To Drive or to Fly? Australia Travel Guide

Posted on Monday, 4 November 2019

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With a total land area of over 7.6 million km², Australia is not only one of the largest countries in the world, but one of the most geographically and ecologically spectacular too.

Home to a truly unique abundance of wildlife and landmarks, Australia is a traveller’s dream. With so much to see, the only question is how best to see it.

Welcome to the ‘Drive or Fly’ Australian Travel Guide.

How it works

We’ve taken some of the most popular and famous travel routes in the country with a simple question in mind. Are you better off driving or flying? This is a hard question to answer as it depends on so much – to make things simple, we’re looking at the two most important factors: cost and time.

Working out cost and times

We have based these examples on the following factors which you should keep in mind when deciding on your own journey.

  • Road trips are perfect for groups, so the driving costs below are an estimate for a party of four. This means the total fuel cost has been split and therefore reduced.
  • We’ve used the average fuel cost of $1.50 per litre, and the country’s average fuel consumption of 3l per 100km. A more fuel efficient car will make these trips much cheaper.
  • For flight costs, we’ve taken the cheapest examples from Google Flights for January 2020 – because who doesn’t love a summer adventure? Flight costs can vary wildly, so cheaper tickets than these will probably be available at different times of year. 

Let’s go!

Sydney to Melbourne

How far is it from Sydney to Melbourne?

Sydney to Melbourne is a very popular trip that is commonly made by both road and plane. You are looking at a manageable distance of around 873km by road (1,746km round trip).

How long does it take to drive from Sydney to Melbourne?

Driving from Sydney to Melbourne and back will take you just over 18 hours in total (9 hours each way), and you can expect an average car to use around $340.50 worth of petrol in total – that’s around $85.00 each for four.

How long does it take to fly from Sydney to Melbourne?

Flying is certainly quicker than driving, with a single journey taking just 1 hour 35 minutes; a return flight therefore takes 3 hours and 10 minutes. This return flight will likely cost you around $163 each.

Our verdict: 50/50

The Hume Highway, which connects Sydney to Melbourne, isn’t the most exciting of driving routes, and spending 18 hours on it might test your patience too far. You may be able to cut your total travel cost in half, but the convenience of flying might be worth paying for.

Adelaide to Melbourne

How far is it from Adelaide to Melbourne?

Adelaide is 727km away from Melbourne, and the round trip distance is 1,454km. Another relatively short journey by Aussie standards!

How long does it take to drive from Adelaide to Melbourne?

When driving, you can expect around 16 hours and 10 minutes behind the wheel, and a fuel cost of just over $71 per person.

How long does it take to fly from Adelaide to Melbourne?

Flying there and back will take just 1 hour 15 minutes each way. That’s significantly quicker but you can expect to pay around $152.00 each for that comfort.

Our verdict: DRIVE

The drive time might seem long, but a bit a few shared stints behind the wheel will make this straightforward trip much easier. At the cost of a few extra hours, four travellers will be around 53% better off; we think that’s well worth the added effort of driving.

Sydney to Brisbane

How far is it from Sydney to Brisbane?

Sydney to Brisbane by road covers a distance of around 916km (a 1832km round trip). We’re getting into bigger drive territory here, but should you drive or fly?

How long does it take to drive from Sydney to Brisbane?

You can expect a total of 20 hours and 40 minutes behind the wheel if you take this route and back by car with a total fuel cost of $357.00; that’s around $89.25 each for four of you.

How long does it take to fly from Sydney to Brisbane?

A plane makes this journey in a fraction of the time: just 1 hour 30 minutes each way. The ticket prices aren’t bad either at around $179.00 per passenger.

Our verdict: DRIVE

Yes, it takes a lot longer to drive from Sydney to Brisbane than to fly, but the Pacific Highway that sticks to the Eastern coast takes you past some truly stunning areas, including Bongil Bongil National Park, Queen’s Lake and, of course, Gold Coast.

If you have the time and means, Sydney to Brisbane is a ripper of a road trip, with plenty of sights to see. It would be a shame to miss them!

Sydney to Perth

How far is it from Sydney to Perth?

Up for a challenge? Sydney is a mammoth 3,929km away from Perth by road, a journey spanning the entire country, coast to coast.

How long does it take to drive from Sydney to Perth?

This means a round trip by car will take around 82 hours and use around $383.00 of petrol per person.

How long does it take to fly from Sydney to Perth?

Flying, on the other hand, will take a much more manageable 5 hours each way. The average plane ticket is cheaper too, at around $377.00 per person for a return flight.

Our verdict: 50/50

It stands to reason that this gargantuan drive should only be undertaken if you are very well prepared, have a lot of time to kill, or plan to visit plenty of landmarks on the way. This could be a truly epic road trip, if long drives are your thing. Otherwise, flying is the way to go!

Brisbane to Melbourne

How far is it from Brisbane to Melbourne?

A medium distance journey by Australian standards, Brisbane to Melbourne is around 1,780km by road, or a 3,560km round trip.

How long does it take to drive from Brisbane to Melbourne?

Driving to Melbourne and back from Brisbane will take a hefty 37 hours and consume around $695 of fuel on average. Split four ways, that’s $173.75 per person.

How long does it take to fly from Brisbane to Melbourne?

You can fly from Brisbane to Melbourne in around 2 hours 25 minutes each way and a return ticket may cost around $215 per passenger.

Our verdict: FLY

With nearly 30 hours longer on the road, the driving cost saving of around 20% may not be worthwhile. Unless you plan to stop off and see some sights on the way down south, flying from Brisbane to Melbourne certainly makes sense. 

Brisbane to Perth

How far is the distance from Brisbane to Perth?

