Visitor Road Trip

Submitted: Sunday, Sep 14, 2014 at 21:48
ThreadID: 109502 Views:4153 Replies:13 FollowUps:9
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My wife and I are coming to your great Country an plan on a road trip October - November 2014. Sydney to Adelaide to Alice Springs to Cairns to Brisbane and back to Sydney. We have 26 days to accomplish this.
I believe is is very doable but do have a few concerns. Is there sufficient gas stations particularly for the Adelaide to Cairns legs? I have maps but it seem sparse between towns. We are from Canada and have driven East to West and top to bottom here. there are some stretches (in northern Canada) where we need to carry extra fuel and even extra tires. I suspect this sort of thing is not necessary in Australia?
Is there enough accommodations in the towns that we can get lodgings without making reservations ahead of time? The reason I ask this is we would not be certain how much time we would spend in various stops. Sometimes a day is enough other times 2 or 3 days may be needed.
Any tips that would make our trip better would truly be appreciated.
I apologize if this has been asked many times before, I am new here and could not find any topics related to this.

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Reply By: kcandco - Sunday, Sep 14, 2014 at 22:48

Sunday, Sep 14, 2014 at 22:48
Hi Pete

I would suggest you have a look at the RACQ website which has a very good trip planner including accommodation and attractions. It can be found at

I am not sure about booking requirements but if you need to be flexible, I would suggest carrying a decent tent, blow up bed and sleeping gear which gives you the option of tenting at caravan parks if better accommodation is booked out. You then have the option of motel, hotel, back packer hostel, caravan park cabin or tent if all else fails.

The following may help with Fuel outlets:
I don't think fuel would be an issue. there are a lot of Australians out traveling and towing caravans. Cairns to Sydney definitely no problems. A lot of Australians travel from the southern states heading north May till August avoiding the southern winter.

I suspect others will be able to add heaps more information.

regards Kc
AnswerID: 539091

Reply By: Grant Tas - Sunday, Sep 14, 2014 at 23:05

Sunday, Sep 14, 2014 at 23:05
Hi Pete
I would suggest that you use to see the distances your actually talking about in your 26 days.
Most probably do able but you may not see the attractions worth stopping for.
Petrol should not be a problem
Good Luck
AnswerID: 539092

Reply By: The Bantam - Sunday, Sep 14, 2014 at 23:56

Sunday, Sep 14, 2014 at 23:56
Um are realy pushing a time shedule there....there are some pretty big distances there.

just to give an example....there are quite a few people who will do Brisbane to Cairns in two days...but its a bit of a mission at that would be driving 12 hours a day and keeping meal and fuel stops short.

Most tourist or travelers would take at least 3 or 4 days to do that trip.

The run from cairns to sydney is pretty strsight forward but you are looking at around 30 hours driving time....ya talking arround 2500Km.......IF there are no hold ups..some would do it in 3 days...but they wont be stopping to look at anything....many would take 5 days..7 if they actually wanted to do or see anything.

That leg from Alice to Cairns is a long would take most normal people a week.

I think you may be better off covering less distace and seeing more of what there is to see.

Two things many people from overseas underestimate...the distances and the heat.

AnswerID: 539095

Reply By: mikehzz - Monday, Sep 15, 2014 at 00:35

Monday, Sep 15, 2014 at 00:35
Very valid points about the distance and the heat. For instance, many people think Uluru is near Alice's an 800km round trip from Alice, if you call that near. I think your trip is around the 8500 km mark. If you like driving, and I do, then it is doable but not for everyone.
But that aside, to answer your questions, your longest stretch between fuel stops is around 200kms and you can usually get a motel room or cabin somewhere for the night without pre booking. You can be unlucky in some small towns, and I use the term town petrol station and thats it. Have a nice trip.
AnswerID: 539096

Follow Up By: - Monday, Sep 15, 2014 at 01:22

Monday, Sep 15, 2014 at 01:22
Thank you all so much for all the help.
The problem (?) is that we will be driving for my father in Law. He is from Australia and came to Canada many years ago. He wishes to see his home once again. He is a relativley healthy 87. The thing is that every time we talk to him he keeps adding another destination. :)
I do not have a problem driving but, as I have told him, we will be spending a lot of time in the vehicle.
My intention is to go from Sydney through Alice Springs to Cairns at a fairly rapid pace and then slowly make it back down to Sydney. My father in Law is from Maclean so a stop there is a certainty but, he wants to see the rest as well.
I realize it is a looong trip so a few long driving days for a few days of exploration will be the trade off.

