For Club member Mark Little, Australia was never top of his list of places to visit. However, when the opportunity arose to visit friends with his wife, he decided to make the most of their time away. Mark contacted Lisa, one of our Worldwide Travel Specialists, and together, they created a truly memorable adventure. Lisa helped in planning the route and booked flights, transfers, hotels, stopovers and motorhome hire for Mark and his wife. Here’s the story of their Australian adventure.
Adelaide to Sydney by Campervan
Australia was never on my bucket list, but my wife very much wanted to visit friends who had emigrated to Australia some years previously. I felt that there were many other, more exciting destinations to visit and that if we were to spend a lot of money on a long haul holiday, then I wanted to see impressive wildlife and memorable landscapes. I was excited to be travelling somewhere new, but as we set off for the airport on a dull Sunday morning at the end of October, I had low expectations. Perhaps some barren landscapes and the odd kangaroo if I was lucky? How wrong could I be?
The flight to Australia would be twice as long as any we had previously taken, so a three-night stopover in Singapore seemed like a good idea. However, rather than just being a convenient break, it proved to be a highlight in its own right. Despite the stifling humidity, we enjoyed the fantastic ‘Flower Dome’ in the Gardens by the Bay, where we also took the evening Skywalk to view the illuminated ‘Super Trees’. We took afternoon tea at Pollens to celebrate my wife’s special birthday, as well as enjoying the street food of Chinatown and Little India. We marvelled at the ornate temples and the illuminations to celebrate Diwali; a drink at Raffles was obligatory. The undoubted highlight of Singapore for us were the beautiful Orchid Gardens, situated within the Botanic Gardens. We happened to visit on the same day as Prince Charles and Camilla which added interest as did the sight of a five-foot long Malayan water monitor lizard crossing the path in front of us.
After a night in a hotel, we picked up our Maui campervan. It was a good 2 metres longer than our own Romahome R30, but this was never a problem with Australia’s mainly uncrowded roads and easy parking. We walked by the peaceful River Torrens and were excited to spy black swans so early in our trip. After the heat of Singapore, South Australia felt cool; there was a cold wind, and we were soon pulling on our fleeces. We spent a couple of nights at the pleasant Brighton Beach Camp from where we visited our friends. Next, we drove to Port Jarvis and caught the ferry to Kangaroo Island.
We spent our first night on the island at Penneshaw and went on a guided walk to look for fairy penguins - unfortunately, there were none to be seen. The next day, after a drive to Cape Borda on a very bumpy unsurfaced road, which resulted in various spillages and the loss of most of our coffee, spices and salt, we arrived at Western Kangaroo Island Caravan Park – a dream come true. After a lifetime (nearly 70 years) of camping and caravanning, I had a new favourite campsite. There were kangaroos, barren geese, galahs and koalas on-site and on the adjacent nature trail we saw an echidna and wallabies.
We drove to the visitor’s centre of Flinders Chase National Park, where we were able to purchase a 2-day pass. Then on to Cape du Couedic to see New Zealand fur seals and Admiral’s Arch. Next, we visited the Remarkable Rocks, which truly live up to their name. Red lichen, which gets its food from the rocks gives them their distinctive colour.
At Seal Bay we took an expensive ($35) guided walk on the beach to see the sea lions; later we followed a trail to a lake where platypuses can sometimes be seen but we were out of luck. At Kingscote, we saw dozens of Australian Pelicans being fed by hand. This happens every day, and the person feeding them also gave a most entertaining commentary.
For our final night on the Island we moved to a basic site at Lashmar. We needed to book in and pay by phone and as we had no signal or local phone card we were unable to do so, but fortunately were helped out by some very kind and helpful neighbours.
Very reluctantly, we left Kangaroo Island – a truly magical place.
Towards the Great Ocean Road
We camped by the sea and enjoyed a beautiful sunset at Kingston SE, stopped at Mount Gambier to see the aptly named Blue Lake and at Cape Bridgewater to walk along the cliffs and see more seals (some wag had written in the visitor’s book ‘fake seals’ and signed it D.Trump.)The temperature had climbed to 39 degrees.
We stopped at the viewing point for London Arch (formerly London Bridge), an island formed when the natural causeway connecting it to the mainland collapsed in 1990, leaving two tourists stranded.
Finally, we arrived at the main viewing spot for the Twelve Apostles, but by now the weather had turned cold and overcast. This was also one of only two places outside of Sydney that was uncomfortably crowded. I know from photographs that it’s a fine place, but on this occasion, it failed to impress. A tiger snake weaving its way across the crowded path was the most exciting part.
