How to Plan Your Drive from Melbourne to Perth?

How to plan your drive from Melbourne to Perth?
Breathtaking view of Roe Plains from Eucla Pass, Eucla, WA

So, you are thinking of a great Australian road trip from Melbourne to Perth or Perth to Melbourne?

And, you want to know how to plan, what to take, what not, tips and tricks?

Based on my driving experience, these are the things I would suggest you plan better and have a safe, memorable and enjoyable journey.

Here you go.

Table of Contents


WARNING: Don't Underestimate Driving Distance

Before jumping into planning stuff, I want to give you a warning.

What is that?

Remember, Australia is not just a country. It is a continent.

Driving distances are huge between the capital cities. When you look at a map, Australia may look small and capital cities may look located nearby.

If you look into it, you'll realise that Australian capital cities are thousands of KM apart from each other.

The distance between Melbourne and Perth is a massive 3,500 KM.

In my opinion, you need to have the following two qualities to drive from Melbourne to Perth or vice-versa.

  1. You should be a long distance driver

  2. You love driving. You don't look at driving as a medium to commute from one place to another. Instead, it gives you happiness. It is the happiness for which you drive

Even if you don't have the above two qualities, you can still drive. However, you should have a lot of time with you, say 3 weeks or 4 weeks.

Also, remember this journey requires 36 hours of focused driving. Don't think that you can put the car on cruise control, sit back and relax. It won't work that way.

For your safety as well as the safety of other travellers, you have to have focus throughout your journey.

This journey involves days and days of driving. Don't think that you can get to the destination in a day or two. Depending upon the people, you may get fatigued and as you drive further you'll have accumulated fatigue.

Considering the above points, you should be honest and realistic about your driving capacity. That is, how many hours a day are you comfortable driving?

Never push yourself beyond your driving limits.

I am not telling all these to create hype or to threaten you. 

Instead, I am telling all these for you to have a nice, safe and enjoyable trip. Also, I want you to realise this before you plan further.

I think I have given you enough warning. Now, let's go to planning stuff.

Identify Number of Days of Travel

When you decide to drive from Melbourne to Perth or vice-versa, the first thing what you need to do is identifying the number of days of travel.

This will depend on the following.

  • purpose of driving

  • which route do you choose? Inland route of 3,500 KM or coastal route of 5,100 KM?

  • how many hours a day are you comfortable driving? Be honest and realistic with your driving capacity

For example, when I drove, my purpose was relocating from Melbourne to Perth. I chose the inland route of 3,500 KM as I had limited time. Based on my past driving experience, I knew I can drive 7 hours (or 700 KM) a day. Hence, I chose to drive in 5 days.

Prepare a Drive Itinerary

Once you finalise the number of days of travel, then try to work out a driving itinerary.

For this purpose, I have already created a page with sample itineraries from 3 days to 2 weeks.

You can have a look and pick one that suits you well. If not, you can come up with a new one based on the existing samples.

This is the page. Melbourne to Perth - Drive Itinerary


Choose Accommodation Type

Once you finalise your drive itinerary, you will come to know the places where you will be staying each night during your travel.

Now, you need to choose one or a combination of the following accommodation options.

  • camping

  • backpackers hostels

  • hotel, motel, caravan parks

  • sleeping in your vehicle (Caravan, Campervan, Camper Trailer, etc.)

  • Airbnb

  • Roadhouse accommodation across the Nullarbor Plain

I would like to tell you about a few mobile Apps and websites that can help you to choose and book the accommodation. They are listed below.

WikiCamps:

WikiCamps is a mobile App that provides details of campgrounds, caravan parks, backpacker hostels, day use area, points of interest, information centres and public dump points.

Good news is that this App works completely offline. Hence, you need not worry about Internet connectivity.

You can download and try this App for free. However, to access all the features, you'll need to pay a one time fee of $7.99. It's like pay once and use it forever.

CamperMate:

CamperMate is a mobile App similar to WikiCamps except that it is a completely free App. This App shows petrol stations, free and paid campsites, public toilets, dump points, travel tips, supermarkets, free wifi, info centres and much more.