FollowupID: 823698

Reply By: Member - Mark (Tamworth NSW) - Monday, Sep 15, 2014 at 07:23

Monday, Sep 15, 2014 at 07:23

I see your predicament with your Father in law's wishes. I suggest you have a plan B. I have met and worked with some very fit and tough 87 year olds, but even though they might have been able to do that plan, they wouldn't have enjoyed it.
I would suggest to have a Plan B which would be to work out what he really wants to see, not make any accommodation bookings more than a day in advance so you retain flexibility. Unless you are driving at night (which I urge you not to do because of wildlife on inland roads), you will strike a fuel station every hour-100km. Accommodation no further than every 2 hours on the inland roads.
No need for extra fuel or tyres. The last thing we want is a tired driver not used to driving "on our wrong side of the road", that is a fatal accident waiting to happen.

If Uluru-Alice Springs is on his bucket list, fly there (and back) from Cairns or one of the other major cities. Yes Mclean, the Clarence River and the coast near it is very pretty, make sure you take him to Sandon River just down from Brooms Head.

AnswerID: 539099

Follow Up By: Member - Tony H (touring oz) - Monday, Sep 15, 2014 at 09:02

Monday, Sep 15, 2014 at 09:02
Good advice Mark :-)
Insanity doesnt run in my family.... it gallops!

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FollowupID: 823708

Follow Up By: The Bantam - Monday, Sep 15, 2014 at 09:53

Monday, Sep 15, 2014 at 09:53
Please don't get the idea that there is fuel every 100Km and accomodation every quite a lot of the country its just not the case.

Even if there is fuel at relativly short may not wisih to pay the for the accomodation...yeh well.

Some of this accomodation can be pretty spartan and some of those places you may not wish to stop....and there may not be much of it.
It can take one party of travelers or contractors to book out some of these locations.

In some of the major towns accomodation can be booked solid for various reasons......all it takes is some sort of event or situation to book out all the rooms in town.
A local event or a construction or maintenence push in the area.

I and various members of my family travel Brisbane Townsville fairly one time you could be guaranteed picking up a room in Mackay( a major reigonal town with a whole street of motels and a common over night journey breaker)....these days you are very wise to book in advance any time of year....its now a major transit point for the mines.
We often overnight at Borroron..a small town, one pub, a general store, a caravan park and a motel.....mostly we could always rock up and get a room...last trip south I rang ahead.....lucky I got the last room.....Gladstone ( next major town) was full up and contractors where driving in to gladstone every day.

The last thing you need is to be driving lots of hours and ending up either not finding accomodation or ending up in something disapointing.

As for the idea of flying V driving......HELL there are some very long distances involved...unless you are carrying a lot of stuff or you particularly want to drive.....flying will be way faster and cheaper.

Remember mainland Australia has a greater land mass than mainland USA....and we have 6 mainland states not 50 something.

Oh and the fuel price is arround $1.50 per liter at the moment.

Give it some thaught.

FollowupID: 823709

Reply By: Member - Alan H (QLD) - Monday, Sep 15, 2014 at 09:05

Monday, Sep 15, 2014 at 09:05
You have an exciting drive ahead of you. The country will change a lot but the change of scenery will be part of the adventure. Our hills are not like your mountains and our roads are not like your roads.

I have driven from Saskatoon to Edmonton and some of your route will be like this.
Adelaide up to Alice and Tenant Creek over to Mt Isa.

