Ever since I went over to Australia as a backpacker and fell in love with the country, I have been a self-confessed cheerleader for all things Down Under. But it’s not just me, I don’t know a single traveler who has paid a visit to the Southern Hemisphere and who hasn’t fallen in love with the climate, the culture, the incredible landscape and the people. Australia has a certain charm I haven’t yet found elsewhere, perhaps it’s something to do with all that vitamin D, perhaps it’s just living a lifestyle where you put having a life first! Whatever it is, it sparks something in visitors from all over the world. From the backpackers heading over for their working holiday visa, to the families or retirees eager to see the famous sights, to the ones who drop everything and decide to emigrate. I’ve seen the stars in the eyes of those fresh off the plane – the ones who spent every night dreaming of what Australia could be and then finding it was something completely different but more incredible than they could have imagined.
But planning a trip to Australia can be pretty intimidating with the sheer enormity of the country and such a wealth of activities and things to see. Where would you even begin? Well take it from someone who spent two years over there and still didn’t have time to see everything she wanted – if you try to take on the whole country you’re probably going to lose. However, if you’re smart about planning your trip – you will get to see the side of Australia that will most set your world alight and will stay with you long after the plane hits the tarmac at home. No matter what trip you are planning – there are always ways to cut corners, to save money and to ensure you really make the most of your time in the country. Here is my ultimate Australia holiday planning guide with all my best tips for saving money and time along the way – suitable for all types of travellers and all lengths of trips:
How long are you going for?
This is key to your whole trip because Australia is a big place and you need to make sure you plan effectively to make the most of your time. You also have to consider the travelling time which takes up two days at either end of your trip.
TWO WEEKS: If you can’t get much time away from work and only have two weeks to see the country then you should focus on the East Coast. Fly into Sydney and see the sights, then take two weeks to explore the delights of the Great Barrier Reef and the beaches of places like Byron Bay and the Whitsundays. Two weeks is a bit rushed but if you choose carefully where you want to stop along the way, you’ll have a great trip.
THREE WEEKS: Three to four weeks gives you ample time to really savour the East Coast, you could fly into Cairns and start by working your way down the coast, then hit Sydney. After a few days soaking up the sights, you could continue and drive to Melbourne taking in the Great Ocean Road along the way. It’s a fantastic road trip and a great way to see half of Australia in just a few weeks.
FOUR WEEKS: You could take the above trip and spend more time exploring the East Coast and doing all the incredible activities available. Or, if you fancy going a little more outback, you could road trip the West Coast from Perth to Darwin. It’s a little more wild, rugged and less touristy. Think epic campsites and experiences like swimming with whale sharks.
LONGER: You are living the dream, hopefully you have a budget to match! The world is your oyster if you have a longer timeframe to play with, you could even buy a camper van and end up road tripping the whole way around the outside of Australia or driving through the centre. Get creative and explore at your own pace.
What is your budget?
Australia is expensive, there’s no denying that and your budget will have a huge impact on the kind of trip you take. But it doesn’t mean going with a smaller budget will ruin your trip – it just means getting creative with the way you travel.
BACKPACKERS: I have lots of posts on budgeting as a backpacker see here, here and here. But my best advice to you, is either go on a shorter trip and then make the most of budget hostels, free food available at these, and the great deals when you book a bulk trip. I booked my whole East Coast trip a a package and it took ALL the pressure of planning, I could just relax and enjoy, plus I saved almost $1000 and was gifted some freebies such as meals and even a boat trip for booking as a package. Or, another option is get the working holiday visa and go for a year – stop and work along the way, Australia doesn’t seem so expensive if you’re earning $$$.
MID-RANGE: If you’ve saved up a fair bit but want to be smart with your money and cut corners where possible, this one is for you. Look for budget accommodation options – you can get private rooms in hostels, couch surfing or housesitting websites can be great ways to save. Know that Sydney, Melbourne and the East Coast are expensive, want to save money? Then avoid them – you don’t have to go there to really experience Australia, you could go outback and hire a camper (or a car and then camp) as an initial expense, then save by cooking all your own meals and not paying for accommodation. Plus, if you head out into nature and make the most of the national parks instead of expensive organised trips, you save a hell of a lot of money.
