So what is all about? Well... hopefully, by the time we are done, it will be a comprehensive journal about a family of 5 who have travelled around Australia to see the sights and also do some volunteer work around the country! In Mid 2010 we started thinking about what it would take to fulfil a life-long dream... We wanted to bundle up our 3 kids, pack-up the house, jump in the car and hit the road - probably for about 12 months. It sounds so simple ... At the start of January 2013, after almost 15 months on the road; we finally completed Our Big Aussie Road Trip. We hope that you enjoyed following our adventures, trials and tribulations as much as we enjoyed having them!

28 December, 2011

Adelaide - Take one

As we drew closer to Adelaide, we came to Tailem Bend, which is right on the banks of the Murray River. Having spent so much time along the Murray near the start of our Journey, we wondered if some of the water flowing down the river was the same water we swam in all those weeks before! We stopped briefly to have a look at the Mighty Murray near it's mouth and take a quick snap before heading into Adelaide.

The Mighty Murray at Tailem Bend

In some tourist information, we had seen some nice things about a place called Hahndorf, and so we thought we would go and have a look on our way through to Adelaide. Unfortunately this was a pretty bad move. Hahndorf would be beautiful, but it's main street was thin with cars parked on both sides, and absolutely nowhere for a caravan to pull in and park! so we drove down the main street and looked from our car windows (except Mike who was trying not to take out any parked cars mirrors!) and then drove out of town a little disappointed that we didn't get the chance to stop and have a proper look.

The closer we got to Adelaide, the more we noticed the pace of the cars pick up, and the frustration level of people also increase. It's amazing what a few weeks out of a big city can do - we thought we were a bit more relaxed, but we didn't realise that compared to the frenetic pace of life in a big city, we really have slowed down! The cars (and trucks) were much less tolerant of a big old van getting in their way, nonetheless we made it down the (very steep and long) Adelaide Hills to the city and found Andrew's house.

Andrew and Mike had gone to School at Barker together, and had been in touch over Facebook to organise a catchup if possible. Andrew had very kindly offered a driveway for us to shelter in for as long as we wanted (thanks Andrew, we really appreciate it) so we stopped in and had a good catchup for a few days in Adelaide. We had booked a campspot on the Fleurieu Peninsula for the time over Christmas (because we didn't want to be left in a manger on Christmas day!!) so we only had 2 nights in Adelaide the first time 'round. Andrew (or Mr Phillips to the kids) and his family live in a beautiful house just near the city, so it was nice and central.

The Van tucked in front of Andrew's house

The day we got to Adelaide was really hot, as was the next day, so after getting some washing done, we headed for the beachside suburb of Glenelg for a dip. The water was nice and refreshing, and we all had a cool off in the water - even Liz with her crutches, and we were glad we did. The kids and Mike splashed for a long time and enjoyed the afternoon.

Swimming at Glenelg

Mike had organised the Caravan Bearings to be inspected on Friday the 23rd December (the last trading day before Christmas) and so we were up early on the Friday to get the Van to the service centre to re-pack the bearings (having done 1000Km's since our breakdown) and all was in good order (to the relief of Mike and Liz). While the van was getting looked at, Andrew had made a phone call and managed to get Bruiser booked in to have an oil change, and so the morning was spent getting the car and van serviced while Liz and the kids had a quiet play at the house.

When the van and car were ready, we headed south toward Wirrina Cove where we would stay for 5 nights and enjoy Christmas together on the Fleurieu Peninsula.

Robe & the Coorong

We had been told that Robe was a nice place to visit and that we should try to have a look, so we found a National Park Camp spot about 10Km’s from Robe and had 1 night there - it wasn't free, but $12 isn't too bad.  We drove from Mt Gambier to The Campsite and left the van locked up so we could go and explore Robe. 

Our campsite at Robe

The Visitor information centre gave us a ‘Robe scenic Drive’ tour, and it listed about 17 things to see around Robe.  We followed this tour, and had a good look around the town.  One of the things we found was the old Goal Ruins, which Mike and the kids had a good look at, while Liz watched from the car.  Liz’s foot was slowly getting better, but was still very painful and swollen, and if Liz used the crutches for too long, her foot would really start throbbing L 

The Old Goal Ruins just outside of Robe

Another item on the list was the Obelisk that had been built right on the coast.  We really enjoyed looking around Robe – it would be a fantastic place for a holiday and we can see why there would be many Adelaide holiday makers who would visit there each summer.

