Introduction: About six months ago, we drove across Australia from Sydney to Perth via Albury for a brother’s wedding at unofficial land speed record time of 4 days (of solid driving)! 1 The road trip was a wonderful and unforgettable experience, and highly recommended if you have the time or feel so inclined to do so, and provided you’re prepared and know what’s ahead of you. It’s a great way to see and appreciate the geographic beauty/landscape and vastness of the continent, from urban jungle to rural/country towns, barren outback to awesome coastlines. According to Google Maps, the fastest driving route from Sydney to Perth is 3,938 kms (41 hours) via National Highway A1. 2 This post is about our return trip back from Perth to Sydney. It was an epic journey and this is an epic post. It contains 79 photos (with notes), so I apologise in advance if it slows your computer down a little. 3 I just thought it would be easier for everyone if I covered the whole trip in the one post.
Sooner or later, we had to drive back to Sydney. Duty called and we had to return to the east coast to maintain peace and order. The trip from Perth to Sydney was equally awesome as the first and we enjoyed it even more as we (partially) retraced our path and appreciated the unique landscape for the second time. Like most return trips, it seemed shorter in distance, however we actually took more time as we made more stops. It was less stressful because our deadline was more flexible than the first. The road trip back to Sydney took us 7 days of consistent driving.
First, I would like to say thank you to Stirling (our much beloved 1995 Volvo 850 T5) 4 for transporting us safely across the country and protecting us from all of the elements.
Stirling, you nailed it! Especially across the nortorious Nullarbor Plain. 5Although, truth be told, it’s these long straight country drives that he enjoys the most. Even though we had issues along the way, including your Automatic gear transmission playing up (complete with alarming/never seen before flashing light), you managed to soldier on and got us home safely. Phew! It was an epic and challenging task I know, and you made us very proud. You’re a legend and a plum mate, and we love you and your family forever. 6
Thanks also to my dear partner for doing the driving. The road trip was a test on your driving skills, patience bigsmile and responsibilities, and you passed with flying colours. You did an amazing/commendable job, and both Swan and I felt like we were in very safe hands throughout the whole trip. Bravo, dear chap!
There were some close calls though, you must admit. Like that night when you had to suddenly break and luckily just missed hitting the vacuous kangaroo by metres that stood on the middle of the hwy grooming itself (and then leisurely hopped away when it suited it). Or when you had to abruptly stop for the stressed out parent emu and its brood of emu-kids to hastily/madly and comically cross the hwy like crazy cartoon performers (so cute though). Or when we crossed the path of the spooky solid black feral cat that ran across the hwy as it was defending itself from the swooping big black bird. Phew and weird! They were all close calls but we somehow managed to get through them unscathed.
And of course thanks mum and dad for all of your love and support. Mum, the thermos/flask of your deliciously brewed coffee, packed cut ham and relish sandwiches, fruits, crackers and biscuits, box of divine chocolates, and Beatles album box set were all godsend. The Beatles cds in particular were perfect for the drive and a joy to listen to. They were an education and a lovely contrast to our usual dance/electro playlist and helped keep us awake/concentrated/relaxed and entertained for the whole trip. 7
The return road trip was not a holiday nor a leisurely food tour/drive. Although, we did have a blast and made the most out of the experience. Our mission/goal was to quickly and safely drive back to Sydney, and we had to budget and spend wisely.
Fuel was the biggest and most important expense. The price of fuel varied from place to place, and expectedly, the more isolated the servo/roadhouse, the more expensive it was. What am I saying, fuel was expensive everywhere! Especially because Stirling has such refined taste when it comes to fuel. So be sure to fill up when you see cheap fuel. Take note that not all roadhouses will have your preferred type fuel. And remember to calculate your fuel stops correctly. Don’t even entertain the thought of running out of fuel/gas in the middle of woop woop.
Accommodation was another major expense. We found some good/affordable motels online on sites such Wotif.com and Bookings.com. There were some nights when we were less organized or wanted to continue driving, and decided to sleep in the car. We had packed doonas and pillows, so this was an economical and wise choice. The station wagon was full (and heavy), but somehow, the front seats moved/reclined back far enough for a relatively comfortable sleeping position. Swan slept/snuggled in the boot and enjoyed every inch of it, I’m sure.
