Reality vs Expectation – So much can happen in a short period of time when you are caravanning around Australia. So many towns, so many things to do! Duk’n around Oz started the year with some awesome adventures through NSW, ACT & VIC – check out how much they jam packed in! But it was hectic and the realities of adjusting to vanlife and living on the road full time were becoming apparent – getting used to life on the road, juggling road schooling and settling into their new nomad lifestyle was challenging…but worth every second! Real Stories | Real Families…
Since we last checked in we have made some real progress ‘Duk’n around Oz’ and have been on the road for three months.
After leaving Rainbow Beach, we headed inland to wait out the end of the school holidays in January – starting in Kingaroy Showgrounds Qld then into NSW. It was then onto the Dubbo Zoo, Moree artesian thermal pools and then some free camps such as Ponto Falls and Carcour Dam.
We then visted Bathurst before heading into Canberra ACT. We started at the Canberra showgrounds which allowed us to easily explore Parliament House, The Australian War Memorial, The Royal Australian Mint and The Dinosaur Museum. We were lucky enough to celebrate Australia Day by the water at the Regatta Point, which was a big hit for us all.
We made the journey back into NSW and made a very huge mistake of taking the van down Macquarie Pass where there was barely enough room for other cars and trucks to pass our caravan and was the steepest decline we have every experienced (scariest thing to date). We then based ourselves in Windang where we were lucky enough to have some friends visit us. We explored the surrounds and discovered Port Kembla and Kiama, where I (Clair) could easily set up to live. We then moved onto the Beecroft Peninsula and explored Currarong and the Jervis Bay beaches. Broulee and Batemans Bay was the next stop and Nino’s top spot (a surfers dream). On the way to Pambula Beach we stopped in at Narooma to see the famous Australia rock and fur seals.
Crossing over the Victorian border our first stop was Lakes Entrance where a huge storm hit and the once beautiful warm weather turned cold and windy. We then made the most of some free camps at Golden Beach, Reeves Beach and Franklin River Reserve. We then stayed in the amazing Wilsons Promontory National Park at Tidal River Campground, which had more to do and explore than we could fit in.
Moving onto Phillip Island, we had no idea what to expect other than knowing it for its World famous Grand Prix Circuit. We then visited the beautiful Mornington Peninsula and Geelong. We then moved onto the famous Great Ocean Road where we stayed at Bimbi Park. We then stayed at Port Campbell before heading inland up into the Grampians before coming back to Warrnambool for 5 nights in a caravan park for some down time by the beach and to celebrate Lucia’s 6th Birthday. This ended our adventures in Victoria before we were to head into South Australia.
What I think we did not realise before we headed off on this amazing adventure is just how busy we would be. We would only stay on average 2- 3 nights in each area, which meant we had limited time to explore and even less time to just chill out. I think we thought our days would be full of lazy days on the beach or by the pool, but if this is all we did we certainly would miss out on all the great things we have seen and done to date.
I think the important thing in all of this, is to ensure that we all recognise when we each need some down time or to slow down or we would simply burn out. We also had great expectations on getting our health and fitness in top shape within the first three months but this also did not eventuate. Some days the amount of hiking, walking, swimming and exploring we do, you would think we would be as fit as a fiddle. But you forget about those ‘happy hour afternoons’ with all of these new people we are meeting which usually involves crackers with dips and cheese and of course the drinks (usually beer and wine).
Our pictures may look like one long holiday and like we are always having the time of our lives, but people forget that we still have school work and household chores to carry out. The schooling can be hard to fit in and prioritise when we are always so busy exploring or when there are friends for the kids to play with.
The washing machine in the van is a life saver, but when we are free camping and without power it means we can’t use the washing machine and have to visit nearby laundromats and have spent a great deal of time waiting for clothes to wash and dry. The amount of sand, dirt, dry and wet grass that gets trodded through the van is a constant reminder we are living this lifestyle. The small spaces and squeezing past each other in the hallway or in the bathroom can get irritating with our long days and nights. Tired and cranky kids is also a challenge. We thought our kids would have a hard time transitioning into this lifestyle, but they seem to think that our holiday in the van has simply continued on from Rainbow Beach and never question a thing. The girls don’t bat an eyelid on moving day and simply buckle up, put their dvd players on and prepare for another long drive onto the next town.
We are also spending way more money than we expected, so we are now confidentally seeking out as many low cost or free camps as we can.
Looking back on our journey, it is clear we have had a very busy time exploring our country so far. We all agree that our most (unexpected) favourite spot so far was Phillip Island, Victoria. We stayed at the Comfort Resort in Cowes, which was walking distance to the beautiful shops, cafes, restaurants and the beach.
We ate the most amazing authentic Italian Food at Pino’s Resturant and the most amazing asian cuisine from the local bakery. The restaurants get so busy that it can be hard to be seated due to all of the tourist buses that dine there for dinner around 5pm before they head off to the famous penguin parade. We were so greatful to have found the resort we stayed at, as there were only 8 caravan spots and the rest were motel rooms or cabins. It was quite cold on Phillip Island, but we were lucky enough to have a very hot spa next to the pool where we relaxed every afternoon with the kids. We were also very lucky to meet another awesome family at this spot who we plan to visit next time we are in Melbourne.
We pre booked the very popular Phillip Island Penguin Parade to ensure we did not miss out, which we all really enjoyed and is a must see. Churchhill Island was another paid activity and is a 19th century working farm. This was well priced and our favourite overall. They had the old farm house and surrounds set up exaxtly how it would have looked back in the 19th century and the farm house was surrounded by so many different types of farm animals. There were several different personalised shows for most of the animals including cow milking, sheep shearing, whip cracking and a sheep dog show. Our eldest Lucia managed to be chased by Lucy the goose and the more Lucia ran the faster the goose chased her, which ended in a terrified and crying 6 year old (it was very funny for us).. Phillip Island is also home to the Pannys Chocolate Factory where you could pay to do a tour, purchase items at the shop or grab a hot chocolate and something to eat at the cafe. Luckily there were some free activities for us to do such as the midday pelican feeding at San Remo and the Nobbies Centre Boardwalk stroll along the boardwalks.
You can follow our journey on Instagram and Facebook:where we share some photos and information on the areas we visit and the things we have seen and done to hopefully help out some other travelling families