Robe's Main beach

The Obelisk near Robe

We knew that we had a long drive ahead of us the next day as we wanted to travel from Robe to a Campsite on the Coorong, which would be about a 300Km drive.  We drove through Kingston SE and passed the Big Lobster, so just had to take a photo!
Now that's a Big Lobster!

We came to the Coorong area, which is two very long lakes – stretching 100Km’s long, but only getting to 3 metres deep throughout most of the lakes.  There is lots of wildlife (especially bird life) along the Coorong, and we passed the Pelican Observatory, and stopped in for a look.  We saw hundreds of Pelicans flying in large flocks around the area.  It wasn’t too far from Breeding season, so there was lots of activity.  We hiked to the Observatory hut which looked out onto the ‘Pelican Islands’.
Look a Pelican!  It's beak can hold more than it's belly can

Josh reading about the Pelicans

Looking out over Pelican Islands

We reached our Coorong Campsite by about 4pm and setup the van for the night.  The kids wanted a quick swim in the lake – little did they know that it was only a few centimetres deep, but nonetheless, we went for a splash around and had a bit of fun in the water.  It was a really beautiful spot, and we had it all to ourselves for the whole night.  The stars that night were amazing, we haven’t seen that many stars for a long time – it was great.
A quick dip at the Coorong

Our Coorong Campsite

The view from our Campsite

We were really happy that we stopped in at the Coorong, even if it was only for 1 night, because it is a magical area.  Even though we wanted to stay on there, we also wanted to Rendezvous with one of Mike’s school Friends (Andrew Phillips) who now lives and works in Adelaide, so we left the Coorong, bound for Adelaide the next day.  We looked at the map, and saw there was a free Car Ferry that went from Narrung across the lake, and so we took that short cut instead of driving all the way back around the lake.

The Car Ferry at Narrung - we only scraped the caravan a little!
Just on the other side of the car ferry, there was a small lighthouse and some historic buildings, so we stopped and had a look around there too before heading toward ‘the big smoke’ – Adelaide.
The lighthouse between Lake Albert and Lake Alexandrina

Mount Gambier

After spending almost 2 months (and about 6,000Km’s) in Victoria we were finally ready to cross the border into South Australia.  We didn’t really think that we would spend so much time in Vic, and zig-zag across the state, but we were really happy that we got the opportunity to do so much of Victoria because it is a lovely state – we enjoyed our time there immensely.

When we left Dartmoor, we still had a fridge full of fruit and Veg, and we had heard that the SA Border is quite strict on their quarantine rules, so we stopped not far from the SA/VIC Border, and  had a fruit picnic at a rest stop.  We all ate so much fruit and veg that day – definitely more than our daily quota!

Our Fruit Picnic in Victoria

Once all our fruit and veg was gone, we jumped back into the car and headed for SA.  The border crossing was a little bit of a disappointment – we almost missed it… a faded sign on the side of the road let us know that we were now in the state of South Australia, Nonetheless, we had changed states – and Timezones J

We headed straight for Mount Gambier – which isn’t that far across the border really.  We found a Caravan Park (Top Tourist) which was the cheapest, and booked in there.  This caravan park only had ensuite sites, which suited us just fine - especially with Liz's limited mobility with her sore leg, so we got our own ensuite while we stayed there for 3 nights.

When the van was all setup, we went for a drive around town to have a look at a couple of the sights and get our bearings a little.  The biggest feature of Mt Gambier is the Blue Lake, so we went there after a brief stop at the shops to have a look at it.  Liz’s Leg was still very sore and so she was a bit limited in getting to some lookouts, but we drove to a few lookouts and saw a magnificent blue lake.  It really is very spectacular, and each November it turns a brilliant blue, and then slowly fades to gray by March/April – no one really understands why, but it is definitely a great thing to go and see.
I wonder why they call it Blue Lake?
Blue Lake the day after the photo above - it was raining this day, so it didn't look quite so blue.
On Saturday 17th December, we went to have a look at the Umpherston Sinkhole which was pretty close to our caravan park.  The sinkhole is just a section of an old cave that has fallen in, but they have planted some really nice gardens in the sinkhole and done a fantastic job of making it a great tourist attraction.  Mike and the kids went down into the sinkhole, but the stairs were a bit too much for Liz (and her crutches), so she enjoyed the view from the top.  As we were just about to leave, it started raining, and then pouring, and then bucketing.  We all got soaked getting back to the car.
From inside Umpherston Sinkhole

