Accommodation is readily available in most Australian cities and destinations. Like everything else in Australia, it is the most expensive by international standards.
All state capitals have a number of 4- or 5-star hotels, often with restaurants, bars, room service and other high-end amenities. Other 2- or 3-star hotels are scattered in the city centres and suburbs. It’s best to check local guidebooks and magazines to find out what to expect. Most hotels offer internet access, but usually at a high price. Most hotels (as opposed to country inns that call themselves hotels) have en-suite bathrooms. It is not uncommon for all facilities to be exhausted during major events in cities such as Melbourne and Adelaide.
Camping is a popular pastime. Most caravan parks rent out overnight pitches where you can pitch your tent, and these pitches are available in most towns. The caravan park provides showers and toilets, and sometimes washing and cooking facilities. Sometimes for an extra charge. It costs about $20 for a tent pitch and a few dollars per person. You can even find caravan parks on the beach, with swimming pools and playgrounds in the lagoon, all free for guests.
National parks often offer free campsites, so you have more self-care. There are often washrooms and sometimes cold showers. Camping permits are sometimes required in the busiest parks, and some popular sites fill up during the summer holidays. In Australia, it is common to be within an hour’s drive of a national park or recreation area where you can camp in some form, even in capital cities. You should expect to pay around $5 to $10 per person per night for a camping permit, as well as entrance fees at the most popular national parks (e.g. Wilsons Promontory National Park, Kosciuszko National Park, etc.), but entrance and camping are free at most national parks further away from population and tourist centres.
Some other campsites are managed by the government or even local owners. Depending on the time of year, you should expect to pay about $10 per person per night.
You can try your luck by sleeping on a beach or pitching a tent at a motorway service area, or by going into the bush and looking for a free bed. Most rest areas and beaches prohibit camping and many even prohibit overnight parking to discourage camping. In general, the closer you are to civilisation or a tourist area, the more likely you are to be harassed by the authorities.
It is often better to camp in state forests than in national parks if you prefer camping to sightseeing, as you are allowed to collect your own firewood (sometimes tree cutting is allowed depending on the area) and camping is not restricted to campsites. Other activities that are generally allowed in state forests and not allowed in national parks are: bringing dogs/pets, open fires, motorbikes and four-wheel drive. State forests are generally free to access, but you must check locally if public access is allowed.
Youth hostels and hikers
The price for budget hostel-style accommodation with shared bathrooms and often dormitories is around $20-30 per person per night. Facilities usually include a fully equipped kitchen with adequate refrigeration and storage space for food. Most hostels also have a living room equipped with sofas, dining tables and TVs.
There are several backpacker hostel chains in Australia. If you spend many nights in a hostel of the same brand, consider their discount cards, which usually offer a loyalty bonus on accommodation and other discounts on attractions and tours negotiated by the chain.
Most pubs in Australia offer some form of accommodation. These can range from very basic, shabby rooms to recently refurbished shops. The price is usually a good reflection of what you will find. It is still quite rare to have your own bathroom, even in the nicest pubs.
Outside the major centres, the pub is called a hotel. A motel does not have a public bar. A motel that has a bar is called a hotel/motel.
In very small towns, local pubs are the only ones that offer accommodation to travellers. Accommodation in these pubs is usually budget accommodation, with shared bathrooms but private rooms.
It’s even possible to stay in a pub in central Sydney so you can return to your room after a beer.
If you are travelling alone and want a private room, pubs usually offer single rooms at a reduced price compared to a double room. Most motels charge the same price for one or two people sharing a room.
Motel-type accommodation usually has a private room with one or more beds and its own shower and toilet. Many motels have family rooms, usually with a double bed and two single beds in the same room.
Motel rooms in cities usually cost from $80. Usually the cost is the same for one or two adults, with each additional person paying extra. Prices for additional children can range from free to $20 per child. During quiet periods, it is not uncommon for motels to offer discounts for waiting rooms.
Most motels serve a cooked or continental breakfast in your room in the morning for an extra charge. Some have a restaurant or serve dinner. Some have a toaster in the room and kettles are widely available.
Cabins are an inexpensive way for families to stay overnight on the road. Sometimes built on private land, sometimes in caravan parks, cabins usually have a kitchen/living area and one, two or three bedrooms.
Stay on the farm
As the name suggests, this is usually a cabin or dwelling on a working property. This accommodation is suitable for a stay of two days or more and usually allows you to get a little involved in the management of the farm if you wish. It is customary for dinner to be served on the farm and breakfast to be served in your cabin.
Holiday homes are houses rented out by their owners, often through local estate agents or specialised websites. They are sometimes in prime locations, but sometimes in residential areas of towns and villages. The minimum rental period is usually two days, but can be up to a week at peak times. There is at least one bedroom, a living room and a bathroom.
Bed and breakfast
Bed-and-breakfasts are generally a premium form of accommodation in Australia, often focused on weekend couples. They certainly don’t offer the form of discounted accommodation that some parts of the UK do, and the local motel is usually cheaper.
Sometimes additional rooms in a person’s house, but often a purpose-built building. You can expect a comfortable and well-maintained room, a common room and a cooked breakfast. Possibly private facilities. Significant discounts on guest rooms are often offered for mid-week stays.
There are many real resorts all over Australia. Many have lagoon pools, tennis, golf, kids clubs and other organised activities. The Whitsundays offer a choice of resorts, some of which take up entire islands. Port Douglas also has many world-class resorts.
Serviced flats are widely available, for stays as short as one night. Amenities usually include a kitchen, washer and dryer, and separate bedrooms.
Caravans, motorhomes, campers and recreational vehicles
Most Australian cities have caravan parks that offer pitches with or without electricity for caravans. You will often see the Grey Nomad Brigade travelling around Australia in campervans and caravans.
The motorhome has also become very popular in Australia. It is perfect for the Australian camper lifestyle, whether for weekends or for a longer trip into the wilderness where there are no facilities. You need to be self-sufficient and carry appropriate spare parts and a good tool kit.
Station Wagon / Vans
In most parts of Australia it is illegal to sleep in your vehicle. However, this can be circumvented by simply putting curtains on the windows so that no one can see inside from the outside. It is possible to trade in a van for as little as $1,000, with a more reliable van fetching no more than $3,000 to $4,000. Add a mattress, pillow, portable gas cooker, cooking utensils and a 20-litre water tank and you’re on your way. If you get caught, the fine can be up to $150 per person, so do it at your own risk. But if you’re strategic about where you go, you probably won’t get caught. Just be sensible and don’t harass the locals. Also be aware of parking restrictions in some parts of the city, although overnight parking restrictions are rare. Parking inspectors can be ruthless and it is not uncommon to be fined more than $100.
All Australian cities have free public toilets. Many parks and most beaches also have free electric barbecues. Popular beaches have freshwater showers to wash off after swimming in the salt water. For those on a tight budget (or for those who just like waking up on the beach), just wash in the sea (please don’t pollute the sea or waterways with detergents or soaps) and rinse in the showers. Almost all taps in Australia are drinking water, those that are not are marked. Petrol stations (petrol/gas) almost always have water taps, so it’s a good place to fill up with water every time you fill up.
Some of the best experiences you can have in Australia are to take the road on the map that looks like it leads to a beach, a bay, a waterfall or a mountain and follow it. You may find paradise and not another soul in sight. And if you are lucky, you will have a bed, food and water with you.
Travelling in a small group reduces fuel costs per person as this is likely to be your biggest expense.
Appreciate and respect the earth by taking your waste/bottles/cigarette butts and disposing of them properly.