One of the best ways to visit Australia is, by my own experience, in a camper van or a mini bus, and drive for a few weeks/months, exploring this amazing land of OZ. The self road trip has been one of my best experience in my entire time in Australia. The road behind seen from my van with everything from deserted beaches to kangaroos lying ahead in the diverse and vast country was an amazing scenery.
I made search on how far to go and where to go. As I wanted to see the most of it, I started my journey driving from Manly, where I bought a mini van express Mitsubishi from an add I found on gumtree.com.
Many areas of this vast country are remote enough that to really enjoy the quiet splendor of the Australian landscape it is needed to be relatively self sufficient and have no fear to the unknown. I stopped and looked around me, and I realized, I was so far away from home, in the middle of nowhere, but by myself, and I loved the sensation of freedom that was floating in my whole being.
Wise, as I plan my trip ahead to avoid any troubled situations I do not want to find myself in. Roads can stretch for kilometers and kilometers with no stations, no food, no stores, no power, no mobile reception, and no water, so for my first experience, I decided to drive from Sydney to Cairns, which can be done in about 20 days, and took me 38 days, and I took my time to drive back and stop to Gympie for my working holiday horse ridding 3 months groom, in the most recognized horse farm of the area, but this is an other chapter of my life…
I advise that you get an international driving permit before you arrive in Australia. The cost in getting a vehicle can be high, but I managed to spend relatively good amount for my whole trip; The vehicle registration (in Australia this is called ‘rego’) can be expensive; insurance; getting a roadworthy certificate (RWC) for your rego transfer; and any mechanical checks; you have to do before buying a van in Australia. Kilometers are already on the counter, my fuel type was diesel, and consumption is to consider. But there is no big surprise, the faster you drive, the fastest you spent buying more fuel. Mine was very economical and the life of a well-maintained diesel engine is twice the kilometres of other engines. 2WD or 4WD; battery set up and power; water tanks if needed; storage; and comfort. I was very happy with the van, clean and in a very good shape. I decided to get this mini van for $ 1900 AUD and drive all the way to Cairns. Exploring surf spots along the way and admiring the beautiful landscape of Australia. I prepared the van, installed my bed and duvet, my sheets and sleeping bag, my cooking utensils.. I cooked outside on a stove whenever possible! I used plastic boxes to store my clothes, my wetsuit and I fixed my surf board, Minimalibu by the side of the sliding door, and other equipment for the trip.
I was a member of the Manly local library, where I found a very good detailed road map book guide that would be perfect for not getting lost in this huge continent. Books are often more reliable then GPS and they are more fun! Comfortable seats are a must, as I was driving many hours, and I have downloaded music on USB (lost of music), that I connected directly to the board of the van. I made sure I had all the necessary, such as rechargeable lamps, or torches, a wistle, always handy while taking long walks, books, and a Telstra phone coverage, usually best to use in Australia… and “c’est parti pour l’aventure! “.
It is very nice to follow the highway, but every time I was getting closer to a town or village, I would explore the side trip, even if it was taking more kilometers to drive, it was definitely memorable tracks I have done. It was amazing to drive across a forest like side road, but beware of the kangaroos jumping off in front of your van in the middle of the narrow road and they specially appear from nowhere in the middle of the night. It is like they are attracted by the lights and they just commit “attempted like suicide”, so keep slow drive speed, please!
I did some planing and following the weather forecast to make sure I would not miss the average size waves that were best for my level and surf expertise.
I would rest after usually two to tree hours drive and stops before the sun sets down, and enjoy the sunset at the beach or in the water surfing.
I would stretch, do some yoga, and shower at the public shower by the beach and cook my meal on my stove, in the parking plot, or make a delicious pasta, or simply a whole meal sandwich with ham and cheese, or even some nice fruits and cereals with yogurt and lot of green tea, water and occasionally, red wine. I stored my fresh food in an ice bucket, the food was stored well enough that way.
While the suns was leaving the beautiful pink and blue stripes in the sky, I would enjoy my meal, and rest in my comfort van. I would light few candles and lie in my bed preparing for my next road trip or reading a good book.
I would park the van either on the parking plot, but it would have been safer to park in free camping space or campervan parks that are usually around $15 AUD per night to $50 AUD, handy for hot and cold showers, for your laundry maybe, and getting some ideas from travelers on where to find whatever you are looking for… Museums, botanical gardens, caves, surf spots, etc…..the best web site if you want to plan everything ahead is Australian Campsites or download the app Wiki Camps. Personally I just drove where my instinct was telling me to and following the map I bought at the library.
Here is a resume of some places for you, since you are reading my blog and maybe planning yourself a trip in Australia:
-My trip started from SYDNEY TO PORT STEPHENS
Approx drive time: 2 hours 20 minutes
Distance: 180 km
I left Sydney’s as I head out of the city on my way north towards the Central Coast. I was keen to hit the beach already, so I stopped off at Woy Woy beach, gateway to idyllic picnic spots.