With the weather turning bad, we thought we’d have a look at the Lady Nelson Discovery Centre (the information centre) that has some indoor exhibits and interesting history.  We didn’t stay too long in the centre, and then headed for ‘Valley Lake’ which is next to Blue lake.  Valley Lake can be used for swimming and recreation activities (unlike Blue lake, which is the water supply of the town).  The weather wasn’t conducive for swimming, but Mike and the kids went on a Wildlife walk at a free wildlife park in near the lake, this (and another look at blue Lake) filled up the afternoon before we retired back to the van for the night.
Walking in the wildlife park at Valley Lake

Sunday the 18th was Samuel’s 4th Birthday, so this day was all about him J.  The weather hadn’t really improved and there were intermittent showers throughout the morning, but that didn’t dampen Sam’s enthusiasm to open his presents – of which there were many!  After some of the presents were open (and breakfast), we thought that we’d make the most of the wet weather and visit an indoor play centre as a special treat for Sam.  The kids had a fantastic time for more than 2 hours playing on the equipment and enjoying themselves.  Hunger finally got the best of the 3 kids, and we went back to the van for lunch and some after-lunch Birthday Cake for Sam.

Birthday Presents :)

Sam Really enjoyed his birthday

After Lunch, we jumped in the car and headed for Port MacDonnell south of Mount Gambier.  We had a good look around the area, as well as a quick drive on the beach.  Just outside of Port MacDonnell is South Australia’s most Southerly point, so Mike and the kids had a look there too.  It was a nice spot to visit.  To end off the day, we thought we would let Sam choose what he had for dinner – and he chose Hungry Jacks (having never had it in his life before!) but we went there and had a birthday dinner for Sam, and he loved it.  Sam thoroughly enjoyed his birthday, and is now a big 4 year-old.
The Mason's at Port MacDonnell

Bruiser carving up the beach

South Australia's most Southerly point
Sam’s Birthday (the 18th) was the last full day we had in Mount Gambier before heading onward and upward (well Northward at least) to Robe.

14 December, 2011


After making our way to the end of the Great Ocean Road,  we headed into Warrnambool and set up camp at the Surf side Holiday park. A beautiful spot by the beach and a huge adventure play ground right across the road, which you don't even have to cross as there is a tunnel from the caravan park straight to the Adventure playground. We got the kids bikes out and headed to the playground, where we spent the rest of the afternoon, having fun exploring and playing.
The underpass to the Adventure Playground

Next day we did some shopping and had a look around town.  We walked right along the breakwall and found a fur seal swimming in the water right at the end.

A Fur Seal playing at the end of the Breakwall

Our next day we headed out to Port Fairy,  on our way to Port Fairy we found Tower Hill State Game reserve.  Which is an old volcano,  we hiked to the top of Tower Hill which was very steep,  but a great view at the top.  Liz spotted a Red Belly Black Snake just next to the path on our way back down,  so now we have added that to our list of native wildlife we have seen in the wild.  We also saw emu's while we were in the reserve.

We made it to the top of Tower Hill :)

At Port Fairy we ate lunch in the car as we watched huge waves crashing on the beach and rocks,  and then we went to Griffith Island and did the walking track out to the lighthouse.  We spotted 5 swamp wallabies as we went.  After a play in the playground near the car park we hopped back in the car and headed to Hopkins Falls.  Which are about 20 mins out of Warrnambool.

Lighthouse on Griffiths Island

Swamp Wallaby

There wasn't a lot of water on the falls, but they were still beautiful.  We decided to walk down to the bottom to see if we could see any Platypus in the River.  While walking down the steps to the bottom,  Liz rolled her ankle badly and was in a lot of pain.  So we headed back to Warrnambool,  straight to the hospital.  Thankfully,  their was no broken bones, but her ankle is badly sprained and she can't weight bear,  so now we are travelling with crutches as well! So the next day,  while Liz rested her ankle, Mike took the kids back to the adventure playground for a couple of hours of fun.

Hopkins Falls - Where Liz Fell!

Warrnambool Hospital

We ended up staying 4 nights in Warrnambool, just to give Liz's ankle the best start to healing that we could, and so the days were really just spent with Liz lying, sitting or resting to keep off her ankle, and Mike and the kids keeping entertained around the park.

