Hard to believe, but it’s been 6 months since we packed up our life in Noosa and began our budget 4wd trip around Australia.
Well, 3 months of work and 14 weeks of travel later and we’re not even close to halfway around this big island!
But it’s not all about the destination right; it’s more about the journey.
And what a journey we’ve had! From incredible Queensland beaches to remote Northern Territory National Parks and stunning Kimberley gorges, we’ve seen, swam, sunbathed and snapped some truly epic moments and places on the sort of trip that many people spend their lives dreaming about.
As such, we feel very lucky and have composed this highlights list from our first 6 months on the road as a way of giving others a glimpse into the beauty Australia holds and how it is possible to see much of it on a tight budget.
Trying to capture what we think are 6 of the best experiences in 6 different categories from the last 6 months, we hope this trip down memory lane will bring as much inspiration to your travel hearts as the joy it brings to ours!
- How Much Does an Australian Road Trip Really Cost?
- The Ultimate West Coast Australia Road Trip
- Cairns to Darwin : 14 Day Itinerary
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Queensland, Northern Territory, Western Australia
6 Best Spots
1. Paradise, QLD – Our secret location in the Daintree Rainforest! Anywhere along this magnificent coastline is worth seeing and our hideaway free camp in Cape Tribulation was the icing on the cake!
2. Boodjamulla National Park, QLD – An epic Outback National Park centered around a spring-fed gorge full of gorgeous walks, kayaking opportunities and star-filled skies.
3. Mataranka Hot Springs, NT – Set amidst the rainforest, this tropical oasis is about as close to a natural thermal spring as you’re gonna get and is well worth a stop.
4. Keep River National Park, NT – Our definite over-achiever, we didn’t know what to expect from this small park, but the scenery and walks were world-class and gave us our first taste of the epic Kimberley region.
5. Kakadu National Park, NT – How could this UNESCO World Heritage site not be in the top 6?!
6. Port Douglas, QLD – This little tropical piece of paradise is a tourist’s dream with its great selection of accommodation, restaurants, cafes, markets, lookouts and, of course, one of Australia’s best swimmable beaches.
6 Best Camps
1. Elim Beach, QLD – A private campsite north of Cooktown, this indigenously owned campground is huge. Set in natural bushland, it has sites right on the water (watch out for crocs) with views across to the coloured sands and costs only $10pppn. Just the type of rustic we love.
2. Lake Kununurra, WA – Discovery Parks -Lake Kununurra, was definitely our favourite caravan park of the 6 months with some of the most awesome sunrise / sunset views and cheapest powered-site rates we’ve seen!
3. Carnarvon Gorge National Park, QLD – The campground in this national park was amazing and to top it off, there’s a series of fantastic walks that start right from the grounds. Only $6pppn, but open only during school holidays.
4. Zandbergen Magnificent, QLD – A WikiCamps dream find, this FREE camp was right on the top of a hill just outside the Outback town of Georgetown (FYI: we didn’t name it, we just stayed there!)
5. Workman’s Beach, QLD – This council-run caravan park in Agnes Water is an absolute gem. Set back from a secluded beach, with the town and community centre only a short walk away, $7pppn was a bargain.
6. Smalleys Beach, QLD – Situated within Cape Hillsborough National Park, this is an awesome alternative to the main caravan park here and much cheaper! An idyllic spot if you want to be away from the crowds and have the beach to yourself!
6 Best Drives
1. Bloomfield Track, QLD – Cape Tribulation to Wujal Wujal. If lush rainforest, creek crossings, dirt tracks, croc sightings and barge river crossings are your thing, then this is for you.
2. Karunjie Track, WA – Wyndham to Home Valley via Diggers Rest. 4 hours to do 74km through some of the most beautiful scenery we have seen! The track lies between the Pentecost River and the Cockburn Ranges, following them both all the way to the river crossing on the Gibb River Rd, this is a must for any hardcore 4wd fan!