This App works completely offline. Hence, you need not worry about Internet connectivity.

Hotel Booking Sites:

There are quite a few websites for hotel booking. They are

HotelsCombined

Booking.com

trivago

wotif

Expedia

tripadvisor

Hotels.com

last minute

Home Based Stay:

Homestay based websites

Airbnb

stayz

Roadhouse accommodation across the Nullarbor Plain:

If you plan to stay on the Nullarbor Plain during your journey, then remember that the accommodation options are basic and limited. There is no 5 star or luxury stay.

I have written a detailed post about the roadhouses across the Nullarbor, their location and contact details.

You can call them and book it as soon as possible.

This is the post - Roadhouses Across the Nullarbor Plain

Condition of Your Car

Your car is the most important thing for this trip. So, it should be in good condition.

I am not an expert with car mechanics stuff. However, there are a few things I would like to share. Consult a car mechanic for proper advice.

  • Bring a good and reliable car for this trip

  • Don't bring a sick car for this drive. This is not a trip where you experiment with your car or take risks. You'll regret later on

  • You need not service your car just for this trip. As long as the car has already been serviced and it is not due for another service, you should be alright. For example, when I drove my car from Melbourne to Perth, it was 9 months after it was serviced. I had no problems

  • Make sure the spare wheel on the boot is in a good shape. It should not be the flat tyre you forgot to fix it in the past

  • When was the last time you changed your car's battery? If it was more than 5 years ago, it's a good idea to change it before the trip. Seek an opinion from a car mechanic for this

  • When was the last time you changed your car's tyres? Tyres come with an expiry date. If they are close to expiry, then change them before the trip. Again, seek an opinion from a car mechanic

  • Nowadays, most of the cars have cruise control. If possible, try to get a car with cruise control. It'll help a lot on this trip as you'll be on the highway with speed limits of 100 KM and 110 KM most of the time

Emergency Roadside Assistance Cover

In addition to a good conditioned car, another important thing is the emergency roadside assistance for your car.

Irrespective of whether it's your car or a rental car, make sure you get an emergency roadside assistance cover for your car.


Driving at Night

Are you planning to drive at night? If yes, then you need to know a few things.

You should avoid driving at night, dawn and dusk across the Nullarbor Plain stretch of 1,200 KM. This area is full of wildlife and their activities are more during dawn, dusk and at night. This is not only to avoid roadkill but also to protect your car from any damage or immobilisation.

In other areas, if you are planning to drive at night, then you need to be vigilant about wildlife crossing the highway.

Since this drive involves multiple days, it is a good idea to limit your driving only to daylight hours.

This will not only give you sufficient rest but also avoid collision with wildlife.

Telstra SIM Card

When we go for a long drive that too for remote areas, communication is a key for various purposes. It can be to get in touch with our near and dear ones or to contact someone in case of any issues or emergencies.

Once you move out of the metro and urban areas, it is Telstra that provides phone and Internet coverage. Other Telecom providers such as Optus, Vodafone, etc. may not work and no point relying on them.

Since this trip is going to be primarily on country and outback areas, it is a good idea to get a temporary Telstra SIM card (if you are not already with Telstra).

You can purchase a Telstra SIM card for $2 from supermarkets such as Coles and Woolworths.

Then, you can go for a pre-paid plan or SIM only plan based on your needs.

Telstra Mobile Plans

Take Lot of Music

Music is going to be your best companion in this epic drive. So, take a lot of music in the form of CDs or on your phone's hard drive.

You should not rely on the Internet for music on this journey. You should be able to listen to music without any Internet connection.

Also, take a lot. Not a few. Since this is a very long drive, if you take few, then they'll get over quickly, gets repeated again and again causing you boredom.

Take Some Cash

Debit and credit cards work from Melbourne to Perth. So, no problem relying on them. Even on the roadhouses across the Nullarbor Plain, your card transaction won't be declined.

However, there are many small shops where you get good food and they prefer cash over card. In those cases, it's not a good idea to rush to an ATM.

So, take some cash with you in addition to your debit or credit cards.

If you rely on your cards, then $100 should be good enough.

