November 11, 2015

Miles & Smiles Away – A Road Trip Across Australia

Miles & Smiles Away - A Road Trip Across Australia. Anna Johnston -

Event Managers get asked all sorts of random questions you know? And being a bit quirky myself, I’m rarely fazed, you want a giant igloo in the middle of your wedding reception, ‘no problem’, you want life sized elephant cut-outs at each table, ‘of course’, you want fireworks, African drumming circles and a smoking ceremony to bless the building, ‘ALL over that!’ But even I was a little dazed when the boss asked if I’d take a week away from the desk to drive some precious cargo to the other side of Australia and then fly back home from Perth. “Are you up for a road trip across Australia?” he asked. “Is the Pope Catholic?” I answered. Dah, of course I was!!!

The Hay Plains - New South Wales, Australia - Anna Johnston -

A fave colleague was assigned to make the journey with me, together we poured over Google maps and attempted to make our Thelma & Louise adventure (without any of that cliff business at the end) as fun and memorable as could be.

Outback Australian Pub - Anna Johnston -

Australia is big, like really big! My numb butt from the hours logged in the car can attest to this fact, and it’s hard to wrap up this awesome road trip across Australia with just one post. Being born and bred Aussie, I really hadn’t put too much thought into just how massive, exotic and brilliant my country is until now.

Outback Australian Bloke - Anna Johnston -

I grew up in the outback and to me, Indigenous culture, art and unusual contemporary forms were easily accessible. Uluru was just another bloody big rock in the middle of nowhere and dingo’s, kangaroos and wombats were normal.

Australian Pub Food - Chips, Nuggets & Gravy - Anna Johnston -

But after crossing 2 of Australia’s monster states, 3 time zones and checking out the world’s largest limestone coastal shelf that covers 200 nautical miles, this road trip across Australia turned into a rite of passage and my very own quintessential experience in the Australian Outback.

Halfway Across Australia - Kimba - Anna Johnston -

Driving away from Canberra, we slowly faded from suburban civilization to nothingness.

Outback Australia Roadtrip - Anna Johnston -

It was crazy how the road was soon surrounded by nothing but grasslands and trees and hundreds of kilometers with very few turns or bends. Vast featureless plains, a repetitive landscape with grey spinifex grass as far as the eye can see, and towns every other hour with a bright splash of colour from the canola fields to jazz things up a bit. 

Canola Fields - South Australia - Anna Johnston -

Wow, it left me feeling like a kid in a candy shop, so crazy blessed to live in “the lucky country”.

They say things seem to slow down outback and it’s true, but we hadn’t quiet adjusted from our fast paced lives when we finally arrived at the South Australia-Western Australia border where guess what? They’ve got a town called Border Village!

SA / WA Border - Australia - Anna Johnston -

Be prepared for a slow, outback kind of welcome when stopping at Border Village, checking in was a painfully slow, yet rather a hilarious experience too.

Outback Australia - Anna Johnston -

When asked ‘do you have a car?’ I mean seriously, how else does one get there, but replied ‘yes I do have a car’, which added a solid 20 minutes of confusion. I thought I’d purchase a bottle of water, but that sent the system into overdrive resulting in 4 staff members fumbling about, and a broken scanner.

Outback Australia Landscape - Anna Johnston -

30 minutes later, I was in possession of a key to my rickety accommodation and finally sipping my liquid gold, $16.00 for a 1lt bottle of water is a bit rich, but I wanted to catch the sunset and checking in turned out to be thirsty business, so I wore that one. 

Western Australia Wildflowers - Lunch - Anna Johnston -

We took photos of big “Rooey II” – a kangaroo statue of course, and caught a glimpse of one of the holes on “The World’s Longest Golf Course”. Yep, 18 holes scattered across various towns along the Nullarbor. I got my travel bucket list tick on big time on this road trip.

Big Rooey II - South Australia/Western Australia Border - Anna Johnston -

Crossing through the mandatory state border quarantine stations where your car is sifted through with a fine tooth comb is a highlight (no fruits, seeds or vegetables can pass the state lines, honey isn’t allowed either).

