14 Top Tips for Travelling Australia in a Campervan
Updated Fri 03 Jan 2020
Tips for Travelling Oz in a Campervan
As local adventure travel enthusiasts, most of us have travelled the East Coast of Australia in a campervan - We've seen the ups and downs, and learned from MANY mistakes along the way, so you don't have to! Here are our top tips for travelling Australia in a campervan, from the experienced to beginners!
1. Invest in Insurance and Roadside Assistance
One of the most important things to do before starting your road trip is to invest in comprehensive car insurance and roadside assistance. While this may seem expensive, being covered for things that are out of your control, such as an accident or mechanical breakdown, could be the difference between being able to continue your adventure or having to pack your belongings and fly home.
2. Do Your Research
Weather plays a large part in the accessibility of many of Austalia’s natural attractions so it’s important to do your research and work out the best time to visit. For example, northern Australia has two distinct seasons - wet and dry. During the wet season, heavy rains have the potential to make some roads impassable and turn campsites to mush. On the other hand, late in the dry season many waterfalls and rivers dry up completely which can ruin their appeal. So, save yourself the disappointment and do some reading before you leave to ensure you reach your destination at the ideal time to make the most of it.
3. Be Aware of School and Public Holiday Dates
Australians love the opportunity to enjoy the outdoors on long weekends or school holidays. Unfortunately for the everyday travellers, camping is so popular during these times that free camps fill up quickly and caravan parks / paid campsites either book out a year in advance or are extremely expensive. Unless you are a part of these families wanting to make the most of their holidays, it is best to familiarise yourself with these dates so can avoid the crowds and plan to camp and explore destinations further away from the towns and cities. If you are going to be on the road during one of these times try to book your accommodation as early as possible to avoid getting stuck without a place to stay.
4. Plan to be Flexible
While it can be easy to spend hours researching the best places to explore and excitedly planning your itinerary, it is important to be flexible during your trip. Not everything will go to plan while you are on the road - you may lose track of time while swimming under a waterfall or a flat tyre may ruin your day - and a tight schedule will cause you unnecessary stress. Besides, some of the best adventures are had on unplanned side trips based on the recommendations of others or something that catches your eye and it would be a shame to deny yourself those experiences!
5. Work out your Budget and (try to) Stick to it
Yes, yes, budgets are hard and boring we know but if you truly want to make the most of your Aussie road trip you need to manage your finances. It can be very easy to overspend on little things that quickly add up and before you know it your entire trip fund is gone and you have to head home early - not the experience you were hoping for! Fuel is usually the biggest expense while on the road followed by alcohol and food. To reduce the amount of money you spend on fuel, limit your speed, use your supermarket receipts to save cents per litre of fuel (at participating outlets) or download one of the many apps you which show you the locations of the cheapest fuel. To reduce your spending on food and alcohol, try not to do big shops in small remote towns where the prices are higher and limit your alcohol consumption to special occasions if possible.
6. Download Google Maps for use Offline
Even in the advanced technological age we live in, phone coverage can be limited in many remote (and some not-so) places around Australia and you do not want to be stuck in the middle of nowhere without a map. Google Maps has a handy feature which allows you to download maps of the areas you choose free of charge (normal data charges apply). This means that when you lose phone service you can access the maps stored on your device and keep on driving.
Tip: Do not rely on Google Maps for gravel roads or offroad tracks - travel times and can be wildly overestimated (sometimes by up to 5 hours!) and directional information can be misleading. If you intend on travelling on such roads consider purchasing a Hema Map instead.
7. Find the Ideal Speed for your Vehicle
While it may be tempting to travel at the speed limit to get to your destination faster, travelling at 100kmph or over (where allowed) will cause your campervan to use considerably more fuel than when you travel 10-20km slower. While each vehicle varies, the sweet spot for your engine will usually be between 80kmph and 95kmph. Trust us, limiting your speed will save you significant money on fuel and the difference in your arrival time will only be a matter of minutes.
