Budgeting,  Road Trips,  Travel advice

How to budget for road trip costs in Australia

If you’re planning a road trip in Australia, and you have no idea what you’ll need, how much it costs per day or what additional costs to expect along the way, this post will assist in building a realistic budget, for your road trip costs in Australia.

Let’s break this down a little!

Obviously no road trip in Australia is the same. Although there are some similar costs for everyone, including fuel, food and resources like road trip maps, there are of course plenty of additional expenses to consider, depending on the length of your road trip and Australia road trip budget.

This post may contain affiliate links, where I earn from purchases at no extra cost to you. Thank you!


IS AUSTRALIA EXPENSIVE?

The short answer is yes, but it will depend of course where you visit, if you are paid in Australian dollars, and what you decide to spend your money on that will determine your Australia road trip budget.

The East Coast of Australia is generally affordable, due to the population and accessibility to international travel.

In saying that, Sydney and Melbourne are the most expensive cities to live, but if you are visiting there for short periods, there are ways to keep costs down and still have fun in the city.

Road trip costs in Australia. Sydney, Australia.



Useful resource: Sydney on a budget

It is popular opinion that the West Coast of Australia is an expensive area, though this is possibly due to the flight costs to get there, adding a huge expense to your road trip budget. Generally Western Australia is now considered one of Australia’s most livable cities.

In fact, in one survey, Perth has transitioned from the worlds 10th most expensive city to 49th in only five years, due to the end of the mining boom.

While flights are more expensive to fly to Alice Springs in Central Australia, other things like some accommodation and daily food expenses are in line with other cities.

The main expenses to be aware of in central Australia are furniture, white goods and fuel, which are are more expensive in Alice Springs, than other cities.

In general, road trip costs in Australia, including accommodation, groceries, and restaurants are expensive in Sydney and Darwin, while in cities like Cairns, Hobart, and the Gold Coast, these are on the cheaper side.


POPULAR ROAD TRIPS IN AUSTRALIA

To begin planning for your Australia road trip budget, you will need to decide which type of road trip journey you will take.

Here are some of the popular road trips in Australia as a guide, if you are not yet sure which type of road trip to budget for.


East Coast of Australia

From Melbourne, Victoria, all the way up to Cairns in Queensland, the East Coast of Australia is one of the most popular road trips in Australia.
The East Coast of Australia has the most populated cities in the country, with smaller towns and beach destinations dotted between.

Depending on the time of year, and climate you’re after, different areas will appeal to a variety of travellers. The tropics from Byron Bay in Northern NSW, all the way up to The Daintree rainforest in Northern QLD will suit those searching for smaller towns and humid temperatures.

The cooler climates of southern NSW and Victoria’s East coast will suit those searching for quiet and pristine beaches in summer months, or quiet, rugged winter getaways.

Below I have broken down the 3 main parts of the East Coast of Australia, which travellers either take in one at a time, smaller sections or the whole stretch for the adventurers! (Grey nomads, family travellers, backpackers :))

Road trip costs in Australia. East Coast, Australia.
East Coast Australia sunrise


Melbourne to Sydney

The Grand Pacific Coast and Sapphire coast should definitely be added to your road trip bucket list in Australia!

Parts of these coastlines have been travelled by locals and many a road tripper, making this road trip an easy one to keep the costs down for your Australia road trip budget. Seaside locations and national parks make this road trip a gorgeous and relaxing journey.

Main stops on the Melbourne to Sydney road trip:

Melbourne: The city known for its bars, art, food and coffee is worth spending a few days if you haven’t yet been to Melbourne.
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Related post: 20 best Melbourne restaurants

Phillip Island: A small island south east of Melbourne known for its small penguins, open farm land and surf beaches. Only 1.5 – 2 hours from Melbourne makes this spot a popular destination for day trippers and family holidayers.

Wilsons Promontory: A stunning National park full of wildlife, including Emus, Wombats, Kangaroos, Wallabys, Koalas and many more. The gorgeous surf beaches and camp ground at tidal river ar worth the drive for an unforgettable road trip experience.

Lakes Entrance: A main stop on the south Eastern coastal road trip. Fresh Fish n Chips. local caves, fishing boat tours and camels and markets. You’ll have plenty to do in Lakes Entrance.

Eden: Halfway between Melbourne and Sydney, along the stunning Sapphire coast is Eden. National Parks, Wildlife tours, wale watching and boat charters.

Batemans Bay: Gorgeous beaches, seafood, river swims and snorkeling.

Jervis Bay: Clear blue green beaches and white sand make up this coastal marine destination. The hinterland of the area also provides cycling, bushwalking and Indigenous Australian culture.

Wollongong: NSW’s third biggest city. Plenty of students and buzzing with things to do.

