Is flying the best way to explore Australia?

Great Barrier Reef Australia

The Australian continent is so vast that you’re likely to need to fly at least a leg or two when you’re exploring the country. The time savings of flying Melbourne to Perth as opposed to driving (4¼ hours flight time versus 36 hours of non-stop driving over 3,400km of roads) are stark.

Strategically placed flights can make it possible to see a lot of different parts of the country, even if you’re pressed for time. And not only is it convenient, but with a bit of planning, it can also be surprisingly affordable. You then have the option to rent a car or travel by train or bus when you arrive at each destination.

Besides the main airlines listed below, a network of small regional carriers provide service to virtually every corner of Australia.

  • Qantas: the national airline, works in tandem with its budget subsidiary Jetstar
  • Jetstar: the budget subsidiary of Qantas, flies to all major cities
  • Tiger Air: a budget carrier serving the main cities
  • Virgin Australia: a full-service airline with an extensive network

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Airfares in Australia

Airfares in Australia are very dynamic, with frequent sales. When shopping around on busy routes like Melbourne to Perth, compare all the major airlines. Conversely, you may find choices very limited on routes of interest to tourists but otherwise thinly patronised, such as Sydney to Alice Springs, a town deep in the Outback and gateway to Uluru.

Popular flights:

Fly Adelaide to Darwin (3¾ hours)
Fly Brisbane to Cairns (2½ hours)
Fly Melbourne to Perth (4¼ hours)
Fly Sydney to Alice Springs (3½ hours)
Fly Melbourne to Sydney (1½ hours)
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TIP: Qantas markets various airpasses under the names Explorer and Walkabout. However, the pricing of these schemes, which are marketed to people outside Australia who use Qantas to reach the country, may not be good value as the prices of domestic flight segments are not fixed. Use the Qantas booking engine to put together a multi-city itinerary with actual prices. In fact, simply buying tickets separately by shopping different airlines may be cheaper.
Kaṉku Breakaways Scenic Flight South Australia
Scenic flight over Kanku-Breakaways in South Australia (Credit: South Australian Tourism Commission)
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