When people ask the inevitable question “what was the best year of your life?” I usually respond “24”: the year that I went backpacking in Australia. Good god, was that an amazing time.
I arrived, then, in December to 95 F weather and spent the holidays with some distant family. There were jetty jumps, Australia Day festivities, and many a barbie; what a life.
Soon after I found two jobs (as I had a working holiday visa) and ended up moving to the city center of Adelaide. I worked 45 hours/week and easily 40+ hours/week. It sometimes feels like I worked more and vacationed less during this time but I didn’t care; give me a beach and I’ll do anything.
The memories that I have from the 7-8 months that I spent both working and backpacking in Australia are some of the fondest that I have. It was such a positive experience for me both as a traveler and as a maturing adult. I learned how to succeed in a foreign nation and, most importantly, more about myself.
Choosing to go backpacking in Australia is a brilliant idea as there is so much to do and see. Learn how to surf on some the finest beaches in the world. Work and play in the bush or one of the many eclectic cities. See what all the fuss is about the Outback. All this and more is possible when you travel to Australia.
With this travel guide for Australia, you’ll have everything that you could need to start your adventure. We’ll cover topics ranging from “backpacking Australia on a budget” to “finding a backpacker job.” With these insider tips to backpacking Australia, you’ll be right.
Table of Contents
- Where to Go Backpacking in Australia
- Australia Travel Tips
Where to Go Backpacking in Australia
Australia is a massive country with tons of things to do and see! From sailing around the Whitsundays to diving in the Great Barrier Reef to road tripping just about anywhere, Australia’s got it all. It’s the goal of this Australian travel guide to help travelers get the most out of their backpacking trip by giving them plenty of ideas and tips on what to do and where to go.
Before getting into the nitty-gritty though, we’re going to outline the best itineraries for how to go backpacking in Australia, properly. Each one is specially drafted to give you the best possible experience.
Afterward, we’re going jump into the meat of the guide – the destinations – and then follow with some more specific information e.g. Entry Requirements, Festivals, Sex, Drugs and Rock ‘n’ Roll, etc. By the end of this guide, you’ll have all of the necessary tools to go backpacking in Australia!
Bellow is a list of five travel itineraries for backpacking Australia. They vary from 10 days to 3 months in length and cover the majority of the must see places in Australia.
Backpacking Australia 10 Day Itinerary
10 Days: Tasmania
The following is from our Backpacking Tasmania guide, which I encourage everyone to check out!
“This is the best itinerary for tackling a Tasmanian road trip! You can travel in either direction or pick a city — other than Hobart — to begin your route.
A 10-day itinerary would be ideal to travel this full circuit and make all of the best stops. Feel free to extend this journey if you would like to further explore the wonders of Tasmania. Hiking, biking, scuba diving, fishing, surfing, trekking, and learning a rich history are all activities that could require extra days in certain locations.”
Backpacking Australia 2 Week Itinerary
2 Weeks: The Top Cities
See the best of Australia’s cities on this 2-week itinerary around the southeast coast! Starting in Sydney, you’ll make your way south towards Melbourne via Canberra stopping in the latter along the way. Once in Melbourne, be sure to explore its many laneways and soak in as much culture as possible.
Departing from Melbourne, you’ll travel along the sublime Great Ocean Road and earn glimpses of the stunning 13 Apostles and the Great Otway. Spend a few days traveling on this road and then head to Adelaide, Australia’s most relegated and unknown big city.
Adelaide is a hidden gem that is just waiting to be discovered! This city is saturated with artists, amazing beaches, and tons of wine. After getting your fill here, grab a plane back to Sydney and head home.
Backpacking Australia 3 Week Itinerary
3 Weeks: The East Coast of Australia
The following is from our Backpacking the East Coast of Australia guide, which is full of useful tips on backpacking Australia’s most popular destinations!
“This is the best itinerary for tackling an East Coast Australia road trip! You can travel in either direction, although, chances are you will fly into Sydney internationally. This is the best place to purchase a vehicle or organize your transportation (see Getting Around section).
This is a great 3-4 week itinerary for East Coast Australia, though, you can easily spend more time exploring these destinations.”
Backpacking Australia 4 Week Itinerary
4 weeks: The Outback
Spend a month backpacking in the Outback on this backpacking route for Australia! Visit its top destinations like the mighty Uluru, the Kimberly, and the Nullarbor! Also on this itinerary are three of Australia’s most remote cities: Adelaide, Darwin, and Perth. There’s a little of everything on this itinerary.
Having a car for this month-long itinerary would be very beneficial. Since the itinerary is a loop as well, you’ll be able to rent and drop-off a car in the same place, saving you heaps of money in the process! Choose any of the aforementioned cities as a starting place for this exciting road trip.
Be sure to book your rental car before arriving to ensure you get the best price and your choice of car. Airport rentals can sometimes be the cheapest FYI.
Backpacking Australia 2-3 Month Itinerary
3 Months: The Ultimate Oz Road Trip!
See everything that Australia has to offer! Surf in Queensland, dive at the Ningaloo reef, trek in Kakadu; all of this and more is possible on this epic road trip through Australia!
This route for backpacking Australia is a pretty big, taking approximately 2-3 months to complete. It’s highly recommended that you actually buy your own car in order to complete this. With your own vehicle, you’ll have complete freedom and be able to accomplish this Australian itinerary in any way that you see fit.
Backpacking the East Coast of Australia
The East Coast of Australia, consisting of the states of New South Wales and Queensland, is the most popular place to go backpacking in Australia! The East Coast has some of best infrastructure, greatest thrills and most beautiful places in Australia. No trip to Australia is complete without a stop in this amazing part of the country.
Traveling the 1500 miles from the ever-enchanting Sydney to Cairns will afford travelers lots of adventurous opportunities. You’ll navigate ancient jungles, go walking in the bush, and (of course) visit some damn fine beaches. Some other highlights of backpacking in the East Coast of Australia include camping on Fraser Island, sailing among the picturesque Whitsunday Islands, and diving at the Great Barrier Reef.
There is so much to do and see on the East Coast that we at Broke Backpacker had to create a separate guide to do it justice! Those interested in backpacking around this part of Australia should best refer to our informative guide where we break down heaps pertaining to New South Wales, Queensland, and everything in between. This includes the usual subjects like Accommodation, Itineraries, and How to Get Around.
Note that this guide will also cover locations that are not bound to the coast including the Atherton Tablelands and the Outback. You gotta see the desert while backpacking Australia even if you intend on being a beach bum 99% of the time. So go check it out!
Canberra is the federal capital of Australia and has a bit of rap for being boring as hell. Famously, one former prime minister wouldn’t even live there when he was in office (though he denied any feeling any revulsion to the place). Truthfully, Canberra really isn’t that bad so long as you know what you’re getting yourself in to.
Canberra is a planned community that was designed to be a “garden city.” For this reason, Canberra has an extensive amount of parkland, national monuments, and cultural centers. At the center of everything is the large and artificial Lake Burley Griffin, which acts as a sort of reference point. Around the lake are the city’s most prominent landmarks including both Parliament Houses (the old and new ones), the hallowed Australian War Memorial, and several museums and galleries. The National Museum of Australia, National Gallery, and National Portrait Gallery are all fine cultural centers worth visiting.
The best way to get around Canberra is by walking or biking. Thanks in part to abundant greenery and lack of traffic, these modes of getting around can be quite enjoyable. Take note that Canberra is still quite spread out so getting around on foot may take longer than anticipated.
If you find Canberra’s parklands insufficient, then there are plenty more pastoral sights outside of the city. Namadgi National Park is the northernmost section of the Australian Alps and has lots of outdoor activities. Mountain biking, in particular, is very popular around Namadgi and the highlands of Canberra.
Ultimately, Canberra is a fine city. Those backpacking around Australia should come here for the bucolic scenery and small-townish lifestyle. Don’t come if you’re looking to party and get wild though.
Sydney’s greatest rival is the super dynamic and culturally superior Melbourne. Melbourne is the former federal capital and, for this reason, was once the center of all things Australian. Melbourne lead the way in economics, art, sports, you name it until Sydney rose and began to challenge it. Even with the current competition though, Melbourne is still one of the best cities to visit in Australia!
Melbourne is a huge city with multiple districts. Most of the top things to do in Melbourne are found around the city center – in the CBD and Southbank. The CBD is buzzing constantly with action as here are some of the best cafes, bars, restaurants, and cultural sites in the city.
Flinders Street Station acts as the central nervous system of Melbourne and provides transport to any and all of the metropolitan area. Very close to the CBD are St. Paul’s Cathedral and Collins Street, the latter of which is very fucking cool. Other notable attractions, like the Shrine of Remembrance, Queen Victoria Market, and Federation Square, are all a short walk away from the CBD.
Further outside of the city center are many more districts that make for great day trips. Carlton is a neighborhood rich with Italian heritage and home to the impressive Museum of Melbourne. St Kilda is the premier beach hangout and has a nightlife that is comparable to debaucherous King’s Cross in Sydney. Brighton is where you’ll find the iconic beach huts. Finally, Collingwood and Fitzroy are the favorite hipster hideouts in an already hipster city.
