Once you’ve made the decision to drive around Australia, 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.
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 more important are when you leave and where you start from.
If you want to maximise the good weather then you’ll probably want to spend the middle 6 months of the year (April to September) travelling across the north of Australia between Broome and Cairns or vice 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 in April 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 businesses 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.
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 maximising the experience.