Sydney: Sydney is of course as cheap or expensive as you’d like it to be. Stay for a night and choose your accom and a delicious meal or over a couple of days or more and discover the stunning sights of the city on the harbour.

Consider taking 1- 2 wks for this Melbourne to Sydney East Coast Australia road trip as there are many stunning spots to stop and spend a day or two.

Things to budget for:
Fuel
City expenses
Accommodation
Food and drinks
Attractions (entry fees)


Sydney to Brisbane

The Sydney to Brisbane road trip is popular for those wishing to explore the sub tropical climates, easy surf culture and popular beach culture of the northern towns of Byron Bay and the Gold Coast.

Main stops on the Sydney to Brisbane road trip:

Lake Macquarie: Located in the Hunter Region in NSW, and is a part of the Newcastle greater area. Sightseeing activities include wildlife, National Parks and bird watching at the huge lake (Lake Macquarie).

Hunter Valley: A picturesque and large wine region with many wineries to visit for tastings or take a tour, located south of the Hunter river.

Newcastle: Lovely beaches with coastal tracks, and a harbour to explore. Newcastle is a close drive to the Hunter region and offers a wide range of historical tours and nature attractions.

Nelson Bay: Known for dolphin cruises from the Nelson Bay marina, Whale watching and small, glorious beaches.

Port Macquarie: Mid way along the north coast of NSW, Port Macquarie boasts river cruises, plenty of bars, Koala hospital, Hinterland and Rainforests.

Coffs Harbour: Known for the Big Banana, markets, gorgeous beaches and a marine sanctuary.

Ballina: Famous for The Big Prawn, Ballina also hosts cycle paths, plenty of art and culture and cafes along the beaches in East Ballina.

Byron Bay: An iconic surf and holiday location with sub tropical temperatures, diverse culture and rich hippie history, under an hour from Gold Coast airport (Coolangatta).

Related post: Best reasons to visit Byron Bay

Gold Coast: The populated and tourist driven surf and swimming beaches in Southern Queensland. Head to Surfers Paradise for the tourist experience or Broadbeach for a quieter holiday.

Brisbane: A laidback city on the river with a warm climate and plenty of art, culture and music to discover.

Road trip costs in Australia. Brisbane, Australia.
Brisbane, Australia

Things to budget for:
Surfboard hire
Food and wine (Hunter Valley and Byron Bay)

Brisbane to Cairns
The east coast of Queensland is a popular road trip for older people and backpackers, with time to spare to enjoy more than a couple of days in each destination.

The beaches are tropical and the climate mostly warm, as you head towards Far North Queensland towards The Daintree rainforest.

Main stops on the Brisbane to Cairns road trip:

Brisbane: The warm relaxed city on the river, where its easy to spend days discovering the art and culture.

Noosa: South Queenslands resort town, popular with families and surfers. Plenty of restaurants, shopping and stunning beaches.

Airlie Beach: The gateway town to the Whitsunday islands and also the Great Barrier Reef. These parks, palm trees cafes and restaurants and worth a stop at along your road trip.

Mission Beach: Located between Cairns and Townsville, Mission Beach has incredible resorts and accommodation options, Nature trails, Rainforest exploring and is the closest point to on the mainland to the Great Barrier Reef.

Cairns: They call Cairns the gateway to Tropical far North Queensland. If you are ending your trip here, consider heading a short way further north to stunning locations like Palm Cove and Port Douglas, or even continue as far as The Daintree Rainforest to the top North Eat point of Australia.

Cairns has most things cities have, plus nice accommodation, and is accessible to the Great Barrier Reef.

Things to budget for:
Surfboard hire
Great Barrier Reef tours


Great Ocean Road Victoria:

Running along the southern, west coast of Victoria, towards South Australia is The Great Ocean Road.

The Great Ocean Road is a very popular road trip in Australia, due to the gorgeous beach views from the curving road, passing camp spots, surf breaks and laid back holiday towns.

Many people from Melbourne take in parts of the Great Ocean Road in holiday seasons, heading down the coast for short breaks.

Backpackers, international and Australian travellers mostly take on the whole road trip, which officially begins in Torquay and ends in Allansford.
Popular stops along the Great Ocean Road are, Anglesea, Aireys inlet, Lorne, Kennett River, Apollo Bay and Port Campbell.

Things to budget for:
Coffee stops
Camping/accommodation
Warm clothes (nighttime)
Wetsuit for colder water
Australia road trip map
Firewood if off season

For more on The Great Ocean Road and getaways in Victoria, see here.

The Great Ocean Road
The Great Ocean Road

Adelaide to Perth: through the Nullabour

The Adelaide (South Australia) to Perth (Western Australia) road trip is a popular 4WD road trip for those wishing to see or stay on the Nullabour plain. Begin by visiting the Barossa Valley outside of Adelaide, through Port Augusta, The Nullabour to see the wild camels, through to Kalgoolie, and onwards to Perth.

