Our Big Lap are on their way home, however before they get there, they need to cross the Nullarbor and head up the familiar east coast. After 19 months of planning, 186 days on the road, over 30,000kms travelled and over 6500 litres of diesel consumed the adventure has come to an end…Enjoy their final month’s instalment and then check out how Bec is feeling now that she is home 🙁
Our sixth and final month on the road began with us unhitched and enjoying life at the exquisitely beautiful Lucky Bay in Western Australia’s Cape Le Grand National Park… and ended with us arriving home to what the kids have dubbed the ‘Home Caravan Park’!
It is amazing to think that in 4 short weeks we have driven from Western Australia to our home on the outskirts of Sydney, and along the way we have managed to squeeze in stops at so many incredible places. Thinking back on it now it really does make my mind boggle!
From our earliest stages of planning we always knew that we wanted to spend as much of our time away as possible in the Northern Territory and Western Australia. Not only would the weather be great while we were there, they are also the two places that we can’t really return to quickly, easily or cheaply once we are back at home. We stuck to this plan, and we are glad we did, but it did mean we had to set a cracking pace at times as we made our way across the southern extremes of mainland Australia.
We found the pace we were setting on this leg of our trip much more tiring, and having more overnighters or at best a two night stay really made us feel like we were on the downhill run, and picking up speed! There were so many places we left feeling like we hadn’t even scratched the surface in terms of things to see and do, but we reminded ourselves that this was like a tasting plate of the southern states and it has given us a great sense of the areas we visited which will make planning short trips to South Australia and Victoria much easier in the years to come.
Our downhill run home really kicked off when we left Lucky Bay and headed north to start our trek across the Nullarbor. We had heard and read so many stories about the Nullarbor – some people love the journey, some people can’t wait to get from one side to the other. We were quite intrigued and were looking forward to doing the crossing although, with young kids in tow, we certainly weren’t keen to spend any more time than was absolutely necessary doing so! Our crossing took about 2.5 days with overnight stops at Balladonia Roadhouse and Eucla Roadhouse.
Up until this point we had resisted the urge to pull out our travel day trump card (aka iPads), but we thought that if ever we were going to go down that path, crossing the Nullarbor would be the time we would do it. Happily though our kids still don’t know that using iPads in cars can be a thing and with lots of music, snacks, patience and a game or three thousand of I-Spy we made it across with our sanity intact!
The crossing itself while long and at times monotonous was also incredibly beautiful with so much more wildlife and vegetation than we could have imagined. The coastline is absolutely stunning, so don’t miss the chance to stop at the lookouts that are signposted along the way.
Our first stop once we crossed the border and entered South Australia was at Ceduna. Lloyd had been waiting (not so) patiently all trip to arrive in ‘oyster country’ and having driven about 50m past the quarantine station at Ceduna he stopped and stocked up on his first oysters in quite a while. Later that night he went out on the jetty at Ceduna and netted about 10 blue swimmer crabs. As far as we were concerned, South Australia was off to a very impressive start!
From Ceduna we continued along the Eyre Peninsula’s seafood trail (surprise, surprise!) to Streaky Bay and then Coffin Bay. We ate so many oysters, caught more crabs, and even found some sweet local scallops to buy. When we weren’t eating like kings we took in some of the loop roads around Streaky Bay that take you along some very dramatic coastline with great beaches and great breaks if surfing is your thing.
With about 7 dozen oysters stowed away and a freezer full of crabs we continued on with quick stops at Port Lincoln and Whyalla before starting our journey down the Yorke Peninsula. We had stays in Ardrossan (more crabbing and squid catching from the jetty!) and then spent a few nights in Stansbury which we made our base to explore the southern tip of the Yorke Peninsula including the amazing Innes National Park. This National Park is rich in both natural beauty as well history from the days of early European settlement and Australia’s maritime past. Best of all many of the points of interest can be seen from your car as you drive along, or are only a very short walk from dedicated carparks… always a bonus when travelling with young kids!
After gorging ourselves silly on seafood, we swapped the seafood trail for another of our favourite ‘treats’ and headed up to the Clare Valley which sits at the northern end of the Epicurean Way. We love, love, love Clare Valley riesling so this was always a stop we were looking forward to, but one thing we had never tried was a day of cellar doors with the kids. We blocked out any and all glorious memories of visiting other wine regions without our kids, lowered our expectations, packed some activities to help them pass the time and set off hoping for the best! I am happy to say that although it wasn’t the relaxing and indulgent experience we may have otherwise had, it wasn’t nearly as bad as we thought it might have been. The kids had some fun and we tasted and purchased some spectacular local wines – everyone was a winner!
From the Clare Valley we wound our way south through the Adelaide Hills and via Milang and Kingston SE to our next major stop, and it was one the kids had been very excited about for weeks… Robe! One mention of the indoor heated pool at the Discovery Parks Robe caravan park was all it took for the kids to be pumped for this one.
