Sunday, March 27, 2005

What's the best way to drive from Adelaide to Brisbane?

When I'm moving back to Brisbane, I'm lucky enough to be able to take a week off between jobs. I've wanted to do the Adelaide to Brisbane drive, but whenever I've had holidays (since I've been living in Adelaide) they have always started one or two days before Christmas. This means I would have to miss Christmas Day with the family, so it hasn't been viable.

Also there's the unfortunate side effect that you need to turn around and drive back. The 2100 kilometres could be covered in:

  • one day (dangerous),
  • two days (unenjoyable), or
  • three days (leisurely).

Combined with the return trip, that's amlost a week out of my holidays. Since I've been doing the long distance relationship thing, where my girlfriend lives in Brisbane and I live in Adelaide, I can think of better things to do with a week off. :)

Now it's different - this is a one way trip. And, Dad's going to fly down and do the trip with me. We're both kind of strange in that we'd enjoy driving through country towns, reading plaques, looking at Anzac memorials and that kind of thing. It will be nice, too, as part of the reason I decided to move back to Brisbane was because Dad's cancer is progressing along a path none of us would choose. :(

Aaaanyway, which route should we take? Doing a Whereis search directs you through what I shall christen the "Southern Route":

  • Adelaide to Mildura,
  • Mildura to Forbes,
  • Forbes to Dubbo, and
  • into Brisbane through Goondoowindi,
  • for a trip distance of 2,105 km, according to Whereis.
  • According to the paper map I purchased, the trip distance this way would be 2,035 km, due to a slightly different way to get from Adelaide to Hay and discrepancies in the exact distances. These are probably because the Whereis searches include a few kilometres at either end to get to the "City Centre", where the paper map might not.

But this route seems strange - Whereis tells you to go from Goondoowindi to Brisbane via Toowoomba, when the commonly accepted route is via Warwick. However an old map I consulted shows 358km Goondoowindi-Warwick-Brisbane, and Whereis shows 356 Goondoowindi-Toowoomba-Brisbane, so there's not much difference at all. And the Toowoomba road is a better road, so maybe they're right on that count.

But I know that Whereis' database for Adelaide is less complete than for the eastern states - most streets don't have street number information, for example. And you could hardly expect them to have a complete database with comparative times for outback New South Wales. Waaaaaay outback. So maybe there's a more direct way.

Looking at a map of Australia, the "Southern Route" seems to cover two sides of a triangle - it's almost due east for 1,000 km, then turn left and head due north for 1,000 km. Surely if you can go in a straight line it would be closer to 1,500 km, as the crow flies?

So, there's a couple of other routes I wanted to have a look at:

Outback Route:

The advantage of this route would be that you get to see the "real" outback. Also, Mum's family is near Walgett, so we could drop in and see them on the way through. However it's actually longer, a lot more of a boring drive, and a lot further between towns.

There's also a "shortcut" from Cobar to Walgett via Nyngan I worked out, which tried to avoid the "two sides of a triangle" problem where you have to head north to Bourke then west to Walgett. It turned out to be 3 km longer.

There's also the problem of where to stop for the night, when trying to break the trip into 3 stages. Wilcannia is a pretty rough place at night, by all accounts, but Broken Hill is too close to Adelaide, and Cobar's a bit too far. On the second night, Collarenebri might be ok.

If you go the Southern Route, the trip breaks up nicely:

  • 677 km on the first day and stay at Hay,
  • 662 km on the second day and stay at Coonabarabran, (could stay at the regional centre of Dubbo, but that makes Day 2 very short and Day 3 too long.)
  • 696 km on the third day, arriving home before dark.

We have decided to go this way, as we'll be doing the trip in a 16 year old car and the southern route has a lot denser population. Also, there'll be more parks, plaques and tourist sites along the main highway.

Now just have to find nice places to stay, in Hay and Coonabarabran. Any suggestions?

Coming soon: Accomodation recommendations, detailed daily travel plans.


  • Hey there again. Firstly good for you. Moving back to God's country. I am originally from SA but QLD still holds a special place in my heart.

    Now i used to go back and forward a lot between SA and QLD (toowoomba area).

    I always went from Adelaide - Tailem Bend - Pinaroo - Ouyen - Tooleybuc - Balranald - Hay -West Wyalong - Parkes - Dubbo - Coonabarabran. From here you can take the road north to Narrabri - Moree - Goondiwindi and then across to Warwick - Brisabne (either direct or by Toowoomba but I'd go direct from Warwick to Brissy by the Cunningham's Gap.)

    For a better route though I would go from Coonabarabran to Tamworth and up the New England to Warwick. It is a much nicer drive and lots of real pretty country to go through. Fuel stops are closer and plenty of good stops along the way. Possibly I am biased as on etrip I met a pretty girl in Armidale NSW (New England) country. We got married at Uralla a year or so later. End of story.

    One of the main reasons I did not choose to go from Elizabeth and head north -east out of SA (Broken Hill/Wilcannia etc), is the road was so desolate and boring. It got very tedious, very quickly and was very tiring. Also I was always travelling to/from Adelaide's southern suburbs and the Hills. The time it took to get to Elizabeth I could be in Tailem Bend. Also considered from Adelaide to Renmark to Mildura to Hay, but on a fuel stop in Balranald one time, I was put on to the short cut through Tooleybuc by locals. If that is how a local does it, that is probably the best option.