Melbourne’s pedigree cannot be understated – this is one of the coolest places in Australia. You just have to visit this city and wander amongst its laneways all the while sampling as much music, food, and drink as possible. Looking for an epic place to stay in Melbourne? Check out our list of the best hostels in Melbourne.
Backpacking the Great Ocean Road
Driving on the Great Ocean Road is a must-do while backpacking in Australia! Extending from Geelong to Portland – both of which are in Victoria – the Great Ocean Road offers some of the most stunning coastal scenery in the country. Driving along this route, around the many bends and on the edge of sheer coastal cliffs, is a truly amazing experience.
You’ll see several prominent landmarks and attractions while driving along the 150 miles of the Great Ocean Road. The most famous of landmarks here are the Twelves Apostles, which are a group of limestone sea stacks that rise stunningly out of the ocean. There are, unfortunately, only eight now as several have collapsed in recent years. Other notable sites along the Great Ocean Road include The Grotto and Loch Ard Gorge.
Driving along the Great Ocean Road isn’t just about the coast though; between Apollo Bay and Glenaire is Great Otway National Park, which is a wonderfully lush forest. Inside, you’ll find a staggering array of plant-life and a number of picturesque waterfalls that make for great photographs.
For those who want to spend several days driving the Great Ocean Road – which is a reasonable choice – there are several towns to lay your head down in. Apollo Bay is the most desirable, though Princetown and Port Campbell also make for great overnights.
Adelaide has had to deal with a somewhat dull and undeserving reputation. Just hearing its nickname, “The City of Churches,” leads one to assume that Adelaide is an overly-strict and boring place to be. What many don’t realize is that this nickname was never a reference to the city’s piety – conversely, as an ultra-liberal city, Adelaide was a place of many churches and ideologies. In lies Adelaide’s true self: a forward thinking and supremely eclectic city.
Adelaide or Radelaide has quietly been one of the best cities in Australia. Here is an amazing art scene, a thriving nightlife, and some of the best city beaches in Australia. Oh, did we mention that this is the wine capital of Australia? You can’t throw a boomerang and not hit a winery in this part of the country.
Adelaide is a planned city – the first founded by freemen – and is extremely easy to get around. One could easily walk across the whole city proper in an hour or two. A tour of Adelaide should definitely include a walk around one of the many surroundings parklands, which includes lovely sights like the River Torres and the Botanic Gardens. For the best food and drink, one needs look around the likes of Rundle Street, South Hutt Street, and O’Connell Street.
Adelaide has some of the best city beaches in Australia. Glenelg is the glitzy beach with lots of clubs and cafes. The most beautiful beaches though are found in the southernly suburbs around Brighton, Port Noarlunga, and Aldinga.
There is wine country everywhere outside of Adelaide. The Clare Valley, McLaren Vale, and Barossa Valley are the most prestigious regions and, between the three of them, produce the majority of Australia’s wine. Hahndorf in the Adelaide Hills is another popular pastoral town, known more for its beer and German heritage.
Check out our best backpacking hostels in Adelaide.
Backpacking Kangaroo Island and the Yorke Peninsula
Within a day’s drive from Adelaide are the seaside getaways of the Yorke Peninsula, The Fleurieu Peninsula, and Kangaroo Island. Between the three areas, there’s over six hundred miles of coastline. Most of these beachs are hardly visited or even touched by any sort of tourist.
The Yorke Peninsula is to the north of Adelaide. On a map, the Peninsula is easily recognizable due to its distinct shape – like a large tail or a leg. Economically, agriculture – not tourism – is the region’s leading enterprise. This has, for the most part, lead to the development of several small rural communities, many of which make for great backpacker bases.
Popular activities on the Yorke Peninsula include surfing, diving, fishing, and sampling the local produce. The surfing here, in particular, is some of the best in the state. Must-see locations on the Peninsula are Pondalowie Bay, Innes National Park, and Berry Bay.
Kangaroo Island is one of the most popular holiday spots for South Australians and is fairly unknown outside of the state. Located across from the Fleurieu Peninsula, Kangaroo Island is Australia’s third largest island and an important refuge for several threatened ecosystems.
With highlands, rugged coastline, and a number of pristine beaches, the natural setting of Kangaroo Island is some of the prettiest in South Australia. Flinders Chase Park, Admirals Arch, and the Remarkable Rocks are among the most splendid sights on the islands and shouldn’t be missed.
Arriving at Kangaroo Island is a simple matter of taking a short ferry from Cape Jervis. Upon arriving, backpackers will have many lodging options. You’ll find most of the hostels in the largest settlement on the island, Kingscote. Utilizing a local farmstay is becoming increasingly popular and many resemble hostels in their offerings.
Backpacking Uluru and Alice Springs
Smack dab in the “Red Center” of Australia, leagues away from any other city is Alice Springs; never before has the term “middle of fucking nowhere” been more applicable than with this place. Originally an outpost and then a military refuel base, Alice Springs now serves as a hub for visiting the many desert wonders of the region, including the famous Ayers Rock, which is locally referred to as Uluru.
Uluru is probably the most recognizable sight in the whole of Australia and for good reason: it’s magnificent. Honestly, words don’t really do this massive red rock justice and the pictures do little either. Uluru is meant to be seen and felt in person; only then will you understand it significance. As one local told me: “you stand there staring at (it) and then it begins to pulse; Uluru is the heartbeat of Australia.”
Tourists can climb Uluru but the local Aboriginal peoples, who hold the mountain sacred, adamantly request that visitors not take part in this practice. Walking around the base of the rock is still plenty enough. NOTE that Uluru isn’t actually very near to Alice Springs either – you’ll have to drive another 6 hours to reach it.
There are a number of other hikes around Alice Springs aside from Ayers Rock. Kata Tjuta aka the Olgas and Kings Canyon are both definitely worth visiting as well.
The actual city of Alice Springs isn’t much to write home about. Those expecting a weathered and rustic outpost in the middle of the harsh Outback will be upset to hear that the Springs is quite developed. This infrastructure comes with a number of positives and negatives too including plenty of swimming pools and rampant racial tension, to name an unrelated few.
Darwin is the capital and largest city of the vast and empty Northern Territory. In an otherwise desolate place, Darwin exists today thanks to a booming mining industry and the need to create Asian shipping routes. More so than Alice Springs, Darwin has a distinctly frontier-like vibe, with a uniquely independent government and a population that really is one-of-a-kind.
By most standards, Darwin is a small city with very few attractions. The Wharf Precinct, Bicentennial Park, and/or one of the few museums may be worthwhile but that’s about all. If we’re being honest here, my impression of Darwin is that it serves primarily as a weekend getaway for pent-up miners and a base for backpackers who are trying to find work. The parties are, predictably, over the top in Darwin as both worker and traveler alike just let loose.
The best part about Darwin is that it’s very close to some of the Outback’s best locations. Should you journey into the bush, bring lots of sunscreen and bug repellent though! You’ll be miserable without them.
Kakadu National Park is widely considered a staple of the region and is a must visit for those backpacking Australia. Ubirr, Jim Jim Falls, and the Gunlom Plunge Pool are among the best of Kakadu. Also worth visiting is Litchfield National Park, which is a lovely place full of waterfalls and swimming holes that the locals love to cool off in.
Farther south is the small town of Katherine. Here is the impressive Katherine Gorge, located within the Nitmiluk National Park. Travelers can experience the gorge in many ways from chartering a boat to paddling in a kayak to hiking along the rim on Jatbula Trail. That final option is a 4-5 day one-way hike.
Backpacking Broome and the Kimberly
The Kimberly is a vast and wild section of Western Australia that borders the Northern Territory – many believe that this region contains the best of Australia’s Outback. With an area roughly equivalent to California and a huge array of natural sites, the Kimberly is a grand adventure.
Though the paved Great Northern Highway runs through the Kimberley, the best way to explore this region is on the un-sealed Gibbs River Road, for which you’ll need a 4×4. Along the Gibbs, you’ll see the best of Kimberley, including Windjana Gorge, Bell Gorge, and Mitchell Falls. Much-loved Purnululu National Park is technically located off the Northern Highway though you’ll still need a 4×4 to access it.
At the western end of the Kimberley is Broome, which is the most visited destination in the region. This resort town, renowned for its pristine desert beaches, is immensely popular amongst Australians. During the pleasant dry season (May-September) the population of the town almost triples.
Cable Beach is a massive stretch of near-perfect sand and is one of Broome’s most popular attractions. Many people enjoy this beach at sunset from the backs of camels, who were introduced after one man went searching for Mecca.
Town Beach is another favorite among locals. Equally as beautiful as Cable, this beach is particularly noteworthy because of its “Staircase to the Moon.” This phenomenon occurs when the tides recede and the moon rises at the same time, creating the illusion of a walkway to the heavens. A night market is held when the staircase is visible.
Other attractions in Broome include the red cliffs of Gantheaume Point and one of many historical sites concerning the aging pearling industry. The latter in particular is an interesting case study of race and exploitation in both old and new Australia.
Backpacking Exmouth and the Ningaloo Reef
Of a similar vein to Broome is the small community of Exmouth, located on the remote North West Cape. Here are some stunning beaches, awesomely rugged terrain, and, most importantly, one of the most precious ecosystems in Australia: the Ningaloo Reef.