LUXURY: If you’ve been waiting a long time for this trip and have a big budget to work with, you really do have an amazing time ahead of you. I would recommend experiences such as swimming with whale sharks on the West Coast, plus trips to Whitsundays, Fraser Island and Great Barrier Reef on the East Coast. Hiring a car/camper is a great way to experience the country – you really haven’t ever enjoyed driving as much as you will enjoy cruising along the big open roads of Australia. You could even do the big one and head to Sydney for New Years (expensive but once in lifetime) and then recover in the quirky cafes of Melbourne. Plus why not head to South Australia and enjoy the wineries and amazing restaurants along the tasting trails near Adelaide and Margaret River? If you can afford to fly between every destination then you could squeeze a lot more into your trip.
What type of trip would you like?
For anyone craving adventure, look no further than the East Coast to get your pulse racing. From white water rafting, to diving, bungee jumping and skydiving, there is something to excite all crazy souls. You can even be stranded on a desert island and stage your own version of Castaway!
You wouldn’t necessarily think of Australia as a place for foodies, but it’s more than just barbecues! He’d dow to Tasmania or South Australia for endless wineries and tasting trails to explore and try all of the amazing local produce. From local honey, cheese and chocolate, to seafood, wines and ciders – you’re in for a treat!
You’re definitely in the right country, it just depends if you’re craving the famous beaches and tanning your bod on the likes of Bondi Beach and Byron Bay over on the East Coast. Or do you prefer having endless stretches of beach to yourself, of not seeing a soul for days on end, camping on the beach and swimming in the ocean at dawn? For the latter, head West.
Australia is packed full of incredible nature and national parks and depending on how long you have, you can easily explore several. If you fancy fresh forests leading to amazing ocean views – head to Victoria and check out The Grampians, Great Ocean Road, Wilson’s Promontory National Park and Philip Island. Head up to Queensland for the tropics and some amazing jungle/forest. Fancy something a bit more wild? You should hit up the West Coast for a vast collection of national parks from deep, red dusty gorges and canyons, to hidden pools in the mountains and endless coastline. Or, head up to the Northern Territory for my favourites – these are wild and untouched, dangerous and outstandingly beautiful, don’t miss Kakadu, Litchfield, the world-famous Uluru, Nitmiluk and many more.
For most of the sights, you’ll be heading to Sydney for the Opera House, Harbour Bridge, Bondi Beach. Then cruise on up the East Coast for the likes of Whitsundays, Great Barrier Reef and Fraser Island. You’ll want to go central for Uluru and then head down to Victoria for a peek at the 12 Apostles.
5 different ways to save money in Australia
- Don’t pay to visit koalas and kangaroos at a zoo or sanctuary, instead just head to a national park and see them in the wild – I saw loads in the wild on Magnetic Island.
- On a serious budget or backpacking? Work for accommodation. WWOOFing is big in Australia where there are lots of opportunities for seasonal farm work, or pick up work as a nanny like I did and have your accommodation paid for, or even work in a hostel for free accommodation.
- Look in your accommodation for free activities – hostels and budget accommodation often offer tours or trips for a discounted rate or for free, plus they may even offer food deals which could save you money.
- Go self-catering. Whatever your budget, Australia is expensive for eating and drinking out unless you are earning $$$ so why not cook for yourself and save yourself a packet, likewise, buy alcohol from the bottle shops instead of bars.
- Make friends with Aussies – the locals are always a friendly bunch and they’re keen to invite you in for their parties or to show you their home. Thanks to Aussie mates I’ve been quad-biking, road tripping, jet skiing and boat partying it up Down Under, all free of charge.
Wow, this post turned into a bit of an epic but I had a lot of information to share with you all! For anyone who is planning a trip to Australia, or has just been inspired to do so, you’re in for a hell of a time. But don’t let anything stand in the way of your perfect trip, spend plenty of time planning and you’ll really make the most out of every second and every penny. Want information about a specific place/trip in Australia? Search the name in the search panel to the right of this post and you’ll find any information I have about it. And if you aren’t planning a trip just yet, take a look at the amazing Australia holidays sale here – I can’t stop eyeing up these amazing trips and would give anything to be in Australia’s sunshine again.
Have you been to Australia – what was your highlight? Lusting over Australia – where would you like to go? Planning a backpacking trip, what inspired you?