What is the best direction to drive around Australia? Clockwise or Anticlockwise? Let's look at the factors in making the right decision . . .

Once you’ve made the decision to go, it’s time to get down to some of the more practical aspects of the journey, and probably the first big one you’ll want to consider is which way to turn when you drive out the driveway – will you travel clockwise or anti clockwise around Australia.

You may actually not be planning to travel around the whole country but even so the decision still applies. Many argue that anticlockwise is best because you will mostly have the wind behind you and if you’re towing a caravan then wind resistance is going to be a big factor in fuel economy.

I have to say that we travelled clockwise and we didn’t have any more headwinds than tail winds so from my experience I’m yet to be convinced of this theory. Please feel free to share you’re own experience in the comments below as I’m interested in finding out if there really is a difference one way or another.

Other factors which are probably more important are when you leave and where you start from. In order to maximise the weather you want to spend the middle 6 months of the year (April to September) travelling across the north of Australia between Broome and Cairns or visa versa. This is the time of year in the north they call the ‘Dry Season’ when temperatures are milder, generally in the high twenties to mid thirties, the humidity is much lower and rain falls very occasionally so the roads are generally all open.

It’s the best time to be there if you’re looking for the milder climate and almost guaranteed access on any roads. It also coincides with winter in the southern half of the country which you are possibly trying to escape from.

On our Big Lap we saw no rain at all from about halfway up the west coast until we were almost at the tip of Cape York 7 or 8 months later.

The dry season is also a good time to be in and around the Red Centre (Alice Springs, Uluru etc.) with the daytime temperatures in the high teens to high 20’s and the nights often reaching zero degrees or slightly lower.

If the extreme night time cold is not to your liking then Spring (Sept-Nov) and Autumn (March-May) are the best times to be in the centre where you’ll be nicely between the extreme heat of summer and the freezing nights of winter.

The other 6 months of the year between October and March is the ‘Wet Season’ in the north which is also called the ‘Green Season’. The weather is much hotter and more humid and thunder storms are generally a daily occurrence. Rivers flood and roads are closed so getting around can be a challenge as well. All of the sealed highways will likely remain open but detouring off to any of the attractions will become a less predictable. This is a good time to be in the southern half of the country enjoying summer.

But . . . having said that, if you’re up for it, try and get up north in the Wet at some stage because it really is an amazing thing to experience. The heat is unbelievable and the air thick with humidity but the rainstorms are truly spectacular and the waterfalls and rivers and wetlands are all in flood and thick with birds, insects and other wildlife. Many tour business’s and hotels remain open and will appreciate showing you the true spectacle of the northern wet season. You’ll probably find they offer some great deals as well.

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Another thing to consider when deciding which way to go is to start your trip with the easier more ‘civilised’ travelling and work your way up to the more adventurous sections as you get more experience. So when deciding which way to go, consider the weather and the time of year, saving the hard stuff until later in the trip and, if you think it makes a difference, the prevailing wind directions.

The most important thing is to be aware of the weather you’re likely to experience at different times in different places and factor it into your plan so you have the best chance of maximizing the experience.

Find out more about typical weather patterns here: http://www.bom.gov.au/climate/

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Filmmaker / Travel Blogger / Photographer / Adventure Traveller - I'm a road trip junkie! There's nothing I love more than packing up the 4WD or motorbike and heading for the horizon in search of new adventures. I travelled 46,600 km over 16 months around Australia with my wife Jen and 2 young daughters and made a 10 episode documentary series, The Big Lap.

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40 COMMENTS

  1. Steve,

    Re your point about which way to go around. We are 3/4 of the way around on a anti clockwise trip and have had about equal amounts of head vs tail winds. It all depends on the weather on the day.

    To that end we found the best thing to do is go on the the Bureau of Meteorology web site and using ther MetEye section look at the forecast winds for the next few days and plan when you drive accordingly.

    Geoff

    • That was pretty much our experience too – being in the right place at the right time of year was much more important than head winds versus tailwinds which could go either way.

  2. Hi.

    We have just ordered our 20ft van and are going to be traveling for 6 months ( when she gets her long service leave). We are a couple 35yrs old and are in Adelaide. We are undecided whether to go east or west. I thought up the centre in around july and west. She thought up the centre and east. Or could we do the whole lap?

