Big Aussie Trip 2017

June - November 2017
June - November 2017
  • Day142

    Final stop! Barmah (part two)

    November 5, 2017 in Australia ⋅ ☀️ 18 °C

    Happily, on Friday we were invaded by our regular Cup weekend camping crew and the rest of the long weekend was filled with friends and fun. Bike riding, swimming, Lego, games, toasting marshmallows and going out in the boat were all on the kids' agendas while almost all of the adults made the most of having entertained kids and relaxed riverside! Was definitely the ONLY way to end our road trip!Read more

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  • Day140

    Final stop! Barmah (part one)

    November 3, 2017 in Australia ⋅ ☀️ 16 °C

    All those months ago when we were planning our trip, we'd always used the Melbourne Cup weekend as our trip end date. We figured our annual camping trip with friends was going to be the perfect finale for our adventure.
    We arrived a day earlier than everyone else, on Thursday, and the place was virtually deserted! We parked the van temporarily while we waited for the caravan park guy to mark out our area for this year...and that's when Jen noticed a sadly familiar sight... The rear left wheel on the caravan didn't look right - and sadly, it wasn't! Another locator bolt gone but in a stroke of luck, we'd hunted down the part and a local guy, John, within half an hour and the best bit was that he came to us! We sat and relaxed by the river while he did the hard work and then we finally got around to setting up.
    Dinner outside and then a fire with marshmallows to toast seemed to be a fitting way to spend the last evening of "just us" on our trip. We all agreed having friends coming to join us for the weekend was definitely the best way to end our travels!
    On Friday morning we decided to tick one last thing off our "I wish we could" list and took the kids for a trail ride along the river, just outside of Echuca at the Billabong Ranch. The kids had been wanting to do a horse ride since we had stayed at Home Valley Station so it was nice to surprise them with a 1 hour trip. Even better was the unanimous agreement that it had been worth the wait!
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  • Day138

    Swan Hill

    November 1, 2017 in Australia ⋅ ☀️ 19 °C

    With the forecast promising wam, sunny weather we decided to head somewhere that offered plenty of options for outdoor activities - Riverside Park at Swan Hill had all the usual Big 4-style kids entertainment but also had riverside sites so it sounded like the ideal spot. We left Mildura and drove, in the sunshine, for a brief trip into NSW and then back across the river to Victoria. A relatively short day's drive meant we arrived at lunchtime and could spend the rest of the day relaxing at our spot on the river, chairs and fishing rods set up at the back of our site overlooking the Murray.
    The sunshine arrived, but it wasn't exactly warm but that didn't stop the kids trying out the pool (at least it meant they had it to themselves!) and they spent the rest of Wednesday riding their bikes around the park, bouncing on the jumping pillow and hanging out in the games room. In between times they joined us back at the camp site for more fishing (and yabby and shrimp catching with the nets). Despite all the time spent with rods in the water, a carp was the only catch! Each afternoon, a local paddlesteamer would cruise past on its hour long tour of the river. We didn't do anything "touristy" while we were in town - whilst there looked like there was plenty on offer we figured this was one place close enough to home that we could come back to visit again another time.
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  • Day135

    Cadell

    October 29, 2017 in Australia ⋅ ⛅ 25 °C

    We left the trees behind and headed east through more wheat fields. The wind was back in full force and we witnessed it in action in the hundreds of wind turbines dotting the hills around Jamestown. We headed south and recognised some familiar scenery - as we passed through Mount Bryan (site of our first (and last...so far!) puncture) the loop was complete! 19 weeks and one day and more than 15,000km of adventures...home suddenly felt very close!
    We drove into Murray River country and had our first vehicle ferry trip (free, runs 24 hours and takes about 2 minutes!) as we crossed over towards Cadell. We pulled into a reserve right on the river and found a spot without too many overhanging trees (the 70km+ winds made us slightly nervous...although another camper who was sitting under a river red gum told us they "only drop their limbs when they're full of sap"...that may (or may not?!) be the case but we weren't up for the gamble!). The temperature peaked at about 34 degrees so Roy and the kids cooled off in the river (Jen not tempted by the murky waters!) and the kids befriended all of the dogs staying at the campsite and took them for walks around the tracks.
    Late in the day the wind eased off as it changed direction and we sat outside and enjoyed the view of the cliffs on the opposite bank thanks to some pretty impressive lighting at the campground.
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  • Day134

