Australia: The land of kangaroos, vastness, beaches, adventures, backpackers, road trips and so much more.
Together with Alexa, one of my best friends, I went on an epic road trip from Perth to Melbourne last November. We had about three weeks time to cover a distance of more than 5700km to our final destination. What we did not have was a plan. We spontaneously bought a little white car, some second-hand camping equipment from other backpackers and most importantly food, lots of good food. Moreover, we purchased WikiCamps, the must-have app when it comes to finding camping spots in Australia. And then we were ready to hit the road. No more preparation. We lived day by day, asked locals as well as other travellers for tips and advice along the way and occasionally did some Google research.
To make it easier for you to plan your own trip, I have created this sample itinerary with great attractions, camping spots and general tips. Enjoy!
Day 1/ 2: From Perth to Margaret River (~270km)
On our way down to Margaret River, Western Australia’s famous wine region, we made a lunch stop at Busselton Jetty. We found a shady spot in a park under a tree, overlooking the water and jetty, where we enjoyed a nice picnic. There is a protected area in the water where you can go swimming, and for 3$ per person you have the option to walk to the end of the jetty.
Overnight stop: Glenbrook Estate near Margaret River (10$ per person)
We directly fell in love with this campsite and can highly recommend staying here. The terrain offers many big shady trees, and is surrounded by forests as well as fields with countless kangaroos peacefully grazing on it. Moreover, it has clean toilet and shower facilities, as well as an open camp kitchen with gas stoves, BBQ’s and a water cooker. It’s a good base for free wine in the nearby wine estates and excursions to the beach.
Tips: Take some food with you and watch a spectacular sunset over the water at Red Gate Bay.
Depending on the season, it can get pretty cold at night, so you might consider buying a hot water bottle which you can snuggle with in the tent.
Day 3: From Margaret River to Albany (~340km)
On our third day we made a stopover at Gloucester National Park, famous for its 72m high Gloucester Tree, which is the world’s second tallest fire-spotting tree. Visitors can climb up the man-made spikes around the tree, leading to the top and offering spectacular views away into the distance. I turned around frightened after a few metres only, whereas Alexa confidently made it all the way up to the top. Moreover, there is a variety of short and long walks through the forest.
Overnight stop: Cosy Corner East near Albany (for free)
This is a beautiful campsite with only limited space, so it is advised to arrive a little earlier in the day in order to have higher chances to secure a spot for the night. The site is taken care of by a volunteering couple and provides only a very basic toilet. Even though the ocean is a little further away, we could hear the crashing waves at night.
Day 4: From Albany to Ravensthorpe (~310km)
On our way we stopped at the southern coastline in Torndirrup National Park near Albany in order to see The Natural Bridge. There is a platform, offering views of the granite formation which looks like a bridge. Next to this attraction, one can also see The Gap, a granite channel, formed by the waves of the ocean. It is an impressive attraction but as it was crowded with tourists and you had to pay for parking, we only took a few photos and left.
Tip: For breakfast there is a much better and isolated spot nearby: Cable Beach. Here we sat down on the rocks and enjoyed our muesli overlooking the beach and ocean.
Overnight stop: Kundip Rest Area near Ravensthorpe (for free)
This inoffical campsite was very isolated and somehow desolate, but served its purpose. There were only two more campervans standing around and the toilet was better to be avoided.
Day 5-7: From Ravensthorpe to Cape Le Grand National Park near Esperance (~260km)
My absolute highlight on this route was Cape Le Grand National Park. The national park has an entrance fee per car of 12$ which is absolutely worth it. All we did here was relaxing, reading, yoga, watching sunsets and a little bit of walking. The beaches are just stunning, with occasional kangaroos jumping around, white sand and crystal clear water. We even saw dolphins only a few metres away from the shore at Thistle Cove. Moreover, there are many short and longer walks as well as the option to climb up Frenchman Peak which has a great view over the whole national park.
