong Australia dollar.
My year long trip cost me in the region of £12,000 – at today’s exchange rate that same trip would have cost me closer to £18,000. Of course, budget is a personal consideration, but it needs to be considered all the same!
Weather (or when to go)!
Because Australia is so big that it is both tropical and temperate, the weather can play a serious factor in any trip. The southern half of the country has an essentially European climate, with four seasons. Summer take place around January and Winter in July.
The northern half of the country on the other hand has two main seasons, known as the Wet and the Dry. These last about six months each. The Wet runs from around October through to March, and is, you guessed it, characterised by a lot of rain. It is also, oddly, hotter than the dry, with uncomfortably high levels of humidity.
The Dry is a better time to visit, mostly because there is less water everywhere and things like roads are likely to be actually open. This runs through from March to October. The later on in the dry, the hotter and drier it becomes, before the whole things bursts and you get the Wet again.
So now we know that Australia is big, the weather is varied, and it isn’t necessarily that cheap. How should you get around?
My preferred option for seeing a country is to get a vehicle and use it to get around. This allows for so much more flexibility than any other options, in that I can make everything up as I go along without having to worry about timetables or pick up points.
The downside of course is that renting (or buying) a vehicle is often one of the more expensive options available to the traveller, particularly once you factor in the distances in Australia and the cost of fuel. Personally though, I think it is worth it, particularly if you are travelling in a group and can split the costs.
Bus / Train!
Australia is fairly well served by long distance bus networks that will get you around the country and between the major cities and destinations. Trains are also available to take you through the middle, up the east coast, or across the Nullarbor Plain from Adelaide to Perth, on routes that are steeped in history.
These two options are not terribly cheap, and you can’t just stop when you feel like it to check out an interesting tree. But if you are in a hurry and want to see and lot of landscape flashing by, at a price which is likely cheaper than a car and fuel, then they are pretty good options.
For a short term holiday in Australia, or if you are just keen on visiting “the rock” without the endless outback drive, then the internal flight network is decent, and remarkably affordable due to the rise in low cost carriers.
However, obviously, you have even less flexibility in terms of stopping off in funky little places than with any of the other options, so unless you really need to get from one side of the country to the other in a hurry (maybe at the end of a one way trip), then it’s not an option I’d generally recommend if you want to actually see much of Australia.
Australia is a safe country to visit for the most part, although it does seem to have somewhat more than its fair share of deadly creatures. It is unlikely that you will encounter any of these when you are there, but being up to speed on things like treating snake bites, and which beaches are home to jellyfish or sharks is a good idea to avoid unnecessary risk.
Also, stay away from places likely to be inhabited by salt water crocs when in the northern regions, as they don’t make for great swimming partners.
It is far more likely that you are affected by more common travellers maladies when in Australia than being attacked by one of their deadly creatures. Things like dehydration and sunburn are key to watch out for – particularly given the thinness of the ozone layer in this part of the world. Wear hats, apply sunscreen, and drink lots of water.
Other than that, Australia is no more dangerous than anywhere else in the world, with common sense precautions keeping you safe. The remoteness of some areas means that you might want to plan ahead thoroughly before setting off, with plenty of emergency supplies should something untoward leave you stranded.
Don’t forget to check out the next post in this series, which suggests a six week itinerary departing from Sydney! In the meantime, if you’ve got any thoughts on travelling in Australia, do share them in the comments below – or head on over to my Australia Tips section for more ideas!
Today’s article featured a quote from the incredible Douglas Adams novel The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, and is reproduced here under fair use. If you haven’t read the novel, I cannot recommend you putting your life on hold and reading it enough!