Outback Australia Roadtrip - Anna Johnston -

Pretty much all this travel across Australia meant jumping through crazy time zones. We drove back a half hour into SA, then back an hour through the first part of WA, to finally arriving on standard WA time, 2 hours behind Canberra. Confused? Me too.

Outback Australia Roadtrip - Anna Johnston -

Australia’s longest straight road, the 90 Mile Straight (146.6km) is much more memorable once you’ve driven it, or so it feels at the time, but The Nullarbor is way more than just a long dusty drive from A to B. It’s uniquely Australian and sits quietly amidst a magnificent and sometimes rugged coastline, to remote roadhouses and an amazingly big sky, but mostly it’s an opportunity to be truly alone. I say everyone should experience the treeless (Null = none, arbor = tree) plain at least once in their life.

Nullabor Roadhouse Coffee - Anna Johnston -

Like most of the trip, I felt it went faster and easier than expected. Everyone who heard I was doing this epic driving adventure across Australia thought I’d die of boredom, but it was a lot less isolated and desolate feeling than I’d anticipated. There are “towns” every hour or two along the road (though these generally are the kind that are a population of 10 and consist of a combination petrol station, restaurant/take away, small shop, motel/camping all in one sort of enterprise, and of course another hole on “that golf course”) and you don’t tend to go too long without passing another car or road train to mix things up a bit. But, I’m still a bit confused by the number of cyclists. #crazierthanacoconut those cyclists!  

Sunset in Perth - Anna Johnston -

I’d love to know, when was the last time you were miles & smiles away from home? And can you tick ‘road trip across Australia’ off your travel bucket list?  

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shenANNAgans is Anna Johnston, a 30 - something Aussie gal with an unwavering passion for the Hospitality industry. I love the quirky and unusual, designing events, travelling far and wide and eating food from all around the world. I am coffee blooded, a craft beer enthusiast, wine drinking yogi who enjoys writing about her adventures.

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Hannah Finch - August 3, 2016 Reply

Love the way you wrote about this! I spent half my life growing up in Aus and didn’t really do that much travelling around. That said, I did drive from the Sunshine Coast to Adelaide and that looked pretty similar to some of your pics! Basically just a long straight road for as far as the eye can see with desert either side haha. Thanks for sharing your experience!

antonette - January 19, 2016 Reply

I’m heading to Australia again next month, your story only makes time want to go faster and faster!

    Anna - January 19, 2016 Reply

    AWESOME! Oh I cannot wait to hear about your experience, happy adventuring, and if the way time is zooming so far this year, you’ll be here before you know it. 🙂

Megan - January 18, 2016 Reply

Absolutely beautiful and that food looks delicious! Hope to make it there to explore some day.

    Anna - January 19, 2016 Reply

    I sure am lucky to live in such an amazing country! I hope you make it down under to explore some day soon too. Give me a buzz if you do. 🙂

Lesley - January 18, 2016 Reply

I haven’t been to Australia so I’m always interested in posts and photos of the country. It’s on the top of my list. I didn’t expect to see the canola fields. Beautiful photo! You’ve increased my desire to get there this year.

    Anna - January 18, 2016 Reply

    Oh yay! I am so pleased you enjoyed my post and feel even more inspired to hop a plane and get amongst it ‘Down Under’. The canola fields were epic, and a really lovely change from the hours of grey grasses we’d been experiencing. Hola if you visit Australia. 🙂

Himanshu - January 18, 2016 Reply

Road trip is my way of Traveling. If you someday visit my blog…you will find i have been explorig India thru road trips.
I have to say that you have done great job and really awesoome photos complimenting your writeup very well.
BTW, which camera do you use?

    Anna - January 18, 2016 Reply

    Isn’t it just the most awesome way to travel?! I will absolutely pop over to your blog and check out your road tripping through India, I am obsessed with India and hope to visit this year. Thank you so much, I am pleased you enjoyed my post and the photos too. 🙂 I use my IPhone and a Samsung Galaxy Camera.