Overnight stop: Cape Le Grand Beach (10$ per person)
In this national park you can either stay at the campsite at Lucky Bay or Cape Le Grand Beach. We personally found the second option more appealing. It has a clean bathroom and a little kitchen with BBQ facilities. The spot we stayed did not offer much protection from sun and wind though.
Day 8: 01/12: From Cape Le Grand National Park to Balladonia (~530km)
On the eight day we started our drive through the Nullarbor Plain, a karst desert, characterised by an arid, flat and almost treeless landscape. On our way we made a stopover for lunch in a strange little town called Norseman. The only thing I remember is that all the street signs had horses on them.
Overnight stop: Afghan near Balladonia (for free)
This was one of the most impressive free campsites we have found on WikiCamps. We were told that the name derives from an Afghan who was looking for water there back in the days and then got murdered. It’s off the beaten path and only accessible via a bumpy road when the weather conditions allow it. We felt like we were on a safari somewhere in Africa while we were driving there and wouldn’t have been surprised if any zebras or elephants had crossed our way. The campsite itself is a large open grass area next to a little water hole from where you can see the sunset really well. Apart from us there was only one more campervan. The owners, a nice older Australian couple, invited us for a delicious cheese platter and wine in the evening.
Tip: Before you leave for the long drive through the Nullarbor, do some last shopping in one of the big supermarkets in Esperance. Make sure to buy enough water but not too much fruit and vegetables as you won’t be allowed to take it over the border to South Australia later on.
Day 9: From Balladonia to Mundrabilla (~470km)
As we really enjoyed the surroundings of the campsite, we took our time in the morning to have breakfast and read our books. Around noon we continued our way along the Nullarbor via the Eyre Highway which is known for its longest stretch of straight road in Australia, namely 145.6km (~90m) with absolutely no twists or turns.
Overnight stop: Kathala Pass near Mundrabilla (for free)
This was a basic rest area next to the gas station without any facitilities.
Day 10: From Mundrabilla to Penong (~580km)
On our tenth day we were stopped by the police. Only at ten o’clock in the morning they already tested me with a breathalyser, and asked me many questions before they finally let us go. Well, this is off the bucket list now I suppose. Apart from that we suddenly had a time difference of 2.5h and entered South Australia. On the way there were various lookouts along the coast. The Australian Bight, number 1, stood out in particular and was just stunning.
Overnight stop: Cohen Rest Area near Penong (for free)
Again, another rest area next to the highway. Unfortunately we slept very bad that night as it was noisy because of the passing road trains and stormy.
Day 11: From Penong to Point Labatt Conservation Park (~230km)
The next morning, when we were packing up, we discovered a huntsman spider at our tent and had to call out for our neighbours for quick rescue. After that we made our way to the quarantaine check in Ceduna where it was made sure that we did not not bring any fruits or vegetables with us. Our next stop was Streaky Bay, the gateway to the Eyre Peninsula, which many people have told us about already. To be honest, I do not know what the fuss is about this strange little town. Perhaps it was also due to the reason that it was very stormy that we left quickly to start looking for a good place to spend the night. Closeby is a rock pool called The Granites which is worth checking out.
Overnight stop: Waterviews near Point Labatt Conservation Park (for free)
After driving around for a while we stopped at a beautiful isolated spot in the middle of nowhere, only accessible by dirt road. We found shelter from the wind behind a bush with a beautiful view of the sea and were the only visitors that night.
Day 12: From Point Labatt Conservation Park to Coffin Bay (~270km)
It was so peaceful and quiet at night that we slept for more than 10h. After we woke up we made our way to see the nearby sea lions at Point Labatt Conservation Park, the only place in Australia where these fury creatures are constantly breeding. The sea lion colony can be watched from a 50m high clifftop viewing platform. After that we visited some nice lookouts and caves on the way to our next camping spot.
Overnight stop: Coulta Memorial Park Rest Stop in Coulta, near Coffin Bay (for free)
A great campsite with many trees and parrots that we had all to ourselves.