Things to budget for:
Fuel (expensive)
Water
Wine and cheese (Barossa valley)
Accommodation (Nullabour Roadhouse)


Tasmanian circle

The Tasmanian circle road trip is also a very popular road trip in Australia.
Taking at least 5 days, this road trip boasts deserted beaches, towns by the river and delicious produce and seafood.

Main stops on the Tasmanian circle:

It is common to begin this road trip in Hobart, head to Frecinet Park, onto Launceston, up north to Stanley, down on the West to Cradle Mountain, Strahan, then back to Hobart.

Things to budget for:
Wine and produce
Warm clothes

Perth to Broome: coastal drive

Main stops on the Perth to Broome Road Trip:

Perth: From the sunshine to the leisurely lifestyle, Perth offers many reasons to explore the city at the beginning or end of your road trip.
Whether you visit the incredible beaches of deep blue sea and white sand, head to the wine reagion or see the local wildlife, there is plenty to do in and near the city of Perth.

Top things in Perth:
Wildlife: Places like the Caversham Wildlife Park, which has over 200 different animal species such as , possums, wombats, dingoes, kangaroos, koalas, emus, Tasmanian devils, reptiles and owls.

Other places like Perth Zoo, Kings Park and botanical gardens, Penguin island and Rottnest Island all provide opportunities to see animals such as quokkas, lizards, dolphins, penguins, whales and sea lions.

Cycling: in Perth is easy as there are many trails which are perfect for seeing Perth by bike. Trails such as Kings Park, Cottesloe Beach, Whitean Lark, Fremantle and Herdman Lake are ideal for sightseeing and fitness.

Beaches: City beach, Cottesloe beach, port beach, south beach, Wine regions: Margaret river, Perth hills, Peel wine region and Blackwood valley.

Restaurants & Bars: Hearth, The Reveley, The Royal, Goody Two’s, The Avaiary, 399 Bar, The Lucky Shag, Hadiqa (Moroccan), Ball and Chain beer garden in Fremantle.

Arts: Fremantle Arts Centre, Perths best Art Galleries include AGWA, Ceeative Native, Lawrence Wilson Art Gakkery and Japingka Aboriginal Art.

Shopping: Watertown Brand shopping centre, London Court, Wesley Quarter, Raine Square and Trinity Arcade are some of the best shopping spots in Perth.

Lancelin: A popular sandboarding spot on the sand dunes.

The Pinnacles (Nambung National Park): Tall limestone rocks in the sands of the Pinnacles Desert.

Jurien Bay: Best for tours to see sea lion puppies!

Hutt Lagoon (Pink Lake): A vivid lake best visited between 10am and 2pm (Avoid cloudy days for the best effect).

Kalbarri National Park: A rugged and busy park tucked away, 186 thousand hectares in size.

Shark Bay: One of the best places to see dolphins and other marine wildlife, beyond the sandy, white beaches.

Coral Bay: Coral Bay is a little town, protected by the Ningaloo reef in the Indian ocean.

Exmouth (Cape Range National Park): On the west side of Exmouth, are these stunning limestone ranges.

Karijini National Park: In the middle of the Pilbara region, this is Western Australia’s second largest national park.

Broome: A unique and colourful destination, with a diverse culture and history. Most known for the breathtaking cable beach, for swimming, 4WD and camel rides.

For more info on Broome, see here.

Cable Beach, Broome
Cable Beach, Broome

Things to budget for:
Fuel
Food and Accommodation (Cable beach)

3 top books on Australian road trips:

Road trip costs in Australia
Australia road trip map


HOW TO BUDGET FOR THE AVERAGE COST OF A ROAD TRIP IN AUSTRALIA


By this stage you have planned which road trip interests you, and how long you plan on travelling for in Australia.

Even if you want to go with the flow, and have the time to take things as they come, if you want to know costs and have even a a vague idea of a budget, you will need an idea of how many days, and what you’ll be spending money on each of those days, to determine your Australia road trip budget.

*These costs are per person and may increase or decrease if you are travelling in a pair, or with a group.

Below I have calculated some estimates for daily road trip costs in Australia, as a variable road trip cost calculator for Australia.

Normal relates to basis costs in popular towns and cities where there are options to buy standard food, fuel and cheap accommodation for the day.

Expensive relates to areas where your Australia trip costs are higher (such as Central Australia), or you choose a luxury option, or for example you are in a colder climate and need to buy another jacket.

COSTS PER DAY (AUD):

FUEL
Normal $20
Expensive $60

FOOD
Normal $30
Expensive $70

ACCOMMODATION
Normal $50
Expensive $100

VEHICLE COSTS (Maintaining car)
Normal $20
Expensive $50

CLOTHING (buying and washing)
Normal $10
Expensive $20

TOTALS
Normal (keeping costs down) $130
Expensive (plenty for extras) $300

It’s easy to see that living life on the road with money for extra’s during each day, as well as a back up fund for your vehicle, is double compared to watching your budget and carefully choosing what you spend your money on.