LeAnna - January 17, 2016 Reply

This had me laughing out loud several times! Sometimes the most unexpected journeys turn into quite the adventure- I can’t imagine driving through the quarantine sections- Does that mean you can’t have road trip snacks ever while driving in Australia??

    Anna - January 18, 2016 Reply

    Oh I am so pleased, thank you for saying so LeAnna, that makes me super happy! 🙂
    The quarantine stations were really odd, they pull out your luggage to ensure you are not sneaking any bad food in, and you can totally snack while driving across Australia, they are just super weird about bringing fruit, nuts and honey in, guess those things are known for carrying foreign bodies that can destroy crops etc. Plus, the states are large enough to get all your snack eating in, so don’t worry about that if you make it down under. 🙂

Juergen | dare2go - January 17, 2016 Reply

As a fellow Aussie I’m not sure if I would have agreed so readily… I know and understand the distances involved and how tiring it can get in the middle of the day, blinding sun beating down on the red desert landscape. It has its beauty but your speed makes it more work than pleasure.

    Anna - January 17, 2016 Reply

    That was the reaction many of my colleagues had too Juergen, but the adventurer in me decided the challenge of being behind the wheel in a part of the country I had not seen before, definitely trumped sitting at my computer pumping out emails and working. 🙂 Guessing your experience driving across Australia was not so much fun?

Donna Meyer - January 17, 2016 Reply

What an epic adventure. I love roadtrips and have made some pretty great ones across the USA. Once I’m sure I’m good on food, water car condition and gas (petrol to you), I love those long lonely stretches of highway. I would love to do this drive. Thanks for the vicarious trip!

    Anna - January 17, 2016 Reply

    Road trips are an awesome way to really immerse yourself into a culture, town, city etc. huh? Yep…. if the food, water and petrol are sorted, long stretches of not much at all are wonderful, I enjoyed it a heck of a lot more than I (and most) thought I would. I do hope you get to do it Donna, defs one I am pleased I did. 🙂

Vanessa - January 17, 2016 Reply

I’m based in Canada, so I can really appreciate what an epic journey this must have been. After a while, the road just seems absolutely endless. But I always think it’s worth it in the end.

    Anna - January 17, 2016 Reply

    A road trip across Canada is on my list for sure, I’m told it is similar to Australia without as much dessert? At some points the road did seem never ending, especially as we crossed the 90 mile straight, but at the end, when I was sipping on the best coffee ever, I was chuffed I was able to say I had driven that stretch of road. Such fun.

Amélie - January 17, 2016 Reply

Well, you kinda have the best job ever, don’t you? Sounds like an awesome road trip!

    Anna - January 17, 2016 Reply

    Oh I do, I really do. It was an awesome adventure, and cool I was ‘paid’ to travel for my day job.

Stefan - January 16, 2016 Reply

THREE time zones? Yikes!!! We’ve this romantic image of getting a bunch of dramatic outfits and doing a Priscilla like road trip through Auz in one trip ha ha ha

    Anna - January 17, 2016 Reply

    Yeah, it was really confusing for the body time clock, especially when we got to WA.
    Oh please, please, PLEASE do the Priscilla thing, the photos would be amazing, and for the most part, we Aussies would think it a hoot you are dressed up and experiencing the outback in colour and style. 🙂

Alyssa | Adjust Your Focus™ - January 9, 2016 Reply

What a great adventure! Road trips are always good because you end up finding places you wouldn’t have otherwise. You never know what it will be. I was in Western Australia last June and did a road trip up north to Exmouth. Loved every minute!

    Anna - January 10, 2016 Reply

    Road trips are one of my fave ways to travel, I love stopping in at little towns and eating meals with the locals, its a fun way to immerse yourself into the experience. 🙂
    WOW… your road trip would have been epic! I’ll check your blog for more info.
    Thanks for stopping by. 🙂

Sue Slaght - November 27, 2015 Reply

Wow this looks amazing Anna! One day I would love to do such a trip. Driving across Canada involves similar distance. Such astounding countries we live in.

