How long does it take to drive around Australia?

The total road distance around Australia is 14, 935 km’s / 9,280 miles via National Highway 1.

The ‘Big Lap’ could be driven in about 30 days, though there would be little point in the journey!

There would be next to no time to explore places like the legendary Gibb River Road in the Kimberley, or the famous Great Ocean Road in Victoria.

Travelling around the country with a caravan or off-road vehicle and trailer is popular and many families take their kids on travels, often long-term, working as they explore. It is not unusual for a lap 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 the Australian National Highway 1, a road trip is not complete without getting to the centre of the continent!

What is the Recommended Minimum Time to Drive Around 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 travellers 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.

Detailed driving times between major Australian destinations:

Driving around Australia on Highway One - Melbourne to Sydney

MELBOURNE TO SYDNEY 1062 KM / 659 MILES ~ 13 HOURS & 40 MINS  Let’s start this ‘virtual’ journey in Melbourne, Victoria and head anticlockwise… Melbourne to Sydney on Highway One goes along the coast mostly, passing through some gorgeous towns and National Parks. Travel just on the main highway can mean missing out on some awesome sights, but it’s a great drive all the same.

Driving around Australia on Highway One - Sydney to Brisbane

SYDNEY TO BRISBANE 922 KMS / 573 MILES ~ 10 HOURS & 30 MINS Sydney to Brisbane, travelling north on Highway One, passing through outrageously beautiful coastal regions and famous places such as Byron Bay.

Driving around Australia on Highway One - Brisbane to Cairns

BRISBANE TO CAIRNS 1705KMS / 1060 MILES ~ 20 HOURS & 40 MINS. Awesome… The East Coast is the most popular destination in the country. Heading north from Brisbane to Cairns in Tropical North Queensland now… on-route will be Fraser Island and many points to experience the Great Barrier Reef.

Driving around Australia on Highway One - Cairns to Darwin

CAIRNS TO DARWIN 2850 KM / 1771 MILES ~ 34 HOURS Getting into serious outback territory now. Sadly, Highway One does not extend up to Cape York, North of Cairns at the very tip of Queensland… but you could detour as an option! Cairns to Darwin crosses the top end of Australia!

Driving around Australia on Highway One - Darwin to Broome

DARWIN TO BROOME 1871 KMS / 1162 MILES ~ 21 HOURS 13 MINS Heading south again from Darwin to Broome and the famous Cable Beach… keeping on our National Highway, with a stop in to visit Kakadu or Litchfield National Parks. But the 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)… but you could easily pop into Purunulu / Bungle Bungles National Park from Highway One.

 Read about the remote Gibb River Road here…

Broome to Perth

BROOME TO PERTH 2811KMS / 1747 MILES ~ 30 HOURS Another massive distance! Broome all the way down to Perth on Highway One. A stop to go visit places such as the Ningaloo Reef will be more or less required!…

Driving around Australia on Highway One - Perth to Adelaide

PERTH TO ADELAIDE 2696 KMS / 1675 MILES ~ 29 HOURS Once in Perth, it would be a shame to miss a drive down south to the Margaret River Area and over to see smashing spots such as the Big Trees walks... Highway One now takes travellers across the incredible Nullabor Plain!

Driving around Australia on Highway One - Adelaide to Melbourne

ADELAIDE TO MELBOURNE 738 KMS / 459 MILES ~ 9 HOURS & 6 MINUTES Adelaide, South Australia….yes, another diversion off Highway One, on the road trip around Australia, will take visitors down to Kangaroo Island or up to the Flinders Ranges… Keeping on Highway one to Melbourne means forgoing the Great Ocean Road… hmmm, definitely need another diversion…

Driving around Australia on Highway One - Devonport to Hobart

DEVONPORT TO HOBART 280 KMS / 174 MILES ~ 3 HOURS & 16 MINS Tasmania! To complete the big road trip around Australia on Highway One will require either flying to Devonport or an overnight crossing on the wee ship to Devonport…

Adelaide to Darwin

DARWIN TO ADELAIDE 3027 KMS / 1881 MILES ~ 35 HOURS Highway One does not pass Aussie Icons such as Uluru/Ayers Rock or Kings Canyon. To add that section in, the drive has to cut right through the very centre of Australia!

 Is a 4 Wheel Drive vehicle required when travelling 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 organised tours into the remote regions?

Travellers 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 not so long ago 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 generally 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 personalised experience and have researched the best available. Find tours by state and then decide which option is best for you, self-drive or organised tours.

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 traveller. Read more…

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.

Highway 1 Australia -14, 935 km’s / 9,280 miles ~ 171 hours & 7 minutes. Give or take some time depending on traffic conditions!