Can you drive to Australia?

Regardless of where you start your road trip, it is not possible to drive to Australia. The distance between Australia and its neighbours is too great for there to be a viable road connection or ferry service.  How far you can drive and how close you can get to Australia by driving depends on where you start your journey.

Driving to Australia - The Problem

Australia is the largest island in the world, which means any overland journey to get there requires a boat trip or a bridge crossing. Despite Australia appearing to be relatively close to some of its neighbours, including Indonesia and Papua New Guinea, there are no road connections or passenger ferries. Papua New Guinea is the closest neighbour and is 150 km away from the mainland at it’s closest point. 

Why Aren't There Any Ferries to Australia?

In the first half of the twentieth century, Australia was connected to the world by ships. A bi-weekly service connected the United Kingdom with Australia. There were also other regular steamer routes, including a connection from Mumbai (Bombay) to Perth in Western Australia. Following the expansion of air travel after WW2, these routes slowly closed. They were often uneconomical, too slow and the waters around northern Australia were too dangerous. A steamer from the United Kingdom could take over a month while the connection from India took up to 9 days.

A red earth road in the outback
Australia's outback is made for road trips but getting your car there is the biggest challenge.

How Close Can I Get to Australia by Driving?

The closest you can reasonably get to Australia by driving is the Indonesian Island of Timor. The island is just over 400 miles away from the north coast of Australia. While the island is quite remote, it is connected to other Indonesia islands by vehicles ferries. These in turn connect with mainland Asia, either via Singapore or Malaysia. 

Alternatives to Driving to Australia

It’s possible to drive all the way from Europe or Africa to Indonesia overland. You’ll need to have a lot of paperwork, time and patience, however it is definitely possible. Once in Indonesia, the best option is to ship your car to Australia and take a flight to Australia. The islands of Java, Sumatra and Bali all have direct flights to Australia. Qantas and Air Asia are among the most popular airlines for these flights. 

Shipping your vehicles is relatively straightforward and you just need to find a reliable company. It’s best to try and make arrangement from either Jakarta on the island of Java or Denpasar on Bali. Costs vary but you should anticipate paying around $2,000 for shipping in a container. You may be able to find a cheaper price if you can find a RORO (roll on, roll off) service, but these are often less frequent.  

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