    Anna - November 27, 2015 Reply

    It was an awesome adventure, I was so surprised to find I enjoyed the experience as much as I did.
    Tis on my list to do the drive across Canada, and the states and well most countries. 🙂
    Yes, we do live in AMAZING countries.

Kris Johnston - November 23, 2015 Reply

Have finally had the chance to do some catching up on your posts. I have been looking forward to reading about this trip. If you told anyone about driving from ACT to WA that isn’t from Australia, they would call you mad!

As crazy big and isolated that Australia is, I think it is a must do to see this country.

Some wonderful photos of the trip, and that’s crazy to know that you saw cyclists all the way out there. But bloody cool that they did that ride! Would be an experience. Have actually met the man that has the Guinness book of records for riding across Australia the quickest. NUTS!!!

Wonderful read, thanks for sharing.

    Anna - November 23, 2015 Reply

    Wawhoooo… thanks schnitzel, I really appreciate that you make time to pop in and read my posts. I’m so dang lucky to have such a supportive and loving fam bam! 🙂

    Yep, this trip was pretty epic, I was surprised to find that the nothingness of the landscape was actually really stunning. And I’m so pleased I was able to tick that bad boy off the bucket list. Now I know the places I want to go back to and actually spend a little time exploring.

    The cyclists I saw on the Nullabor made me laugh every time. It just seemed so out of place having a bike cruising along. All of them were super happy, waving and smiling as we passed. That is totes cool you got to meet the GBR dude, is he a legend?

mjskitchen - November 19, 2015 Reply

WOW! What a business trip! Wish my boss would send me on such a trip. Thanks for sharing the experience. Have never been to Australia so I love seeing your pictures. Thanks! Great trip!

    Anna - November 19, 2015 Reply

    I know right?! It was amazing, and I am most pleased to hear you enjoyed the journey too.
    Fingers crossed you get down under some time to see my amazing country. 🙂

Pamela - November 18, 2015 Reply

That pizza roll looks delicious! I haven’t seen this side of Australia, so this post was a bit refreshing; definitely jealous of the scenery in your home country! Do you happen to know any of the ingredients in the pizza roll? Sounds like something fun to remake!


    Anna - November 18, 2015 Reply

    Awesome, I love that I was able to share a piece of my country with you. It’s pretty spectacular actually, we really are very lucky to call Australia home.
    The pizza roll had nap sauce, bacon, cheese and maybe some mixed herbs on a milk bread style roll. Super yummy! Let me know if you make it. 🙂

Tim UrbanDuniya - November 17, 2015 Reply

Ahhhh the memories!! Did this trip as a kid – and still loved it!!

I didn’t know you grew up in the outback!!!

    Anna - November 18, 2015 Reply

    Surprising just how memorable outback Australian landscape is huh? Guess it is the rich earthy tones. You spoke like you had done this trip in more recent times. Wow!

    I did indeed grow up in the outback, a small country town in central NSW by the name of Lake Cargelligo.

Alice - November 16, 2015 Reply

Wow! It’s been a long time since I took a road trip in the country. Though I actually grew up surrounded by this kind of land when I was a kid. Love your description of the terrain and that yellow field of canola. I once paid $17 for a sandwich in Broome! A sandwich!!! I was working there on & off for a year, couldn’t believe how much things cost!!!

    Anna - November 18, 2015 Reply

    It had been a really long since I had visited the outback too Alice. Such a lovely surprise to find I enjoyed it so. 🙂

    Wow, really re growing up with a similar landscape, I always pictured you being a city kid. Cray!

    And $17 for a sambo, that is ridiculous, where the ingredients blessed by magical fairies and seasoned with unicorn tears. Farrrr out!!!