    From Adelaide to West Wyalong was usually my first leg. Stayed at a cabin in West Wyalong caravan park, but that was because they allowed dogs. Any of the pubs are good to stay in (Parkes or Forbes I can't remember which -The Criterion)Fuel stops are close together so you can't get in much trouble. The New England is not overly police as the Oxley further north of Coonabarabran. Careful if you go this way through VIC, (north west corner) the cops are evry where and not real forgiving.

    In summary, my choice for convenience, pleasent driving, traffic, cops, etc etc, would definitely be Adeailde to Hay via Ouyen/Tooleybuc (I also love the name of the town Manangatang). Then up the Newell Hwy to the Oxley, before Tamworth and the New England to Warwick. remember which ever route you go, once in NSW you will no doubt hit at least two hours of roadworks that will slow you down. They can't build a road to last more than 6 months in NSW. Keeps them in a job. If you are in an older car and reliability is an issue, then highly recommend this route to as it is close to stops not like Broken Hill/etc. If needed, Les at the Hay BP (or his sons) is a great guy and if you are in trouble will assist no end. If you have reason to stop there till him George the crazy Army guy/cowboy who used to ride his motorbike back and forward all the time says hi.

    Cheers and good luck. If this doesn't make sense, fel fre to email me at

    By Blogger cowboy george, at 2:08 pm  

  • In addition, if you stretch out the first day to West Wyalong, it may pay off. Firstly keep in mind that from Balranald to Hay is some of the most boring non stop driving you will find, and it doesn't get much better until after Hay. Nowhere to stop, nothing much to see. That will kill two hours driving time easy and knock off two hundred kms.

    Then the next day you can extend to say Tamworth and then the last day, you have a nice leisurely dive up the New England to Brissy. I alway felt better on the last day driving the least. You are more tired by the end and when you finally get there, you ahve only been driving for say 6 hours that day instead of ten and then don't feel as bad upon arrival. (sounds like a Queer Eye tip like at the end of that show) Just a few ideas.

    Having said all that, I also did it twice in one straight through drive. Not recommended and you need plenty of guarana drinks. NOT SAFE EITHER (i was young and foolish and on a passion run at the times)



    By Blogger cowboy george, at 2:23 pm  

  • Thanks for the tips :)

    I didn't mention the Tamworth route, even though I ran the numbers and it's another 100k's longer... because I grew up in Tamworth, so we've done the Brisbane/Tamworth trip many times :) Also done Tamworth/Walgett/Brisbane trips often enough. So, it's going to get boring in northern NSW, either way.

    Although, we must have different temperaments - I find driving on straight flat roads a lot less tiring than going across the top of the mountains.

    And, since we're leaving from Golden Grove, your post finally made me decide to go via Gawler/Mildura. Just to be contrary. :)

    Armidale's a really nice place, hope the girl was nice too!

    By Blogger Austenite, at 9:46 pm  

  • Part of my fascination with the hills route I guess comes from a lot of the times I was on motorbikes. Flat long stretches equals sore tired butt. Hills equals moving ass around, hence no numbness. Could be a contributing factor.

    From Gawler: yeah direct to Mildura is a lot better.

    Another way to cut time off from driving is to get as far as Gunnedah and blow a head gasket. Fot this to work you need to be a member of RAA Plus. That way you can go the rest of the way asleep in the back of a truck while they carry your car for you. It cuts down on driving time, but increases your passenger time three fold. Also increased costs re getting motor rebuilt in Armidale. This route is NOT recommended. Especially if you have a dog with you and for that reason can't get any overnight accommodation in Gunnedah and have to sleep in the car next to a public toilet. (I did not include sleeping-in-the-car time in either the driving or passenger time). As I said, not recommended.

    If you get near Balranald and a cop stops you in an SS Commodore, ask him if he wants a photo of his cop car with my motorbike. For the record I was only caught doing 129 km/hr, and I wasn't a cop at the time. Luckily I saw him coming though, could have been a LOT worst. Another reason I hate those damn long straight roads!!!!


    By Blogger cowboy george, at 1:13 pm  

  • Hi
    I have just bought a camper and my parents are coming out from England in January to visit me.
    My son has recently moved to Coombabah and so his nan and grandad want to see him! Obviously! Therefore I have decided that my 2 weeks holiday - that I am taking to be with them - would be well spent if we went in my campervan. My parents can stay in cabins.. I will stay in the campervan (to save me money ... and give me a break from my mum!!!) see.... I am 46 and still need my space from her!!! So I would appreciate any comments/help for sites/ routes etc! Thanks Ali

    By Blogger ali, at 8:35 pm  

  • I know this is an old post but I wanted to say that I was here and benefitted a lot from the suggested routes.

    When coming to Adelaide I went via Coffs, through Armidale to Forbes via Victoria and into SA. I did the Hay plains run on less than a quarter of a tank - I ended up staying at the first servo I saw. Nice people there.

    By Blogger Herself, at 3:16 pm  

  • This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    By Blogger melvin, at 3:06 am  

  • Hi, we want to take the "Northern route" via Broken Hills, Cobar, Mooree, to the Gold Coast in December 2012. We will start out from Port Augusta, SA. What's the reason why the OP called Wilcannia a "rough place at night"? Is anything else to consider while travelling along that road? I am a female and travelling with a little child without male company, but with a large dog and a caravan on the towbar. Any recommendations or warnings?

    By Blogger Romy, at 12:22 pm  

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