There’s nothing quite like the sense of freedom you get from jumping in a car and taking to the great open road. You have nothing and no one to answer to; all that awaits is the unknown. That’s the beauty of road trips.
One country famed for its epic road trips is my current expat home of Australia. The grandeur of the Aussie land has been documented countless times in books and glossy magazines, Hollywood movies and many a TV ‘doco’. All the media coverage is great for watering people’s thirst for exploration, but the only way to really see and get to know a country is to drive its roads and walk its mountains.
Australia is so damn big it has 5 time zones and takes just under 5 hours to fly from Brisbane on the East coast to Perth on the West. So it’s not surprising most people choose to fly to see the country’s main cities and attractions. But, the road is where the magic happens.
Road trips have been a thing since 1888 but are much more common nowadays with the rise of the #vanlife. Another popular way to travel Australia in style is via the 4-wheel drive. That’s what myself and my boyfriend, Rowan, chose. Our baby is a Nissan Patrol nicknamed ‘Al Bundy’ (if you don’t know who that is, shame on you!)
I’m a huge fan of road trips and having done a month-long Queensland road trip recently, I like to think I’ve got this sh*t down. So whether you’re going to try the #vanlife or #4wd, I’ve come up with a list of 10 essentials you need for an Australian road trip.
This one is obvious because let’s face it, you’d have to be an absolute wizard to be able to do a road trip without some wheels! I’ve put this on here though, a) because it’s essential and b) because I reckon a 4WD is the way to go for Australia.
The one thing Australia is known for is its incredible coastline. There are even some highways that are on beautiful beaches, like 75 Mile Beach on Fraser Island. Along with Fraser Island, there is an abundance of incredibly unique islands, beaches and outback towns to be explored that you won’t be able to visit in a van.
One thing I’d recommend for any vehicle is a roof rack. It not only frees up space in your car but can also carry oversized things like surfboards, bikes or even snowboards and skis, if you’re planning a winter road trip. Or if you have a 4WD it means you can add rooftop accommodation which brings me to my next essential…
Another essential for any road trip is somewhere to sleep unless you’re made of money and splashing out on hostels, Airbnbs or hotels! I recommend a rooftop tent – it couldn’t be more Australian. Not only does it keep you away from the thousands of creepy crawlies that call Australia home and keep you safe when in crocodile territory, but it also means you can set up on the beachfront and wake up to views like this…
If you’re opting for a van or a standard car, invest in a good tent and/or mattress. There’s nothing worse than waking up wet from unexpected rain or with persistent back pain. Or go all out Aussie with a swag. For everyone who’s not Aussie, swag isn’t something you have over here, it’s a “portable sleeping unit”.
Cool fact: Traditionally, a swag is a bundle of belongings that someone would carry in the bush.
Again, this is essential for any road trip unless you plan on buying food every day of your trip. It’s especially important for an Australian road trip given that the longest straight road in the country is 90 miles long and you could be hours from a store.
Cool fact: The longest straight stretch of road in Australia and one of the longest in the world runs between Balladonia and Caiguna in South Australia and goes for 91.1 miles (146.6 km) without turning. It’s not-so-affectionately known the ’90 Mile Straight’.
Another must-have, unless you’re going to rely on camp kitchens and BBQs for cooking. The great thing about Australia is that almost every beachfront or park has free-use BBQs so you’ll never be without a way of cooking. Aussies sure know how to make the most of them and I think it’s such a great idea – I wish we had a similar set up in the UK. Theresa May if you’re by any chance reading this, do us all a solid and sort it out would you? Ta.
You cannot go to such an incredibly unique country without snapping a few pics. You don’t need to be a pro to capture the beauty of Australia.
A drone is, although an expensive toy, so much fun to play with in such a diverse country. I was lucky enough to join a few migrating humpback whales on their trip up the East coast of Queensland, all thanks to our DJI MavicPro Drone.
Another absolute must for an Australian road trip is a GoPro. Life is booming under the waters off Australia, especially at the Great Barrier Reef and it’s almost a crime to not take photos or video of such mesmerizing nature.
Deep Cycle Battery/Solar Panel/Blanket
To run a fridge and charge your electrical equipment you’ll need a Deep Cycle Battery, one that can hold the charge when you’re not driving. Another option is to buy a solar panel. You’ll never be short of sunshine on an Australian road trip so it’s a good way to top up your power.
Most fold-up camping tables are pretty lightweight and durable. I guess you can do a road trip without one but it isn’t much fun having to rely on public tables/benches.
LED Light Bar
Road tripping without some form of proper lighting (not just a torch) is never a good idea. It makes it near impossible to do anything once the sun goes down. We use a 3-bar LED Light Strip to light up our makeshift kitchen and to chill out under when playing cards or reading in the evenings. You can adjust the brightness using the dimmer and the bars are magnetic so you can fix it to your car or use the velcro to attach it somewhere else, like the awning.
Your Australian road trip will be ten times better if you invest in a good camping chair. The $10 ones are great if you’re on a budget but if you like to spend a lot of time reading or playing cards, you’ll definitely want a comfy chair.
This includes things like jump leads, snatch strap, a shovel and a tyre repair kit to get you out of sticky situations.
A First Aid Kit/Snake Bite Kit
You should be prepared on any road trip, but in a country where so much can kill you in a heartbeat, it’s a good idea to travel with an Aussie-proof first aid kit. Luckily, I haven’t had any incidents on my road trips so far, despite a run-in with a snake on Fraser Island.
Other recommended gear:
In a country as hot as Australia, an awning will always be a good idea. You’ll thank yourself later when you have a place to escape the burning sun or to shelter from tropical storms.
If you’re opting for a 4WD this is a must. When driving in 4WD on sand or bumpy tracks, you’ll need to deflate your tyres.
Snorkel + Mask
There’s so much life going on under the surface over here you’d be stupid to miss out. Wherever you’re travelling to, I guarantee you’ll want to snorkel more than once so don’t waste your time and money hiring each time.
I’ve never had a hammock before but now that I have one, I can’t imagine ever camping without it. When you’ve had enough of the camping chair, it doesn’t get much better than relaxing in a hammock beneath palm trees whilst reading a book.
Do you have any other gear essentials for an Australian road trip?