Oct - Nov is not peak season but by then the temperatures will be getting high (very high for Canadians I suspect)

After leaving Sydney you will go through Blue Mountains - take time to go see the 3 sisters etc

Port Augusta to Alice Springs - Coober Pedy has houses and motels underground to escape the heat.

When in Alice drive to top of Anzac Hill in town for great views

When coming over towards Townsville turn left at Charters Towers and go up to Cairns via the Atherton Tableland. Then come down the coast highway although you will hardly ever see the coast from the highway. When going through Townsville drive up Castle hill for a very spectacular lookout over the city and out to sea.

When in Brisbane there is a drive up to Mt Cootha for a great view of the city.

Lots of new highway heading down towards Maclean but not exactly Canadian standard

Enjoy your trip whever you go. You will need to drive a fair distance each day but it should also be more comfortable in the car than out of it particularly in the northern and western parts of your trip. No need to bring snow gear. It will not be cold.

AnswerID: 539102

Reply By: Les PK Ranger - Monday, Sep 15, 2014 at 09:45

Monday, Sep 15, 2014 at 09:45
While a road trip like that is nice to see the nitty gritty of this country, maybe a better plan is to do a drive / fly.
It will be getting quite hot inland for many people into November.

This (or reverse whole plan) . . . drive Sydney - Cairns, one way hire, say 2 weeks (2630km) . . . then fly Alice, do one of the many cheapish trips to the rock(s), maybe Palm Valley trip similarly for a day, say 3 days total . . . fly Adelaide (or wherever else you wanted to go), and take one way car hire back to Sydney, take the (GOR) Great Ocean Road and via Melbourne go back to Sydney via the Hume, if time is getting short (1740km), or via the GOR right around the coast back to Sydney (2000km) . . . you should have around a week Adelaide to Sydney overall, with a spare day thrown in for any leg above.

You'll see some awesome sights there, and travel by car mostly on the coast where heat won't be an issue (in general).
AnswerID: 539103

Reply By: Member - PhilD_NT - Monday, Sep 15, 2014 at 15:37

Monday, Sep 15, 2014 at 15:37

You don't say what vehicle you are likely to be driving and I assume the question about accommodation means that you won't be towing anything. So assuming that you will have a normal vehicle I'd doubt that any stretch would exceed the range of most cars. I would advise against driving an LPG fuelled vehicle as supplies are not guaranteed for a lot of the planned trip. I've never had any particular problem unless by choice I don't wish to make certain stops. Even then it's only been the Alice Springs to Tennant Ck stretch that was on my previous cars limit with no stopping and if I had wanted to maintain the then 130 KPH limit in the NT. In that distance I would have passed by 5 potential fuel stops anyway. Tennant Ck/Threeways to Camooweal would be another but there is Barkly Homestead Roadhouse in the middle.
As far as accommodation is concerned it can be hit and miss as to vacancies and calling ahead can be wise. Many Roadhouses have had small business cards in display shelves for tourism info ahead for contact numbers. As mentioned by someone else the quality does vary heaps. For example I wouldn't consider staying overnight at Three Ways just North of Tennant Ck again. Some places can be booked out early due to tour busses etc and Tennant Ck has been pretty well booked out a couple of times I've tried getting in somewhere at short notice. Costs can be quite high, especially for what you are getting in quality, and around $120 a night for a single in a Motel style unit can be normal.

