Australia is a magical island, country, and continent defined by vibrant cities, quaint towns, and some of the most incredible landscapes you could ever hope to see.
If you have an adventurous spirit that wants to embark on the ultimate Australian road trip, look no further than ‘The Big Lap.’
This iconic circumnavigation route takes you on an unforgettable journey around one of the most fascinating destinations in the world. It’s not a quick endeavour – you’ll need a good month at least to do it justice. But if you have the time available, you are guaranteed the adventure of a lifetime!
Whether tackling it as an intrepid backpacker, a curious family, or a group of friends seeking to explore the vastness of this mystical land, we’ve got you covered with essential tips and insider secrets to make your Australian road trip an extraordinary and memorable experience.
So fasten your seatbelts, get that motor running, and ready yourself to discover the magic of the Land Down Under. Here are our top tips for doing ‘The Big Lap Australia’.
What is the Big Lap?
‘The Big Lap Australia‘ refers to the iconic road trip that involves circumnavigating the entire continent of Australia. It is an extensive journey covering thousands of kilometres, taking travellers on a loop around the country’s perimeter.
The route typically starts and ends in major cities like Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, or Perth. However, as it involves doing a loop, you can start it from anywhere. Generally, it follows the coastline, allowing visitors to explore the diverse landscapes, stunning coastlines, unique wildlife, and charming towns and cities that make Australia such a special place to visit.
While there is no strict Big Lap itinerary to follow, popular routes often include driving along the eastern coastline through Queensland, New South Wales, and Victoria, venturing through the Northern Territory to experience the vastness of The Outback, crossing the top of the country in the Northern Territory and Western Australia, and finally, making the journey south through South Australia and back to the starting point.
This epic road trip offers travellers the chance to experience Australia’s natural beauty, from the golden beaches and lush rainforests to the arid deserts and rugged mountains. Driving around Australia, you’ll encounter a rich tapestry of cultures, cuisines, and traditions as you explore the diverse cities and remote towns.
The Big Lap is an adventure of a lifetime, and it is a favourite among domestic and international travellers seeking to immerse themselves in Australia’s unique and awe-inspiring landscapes.
Whether you travel in a well-equipped campervan, a sturdy 4WD vehicle, or a combination of accommodation options, this road trip allows you to create unforgettable memories. There is no better way to discover all the wonders this vast and fascinating country has to offer.
What Should You Include in a Big Lap Itinerary?
Designing a Big Lap of Australia itinerary requires careful planning to ensure you make the most of your journey and cover the country’s diverse landscapes and attractions.
While the itinerary will be personal to your wants and interests, here are some key elements to include in your itinerary:
Route Planning: Decide the direction you want to take and the major cities or landmarks you want to visit. Consider both the coastal route and inland options, as each offers unique experiences.
Must-Visit Destinations: Research and include iconic destinations such as Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Cairns, Darwin, Perth, Adelaide, and Hobart. Remember to explore famous landmarks like the Great Barrier Reef, Uluru (Ayers Rock), the Great Ocean Road, the Blue Mountains, and the Twelve Apostles.
National Parks and Nature Reserves: Australia is renowned for its diverse and stunning natural landscapes. Include visits to national parks such as Kakadu, Litchfield, Daintree, Freycinet, and the Grampians to witness breathtaking scenery, wildlife encounters, and outdoor activities.
Coastal Gems: Plan stops at beautiful coastal towns and beaches along the way, such as Byron Bay, Noosa, Airlie Beach, Eyre Peninsula, Broome, and Margaret River. Enjoy water sports, coastal walks, and relaxing by the sea.
Indigenous Experiences: Seek opportunities to learn about and engage with Australia’s rich Indigenous cultures and history. Look for cultural tours, art galleries, and festivals, and visit Uluru.
Roadside Attractions: Australia is famous for its quirky ‘big’ roadside attractions. Include stops at places like the Big Banana (Coffs Harbour, NSW), the Big Pineapple (Woombye, Sunshine Coast), the Big Lobster (Kingston, South Australia), and many more that offer fun photo opportunities.
Food and Wine: Australia has a vibrant food and wine scene. Take advantage of the opportunity to taste local delicacies, visit wineries in the Hunter Valley (NSW), Adelaide Hills (SA) and Margaret River (WA), and try fresh seafood in coastal towns like Mooloolaba (Qld) and Coffin Bay (SA).
Camping and Accommodation: Plan your accommodation options carefully, mixing camping in national parks, caravan parks, motels, and Airbnb stays for a varied experience.