3. Hopevale to Elim Beach, QLD – This is the closest we got to the tip of Cape York and despite the short length of the drive, the scenery was mind-blowing. Dunes of pure white sand with glimpses of the blue sea, you know you are somewhere seriously special on this old track.
4. Tuwakam Track, NT – Buchanan’s Hwy (30km East of Timber Ck) to Bullita Campground (Judbarra / Gregory National Park) on the Bullita Stock Route. Wow, this was the roughest and slowest track we have been on so far; 1hr 40 to do 20km. Certainly not as picturesque as the Bloomfield or Karunjie, but every bit as tough and demanding. From steep entries to dry creek crossings, with some very slow and rough boulder sections thrown in, this track will test your concentration and stamina.
5. Gibb River Rd, WA – I think this one is probably on most Aussie 4wd bucket lists, and so it should be. The adventure of the road itself, with its epic landscapes, is definitely worth it, but coupled with the access it also gives you to some of the most remote and mind-blowing locations, this one is hard to beat. The best way to see the Kimberley in all her glory, hands down.
6. Mackay to Eungella, QLD – The windiest road we have come across! After you get through the sea of cane fields, you make your way up the Pioneer Valley and then climb the ever-twisting Eungella Range. The top of the road provides a dramatic view straight back down the sweeping valley and, of course, nearby Eungella National Park is the best place to spot platypus in the wild, definitely making this drive all the more worthwhile.
6 Best Walks
1. Upper Gorge Walk, Boodjamulla National Park, QLD – This epic beauty takes in some stunning lookouts, giving you amazing views up and down the gorge, as well as the opportunity for a swim at the stunning Indarri Falls along the way.
2. Nitmiluk National Park (Katherine Gorge), NT – With a large selection of walks, even multi-day ones, Nitmiluk NP offers something for everyone. We did the gorge walk as far as Butterfly Gorge, which is a pretty hard 3-hour walk on a hot day, but well worth it.
3. Full Cave Walk, Tunnel Creek, NT – A walk with the crocs! That’s right, to get to the end of this amazing cave you need to wade through water with crocs. Not only the crocs, but also the large colonies of bats this cave is home as well. Sounds gross, is AMAZING!
4. Bluff Walk, Carnarvon Gorge National Park – There are some stunning walks at Carnarvon Gorge, but our favourite was the Boolimba Bluff hike to see sunrise. It is a pretty challenging 90 min trek in the dark, but the reward from the top is well worth it. To see the gorge walls light up with the rising sun is one of the most spectacular sights of our trip so far.
5. The Domes Walk, Purnululu National Park, WA – The honeycomb-like domes of the Bungle Bungles are like nothing else you will ever see, and to be able to walk amongst them is truly amazing. This walk also gives you a chance to see the awesome Cathedral Gorge, another show-stopper!
6. Nawulbinbin Loop, Judburra/Gregory National Park, NT – Most of the other walks mentioned here were located near where we’d camped for the night, but not this little gem. With no camping facilities nearby, the Nawulbinbin Loop is a unique opportunity to access a wonderful walk through tropical forest and huge escarpments to see ancient rock art and giant trees.
6 Top Tips
1. Roof Rack – Check your roof rack, and all things on it, to make sure all the nuts and bolts are secure. We weren’t doing this as often as we should, and found our roof rack had moved a whole 2 inches backwards!
2. Satellite Phone – If you are travelling in remote areas in Australia make sure you have a Satellite phone or a SatSleeve for your Smartphone. We found out the necessity of this item the hard way when we broke down in remote Arnhem Land!
3. Roadside Assistance – Make sure you have RACQ Ultimate Roadside Assistance Cover or your State equivalent i.e. AANT or NRMA. Having this annual cover – which cost us roughly $250 – saved us 400km of towing expenses ($1100), 6 nights accommodation in Darwin ($1200) and 6 days car hire ($480). RESULT!
