I don’t drive. So what on earth am I doing, writing about the joys of driving through Australia? Over the years I’ve returned to Australia for several road trips across various regions, always in the passenger seat. This summer (it was winter down under) I played navigator, videographer, backseat nagger and personal entertainer while Charles drove us across the Southern coast of Australia. Australia. The only reason I wish I could drive. What about Australian roads keeps pulling me back? While it’s something you really must experience for yourself, here’s something to get you started:
5 Solid Reasons to Drive through Australia
1. To discover an entire continent
One of most widespread excuses people have for not having travelled to Australia is, that it’s just so far away. Yes, the tickets are expensive and flights are long (It’s over 5 hours just from the NorthWestern frontier to Melbourne). But that’s because we tend to forget, it isn’t just a country, it’s an entire continent. How do you plan out a travel itinerary to a country that spans an entire continent? You drive. In just a few hours we went from the hip streets of Melbourne to quiet beachfronts in Torquay. We left the lush rainforests of Erskine falls for the curvy cliffs of the 12 Apostles. We passed through the fresh meadows of Mount Gambier and vineyards of Coonowarra, towards the barren flatness of Keith and into the undulating vineyards of the Barossa. Just like the views changed, so did the climate; alternating dry, wet, cloudy, sunny, cold and warm. All of this, while travelling through just a tiny 1000 km stretch of Australia’s 7,692,024 square kilometre area.
2. To hear the sound of silence
With such a massive landmass, Australia’s disproportionate population has a density of less than 3 people for every square kilometre. It’s also the most urbanised country, which means that most of the population is concentrated in pockets. Leaving the rest of the country for your private enjoyment. Driving along the Great Ocean Road, it was hours before we passed another vehicle. A small town in the red centre where we stayed overnight, had a total population of 6. That’s almost the average size of a family in our country! It was incredibly surreal, to be the only car pulling into the driveway of Unesco sites like the Naracoorte Fossil and Limestone Caves, or to be the only ones staring out at shipwreck coves from deserted lighthouses. At Mait’s rest, I said an odd but true thing to Charles, “Wow, this is so quiet, I can hear the sound of the blood rushing through my veins.” At another time, fighting with the Southern Australian wind playing havoc with our hair, we sat for the longest time, staring out at the waters of Cape Bridgewater. We watched the swell of the sea, as our thoughts turned to the innumerable life forms thriving under it. We thought about this world and how far from home we were. We wondered whether we’d ever grasp what lies beyond, both geographically and chronologically, and spoke to each other wordlessly as the sun set before us. The thing about being on the road in Australia is, the silence will speak to you. At whatever point on your drive it comes, that is a moment she will definitely bestow upon you.
3. You’ll meet new creatures
There’s something about the wild in Australia that makes you feel like an explorer. Whether it’s the little signs dotted along the roads, warning you to watch out for animals crossing or the strange nature of these animals so unlike the creatures everywhere else in the world, it piques the curiosity. As soon as we saw the signs, we’d have our eyes peeled for stray Kangaroos, and while I squealed in delight when I saw one hopping across the road, Charles was thankful that we were a fair distance away so he had enough time to hit the brakes. He was happier with the ones grazing in the meadows on either side of the road. Of course, the hopping marsupials weren’t all we witnessed- koalas, wombats, foxes, echidnas, strange birds like cockatoos and oystercatchers (which we mistook for Penguins from a distance), and farm animals like sheep, cows and horses. Heading out every day felt like going on a wildlife safari, and we could never tell what sights and chance meetings would follow.
4. Need some space?
You haven’t experienced the open road, until you’ve been out in Australia. At the risk of repeating myself, very little of the country/ continent is populated, more so on the great driving routes. Hours without as much as a post box or side road, hours without passing other vehicles, and even longer spent hunting for fuel stations and cafés. The freedom of wide open roads, excellent roads, I might add, is an absolute delight for the driver. We’d drive for hours on end each day, but unlike after the commute at home, Charles felt no fatigue or stress at the end of the day. Well marked, with rest stops and overtaking lanes, the roads are supported by the AAA who’ll come to your aid anywhere/ anytime. Whether it’s the winding roads up the side of a cliff or the seemingly endless stretches that went a straight line into the horizon, the roads were always safe and allowed Charles to take in the surrounding views without having to stop.
5. To live in the moment
As travellers, we agree only too well that sometimes, the best things in life are unplanned. When we think back to all our travel experiences, some of our favourite memories took place by a chance meeting, conversation or discovery. And when you’re in Australia, where there’s a surprise round every corner, you need that liberty to be able to follow where the road takes you. Back in 1997 when I first road tripped through Australia, fuel stations, inns and motels weren’t that easily available, neither was Google Maps. We had to map our itinerary in a bit of detail, especially when it came to taking unscheduled stops. But today the facilities en-route maintain just the polite amount of distance for you to enjoy the nothingness, while serving you your meals or giving you a loo break just when you need it. We loved being able to stop just about anywhere, leave the car and go wandering off the road (armed with GPS, of course), spend some time where nobody else would pass, and truly enjoy cutting off. For two advertising professionals, there’s nothing more precious, than not having an agenda and not having to know the time.
Australia’s got so many routes to choose from, but no matter which one you head down, it’ll definitely leave you a changed person, wanting to go back for more. Have you been on a driving holiday anywhere? What was your experience like?