Sleeping in the car added to the whole outback road trip experience. We chose safe signed parking/camping spots (where other cars, caravans and trucks were parked) to park our car. We had the doors locked, windows just ajar, and it was nice/lovely thought/feeling knowing that we were sleeping under the vast outback sky/stars. Also, fortunately, the weather at the time was comfortably mild and cool (compared to four months earlier).
Food wise, it was smart to travel with packed foods. Mum’s packed lunch and bag of goodies were delicious and got gobbled up quickly. For the rest of the journey, we stopped/shopped at grocery stores/supermarkets along the way and bought travel friendly foods so we could enjoy them on the go. These included fruits, bbq chicken/meats/cheese, coleslaw, bread, snacks and treats (a lot of chocolates for energy and to stay awake, you know). And of course food for lady Swan.
By traveling this way, we saved money on food, which should and will be spent on fuel. Besides, some roadhouses charged ridiculous prices for food stuff that we could not justify spending money on. Ribbons of licorice for example, crazy! Also, it was good to know that we could easily eat something at will without having to stop or wait for the next town/roadhouse. And, hypothetically, if we were to break down somewhere, we could easily survive for at least a couple of hours. 8 We did reward ourselves occasionally. This included takeaways and beers/bevvies in the towns we passed. However, our focus was on getting back to Sydney safely.
If you do decide to give this journey/road trip go, make sure you do your research first (beyond reading this blog post), and are well prepared. Read up about other people’s experiences, tips and recommendations. Take note of distances between towns and servos/roadhouses and accommodations, etc. and plan ahead! By doing so, it will help save you a lot of pain and worry later on. 9
Similar to driving on other country roads in Australia, take care and travel safely and wisely. Use your discretion and practice all normal driving protocol, including taking the responsibility to rest when you’re tired and not speeding. Driving at night or in the rain is typically dangerous, so be extra cautious/vigilant of rogue wild/’straya animals and other traffic on the road, especially road trains and other extra wide/long vehicles, especially when overtaking.
It’s wise to travel with someone, and remember to regularly keep family and friends updated on your journey. Make sure your car is checked/fit/road worthy before heading off. Make sure you have a spare tyre, roadside assistance, a mobile phone and internet connection/reception. Check your coverage range beforehand so you know what to expect. We had Telstra 3G mobile phone and internet, as well as Vodafone phone for the trip, and the coverage was good but expectedly, there were areas where there was no coverage/range.
The three of us had such a great time on our return road trip from Perth to Sydney. It does take time and money, and patience. And at times, it can seem scary/daunting/isolated but overall, it was a wonderful and memorable experience and a great way to see a part of our beautiful country. The people that we chatted to along the way, from fellow travelers to locals were all friendly and helpful. You could easily fly from Perth to Sydney which takes about 4 hours, but hey, where’s the fun/story in that?!
While we had some car problems along the way, overall we had a great time and I do recommend it. Just make sure you’re well prepared and take extra care, especially if you’re not too familiar with country/outback or long distance driving. If you do decide to do it, I’m certain you’ll love it, both the challenge and the experience. If you have any questions, feel free to ask and/or leave a comment. I’ll try to answer them and help you as best as I can. Bon voyage!
- We drove safely and within limits, but doing this distance in this time is not recommended for various reasons. ↩
- All distances provided in this post are calculated using Google Maps. ↩
- I took over 1,000 photos on the road trip back which I’ve cut down to 79 photos for this post. Many good photos were omitted, and many good photo opportunities were not taken. C’est la vie. ↩
- It’s truly a great car folks. ↩
- The Nullarbor Plain is part of the area of flat, almost treeless, arid or semi-arid country of southern Australia. It is located on the Great Australian Bight coast with the Great Victoria Desert to its north. At its widest point, it stretches about 1,100 kms (684 miles) from east to west across the border between SA and WA. It has Australia’s longest straight road, 90 mile straight (146.6 kms). Reference: Wikipedia. ↩
- You need to love your car/vehicle and take good care of it on such long road trips. It’s an important component and it knows what’s going on. ↩
- Dance/electro music is excellent/perfect for long country/desert drives, especially at night to help keep you awake. Although, be warned, it can also easily become hypnotic and cryptic. It’s good to mix up your playlist a little. ↩
- In retrospect, an esky would have been good. It’s perfect to keep foods and drinks fresh for longer. ↩
- I recommend you visit Nullarbor Net for a detailed travel guide to driving across the Nullarbor. ↩