Elsewhere it was mentioned that ULP fuel can be $1.50 a litre but you're more likely to find it up to and over $2 in many places. Be aware also that just as accommodation can greatly vary in quality, so can Roadhouse meals and toilets there or in any Rest Areas. With some toilets a dab of Vicks or Eucalyptus Oil under the nose before entering may be good, plus having some of your own toilet paper and moist towlettes for afterwards.
AnswerID: 539121

Reply By: - Monday, Sep 15, 2014 at 23:07

Monday, Sep 15, 2014 at 23:07
Once again, Thank You all.
I am with you that suggested we fly but, since it is my Father in Laws trip, it is he that wants to see it all...from the ground. I tried very hard to make him understand the distances and time. He is fully aware and to him, this is as much a pilgrimage as is a vacation. He and my Mother in Law did a trip like this 25 or 30 years ago and she recently passed away. He really has his heart set on seeing the countless miles of Australian heartland and hinterland. As it happens, he is paying for much of it so, I pretty well have to do as he asks (not without argument though :)). The unfortunate part of this whole trip is that we will not be spending a week or so at each main spot. There are many places my Wife and I want to truly explore, but that will be for a different time (with some close friends that have Australia as number one on their bucket list).
Gas prices here in Canada are quite high as well. Where I am I Ottawa it is presently $1.35 but, in other parts it ranges from that to $1.60 per liter. We have rented a Mitsubishi ASX SUV for 28 days.
We travel huge distances to explore Canada. My daughter, a nurse is presently in a village named Sachs Harbour, in the remote north. We flew into Prince George BC then drove to Dawson City Yukon (2100 kms paved) then on to the Dempster Highway to Inuvik Northwest Territories (750 kms of gravel/dirt road with very few stops in between) then a 2 hour flight.
Again I truly thank you all for your tips and suggestions. I have an additional question (for the time being anyway). I have an unlocked phone and think that I should get a Sim card for it. What card or company do you suggest? Which as the best coverage considering the areas we will be traveling and of course, which would be the best deal? I would probably only need it to make hotel reservations, sending text messages home and emergency situations.

AnswerID: 539146

Follow Up By: Member - Alan H (QLD) - Tuesday, Sep 16, 2014 at 06:00

Tuesday, Sep 16, 2014 at 06:00
Unfortunately the only carrier to give maximum coverage away from big cities is TELSTRA and it is usually the dearest.

I use Telstra purely because of coverage. You will be amazed where coverage is to be had. Outback mines and aboriginal communities often have coverage so even in the middle of nowhere you may suddenly get a signal

FollowupID: 823757

Follow Up By: rumpig - Tuesday, Sep 16, 2014 at 09:32

Tuesday, Sep 16, 2014 at 09:32
Don't expect phone coverage everywhere you plan to travel even when going with Telstra. There's lots of the country you intend travelling that won't have any phone reception once you get away from the towns themselves, but as said above you are sometimes surprised where it pops up.
FollowupID: 823765

Reply By: Member - John and Lynne - Tuesday, Sep 16, 2014 at 07:48

Tuesday, Sep 16, 2014 at 07:48
Yes Telstra is the only way to go for coverage outside the main cities.

I suspect your father in law is reliving the memories of when he was much younger. It is already getting hot in Queensland - over 34C during the day at Mt Isa yesterday. A fellow Queenslander currently travelling up there told us yesterday he is feeling the heat.
I would be very concerned about his health attempting that trip at that time at his age (which he will probably never admit!) Those constant distances will be tiring and risky for the driver too. Many of the roads are not particularly good!

Make sure you have a plan B e.g. can you leave your hire car anywhere if it becomes necessary and fly if it becomes necessary.. I would certainly recommend flying to Alice from Sydney and hiring a car there, or better still taking a tour. It is a fascinating area but you need some time there - distances are long. I realise your FIL wants to see the ground but there is an awful lot of it and the scenery doesn't change quickly! You will spend too much time just getting from A to B and have little time to see anything at all. He may well feel very differently about driving once he is here and thinks about what he actually wants to visit. Good luck. Lynne
AnswerID: 539152

Reply By: The Landy - Tuesday, Sep 16, 2014 at 08:18

Tuesday, Sep 16, 2014 at 08:18
Hi Pete

It is quite a trip you are planning to undertake, as many have indicated. You have obviously thought about this aspect and understand fully that your father-in-law wants to “make” this trip.

