The decision to travel around Australia is a big one. There are so many variables and things to consider, it’s a huge endeavour. Australia is a big and unforgiving country, hence there is lots to think about to make sure you are ready to do “the big lap”
Things like where and when to visit certain places, how much money will you need, what are the safety issues etc. All of which need careful thought and planning. But another decision to be made is Which Way? That’s right…… Clockwise OR Anti-clockwise? There really is more to it than just pulling out of your driveway and flipping a coin.
Direction of travel may sound like something that’s not all that important and could easily be based on convenience to the places you wish to see first. BUT there are a few things that you may not have thought about. The biggest and probably the most important factor to consider is the WEATHER.
Even if your plans to travel don’t involve going right around, it’s still a good idea to have a think about this.
Before we left to do the big lap we spent plenty of time researching, trip planning and using the internet resources and forums to help us make decisions based on other people’s experiences. The general consensus was that ANTI-CLOCKWISE was most popular- for a few reasons but more significantly it was because of favourable winds. (Head winds & tail winds- especially if towing). Wind resistance and fuel economy is a major concern for most travellers.
We travelled anti-clockwise ourselves and I can only share the following observations from personal experience. As we travelled north up the Stuart Hwy from Port Augusta to Darwin we had real prominent tail winds most days (June/July). My wallet thanked me, especially as fuel costs in that part of Oz are a little on the pricey side.
As we headed west from Darwin towards Broome (July/August) – we also had mainly tail winds (and quite strong ones). We would not have liked driving/towing into them coming the other way.
As we headed south from Broome to Perth – it was just plain windy all the time (was particularly worst August through to January) and mainly the winds blew off the Indian Ocean and didn’t impact too much on our fuel economy. As we crossed the Nullabor (in May), again we had favourable tail winds. So we can definitely say that we saved quite a substantial amount of fuel which was very important to our budget. So I guess we tend to agree with the general consensus that Anti-clockwise is better for fuel economy. The tail winds we experienced were very noticeable and I don’t know if it was just our good luck or because there are actual regular wind patterns that favour that direction of travel- but it is clearly the most popular choice for travellers.
Of course there is no black & white answer to the “which way” question. Many other factors like timing, when and where you expect to be at certain times of the year? Most people know that tropical QLD, the Top End and North West WA experience some pretty tough weather during the summer months, typically referred to as “the wet season” and for good reason! If you decide to be up north during this time be prepared for heavy and constant rain, high humidity, strong winds and the occasional cyclone. Roads often close and once you commit to an area there is a chance you will need to remain there until roads open again. But don’t let that deter you- although we haven’t experienced it yet, we are led to believe that experiencing a wet season up north is truly a marvellous and spectacular event. The wildlife, the wetlands and the rivers are said to come alive. We can’t wait to do it one day and see it for ourselves- we will make sure we go prepared.
May through to September is a very popular time to visit northern Australia. Average temps in winter are above 30c and very little rain. You will find many southerners enjoying the winter-sun up north as winter months down south can get quite chilly. Southern Victoria, SA & Southern WA are usually lucky if they get temps over 20c during the day in winter. A great excuse to head north!
Planning your travel based on the weather and the seasons is almost crucial if you intend going to remote desert areas as it’s not uncommon to experience temps of over 45c-50c in areas such as the Pilbara, The Kimberly’s and central OZ. Even temperatures in the winter months in these areas can be challenging.
Perhaps if you are new to travelling, you may wish to start your travels close to civilization and major towns. Then as you get to be a more “experienced”, comfortable and confident traveller you can start venturing into more isolated and remote areas. (If that’s the kind of travel you wish to experience).
Sometimes direction, timing and convenience are pretty trivial to some, all I would suggest is that you monitor the weather, have plans in case of severe weather events, budget for a bit of excess fuel usage in times of headwinds. Let people know where you’re heading and keep in touch with family.
Do your research and go well prepared. Consider insurance for your van or trailer and listen to advice you may receive along the way from other travellers.
It was also jokingly pointed out to me that if you travel anti-clockwise you will save fuel because the distance is shorter. (Because you drive on the inside lane of the highway) Makes sense! Ha ha!
In our opinion the Bureau of Meteorology is the most valuable resource for tracking weather statistics, obtaining forecasts and keeping up to date with weather warnings.
Happy Travels (whichever direction you choose)