    • Hi Kevin, decisions . . . decisions . . I’d be inclined to just do the half lap rather than try and do the whole thing in 6 months. Starting up the centre is a good idea but as for east coast or west coast after that, you’ll have to figure that out yourselves – flip a coin?

  3. Hi Steve ,

    Just a quick question we are setting off on our trip in late jan 2015 we have a 4 wd and fully equipped camper trailer we will also have 4 children with us , we are hoping to spend 4 months on the road doing the south end of Australia leaving from Bundaberg QLD , is this a good time of yr to be heading south , we hoping to get as far around to Perth

    Thanks in advance

  4. Hi Steve, I like to have advice from you, me n my husband planning to go around Australia aprox for 8-12 months, but we don’t know where is the best way to start, we live in near Byron bay NSW.we planning to go in January 2014 we to know as much as we can in every state, by the way I was wondering where is the place may be we can pick up a couple days of work here and there if we can get one,but it is not necessary,thank you for your advice and cheers

  5. Hi Steve
    Love reading all your advice on this page. I have a question also, we are planning to leave to do the big lap in July next year. We are from tassie so we are seeing as much of that as we can before we leave. So starting from Melbourne in July which way do we go.
    Thanking you Wendy

    • Hi Wendy, leaving from Melbourne in July and assuming you have a year to be back to Melb or Tassie you would ideally get up north as fast as possible to get into the sunshine then be thinking about gettin back down South toward Xmas. But, then in the new year you’ll want to be heading north again. Not an easy one!! Maybe you could do a figure 8 lap . . Go up the Stuart Highway to Darwin then across into WA and down the coast so you’re in Pert at Xmas, across the Nullarbor to Port Augusta, through the Flinders ranges and up the Birdsville track into Qld, on up to Cape York then back down the east coast to Melb by mid year. A few more Km’s than a standard lap but you’d see a lot of the country.

  6. G-day Steve me and my fiancé have wanted to go travelling Australia for quiet some time now and as I’ve been working up north for the last two years on a 4/1 roster I’ve finally had enough and we have decided to stop talking about it and do it September 2014. I have an 80 series land cruiser that’s in top shape with all the fruit and as me and my partner both love camping , fishing and everything in between we’ve decided to do it mostly throught bush. The reason for my email is simply I don’t remotely no where to start in terms of planning this trip or which way to head off first ( from Perth). I was just curious as to how you would go about this trip if you were in our position. We not putting a time limit on this trip and will likely try and find a bit of work here and there to maximise this once in a life time experience and explore discover this beaut country we call home. regards Adam

    • Hi Adam, sounds like a good plan and the 80 Series is is the way to go. (80’s rule!!) If leaving Perth in September I’d head east and go anti-clockwise around and time it so your heading across the top in the middle six months of the year. Since you’re not in a hurry you’ll have time to head into the centre on your way across the top so you’ll be there mid year. Get yourself a map of Australia, stick it on the wall and start marking places you want to go. Download my budget spreadsheet to get a idea of how much money you’ll need. Make a list of all the things you think you’ll need to get and start looking so you don’t have a heap of things to get at the last minute. Make sure you follow my Facebook page and join my mailing list (in the right sidebar) so I can let you know when my Big Lappers Guide Book is available (soon!).

  7. Hiya Steve.. we (family of 5… kids aged 7,9,10) are planning the adventure of a lifetime…we live in melb and wondering which direction to depart from for a 12 mth trip… if we dep at Christmas or in June?? I have my thoughts based on info here, but would love the experts advice.
    thanks so much
    Debra

    • Hi Debra, if I were leaving in June I’d head up the east coast fairly quickly and plan to be cross the top and over to Broome by about October, then down the west coast. If you you leave at Xmas, consider going the other way so you’re along the bottom in summer then across the top in winter. These options will give you the best of the weather.

  8. Hi, great site and informative articles :)
    We’re in the beginning stages of planning our Trip and will be travelling with our 3 children. I was thinking to do the West first because that way we’d get the long ‘boring’ drives out of the way while the kids are still excited about life on the road, saving the East coast for when the novelty is wearing off and we can then have shorter drives and more ‘attractions’ to visit. Good to have some other aspects to consider though.

