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03 August, 2019 - Updated Last updated on
29 June, 2022

Posted by Spaceships Crew

While planning a road trip from Sydney to Melbourne, my husband and I decided to go in winter. We were curious about the challenges and the perks of a road trip in the winter in Australia. Despite receiving warnings of ‘it’ll be so cold!’, the trip turned out to be a wonderful choice, so full of magic not seen during the warmer months.

Route and things to experience

The thing about this Sydney-Melbourne section of Australia is that it’s so diverse. Friends were telling us four weeks was too long for such a trip, but we loved the slow pace and felt that there was still so much we missed. If you’re thinking of road-tripping in winter, we suggest: explore the coastline because it’s incredible and rugged; spend time in the beautiful forests; and of course, head into the mountains for some snow and sublime scenery.

What's the Aussie winter like?

Everyone knows that snow and alpine places are cold, and if you visit these, the roads might be icy. But when you’re on the coast in winter it can get quite warm. We were down to short sleeves some days, wearing hats and feeling tempted to swim in the ocean baths we came across. It seemed like we brought the good weather with us, and we enjoyed blue skies the whole stretch of NSW coastline.

Nights and mornings can be chilly, but with thick socks and thermals, it’s not that bad. Snuggled up together in our Spaceships van, we kept quite toasty each night. During the day we went on lots of short hikes and the exercise kept us warm! Besides the cold, winter road tripping has a few other challenges, but we found solutions to cope with each and settled into a comfortable van-life rhythm.

Experience the magic of an Australian road trip in winter

Experience the magic of an Australian road trip in winter

The challenges & how to cope with them

Before we started our road trip, we were curious about the challenges of a road trip in winter. Roadtripping in winter is different from doing the same trip in summer. Would there be any disadvantages of travelling in this season? Keep reading and you'll see that the challenges are minor and easy to get around.

1. Miserable weather

Sometimes it’ll rain or blow a fierce cold wind, making it tough to get out and explore. Instead of feeling stuck and down, we chose to use these days to rest and treat ourselves to warm comforts. We dined on spicy noodle soups; had regular hot coffee breaks; browsed through second-hand bookstores and visited art galleries. When we were more remote, we created a ‘day-bed’ in the Spaceships van and spent time writing about our trip. I found that these miserable weather breaks slowed our travel down and gave us time to reflect on what we’d seen and experienced so far.

Enjoy simple meals - tasty soup - on your winter road trip

Enjoy simple meals - tasty soup - on your winter road trip

2. Shorter days

Sunrise during our trip was between 7-7:30 AM and it would get dark around 5-5:30 PM, making our days are quite short. The solution? Get up early! Sometimes it’s hard because of the cold, but once you’re moving, you’ll feel better. Fill your day with exploration and you’ll sleep better for it at night. The Spaceships van is quick and simple to set up, so it’s easy to make the most of the daylight and rock up to camp after you’ve enjoyed a beautiful sunset. The van also has a bright light which is good for doing some work or reading after dinner.

3. Moisture

In winter, things get wet and then it’s hard to dry them out because the air is cold. We developed a rhythm that worked for us throughout the trip. If it wasn’t too freezing, we kept a little gap in the windows during the night to reduce condensation inside the van. In the morning, when we got up and cooked breakfast, we opened all doors to air out the van. By the time we were ready to hit the road, all was dry. We also got in the habit of regularly putting the windows down as we drove and letting the wind billowing through the van. 

Make the most of warm sunshine when you have it. Whenever we stopped for lunch, if it was sunny, I’d put any damp items out in the sun. Try and avoid leaving stuff outside overnight as the dew in the morning will make it sopping wet. If things start getting smelly, it’s time to take a visit to the laundry!

This is also winter in Australia: enjoy sunny yet shorter days

This is also winter in Australia: enjoy sunny yet shorter days

The perks of a winter road trip

It’s not all challenges. The flip side is that winter is the low season (except at the ski resorts, of course). That means the campsites are quiet, the towns are quiet and there are fewer people at some of the most beautiful sights. We had beaches to ourselves, didn’t have to share toilets with dozens of others and found the driving easy.

We had more flexibility while travelling as we didn’t have to book all our campsites ahead but could plan as we went. Since winter is low season, things also tend to be cheaper. When hiring a van and booking campsites or caravan parks, you can expect to pay less than you would in other seasons.

One of my favourite things about this trip was seeing the sky transform each morning. Since the sun would rise 7 AM or later, it was so easy to catch. I loved pushing the curtains back and opening the side door to watch it from the comfort of our bed.

A unique and wonderful experience

I’m so glad we went on this winter road trip and saw all that we did. Even the miserable days, the fog, the rain and the cold wind were important parts of our adventure. With the right clothes and a trusty van, a winter road trip in Australia is a unique and wonderful experience to be had.

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