Like Broome, Exmouth is a quiet beach town that swells in population during the four-month-long tourist season. There are the usual civilized amenities here i.e. hotels, restaurants, bars, markets, etc. Exmouth also has a couple of city beaches – Town Beach and Mauritius Beach – but these are kind of lackluster. Eager backpackers ought to head directly to Cape Range and the Ningaloo Reef.
Cape Range National Park has some of the most beautiful beaches in Australia as well as some great hiking opportunities. All of the beaches of the Cape Range are seemingly perfect with brilliant white sand and crystal clear waters. Some superlative beaches include Turquoise Bay and Sandy Beach.
Further inland, Cape Range has some wonderful canyons and gorges that make for great trekking spots. For the most popular hiking trails in the area, visit Charlie Knife Canyon, Yardie Creek Gorge, and Mandu Mandu Gorge.
Should you go snorkeling around Cape Range, chances are that you’ll stumble upon the beginnings of the majestic Ningaloo Reef. The Ningaloo Reef is home to some amazing marine life including whale sharks! The coolest part about this reef though is that it’s very close to the mainland. Unlike the Great Barrier, which is 150 miles from Cairns, you can literally swim (safely) to the Ningaloo Reef from the beach in some places i.e. Coral Bay.
Having a watercraft will, of course, unlock, more of the Ningaloo Reef. There are a number of sailing companies around Exmouth and Coral Bay though a kayak may be sufficient enough.
Check out my guide to the best hostels in Cairns here.
Halfway between Exmouth and Perth is the coastal town of Kalbarri and the national park of the same name. Offering classic Australian landscapes, Kalbarri makes for a great stopover when making the long drive up and down the western coast.
The town of Kalbarri is expectedly tiny – even more so than Broome or Exmouth. Not much to do here besides grabbing a quick bite to eat and sleeping. Kalbarri National Park, which surrounds the town, is the real reason to visit.
Composed of mostly sandstone, Kalbarri NP is full of awesome gorges and arches. The Z Bend is one of the most iconic tracks in the area as is the Hawks Head and Nature’s Window; all offer excellent views of the Murchison River Gorge and the surrounding landscape.
The coastline around Kalbarri is stunning as well and very similar to the Great Ocean Road. Though shorter and less high than the GOR, the cliffs of Kalbarri are equally as dramatic and have their own Apostles in a sense. Island Rock and the Natural Bridge are notable sights along the coast and can be seen from various viewpoints, which are accessible by car.
Should the 6-8 hour drive from either Perth or Exmouth to Kalbarri still prove too long, there are a couple more stops along both routes. Between Exmouth and Kalbarri is Shark Bay, renowned for its amazing beaches, for the dolphins of Monkey Mia, and for some rare fauna. Found here are stromatolites, which are considered one of the oldest and most important lifeforms on Earth.
On the way to Perth, you’ll pass by Nambung National Park. The most noteworthy attraction here is The Pinnacles, which are surreal, finger-like rock formations that rise prominently from the desert sands.
Perth‘s primary claim to fame is that it is considered one of if not the most isolated major cities in the world. It’s probably a good thing though; if Perth were any more accessible then it would definitely be overrun by now. With a booming economy, an extremely pleasant climate, and some of the most beautiful scenery in the whole country, Perth is certainly in the running for “best city to visit in Australia.”
Aesthetically, Perth is a very attractive city. The CBD, with its ever-growing skyscrapers, rises elegantly on the banks of the Swan River. From King’s Park, which is very charming in its own right, the cityscape is totally laid out before you and yours to take in.
Inside of the city itself, there are a few tourist sites of note. London Court is a lovely street built in Elizabethan fashion complete with Tudor-style homes and coat-of-arms on the doors; obviously, not the most authentic of attractions but pretty nonetheless! Also worth seeing is the redeveloped Elizabeth Quay, which is Perth’s answer to the Sydney Harbor.
For all its beauty, Perth is better seen from a distance and, to be honest, the best parts are outside of the city anyways. To the north is Northbridge where you’ll find the best eats and nightlife in Perth. Adjacent Fremantle is a separate destination in its own right (see section below) and definitely somewhere worth checking out. From Fremantle, you can book a ferry to the idyllic Rottnest Island for the chance to see the unique quokka and some gorgeous beaches.
Speaking of beaches, Perth has some of the best in Australia. Scarborough and Cottesloe are the city’s most famous strips of sand. Mullaloo Beach and Pinnaroo Point are lesser-known but absolutely breathtaking.
Looking for the best hostels in Perth? Check out our list here!
Though only a dozen or so miles from Perth, Fremantle considers itself its own city. Once the gritty, neglected port of Perth, Fremantle has grown into a culturally unique and independent commune. With a very cosmopolitan history and a thriving art scene, Fremantle is certainly distinct from its larger neighbor.
Fremantle is a small community of 20,000 people. You could certainly get around by just walking here but, remember, this is still an Australian destination; distances are (always) much longer than travelers think. It would behoove most to have some sort of transport, either in the form of a car, scooter, bike, or even a bus ticket. The local CTA (Central Area Transit) is usually free.
The top attractions in Fremantle are the old Fremantle Prison, Roundhouse, and Arts Centre. All of these are historical sites that have either been preserved or renovated to suit other means. The Arts Centre, once the old Fremantle Hospital, is now a public space. The Roundhouse was Western Australia’s first permanent building that served (appropriately) as a prison; now it’s a museum.
Being a port city, Fremantle has a great selection of food that harks from all over the world. Italian cuisine is particularly good in Fremantle, as the city has hosted a large community of Italian immigrants over the years. The much loved Cappuccino Strip is where you’ll find the majority of these Mediterranean establishments. This strip is also famous for its exciting and diverse street performances.
Top off your time in Fremantle with a drink at one of its many after-hours spots. The nightlife in Fremantle is very strong and some Perthians even prefer it to their own city’s.
Tasmania is Australia’s forgotten state – a bit of an afterthought that only evokes images of Looney Toon characters or barbarous locals it would seem. This probably is for the best though as Tasmania is a true hidden gem. This is a paradise, with fantastic landscapes, eccentric people, and some world-class cuisine. Tasmania is one of the best places in Australia and no one knows about it!
Tasmania is an island state, separated from the mainland by the Bass Strait. The majority of the population (40%) lives in the Greater Hobart precinct, which serves as the state’s capital. Other settlements of note include Launceston, Bicheno, and Strahan, among other communes of varying size. Outside of these urban areas, Tasmania is mostly pristine wilderness, a good chunk of which is protected parkland or heritage site.
Tasmania is home to some very diverse geography. The interior of the island is very rugged, composed of jagged mountains and thick rainforests. The coastline doesn’t disappoint either as there are some beaches and bays here that could easily rival those of the mainland. So varied and stunning are the landscapes here that Tasmania is often referred to as Little New Zealand!
I could on and on about how amazing Tasmania is but I, unfortunately, do not have the space or time to do so in this article. Instead, we at Broke Backpacker decided to write a whole other guide, again! Much like our previously mentioned guide for the East Coast, our backpacking Tasmania guide is complete with everything that you need to know about the island. In it, you will find tips on how to travel in this Australian Arcadia, from Getting In to Hiking to Food in Tasmania.
Looking for a place to crash in Hobart? Check out my guide to the 10 best hostels in Hobart!
Off the Beaten path in Australia
There’s a lot of nowhere in Australia, which means that there are lots of opportunities to get off the beaten path. With the proper vehicle and supplies, you’ll be able make your own exbiditions into the lesser-visited places of Australia. Get ready for some of the longest, bumpiest rides of your life as you go exploring the Australian nowhere!
Backpacking The Nullarbor Plain
Located on the southern coast between South and Western Australia is the Nullarbor Plain, a seemingly endless expanse of nothingness. This is one of the loneliest places in the country with little in the way of scenery or human settlement. It’s single road, the Eyre Highway, is its greatest attraction, being the longest, straightest, and flattest route in all of Australia. Crossing the Eyre Highway and the Nullarbor Plain is an daunting and seemingly bleak task; doing so is also a quintessential Australian experience.
This nearly 1000 mile journey begins on the Eyre Peninsula of South Australia, in Port Augusta. From PA, motorists have the option of heading straight west into the Nullarbor or making a detour down the Eyre Peninsula. The latter makes for a nice, relatively exciting trip before entering the Nullarbor. Hang with the wildlife at the picturesque Coffin Bay or get a shot of adrenaline while cage diving with sharks outside of Port Lincoln.
Entering the Nullarbor Plain you’ll see why it’s so talked about: this place is a void, more empty than one could imagine. No trees, no hills, no towns, just nothing.
The most common sights along the Eyre Highway are the occasional roadhouses, which are conveniently if not crucially found every 60 miles or so. These roadhouses are usually composed of a hotel, a gas station, and maybe a market if you’re lucky.
There are a few interesting sites where the Nullarbor meets the Great Australian Bight. The Bunda Cliffs are one of the longest and most dramatic stretches of coastal cliffs in the entire world. At their eastern end is the Head of the Bight, which is one of the best places in the world to see migrating whales. On the western edge are the brilliantly white Eucla Sand Dunes.
