How to Overland Australia, Sydney to Cape York

australia overland 1 map

How to Overland Australia Sydney to Cape York is a recap of my first 6 month visit to Oz. I provide details that include maps, costs, logistical requirements and facts as well as links to additional details, photos and videos. This is a self-guided adventure on a shoestring. Follow the links to dig deeper into the adventure.

easyThe actual travel time on this road trip was around two months. The additional time was spent visiting relatives in the Sydney area, finding, purchasing and preparing the Yamaha XT 650 motorcycle. This trip can be done in a non-4×4 or non-trail motorcycle (except for the Cooktown to Cape York section). This post will focus only on the overland travel part of the trip.

This the first segment of my Overland Oz set. The next segment is “How to Overland Australia Sydney to Perth.”

Overland Australia, Transportation – Buy/Rent

Backpacker driving options in Australia are plentiful. I was lucky to purchased my motorcycle in the word out and finding a friend-of-a-friend who had the motorcycle prepared for long distance and off road. But the more logical approach is by using Gumtree (a Craigslist type of Internet service) or the Sydney Backpackers car market (if it’s still operating). I had lots of time on both ends of the road trip so buying and selling wasn’t an issue.

Registration (rego) in Oz depends on state, but unlike Europe, you don’t need to be a resident of Oz to register a vehicle for road use. Rego on the vehicle lasts one year, so a vehicle with lots of months left is worth more than one with fewer months since at the end of the term you will have to pay for the new rego in the state of issue or transfer it to the state your in. Rego also includes very limited insurance (enough to get you on the road driving). You can optionally buy additional insurance. If the vehicle has a Western Australia rego you don’t need to have it officially inspected by a mechanic on transfer. If a NSW rego you will need an inspection. It varies so check out the rules before you buy.

For those with less time, there are lots of rental or buy-back options available. I’m not talking about rental car agencies (who are nowadays work alongside with zego courier service at time of urgent delivery), I’m referring to agencies that are backpacker travel specific.

There are also train or bus package options for the east coast of Oz. There is even a hop on/ hop off backpacker hostels service (like the South Africa Baz Bus).

cost rangeTotal Cost Range of this Activity is: $$$

Rather than giving details here, I will simply say that Australia is NOT cheap. The average dorm night stay in a hostel was around AUS $25 pp and doubles around $75. Camping was around $30-45 per night. The must-have tool for overlanding in Oz is the WikiCamps app. It includes paid and free campsites with details and user reviews (very important since some places are dumps).

Youth Hostels Australia

Join YHA if you want discounted hostels that are clean, cool and fun (but not crazy). You can buy bed packages with vouchers for all YHA locations, book in advance or get discounts on trips. There are two types of hostels in Oz. YHA (with dorms, singles, doubles and family rooms) and the others. The others are private and generally accommodate long-stay backpackers. Because Oz is full of 1-2 yr backpackers on the work-as-you-go VISA’s there is a need for long but cheap(er) accommodation. Hence the other hostel option. Unfortunately, this crowd generally wants to party like rock stars. So forget about a quiet night of sleep or anything related to clean if you stay in a non-YHA long stay hostel. There are good private hostels but read the reviews carefully before booking.

Note that Australians love to BBQ, so facilities for BBQing (and public restrooms) are in almost every town center, roadside rest area, camp ground, etc.

Auto fuel is also not cheap in Australia although GPL is available in and around most cities for those that manage to find/rent a converted vehicle. The Mitsubishi that I purchased was a conversion, so ran on both GPL and regular petrol. I recommend the GasBuddy app to help you find local and cheap options.


Overland Australia, Sydney to Cape York Itinerary

East Coast Route Side Trips
Sydney to Newcastle
Newcastle to Port Macquarie
Port Macquarie to Bellingen
Bellingen to Coffs Harbour
Coffs Harbour to Ballina
Ballina to Byron Bay
Byron Bay to Surfers Paradise (QLD)
Surfers Paradise to Brisbane
Morton Island Adventure (4 days, 3 nights) – Visit the Moreton Island blog post for details about the hiking circuit of the island.
Brisbane to Noosa
Everglades Canoe Adventure (3 days, 2 nights) – separate blog
Noosa to Rainbow Beach
Fraser Island Adventure (3 days, 2 nights) – separate blog
Rainbow Beach to Maryborough
Maryborough to 1770
1770 to Lotus Creek
Lotus Creek to Airlie Beach
Whitsunday Sailing Adventure (3 days, 2 nights)
Airlie Beach to Townsville, Magnetic Island
Magnetic Island to Townsville
Townsville to Wallaman Falls
Wallaman Falls to Mission Beach (Dunk Island, Clump Mt)
Mission Beach to Cairns
Cairns Day rides up the escarpment:
Tinaroo Dam
Mungalli Falls
Millaa Millaa Falls
Barron Falls
Davis Creek Falls
Cairns to Port Douglas
Port Douglas to Cape Tribulation (Daintree Rainforest)
Cape Tribulation to Cooktown
Cairns to Cape York Adventure (7+ days) – separate blog
Dedication In memory of Gord Martin, 
who rode dirt bikes with me in my youth
and rode with me on this trip in spirit

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Overland Australia GPS

Australia is huge and mostly empty so basic paper maps are fine but to find places in towns and cities a GPS is a must. Yes, Google maps works (when not off the grid), but I purchased an old fashion handheld unit I could carry with me or mount on the bike. Large and easy to see, had alternative route options and showed places of interest (gas stations, supermarkets, etc). So Google is ok, but Google and a real GPS unit is best if planning to get off the grid.

Overland Australia Other Adventures posts:

4×4 Fraser Island Queensland

Hiking Around Moreton Island Queensland

Noosa Everglades Canoe Trip Queensland

4×4 Cape York Ride Queensland

Kosciusko Summit & MTB Thredbo, NSW

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