Travel Safety: Consider the distances and road conditions. Always carry enough water, food, and fuel, especially in remote areas. Be mindful of weather conditions and any road closures.
Flexibility: Keep your itinerary flexible to allow for spontaneous detours or extended stays in places that capture your heart.
Budgeting: Estimate your expenses for fuel, accommodation, food, attractions, and any additional activities you plan to do during the trip.
Remember, the Big Lap Australia is an extensive journey that takes several weeks or months to complete. So, take your time and enjoy quality moments on your adventure as you uncover the wonders of the Great Southern Land.
How Long Will You Need to Do the Big Lap?
The duration required to complete a road trip around Australia can vary significantly depending on the route taken, the pace of travel, and the number of stops and detours you intend to make along the way.
At a minimum, you should devote a month to the adventure. However, most travellers take anywhere from three months to a year to complete the full circumnavigation of the continent.
Here are some factors that can influence the time you need to pencil in for your Big Lap itinerary:
Route and Distance: The total distance of the Big Lap can be around 15,000 to 20,000 kilometres or more, depending on the specific route taken and any additional side trips. The longer the distance, the more time you’ll need to allow for the journey.
Pace of Travel: Some travellers prefer a more leisurely pace, spending more time in each location to explore and experience the local culture and attractions. Others may choose a faster pace, focusing on covering more ground every day.
Sightseeing and Activities: The time spent in each destination can be influenced by the number of sightseeing activities and experiences you want to enjoy. National parks, hiking trails, wildlife encounters, and cultural experiences can all add to the duration of your journey.
Season and Weather: Consider the time of year you’ll be travelling. Weather conditions can impact travel times, especially during the wet season in tropical regions or extreme heat in The Outback.
Travel Style: The type of accommodation you choose – whether camping or travelling Australia by campervan, staying in motels, or renting Airbnb properties – can also influence how long you spend in each location.
Detours and Side Trips: Australia has plenty of hidden gems and attractions that don’t make it into the guidebooks. Many of these you’ll stumble upon by accident. To ensure you get to see them, factor in time for spontaneous detours and side trips to explore lesser-known places.
If you have a limited time frame, consider focusing on specific sections of the Big Lap of Australia rather than attempting the entire circumnavigation. Doing this will allow you to immerse yourself more fully in the places you visit without feeling rushed.
On the other hand, if you have the luxury of time, you can take a more relaxed approach to driving around Australia, allowing for a deeper exploration of the country’s diverse landscapes and cultures.
What Vehicle Do You Need for Doing the Big Lap?
Choosing the right vehicle is critical to enjoying a comfortable and safe journey on your Big Lap Australia.
A reliable and sturdy vehicle is essential given the diverse terrains and vast distances. Many travellers opt for 4WDs or SUVs equipped with off-road capabilities, as these vehicles can handle rough and unsealed roads commonly found in The Outback and remote areas.
Additionally, many people see the value in travelling around Australia by campervan. The convenience of combining transportation and accommodation makes them a popular choice for those seeking a more self-contained and flexible travel experience.
However, even if you don’t have access to a 4WD or camper, a regular car can still be suitable for parts of the Big Lap, especially along the well-maintained highways and coastal routes.
Whichever vehicle you choose, ensure it is roadworthy and well-maintained, has ample storage space, and suits your travel needs and preferences for a successful and unforgettable Big Lap adventure.
Are There Ideal Times for Doing the Big Lap?
The ideal times for doing the Big Lap vary depending on your preferences and the regions you plan to visit.
Here are some considerations for timing your road trip around Australia:
Dry Season (April to October): For most regions, particularly the northern parts of Australia, the dry season is the most favourable time to travel. It typically extends from April to October. During this period, the weather is cooler, and the chances of encountering heavy rain or storms are lower. The roads are generally in better condition, making navigating through The Outback and remote areas more accessible.
Winter Months (June to August): Winter in Australia can be an excellent time for travelling in the southern and central parts of the country. The temperatures are milder, making it more comfortable for outdoor activities and sightseeing. However, it can get chilly during the evenings and early mornings, especially in the southern states.
Wet Season (November to March): The wet season, also known as the monsoon season, occurs in the northern regions of Australia from November to March. While this time can be less crowded with tourists, it brings heavy rainfall, flooding, and tropical cyclones in some areas, particularly in northern Queensland and the Northern Territory. Travelling during this period can be challenging and sometimes unsafe due to road closures and difficult driving conditions.
Shoulder Seasons: The shoulder seasons, which fall between the wet and dry seasons, can also be an excellent time to consider for the Big Lap. These periods, typically in April and October, offer a balance of fewer crowds, relatively favourable weather, and the opportunity to experience a mix of landscapes as you transition between seasons.
