Australia has accommodation for all budgets, but you still need to book ahead – especially through summer, over Easter and during school holidays.
Camping & Caravan Parks Camp grounds and caravan parks are often close to the beach and many have swimming pools.
Hostels Backpacker joints are found across the country.
Boutique Hotels From ritzy city boltholes to remote eco-retreats.
Resorts Tropical island luxury – need we elaborate?
Lodges and Tented Camps Remote, safari-style experiences.
Self-Contained Apartments & Cottages Beach houses, city apartments and hinterland cottages.
Motels Myriad drive-up motels line the highways – unremarkable, perhaps, but clean, convenient, reliable and affordable.
During the summer high season (December to February) and at other peak times, particularly school holidays and Easter, prices are usually at their highest. Outside these times you'll find useful discounts and lower walk-in rates. Notable exceptions include central Australia, the Top End and Australia's ski resorts, where summer is the low season and prices drop substantially.
Australian bed-and-breakfast options include restored miners' cottages, converted barns, rambling old houses, upmarket country manors and beachside bungalows. Tariffs are typically in the midrange bracket, but can be higher. In areas that attract weekenders − historic towns, wine regions, accessible forest regions such as the Blue Mountains in New South Wales and the Dandenongs in Victoria − B&Bs are often upmarket, charging small fortunes for weekend stays in high season.
Some places advertised as B&Bs are actually self-contained cottages with breakfast provisions supplied. Only in the cheaper B&Bs will bathroom facilities be shared. Some B&B hosts may also cook dinner for guests (usually 24 hours’ notice is required).
Beautiful Accommodation (www.beautifulaccommodation.com) A select crop of luxury B&Bs and self-contained houses.
Hosted Accommodation Australia (www.australianbedandbreakfast.com.au) Listings for B&Bs, farmstays, cottages and homesteads.
OZ Bed and Breakfast (www.ozbedandbreakfast.com) Nationwide website.
Bed & Breakfast Site (www.babs.com.au) B&Bs across the country.
Camping & Caravanning
Camping in the bush is a highlight of travelling in Australia: in the outback and northern Australia you often won't even need a tent, and nights spent around a campfire under the stars are unforgettable.
Seasons To avoid extremes of hot and cold weather, camping is best done during winter (the dry season) across the north of Australia, and during summer in the south.
Costs The nightly camping cost for two people in a privately run campground is usually between $22 and $35, slightly more for a powered site; prices can be higher in remote areas. Unless otherwise stated, prices for camp sites are for two people. Staying at designated camp sites in national parks normally costs between $3.50 and $15 per person.
Facilities Almost all caravan and holiday parks are equipped with hot showers, flushing toilets and laundry facilities, and frequently a pool. Most have cabins, powered caravan sites and tent sites. Cabin sizes and facilities vary, but expect to pay $80 to $100 for a small cabin with a kitchenette and up to $200 for a two- or three-bedroom cabin with a fully equipped kitchen, lounge room, TV and beds for up to six people.
Locations Note that most city camping grounds usually lie several kilometres from the town centre − only convenient if you have wheels. Caravan parks are popular in coastal areas: book well in advance during summer and Easter.
Resources Get your hands on Camps Australia Wide (www.campsaustraliawide.com), a handy publication (and app) containing maps and information about camping grounds across Australia.
Permits Applications for national park camping permits are often handled online by state departments – check with the local national park service in the state you're visiting.
Major Chains If you're doing a lot of caravanning/camping, consider joining one of the chain organisations, which offer member discounts:
Big 4 Holiday Parks (www.big4.com.au)
Discovery Holiday Parks (www.discoveryholidayparks.com.au)
Top Tourist Parks (www.toptouristparks.com.au)
High-End Resorts & Lodges
Australia does a nice line in resorts and other forms of accommodation that represent destinations in their own right. So good are they that you may not even need to move, other than to enjoy the activities and excursions offered in the surrounding area. Most work so well because their locations are prized patches of real estate, often on private concessions in remote areas that are for the exclusive enjoyment of guests. Rates are high – up to $3000 per night – and most have minimum stays, but prices usually include all meals and activities.
Some of the standout options include:
Holiday apartments are particularly common in coastal areas, with reservations often handled by local real estate agents or online booking engines.
Costs For a two-bedroom flat, you're looking at anywhere between $150 and $250 per night, but you will pay much more in high season and for serviced apartments in major cities.
Facilities Self-contained holiday apartments range from simple, studio-like rooms with small kitchenettes, to two-bedroom apartments with full laundries and state-of-the-art entertainment systems: great value for multinight stays. Sometimes they come in small, single-storey blocks, but in tourist hot spots such as the Gold Coast expect a sea of high-rises.
Backpacker hostels are exceedingly popular in Australian cities and along the coast, but in the outback and rural areas you'll be hard pressed to find one. Highly social affairs, they're generally overflowing with 18- to 30-year-olds, but some have reinvented themselves to attract other travellers who simply want to sleep for cheap.
