The Big Lap of Australia – What is It? How to Do It?

by | Nov 5, 2022 | Australia Live Work and Play, Live Work Play Travel | 12 comments

Are you ready to do the big lap of Australia? Not sure what it is, where to start or hod to do it? As Australia is a large (as big as Europe) and diverse country, without a doubt, the best way to see it in all its glory is to jump in a vehicle and hit the road. But a bit of planning should be done if you want to drive around Australia. This practical blog will provide you with info, tips and tricks before you set off on this epic adventure of driving the big lap of Australia. 

What is the Big Lap of Australia?

When we talk about the big lap of Australia we are talking about the journey of driving around it. Highway 1 skirts the entire way around Australia. It is made up of major highways like the Princes Highway, Eyre Highway, Great Northern Highway, Bruce Highway and the Pacific Highway. Together these highways make up around 14,500 kilometres of road. They link the major capital cities and will take you too many of iconic Australian sights. You can also deviate from the big lap route to include the Outback by taking the Stuart Highway that joins Darwin to Adelaide or hopping a ferry to Tasmania.


Who Does the Big Lap of Australia?

Anyone and everyone can and does the big lap of Australia. From international and local backpackers to families with young children to empty nesters and grey nomads. Really, anyone who wants to live, work and play in Australia.


What to See and Do During your Big Lap?

Map Of Australia Highlight Towns and Cities To Visit And How Long To Visit.

Plenty to see on a big lap around Australia


There is so much to see and do in Australia, just have a look at my map. It shows some of the iconic highlights you must include in your big lap and suggests how long to stay at each. This is just a taste though! The luxury about driving around Australia is that you can deviate at any time and can discover many other memorable things. Need some inspiration? Check out my road trips. Or see my state based suggestions: ACT, NSW, Victoria, South Australia, Tasmania, Western Australia, Queensland and Northern Territory.


My Top Things to Do and See While in Australia


  1. Walk around Sydney Harbour, NSW
  2. Visit Parliament House in Canberra, ACT
  3. Go wine tasting in the Yarra Valley, VIC
  4. See the Apostles of the Great Ocean road, VIC
  5. Spend a week on the Gold Coast, QLD
  6. Dive or snorkel the Great Barrier reef, QLD
  7. See the Crocodiles and Aboriginal Art in Kakadu
  8. Visit the red Centre and see Uluru, NT
  9. Meet the Quokkas on Rottnest Island, WA
  10. Go wine tasting in the Barrosa Valley, SA
  11. Try opal mining in Coober Pedy and stay underground, SA
  12. Enjoy the Hobart Waterfront, TAS
  13. Visit the dolphins of Monkey Mia, WA
  14. See Wave rock, WA
  15. Whale Watch in Hervey Bay, QLD


These are my top 15 things to see and do while travelling around Australia. But there are many more just waiting for you to discover them while doing your big lap of Australia.


How Long Does it Take to Drive the Big Lap of Oz?


The coach left Alice Springs on time at 8.30pm, but soon the traveller sitting next to me enquired whether I knew how much longer it was until we’d be there? Her jaw dropped to the floor when I told her we weren’t due into Darwin until 3.30pm tomorrow afternoon. She looked at her watch and counted around its face. “But that’s another 17 hours” she exclaimed. “I know” I responded. All up the trip from Alice Springs to Darwin took 19 hours. Nine-teen very long hours!

As I recovered from my long bus trip by the hostel’s pool, another girl joined me and soon revealed that she had just arrived in Darwin after a 33-hour bus journey from Cairns. Another backpacker then advised he had spent 56 hours on the bus coming from Perth to Darwin. I could go on with more stories like this, but I think you get the gist that Australia is a big country and there are long distances to travel.

To work out how long it might take you to travel around Australia you will need to consider what you want to see (see my map earlier) and how long you will stay at each place. Then consider the distances you will need to travel to be able to see them. Have a look at the example of distances following. If you are worried you may run out of money then pick up work along the way. Check out my Work Types page for some inspiration.


Example Distances in Kilometres You Will Cover When Driving Around Australia


You can roughly work out in hours how long it will take to drive around Australia. If on average you drive 100km per hour, then for example, Perth to Sydney is 4057km. Therefore, it can take around 41 hours to drive – that doesn’t include breaks. So if you stopped every couple of hours like you should for a break, you can probably add another 20 hours or so to this journey.