    Melrose

    October 28, 2017 in Australia ⋅ ☀️ 15 °C

    The winds arrived at Ceduna early and we used the opportunity to pack up and get on the road. Another 500km+ day in the car was spent driving through wheat fields, with a brief stop in Kimba (claim to fame - its impressive painted silos and the half way point between Perth and Sydney) and then on to Port Augusta through more tiny wheat belt towns. We stopped briefly in Port Augusta for fuel...and the kids' first ever McDonald's meal (and probably their last given their post-meal reactions!) as a late lunch and then headed to Melrose. Only 45 minutes from Port Augusta, Melrose is the oldest town in the Flinders Ranges and is nestled at the base of Mt Remarkable...and feels VERY different to Port Augusta (great tip to stop here, thanks Allison!). It was still windy when we arrived, and 30+ degrees but by the time we headed to bed the cool change had arrived and we were back in long sleeves (definitely felt like we were starting to get closer to home!).
    On Saturday the kids had a great time riding their bikes on the "lumps" at the campsite and watching the mountain bikers doing stunts on the ramps nearby. We had a brief wander around the town (great bike shop selling bike-related souvenirs and supplies and offering bike rental for use on the many biking trails on Mt Remarkable) and then headed off for a walk on the trails. We followed "Chicken Run" past a local's place and then headed up "Weaving Camels" through native bush (and olive trees!) before walking up to the Old Mines spot for views over the surrounding countryside. After a morning tea stop we headed back to camp over the hill. The rest of the afternoon was spent lazing at the campsite (for the adults, the kids did more bike riding and Lego with new found friends) before we headed to the pub for a beer before dinner and a fire outside.
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  • Day132

    Ceduna (Nullarbor done!)

    October 26, 2017 in Australia ⋅ ☀️ 24 °C

    Thanks to some fellow travellers that woke up at 5am local time and started discussing the day ahead (must have been Victorians - for all of us coming from the west it was still the middle of the night) we got on the road early for another big day's drive...not helped by the fact that only 12km down the road we lost 2.5 hours crossing the border back into SA!
    The forecast blue skies appeared on cue and made a perfect back drop to the spectacular cliffs along the Great Australian Bight. The viewing spots were so close to the road that we checked out a number of them. Despite protests from the kids about having to get out of the car/interrupt the audiobook/etc etc, they were suitably impressed when they did bother to do the short walk to the edge. They all agreed that they really do look like a giant has taken a big bite out of the side of the country (as suggested by "Are we there yet?"). The only disappointment was not getting a chance to see whales at Head of Bight. The official "season" finishes next week but we'd heard reports that only one or two had been spotted in the last few days and the locals confirmed this so it didn't seem worth the detour (and $35 entry fee). Another spot for the next time list?!
    On and on we drove, through much greener countryside than we experienced 19 years ago, and the "treeless plain" didn't seem quite so long and arid this time around. As we headed out the other side, we decided to bypass our original planned stop at Fowlers Bay and push on to Ceduna, a couple of hours further down the road. With the help of a riveting audiobook we arrived in Ceduna mid afternoon, dumped our fruit and veg at the quarantine point and drove further south to the Shelly Beach Caravan Park. We opted for a dune-top site, well aware that windy weather was forecast for Friday but deciding to risk it for the sake of a great view. There were only two campsites up on the dune (with some cabins nearby) so it almost felt like some of the beach front camping we'd done in WA...except with flushing toilets, hot showers, laundry and games room just down the hill - perfect!
    We enjoyed a couple of great sunsets and spent a relaxing day (mostly) out of the car and down at the beach. Roy tried out some local oysters in town (the kids declared them all disgusting - even though Marley ate two of them!) and we restocked the fridge with SA fruit and veg.
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  • Day130

    Nullarbor (almost done!)