Day 13: From Coffin Bay to Port Lincoln (~50km)
This morning we visited Coffin Bay, a charming little fishing village. We did some yoga on the lawn next to the jetty before we continued our way to Port Lincoln. Our main mission in this town was to find a place where we could finally take a shower after three days without. It proved much harder than expected and we ended up taking cold showers in our bikini outside at the jetty with people walking by.
Overnight stop: Moonlight Bay near Port Lincoln (for free)
We found one of the best camping spots right next to the beach, overlooking the ocean.
Day 14: From Port Lincoln to Fitzgerald Bay (~300km)
Our day started with a visit at Tumby Bay from where we embarked on some nice walks through a Mangrove area. After that we stopped at Whyalla which for some reason was one of my personal highlights of the whole Eyre Peninsula. The air was very humid, whereas the sky was full of dramatic clouds and an advancing storm could be sensed. To cool off we went into the water which was very shallow and allowed us to walk out far, all the way to a sandbar.
Overnight stop: Shingle Beach, Fitzgerald Bay (for free)
This evening I almost lost my nerves with so many flies and ants around who were constantly harrassing us. With flies trying to crawl into your eyes and mouth, as well as ants biting your feet it was almost impossible to enjoy this nice spot. Then at night we were woken up by a massive thunderstorm. First we tried to ignore it but after our tent crashed shortly after midnight there was no other solution than spending the night crammed in the front of the car. This was by far the worst night of our whole trip and I was happy when the next morning came.
Day 15-19: From Fitzgerald Bay to Adelaide (~400km)
Tip: When driving from Shingle Beach to Adelaide, there is a gorgeous pink lake on the left side of the highway with some rest areas to take photos.
The following four days were spent relaxing in Adelaide. After last night’s storm we were both slightly fed up with our road trip and just wanted to stay a little bit longer in one place for once. Also Adelaide is a really cool city with many things to do. We went shopping in some hip vintage stores, checked out some amazing markets, walked around the Botanical Garden and drove up to Mt. Lofty (there are also several hiking trails leading up but we couldn’t be bothered in this heat).
Tips: Check out the Market Shed on Holland Street, taking place on Sundays from 9am to 2pm. It is one of the best food markets I have been to so far and I still find myself sometimes day-dreaming about the delicious haloumi burger and raw desserts we got there.
Another great address for food is Govinda’s where you can enjoy a great Indian buffet for only 10$.
Overnight stop: In Adelaide with a Couchsurfing host (for free)
As our tent didn’t survive the last storm we had to look for an alternative sleeping solution. So I sent out a few Couchsurfing requests and we were lucky to find a cool easy-going host in Adelaide. I find Couchsurfing to be one of the best ways to get to know a new place and its people living there.
Day 19: From Adelaide to Bordertown (~270km)
We only left late in the afternoon as we had some problems with our car and had to wait to get it fixed. Leaving Adelaide, our first stop was Hahndorf, a well-known German town. We spent the afternoon here before we started driving, having absolutely no idea where we would spend the night.
Overnight stop: Bordertown Hotel (60$ for a double room)
We also found this place on WikiCamps. It is a very basic hotel with comfortable beds though.
Day 20: From Bordertown to Port Fairy (~300km)
Unfortunately we only arrived at the famous Grampians National Park in the afternoon which gave us very little time for exploring. If you find the time I can highly recommend staying here for at least two days. Only driving through this dramatic national park, admiring the views, taking a walk and seeing the McKenzie Falls made us want to get lost in this lush green paradise.
Overnight stop: In Port Fairy with a friend (for free)
We stayed the night with a friend of mine in a trailer park who did his farm work near Port Fairy.
Day 21: From Port Fairy to Melbourne via The Great Ocean Road (~400km)
Wow! What a great way to end our road trip! The Great Ocean Road really lives up to its expectations. This scenic route is 243km long and runs mostly, as the name already suggests, directly next to the ocean. Along the way there are countless scenic lookouts, such as the famous Twelve Apostles lookout, and charming coastal towns that can be visited.
I hope this sample itinerary helps you to plan your own road trip and/ or inspires you to travel in Australia too. If you have any questions or would like any further information, please feel free to send me a message or comment below. Happy travels!