Adelaide (SA)
1540  Alice Springs (NT)
2103  3111  Brisbane (QLD)
5170. 2630. 4712  Broome (WA)
3545  2370  1703  4020  Cairns (QLD)
1198  2638  1347  5518  3050  Canberra (ACT)
2947  1407  3489  1865  2845  4295  3854  Darwin (NT)
2626  1086  3168  1544  2524  3895  3533. 321. Katherine (NT)
741   2181  1702  5649  3116   670    4125  3836  3373  Melbourne (VIC)
2770  3535  4492  2248  5905  3798  6914  4113  3792  3472  Perth (WA)
1394  2766  1019  5502  2722  328   3731  3967  3563   998   4057  Sydney (NSW)

So how long does it take to drive around Australia? On average, many people take 12 months to drive the big lap of Oz however, some people take less while others travel for years. It really depends on your situation – how long do you want to travel around Australia for? How long have you got?


READ MORE: 8 Quick Vehicle Checks Before Leaving


Choose the Direction – Clockwise or Anticlockwise?


Which way should you go on your big lap of Australia? Clockwise or anticlockwise? Honestly, it doesn’t matter! Some prefer to go anticlockwise because it is shorter. This is because we drive on the left side of the roads in Australia and driving anticlockwise will mean you are driving closer to the inside of Australia, which is shorter. Other travellers prefer to go clockwise because they are travelling closer to the coastline and see it better without other vehicles wizzing past and blocking views. But honestly, it is up to you.


When is the Best Time to Drive the Big Lap of Oz?


Anytime is a good time to begin your travels in Australia however, the weather can be a big influence. Someone once said to me “I come from a country that has some of the coldest winters in the world – if I can follow the sun and avoid a winter, then I will”. It is possible to have year-round summer if that’s what you want. Simply stay in the southern states during the summer months (December, January, February) then head north during the winter months (June, July, August).

Australia’s climate varies greatly throughout its six states and two territories. There are four distinct seasons across most of the country and a wet and dry season in the tropical north. A big influence on the northern half of Australia is the Tropic of Capricorn, which runs through it. This gives the top half of Australia two seasons: wet and dry. During the wet season (November to April) days are hot and humid with a lot of rain and usually a cyclone or two which could lead to flooded roads and interfere with your journey. The best time to visit the northern half is usually during the winter months when the days are warm. So if you want to spend time in the Outback and the Great Barrier Reef, this is usually the best time to go.

Travelling the southern half is fine anytime but most spend the summer months doing this part of the country. This is because the southern states can be very cold during the winter months with snow on the mountains. If you like the snow you will enjoy the many ski centres in New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania during this time. You could even get a job and work and ski Australia, here’s how.

Overall though, it is your choice when you hit the road.


What Kind of Vehicle will You Drive the Big Lap of Oz in?


Van parked at beach on big lap of Oz.

Choose your transport to do the big lap of Oz


Now, choosing the right vehicle to drive the big lap of Oz is a very, very big decision. There is a lot of choice. Your options can include, but are not limited to, buying or renting a vehicle which could be a car, camper van, car towing a caravan, 4WD, motorhome or even a bus. If you don’t want to drive yourself then consider a bus tour or a bus pass with Greyhound Australia. Check out your options with

What influences your choice is the size of your party that is travelling, age and budget. If you are taking your ‘home’ with you, you need to be comfortable and happy in it. You travel better that way!  I suggest you make a list of pros and cons of each style of transport and work out what suits you. Maybe rent something and go away for a weekend to see what you think first! This is what I did and my fitted out van was wonderful. It had a cooktop and sink, shower and toilet, a bed and room to sit and work on my laptop – everything I needed while I travelled around Australia. Occasionally I would check into a motel – just because I felt like it!


Where will you Sleep during your Big Lap

The type of accommodation you will stay in while travelling Australia will depend on your transport. If you have your accommodation with you, you are set. If you are taking your accommodation with you, an absolute must have app is WikiCamps ($7.99). It is a user-generated database of campsites, caravan parks, day stops and free camps that will help you find a place to pull over for the night. However, if you need to find some each night there is a wide choice available from campsites to hostels to budget hotels to apartments to resorts. One way to find accommodation that lists many options is to check out accommodation booking sites such as


How Much will a Big Lap of Australia Cost?

There are a lot of variables when it comes to budgeting for your big lap of Australia. To work out a rough calculation consider putting together a spreadsheet listing items that could include the purchase or rental of a vehicle, fuel, supplies like camping gear, cooking utensils and bedding. Then you might include accommodation costs like camping fees or hostel costs, food and entrance fees to sights. And maybe add incidentals like clothes and souvenirs. Throw in a column for takeaway coffees and the odd trip to a coffee shop or restaurant and you could guesstimate how much it might all cost. If it scares you the amount you calculated remember you could pick up work along the way to keep you travelling. Visit my work page for some inspiration.


