Updated: Jul 3, 2020
In this episode, travel writer Lee Atkinson regales us with entertaining tales of her many road trips around Australia. We hear about the landscapes and history, getting her car bogged in the desert, a too-close call with a crocodile and the many fascinating Aussie characters she’s met along the way. There’s also Lee’s favourite outback drives, her suggestions for a beginner road-tripper, and her insights for everything you need to make your trip go smoothly.
As we explore this "sunburnt country”, as poet Dorothy McKellar described it in her poem, "My Country", we note that 85 per cent of Australians live within 50km of the coast and that we have more beaches than any other country in the world. But as Lee points out, there is so much more to our incredible land than just our coastline.
Lee, who is the author of 14 travel books and two apps about travelling in and around Australia, says any excuse to hit the road is a good one, and explains how her love of the great Aussie road trip began at a young age. She’s done so many trips, she stopped counting after about 100,000km.
Her longest trip to date has been the endurance-testing Big Lap of Australia which covered 40,000km in one go and took about 10 months.
For Lee, road trips are for anyone - from the stereotypical “grey nomads” to young families and even solo travellers. All you need, she says, is a sense of adventure. Her latest book, Ultimate Road Trips Australia, outlines a wide range of road trips from the weekend getaway to the infamous Big Lap. The book divides the vast subject of Aussie road trips into manageable chapters such as coastal drives, the outback, capital city to capital city, gourmet getaways and short breaks.
In our chat, Lee shares her ultimate three Australian drives and explains why they make the top of her long list. One of them is not too far from one of our biggest capital cities,
another takes in all of the icons of Australia’s red centre but doesn’t require a 4WD, and the last takes in so much spectacular scenery and culture it should be on everyone’s bucket list. She also shares two great Australian drives for beginners where you don’t need a 4WD, including the “outback” drive that lies the closest to Sydney and Melbourne.
Of course, preparation is key for road-tripping and Lee shares her top tips for long distance and outback driving, including a few golden rules that will keep you safe. We also hear from this incredibly experienced camper what essentials she includes to ensure comfortable days and nights in your camper or tent.
One of Lee’s great road trip inspirations is the many regional events held around the country - from the Mount Isa Rodeo in Queensland’s gulf country to cultural celebrations such as the Laura Dance Festival in Queensland’s Cape York, or Kalkarindi’s Freedom Festival and the remote Garma Festival - both in the Northern Territory.
Australia is a land of breathtaking beauty but we hadn’t even heard of one of Lee’s favourite beauty spots, where she says you can camp by pristine freshwater lakes while surrounded by blood-red desert and sand dunes, and revel in the phenomenal birdlife and intense colour palette of the landscape. “Nowhere does colour like outback Australia, particularly in the early morning or at sunset when everything is just saturated with colours. You can just really point your camera anywhere and get an amazing shot.”
Of course, any trip around Australia will bring you into contact with the nation’s great characters, and Lee tells some gorgeous tales of the eccentric and gutsy folks she’s met along the way - both locals and other travellers. But despite all her extensive travels, Lee isn’t done yet. She still has places she’s yet to visit and many she’d happily return to.
There’s so much travel inspiration in this episode for both Australian and international travellers alike. Click here to listen and we do hope you enjoy hearing from Lee as much as we did. If you’d like to follow Lee you can find her at http://www.leeatkinson.com.au.