On a cold and wet day at Cape Otway, we visited the light station, and exhibitions about dinosaurs, Morse Code, and the early telegraph links with Tasmania. We also heard a very interesting talk in an Aboriginal Meeting Hut about the aborigines’ use of plants. At Lake Elizabeth, we enjoyed a pleasant walk and saw giant ferns, the incredibly beautiful superb fairy-wren, but again no platypuses.
With the sun out again we camped at Kennet River- another dream site with koalas, parrots and cockatoos which were fond of eating from your hand and landing unexpectedly on heads and shoulders.
Philip Island and Wilsons Promontory
Our route took us through Melbourne, which came as quite a shock not just because of the heavy traffic which we weren’t used to, but because the heavens opened and the roads flooded within a few minutes.
Thankfully the sun had returned for our visit to Phillip Island. We had gone to see Penguin Parade. Every evening at sunset thousands of little penguins – the world’s smallest and cutest, waddle up from the sea to their burrows. An amphitheatre has been built on the beach to hold 3800 spectators. Sounds horrific doesn’t it, but we chose to view from an underground area and saw the penguins pass within a metre of us. No amount of commercialisation could spoil this amazing natural spectacle.
Wilsons Promontory has a very large campsite but with plenty of space between pitches. The coastal scenery here is picture perfect. We walked the 5km return trail to squeaky beach (Australia’s answer to Whistling Sands) and were rewarded with tremendous views. A similar length trail, delighting in the name Lilly Pilly Nature Walk took us into the bush where we were fortunate enough to see a couple more snakes – I’m fairly sure they were copperheads- which moved off the path as we approached. We also encountered our only wombat of the trip when walking around the campsite in the evening.
It was at Wilsons promontory that we learned the hard way about a local custom. We went out for the day in the campervan, leaving behind our table to mark the pitch, just as we always do in the UK. When we returned it had gone -we assumed stolen. However on enquiring it appears that it is usual for campers who are leaving the site to leave behind any equipment which they no longer need so that others can help themselves. We never saw our table again.
Raymond Island and Eden
We took the free foot ferry to Raymond Island and followed the Koala Trail. This gave us many views of these very cute mammals, mostly asleep in the trees. Sleeping is what they do best, usually for about 20 hours each day.
We stopped at Eden, hoping to see some passing whales, but we were out of luck. We did, however, enjoy the killer whale museum and found a camping shop where we could buy a new table.
Murramarang National Park
Murramarang National Park had a campsite at Pretty Beach with access to - you’ve guessed it - a very pretty beach. The path to the beach was quite narrow at one point, and I had to ask a couple of kangaroos if they would kindly move aside to let us pass. After nearly stepping on a 2 metre snake after dark, I snapped its picture in order to ask the site warden to identify it for us –‘ah. That’s our diamond python ‘he said ‘we regularly have to move him out of the stockroom!’
The Blue Mountains
After a stop to see a blowhole at Kiama – a town with a very Mediterranean feel– we turned inland to visit the Blue Mountains. We stayed on a free if rather crowded campsite at Jamberro with many fine jacaranda trees in bloom. We visited the local pub to watch the Ashes on TV and found all the rivalry and banter to be very friendly. Echo Point at Katoomba has a fine view of the mountain, but it was the second place that we found uncomfortably crowded. For my part, I didn’t feel that the Blue Mountains could hold a candle to the European Alps or even our Highlands or Snowdonia. I did, however, enjoy the Cathedral of Ferns where we had another free and scenic campsite, this time to ourselves.
We stayed at Lane Cove Holiday Park which has many parrots, kookaburras, honeyeaters and brush turkeys and is an easy train ride from the city. We ticked off the must-see sights of Sydney such as the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge. We took a petit train ride through the Botanic Gardens and walked the coast from Coogee to Bondi Beach where I took a brief dip in the sea.
When it was time to depart for the airport our Sat Nav led us through central Sydney and over the Harbour Bridge – one of the few memories of Australia which I would rather forget.
My preconceptions about Australia had been wrong. The wildlife was great, easy to see and approachable. The coastal scenery was amazing. It was truly the holiday of a lifetime. Australia hadn’t been on my bucket list, but it certainly should have been.
If Mark’s trip has inspired you to plan your own trip to Australia, call our Worldwide Team on 024 7647 5340 or enquire here.
If you have booked your own ‘holiday of a lifetime’ with our Worldwide Team and would like to share your adventure please contact Kelly via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photos courtesy of M.Little.