4. Camping Spots – The wikicamps app is your best friend when travelling Australia and only costs $7. Get it now!
5. Sun Protection – Sunscreen people, even in the shade and under cover. Don’t fool yourselves, in the north of Australia, the sun is so intense that even in the shade you can burn, especially under awnings on your van or 4wd – as we experienced in Broome!
6. Water – We all know we need lots of water. Seriously though, you can never have enough, especially when you never really know what the weather is going to do. This year the WET hit the Northern Territory early, the wind has come out of season in Western Australia and we have had days and days of temps over 40 deg, not to mention nights hitting 28 deg quite regularly. Trust us when we tell you, therefore, that to cope with 40+ deg in the shade you need a load of water, in fact over 5 litres per person per day. There were times when we were actually drinking well in excess of this and at every town, roadhouse, or campground our priority was to fill our water containers.
6 Best Natural Attractions
1. Sunset at Ubirr, Kakadu National Park, NT – We will never grow tired of this spectacle! The view over the flood plains of Arnhem Land is wonderful and so serene. Ubirr is one of those places that will transport you to another time.
2. Wallaman Falls (near Ingham), QLD – Australia’s largest single drop waterfall is a serious spectacle. From the moment you crest the bump on the path you are greeted with the stunning gorge wall and a magnificent waterfall. It’s a bit of a detour, but an absolute must.
3. Wangi Falls, Litchfield National Park, NT – Still my favourite place in Litchfield and with a terrific campground nearby, as well as a large swimming hole and accompanying waterfalls, this place is a dream!
4. Emma Gorge, El Questro Station, WA – This is by far the prettiest swimming hole we have seen. It’s a good 30 min walk in, but the end reward is 1000 times the effort.
5. Cape Tribulation Beach, QLD – Tropical rainforest meets the sea. This place is what fairytales are made of. You literally walk out of the jungle onto a pristine, palm tree-lined beach and look over a perfect blue ocean.
6. Koalas on Magnetic Island, QLD – Home to one of the largest colonies of wild koalas in the world, the delightful tropical island of Magnetic Island, off the coast of Townsville, was where we set up home to work for 3 months, We loved the walks and beaches of this magical hideaway, but seeing so many koalas everywhere, was a real highlight!
The Budget ($ AUD):
Fuel – $2375.89
Groceries – $3130.24
Camping Fees – $908.70
Hardware/car – $289.17
Equipment – $430.00
Ferries – $273.00
Coffee – $59.30
Tours/Activities – $109.00
National Parks Permits – $168.00
Laundry – $27.00
Car Fluids – $103.46
Entertainment – $66.50
Other – $26.00
Total – $7940.46
That’s an average of $567 a week for both of us.
Not bad at all, but could we do it cheaper? Absolutely.
We could have free camped more, but it is nice to have some power occasionally to top up the second battery and get a good charge into all our devices.
We could live on 2-minute noodles and cheap white bread, but our health is too important to us.
So yes, if you wanted to, this trip could be done a lot cheaper. However we’re pretty chuffed with this budget – it’s definitely cheaper than living at home!
Tyres – $690
Car Parts – $1395.46
Servicing/repairs – $1204
Total $3289.46 (fingers crossed this won’t be as high in the next 6 months)
Unfortunately, driving such large distances and sometimes on very bad roads, means repairs will need to be made.
And servicing of your vehicle is no different on the road as it is at home.
For most people, I imagine that life on the road means ticking over the speedometer at a greater rate than at home too, so maintenance on your vehicle is even more important, especially if you are travelling to remote locations.
Grand total so far $11229.90
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We are pretty happy with this total and are now looking to squeeze the trip in under the $20,000 mark.
To be honest, we are more concerned about what we won’t see on our trip, as we still have such a long way to go to get back to Noosa! Australia is huge and the more you see, the more you realise how much there still is to see.
So, there you have it folks, the 6 month round up of our epic budget 4wd trip around Australia.
We hope you have enjoyed it and can’t wait to share the next part of the adventure with you soon!