Backpacking the Victorian Great Dividing Range
The Great Dividing Range is a huge collection of highlands and low-mountains that stretches from Central Victoria all the way up to the northern tip of Queensland. Note that the Victorian portion of this range is specifically discussed her – the segments belonging to New South Wales and Queensland are found in our Backpacking the East Coast guide. The most important parts of the Victorian Great Dividing Range are the Grampians National Park and Alpine National Park.
The Grampians are the westernmost extent of the Great Dividing Range. With lots of hiking and some of the best rock climbing routes in Australia, the Grampians are a Victorian’s favorite outdoor playground.
The most popular trails in the Grampians lead to the Pinnacle and the Balconies due in part to their spectacular vistas. Mackenzie Falls is the largest waterfall in Victoria and another crowd favorite.
The Grampians are home to nearly 70% of Victoria’s Aboriginal Art! Those interested can visit one of many sites, like Gulgurn Manja and Ngamadjidj, around nearby Brambuk Park.
Further east is Alpine National Park. Combined with Kosciuszko National Park in NSW, this region of the Great Dividing Range contains the highest mountains in Australia. Here it’s cold enough in the winter to actually allow regular snowfall, making this area the only place to go skiing in Australia!
There are a number of ski resorts in Alpine National Park. Mt. Buller and Mt. Hotham are the most prominent resorts in Victoria and make for good cross-country skiing bases. The amount of snow that this region receives is obviously little compared to some international ski destinations though so don’t expect too much.
In the summer, there are some great walks around Alpine National Park. For a comprehensive list, refer to this website.
Backpacking the Outback
The Outback. The Bush. The Fuck-all Middle of Straya. The reason why most who want to go backpacking in Australia visit in the first place. Many have little clue though has to how large and how imposing this region actually is.
Few actually comprehend the Outback’s size or its conditions. Though the exact number isn’t agreed upon, the Outback constitutes at least 70% of Australia’s landmass and is around 2-3 million square miles. The whole of India is 1.5 million square miles – that’s a lot of fuck-all!
Water is extremely sparse in the Outback. Temperatures vary widely depending on the season and time of year, from sub-zero to over 110 Fahrenheit. People die out here from exposure all the time. If you plan to venture out into the desert, you must be prepared.
The Outback isn’t a singular destination that you just include in an itinerary – it’s a collection of several desert regions that form an unfathomably large ecosystem. You can visit parts of the Outback but there’s no way that you could visit the whole thing; there are huge swathes of the Outback that haven’t even been charted yet.
A few of the Outback’s top destinations have already been covered in this guide, like Alice Springs, the Kimberly, and the Nullarbor Plain. This section is for outlining some of the last remaining portions of the Outback that are relatively accessible. These places are, of course, minuscule in the grand scheme of things. By referring to the table below though, you may get some good ideas about where and how to properly experience the epic and humbling Outback.
|Destination||Location||Why Visit Here?!|
|Mungo National Park||New South Wales||Alien rock formations and large dunes.|
|Lake Eyre||South Australia||Largest and lowest lake in Australia that changes color depending on the water level and salinity.|
|Flinders Ranges||South Australia||Home of the Wilpena Pound - a huge, natural amphitheater that has to be seen.|
|Coober Pedy||South Australia||Old mining town that is famous for its underground dwellings called "dugouts."|
|Karijini National Park||Western Australia||Elegant gorges and breathtakingly vibrant rock makes this one of the most beautiful places in the Outback.|
|Mount Augustus||Western Australia||A real competitor for Uluru; larger but less prominent.|
|Simpson Desert||South Australia/ Western Australia/Northern Territory||A vast desert full of red sand dunes. Picturesque Outback.|
Australia is absolutely chalked full of backpacker lodges and hostels! These are among the best and most entertaining hostels in the entire world. People from every corner of the globe flock to Australia to party and have one of the grandest adventures of their life, be it in a city, on a beach or in the Outback.
Australian hostels are of a very high quality and are often the recipients of numerous backpacking awards. Most organize lots of events from pub crawls to game nights to communal dinners. There are very few hostels in Australia that I can really speak poorly of (feel free to ask me though).
Couchsurfing is, of course, a very legitimate means of staying in the Australian cities and is a great way to save some cash. Australians are an extremely welcoming bunch and have no problem inviting you over to their place for chicken parmy and a beer or ten.
There are many AirBnB options in Australia as well. Should you be traveling with a group of people, you may actually end spending less with an AirBnB than staying in a hostel. Follow this link for $35 free credit to Airbnb and book your apartment today.
At the end of the day though, the best way to sleep in Australia is by camping, either in a tent or in a campervan. Australia has some of the most pristine and wonderful nature in the world and it needs to be experienced in the purest way possible. There’s nothing else like sitting next to a fire in the bush and sleeping under the stars.
Where to Stay in Australia
|Location||Destination||Why Stay Here?!|
|East Coast of Australia||Bounce Sydney||The perfect place to kick off your East Coast road trip! One of the best hostels in Australia w/ an amazing terrace, great location, and heaps of facilities.|
|Canberra||Canberra City YHA||Centrally located hostel w/ bike rentals, city tours, and even a pool/spa!|
|Melbourne||Victoria Hotel Backpackers||Great place to meet fellow travelers and organize a night out. Also a job board for working backpackers!|
|Great Ocean Road||Surfside Backpackers||Very homey hostel located right next to the surfer's beach!|
|Adelaide||Backpack Oz||Very clean and affordable hostel w/ some amazing happy hour specials.|
|Kangaroo Island and Yorke Peninsula||Kangaroo Island Backpackers||Low-key lodge in Kingscote. Only "hostel" on the island.|
|Alice Springs and Uluru||Alice's Secret Traveler Inn||Small, intimate hostel w/ a big ol' garden, a pool, and a BBQ.|
|Darwin||Melaleuca on Mitchell||Large hostel that has a huge second floor terrace complete w/ a full bar and two pools.|
|Broome||Beaches of Broome||Luxurious hostel that is more of a "budget resort." Located very close to the main beaches.|
|Exmouth and Ningaloo Reef||Potshot Resort||Hostel w/ a large patio area for drinking and dining. Bar and pool onsite.|
|Kalbarri||Kalbarri Backpackers YHA||Pretty standard hostel that offers free boogie board rentals and sometime snorkeling gear. BBQ and pool on site.|
|Perth||Hay Street Traveler's Inn||Excellent location and all the amenities a backpacker could need.|
|Fremantle||Fremantle Old Fire Station Hostel||Beautiful brick hostel that was formally a fire house. Has its own outdoor cinema, job board, and a jukebox!|
|Tasmania||Pickled Frog||Free Mt Wellington trips, MONA shuttles, WIFI, and car park. Located in a central location and recently refurbished.|
Top Things to Do in Australia
Visit the Outback
No backpacking trip to Australia would really be authentic without visiting the Outback. This is one of the harshest, most inhospitable landscapes in the world, and one of the defining features of the nation. Rent a 4×4 and go mobbing in the desert!
Uluru is a true natural wonder and has to be seen in person. Make the long journey to this shrine of a rock and feel the power that it emits.
Go Sailing in the Whitsundays
The Whitsundays are absolutely drop dead gorgeous and are one of the best places in Australia! Sail around the islands and be sure to visit Whitehaven Beach, which is one of the finest in the world.
Drink wine in South Australia
South Australia is the wine capital of Australia and produces some of the country’s most highly regarded vintages. Visit one of the many wine regions surrounding Adelaide and try as much as you can!
Dive in the Great Barrier or Ningaloo Reef
Both the Great Barrier Reef and Ningaloo Reef are among the most impressive ecosystems known to man. Diving in either one is sure to be an amazing experience. Enter an alien, underwater world and be sure to have a waterproof camera!
Melbourne is overflowing with culture. The food, the nightlife, the art, everything here is arguably the best of Australia!
Surfing is one of Australia’s favorite pastimes and is practically the national sport! Anyone planning on backpacking around Australia simply has to try and get on a board. There’s a beach for every skill level and plenty of Aussie mates who’d love to give a lesson.
Camp on Fraser Island
Fraser Island is a must-see place in Australia and the best way to do so is by camping! Charter a boat to this idyllic island and set up shop. More intrepid sorts can walk the entire length of Fraser Island via a multi-day hike as well!
Tasmania is one of the most beautiful places in Australia! This island is far more rugged than the mainland and is full of spectacular mountains, forests, and coastline. Journey here to see a different side of Australia.
Attend a footie or rugby game
Australians are some of the biggest sports fans in the entire world! They go crazy for cricket, rugby, and footie. Fooite or Australian Rules Football is a strange mix of football, rugby, and basketball and is 100% unique to Australia.
Books to Read While Traveling Australia
These are some of my favorite travel reads and books set in Australia, which you should consider picking up before you begin your backpacking adventure…
The Backpacker Bible – Learn how to ditch your desk and travel the world on just $10 a day whilst building an online income.
Shantaram – An ex-con and heroin addict from Melbourne travels to Mumbai, India to start a new life, only to fall into a new set of problems.
Follow the Rabbit-Proof Fence – Aboriginal siblings, stolen from their families, run away from their captors and begin a journey almost a thousand miles long back to home. A leading account of the Stolen Generation.