Baked salmon, pickled coleslaw and avocado - November 16, 2015 Reply

[…] Anna […]

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella - November 16, 2015 Reply

Cyclists are crazy-I know because I’m married to one! And I didn’t realise that was why the Nullabor had its name. And $16 for a bottle of water? That’s more expensive than at the airport 😛

Mabel Kwong - November 15, 2015 Reply

This sounded like an epic road trip, Anna. Love all the shots here, and that road must have been very straight. That is a pretty long straight road, but props to you for conquering it! Can’t believe a bottle of water can be that expensive in the outback. Then again, if you think about the weather there and how fat away such places are away from city centres, it would make sense for water to cost that much – so valuable.

What is that pie-thing you were eating? It looks good and I bet it was made with a lot of love from one of the small towns where you got it 🙂

I haven’t done the Aussie road trip yet. One day, it’s definitely on my to-do list. Wouldn’t want to be the driver, though. Would rather sit in the passenger seat and admire the views out the window 😀

    Anna - November 16, 2015 Reply

    It was a wonderful, fun filled adventure, I really enjoyed the time out from the world, something kind of cool being removed from the fast paced way of life. Haha… I know, I suspect the water wasnt actually that expensive, and that everyone being flustered and trying to fix the problem resulted in a double scan. Either way, the whole experience was amusing in a very time consuming kind of way. 🙂

    The pie-thing was a pizza roll, I got that from a small bakery near the border to WA from a quaint little bakery that was decked out with sports trophies, jerseys and memorabilia, kinda weird, but it worked.

    You should totes make sure you get on this road trip, it was fun, and I much prefer to drive, the same same of the landscape gets boring, least driving you have something to do. 🙂

      Mabel Kwong - November 22, 2015 Reply

      Pizza roll sounds interesting. I don’t remember seeing too many of those here in Melbourne. Maybe it’s a country thing. Would love to do a roadtrip with you someday. You can be the driver and I can sit back and relax in the passenger seat 😀

        Anna - November 23, 2015 Reply

        Pizza roll is AMAZING. 🙂
        I feel like places like Bakers Delight do something similar, but yes to the country bakeries, they were everywhere. 🙂
        Well lil sis, lets make that a thing one of these days, Anna & Mabel hit the road. Happy to be the driver, but that does mean you will need to be the DJ.

Mandy - November 14, 2015 Reply

What a beautiful road trip so far Anna. What fun!
The longest I have ever driven is around 10 hours.
Have a beautiful and happy weekend sweet Anna.
🙂 Mandy xoxo

    Anna - November 16, 2015 Reply

    It was an amazing adventure, I really enjoyed the experience, kinda surprising considering the landscape was something I grew up with. 10 hours driving is a pretty epic day of travel, we did a 9.5hr day and that was rather long enough. 🙂 Hope your weekend rocked sweets. Hugs and love. xox

Rosemarie of Travel and Beyond - November 13, 2015 Reply

Oh my! You are brave indeed! Did you have to drive on gravel road at any point and did you have phone signal? I took a wrong turn on our drive to Jervis Bay and had 90kms of gravel road and I hated it!

    Anna - November 13, 2015 Reply

    Hey Rose, thanks for stopping by. 🙂 I dont think there were too many gravel rounds as we adventured across the country, the roads were actually really great. Phone signal was pretty sketchy when we were crossing most of SA & WA, but at every fuel stop along the way there was range.
    Oh noooo, that’s a rather large wrong turn, 90kms of dirt road. Gahhhh!

Denise Browning@From Brazil To You - November 13, 2015 Reply

What an interesting experience, hum?! 🙂 I could not avoid laughing about the the signs pointing to well-known world cities like Paris and Rome. Passing through the middle of nowhere is great to remind us how fortunate many of us are to live where we live. 😉 Thanks for sharing your adventures with us. xx

    Anna - November 13, 2015 Reply

    It was amazing! I got so much out of the experience, I could totally pack up and go again now.
    That sign post was totally random, but really cool too. I wasn’t pleased that the capital of Australia (my home city) wasn’t listed.
    Oh yeah, I totally agree re being reminded how lucky I am to have access to everything I want, I just dont know how those living in remote parts of the world do it.
    Glad you enjoyed Denise. 🙂 xox

John/Kitchen Riffs - November 12, 2015 Reply

Australia really is huge. Never been there — would love to visit someday. And I’m sure I will. Sounds like such a fun trip — thanks for taking all of us along, virtually speaking!