  9. Hi Steve,

    Thanks for all of the advice, this is a great site. My situation is a little more bare bones and minimalist than many of the others above, and because of that I am wondering if the trip is even possible.

    I have just got back from visiting the east coast of Canada where I was able to do lots of hiking/camping and managed to meet someone who shares similar interests and has been very well traveled. We are both mid to late 20’s and are currently doing our PhD’s (so we are POOR). Once we finish early 2015 we were planning to fly her down to Aus and camp our way around Australia as a celebration. Starting in Hobart, heading up the midlands to the ferry and setting out clockwise once we get to Melbourne. Time of year isn’t set in stone yet, but It would possibly begin in early Autumn.

    For the most part we would be tenting it, with as many cheap stops as we can afford. Currently I only have a 2WD vehicle so would be restricted to mostly sealed roads. Although I am hoping to change that situation before the trip. Would you say that Darwin to Alice springs etc is possible without 4WD?

    Additionally, as we are both limited by funds there is no way the trip could last a year. I know that we will miss lots, and want to avoid rushing a trip as much as possible. But, what would you say is the shortest amount of time we could do this trip, while still enjoying it; roughly of course.

    Do you think the trip is possible?

    Hope to hear from you mate,

    Cheers!

    Rob

  10. Hi Steve,

    Thanks for all of the advice, this is a great site. My situation is a little more bare bones and minimalist than many of the others above, and because of that I am wondering if the trip is even possible.

    I have just got back from visiting the east coast of Canada where I was able to do lots of hiking/camping and managed to meet someone who shares similar interests and has been very well traveled. We are both mid to late 20’s and are currently doing our PhD’s (so we are POOR). Once we finish early 2015 we were planning to fly her down to Aus and camp our way around Australia as a celebration. Starting in Hobart, heading up the midlands to the ferry and setting out clockwise once we get to Melbourne. Time of year isn’t set in stone yet, but It would possibly begin in early Autumn.

    For the most part we would be tenting it, with as many cheap stops as we can afford. Currently I only have a 2WD vehicle so would be restricted to mostly sealed roads. Although I am hoping to change that situation before the trip. Would you say that Darwin to Alice springs etc is possible without 4WD?

    Additionally, as we are both limited by funds there is no way the trip could last a year. I know that we will miss lots, and want to avoid rushing a trip as much as possible. But, what would you say is the shortest amount of time we could do this trip, while still enjoying it; roughly of course.

    Do you think the trip is possible?

    Hope to hear from you mate,

    Cheers!
    Rob

    • Hi Rob, I’d say the minimum time you’d need would be 6 months, any less then consider do no a half lap though the centre via either the east or west coast depending on what your looking for – the west is more outback and the east more towns and cities. In general you want to be in the northern half of the country in the middle six months of the year and southern the rest of the years to get the best weather. You don’t need a 4wd between Alice and Darwin as it’s sealed roads all the way and most of the main attractions are on sealed roads as well. A 4wd isn’t essential to see Australia but it sure helps. If you could pick up a decent 2nd hand 4wd in your budget you’d certainly see more but either way, go anyway.

  11. I’m planning do a big lap over 12 months. I will be buying when I arrive in the country as I’m overseas. I’m unsure as to which to buy tho. I’m going to have a budget of around $25000 to purchase my wheels.For that kind of money do you have any thoughts on a campervan or would you go the 4wd/ trailer combo. Would I miss too much if I didn’t have 4wd or would a decent campervan be capable of accessing most areas. I’m thinking 95% of all journeys would be on sealed roads, would this be a fair estimation do you think?

    • Hi Dave, $25k will get you a reasonable second hand 4wd and camper trailer setup and also a decent camper, maybe an ex rental Troopcarrier from Britz for example. So it’s really a personal preference as to which you choose. The 4wd/camper option will give you more space. You can travel right around Australia on sealed roads but there are a lot of great destinations at the end of dirt roads so I’d personally go the 4wd option.