In a Sunburned Country – A quick-witted and very informative piece of travel writing from Bill Bryson. Written over the course of several trips to the Land Down Under.
Tree of Man – A man and his wife try and make something out of nothing, as they cultivate a little patch of land in the bush.
My Brilliant Career – The first of one of Australia’s greatest epics. Tells the tale of a young woman yearning for life and adventure in the Outback. Written by Miles Franklin when she was 16 and, at the time, considered “culturally inappropriate” by the state.
Picnic at Hanging Rock – A group of young schoolgirls disappears one day while on a picnic, leading to hysteria and bewilderment among the community.
Cloudstreet – Two Australian families try to coexist and thrive while living together in a suburb of Perth.
Voss – A fictionalized account of Ludwig Leichhardt, a Prussian explorer who went into the Outback and disappeared.
Lonely Planet Australia – It’s sometimes worth traveling with a guidebook. Despite Lonely Planet’s history of selling out and writing about places they haven’t been to, they’ve done a good job with Australia.
10 Australian Travel Phrases
The Australian accent is infamous by now having been the subject of a million pop culture references. When asked to impersonate an Australian accent, most foreigners emulate characticatures like Crocodile Dundee or Steve Irwin. Hate to break it to you but the way in which many of these icons speak is either over-exaggerated or very demographically specific. Most Australians speak in a fairly neutral accent and with proper diction. Not every Australian yells “G’DAY MATE!” or puts so much twang into their voice when saying things like “like” or “right” or “fight.” These are cultural stereotypes and pretty unfair.
The Australian accent can be pretty diverse. As you travel south – towards Adelaide and Melbourne – the manner of speech becomes more subdued and may sound more similar to that of an Englishman. Conversely, the farther north you go, the more the accent begins to sound like that stereotype. Let’s be honest: many people from Queensland and the Northern Territory tend to sound very similar to the Crocodile Hunter.
Australians use a lot of slang; so much so that sometimes it can be hard to understand them. There is a lot of word chopping and sometimes it seems as if a random vowel is stuck at the end of every word to complete it. You’ll catch on to the colloquialisms fairly quickly but, for a little extra help, I’ve included a list of some popular Australian slang.
Staying Safe in Australia
Australia has a nasty reputation for being full of deadly creatures that are out to get you at every turn. Killer snakes, spiders, crocodiles, jellyfish, hell even the kangaroos can really ruin your day here. It’s important to remember though that death at the hands of these animals is usually very sensationalized and that statistics don’t back up any sort of hysteria. Believe it or not, the common bee and wasp, not spiders, are actually the number one killers in Australia. Truth is this: Australia and it’s wildlife isn’t nearly as terrifying as one might think it is.
That being said, it is extremely important to take all cautionary advice and notices with the utmost seriousness. If a sign or a local says that an area is dangerous, either because of sharks or crocs or whatever, then, for fuck’s sake, listen to them! Australians have become day-to-day experts on what can kill you and how to avoid it. At the end of the day, just follow this easy advice: if you don’t see any Australians doing it, then don’t do it yourself.
The elements should probably be your biggest concern while backpacking in Australia. Drowning is perhaps the #1 cause of death in Australia as the ocean currents can be very strong. The water may seem calm but, get caught in a wild rip, and you can quickly get submerged or pushed out to sea. Swim in designated areas and check signs for ocean conditions.
As mentioned before, heat is a major problem in Australia. Temperatures can soar to unthinkable heights and atmospheric radiation is a serious threat here. Forest fires caused by dry conditions are a serious problem as well, but usually only occur in the backcountry.
Sex, Drugs and Rock ‘n’ Roll in Australia
Australians love to party; a lot. At least once, we’ve all that group of Australians who were constantly getting drunk and looking to score. Some observers may have even thought to themselves: “how the hell are they still doing this?” or “for what possible reason would you do that?” Well, there is one, I assure you.
Drugs and alcohol in Australian are astronomically expensive. On average, a pint of beer is $7-$8 and a spirit is a couple of bucks more maybe. Cigarettes cost somewhere in the late teens; and don’t even get me started on the drugs. A pill or pinger is $20 each and a gram of coke will run you about $300; the white stuff is, expectedly, not very good either as it’s been shipped a long way from South America and probably been cut a few times.
These ridiculous prices are why you see Australians partying all the time outside of their country: everything is just so much cheaper abroad and so they go crazy.
Prices be damned though, Australians still like to have a good time in their native land though. Many go out in groups and buy rounds or shouts for one another. If you plan on drinking with the locals while backpacking Australia, it’s very important to keep up with the shouts. Drinking a beer that someone has bought for you and not contributing to the shout is a dick move.
Be careful when drinking and driving as well. Australia has a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to drunk driving and any BAC over 0.05% will be met with harsh punishment. Random checkpoints are commonly set up and at all times of the day to pull over drivers and check their sobriety.
Get insurance! Even if you are only going on a short trip, you should always travel with insurance. Have fun on your Australia backpacking trip, but take it from someone who has racked up thousands of bucks on an insurance claim before, you need it.
As a wise man once said, if you can’t afford travel insurance, you shouldn’t be travelling – so be sure to get your backpacker insurance sorted before you head off on an adventure! I highly recommend World Nomads.
Find out why I recommend World Nomads, check out my World Nomads Insurance review.
What to Pack for Australia
On every adventure, there are five things I never go traveling without:
1. Security Belt with Hidden Pocket: I never hit the road without my security belt. This is a regular looking belt with a concealed pocket on the inside – you can hide up to twenty notes inside and wear it through airport scanners without it setting them off. This is hands down the best way to hide your cash.
2.Travel Water Bottle: Always travel with a water bottle – it’ll save you money and reduce your plastic footprint on our planet. AR bottle are tough, lightweight and maintain the temperature of your beverage – so you can enjoy a cold red bull, or a hot coffee, no matter where you are. For every AR bottle sold, we donate 10% to PlasticOceans.org – an initiative to reduce plastic in our oceans!
3. Microfibre Towel: It’s always worth packing a proper towel. Hostel towels are scummy and take forever to dry. Microfibre towels dry quickly, are compact, lightweight and can be used as a blanket or yoga mat if need be.
4. Headtorch: I would never travel without a headtorch. Even if you only end up using it once, a decent head torch could save your life. If you want to explore caves, unlit temples or simply find your way to the bathroom during a blackout, a headtorch is a must. Currently, I’m using the Petzl LED headlamp with red light (which insects can’t see).
5. Hammock: Taking a tent backpacking is not always practical but hammocks are lightweight, cheap, strong, sexy (chicks dig hammocks) and allow you to pitch up for the night pretty much anywhere. Right now, I’m rocking an Active Roots parachute hammock – it’s light, colorful and tough.
For plenty more inspiration on what to pack, check out my full backpacking packing list.
Best Time to Travel to Australia
Australia has two distinct climate zones: a tropical one in the north and a more temperate one in the south. There are several microclimates found in each of these zones but, broadly speaking, they are still subject to the same sort of seasons. Note that because Australia is in the southern hemisphere, its summers are from December-February and its winters are June-August.
The south of Australia – composed of NSW, Victoria, South Australia, Tasmania, and (south)Western Australia – has a more temperate climate and usually has four seasons. In some places, like Perth and Sydney, these seasons can appear very similar to one another as the weather is pleasant year round. In other areas, like Melbourne or Tasmania, the weather is more unpredictable and even harsh at times, especially in the mountains. Melbourne famously gets “four seasons in one day.”
The north of Australia, including Queensland, the Northern Territory, and (north)Western Australia is tropical and only has two distinct seasons: a hot, wet summer and a cool, dry winter. Summers – referred to as the big wet – can be oppressively hot and some places can receive biblical amounts of rainfall. The deadly box jellyfish also comes closer ashore in the summer resulting in near complete beach closures.
Summer really isn’t a good time to visit the north of Australia. Much better to visit in the winter – referred to as the big dry – when it’s slightly cooler, drier, and devoid of deadly jellies.
Since the north is almost always visited in the winter, demand is very high during this time. Prices will be much higher because of short supply so be sure to keep this in mind before finalizing your itinerary.
Apps to Download Before Traveling to Australia
Maps.Me – Prone to getting lost or taking that ‘shortcut’ that adds another few hours onto a simple walk? This app is one of the best travel apps, but it’s especially convenient in Australia. You will more than likely lose your way in the Outback and this offline map can heop you find your way back! Download your map before you get here to keep you on track while backpacking Australia.
XE Currency – I used this a lot when backpacking Australia. It is a great help while calculating expenses.
HIDE.ME – I always have a VPN ready to go on both my phone and laptop, I personally use Hide Me which is one of the fastest and most reliable options out there. This particular VPN allows for up to five connections which is handy for keeping all your devices connected without having to purchase multiple VPN packages.
Australia Travel Guide to Getting Around
Getting to and around Australia can be a long and arduous affair. Travel to Australia from the USA is a 13-hour plane ride and it seems that every Australian city is at least 8 hours drive away from each other – Perth to Adelaide is a 1.5 day journey by car. Should you decide to travel to Australia, you’ll be staring at the back of seat or an empty road very often but the moments in between make the whole trip worthwhile.
