Two weeks is not nearly enough to see all of Australia. It’s not even enough to see all of the east coast! But if you have a few spare weeks and an itch to go somewhere nifty with your crew, this country has an unlimited amount of adventure to offer.
When we visited this part of the world, we took three weeks to explore. First one week on the North Island of New Zealand, then a week in Sydney and an additional week in Cairns, Australia.
Obviously, it makes sense in this instance to research multi-rentals in different locations. You can certainly consider driving from place to place (although in Australia distances are long). However, despite distance, keep in mind the one-way fees are often exorbitant.
Do you Need a Car in Sydney?
After returning our rental in Auckland, it was time to take the three-hour flight to Sydney. We had some work to do in town (hello digital nomads!) so we didn’t plan to leave Sydney city limits during the week. With that said, the place is huge and we’re most comfortable in our own vehicle. So did we rent a car in Sydney?
Nope, we decided to pass. Public transport is fairly simple to navigate, and one of the more affordable things in this pricey town. Lots of neighborhood, shopping areas and restaurants are walkable, and hailing a cab is easy too if need be.
So while you’re there don’t worry about car. BUT if you do want to stay longer or plan to hit-up tons of beaches, a car might work better. I noticed lots of surfers and those in bigger groups had vans or SUVs to park at Bondi Beach and beyond. You can reach several sandy shores from the bus or taxi though from Sydney’s city center if you just want to go for a quick swim or a stroll.
Rent a Car in Tropical North Queensland
Although we flew into Cairns, we knew we’d want to see more of the surrounding wildlife and state. Tropical North Queensland (TNQ) has it all – a beautiful tropical rainforest, lush agriculture in the Tablelands and of course, the Great Barrier Reef. There’s lots of organized tours in this part of Australia, but we prefer in a group to travel at our own pace and leave room for spontaneity. Then, you can have a taste of snorkeling/scuba, exploring jungles and everything in between. If you spend a specific amount of time in the area, you’ll want to stay in a couple different places to get a feel for the environment – and enjoy a could mini-vacations rolled into one.
Renting cars in Cairns is easy, as the airport is stocked with various services for you to start driving right away. This is the easiest, as the airport is not near most major hotels, so you’ll need transport right away. You might be able to save a bit if you can find a local rental dealership and avoid airport fees, but the hassle isn’t necessary.
In TNQ, we drove the following rough route:
Starting with a stay at The Thala Beach Nature Reserve, it was a great acclimation to the wild flora and fauna. I was not a huge fan of the juvenile python that greeted us at our doorstep though upon arrival! We then moved toward the beach and stayed with Pullman Palm Cove for a little indulgence and pool/spa time.
Between the stays were lots of day-long roadie adventures within reach of the ocean and forest. The Crater Lakes National Park is gorgeous near the Tablelands, as is Mossman River Outlet with swimming in the giant gorge. The distilleries, coffee oasis and other foodie find were all great highlights in the Tablelands too. We even had a chance to visit the local Port Douglas wildlife sanctuary to feed some kangaroos and see dangerous snakes up close. Most things are reachable by car, but secret swimming holes and nature often requires finding a car park and continuing on foot. Keep up with local driving laws and keep a full tank of gas when possible, as road stops can be few and far between!
Quickie About Kiwi-land
While I focused on the Australia-side of this trip, I’d be remiss not to mention the beautiful North Island of New Zealand. We started the road-trip-style adventure here and got the hang of driving down under. We did a snaking route through New Zealand, with stops in stinky but beautiful Rotorua, Tauranga, Hobbiton (the real Shire!) and little towns along the way. Driving there, as in some part of Australia too, is slightly precarious. So keep this in mind when renting a car anywhere really in Oceania, that off-road situations and blockages are common. Extra insurance or precaution makes the most sense.
How do you plan for a road trip? Where did you take your longest road trip?