Visiting Australia is not so simple, it is an expensive country, and very very big. In fact, it's more than a country, it's a continent! We Europeans call it Oceania, the english speaker call it Australia.
On the budget of our world tour, Australia was the place where we would spend the most money : 70 EUR / day / person. There is of course way to do less than that, but we do not want to restrict ourselves.
We had not really planned much before arriving in Melbourne, except the first 2 hotel nights and the rental of a "budget" van with Traveler Autobarn. 40 days of road trip! Apart from that, we had read some recommendations and installed some mandatories smartphone apps for a trip like this one!
This country is so big and we have driven so much and seen so much that we will not tell our trip day by day. This article is structured a bit differently from the previous ones.
We spent 41 days in Australia as you can see on the itinerary below and it was kind of a road trip !
We had planned to follow the East Coast and we sticked to that plan! We have almost followed the A1, the first road of the country all along, its name changes as miles flies or when crossing state border : Princess Highway, Bruce Highway, Captain Cook Highway, but this is still the A1. A small detour of 450km, (a detour at the size of the country) at the beginning of the route to get to the Great Ocean Road, a Must-see, west of Melbourne, otherwise we followed Cairns along the sea. Below some highlights during our road trip in van
- Melbourne - 2 days
- Great Ocean Road - 3 days
- Wilson Promontory National Park - 1 day
- Raymond Island and its Koalas - 1 day
- Narooma, its beaches, and its rocky coast - 2 days
- Byron Bay - 1 day
- Sydney - 3 days
- Fraser Island (arriving from the South at Rainbow Beach) - 5 days
- Bundaberg, not much except the Rum factory, but technical stop to get the MacBook repaired! - 3 days
- The Whitsundays and Airlie Beach - 6 days
- Magnetic Island and Townsville - 1 day
- Tablelands in the Cairns outback - 1 day
- Daintree National Park, and the tropical Wetlands - 4 days
While returning the van, the guy responsible for the drop off told us that we have added 5846 km to the odometer ! Wow, about 140km per day!
The van experience
So for this part, it was a new experience! We had already tried camping in a tent in Sweden a long time ago, and it was not a success for us. For this one in Australia, it was a great experience! The ability to travel independently, at our pace is really nice! We are not going to lie either, after 2 days of camping get back to a real bed, a shower and a private toilet is appreciated!
Australia is really THE destination to travel in Van!
In all the seaside resorts and in the great majority of cities we visited you have seen waterfront parks with free BBQs, clean and free public toilets, and sometimes free showers too. Well it's good to spend the day but when comes the evening:
- There are lot of rest areas and sometimes beautiful free camping spots. We spent 6 nights like that ( and the budget was happy about it ! )
- There are also campsites in the national parks that for 8-12 EUR gives you a space in the middle of the bush or by the sea, with beautiful landscapes amd no comfort, or just some dirty toilets, good for a night or 2.
- And of course the paid campsites, they are very affordable, 20-35 EUR per night, all "inclusive": current 240v, toilets, showers (often hot), outdoor kitchen with bbq, laundry service, and sometimes even a swimming pool! But "comfort" does not rhyme all the time with cleanliness ...
During our trip, we had some surprises more or less pleasant! One of the coolest was when Emma opened the toilet lid to find a nice big green toad inside! Or having a one on one with a bandicoot in the middle of the bush, it's just a giant Australian rat! Come on...
As we had to power up the van every 3 days to charge the batteries that power the fridge and lights for the evening, but also to charge our phones, we alternated between these 3 types of sites. We have not tried wild camping which is forbidden, however I do not see how the entire Australian territory can be controlled every night! Too big ! But no unnecessary risks, because fines can be very expensive.
After just a few nights, except for the first 3, which were awful ( a big party for the first night in Van with Simon in Wye River, and two nights under the rain and the cold of the austral spring) we got use to it! After that we had to buy a small heater for very cool nights, find out how to use our sink without flooding the van but it was not much and these details settled, we had our small mobile home!
We decided every morning what we would do during the day, stay, go, hike, do a visit, an activity, stay by the pool, enjoy a waterfront, take a nap on the riveredge , ... no planning, no constraints! TOP ! Since we were off school holiday and not in high season, all campsites or free areas were always available, TOP!
So we don't know if it's the Kangooroo effect, but it's amazing to see so many animals in their natural habitat. It sometimes feels like Australia is a massive open-air zoo.
The wildlife we saw during our journey:
- Kangaroos and Wallabies, there are really everywhere, in town, in the countryside, in the savannah, in the deserts, on the beach, in the parks
- Parrots, we expected to see them in Australia, but not as much. Especially that for us Europeans, we have the picture of a tropical animal in mind. Actually not at all ! The first ones we saw were 500km south of Sydney when it was 3 degrees at night! But we saw parrots everywhere, all colors, and invasive, noisy and not shy at all!
- Koalas, all across the east coast and on some islands that are animal sanctuaries such as Raymond Island and Magnetic Island.
- Sharks, in the evening while sailing in the Whitsundays, we were eating dinner on deck, the captain/guide took a powerful flashlight and started to point at big fishes. Then the sharks began to hunt those fishes. We could watch sharks hunting for their dinner during our own dinner, it was nice! It was small sharks (XNUMX-XNUMX meters ) that we saw, not the great white shark, but still impressive especially when the plan was to snorkel down in the coral reefs the day after ...