Entry Requirements for Australia
There several different types of tourist visas available to those who wish to go backpacking in Australia. The three primary tourist visa types are:
- Visitor visa (subclass 600)
- Electronic Travel Authority Visa (ETA) (subclass 601)
- eVisitor (subclass 651)
The 601 and 651 visas essentially function in the same way albeit with different application processes. The 600 is for those who want to stay in Australia for longer than 3 months at a time and for those who don’t qualify for either a 601 or 651. The grand majority of nationalities can apply for all of these visas online.
The ETA (601) and eVisitors (651) are the simplest and easiest visas to acquire. Both enable unlimited entries into Australia within the span of a year – the duration of stay cannot exceed 3 months at a time. The biggest difference between these two types of visas is that they are only available to specific countries. Americans and Canadians, in addition to several other nations, must apply for an ETA. British, as well as most European citizens, must apply for an eVisitors visa.
The Visitor visa (600) is the most expensive of Australian visas but can grant the most time. Applicants can apply for a 3, 6, or 12-month duration at rates that vary from AUD140 to AUD1020. For any nation that doesn’t qualify for a 601 or 651, the 600 visa is the only means of entering Australia.
Upon arriving at customs, your visa will be checked and you’ll be subject to search. Australian customs takes declared items very seriously so you must be sure to do so. Also, note that criminal offenses and felonies may bar you from entering the country.
Working Holiday Visas in Australia
Several nationalities have the option of applying for an Australian working holiday visa, which authorizes travelers to work legally in the country. This visa is an amazing opportunity for anyone who wants to stay and go backpacking in Australia for a longer term.
There are two types of working holiday visas in Australia:
- A Working Holiday visa (subclass 417)
- A Work and Holiday visa (subclass 462)
(If you’re thinking to yourself how stupidly similar these visa titles are, I’m right there with ya.)
Both visas entitle visitors the ability to work in Australia for a period of 12 months. Note that the possessor of a 417 or 462 can only hold a single job for a period of 6 months. Certain countries can only apply for a 417 or 462 i.e. the English can qualify a 417 but Americans must apply for a 462.
To apply for either visa, applicants will need to show that you have at least AUD5,000 in their bank account. Both visas will also require a bill of clean health and clean criminal record.
Applicants of a 462 visa will need to provide some key additional details. With the exception of the United States, those applying for a 462 must provide a letter of support from their government. 462 applicants will also have to pass a character test in which they’ll need to prove that they’re of good moral quality. Usually, a certificate of excellence, like a diploma or special certification, will suffice for this.
The most important difference between a 417 and 462 is that possessors of the former can apply for a second year given they’ve met some criteria. Unfortunately, American citizens and other 462 applicants can only have a working holiday in Australia for up to a year.
Australian Backpacker Jobs
Most backpackers end up with fruit picking jobs in Australia. The work can be hard and life can be boring at times but the cost of living is quite low and those with a 417 visa will earn an extra year on their visa. If you can manage it, this is one of the best ways to have a working holiday in Australia!
Backpackers are so established in the fruit picking industry and businessmen are in turn so reliant upon them that it’s usually very easy to find a job. There are dozens of online boards with postings for farm jobs in Australia. Some popular websites are gumtree.com.au, backpackerjobboard.com.au, and taw.com.au.
When you arrive at your farmstay, you’ll probably be surprised. Many of these farms look like hostels complete with bunk rooms, communal areas, and recreations. You’ll have to pay for a bed but the prices are very cheap. Sometimes you may have to sleep off-premises, in which case a car really comes in handy; otherwise, there’s always the bus.
You can make a decent living working on a farm. Most clear $600/week on average but a hard worker can definitely make more. Make no mistake though: this is difficult work. Farming in Australia isn’t pretty but it can certainly be rewarding. You’ll become quite close to both the land and to your fellow working backpackers.
Farm work isn’t the only means of making money in Australia. Some of the best jobs for a working visa in Australia include serving, nannying, cooking, and cleaning. If you’re really lucky, you’ll may even find a job in mining. If you decide to work in the city, know that costs of living will be much higher.
How to Travel in Australia
There are two ways of traveling in Australia and both offer widely different experiences. The first is by public transport i.e buses, trains, and planes and the other is with your own vehicle in the form of a rental car or campervan. The latter option is the vastly superior method.
Using public transport to travel outside and in between the major cities can be a tedious affair. Traveling by bus can be convenient and cheap so long as you’re staying on the East Coast where there are frequent stops. Bus travel in the bush, which pretty much includes all of South Australia, the Northern Territory, and Western Australia, can be long and, in turn, pricey.
Greyhound does offer hop-on-hop-off travel passes that can certainly be convenient. Check the rates at the official website and weigh the pros and cons of purchasing a pass.
Train travel is possible but this is a more luxurious form of travel i.e. more expensive. Taking the train in Australia is an experience in itself though and some long-distance routes, like the Ghan, can be very rewarding.
Flying is the primary means of getting around Australia due in part to the country’s size. Flights are relatively cheap and actually quite convenient.
Hitchhiking in Australia is a common and very safe practice. Make sure to follow the usual rules of the trade though and, as always, use common sense. Be wary of hitchhiking in the Outback – cars may be far and few in between and you could be in real trouble if you’re stuck out there in the baking sun. Always be prepared and treat hitchhiking like a wilderness situation.
Having a Campervan in Australia
By far the best way to get around Australia is by having your own vehicle. There are many car rental companies in Australia that offer long-term contracts. Each has a wide variety of vehicle types from sedans to 4x4s to campervans.
Campervans are definitely the most popular way of getting around Australia as they provide both transport and lodging at the same time. Living out of a campervan can be convenient, fun, and cheaper than conventional travel. By having the ability to sleep anywhere you want, you’ll save money and get more out of your Australian adventure.
Thanks to the plethora of rental companies available, it’s a breeze to hire a campervan while backpacking Australia. Most offer good rates especially for longer periods of time.
I recommend going with Wicked Campers if you plan on renting a campervan in Australia. Make sure to check the contract though – many rental companies impose certain restrictions on going offroading and over a certain amount of miles per day, and charge extra fees for not following these parameters.
If you plan on staying in Australia for a long time (more than 6 months) try buying your own campervan. Doing this will allow you more flexibility and, if you took care of the car, the chance to sell it when you’re done. You can find adds for used campers in many hostels and on the online boards like gumtree.com.au.
When buying a camper, be sure to take the vehicle to the shop to get it checked before actually committing. Most auto shops are used to this kind of request and will charge a competitive fee.
Onwards Travel from Australia
Being the world’s largest island and a continent that consists of a single nation, there are not too many ways to get out of the country by land or sea. Luckily, Australia benefits from some very, very cheap international airline routes.
The cheapest and most convenient flights out of Australia are usually bound for Asian destinations. Budget Asian airlines, like AirAsia, in addition to Australia’s own budget airlines – Jetstar and Tiger – make traveling to Asia a breeze. From any of the major Australian cities, and for as low as $100 sometimes, you can carry on your backpacking adventure in the likes of Indonesia, Japan, India, Philippines, even Pakistan! Seriously, you can get just about anywhere in Asia from Australia and for a great price.
Since AirAsia so ridiculously cheap and popular, you’ll most likely end up connecting in its place of origin: Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Malaysia is a pretty cool spot and backpacking around the peninsula or on the island of Borneo is definitely worth trying. Otherwise, you can get just about anywhere from Kuala Lumpur. If you aren’t connecting in KL, then you’ll most likely end up in Bangkok, Thailand, which certainly has its own reputation.
Asia aside, you can, of course, head across the Tasman to start backpacking in New Zealand. Backpacking around New Zealand is a very similar experience to Australia in that you’ll be paying the same prices and most likely living out of a campervan. Unlike Australia though, New Zealand has a wildly diverse geography and is much more temperate, both in terms of climate and native personality.
Australia is not a cheap country. Many people are shocked when they see how expensive things like beer or a meal can be. I’ll never forget my first time in an Australian liquor store: twas a harrowing experience. No matter; there’s always a way to save cash regardless of where you may be. If you’re traveling to Australia on a budget, it’s very important to have proper spending habits.
A comfortable backpacker budget in Australia will be somewhere between $60-$80 per day.
A bunk bed will cost between $15-$30 per night depending on where you are. More popular destinations, like Melbourne and Sydney, will be more expensive while most of Queensland and parts of Western Australia will be cheaper.
Australian restaurants are usually pretty expensive with the average meal costing around $10-$25 sans booze. I strongly advise those backpacking around Australia to limit how much they dine out – the food is overpriced and, quite often, bland. Much better to buy cheaper groceries and cook at the hostel.
Partying is EXTREMELY expensive in Australia. Seriously, there’s a reason Australians do all the drugs when they travel: they’re too fucking expensive back home. Cigarette prices are ridiculous and a beer is $7 minimum. If you must drink, buy the cheap and ubiquitous boxed wines aka goon – these will be your only saving grace.
If you plan on participating in any of the classic Australian adventures, like diving at the Great Barrier or sailing in the Whitsundays, you will definitely be paying a pretty penny. The only thing to do is just save up as much as possible and then pick one or two of your favorites to participate in.
