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01 Jan 2011
Adam Bate

Driving in Australia


Australia has a pristine coastline of cresting surf beaches, and the iconic outback which offers a wonderfully isolated experience.


Many of the extremely remote areas of Australia present their own unique challenges and unexpected hazards.

If you intend to travel to these areas you should plan your trip carefully and seek local advice on what precautions you should take.

It’s essential to leave your travel plans and expected arrival time with local tourist authorities, the hotel, or friends and family.

Hit the road

Police in Australia are extremely vigilant when it comes to speeding and drink-driving - the penalties for both are severe and there’s a high chance you’ll be caught.

All state highway patrol vehicles are fitted with moving radar and breathalyser tests take place as a matter of course whenever cars are stopped.

The legal alcohol-blood limit is 50mg of alcohol as opposed to 80mg in the UK.

Star drive


Within easy reach of Melbourne, the Great Ocean Road is one of the world’s most scenic drives.

The most spectacular section is between Lorne and Apollo Bay and it’s here you’ll find the famous 12 Apostles rock formations.

If you want more inspiration for your trip Down Under or want more information on local customs, check out our Australia travel checklist.

Best of the rest

Phalinn Ooi

Due to the enormous distances involved, it’s best to focus on a particular region or state and really get to know it.

Start in a cosmopolitan city such as Melbourne or Sydney and then drive the classic East Coast route between Australia’s two largest cities.

If you have more time you could extend this trip all the way to Cairns in Queensland’s tropical north.

Laws of the land

  • All vehicles on Fraser Island, off the Queensland coast, must observe a maximum speed of 80km/h on beaches and 30km/h in towns.

  • In Australia, vehicles drive on the left.

  • You can't cross double unbroken lines.

  • When overtaking, you must not break the speed limit.

Before you set off, make sure you have your International Driving Permit sorted too.

Australian speed limits

Speed limits vary between the various states and territories.

Road type Speed limit
Local traffic area 40 km/h
Built-up areas 50 km/h
Highway roadworks 80 km/h 
Highways 100 km/h
 Select highways/motorways/freeways 110 km/h

Local knowledge

Phil Whitehouse

Many long stretches of the national highway network are single carriageway shared with many lorries, so care and attention is needed.

The mobile phone network generally works well in towns and cities, but on the edge of built-up and rural areas it is limited or non-existent.

It’s also illegal to drive with your arm or any other part of your body out of the window, unless you’re indicating - keep your limbs in, folks.

Beat the humdrum of your daily commute with a virtual drive along one of the most beautiful roads in the world.

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