Like Nomadic Matt says, it really depends on the type of trip you take.

Costs could really vary on your Australia road trip budget, from backpacking, couch surfing and free camping and no drinking ($30 per day), to private rooms and private tours ($200 per day). Please see Nomad Matt’s blog for more info.

I would add to this, that if you are an older traveller and you like your luxury and shopping, then easily $300 per day is a practical budget.

OTHER BUDGET PLANNERS & CALCULATORS

Road trip costs in Australia

Road trip costs in Australia

If you are wanting to keep Australia road trip costs lower than normal, or are keen to cut costs on some expenses, to free up some funds for special occasions and ultimate experiences, here are some money saving ideas below:



HOW TO SAVE MONEY ON YOUR ROAD TRIP

Plan your meals:
This may be an annoying tip for anyone who likes to go with the flow and not plan ahead on an adventure. But if you have a plan for at least some of your meals and costs involved, or where you can make your own lunch instead of eating at the nearest pub, this will maorly keep the costs down.
Same goes for making your coffee on the road instead of buying them at each town.

Have a daily budget:
Once you decide on your daily Australia road trip budget, draw out your cash for the day (or days) and don’t draw out any extra. If you give yourself a buffer amount for additional entertainment or a meal out this will also assist not needing to redraw additional cash.

Reuseable and sustainable products:
As well as being kind to the environment, reusable coffee mugs, and anything else which saves a takeaway container will also assist the budget. Some cafes give a discount on coffee if you provide a keep cup, and of course supermarkets now charge for grocery shopping bags.

Reusing your own cup for coffee and drinks, eating at your campsite instead of out every night and buying groceries ahead will keep the Australia trip cost down, and support the environment at the same time.

Walking for exercise instead of a tour bus, not feeling like you need to see every tourist attraction because you “should”

Travel with others:
Travelling in groups will most likely aid in keeping your Australia trip cost down, especially on accommodation if making group bookings for double rooms. Beware of peer pressure to go out if you want to save your money!

Ask questions:
Asking questions when travelling could potentially save heaps of money! Sometimes instead of booking a taxi, if you ask the right person you’ll have the info you need to get to your destination.

Same goes for tickets, restaurants and adventure tours. Having confidence to ask for the best price or a group discount will do wonders for your Australia road trip budget.

Pick and choose:
Deciding to have some time out as well as enjoy the hotspots and adventures on your travel will definitely save you money. Pick out which activities you really want to do and save the rest fr the others to return with their stories.

Prepare: ensure your car (or chosen transport) is in top condition!

Free Campsites:
Utilise the free camping sites from the list below!

http://www.freecampingaustralia.com.au/

There are many free campsites in Australia, especially along the East Coast:

FREE CAMPING VICTORIA:
Gippsland lakes coastal park
Pebbly Beach Campground

FREE CAMPING NSW:
Canberra city YHA
Euroka Campground
Mann River Free Camping

FREE CAMPING QLD
Home Beach Camping Ground
Wyllie Park
Ross Creek Store
Calliope River Rest Area
The Leap Hotel
Vncent Bushy Parker Park
The Boulders Free Campinhg Ground

FREE CAMPING TASMANIA
Waterhouse conservation area
Sloop reef camping
Grants Lagoon Camping
Dora Point Camping area
The Douglas Camping Ground
Freycinet National Park
Mayfield Bay Camping
Lime Bay Camping
Fortescue Bay
Neck reserve Camping area
Hamilton Camping facilities
Lake Burbury Camping ground
Pump House Bay Campsite
Camping Lake Resebery Foreshore
Lake Gerdner Free Camping
Pioneer Park
Nindethana Campsite
Manuka Campground

FREE CAMPING WESTERN AUSTRALIA
http://www.freecampingaustralia.com.au/free-camps/western-australia

FREE CAMPING SOUTH AUSTRALIA
http://www.freecampingaustralia.com.au/free-camps/south-australia

FREE CAMPING NORTHERN TERRITORY
http://www.freecampingaustralia.com.au/free-camps/northern-territory

Resources to plan your road trip in Australia:

Australia Road Trip Map

A useful resource for your Australia trip is an Australia road trip map:

Road trip costs in Australia


Budget planning for road trips:

Money tracker App

            

Conclusion

Whether you’re planning a short coastal getaway, an epic Australian road trip or something in between, I hope this post has assisted with budgeting road trip costs in Australia, for your ideal road trip of Australia.

From stunning beaches to National parks, wildlife and the variety of Australian sub cultures throughout the country, budgeting and planning for your trip is recommended for safety and making the most of a once in a lifetime experience.

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