All of Australia’s populous coast is now easily accessible by standard two-wheel drive car. So a regular vehicle will be good for tourists that aren’t too adventurous. Those seeking to see the special wilderness places that are unique to this continent will need both a 4-wheel drive and pick the right season.
Australia’s Winter is the time to see the North (Top End). While the city dwellers will be watching and complaining about the mercury, May through October is ‘the Dry’, glorious warm dry tropical days. Streams shrink and the muddy roads dry out. Inaccessible places suddenly become open to those with the right vehicle.
Some of Australia’s greatest and most unique spots are only available to the 4WD crowd and even then not always. We would recommend you only drive on pavement when it is raining or has recently rained. Dirt roads rapidly turn to heavy mud which can bog you, be as slippery as ice, and/or stick to everything like cement.
Great sections of Australia are sandy not just the islands like Fraser Island which are entirely sand and then of course there are the beaches.
In the centre and north, once you leave the main highway, nearly every road will have a section where 4WD is needed. The corrigations (washboard) may just require a heavy duty vehicle or a soft spot of sand or mud just might swallow your tires.
You don’t need a 4X4 to see much of Australia but if your want an adventure in one of the world’s most accessible wildernesses, you’ll be able to explore it all with the right equipment.