    October 24, 2017 in Australia ⋅ ☀️ 21 °C

    With a big day in the car ahead of us, we got up early and left Cape Le Grand by 7am (new record on an early start for us...and Meg and Marley literally had to get dragged out of bed!). After a quick stop in Esperance to drop off our recycling, we headed north to Norseman and then started on the long road east. Sadly, someone else's journey had been cut short, a 4WD had rolled over only 10km up the road, belongings strewn everywhere - only positive was the airbag/seatbelt conversation, initiated by the kids, that followed.
    A super long day in the car whizzed by with the help of Conor and Maeve's fabulous audiobook - Lion Boy hooked us all and kept us going for a huge 10.5 hour day of driving that involved not much besides straight road and dead roos (occasionally interspersed with a "teacup tree", "undie tree" or roadhouse stop). We finally called it quits at Eucla, just shy of the WA/SA border where we stopped for petrol. Twenty five dollars for a powered campsite, flushing toilets and a view of the ocean beyond seemed like a deal too good to refuse (although the kids would have happily continued just so they could heat the end of the book!).
    Dinner and bed in the quiet campground were just what we needed as a prelude to the rude shock of changing time zones a few km down the road the next day!
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  • Day128

    Cape Le Grand National Park

    October 22, 2017 in Australia ⋅ ☁️ 16 °C

    We farewelled our new Lego friends and headed out on the Southern Ocean Road towards Esperance. Gorgeous wildflower displays lined the sides of the roads and the bugs were having a feeding frenzy - we ended up with more bugs on our windscreen (and glued all over the car) than any other time on this trip! As we headed towards the main highway, we spotted 2 emus racing off into the scrub...and then we saw the 5 chicks trying desperately to follow! Two headed through the scrub after their parents but the other 3 continued to run along the side of the road. At that point we ground to a halt and waited for Dad to come back and find his youngsters and then they all raced off together.
    We stopped off in Esperance to restock and the headed out of town for our last beach camp in WA. We'd been looking forward to exploring the white sandy beaches of Cape Le Grand National Park but the weather wasn't quite what we'd ordered! We turned up on a windy Saturday and discovered all sites in the sheltered (but small) Cape Le Grand campground were full so had to settle for Lucky Bay which offered better views but little protection from the weather. We headed into the newer section of the campground and set ourselves up on a site we hoped wouldn't get too much wind. Even though it was windy, the white sand and turquoise water made for a spectacular looking beach. We briefly checked it out and then made sure to have a shower before the solar hot water ran out!
    Sunday, as forecast, delivered up some pretty unpleasant weather - the worst we've had in the van for the entire trip (Jurien Bay would have claimed the honour if not for the house!) and we spent the day oscillating between activities inside like audiobooks, puzzles, drawing, Lego and card games and dragging the kids outside in coats for some fresh air (and sanity!). Mid afternoon the weather looked like it was clearing so we donned our rain coats again and headed along the walking track to Thistle Cove. Great walk - soggy kangaroo families out for a snack amongst an amazing wildflower display and some gorgeous coastal scenery. Thistle Cove (Matthew Flinders named this for his ship's master, John Thistle, who discovered fresh water nearby) looked fabulous (even under grey skies) so we vowed to return the next day when the forecast had promised blue skies and sunshine...
    Sadly for us, the forecasters got it very wrong and we woke to grey skies with clouds so low they touched the nearby hills! At least the wind had disappeared so we headed down to Lucky Bay beach for a walk. A really beautiful beach but it seems a shame that they allow cars to drive on it, particularly when there is an obvious Oystercatcher population (who nest in the sand above the tide mark). Even more aggravating was the ignorant tourists hand feeding the local kangaroos with savoury crackers out of a box (and trying to kiss them!!) despite the signs requesting they not be fed (and the potential for ranger-issued fines if caught). The kangaroo population at Lucky Bay were very used to cohabiting with humans - they spent much of their time cruising around the campsite feeding on the native vegetation and it was possible to get really close to them to photograph them without them so much as looking up. Having said that, they were also incredibly obliging for photographers - we witnessed some standing up on their hind legs to have a scratch right in front of a tourist (so close he had to move back to use his zoom lens!), and one rolling around on its back on the beach like a dog!
    By early afternoon on Monday we had to admit the promised sunshine was not going to eventuate but the kids were keen to climb Frenchman Peak so it seemed like the perfect opportunity. We donned our hiking boots, hopped in the car for the short drive and started our ascent up the steep hill. We were glad we'd worn decent shoes (and even more so, that we hadn't attempted it directly after yesterday's rain) because the climb up involved navigating the rock face - there were plenty of hand and foot holes for grip but they're probably the first place water races down after rain! The views the whole way up were amazing and even on an overcast day offered vistas into the far distance. From the top it was possible to get a 360 degree view - we all agreed it was worth the climb!
    Following our descent, we briefly stopped off at the nearby Hellfire Bay (apparently named for St Elmo's fire which is an electrical discharge sometimes seen around the top of ships' masts). Another perfect looking beach - this National Park would be so tough to leave in great weather!
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  • Day126