  12. Dear Steve,

    Our family of 5 (kids aged 10,9 and 5) are planning a trip around Australia leaving early Feb next year from Brisbane. At this stage we are looking at purchasing a 18ft Jayco expander as we need a toilet due to a medical condition of my daughters. I have a million questions but the main ones at this stage are what direction/route do you advise and also we are needing to upgrade our 4WD due to investing in an expander. I know 4WD preferences are highly personal but is there a 4WD that you would recommend? We are hoping to do off go off the beaten track at some points and need to feel secure in our vehicles ability. Thanks
    Kim

    • Hi Kim,
      Love hearing people making plans for the Big Lap :-)
      If I were leaving Brisbane in Feb, I’d head north and go anti-clockwise so you can spend the middle 6 months of the year going across the top in the dry season then be coming around the bottom in summer os you’ll get the best weather everywhere.
      Make sure you detour into the centre on your way across the top and also head up to the Flinders Ranges/Oodnadatta track from Port Augusta when you’re coming across the bottom – although in the peak of summer it will be pretty hot.
      As for the 4WD, you’ll need a full size one to fit the 5 of you and tow the Jayco – I’m a Toyota tragic so I’d suggest you get an 80 or 100 Series Landcruiser or even a 200 if you have the budget. The Nissan Patrol will do the job and probably save you a few thousand dollars on the purchase price. Personally if I were to buy a Patrol (not likely!) I’d only get a 6 cyl diesel, not the turbo 4 cyl – it’s just too much load for a 4 cyl and I’ve heard a few stories of them self destructing – one guy while on top of the Westgate Bridge in Melbourne – yikes!
      Good luck

  13. Hi. We are leaving Vic early April for half lap for 3 months of Aussie focussing on Kimberies in May. Do we go anti clockwise and possibly face uncomfy hot weather or clockwise and battle strong westerlies. We have 20ft6 van and near new diesel 4×4. Would appreciate your comments.Regards David T

    • Hi David, good question. I’m assuming you’re going through the centre and via the west coast? In April – June you won’t see much hot weather anywhere along that path. The weather will be pretty much perfect in the Kimberley in May so you can rely on that. I think the bigger question is do you want to be in the south west on your way back during winter where you’ll likely get a fair but of rain and cold, or coming down the centre where it will be cold at night but mild days (mostly).

      I think I’d go clockwise and be in the south west in April before winter sets in and be in the centre in June.

      For the sake of possibly a few days of head winds across the nullarbor on your way over I reckon missing as much winter as possible would be the better option.

  14. Hubbie and I are setting off caravanning end April to NT and WA for 6 months. Live in Sydney and wondering where to head first. Recently returned from Flinders/Broken Hill region. Do we head that way again? What would you suggest please.

  15. Hi Steve. My husband and I are travelling in south east Asia and New Zealand for a month each before arriving in Oz for another 4 weeks. We’ll be there end of December and plan to spend New Year in Sydney. We’d like to see the Whitsunday Islands, Great Barrier Reef and Melbourne (ideally including the Australian Open). I’m a bit worried about the amount of rain in the north at that time of year. Would it be ok to spend a few days at the Whitsundays? thanks for your advice.

    • Hi Claire, rain in January in the Whitsundays will be hard to avoid. I was working on one if the resort islands many years ago over Xmas and New Years and we actually had a cyclone come through so spent Xmas mopping up. However this is not the normal situation and the Whitsundays are not fully in the tropics so you’ll be likely to get plenty of sun and it won’t be cold. If I were you I would go anyway and if you get a bit of rain here and there just take it as part of the experience an sit in the bar enjoying another cocktail.

  16. hi guys my partner and i are beginning our journey end of october start of november , we are looking at going north we know its going to be hot and wet season but some beautiful things to see that time of the year .

    has anyone travelled north that time of the year before and can give us any information on find work , fuel etc.
    regards

    stacey

    • Travelling across the north of Australia during the wet (November to March) is spectacular and not crowded and very hot and humid but you will need to be concious of road closures. Many unsealed roads are closed for months during the wet eg. Cape York, Gibb River Road etc. You may need to be calling ahead to local business’s or checking the road and traffic websites of the state you’re in to see what roads are open/closed.
      Any fuel service on a road that is open should still be running. Finding work may be more of a challenge especially in tourism oriented business’s that are running on lower tourist numbers. I’d call ahead to the local Centrelink or other job services and just have a chat to them about what is going.

  17. HI Steve,

    we are planning to leave with our young family in February to travel with 4WD and caravan around Australia for the year. WE are complete novices but hope to learn along the way. Wondering if you can give us some advice about an itinerary and where to go first according to weather patterns.