Another monster of a journey. Brisbane to Perth by road is around 4,310km (that’s a round trip of 8,600km). This coast-to-coast road trip adventure is not for the impatient, nor the faint of heart.

How long does it take to drive from Brisbane to Perth?

You can expect to spend around 92 hours (nearly 4 whole days!) behind the wheel as you make your way from East to West and back again. The route is spectacular, but the journey will use around £1,680 of fuel – that’s $420 each for 4 people.

How long does it take to fly from Brisbane to Perth?

A plane will obviously complete this trip in a relative heartbeat of only 5 hours 35 minutes each way. A return flight will probably cost around $470.

Our Verdict: 50/50

Under most circumstances, this is a no brainer. Flying from Brisbane to Perth is only slightly more expensive than driving, but the trip won’t take 4 days. It all depends on the purpose of your trip. If you just want to get to Perth, you should fly. If you want a true Aussie road trip, this is the mother of all routes.

Sydney to Kangaroo Island

How far is it from Sydney to Kangaroo Island?

Looking to visit Kangaroo Island from Sydney? For this trip, you will be travelling about 1,550km by road each way for a total round trip of 3,100km.

How long does it take to drive from Sydney to Kangaroo Island?

A Kangaroo Island road trip from Sydney will take you around 17 hours 35 minutes each way. Your fuel is likely to cost a total of $604.00 for the round trip, which equates to $151.00 each for a party of four. 

How long does it take to fly from Sydney to Kangaroo Island?

Flying looks much easier on the surface of things, with a combined flying time of 7 hours 20 minutes. Be aware, you will need to change planes at Adelaide, which will make it take significantly longer. What’s more, the return flight could cost you around $587.00 per person.

Our Verdict: DRIVE

This isn’t a short drive by any means, but the amount of money you can save by taking to the roads is staggering. Plus, even though the flight is a shorter trip, you will have the added time and effort involved with changing flights at Adelaide. For us, driving from Sydney to Kangaroo Island is the way to go, so long as you’re okay with the distance.

Melbourne to Uluru (Ayer’s Rock)

How far is it from Melbourne to Uluru?

The distance from Melbourne to Uluru by road is around 2,313km, which means the round trip is around 4,620km. It’s certainly a long way into the heart of the continent but seeing the magnificent Ayer’s Rock up close is certainly worth the distance.

How long does it take to drive from Melbourne to Uluru?

Taking this lengthy journey by car is likely to take around 25 hours each way for a total drive time of 50 hours. The fuel cost of driving from Melbourne to Uluru and back is likely to be around $900.00 ($225.00 each for 4 of you).

How long does it take to fly from Melbourne to Uluru?

Flying simplifies matters a lot, with a direct flight taking just 3 hours each way, or 6 hours in total. Tickets are likely to cost around $353.84. 

Our Verdict: FLY

Does the cost saving of around 36% make the 50 hour round trip by car more appealing? Probably not. There is very little to see when you travel the lone National Highway (A87) 12 hours each way. When travelling to Ayer’s Rock, your destination is the main event, so we recommend flying to Uluru to save a lot of time.

Brisbane to Great Barrier Reef (Townsville)

How far is it from Brisbane to the Great Barrier Reef?

There are numerous places from which you can visit the 2,300 km long Great Barrier Reef. For this, we’re looking at Townsville, which is around 1,300km from Brisbane by road.

How long does it take to drive from Brisbane to the Great Barrier Reef?

A round trip to Townsville and the incredible reef will likely take you 15 hours 30 minutes each way, totalling at 31 hours for both trips. This will cost a party of 4 about $125.00 each

How long does it take to fly from Brisbane to the Great Barrier Reef?

The direct flight from Brisbane to Townsville will only take 1 hour 55 minutes each way for a 3 hour and 50 minute return trip. Tickets are likely to cost about $212.00 each.

 

Our Verdict: DRIVE

Bruce Highway is the perfect road trip route, taking you along the East coast from Brisbane direct to Townsville, via some stunning areas like Fraser Island, Sunshine Coast and Daydream Island. If your car is up to the journey, why not save some money and take the scenic route?

Perth to Karijini (Coondewanna)

How far is it from Perth to Karijini?

Both flying and driving are great options if you are travelling from Perth to the remarkable Karijini National Park. The drive distance is around 1,350km (or a 2,700km round trip).

How long does it take to drive from Perth to Karijini?

The 14 hour 50 minute drive to Karijini isn’t to be taken lightly; however, choosing to drive with a party can save you a lot of money. The 29 hour 40 minute round trip should cost a group of 4 around $131.50 per person.

How long does it take to fly from Perth to Karijini?

Compare this with flying from Perth to Karijini and you are looking at a flight time of just 1 hour 50 minutes each way, but with an estimated ticket price of $496 per person!

Our Verdict: 50/50

This one is really a matter of how much you value time versus money. Driving from Perth to Karijini could be around 73% cheaper than flying; however, flying takes a fraction of the time. Both choices are viable, so we’ll leave this one up to you!

Should you drive or fly?

How long is a piece of string? Whether you drive or fly for your Australian journey depends entirely on your own preferences, budget and who you are travelling with. Here are our main tips to help you decide.

  • If you have a travelling party who can share the fuel cost, driving will usually be the cheaper method of travel.
  • Driving will nearly always take longer than flying, so if you just want to get to your destination without fuss, flying is probably your best bet.
  • Remember, your flight will include travelling to and from the airport, and you can expect to spend a few hours checking in and boarding.
  • There are countless things to stop and see during your Australian journey, so incorporating these into your drive can turn a long drive into a bona fide adventure!
  • Travelling by train is another potential option, which will generally take less time than driving, but longer than flying. Train fares can vary, so be sure to book early to get the best deal.

Enjoy your trip!

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