Seasonal Events: Consider any special events or festivals you’d like to experience during your journey. Major events, such as the Melbourne Cup or festivals like Vivid Sydney, can add to the excitement of your Big Lap.
It’s essential to thoroughly research the specific regions you plan to visit and consider the weather and conditions during the time you intend to travel.
Remember that Australia is a vast continent with varying climates, so your ideal time to do the Big Lap will depend on your personal preferences, the experiences you want to have, and the activities you wish to enjoy along the way.
Budget Tips for Doing the Big Lap of Australia
Doing the Big Lap Australia can be expensive. So here are some budget tips to help you make the most of your journey without breaking the bank:
Plan and Budget in Advance: Create a detailed budget for your trip, considering expenses for fuel, accommodation, food, activities, and any unexpected costs. A clear financial plan will help you stay on track and avoid overspending.
Choose Affordable Accommodation: Camping in national parks or using free or low-cost campsites can significantly reduce accommodation expenses. Also, consider budget-friendly options like hostels, motels, and Airbnb stays outside of big cities or main tourist areas. Be sure to book in advance during peak seasons to secure better deals.
Cook Your Meals: Eating out can quickly add up, so consider cooking your meals whenever possible. Campfires, BBQ facilities, and communal kitchens in caravan parks are great options for preparing budget-friendly meals. Stock up on groceries in larger towns to find more affordable options.
Take Advantage of Free and Low-Cost Activities: Australia offers plenty of free and low-cost activities. Explore national parks, go on scenic hikes, enjoy the beaches, visit local markets, and participate in community events. These experiences can be just as rewarding as expensive tourist attractions.
Fuel Savings: Fuel costs can be a significant part of your budget. Look for fuel discounts and loyalty programs, and use smartphone apps to compare fuel prices along your route. Drive at a steady pace and maintain your vehicle to maximise fuel efficiency.
Avoid Peak Travel Seasons: Travelling during off-peak seasons can lead to more affordable accommodation rates and fewer crowds at popular tourist spots.
Be Mindful of Road Tolls and Fees: Some roads and bridges in Australia may have tolls or entrance fees. Plan your route to minimise these costs, or consider alternative routes.
Bring Your Gear: If you plan to camp frequently, invest in good-quality camping equipment. Bringing your gear can save you money on rentals or more expensive accommodation options.
Monitor Your Spending: Keep track of your expenses regularly to stay within your budget. Many smartphone apps can help you track your spending and manage your finances during the trip.
By following these budget tips and being mindful of your spending, you can have a memorable Big Lap experience without stretching your wallet too thin.
More Aussie Road Trip Inspiration
We hope this guide has helped you in deciding whether the Big Lap is an adventure you and your family can readily undertake.
Budgeting for your adventure is a vital step – both in terms of time and money – so consider whether you can handle the whole trip around Australia in one go, or if you’d be better off tackling portions of Australia in a few shorter (though still epic!) road trips.
Some further classic Aussie road trip itineraries you could try which cover large and diverse sections of Australia include:
- Driving across the Nullarbor – see our detailed guide driving Melbourne to Perth, which you could further extend by adding on the drive from Sydney to Adelaide, via Canberra and Melbourne and some of these additional road trip routes through South Australia to encompass all the mainland southern states.
- If seeing the Red Centre and Uluru is top of your itinerary, our extended itinerary from Sydney to Uluru will take you through NSW, ACT, Victoria and SA before finishing in the Northern Territory – extend this using our Adelaide to Darwin itinerary and detailed guide to stops along the Red Centre Way.
- If you’d like to focus on the east coast, we have road trip guides taking you from Melbourne all the way to Cape York; follow our Melbourne to Sydney itinerary, focus on the NSW South Coast, then add on Sydney to Brisbane, then Brisbane to Cairns, and Cairns to Cape Trib & Far North Queensland.
- Alternatively, take the inland route on this Melbourne to Gold Coast itinerary if you want more of the Aussie Outback on your trip north.
- Do you want to focus just on the West Coast? We’d start in the south with either our Perth to Esperance or Perth to Albany itineraries (you can easily mix and match our suggestions through the southwest corner!), then add on this epic drive north from Perth to Darwin.
- If you want to continue your journey across the northernmost part of Australia, we suggest this Darwin to Cairns itinerary.
- Don’t forget Tassie! Often forgotten off a larger “Big Lap” trip, it’s possible to cross the Bass Strait with your vehicle on the Spirit of Tasmania and add a loop of Tasmania onto your Australian road trip.
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