    Anna - November 12, 2015 Reply

    It really, really is John. I am blessed to live in such a fab country, I do hope you & Mrs KR make it down under, let me know when you are in town/the country, happy to be a tour guide. 🙂

hassan - November 12, 2015 Reply

استرالیا دوست داشتنی است و من در تخیلات کودکانه ام تا امروز استرالیا را دوست داشته ام. آرزو دارم در فرصتی بتوانم تمام جاده ها و منطق دیدنی استرالیا را ببینم.
Australia is very lovely and I in my childhood dreams until now loved it.I wish Later I can see all of the roads and tourist sites.

    Anna - November 12, 2015 Reply

    Oh that’s awesome you have been here Hassan. When are you coming back?

      hassan - November 14, 2015 Reply

      Sorry. I like Australia and I couldnt saw Australia in my life until now.

Tandy | Lavender and Lime - November 11, 2015 Reply

What happens if you cross state lines at a random place where there is no road? Awesome road trip and opportunity to explore your country Anna 🙂

    Anna - November 12, 2015 Reply

    That is a very good question Tandy. I actually have zero clue. I shall do some research and let you know. 🙂 And yes, it was a wonderful week adventuring in my own country, very lucky to have been able to experience it. 🙂

Dave - November 11, 2015 Reply

What a fair dinkum, bloody rippa yarn Anna! This is a wonderful country full of all types of quirky but special people, and you’ve done it justice! “do you have a car”…… 🙂

    Anna - November 12, 2015 Reply

    Hahahaah! Brilliant comment Dave. So Aussie! It is a tops country huh?
    A few of the outback folk I met along the way were truly everything people outside of Australia think we are. I REALLY enjoyed the experience, can’t wait to do it again.

Leo - November 11, 2015 Reply

Never tire of that trip! (3x motorbike, 3x car).
Next time, you gotta have a travelling companion who also wants to do some whale watching at the head of the bight (July – Sept) 😉

    Anna - November 11, 2015 Reply

    LEO….. Yay! So nice to see your ummm… words here on the blog. 🙂
    Wowza, no way? 3 x on a motorbike, bet that was amazing! Tiring, but amazing.
    I’m picturing a convertible and colorful scarves for my next trip across the dessert. And yes, I will totes be doing that trip next time with a buddy that is keen to stop. I was so bummed driving past the point where we could see whales. Even sent a silent apology your way when I was told NO to stopping. Sigh! But, I suspect I will be a bit like you, up for doing the trip again and again.

Hannah - November 11, 2015 Reply

Wow!!! What an epic trip!
I have always wanted to do the trip across The Nullarbor. I think you did it 100% right only driving one way.

I recently realised that I’ve driven the eastern length of the country, though not all at once.

I’d like to make it the entire way around and across and down the middle too.

I haven’t need enough of our beautiful nation yet!

    Anna - November 11, 2015 Reply

    It was amazing, and wonderful, and different and educational too.
    I totes insist on you doing the Nullarbor, maybe camping along the way would be fun.
    That’s a pretty epic achievement, I haven’t be way up top of QLD, but want too. Who knows what the boss will ask me to do huh?

Krista - November 11, 2015 Reply

You never cease to amaze me with your incredible adventures and fabulous attitude no matter what. 🙂 I read “A Sun-burned Country” where he describes the mind-numbing endlessness of the roads. I prefer your version – stopping off at one-horse towns and thoroughly enjoying the vastness of it all. 🙂

    Anna - November 11, 2015 Reply

    Thanks sweets, I appreciate your kind words very much. Mwah! 🙂
    The mind numbing version was what everyone warned me about, but nope, didn’t find it that way at all. Those folk need to check themselves, cause there was some seriously amazingly awesome going on out there in the never. I only wish I had more time to really enjoy it.

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