Money in Australia
The official currency of Australia is the Australian dollar or AUD. As of May 2018, the official conversion rate for the Australian dollar is 1 AUD=0.76 USD. The value of the Australian dollar has fallen in recent years due to economic changes but the country is still prosperous and expensive by international standards.
ATMs are widely available and pulling out cash via a foreign card is an effortless affair. Most ATMs will charge a withdrawal fee on top of whatever international charges your bank imposes. Best to take out lots of cash at once to avoid paying too much in fees.
Should you be working in Australia, it’s very easy to set up a bank account. All of the major banking corporations – Commonwealth, Westpac, NAB, ANZ – have basic savings accounts that are very convenient and easy to use for those who are on a working holiday in Australia. Drop by any bank and inquire about how to start your account.
If you had a job while backpacking Australia, definitely make sure to do your taxes at the end of the fiscal year! Backpackers are usually entitled to a huge tax return (for reasons that are hard to explain) and it would be a real shame to walk away from a big payday!
|You should always have some emergency cash hidden on you and Will (Broke Backpacker founder) has written an entire post on the best places to hide your money. If you want to carry a fair bit of cash safely on your body, your best bet is to get hold of a backpacker belt with a hidden security pocket.|
Top Tips for Broke Backpackers
Camp: With plenty of gorgeous places to camp, Australia can be a great place to camp in the rural areas. You can also ask to pitch a tent in people’s yards. Check out this post for a breakdown of the best tents to take backpacking. If you’re feeling real adventurous and want to save some cash, consider picking up a backpacking hammock.
Cook your own food: If you are on a tight budget, you can save money by cooking your own food – I recommend bringing a portable backpacking stove.
Book your transportation early: Both plane and train tickets are much cheaper if you purchase them in advance. This rule does not apply to buses, which you can often book within the day or even hour.
Couchsurf: Australians are awesome, but I would be cautious if you are a woman travelling alone. Check for reviews. That being said, Couch surfing to make some real friendships and see this country from the perspective of locals.
Pack a travel water bottle and save money every day!
To learn how to travel the world on $10 a day, check out the backpacker’s bible.
Internet in Australia
Australia benefits from a fairly modern telecommunications network. WiFi, 4G speeds, and other forms of connection are widely available and easy to find. Most cafes and many public spaces, like libraries, busy town squares, and grocery stores, have free hotspots that can be connected to with only a little effort.
Some people do complain that Australian internet can be slow. I personally had no problem while using it though. Compared to some other nations (I’m looking at you South Africa) Australian internet is miles ahead and totally reliable.
The real issue with Australian internet is that it’s overpriced and that packages quickly run out (what did you expect?). People that use the internet heavily, especially those who rely upon free public WiFi, may be frustrated when they’re constantly getting kicked off capped networks or exhausting all of their data allowances.
Must Try Experiences in Australia
People in Australia
Australians are some of the most welcoming, exciting, and unabashed people that I’ve ever met. They have so little worries and give so little fucks that life just seems easier in their presence. Even immediate dangers, like an impending tidal wave or the jaws of a killer croc, are made insignificant by an Australian’s devil-may-care attitude. 100%, these are some the coolest people that I’ve come across in my travels.
It can be argued that the Australian attitude derives from their inhospitable environment. An Australian is threatened on a near day-to-day basis either from deadly creatures, ridiculous climate patterns or from people that constantly need to remind them of these last two points. After a while, danger itself just becomes commonplace and desensitizing.
The fact that Australia is so geographically remote as well means that hardly any international presence notices or really holds Australia very accountable. Combine this with the Australian’s grit and you have a people that just do whatever makes them feel good.
To be fair, Australians who live in their home country are a little different from the ones that you see traveling so much. Rooted Australians are still hard workers and seemingly proficient at any trade involving blue collar work. The country didn’t become so prosperous and the people so rich because they constantly didn’t give a shit; so let’s not go so far as to say that they are good-for-nothings.
We mustn’t forget either that Australia is inhabited by more than just White people and immigrants. Aboriginal people, the original Australians, are also present in modern Australian society, though to a smaller degree. Odds are you won’t encounter many Aboriginal folk while backpacking through Australia; if you do though, act accordinging to our Being a Responsible Backpacker section.
Food in Australia
Australian cuisine is heavily influenced by its colonial roots. English, Italian, Asian, and Greek styles are all present in modern day Australian cooking to varying degrees.
Being a colony of the British Empire first and foremost, Australian cuisine resembles most that of the English variety. Many staples like fish ‘n’ chips and meat pies are present in both. When dining out in Australia, expect a similar experience to as if you were dining out in the UK. The food will be hearty, heavy, and, at times, somewhat basic.
Being a nation of immigrants though, there is plenty more than the usual English fair. Asian cuisines of every shade are present in Australia and are actually some of the best you’ll outside of the Asian continent. Several Mediterranean cultures call Australia home as well and have brought their cuisines with them. Thank the Italians for introducing a strong cafe culture in Australia – coffee in Australia is surprisingly delicious and taken seriously.
Barbecuing is a very important custom in Australia and is perhaps the highlight of the nation’s culinary scene. Aside from the usual BBQ’d meats, Australians also enjoy various grilled game. Kangaroo is healthy and cheap. Other more exotic meats like emu, alligator, and even grubs are available in specialty markets.
Below is a list of Australia’s most popular dishes.
Festivals in Australia
Aside from a few public holidays that are absolutely mandatory to celebrate, like Anzac Day, Australia Day, and New Year’s Eve, the majority of festivals in Australia are musical. Having lived in the nation for some time, I can confidently say that are very few countries that have as many music festivals per capita as Australia! There seems to be a different one nearly every weekend in this country.
There are other cultural celebrations in Australia that showcase other forms of expression but they sometimes feel buried by the musical ones. I’ve included several prominent ones in the list below. They, in addition to the public holidays and the music festivals, make for a thrilling time.
Australia Day (January 26) – Australian Independence Day. One of the most important holidays in the country w/ lots of celebrations. The super popular Rainbow Serpent Festival is held on this weekend as well.
Fringe Adelaide (February-March) – Second largest arts festival in the world after Edinburgh’s Fringe.
Anzac Day (April 25) – Day of remembrance for fallen soldiers. Usually a very somber and ceremonial day.
Gold Coast Film Festival (April) – Film festival in Australia’s premier filmmaking city.
The Byron Bay Bluesfest (April) – One of the world’s largest contemporary music festivals. Features blues, roots, alternative, and more musical styles.
Groovin’ the Moo (April-May) – Popular touring festival w/ a diverse showcase of musical groups.
Wide Open Space (May) – Cultural festival that celebrates desert life. Music is very trancy and underground.
Splendour in the Grass (July) – Perhaps Australia’s most famous music festival that attracts acts of all fame and varieties.
Melbourne Cup (November 5) – The most prestigious horse racing event in Australia. Lots of silly hats.
Falls Festival (December/January) – Another touring festival that is similar to Groovin’ the Moo.
Trekking in Australia
Hiking, or bushwalking, is one of the most popular pastimes in Australia! If you plan on going backpacking in Australia, you must go walking in the wilderness for a few days.
Venturing out into the bush in Australia is like taking a walk through the nation’s history. Here is a forbidding land, full of harsh landscapes and bitter elements, the likes of which tested and tortured the original settlers. Should you decide to brave these wilds, you will gain real insight into the Australian identity. To enter the Australian backcountry you will also need to be prepared.
If you’re planning on going hiking in Australia, then you’ll definitely need a tent. Also, consider buying a sleeping mat or a hammock instead. A wilderness stove will also be very useful for preparing food while you’re in the backcountry for days at a time.
I always suggest getting a sturdy backpack as well, especially so if you intend venturing deep into the wilderness. My first backpack was a cheap one. Though it lasted a respectable amount of time, it would eventually be held together by duct tape and carabiners. Needless to say, it was far from waterproof.
Take my advice: invest in a quality backpack because by the end of your trip you’ll be wearing it so much that it’ll become an extension of your own body. You want the best.
I suggest the new Osprey Aether AG 70 backpack, which you can read about here, and don’t forget to consider a daypack as well. A good daypack will be just as useful during your day-to-day activities and should slide nicely into your larger backpack.
Below is a list of some of Australia’s best multi-day trails.
45-60 days, 406 miles
Long and arduous hike that is only meant for the experienced or guided. Passes through the highest mountains of Australia. Requires food drops.
5-7 days, 52 miles
Walk across the entire length of Fraser Island, which is one of the most beautiful places in Australia.
16-20 days, 140 miles
The ultimate Outback adventure! Fairly new trail and already one of the best in the country.
6-8 days, 88 miles
A stunning coastal walk that is conveniently located near Perth. Showcases some of the best scenery in the Margaret River region.
5-8 days, 46 miles
A walk through the finest mountain landscapes in Tasmania. Arguably the best trek in Australia.
Surfing in Australia
Surfing is as much a part of the Australian identity as kangaroos or prawns on the barbie. Australia is extremely passionate when it comes to hanging ten and catching some waves. Obviously, surfing didn’t develop in Australia by chance either; Australia has some of the finest beaches for surfing in the entire world and these attract thousands of surfers every year.
There are so many amazing surfing spots in Australia that it would seem more logical to note where you couldn’t actually surf. Everywhere you go there’s seems to be good breaks and swells. Of course, you won’t be surfing in the Sydney Harbour or at the Melbourne pier but travel less than an hour and, boom, you’ll be right in the middle of some prime waves.
