How long does it take to road trip around Australia?
Are you curious how many kilometers it is around Australia on Highway 1 and how long it will take to drive around Australia?
The big lap covers approximately 15,097 km’s / 9,380 miles via National Highway 1. The route covers some of the best parts of Australia including the famous East Coast and Great Barrier Reef, optional diversions to include the center of the country and legendary drives such as the Gibb River Road in the Kimberley region of Western Australia make an Australian road trip vacation a great adventure.
The circumference or length of Australia’s coastline is 25,760 kilometers, (just over 16,000 miles) and has more than 10,500 beaches.
Sealed all the way, a lap of Australia can be done in any type of vehicle. 2 or 4 Wheel Drive.
How long does it take to drive from…
- Melbourne to Sydney: 1045 km / 649 miles ~ 12 hours & 34 minutes
- Sydney to Brisbane: 922 km / 573 miles ~ 10 hours & 30 minutes
- Brisbane to Cairns: 1705 km / 1060 miles ~ 20 hours & 40 minutes
- Cairns to Darwin: 2850 km / 1771 miles ~ 34 hours
- Darwin to Broome: 1871 km / 1162 miles ~ 21 hours 13 minutes
- Broome to Perth: 2811 km / 1747 miles ~ 30 hours
- Perth to Adelaide: 2696 km / 1675 miles ~ 29 hours
- Adelaide to Melbourne: 900 km / 559 miles ~ 10 hours & 10 minutes
- Adelaide to Darwin: 3027 km / 1881 miles ~ 35 hours
- Devonport to Hobart: 280 km / 174 miles ~ 3 hours & 16 minutes
The distance around Australia on Highway 1, give or take some time depending on traffic conditions and the crossing to Tasmania: 15,097 km’s / 9,380 miles ~ 172 hours & 11 minutes.
How far is the drive across Australia?
Driving across Australia from Sydney to Perth alone takes 41 hours, covering 3,933 km / 2,444 miles. This is an epic road trip that crosses the Nullarbor Plain and skirts around the edge of the Great Australian Bite, well worth doing by itself let alone combined with a complete self-drive big lap of the country.
What is the Recommended Minimum Time to Road Trip Australia?
A suggested minimum time to tour all the way around would be 6 months, though 12 months would be a better length of time to tour the country.
It could be done in just 3 months and many travelers do the lap in this amount of time as not everyone has the luxury of taking longer… and not everyone wants to be on the road for an extended length of time.
We have friends who spent 10 years road-tripping, working and really exploring every part of Australia – traveling with a 4 wheel drive and camper trailer.
Deciding how long to drive around Australia will be the biggest decision to make and this will, naturally, depend on the travel budget available too.
Highway 1 Australia Road Trip – Detailed driving times:
Melbourne to Sydney
Driving to Sydney via the coast on Highway 1 takes a bit longer than the direct route up the Hume Freeway, but it is a lovely way to explore the country. Historic country towns, beautiful lake regions and access to the Australian Alps for anyone wishing to divert inland off the National Highway. Read our guide on a round trip from Melbourne to Sydney via the Mountains and returning along the coast to see the best options for this part of the road trip.
Sydney to Brisbane
Sydney to Brisbane, traveling north on Highway One, passing through outrageously beautiful coastal regions and famous places such as Byron Bay. The East Coast touring route is one of the most popular in Australia, read our complete self-drive itinerary from Sydney to Cairns in Far North Queensland.
Driving north from Sydney there are not just the coastal areas to explore, mountains and the outback regions of New South Wales also beckon travelers.
Brisbane to Cairns
The East Coast is the most popular destination in the country. Heading north from Brisbane to Cairns in Tropical North Queensland is a major part of the trip around Australia. On-route will be Fraser Island, the world’s largest sand island where 4 wheel driving on the beach is one of the most popular things to do. The Great Barrier Reef can be accessed from a number of points along the coast, snorkeling and diving on the reef are the best-known activities in Oz.
Cairns to Darwin
Highway One does not extend up to Cape York and the very top of Queensland, a detour is an option, providing your vehicle is suitable for off-road driving.
Highway One from Cairns to Darwin crosses the ‘top end’ where the real outback journey of a trip around Australia begins, road-tripping from the coast of Queensland into the Northern Territory via the Savannah Way.
Major attractions on this drive include Kakadu and Litchfield National Parks, remote cattle stations and vast expanses of land. It is an unbelievable journey that can still be experienced with a regular two-wheel drive car.
Big World, Small Pockets have a fun article on their adventures along this route with some options to consider depending on whether the sealed road or somewhat rougher tracks suit your comfort levels.
Darwin to Broome
Heading south from Darwin to Broome, staying on National Highway 1 is an incredible drive, but this direct route will mean passing by the Gibb River Road and the heart of the Kimberley with world-famous spots such as Windjana Gorge (A 4 wheel drive vehicle is required for the Gibb).
However, it does pass the road into Purunulu / Bungle Bungles National Park. The road in is rough and requires a 4 wheel drive, Birgit from the ‘Kimberley Australia‘ website has all the info required to make this one of the most memorable drives of a lifetime.
Helicopter tours over Purunulu/Bungle Bungle National Park is a popular way to see the remote region.
Broome to Perth
Another huge part of the great Australian road trip, driving from Broome all the way down to Perth on Highway One. Must-see destinations on this driving route include Ningaloo Reef, the UNESCO World Heritage area of Shark Bay, The Pinnacles and Karijini National Park, in what is known as Australia’s Coral Coast.
