6 perfect weeks in Australia for the solo traveller
20th May 2018
I’m finally back and blogging about my 6 amazing weeks of solo travel throughout Australia. No matter your age, solo travel can be daunting. And I sometimes think that the older we get, the more daunting it can seem, especially if – like me – you may not be fond of packaged tours.
Are you planning or thinking about travelling Australia on your own? It’s such a huge country, where to begin? You can start by checking out my own 6-week travel itinerary, with my verdict on where I stayed, what I did, and my suggestions for experiencing those places you might be hesitant to do on your own.
6 perfect weeks in Australia: Overview
I’ll be writing in detail about each leg of my itinerary over the coming weeks. But here’s the overview:
- Exploring Sydney, the Blue Mountains, the South Coast and the Southern Highlands (6 days)
- The Magic of Uluru and Australia’s Red Centre (3 days)
- Driving from Melbourne to Adelaide via the Great Ocean Road (2 days in Melbourne and 4 days driving)
- More than Kangaroos on Kangaroo Island (1 day in Adelaide and 1 day on KI)
- An Epic Journey Across Australia on the Indian Pacific Railway (3 days)
- Diving Ningaloo Reef and Swimming with Whale Sharks in Western Australia (10 days)
- Scuba Diving the Legendary Great Barrier Reef (5 days)
Because of the vast distances between one place and the next, I also allotted a full day for travel between each leg of my journey.
I had originally planned to travel in a clockwise circle around the country from my starting point in Sydney. But I had 2 hard dates that I had to make – the railway journey from Adelaide to Perth and the Ningaloo Reef liveaboard dive boat, both of which have specific departure dates once a week. So, my planning and subsequent itinerary revolved around these particular dates. But except for a bit of additional flying time – only an extra 3 hours in total – it worked out really well.
Choosing when to go
I chose late February, March and early April for my trip to Australia for one primary reason: March is whale shark season along Ningaloo Reef. As an avid scuba diver, I have long wanted to see these magnificent creatures. The added bonus is this was also the start of the autumn season in Australia and I thought I would miss the worst of the summer heat.
Yet until you’ve been there, it’s really hard to imagine just how enormous the country is, and how much the climate as well as the landscape differs from one place to another. Because Australia is so huge, there are a lot of different climate zones:
I also put together an average temperature guide for my itinerary:
Yet I didn’t fully appreciate until I arrived how the differing climate zones would impact how those temperatures would actually feel. For example, I didn’t even think that a humid 27C/80F in Sydney would be so much more uncomfortable than an arid 40C/105F in Uluru.
The Australian Government Bureau of Meteorology ( http://www.bom.gov.au/climate/ ) has tons of information that can help you decide the best timing for your individual trip. But I used other sources as well. Just remember, it’s hard to predict the weather! For example, there was an unexpected heatwave while I was there, with temperatures mostly in the 30s and 40s Celsius (mid 80s to low 100s Fahrenheit) for the entire trip, even at night. I had no concept of what that would be like, day after day, for such an extended period of time. I had brought cool and wet weather clothing, intended for the southern part of the country, that I never even unpacked – and I could have done with additional hot weather clothing.
5 really useful things to know before you start planning your trip:
- A specialist travel company won’t get you the best deal by a long shot. They won’t even necessarily appropriately fulfil what you ask them for, especially if you want to do something a bit out of the ‘norm’. Even though I had originally gone to an Australia travel specialist, I ended up researching, finding and booking almost everything myself. And in the process saving myself thousands. If you do work with a travel company, do your own due diligence, double-check what they’re suggesting and be sure they are actually providing value to you.
- You need to have a tourist visa to visit Australia. For Brits, it’s super easy to get an eVisa online from the Australian Department of Immigration & Border Protection. There is no visa application charge or service fee for this. Your travel agent will tell you they can provide what’s called an Electronic Travel Authority (ETA) visa, but there’s a fee involved and, in most cases, an eVisa is all you need.
- You won’t need much cash. Bring some cash for gratuities; though Australia doesn’t really have a tipping culture, it’s customary to do so when diving and for a few other activities. Otherwise, Australia has completely embraced contactless credit card technology. Literally everyplace takes credit cards – and it’s all tap and go.
- Get yourself a ‘travel’ credit card before you go. Most debit and credit cards add 3% on top of the ‘perfect’ rates the banks get and many also have exchange fees on top of this. I know of 2 that currently offer perfect foreign currency exchange rates with no exchange fees: the Barclay’s Platinum card and the Halifax Clarity card. You should be able to find these (and any others) on https://travelmoney.moneysavingexpert.com/ .
- Check out dates for national and school holidays. Remember that the tourist spots are, well, full of tourists: a LOT of tourists! I didn’t realise that my plans took me to Sydney during Mardi Gras, onto the Great Ocean Road during a long Bank Holiday weekend and overlapped the Chinese New Year holiday. It wouldn’t have made any difference to my planning but I never even considered how these types of holidays might affect my travels.
Look out for my next post: Exploring Iconic Sydney