I have never been one to say no to a road trip, and I know that should I ever head to Australia, ‘by car’ will be my way to explore it. Where better to improve my driving skills, than in a country so big and empty, that an angry kangaroo or a super long road-train would be my only enemies?

I dream about arriving in Sydney or Melbourne, haggling my way to a bright-blue second-hand camper van and hit the road. But wait a minute – I have never owned a car before, Heaven forbid, bought one on my own. There are so many things to check and consider, buying a car is quite intimidating… and that’s not what I want to feel when I think about road tripping Australia! So, I did my research of what to know and not to forget, and realised it only really takes five steps to an amazing Aussie road trip.

5 Steps to a Great Road Trip in Australia - Katja Hentschel by Katja Hentschel

Step 1: Find the perfect car

Without a doubt, finding an affordable car – note: not wreck – that will keep you safe and not fall apart on day 3 is the most important key ingredient to a great road trip. Buying a second-hand car instead of a rental makes sense if you stay longer than 2 months, because you need to set aside some time in order to sell it again by the end of your journey. If you decide to buy make a list of must-have features in order to find the best fit. Do you want a van you can sleep in, or is a jeep and camping gear more your style? Where are you going? Are there any off-the-map beaches on your itinerary for which you could need a 4×4? Once you decided what kind of ride you’d like, check out ads on platforms like Gumtree. Make sure to compare the car prices so you don’t get ripped off. A good tool to use is Gumtree’s car price guide, which gives you information on what certain car makes and models should cost.

Keep in mind, that you need a reliable car that will go the distance, but also an economic one – fuel can become the biggest cost of your trip, so think ahead. Once you found the ride of your dreams have it checked out by a mechanic and give it a test drive. Don’t risk buying a pig in a poke. Private sellers are usually open to negotiate the price, so try to get a good deal out of it.

Step 2: Taking precautions

Before you head out, you are legally obligated to register the vehicle and get insurance cover. You can find more info on registration here. The most important insurances are CTP (compulsory third-party insurance) which is your personal injury insurance, Third-Party Insurance, which covers your car if somebody else damages it and also in case of theft, Comprehensive Insurance, which sets in in case of floods, fires or storms, and finally Breakdown Insurance, which ensures you emergency roadside assistance.

Step 3: Road Life

Distances in Australia are incredible and sometimes days can pass between two sightings of civilisation – at least that’s how I imagine it. I’m sure, I’m not totally off, to advise you to find out about service stations and campgrounds on your route. While controls may not be very strict in the middle of nowhere, wild camping is technically illegal in Australia, so knowing where to stay (if only for the washing facilities) is a good start. The same counts for running out of fuel – not the dream, right?

To avoid any kind of damage to the car, and the frustrating wait for roadside assistance, only drive on roads your vehicle is capable of doing so. Don’t have a 4-wheel-drive? Then maybe skip the bumpy ‘road’ ahead of you and find a beach that is easier to access – or park the car and hike!

5 Steps to a Great Road Trip in Australia - Luke Redmond by Luke Redmond

Step 4: Pimp your van

The great thing about a road trip is that you can take all the things you really need and fill up the rest of the space with things you don’t actually need but really want to take with you. Like that extra pair of shoes, a box of mix cd’s or simply soap-bubble. A good road trip needs soap-bubble. We’ve collected a list of 100 things that you should pack on a summer road trip a little while ago, but here are some basics.

Lifesavers: plenty of drinking water, GPS (to locate you when you get stranded in the middle of nowhere), two spare tyres, basic supply of spare parts, a tool kit, emergency food, maps, flash light, first aid kit.

Accessories: hanging baskets, music (cd’s or a cable to hook up your phone), card games, a kettle grill, a table and camping chairs, a bicycle, an inflatable SUP board or a kayak for day trips.

5 Steps to a Great Road Trip in Australia - Sophie Saint by Sophie Saint

Step 5: Where to go?

So, you’ve bought, registered and insured your car, and decked it out with maps, water and sparkly stuff – then you’re good to go. But where to? Australia is massive and options for road trips are endless. Check out Marie’s post on six Sydney beaches off the beaten track or Katja’s adventures in Queensland. Or go with one of these four Australian evergreens:

1) Great Ocean Road: Leading from Melbourne to Adelaide, this route leads you past some incredible lime stone formations, like the Twelve Apostles or London Bridge. The distance might not be so great (just 243km), but there are many cool hikes and awesome detours on the way.

2) Highway 1: If you continue after reaching Adelaide, and keep going for a couple of months, you will eventually come back to where you started. Highway 1 leads all the way around the continent, sticking to the coast and bringing you to almost every part of Australia. With its 14,500km it does require you to invest some serious time though.

3) Red Centre: The only place where Highway 1 is not taking you, is the centre of Australia – the Red Centre. If you want to see the outback, the red desert and of course Uluru, you need to drive inlands.

4) Rainforest Way: Quite the opposite of the red, dry desert is the lush green rainforest of Queensland. Rainforest Way is a 650km circuit drive through green valleys and along high peaks which takes at least 7 days to drive.

Australia - Katja Hentschel by Katja Hentschel

For now, Australia has to remain a big dream for me, but one day I will definitely explore the continent by car. Maybe you are luckier than me, and are already there? Share your story in the comments below – I can’t wait for your inspiration!

This is a post by Kathi Kamleitner.

Kathi Kamleitner was a regular contributor at Travelettes from 2013 to 2019. Originally from Vienna, Austria, she packed her backpack to travel the world and lived in Denmark, Iceland and Berlin, before settling in Glasgow, Scotland. Kathi is always preparing her next trip – documenting her every step with her camera, pen and phone.

In 2016, Kathi founded Scotland travel blog WatchMeSee.com to share her love for her new home, hiking in the Scottish Highlands, island hopping and vegan food. Follow her adventures on Instagram @watchmesee!