I took $200 of which I spent only $15 in one of a small restaurants. Remaining all were on my credit card.

The point here is don't go cashless.

Taking Fruits and Veggies?

Are you planning to take fruits and veggies for this trip?

If yes, no problem at all. You can take.

However, you must read about Quarantine Checkpoint.

If you don't read, then all your fruits and veggies will go to the rubbish bin.

Not only it is a waste of food, but you also lose money too.

Don't Carry Extra Fuel

When you browse the Internet to get some guides to plan your drive from Melbourne to Perth or Perth to Melbourne, you will come across many articles and blog posts that suggest you carry a Jerry Can of petrol.

In my opinion, this is an overrated or overstated advice.

There are a lot of fuel stations on the way. Even, across the Nullarbor, there are 10 roadhouses with a petrol station.

The longest distance without a fuel stop is 191 KM. If your car can travel this distance with a full tank of fuel, then you should be alright.

Hence, don't carry extra fuel.


Beware of "How to Cross the Nullarbor?" Guides

This is related to the previous point "Don't carry extra fuel".

When you surf the Internet to get some details about Nullarbor Plain, you'll come across a lot of articles and blog posts with a title similar to "How to Cross the Nullarbor?".

These guides give you tips and tricks to drive across the Nullarbor Plain.

I respect those people and organisations that come up with these articles in an attempt to help other travellers. Unfortunately, quite a lot of advice in these articles are not relevant to present travel conditions.

In the past, the road across the Nullarbor was not sealed. Also, there were no roadhouses. So, the travellers had to carry their food, water, petrol, camping stuff and car mechanic kit to survive the distance of 1,200 KM.

Hence, many books, guides, maps, articles, websites, TV shows came up with tips and tricks to cross the Nullarbor.

When I travelled, I found that the road across the Nullarbor was fully sealed, well maintained and in good condition. Also, there were 10 roadhouses across the Nullarbor where you get petrol, food, water and accommodation.

When I compared the past and present, I found that quite a lot of advice given in those articles are not relevant to present travel conditions.

So, if you happen to come across an article with a title similar to "How to cross the Nullarbor?", just check it's published date and see if it was written for the past or present condition.

Considering all these differences, I wrote a separate post to clarify this point.

Check this - Misconceptions about Nullarbor

Time Zones

Time zones are something that everyone ignores or not aware of. Even the second time travellers forget about this. So, this is something you'll need to understand to plan better and to avoid any confusion during the drive.

As I have mentioned many times on this website, there are 4 time zones between Melbourne and Perth. Hence, you'll need to adjust your clock 3 times during this drive.

I have written a detailed post about this.

Read this - Time zones between Melbourne and Perth

Try To Avoid City Traffic

Depending upon your plan, you may enter and exit three major capital cities in this journey. They are Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth.

Just work out a plan in such a way that you'll enter or exit these capital cities during off-peak times only. This will save a lot of your time.

Send Itinerary to Family

If you are planning to drive alone or with your friends, then it is a good idea to convey your drive itinerary to your family so that they'll be aware of where you are going, where you stay and other arrangements.

Take Medicine

It is important to keep yourself fit and healthy during this long drive. Hence, take some general medicines such as Panadol, Nurofen, Strepcils, etc.

You don't need a prescription to purchase these. You can even get them from supermarkets such as Coles and Woolworths.

Have a Backup Plan

When you plan this long drive, don't have a packed schedule.

If possible, try to have an extra day or two. This is just in case you had trouble during the drive.

For example, you fall sick or you were unable to drive or a portion of the highway gets closed due to some incidents or bushfires, etc.

You need not have a concrete backup plan. Just think about this.

When I travelled, I had a backup plan. That was, for whatsoever reason, if I am unable to drive, then I'll extend the trip by a day or two.

Most of the times, you need not execute these backup plans. But, it is good to think about.

Carry other Usual Stuff

This is just a reminder to carry the things that you usually carry for your road trips.

  • Phone, Tablet and Laptop with their chargers
  • Camera, batteries, charger, USB cable and lenses
  • Drones and their stuff
  • Hat, sunglass, sunscreen
  • Depending upon the weather conditions, jumpers and jackets

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