Costs Typically a dorm bed costs $28 to $40 per night, and a double (usually without bathroom) $80 to $100.
Facilities Hostels provide varying levels of accommodation, from the austere simplicity of wilderness hostels to city-centre buildings with a cafe-bar and en-suite rooms. Most of the accommodation is in dormitories (bunk rooms), usually ranging in size from four to 12 beds. Many hostels also provide twin rooms and doubles. Hostels generally have cooking facilities, a communal area with a TV, laundry facilities and sometimes travel offices and job centres.
Bed linen Often provided; sleeping bags are not welcome due to hygiene concerns.
Hostel Organisations & Chains
The Youth Hostels Association (www.yha.com.au) has around 60 Australian hostels, offering dorms, twin and double rooms, and cooking and laundry facilities: the vibe is generally less ‘party’ than in independent hostels.
Nightly charges start at $25 for members; hostels also take non-YHA members for an extra $3. Australian residents can become YHA members for $42 for one year ($32 if you’re aged between 18 and 25). Join online or at any YHA hostel. Families can also join: just pay the adult price, then kids under 18 can join for free.
The YHA is part of Hostelling International (www.hihostels.com). If you already have HI membership in your own country, you’re entitled to YHA rates in Australia. Preferably, visitors to Australia should purchase an HI card in their country of residence, but once you're in Australia you can also buy memberships online, at state offices or major YHA hostels.
Other international organisations with Australian hostels:
Base Backpackers (www.stayatbase.com)
VIP Backpackers (www.vipbackpackers.com)
Hotels in Australian cities or well-touristed places are generally of the business or luxury-chain variety (midrange to top end): comfortable, anonymous, mod-con-filled rooms in multistorey blocks. For these hotels we quote 'rack rates' (official advertised rates – usually upwards of $160 a night), though significant discounts can be offered when business is quiet.
Lodges & Tented Camps
Out in the wilds of some national parks, safari-style lodges are slowly making their presence felt. Based around the same principles as African safari lodges, they inhabit fabulously remote (sometimes fly-in) locations and they offer a mix of semiluxurious four-walled cabins and elevated canvas tents with en-suite bathrooms. Rates usually include all meals and may also include all activities and excursions. Currently, such places are starting to appear in Kakadu National Park, Mary River National Park and Arnhem Land, all in the Northern Territory.
Drive-up motels offer comfortable midrange accommodation and are found all over Australia, often on the edges of urban centres. They rarely offer a cheaper rate for singles, so are better value for couples or groups of three. You'll mostly pay between $120 and $180 for a simple room with a kettle, fridge, TV, air-con and bathroom.
Many Australian pubs (from the term 'public house') were built during boom times, so they're often among the largest, most extravagant buildings in town. Some have been restored, but generally rooms remain small and weathered, with a long amble down the hall to the bathroom. They're usually central and cheap – singles/doubles with shared facilities from $60/100, more if you want a private bathroom. If you're a light sleeper, avoid booking a room above the bar and check whether a band is cranking out the rock downstairs that night.
Farm & Station Stays
Country farms sometimes offer a bed for a night, while some remote outback stations allow you to stay in homestead rooms or shearers' quarters and try activities such as horse riding. Some let you kick back and watch workers raise a sweat; others rope you in to helping with day-to-day chores. Most accommodation is very comfortable – B&B-style in the main homestead (dinner on request), or in self-contained cottages. Some farms also provide budget outbuildings or shearers' quarters.
Remember, however, that some farmstays use their accommodation for its army of seasonal fruit pickers, while we've also heard reports of some who cut corners and others out to take advantage of those who stay. Make sure you lock in rates and any extras (such as laundry) before you agree to stay, and always check them for basic safety infrastructure, such as smoke alarms and fire escapes, before bedding in for the night.
- Farmstay Camping Australia (www.farmstaycampingaustralia.com.au)
- Hosted Accommodation Australia (www.australianbedandbreakfast.com.au)
- Stayz (www.stayz.com.au/farm-accommodation)
Rental & Long-Term Accommodation
If you're in Australia for a while (visas permitting), then a rental property or room in a shared flat or house will be an economical option. Delve into the classified advertisement sections of the daily newspapers; Wednesday and Saturday are usually the best days. Noticeboards in universities, hostels, bookshops and cafes are also useful. Properties listed through a real-estate agent usually necessitate at least a six-month lease, plus a bond and first month's rent up front.
City Hobo (www.cityhobo.com) Matches your personality with your ideal big-city suburb, although it's aimed at those coming to live.
Couch Surfing (www.couchsurfing.com) Connects spare couches with new friends.
Flatmate Finders (www.flatmatefinders.com.au) Long-term share-accommodation listings.
Gumtree (www.gumtree.com.au) Classified site with jobs, accommodation and items for sale.
Stayz (www.stayz.com.au) Holiday rentals.