In the past few weeks I’ve had several people email or Facebook message me asking if it’s really necessary to have a 4WD to drive around Australia . . .
A few decades ago the answer would have been almost certainly YES . . .
But these days it isn’t as critical as it once was.
National Highway One runs right around the country and it is sealed virtually all the way so you can definitely drive around Australia and never get your tyres dirty.
There are plenty of backpackers in Hiace vans and old Falcons & Commodores and other travellers in motorhomes who are getting out and seeing Australia without a 4WD.
But . . . in my opinion, they are missing some of the best this country has to offer.
There are just so many great places to go that DO need a 4WD that you will want to explore once you get out there.
And given that doing The Big Lap for most people is once in a lifetime experience, why wouldn’t you want to be able to do and see everything when you have the opportunity?
For example . . .
You can drive around Kakadu National Park on sealed roads but if you want to get out to Jim Jim Falls and Twin Falls then you’ll need a 4WD.
Heading north out of Kakadu through Arnhem Land you can take your 4WD up to Garig Gunak Barlu National Park on the Cobourg Peninsula which is one of the most remote and awesome destinations we stayed on our Big Lap. Only a small number of vehicles are allowed in at a time so you feel like you have the place to yourself - a big change from the crowds of tourists in Kakadu.
A gorgeous sunrise over the billabong at Garig Gunak Barlu National Park, Cobourg Peninsula NT
With a 4WD you can drive the Gibb River Road which takes you right through the heart of the Kimberley instead of skirting around the bottom on the sealed road - who would want to miss that?
Of course Cape York is probably the ultimate 4WD destination and I can’t imagine leaving that off my Big Lap itinerary.
Head East out of Mataranka towards the Roper River on the Savannah Way and you have 1000+ km’s of remote Gulf Country to explore . . . but you’ll need a 4WD.
Pretty much everywhere you go in Australia you’ll find that the sealed road runs out and that’s where the real adventure begins and many of the best destinations are found.
The great thing about Australia compared with countries like the USA is that we haven’t sealed all the roads so it limits the numbers of people that can travel them.
So having a 4WD is a great way to escape the crowds and discover the true outback.
From a practical point of view, a 4WD will get you everywhere you want to go but it is also a much stronger and more capable vehicle. This is important when you consider you’ll be driving at least 30,000km fully loaded.
So if your only option is to do the big lap in a 2WD then definitely do it because any way is better than no way.
BUT . . . seriously think long and hard about it because having a 4WD will make for a much bigger adventure.
Jen taking in the view from the Gibb River Road