So here’s my tip, undertake, but if you come across a place you like, and there’ll be plenty of those places in Australia, stop a few days and soak up the area, enjoy a chat with the locals, and take the time to scratch beneath the surface – you’ll be pleased with what you find…

In terms of fuel and accommodation, generally you’ll be fine on accommodation, and fuel will not be a problem on this route.

Above all else, enjoy this great country of ours.

Cheers, Baz – The
AnswerID: 539153

Reply By: kcandco - Tuesday, Sep 16, 2014 at 20:08

Tuesday, Sep 16, 2014 at 20:08
Hi Pete

Regarding phone coverage.
I use Optus, My wife uses Telstra. My son uses 3. We find Telstra the better by far when travelling. My wife uses a prepaid deal which is $30 a month for using a telstra sim in an unlocked phone. Probably suggest you check out the Telstra website. You can buy credit at a lot of places and I just always have a spare topup voucher in case we need a topup in the middle of nowhere.

cheers Kc
AnswerID: 539190

Reply By: - Friday, Sep 19, 2014 at 06:35

Friday, Sep 19, 2014 at 06:35
Thank you all for the information and hints and tips. I am more eager than ever to get there now :)
I have come up with a Plan B. I think we will fly into Sydney, get over jet lag a for few days and then fly to Adelaide. Check it out for a few days and drive up to Coober Pedy and back. From there we will hit the outback and drive to Brisbane. It will take some time but we are up for that.
From Brisbane we may fly to Alice Springs and then to Cairns perhaps just to Cairns. From Cairns we will drive down the coast back to Sydney. I think the drive south will be a very enjoyable one.
Still a lot of driving but I think manageable.

AnswerID: 539267

Follow Up By: mikehzz - Friday, Sep 19, 2014 at 08:18

Friday, Sep 19, 2014 at 08:18
What about fly Sydney to Adelaide, drive Adelaide to Alice, even vist Uluru as you have the car, then fly to Cairns from Alice and drive down the coast back to Sydney? There's plenty of outback driving up the centre, plenty of beaches driving down the coast. Although there are 2 open ended car hires in that it saves a lot of dead driving time and petrol. To be honest, I'm not a fan of the Sydney to Adelaide drive, or the drive across western QLD.
FollowupID: 823877

Follow Up By: - Friday, Sep 19, 2014 at 09:05

Friday, Sep 19, 2014 at 09:05
We were flying from Sydney to Adelaide. Picking up the car there. The drive from Coober Pedy to Brisbane was through Port Augusta as opposed to Alice Springs. We have not fully decided on Alice Springs and Urulu now. It was our original intention but, my father in Law now has ideas of even including Darwin (flying there of course).
I am starting to think I may just hire a guide for him and leave him in Australia for an extra month or two LOL. I am also beginning to think all those days in a car with him may be stressful to say the least. He changes his mind an old man? LOL.

FollowupID: 823883

Follow Up By: Member - John and Lynne - Saturday, Sep 20, 2014 at 09:12

Saturday, Sep 20, 2014 at 09:12
Sounds good. The best idea is to stay flexible and don't book too far ahead. That way you can follow your inclinations as things attract you -or FIL has another bright idea! You can't see everything in such a short time so just try to make sure you enjoy the places you do see so you all go home still fit and cheerful with some happy memories- and perhaps plans to return. You will generally find the local Tourist Information Centres very helpful wherever you go. They also can help book accommodation. Have a great trip! Lynne
FollowupID: 823928

Follow Up By: - Saturday, Sep 20, 2014 at 21:47

Saturday, Sep 20, 2014 at 21:47
Once again, a BIG thanks to all.
I think the overwhelming suggestion is to not plan too far ahead and make decisions daily. So be it. :)
As for not being able to see it all at once, I fully agree and have thought so all along. I would tell you the same thing if you came to Canada for 5 weeks.
Our next visit is already in the planning stage with friends that have Australia on the wish list. This trip is an opportunity to better plan the next trip. Do what my Father in Law desires and in the meantime, figure out what we should plan for for next time. The follow on trip will be the "real" trip.

FollowupID: 823952

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