Don’t forget Travel Insurance, Vehicle Insurance and Roadside Assistance 


If you are Australian you are covered by Medicare for medical issues in Australia, and it is up to you if you take out private medical Insurance. If from overseas a regular travel insurance policy will cover yourself while you travel around Australia. A policy with World Nomads is a good option as is one with Safety Wing which is aimed at long-term travellers. And don’t forget insurance for your vehicle – you just don’t know if something might happen. CIL Insurance specialise in caravan / campervan insurance in Australia.


My Best Tips for Planning and Undertaking the Big Lap Of Australia 


1. Do some research of places you want to see. Make of list of these places and plot a map of where they are.
2. Choose the direction – clockwise or anticlockwise?
3. Decide on the right vehicle and what accommodation you need.
4. Consider the weather and the best time to be in a certain place.
5. Set your budget and time frame.
6. Take out necessary insurance and roadside assistance.
9. Don’t be afraid to change your plans.
10.Click around my website Live Work and Play in Australia for practical Information about Travelling in Australia and inspiration of what to see and do.


Are You ready to Travel Australia?


I hope this blog has helped you to plan and begin your big lap around Australia. Whether you are planning to travel for a few months or a couple of years, If you can’t do the big lap all at once consider smaller road trips. But wherever you decide to go, and which ever way you decide to go, how to do it and how ever long you decide to take to do it, enjoy your big lap of Australia. I’d love to hear in the comments below.


Big Lap of Oz Pin With Vehicle

Thanks for sharing!

Useful Travel Resources for Your Next Adventure!


Accommodation: Where Will You Sleep Tonight? If you want a bed in a hostel dorm find a great deal with HostelWorld. I mostly stay in hotels now, is my favourite site for booking hotels from budget to ‘I feel like splurging’. For something completely different I house and pet sitting through Trusted Housesitters – this has saved me thousands on accommodation, no joke!

Flights: I always head to Skyscanner first to find a cheap and flexible flight.

Car Rental: When I need to rent a car I turn to RentalCars.

Train Travel: I love riding the train rails and get the best value from raileurope. And Japan has a great one too – JapanRail Pass.

Bus Travel: Check out Busbud for bus tickets.

Pre-organised Tours: I’ve been on a few in my time with Contiki being my first and favourite. if you are 18-35 years of age you should check them out.

Jump-the-queue entrance tickets: I don’t enjoy standing in long queues which is why I book my entrance tickets and day trips in advance. My favourite website to book them in advance is GetYourGuide.

Travel Insurance. There are a number of reasons why travel insurance is important and I never travel without having bought a policy as you never know when something might happen. SafetyWing is great digital nomads and long-term travellers.


Sharyn McCullum In A Black T-shirt With Her Live Work Play Travel Logo In The Shape Of A World.

Hi. Sharyn here, the face behind Live Work Play Travel. I’ve been travelling all my life thanks to my dad who worked for an airline. My aim with this blog is to help you work abroad or work online and travel the world.   Read more.


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Hi, Sharyn here. I’m the face behind Live Work Play Travel. I’ve travelled all my life thanks to my dad who worked for an airline – thanks dad! I’ve been a travel writer/blogger and living a location independent lifestyle since 1993. My aim with Live Work Play Travel is to provide you with the info to start living, working and travelling around the world like I do. I currently live in Melbourne with my partner and 2 kids. 



    Lovely post, Sharyn! I like how you have explained the reason behind choosing the direction. Personally, I would go for the clockwise one.

  2. Terri

    This sounds like the trip of a lifetime. It would be incredible for a family to experience together. I enjoy just reading about it!

  3. Deirdre Jenkins

    Thats for providing recommended days for each location. The overall map is very helpful for planning purposes!

  4. Nicola Lavin

    Wow! I don’t know why but I was never enticed to visit Australia but after reading this post all I want to do is get in a van and drive around it. It seems like an incredible experience and your post has some really useful tips for planning a trip.

  5. Heather Markel

    Great post and wow, the distance chart really puts Australia driving in perspective!

  6. Josy A

    This would be SUCH a good way to try out Van Life! A lap around Oz when you bring the accomodation with you would be soooo cool!

    Those distances are just sooo massive though! Aus is flipping huge.

  7. Lisa

    Some good info here for people considering doing this huge trip.
    Definitely some great things to see along the way too!

    • Sharyn McCullum

      Two key things you mentioned – huge trip and lots to see. That is Australia and is one of the best ways to discover Australia. I hope you get to one day.

  8. Marga

    I never heard of it before but this looks so cool! I’ve pinned it for whenever I make it down under!

    • Sharyn McCullum

      Not everyone has heard of the Big Lap of Australia but I am glad you are pinning this for later for when you make it down under.

  9. Krista

    What an incredible drive to go on! I haven’t made it to Australia yet but this is definitely on my list when I go.

  10. Denise

    The Big Lap sounds like a great way to see Australia! Pinning!


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