Robe is of course famous for its beachside location but unfortunately the weather while we were there was anything but beach weather. Thankfully with the indoor heated pool and an amazing nature playground at our caravan park the beach was the last thing on the kids’ minds in any case. Although the weather wasn’t great it allowed us to take full advantage of all the great facilities at Discovery Parks Robe and to sample the great boutique shopping and food scene in and around the main street of Robe.
In leaving Robe we said farewell to South Australia after a whirlwind 17-day tour… from the seafood, to the scenery, to the wine and the perfectly preserved stone heritage homes and buildings everywhere we went, we absolutely loved our time in South Australia and are already making plans to go back.
Heading into Victoria we had zero plans other than making our way home via the Great Ocean Road and beyond that, well there was about three different plans depending on a bunch of variables. Our first stop was Portland and wow, what a spot! On the way there I found out about the Portland Cable Tram and thankfully we arrived in time to jump aboard for the last ride of the day (it was handy having a tram stop right outside our caravan park!). Considering we only had one night in Portland it was a great and fun way to see much of the town in one hit, as well as learning a lot about the history of Portland from the very knowledgeable conductor. There was an amazing war museum at one end of the line, and a fantastic display of model trains and other transport as well as gemstones and other rocks and minerals at the other end of the line. Some places are harder to leave than others because you really feel like you are missing out on so many things to see and do and Portland was definitely one of those places for us. If you are travelling via Portland, leave yourself a week to explore and enjoy!
From Portland we travelled to Port Campbell and this was the perfect base to see all the natural wonders of the Great Ocean Road. After unhitching our van we went for a drive through the gorgeous hinterland where we found delicious local chocolate and amazing local cheese. Arriving back in Port Campbell we headed back to the Bay of Islands, The Grotto, London Bridge and The Arch. We certainly felt a bit more nimble navigating the busy car parks without our caravan in tow!
The next day, as we continued along the Great Ocean Road we stopped in at Loch Ard Gorge and the Twelve Apostles before setting our sights on Apollo Bay. The drive was impossibly beautiful but also painfully narrow and winding… a 200km trip took over three hours and really had the “are we there yet?” chorus in full voice from the kids.
Landing in Apollo Bay we loved everything about it, including our prime family position by the playground and pumptrack at the caravan park so we quickly extended to a two night stay to make the most of a great thing! Apollo Bay is known as the seafood capital of the Great Ocean Road so we also sampled some local prawns and local scallops in the form of a scallop pie from the Apollo Bay Bakery. Do yourself a favour when you are next in Apollo Bay is all I will say!
By this point we had decided to go with Plan A which was to head all the way home via the coast, so when it was time to continue our journey from Apollo Bay we made our way via a stop at the incredible (like you have to see it to believe it) Big4 Bellarine, before taking the Queenscliff Ferry across to the Mornington Peninsula where we had a stop at Dromana to visit some friends who had just moved to Melbourne. From Dromana we made our way to Lakes Entrance and after a grand total of 7 nights in Victoria we crossed the border and found ourselves back in NSW – I mentioned we were setting a cracking pace, did I not???
It was strange being back in NSW, back in the place where you intrinsically feel you belong. There was a comfort that washed over me and although I had never travelled to the far south coast before, somehow it felt like familiar territory for me.
We had heard such great things about Pambula Beach that we decided to have a few nights there for the kids to take advantage of the amazing water park, heated pool and other facilities, and for Lloyd to take advantage of being in another oyster growing region.
From Pambula Beach we headed to Kioloa which is just north of Batemans Bay. It was a strange feeling having a 500-site caravan park pretty much all to ourselves and to say we had a relaxing afternoon as the kids roamed safe and free would be an understatement! To top it off, one of the park residents makes his rounds each afternoon hiring out fire pits and selling firewood… ummmmm… yes please! We love nothing better than being able to sit around a fire so to be able to do this at Kioloa, beside the beach, surrounded by nothing and no one other than a mob of nearly 100 kangaroos was a very memorable way to spend the penultimate night of OUR BIG LAP.
Our last stop was in Jervis Bay. We had dreams of one last glorious afternoon on the famous white sands of Hyams Beach, but the equally famous (or should that be infamous?) south coast wind had sadly turned Hyams Beach into a little sandblasting machine… still impossibly white and beautiful but a bit too much for the kids to handle!
Our last night came and went and then that was it. After 19 months of planning, 186 days on the road, over 30,000kms travelled and over 6500 litres of diesel consumed, we rolled back down our driveway and seemingly just like that, in the blink of an eye, our trip of a lifetime, the biggest thing in our lives since our kids came along was over…
Check out our final instalment from our adventures – Our Big Lap is OVER!
Happy & Safe Travels
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