Perth to Adelaide
After exploring the sights of Western Australia’s Capital city of Perth, visit Rottnest Island, home to the famous Quokkas and maybe divert from Highway One with a drive down south to the Margaret River Area then over to see amazing places such as the Big Trees walks. Highway One now heads East across the incredible Nullarbor Plain.
Deciding how long to drive across Australia will depend on whether you like to take the experience slowly and relax, for people who enjoy isolation and being completely away from major cities, the Nullarbor Plain is definitely going to be a road trip to fall in love with.
Adelaide to Melbourne
Adelaide, Capital city of South Australia. Another diversion off Highway One, on the road trip around Australia, can take visitors south down to Kangaroo Island or north up to the Flinders Ranges. The drive passes through some lovely areas such as one of the oldest towns in South Australia, Robe as well as Mt Gambier and the Blue Lake, Portland, and Warrnambool. Keeping on Highway one to Melbourne would mean forgoing The Great Ocean Road... a diversion via the Grampian Mountains to see the Twelve Apostles and drive this world-famous coastal road is a must.
Darwin to Adelaide, through the center of Australia
DARWIN TO ADELAIDE 3027 KMS / 1881 MILES ~ 35 HOURS
An Australian road trip is not complete without visiting the tiny island of Tasmania. There is so much to see and do in ‘Tassie’ that it is worth spending a few weeks here if at all possible.
Is a 4 Wheel Drive vehicle required when traveling around Australia?
A 4WD will give you access to many remote regions that an ordinary car simply cannot cope with. Research needs to be done to weigh out the costs of buying a suitable 4Wd before a big trip.
- How long will the trip be for?
- Are you experienced enough to drive in remote regions on difficult terrain or prepared to gain the experience beforehand?
- Will your accommodation be in tents that can be in the vehicle or will you need an off-road camper or trailer?
- What will the extra costs be with maintaining and fuelling a 4WD vehicle?
- Depending on your time frame for the trip, would it be better to use a regular car and then take organized tours into the remote regions?
Travelers have used regular vehicles to tour Australia since the motor car was invented. These days you will see people driving every type of vehicle around Australia.
An old VW Beetle was seen coming from the famous Gibb River Road, the Beetle was painted gaily with a grinning driver waving victoriously – this is a road that is not considered suitable for anything other than a 4WD as it has river crossings and corrugations, plus remote regions that can be explored with a 4WD or tour.
What is the best way to travel around Australia – Car, Motor Home, Tours?
This all depends on how much time is available. Driving across Australia from Melbourne to Perth, for example, is just over 3,400 km’s/2,000 miles and generally takes about 3 days, at least. A holiday of 2-4 weeks would be best done by flying between destinations or concentrating on just one area. See a size comparison of Australia compared to other countries here, to get an idea of distances.
Our comparison table of flight times and driving times around the country may help to make a decision about driving or flying between places in Australia.
The range of tours available in Australia is brilliant and flying between cities and then connecting with a guided tour is a good way to see the country if you are on a limited time frame or prefer not to drive.
We love to promote smaller group tours that offer a more personalized experience and have researched the best available. Find tours by state and then decide which option is best for you, self-drive or organized tours.
Which Direction is Best for a Road Trip around Australia?
This depends on personal preference as well as where the journey around Australia is starting from, plus the time of year.
Summer in Australia means it is hot in most places, but it is also the wet season up North, not ideal perhaps – it has the advantage of enabling people to see places when they are green and lush, plus has a totally different feel to when it is dry. Places like Kakadu in the Northern Territory open up a to a whole different experience – BUT, many roads, towns, and communities are cut off due to higher river levels, plus it is extremely humid.
May to August is generally considered the best time to head north, warm dry days for the most part, though can be very cold overnight in central Australia. Most unsealed roads are accessible at this time. During these months it is winter down south, so a great reason perhaps to head north.
Expedition Australia – The Big Lap DVD Series
This is a fabulous family adventure doing the ‘Big Lap’ with two small kids. Going to every extreme of Australia, driving on remote outback roads and filming as they went. The Baile family will keep viewers entertained for hours. Recommended to anyone planning a big lap of Australia or as a gift to a traveler. Read more…
Families on the Road, Backpackers and Grey Nomads
Driving around Australia with a caravan, off-road vehicle, and trailer or camping with tents is popular and many families take their kids on travels, often long-term, working as they explore. Retirees or ‘Grey Nomads’ as they are often called make up a large number of travelers on the road too.
It is not unusual for a road trip around Oz to cover in excess of 40,000 km’s (nearly 25,000 miles) as there is so much to see off the National Highway. We spent 5 weeks touring the small island state of Tasmania and covered over 5,000 km’s / 3000 miles! Driving through Central Australia to Uluru is not part of Highway 1 Australia, and a road trip is not quite complete without getting to the red center of the continent! The famous East Coast Road trip requires about 4-6 weeks.
Maybe Guided Tours would be preferable to self-drive touring?
Not everyone has the time or desire to self-drive around Australia. Get Your Guide is one of the world’s largest and best online travel agents and they offer some fabulous touring options. Browse some of the choices below and see which way you might prefer to explore our big country.
Flying between cities and then jumping on local tour buses is definitely a good way to see the country too.