Below is a list of some of Australia’s top surfing locations. There’s a pretty diverse selection from all over the country though the Northern Territory seems to be lacking in this regard.
|Where to Go Surfing||Location||Why Surf Here?!|
|Sydney Northern Beaches||New South Wales||Some of the best surf in NSW and still technically within the city of Sydney. Check out Manly and Palm Beaches.|
|Central Coast||New South Wales||Very popular surf spot in NSW. See Avalon and Copacabana Beaches.|
|Lennox||New South Wales||Small village near Byron Bay. Surf has powerful right-hand breaks.|
|Gold Coast||Queensland||They didn't call this area "surfer's paradise" for no reason. Definitely visit Snapper Rocks, Duranbah, and Burleigh Heads.|
|Noosa Heads||Queensland||Popular among long boarders. Visit Tea Tree Bay and Granite Bay.|
|Bells Beach, Torquay||Victoria||Spiritual birthplace of Australian surfing.|
|Victor Harbor||South Australia||Excellent surf on the Fleurieu Peninsula. Check out Knights Beach and Waitpinga Beach.|
|Rottnest Island||Western Australia||Quiet and low-key. Check out Strickland Bay, Salmon Bay and Stark Bay.|
|Margaret River||Western Australia||Great surf for all surfer skill levels. Visit Cape Naturaliste, Yallingup Beach, and Smiths Beach.|
|Marrawah||Tasmania||Biggest waves in Tasmania.|
Looking for a place to stay while surfing Queensland? Check out my 7 best hostels in Surfers Paradise post!
Diving in Australia
Though the Great Barrier Reef receives the lion’s share of attention, there are plenty more options to going diving in Australia! Sprinkled throughout the Australian coastline are many gorgeous reefs, sunken ships, and sea caves that are just waiting to be explored. These destinations definitely get far fewer tourists than the Great Barrier Reef and far more diving enthusiasts. If you’re really into diving, then definitely check out any one of these spots (that aren’t the Great Barrier)!
|Where to Go Diving||Location||Why Dive Here?!|
|Julian Rocks||Byron Bay, NSW||Famed their rich diversity of maritime life.|
|Fish Rock||South West Rocks, NSW||Best sea cave for diving in Australia.|
|SS Yongala||Townsville, Queensland||Enormous wreck that has become of the world's greatest artificial reefs.|
|Osprey Reef||Far north of Queensland||Renowned for its huge shark population.|
|Piccaninnie Ponds||Mount Gambier, South Australia||Crystal-clear freshwater lake in South Australia.|
|Ningaloo Reef||Exmouth-Coral Bay, Western Australia||One of the few places that can rival the Great Barrier Reef. Comes very close to the beach.|
Brief History of Australia
The following is a brief history provided by Alexandria Zboyovski, who wrote our Backpacking the East Coast and Tasmania guides. Props to her for writing an excellent summary of Australia’s short and fascinating history.
“Aboriginal Australians arrived on Australia mainland between 40,000 and 70,000 years ago. Their traditions relating to music, art, and spirituality are among the longest surviving in human history. Before the arrival of the British, the number of Aboriginal people living in Australia was between 300,000 and 1 million.
In 1770, Lieutenant James Cook claimed the land for Great Britain, after the Dutch first sighted Australia in 1606. In 1788, a fleet of 11 boats arrived in Botany Bay to establish New South Wales as a Penal Colony. Furthermore, convicts were sent to all states, but South Australia became a free colony in 1836. More than 162,000 convicts were transported to Australia from Great Britain.
Australia began to look like a desirable location after the discovery of gold and the kickstart to their economy. The Eureka Stockade at Ballarat, in 1854, was a rebellion against taxation. Some see this as a crucial event in the evolution of Australia’s democracy.
Chinese immigration began at this period with 50,000 Chinese establishing roots in Australia.
In 1901, a federation of all of the states, the Commonwealth of Australia was created. The creation of Canberra marked it as the capital of New South Wales, with a temporary parliament in Melbourne.
The Australian and New Zealand Anzac Corps took part in the World War I Gallipoli Campaign, in 1915. April 25, ANZAC Day, was the same date as the first landing at Gallipoli. Australians remember and pay their respects to the sacrifices of their armed forces on this day.
After World War II and the Vietnam War, an influx of migrants moved to Australia. Between 1949-1974, The Snowy Mountains Scheme employed 100,000 people. 70% of these people were migrants from 30 different nations. Today, people from all over the world call Australia home. The continent has become known for its equality and lack of clear class distinctions.”
Volunteer in Australia
Long term travel is awesome. Giving back is awesome too. For backpackers looking to travel long-term on a budget in Australia whilst making a real impact on local communities, look no further than World Packers. World Packers is an excellent platform connecting travelers with meaningful volunteer positions throughout the world.
In exchange for a few hours of work each day, your room and board are covered.
Backpackers can spend long periods of time volunteering in an awesome place without spending any money. Meaningful life and travel experiences are rooted in stepping out of your comfort zone and into the world of a purposeful project. World Packers opens the doors for work opportunities in hostels, homestays, NGOs and eco-projects around the world. Broke Backpacker readers get a special discount of $20 – just use this discount code BROKEBACKPACKER and membership is discounted from $49 a year to $29.
Make Money Online Whilst Backpacking Australia
Traveling in Australia long-term? Keen to make some cash when you are not exploring the city? Can’t be bothered to pick fruit?
Teaching English online is a great way to earn a consistent income—from anywhere in the world with a good internet connection. Depending on your qualifications (or your motivation to obtain qualifications like a TEFL certificate) you can teach English remotely from your laptop, save some cash for your next adventure, and make a positive impact on the world by improving another person’s language skills! It’s a win-win! Check out this detailed article for everything you need to know to start teaching English online.
Learn what it’s like to be a VIPKID teacher, a top company in the field of online English learning.
In addition to giving you the qualifications to teach English online, TEFL courses open up a huge range of opportunities and you can find teaching work all over the world. To find out more about TEFL courses and how you can teach English around the world, read my in-depth report on teaching English abroad.
Broke Backpacker readers get a 35% discount on TEFL courses with MyTEFL (simply enter the code BACKPKR), to find out more, please read my in-depth report on teaching English abroad.
Whether you are keen to teach English online or looking to take your teaching game a step further by finding a job teaching English in a foreign country, getting your TEFL certificate is absolutely a step in the right direction.
Being a Responsible Backpacker in Australia
It would take a lot of effort to really piss off an Australian. These are among the toughest and yet most easy going people that I’ve ever met. Time after time, Australians just roll with the punches (quite literally sometimes) and then proceed to take a piss and forget about whatever may have had a chance of bothering them.
That being said, it’s still important to act like a decent human being and to show respect. No one likes an asshole coming into their country and stirring shit up. Backpackers especially have been the recipients of much criticism in recent years as some of their behavior has really been causing trouble. I hate to imagine a future where backpackers are ostracized because of a few dumbasses.
For the sake of all backpackers, be a good sort. Show respect to the locals and keep your wits about you. If you go out partying or drinking, do have fun and get rowdy (Australians love to do it too) but please don’t get sloppy and act like an idiot.
On a different note, be sure to tread lightly when it comes to interacting with Aboriginal Australians. This group of people has been subject to unthinkable horrors in the past and are still treating the racial scars that are leftover. Though some White Australians still wallow in ignorance, Australia as a whole is becoming more aware of these people’s struggles and is trying to mend the gap.
Should you encounter an Aboriginal Australian and they’re open to conversation, be very mindful of their customs. Don’t take pictures or enter Aboriginal land without asking first. Be sure to speak using respectful language as well. For more information on the subject of talking with an about Aboriginal natives, refer to this webpage.
Reduce your plastic footprint: Perhaps the best thing you can do for our planet is to make sure you do NOT add to the plastic problem all over the world. Don’t buy one-use water bottles, the plastic ends up in landfill or in the ocean. Instead, pack a tough and cool travel water bottle. For every Active Roots water bottle sold, we donate 10% to PlasticOceans.org – an awesome initiative aimed at educating people on the risk of single use plastic and helping to clean up our oceans. Help save the planet, pick up a water bottle here.
Check out our post on how to be a responsible backpacker.
There was a moment while working in Australia that I asked myself: “why don’t I just live here the rest of my life?” I’ll just get a sponsorship from an employer, settle down in a nice little beach house, and find myself an Aussie wife. Sounds like a plan, right?
I never did emigrate to Australia though, and, since then, I have resided in several more countries. I think about the country very often though; more so than when I was living in Australia, I wonder a lot these days what could’ve been…
Australia was so good to me and I’m grateful to the nation for taking me in. While backpacking in Australia, I made friends, worked hard, played hard, and visited some of the finest beaches in the world. Backpacking Australia should be a must for any and all travelers!
With this travel guide to Australia in hand, you’ll have everything that you need to begin your adventure. You’ll know where the best hikes are, where to find the best surf, and how to even find a job. Follow the travel tips for Australia that have been outlined in this guide, my fellow broke backpackers, and you’re sure to have a thrilling time in the Land Down Under.
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