- Crocodiles, in all the northen part of Queenland, from Agnes Water all the beaches and rivers have warnings so it slow down any attempts to approach the edge and of course to go for a swim! But honestly you do not see them easily, crocodiles stays in the water 95% of the time. However it is giant, 3-5 meters in length for an adult, we saw 3 or 4 in the Daintree River and it's scary!
- Cassowarry, a kind of prehistoric and protected tropical ostrich. We've seen 1 alone, thank you Emma for this nice catch in the Daintree National Park, you're ready for african Safaris!
- Dingos, he is the king on Fraser Island. Mix of a fox and a dog. American might call it Coyote. It is a protected species that can be aggressive towards the human, but again more because of the stupidity of this one which is obstinated to feed it, to pet it when it's a wild animal.
- Plenty of bush turkey, she is funny but we know why they are called turkeys, not very smart. She takes a great pleasure to play with dead leaves and are loudly chasing each other at sunset.
- Beautiful fishes and one turtle during our snorkeling trips in the Great Barrier Reef. After nothing fancy compared to some of our previous experiences in Belize or Hawaii.
- Toads, non-lethal spiders, hopefully...
- Bandicoot, oposums, looking to steal food after dark.
- A lot of mosquitoes and flies, thanks to Bushman 40% DEET, mandatory for all Queensland bush walk and also for evenings!
The ones we did not see deadly snakes, deadly spiders, deadly jellyfishes, but that we are happy !
From the first kilometers on the wrong side of the road, we realize that the flora is totally different from what we have seen so far in Europe and North America.
Eucalyptus forest almost everywhere, wetter and green in the south, more and more dry in the north. No olive trees as in Greece, little or no pine trees, and oaks either.
We sometimes felt like we were in the Normandy countryside between Melbourne and Sydney, very green valleys with lots of cows.
We could then see savannah landscapes with large plains and some trees (sometimes dead) here and there in the area north of Rockhampton.
One of our favorite landscape was close to the end of our journey in the Far North Queensland, where the rainforest meet the sea and the Great Barrier Reef.
Thomas was a little tired at times to always see the same thing for 200km to finally arrive in the middle of nowhere with nothing to see. We did a lot of road trips in the United States and did not have that feeling at such a level, the large wide open spaces expression really makes sense after these 5800km in Australia! We only saw 3 of the most populated states, we did not even go into the australian Outback!
The most beautiful remains the beaches! Several gradations of colors for the sand, tides of great amplitude, turquoise waters, and sometimes so big and empty that you can drive on with a 4WD like on Fraser Island, Sandy Beach National Park or 4 miles beach to name just a few. We, who love beaches, saw some very pretty, it's too bad that for the most part we couldn't have a swim. In the south, too cold at this time of the year or visited by white sharks and in the north, ocean is too hot, so it's visited by deadly jellyfish and salt water crocodiles.
And what about cities, nothing very special. Big cities with American architecture, big buildings, large suburbs. Some charming historic buildings and of course the Sydney Opera, a must. We wanted to see Melbourne and Sydney, done! And here are some pictures!
Tops and flops
- Fraser Island
- Whitsundays Islands
- Great Ocean Road
- Daintree National Park for its tropical style
- Wooroonooran National Park and the Tablelands in the Cairns outback
- Cape Hillsborough National Park, Wallabies and hiking with great views
- Pebbly Beach for its nature
- Wildlife Sanctuaries that sometimes look more like Zoo: Magnetic Island
- Byron Bay, expensive and nothing special to see
- A lot of drive, sometimes frustrating ...
Some activities weren't budgeted correctly so the expenses are a bit higher in Australia. But the good news is that we really enjoyed our experience there, and we are here for that.
Here are some of the unplanned extras that costed us bit of money:
- 2 days / 1 nights in Fraser Island with Fraser Explorer Tours so we could sleep on the island and discover the island a bit longer: 788 AUD (+/- 500 EUR)
- Flying over Fraser Island with Air Fraser Island for 160 AUD (+/- 100 EUR) for 2 people with take off and landing from the beach!
- Cruise in the Whitsundays 2 days/1 night on a wooden sailboat with Tall Ship Adventures for 791 AUD (+/- 500 EUR)
Despite these 3 big extras, we spent 6378 EUR for 41 days in Australia, meaning 155 EUR per day for 2 people, for an initial planned budget of 6020 EUR for 43 days.
The good news: Visa was free whereas we had planned 2 EUR for that.
Alcohol is very very expensive in Australia, buying in large quantities (bag in box, pack of beer by 30x) it allows to reduce expenses, but also to drink more ...
Our biggest expense is the van rental at Travelers Autobarn for 50 EUR per day, which is around 2000 EUR or 1 / 3 of total expenses.
Alcohol (formerly called local beers)
During our visit in Australia, we drank a lot of white wine of bad quality but very cheap because sold in Bag in Box, it was around 20 AUD for 2-3 liters. Also we visited a cellar in New South Wales, and we were able to taste high-end red wines but they have all failed the test of our French palet :)
As for local beers, we enjoyed the Great Northern which is found mainly in Queensland and is a good lager. Otherwise Carlton Draught or Victoria Bitter (VB) are safe values on the east coast of Australia.
Note : some unpleasant surprises such as Feral White or the John Boston Golden Ale, which are similar to expensive high-end beers but have been only refreshing :(
We discovered that Australia is a big producer of sugar cane, and therefore rum. We visited a factory in Bundaberg ( which give its name to the Rum) and it was a nice surprise to taste their products like the Bundaberg Cola Rum or even their Ginger Beer which is an institution in Queensland. Their "Original" rum is also great value !