Playing it by ear in Queensland
May 8, 2016 9:21 AM   Subscribe

We're going to Australia this summer (late July-early August) and would prefer not to book rooms in advance, but will that be a disaster?

We're flying into Brisbane and then out of Cairns ~19 days later. (We're also spending a week in & around Sydney, for which we will book a room in advance.) We would love to rent a car and meander up the coast staying however long we feel like in whatever town, but how feasible is this actually at that time of year? Our preference is for cheapish hotels and like, private rooms in hostels, if that's helpful to know.

Basically what we want to avoid is:
- everything is booked except a place that's $200 a night
- everything is booked so we sleep in our car (if this happened, like, once we could live with it, we've slept in worse places, but we'd rather avoid it)

So do we need to plan everything out very specifically, or will our non-plan plan work?
posted by goodbyewaffles to Travel & Transportation around Australia (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Have not done this recently but six or seven years ago I found decent last minute (as in "We're showing up in a few hours, got rooms?") accommodations using Wotif. I agree that making sure you have a place in Sydney is good (I liked these folks) for peace of mind and I'll defer to others' experiences about timing but it seemed workable to me. You can also rent campervans if you're into that sort of thing which would be another approach. We saw them everywhere when we were there.
posted by jessamyn at 9:53 AM on May 8, 2016

Hey, it will be late winter/early doing here and everyone will have just gone back to school from winter holidays so I'd think things would be pretty quiet! Not sure about QLD, but it will be too cold to want to sleep in your car in Sydney.

Accomodation is sort of generally more expensive here, but with the exchange rate everything's basically half off. We rented Juciy camper-vans and had a great time, but it was summer; check the weather and temp as I don't think this would be fun if it's cold or raining tons.
posted by jrobin276 at 1:20 PM on May 8, 2016

Hi! I live in Cairns. It gets "cold" in Cairns that time of year- which is to say, sometimes low 50s at night, and mid-70s to 80 during the day. If you live in Chicago you probably don't think that's cold (I'm from Boston and I bloody well look forward to it) but you should plan accordingly if you think sleeping out of a campervan might be happening -- if you bring nothing but shorts and t-shirts, you'll get chilly at night. However, it is pretty much universally acknowledged that July/August weather in Cairns is really awesome, and for those of us who live here it's basically the only reason to put up with the miserable hot humid wet season, so it is a good time to visit. Brisbane will feel a fair bit colder - I stayed with my in-laws last year in late July and we had to have the heater on at night - but you should be okay with respect to rain and stuff.

Cairns is a major destination for backpackers, and in August you get a lot of the northern hemisphere backpackers on summer vacation (true, the Aussies are all headed back to school by then) so you may have some difficulty with hostel bookings, but it will depend. You'll be a week or two after the Cairns Show (like a state fair), which would book up the hotels in the area, so you'll probably be okay on that front; hotels in the CBD aren't too bad, since the pricey resorts are north in Port Douglas. Agree to have a look at wotif. There are plenty of AirBnBs in Cairns for reasonable prices, especially if you're willing to stay outside of the CBD itself - there are busses that run approximately hourly from most of the northern suburbs, which are all pretty nice, if you don't have a car.

tl;dr: I think you should be okay.
posted by olinerd at 3:55 PM on May 8, 2016

I live in Brisbane; I think you'll be fine to "wing it" at that time of year. There are quite a few accommodation websites like those mentioned up-thread which have inventory in most of the towns up and down the coasts/hinterlands (disclaimer: I work for one such company).

I highly recommend checking out the Sunshine Coast hinterland; there are lots of tiny beautiful towns with arts and crafts, cheese, wine, lovely B&Bs, etc. However, on a Friday/Saturday/Sunday night, hinterland places can sell out quickly as it's a popular wedding destination -- although this might be more of a spring/autumn/summer-time concern.

It doesn't sound like you will be, but if you're around Brisbane during the week of 5 August, you can visit the Royal Queensland Show (a.k.a., "Ekka").
posted by snap, crackle and pop at 4:20 PM on May 8, 2016

I swear a very similar version of this question had been asked before, maybe search the tags. But should be fine, just be aware small podunk towns may not have a lot in the way of accommodation. But there are enough larger towns, though not all picturesque, that you should be okay. Don't be fooled about distances, too. Its over a thousand miles brisbane to cairns, so prepare accordingly. Have a great trip!
posted by smoke at 7:03 PM on May 8, 2016

We did a driving trip some years ago from Sydney to Queensland (March-ish) with no fixed plans, and then a driving trip in NSW last year (June), also without fixed plans. We didn't have problems finding and booking pleasant motels last minute, and found that the quality of basic motels was quite good (and a good deal when paying in US dollars). Often, we booked the lodging online on our phones. Weekend nights in attractive destinations were slightly more impacted.

Watch out for your speed on the roads. Both times we got speeding tickets much later to the tune of $200ish dollars from radar speed detectors.
posted by vunder at 9:21 PM on May 8, 2016

Ex-Queenslander here. I used to drive up and down the coast between Cairns and Mackay for work, usually mid-year because end of / start of financial year stuff. I'd just pull into roadside motels, caravan parks or holiday resorts and didn't have any trouble getting a decent room for a decent price.

(I like the Palm Royal in Cairns. It looks very flash, and it is quite nice if you're happy to pretend it's the mid-80s, but it's out of the city centre so it's very reasonably priced. There is (was?) a bottle shop and shopping centre across the road, and a Red Rooster - a bit further down is a nice pub with a beer garden that did good schnitzel / surf and turf.)
posted by obiwanwasabi at 9:36 PM on May 8, 2016

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