After a few rest days for Liz, we decided that we'd just push on and so we left Warrnambool on Thursday the 15th December, bound for a free-camp spot at Dartmoor, our last stop in Victoria.  On the way to Dartmoor, we passed the Portland turnoff, and decided to make the 10km round-trip into Portland.  We were glad we did because after a look at the information centre, we had lunch and the kids had a good play at the foreshore playground - right opposite some huge piles of woodchip that gets exported from Portland.  We saw large semi-trailer's being tipped up on a lever - to make them into massive Dump trucks - it was quite fascinating!

The Semi-Trailer "Dump Truck"

We left Portland early in the afternoon and made the final hop to Dartmoor.  The camp spot at Dartmoor was quite a nice spot, right next to a river and with a big grassy area for the kids to run-around in.  There were about 4 other vans/campers in the campspot that night, but it wasn't too crowded at all.
Our Dartmoor Campspot

We only stayed at Dartmoor for 1 night, and on the way out of town, we had a brief look at the fantastic tree carvings that line the streets of the town.  Some of them were so elaborate.  They were quite amazing.

One of the tree carvings in Dartmoor

The Great Ocean Road

We started our journey on the Great Ocean Road with a stop in at Bells beach to have a look.  It was a beautiful sunny day and the surf was as flat as a tac.
We wound our way along the Great Ocean Road to Lorne.  While in the visitor center in Torque,  Liz picked up a leaflet titled "Free Camp Spots along the Great Ocean Road",  which had a few camp spots in it that were not in our Camps 5 book - bonus!  We picked the camp spot called "Big Hill" Camping ground about 10km out of Lorne and deceided to camp there.  Since we had had an early start with the 8am car ferry we were in Lorne by lunch time.  So we set the Caravan up in a really nice bush free-camp and headed to town to see the sights.

Overlooking Bells Beach
Big Hill Camp Ground

Our first stop was Erskine Falls,  which were spectacular. We hiked down over 300 steps to get a really good view,  well worth it in the end. 
At the bottom of Erskine Falls

From here we headed to the beach for a swim.  After picking up some much needed supplies we headed back to our camp site to cook dinner, and the kids had a great time riding their bikes around the camp ground.  Our friendly neighbours that night were a couple from Switzerland who are travelling around the world in a year,  they had been to New Zealand first and now they had driven in their little campervan down from Cairns and were due to fly out to Vietnam in a few days time.  You meet some very interesting people on the road.
The next morning at breakfast we were joined by a pair of King Parrots who were very friendly.
Friendly Parrots!

From Lorne we headed to Apollo Bay, where we had lunch and a look at the town,  before heading on to the next free camp spot at Aire River. We got ourselves set up for a few nights and headed down to the river for a swim,  the water was cool but refreshing. We found a Koala and her baby in a tree just near our caravan. 

Aire River

Our Beautiful campspot

Nice to have a friendly neighbour

Next morning we headed to Cape Otway,  where we found a colony of Koala's, in all the trees that lined the road and since the trees were not that tall they were all clearly visible, we saw at least 50 of them.  After spending some time looking at the Koala's we headed on down the road to the Cape Otway Lightstation,  but after deciding that it was too expensive for all of us to have a look at a lighthouse,  we headed to Point Franklin instead and found a beautiful beach (except for the flys), which had a view to the lighthouse.   We spent a bit of time exploring along the beach, before hiking back up to the car and heading to the Otway Fly.  At the Otway Fly we did a tree top rainforest walk, which was beautiful. We then headed back to our camp site.
One of the many Cape Otway Koalas
Otway Lightstation from Pt Franklin
The very tall Otway Fly - the 'crows nest' is 47m above the ground!
The Otway fly cantilever

The next morning we packed up and headed on our way.  Our first stop for the day was "Gibson Steps", where we enjoyed the beautiful view and walked down all the steps to the beach below.
The beach at the bottom of Gibson Steps
Gibson Steps

Next stop " The Twelve Apostles",  and then" Loch Ard Gorge" it is such a beautiful coastline. 

The 17 Apostles (if you count us!!)
The Razorback - part of Loch Ard Gorge

We pulled into the Port Campbell Holiday park that afternoon where it rained on and off all afternoon.  The kids had a ball riding their scooters through puddles and getting really wet. After dinner we enjoyed a walk along the river, trying to catch fish that had been caught when the tide went out, and then made our way up to the look out before returning to camp to head to bed.

The next morning we headed out of Port Campbell it wasn't far out of town where we stopped again to have a look at "The Arch",  then "London Bridge" and "The Grotto".

The Arch

London Bridge

The Grotto