On the highway I drove up towards Port Stephens – I am keen on drinking red or white wine, red being my favorite, I followed my friend advice to get to the famous Hunter Valley, NSW’s most famous wine region. There are camper van campsites nearby, so I stoped over to have a nice lunch in picturesque cellar doors.
Port Stephens is renowned for being surrounded by a mountainous rainforest and over 20 beaches, were you can enjoy the appearance of whales in the ocean at a distance.
-PORT STEPHENS TO COFFS HARBOUR VIA PORT MACQUARIE
Approx drive time: 3 hours 50 minutes
Distance: 360 km
The drive to Port Stephens along the A1 is incredible road trip driving though national parks and pristine beaches. As I arrive in Coffs Harbour, I could not miss it’s famous Giant Banana, the famous tourist hot spot.
The coastal city of Coffs Harbour has some of the best surf spots, such as my favorite, Diggers and Mcaulleys, Moonee and Sandy beach, Campbells, Mid Sapphire, Shelley, Emerald and more.
You can easily spend a few days here catching the surf and relaxing on the beach. When I returned to Australia few years later I never guessed I would date two beauty native of this town respectively and live there over a year. This time has taught me more then I could imagine about Australia life style, work, and connecting with people whom became life time friends.
-COFFS HARBOUR TO BRISBANE, VIA BYRON BAY AND THE GOLD COAST
Approx drive time: 4 hours 40 minutes
Distance: 390 km
This 400km leg of the trip took me up the coast passing the state border from New South Wales into Queensland. But before I left the NSW territory, I made sure not to miss the world famous Byron Bay and it’s surroundings. This laid-back hippie coastal town is a great destination, known for its beaches, surfing and scuba diving sites.
I would meat people and share BBQ grill in the public park, where also many native birds shows their interest in stealing some meat from the grill or directly from our hands! Kookaburra are one of the famous pieces of Australia, also called the laughlin hans, because he sounds like he is laughter loudly, often early mornings, waking up all other visitors out of bed. This bird is best described as social to humans, and have plenty of experiences. They eat reptiles insects and snakes, but they are also king fishers and love to fish mussels in shallow waters. They are beautiful friendly birds, and I could not resit to take this portrait with my camera.
BRISBANE TO NOOSA VIA THE SUNSHINE COAST
Approx drive time: 2 hours
Distance: 150 km
I drove past Brisbane and continue my journey north up the east coast, swapping the city for the coast. This leg of the trip up the Sunshine coast took me on a journey past ancient volcanic peaks, lush rainforests and ocean-front National Parks.
My favorite destination, Noosa Heads, there are lots of activities on offer to keep me busy, so I parked the van in one of the many local campsites and hit the surf, and took a visit Noosa National Park where I met with a dragon lizard and a great walk in the wild forest. The coast there is beautiful, houses too. They look just like a little paradise to me this area is fantastic.
-NOOSA TO AIRLIE BEACH, VIA BUNDABERG AND ROCKHAMPTON
Approx drive time: 11 hours 30 minutes
Distance: 1000 km
Leaving Noosa was tough, but when I was ready, it was time to hit the road again, this time heading to another famous holiday destination – Airlie Beach. This is a long leg of the trip, so I put on my favourite playlist, grab some snacks fill the tank and settle into the journey. I recommend taking regular breaks every two hours, this is the perfect opportunity to pull the van over and grab a cold drink from the fridge or fix up a quick snack.
-AIRLIE BEACH TO CAIRNS, VIA TOWNSVILLE AND MISSION BEACH
Approx drive time: 7 hours 30 minutes
Distance: 620 km
The last part of my road trip is another long drive, but there are a couple of interesting places to stop on the way. The coastal city of Townsville has a popular water park, great for cooling off in the tropical summer temperatures. The Reef HQ Aquarium based in Townsville also has marine life and coral from the Great Barrier Reef, plus a sea turtle hospital.
Before I arrive at my final destination there is one more beach I wanted to visit, Mission Beach. This beautiful small beachside town is also my favorite and with World Heritage rainforest on one side and the Great Barrier Reef on the other, it is just incredible.
Last stop Cairns, I made it! Cairns, the entrance to Queensland’s tropical north, is a popular stop for travelers off due to its tropical climate and laid back vibe. The dive is astonishing and needs to be protected. The skysail rainforest is also a great way to spend some alone time, amazing for my own meditation practice and digesting this marvelous time I spent driving the coast of Australia.
The feeling of freedom has been not only a trip, not only an experience, but a journey of a life time. Seeing new destination for the first time, getting wonderfully lost in a new city, exploring the coast in the comfort of my Mitsubishi van, whatever is it that ignite my passion, I believe this travel took me there.