    Thanks

  18. Hi Steve,
    My partner and I are planning a trip exploring the east coast from cooktown to Melbourne over 3 months, we are reasonable well equipt with a hilux and a top end campertrailer even tho we plan to stay in mostly caravan parks, we live on the gold coast and were thinking about heading north in August and heading back down and traveling south by mid September, if we manage to sell our house prior we might take a lot longer, do you have any suggestions or expert opinions for us, and places you recommend or things we wouldn’t have thought of taking? It’s always good to hear from someone with experience!

    • Hi Rhys,

      Sounds like a great trip you have lined up there. August/September is a good time of year to be travelling – not too hot or too cold. If I were to offer some suggestions, why not go all the way to the tip of Cape York? You’ve got a 4WD and camper trailer so you’ll get there easily enough. As long as you’re heading back down from the cape by around October before the rains start you’ll be fine and heading south into spring and summer. As far as what to take, all I’d say is take less than you think you need because you don’t want to spend your time a managing ‘stuff’. You’re on the east coast so plenty of opportunity to buy anything you really need but think ‘less is more’. If I had a favorite place to go on the east coast it would be Airlie Beach. Beautiful little town and a great base camp to get out and explore the Whitsundays on one boat or another. Also make sure you get out to Stockton Beach in Newcastle. Drop into Out of Town 4WD and say g’day to Fred and the boys. Have a great trip.
      Cheers
      Steve

  19. Hi Steve,

    We are planning the trip next year with others. Originally we were going clockwise from Central Coast of NSW but have decided to go anti-clockwise due to weather across the top (we plan to leave late April) as you have stated but also to catch the wild flowers in WA on the way down the coast in Spring.
    I enjoyed reading the other comments.

    Happy travelling, Geoff

  20. I think you have given a lot of good advice. We have done it both ways, and would recommend doing it a second time the opposite way after a few years. The aspect from the different direction makes it a whole new trip, especially across the top. We were only new at it when we first went in 1996, but soon learned the ropes. Just to feel more secure, only bush camp where there are other travellers who look a respectable type of person. Enjoy.

  21. G’Day Steve,
    The wife and I are seriously looking at a trip around Australia; we are in our Mid 40s and are going to sell the house & the business and head off, with no time frame in mind,
    Just wondering if you could advise on what average cost of fuel would be to travel our beautiful country? Just a total estimate would be fine.  We’ll be in a motor home averaging 12/14 ltrs
    per 100km.

    We are also considering doing a working trip, picking up a few days here and there, in different towns. Do you think this would be possible?

    My wife had a few concerns about being on the road so far away from civilization, ie Crimes on travellers, Have you had any problems or know of any places that we could avoid.

    Sorry to be a pain with all the questions, Just our first time doing anything like this.

    It would be awesome to catch up with other travellers on or journey.

    We are so excited and are looking at starting as soon as we sell

    • G’day Shane,
      Great to hear you’re planning your trip.
      If you just travel around the coast you’ll probably cover around 30,000km which at 14 ltr/100 km would be 4,200 litres.
      Expect to pay on average about 30 cents per litre more than city prices which are currently about $1.50 ltr, so work on $1.80 ltr.
      4,200 x $1.80 = $7,560
      I’d probably budget about $10,000 just to be safe.
      Casual work can be easy to find if you ask around. Caravan parks in remote areas are often looking for people to help out for odd jobs, caretaking, etc. and they will also be able to point you in the right direction for local seasonal work like fruit picking.
      If you have a trade you’ll find it easier.
      Crime is not as much an issue as you might think and shouldn’t deter you from going. If you’re concerned about it, just stay in caravan parks with other people around rather than bush camping or roadside stops and don’t leave things lying around where they are easily taken. IN 16 months travelling around the country we lost nothing to thieves even though it would have been very easy to take stuff from our camp, nor did we hear of anyone else.
      You’ll have no problems meeting other people along the way. We met literally hundreds. In fact you’ll often keep meeting the same people over and over when you check into the same caravan parks.
      Enjoy your trip.
      Cheers
      Steve

  22. Hi Steve,

    Good advice. For some reason, and I have no idea why, I always think of travelling in a clockwise direction. I think at the end of the day, it would depend on how long I was going for, where I wanted to spend my time, and the time of year.

    Cheers,
    Greg

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