Travelling Australia; do you book, or wing it?

Australia has some of the most magic places to explore and stay at in the world. We love to hop from place to place, having a great time for a couple of days and then moving on when we feel ready to do so. However, some places are so popular that you have to book them significantly far in advance, and that kills your flexibility.

Particularly on our trips up north, if you don’t book in advance you can have a very hard time getting into the locations that you want to (or not be able to at all). Any of the DBCA camp sites in Cape Range National Park for example during the period from May to August for example, are booked out within seconds of becoming available every single year.

You can literally log on at midnight, and within a few seconds the site you want to book will be gone, without fail.

Cape Range Camping
Want a spot at Cape Range National Park in peak season? You’ll have to book the second its available

Why book?


Before kids, we were a bit more flexible in terms of where we stayed, and it didn’t matter too much if we rolled into a camp late in the afternoon and it was full; we’d just keep moving and find somewhere else. However, once you have little monsters in the back of your vehicle, this becomes a lot harder to do and keep everyone happy.

We book the places that we need to in order to secure a site, and to ensure that when we travel a long distance with the kids we actually have somewhere to stay upon arrival.

Sunset at camp
The last thing you want to be doing is driving around after dark trying to find a camp site (especially with little kids in the back!)

It’s great for catching up with others

One advantage of making bookings is that you can share your itinerary with others, and they can meet you at a particular place. On our longer trips we often invite whoever wants to come, and they might only come for a portion of the trip. If we didn’t have a camp site booked it would be hard to tell them when and where to meet up, especially if they are travelling a long distance to meet you!

Wedge Tail Eagle Retreat
A booking is great for catching up with a big group of people

Why wing it?

Some places don’t live up to expectations

We’ve booked a few places in the past and after a day or two been sick of them, and wanted to move on, but after paying for a site at a caravan park its money thrown away so you feel obliged to stay longer.

The caravan park we stayed at in Katherine was reasonable, but we just didn’t really enjoy the area, and would have loved to move earlier.

Katherine Caravan Park
We booked 5 nights at Katherine, and could have easily left after 2 or 3

Some places exceed your expectations

On the flip side, when you book a couple of days you can easily find yourself wanting longer as its better than you expected, and its not always easy to get an extension. Barn hill Station was a place like this for us; we spent a few nights there and could have easily done more. Its just got an incredible, laid back atmosphere with some of the best beaches around.

Barn Hill views
I was quite sad to leave Barn Hill; another couple of days would have been amazing

The weather can be foul

The weather will make or break a location in so many ways. This is particularly the case when its windy, hot or raining. We are currently part way through a week away at Horrocks on the WA coast, and whilst its an amazing location, we couldn’t have scored worse weather. Its literally so bad that you can’t use the playground without getting covered in sand, and the ocean looks like one giant stirred up mess.

We’ve had 35 – 55km/h winds for most of our stay here, and it makes it hard to stay comfortable. We took the boat out this morning, determined to do some trolling behind the reef regardless of the weather, and came back in within a couple of minutes as we realised the risk of sinking the boat was just too high.

You don’t control the weather, and it can really suck when you’ve booked a week or longer in a normally amazing location, and when you arrive its feral and not good for doing anything.

Horrocks beach
Horrocks is a stunning spot, but we had days of terrible wind

Making it up as you go is a lot of fun

One thing we’ve discovered is that it can be a heap of fun to go with no itinerary, and no real destination in mind. You blow from place to place, and with no expectations often comes a heap of enjoyment. Instead of knowing exactly where we are going, and what we will find there, we just arrive at a place that someone has recommended, and enjoy the moment. 

A rigid plan can take away from the enjoyment of travelling sometimes as you have zero flexibility, and you know every next move. I’m not sure if that makes sense, but its how we feel!

What do we do?

We tend to mix things up, depending on where we are going, and what time of year it is. We’ve done a heap of trips where we booked a heap of things because if we didn’t, we wouldn’t have a place to stay that night. We’ll often have a bit of an itinerary that has some booked sites and some unbooked, and still retain some flexibility.

On our recent 3 week trip through the Pilbara though, we didn’t book a single thing and it was one of the most relaxing and enjoyable trips that we’ve ever done. Of course, the Pilbara area is more open to free camping and finding somewhere to pull up than other areas of the country, but deciding every day whether we wanted to hang around or move on was really refreshing.

On our lap of Australia (which we should have just left on by the time this comes out) we are avoiding booking things as much as possible. We are aware of how busy its likely to get in South Australia on the coast over Christmas, but will see how we go. We’re happy to be blown around from place to place and find anywhere possible.

Pilbara travels
On our 3 weeks in the Pilbara we booked nothing in advance and it was amazing

What about you? Do you book everything, and have a rock solid itinerary that can’t be deviated from?

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