    Mason Bay

    October 20, 2017 in Australia ⋅ ☀️ 24 °C

    We left Bremer Bay to head to another coastal spot for a couple of nights of "bush" camping. The 3 hour drive was pretty but unremarkable - wheat farms and rolling hills for the most part, and the rolling hills were replaced by the familiar low coastal scrub as we neared our destination. We passed through Jerramungup and Ravensthorpe with its recently painted silos which can be seen from a long way away! A well known street artist has depicted the life cycle of the banksia across the 3 silos and it only took him a month to complete the huge work of art.
    We were met at the campground by a friendly "local" (who camps here 4-5 weeks at a time, a couple of times a year) and he gave us the low down on the sites available in terms of wind, views and snakes in residence - very helpful to know before we set up! We chose a spot with water views and put our "back" to the wind to create a bit of a wind break. The sun was shining and it wasn't too windy so we spent the afternoon relaxing at the campsite and beach and Roy and the kids did some fishing from the beach (success! A trevally (or Skippy as they're known here) was caught early in the session!). We met another family camped nearby who had just started on their "travelling indefinitely" journey and our kids and theirs hit it off straight away. They spent most of that afternoon, and all of Friday playing games, Lego and riding bikes together around the campsite.
    The wind changed direction on Friday which made it really cold on the beach (even with the cloudless sky) but that didn't stop Roy venturing out for a snorkel. The verdict was it wasn't worth getting cold for...and later that afternoon he saw a dolphin (or shark!) in the spot he'd been snorkelling in earlier! Jen spotted a large snake being chased across the road near the bush camp sites by a magpie so we were quite happy to endure the wind!
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  • Day124

    Bremer Bay

    October 18, 2017 in Australia ⋅ ☀️ 14 °C

    We left Albany under more grey skies and decided to check out Two Peoples Bay Nature Reserve on route to our next stop. It's an easy half hour drive from Albany and has at least 2 idyllic looking beaches that we saw - Little Beach (the somewhat unoriginal name for the smaller of the two beaches!) and Two Peoples Bay Beach. Both had beautiful white sand and clear turquoise water. The rain clouds that had chased us from Albany caught up with us just minutes after we arrived so we snapped a few photos and jumped back in the car to head to Bremer Bay.
    It was a pretty drive through rolling green farmland which reverted back to coastal scrub as we neared the small beachside town. We opted to stay at the caravan park right on the river seeing as it was only one night, however it looked like there were at least 2 other great options available - including one spot about 12km out of town (Tozer's Bush Camp which is apparently a great spot for wildflowers).
    The lady at the caravan park office said the river had just broken through to the sea the day before (usually you can walk across to the wider strip of beach via a sandbank) so we walked down to take a look - sure enough the tannin tainted river water was slowly leaching out into the turquoise waters of the bay - interesting but didn't make it look very inviting!
    We headed up to the lookout and wind turbine which generates 40% of the town's electricity - kids thought it was pretty cool because you could drive up and park right underneath it (although we did note it was shorter than lots of the Karri trees we'd seen recently, at only 46m high!). Bremer Bay itself is a quiet little town with only the bare essentials in terms of shops (wood fired pizza place sounded great but wasn't open while we were there); it's main appeal lies in the nearby estuary, Fitzgerald River NP and opportunity for whale watching at the right time of year. Whale watching from the beach is possible - sometimes they come in as close as 6m off shore! Another spot to add to our "next time" list!
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