How Long to Travel Around Australia (Doing the Big Lap Around)

According to CarAdvice, the “Highway 1 to hell team” consisting of three drivers did the mainland Highway 1 in 5 days 13 hours, and 40 minutes. But why race?

Highway 1 is the continuous roadway that connects the 5 mainland states and one of its territories. It hugs the coast in many places, but there are many areas that are not covered. There are also a lot of internal roadways that crisscross the country.

Rushing around can cause you to miss so much.

When most people think about the distance, they think about taking this highway rather than actually investigating every country town or alternative route. When the time is measured in years instead of weeks, time becomes irrelevant.

What is the distance around Australia?

The distance around the Australian mainland (via Highway 1 without including Tasmania) in a single lap is about 5,000 km (9,300 miles). Many areas such as Cape York are not included in this highway one lap.

Theoretically, I guess one driver could do this trip in a couple of weeks, however, you wouldn’t see much except the white lines.

Many people do “the lap around” in about a year visiting all the main tourist spots. I personally believe it is best to concentrate on one major area at a time starting with the most distant to you, the far north West or East. Spending extra time in each area means you get to see so much more. Shorter distances then become easier to achieve later on.

Some places are a great distance apart with only one major road in and out, such as the Far North of Western Australia and through the center.

The great distance, avoiding the wet season, and the fuel cost, become major contributing factors that discourage repeat visits.

Therefore, I recommend you take the time to see and experience everything while are in each area.

sign located at the northernmost point of the Australian continent
The tip of Australia is not covered by Highway 1.

The elements can affect how long it takes to travel around Australia

I spent 3 months in the northwest region as I moved from Western Australia to Queensland in my early 20s. At the time I had a car, tent, and very little money, and needed to get to Queensland before the wet set in.

I know I missed seeing many wonderful sites.

As I restart my travel journey, I plan to spend at least 6 months in Far North Western Australia.

Always remember that if you plan to travel for the next 10-20 years (or longer if your health holds out), you don’t need to do it all at once.

The ability to take your time is one of the benefits of living a simple life. You have fewer worries to take into consideration.

The remote areas of Western Australia, The Northern Territory, The Gulf, and Far North Queensland (the Cape) can be done in different years from late Autumn to early Spring.

If you choose to work, you may stay in a major center such as Cairns, Darwin, or a town in the North West of Western Australia before continuing on when the wet is over.

The tropical heat is an issue that prevents some people from doing this, but we are all different and if you can handle the hot weather, you have options.

If you slow down your travel, what can you do in your spare time?

Slowing down will mean it takes more time to travel around Australia, and you may find yourself having to extend your stay in one location because of the elements. Finding yourself stationary in the top end during the wet may cause you to consider what you would find to do in your spare time.

water rushing over rocks, one hidden gem found when traveling
There are gems everywhere, you just need to start looking

When you stay in a major centre during the wet, or off-season, many tourist attractions may be closed, however, I find there is always something to do.

However, if you rush around you may miss the interaction with the locals and find the hidden gems in every town or location.

You can always enjoy your normal hobbies as most hobbies can be done, in some form, in any location.

In every location, it is possible to walk around the area and enjoy the view. I discovered a love of photography, even though I have zilch talent.

What mindset should you have to do the big lap around Australia?

I believe that the worst mindset is to consider your lap to be a holiday. A holiday always comes to an end too soon. Unless of course, you have the attitude that life is one long holiday. I prefer to think of travel as an adventure.

If you plan to see everything you can no matter how long it takes, then you are less likely to ‘rush’ and miss things.

I understand some people may have limited time due to family and other commitments, but if this is not the case then why do you need to be in a hurry to return to base?

Slow down and take your time.

I love living a nomad lifestyle because I can choose to stay in one spot if I find it particularly relaxing.

If you have commitments, plan your getaway.

I realize that at some point in our lives, we may not be able to just up and leave. We may have family or other commitments to consider including our own health.

This is one reason I decided to sell up before I hit 50.

If you can not possibly leave full time please consider all your options.

It may take longer to travel around Australia, but it may still be possible over time.

Have you considered taking a 3-month holiday every year or two, to have a break from your commitments?

If you feel you will have commitments in the future, I recommend you do the biggest trip first. If you are in the West then do the North East, if in the East, do the North West.

Each subsequent break can cover a closer or smaller area.

Where can you find information to plan your trip?

There is more to traveling than just a road map giving directions.

Planning your trip around Australia is important if you are in a rush, limited by funds, or have no experience. Some valuable information can be found on places to visit, accommodation, and finding essentials like water.

Armed with a little knowledge, you will find it easier to negotiate your travel and time.

  • Facebook Groups. There are many groups of travelers who can give you ideas on where to stay and what to see in an area of your choice. Just check that the information you are given is up to date.
  • Camps Australia Wide Books. Camps Australia Wide will point out many free and low-cost campsites along with cheaper caravan parks. There is information on the facilities at each site such as phone signal, dump point, water, toilets, pet friendliness, and more. Each site is verified, so no nasty surprises. You can add photos, and reviews, and give a star rating. The book gives you a hardcover version but there is also an app available for an annual fee. You can download your trip itinerary in advance so that the information can be accessed offline. Again, information can change quickly so if you only use the book make sure you have a plan B.
  • Wiki Camps. Wiki Camps is an app that will guide you to free camps, showers, points of interest, dump points, fishing spots, and more. You can set filters to ensure that you find answers that suit your personal requirements. The current fee is a one-off payment of $7.95. The only disadvantage of this app is that the information is gathered by users and sometimes the information is not correct. One person’s idea of plenty of space may be OK for a car or small van but does not apply if you have a bus. You can download your trip itinerary in advance so that the information can be accessed offline.
  • Tourist Information Centre. Your local tourist information center will have information on the local area, state, and even interstate.
  • Eventfinda. The website is a guide to events by State, Region, and Township. This can help you plan your trip to coincide with special events that you may like.

During my recent trip, I discovered a lot of information available through Google search was out of date. Potable water availability and location points were often inaccurate. Unfortunately, many websites are not updated regularly enough. You may need to do some extra research if you don’t wish to stay in caravan parks on a regular basis.

You may also need to think about what you will take with you on the road. I have made a list to help you avoid forgetting essentials.

We can be limited by our imagination when it comes to traveling around Australia.

Unfortunately, many people are limited by their imagination.

We were in a 4×4-only accessible location at Litchfield National Park in the Northern Territory. To reach the campsite you need to go about 25m up a creek which was quite rocky and the water was reasonably high at the time.

When we arrived there were some overseas tourists in a 2wd petrol Wicked Van.

We were astounded and asked how they managed to get in. “Oh, we just waited for a 4×4 to come along and tow us through the creek” was the response.

Where there is a will, you will find a way if you want it bad enough.

What is stopping you?

What is stopping you from beginning your journey? Do you need some guidance and tips to get started?

I began my journey a long time ago and plan on continuing for a long time. Love to meet you on the road somewhere.


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