How to do a road trip around Australia: Expert travel tips


Filmmaker and explorer Mal Leyland and his brother Mike came to Australia's attention in the 1970s with such expeditions and televised adventures as sailing from Darwin to Sydney, and their Ask the Leyland Brothers weekly TV series, where they and their families explored Australia in their Kombi vans. Mal recently won Australian Geographic Society's Lifetime of Adventure Award. See


I'm a map man, I've always had a map in my hand. I've navigated on expedition with a sextant and the sun, but I'd never go anywhere without my little electronic sat nav now. It's got all the maps of Australia on it. Hema maps are produced here in Australia: they'll use the track we plotted through the Simpson Desert onto their new maps.


I have a small, personal Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB) the size of a mobile phone in my backpack with my camera, which always goes in first. If you get lost you have to stay where you are, as the signal comes from where the EPIRB was set off. It can save lives, and gives rescue people something to go on when all they've usually got is, "My mate said he was going to do x, y and z, and he hasn't turned up." We have such a vast, wonderful country, but it can be a deadly place.


Don't carry all your water in one container. I always have a minimum 20 litres of water and 20 litres of fuel, enough to get me out of trouble. And pack a workshop manual for your car if you're planning to go into remote areas. My brother Mike was the inaugural member of the Land Rover Club in Newcastle (I'm member Number 17). By being with like-minded people, you learn. We met people cooked and blistered after four days bogged on the road to Tibooburra, in north-west NSW. We just let the air out of their car's tyres and drove it straight out. An essential bit of gear is a means to repump your tyres!


All gazetted roads are legal to drive on, but 80 per cent of the time, they pass through private property. These lands are the owners' backyards and their livelihoods and they maintain the roads you're using. So extend the courtesy of dropping into the homestead just to let them know you're there. Often, they'll recommend a great little campsite close by a river, or poor roads to avoid.


My favourite place to visit? I think I have the ability to enjoy wherever I am. I enjoy the first trip in any new place, like going down the Darling River in 1963, and there's so much variety in Tasmania, around Cradle Mountain and Lakes National Park. Also Uluru, which I drove to for the first time in a Land Rover 1954, into which we added beds made from water pipes and hessian, whipped up on an old Singer sewing machine. A sense of humour is always necessary.