8. Carry lots of Water and Keep Hydrated
While this may seem like a no brainer, making sure you carry enough water is vital for travelling in Australia. When it is hot, you will need a minimum of 4L per person for the day and extra for things like washing up. Purchase at least one 20L jerry can from stores such as Bunnings, Kmart or BigW and fill it with tap water to take with you. During the day, take a drink bottle wherever you go (especially when going for a hike) and drink frequently - becoming dehydrated can happen quickly in the Australian heat and can be dangerous for your health.
Remember it is strongly advisable not to drink water straight from water sources such as rivers or lakes without treating it by boiling or using water purification tablets to kill bacteria first.
9. Beat the Heat
If your van heats up too much during the day it can make for a very uncomfortable night’s sleep. To beat the heat always try to park in the shade, even if you are just stopping for 5 minutes. We also recommend using sunshades on the windscreen and side windows and positioning your campervan for the best air circulation at your campsite - consider the direction of the sun, you might have shade in the afternoon but when the sun rises in the morning your van could quickly turn into a furnace unless you leave early.
10. Never Drive Between Dusk and Dawn
Many native Australian animals are nocturnal and become most active in the twilight hours of dusk and dawn. 'Kanga o’clock', when a lot of animals graze near the roads, occurs around 4pm so try to park up for the day well beforehand whenever possible to minimise harm to the native wildlife and your vehicle. It's also handy to set up camp for dinner before the sun goes down so you aren't washing up in the dark, or stumbling around looking for the tomato sauce after a long day of driving!
11. Make the Most of Free Camps
Incredible as it may sound, some of Australia’s best campsites are absolutely free! Choose from secluded beaches, rainforest retreats, riverbanks or farm stays - the possibilities are endless! To find the best free camp spots, ask other travellers and locals for their recommendations or download the WikiCamps App - a great resource that lists all free (and paid) campsites and points of interest with photos and reviews from other travellers.
12. Explore the National Parks
Picture pristine waterfalls surrounded by bushland or rainforest and hikes that end with spectacular views and freshwater swims. Australia’s National Parks are beautiful and peaceful natural attractions that are mostly free to access for daytrippers. Many National Parks also offer excellent unpowered camping facilities including BBQs, picnic areas, toilets and sometimes showers. To stay overnight you will need to book your camping permit online or through a National Parks Office but at just a couple of dollars per person, the experience will be worth every cent.
13. Never Leave Food or Rubbish Outside Overnight
Unless you feel like attracting the local wildlife and waking up to an almighty mess spread right across the campsite be sure to pack up and do your dishes before you go to bed. Possums, wild cats, dingoes, birds and even kangaroos are just some of the animals that will visit overnight if they can smell food or rubbish. Try to store all food in your campervan or a lockable container and be sure to stash your rubbish in a zip-up dirty gear bag that can be attached to the back of the vehicle (you don’t want the inside of your van smelling like a rubbish dump).
14. Pack a ‘Floatie’ or ‘Noodle’
Some of Australia’s top attractions include freshwater rivers, lakes, hot springs and waterfalls and when the temperature is high there is nothing better than a nice swim. However, floating in freshwater can be more of a chore due to the lack of saltwater buoyancy, so unless you only feel like a quick dip (or getting some exercise), bring along an inflatable toy (doughnut or animal!) or a pool noodle for floating easily - this will double your fun and allow you to stay in the water for much longer.
So... What are you Waiting For?
Whichever journey you opt for down under, whether on the East Coast, West Coast, Top End or down South, driving Australia via campervan will leave you with memories to last a lifetime. As East coast specialists, we've got more hacks on essential packing for some of the highlights of Australia like Fraser Island and the Whitsundays, as well as the top things to do in Airlie Beach and must-see attractions on Fraser Island! No matter where you go, you can rest assured the journey in a campervan will be half the fun!
Ready to start planning your Australian adventure? We can package your tours along with your campervan hire to save you heaps of $$$! Chat to us online or call +61 74914 2425 anywhere in Australia to get started!