Touring Remote Oz - the Myth Part 1

Think you are just going to bundle up the caravan or camper trailer and swan off into the sunset and discover paradise lost – a perfectly secluded hideaway undiscovered until now. Well, you may need to think again.

With Australia’s population nearing 23 million you could be forgiven for feeling that 22 million of us are touring across the continent in search of a remote corner to pull up a deck chair and watch a sunset.

Who's On the Road
cows at roadside camp

And let’s not forget the German,French,Dutch,English (etc.) tourists who, each season, desert Europe in the tens of thousands to experience “the Australian Outback”.

Driving along Highway 1, the national road that virtually hugs the Australian coast; you could be forgiven for assuming you were trapped in a convoy heading for the 'World Caravan Conference'. For many people, travelling in this manner provides a sense of security and belonging, much like living in a typical suburb in a typical city.

Driving along Highway 1 , the national road that virtually hugs the Australian coast; you could be forgiven for assuming you were trapped in a convoy heading for the World Caravan Conference. For many people, travelling in this manner provides a sense of security and belonging, much like living in a typical suburb in a typical city.

They tow from caravan park to caravan park, the “Grey Nomads” living the Australian retirement dream – the off-road caravan hooked to the 4WD with a tinny on the roof. The more affluent European tourists tend to rent mobile homes, Winnebago’s and the like while the younger generation cram into cheap station wagons loaded with sleeping bags, bathers, bongs and beer and sleep in car parks and on beaches.

Many people continually reacquaint as their journeys intermingle along the same roads, visiting the same tourist attractions or refuelling in the same roadhouses. Encounters and experiences are swapped…who has the cheapest fuel…how to catch a barramundi…how difficult the climb up the last rock etc.

Room for Everyone

In the population density stakes Australia ranks 233 out of 239 countries meaning as a nation each one of us has more personal space than nearly any one else in the world. Poke your head out onto any national highway and decide for yourself how isolated we are.

Part of the reason is infrastructure and the nature of the Australian continent. At over 7.6 million square kilometres there is plenty to see but generally the most accessible and highly promoted areas are those that hug the coast. For many Australians coastal living is culturally ingrained and a holiday by the beach is a national right while an English tourist may be intimidated by the vast deserts of the interior and the prospect of getting there.

What all this means is that it is getting harder and harder to find a place to enjoy the solitude of the bush. Even the more remote iconic destinations such as Karijini or Uluru are under constant invasion from unrelenting touring coaches, cars and caravans - some on day visits, some staying a week or more. Taking a classic photograph of a well known destination is sometimes impossible. Any chance of success usually means arriving well before sunrise and the arrival of the hoards.

A degree of isolation can be achieved by planning to visit an area in summer when the grey nomads stream south for the cooler weather. But don’t make the mistake of thinking you will be the only person climbing Mount Augustus today because it is 47 degrees in the shade.

Finding somewhere to pull up for the night is equally daunting. With a little forward planning over-nighting at caravan parks and hotel/motels is generally pretty easy. For the less organized discovering a quiet piece of ground to pitch a tent or park a mobile home can become a daunting task, especially as the sun disappears below the horizon and visibility becomes an issue.

Most shires provide some sort of overnight rest areas along major highways, however don’t assume you will always find a spot. If you are lucky enough to get one of these areas to yourself - chances are the passing roadtrains (big trucks) will keep you awake most of the night.

Continued Part 2 ‣

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