Tag Archives: australia

Australia Roadtrip – Western Australia

This is the fourth in a series of posts about my 2011 roadtrip around Oz. Checkout Tasmania, South Australia and campervan purchase!

Western Australia was almost the place that never was. I think after it is all said and done, my favourite state of the not too recent Oz Roadtrip was Western Australia. Many people rave about Western Australia – particularly the backpackers we met along our journey and I always just put it down to crazy Europeans being in awe of the sun and sand that they never get at home. But I was naive. Western Australia impressed me in a way that was totally unexpected and in a way that could only have been experienced on a roadtrip.

Western Australia is a massive state that defies all comprehension. When entering the state on the Nullarbor Plain, you continue to drive for a full day before you reach a town with more than 50 people. It’s then another day’s driving to reach the western coast. The coastline extends for over 12000km (8000 miles) and most of the interior is completely empty save for a few camels, dingos and emus.

Our first stop was the remote but modern town of Esperance on the south coast, 700km east of the capital of Western Australia, Perth. It is an area with some of the best beaches you will ever see and offers some great camping opportunities in the Cape le Grand National Park.

Stunning Beach in Cape le Grand National Park
Stunning Beach in Cape le Grand National Park

The next area I really loved was Albany. Why? Well… The town itself is beautiful with some gorgeous suburbs. But around the whole area there is beach after beach and vantage point after vantage point that takes your breath away. Really! Plus, you can go on a free tour of a forest at the Valley of the Giants near Denmark which starts at 10am. The best beach I have ever been to is Greens Pool just outside of Denmark. How can a place really look like this?

Greens Pool, Denmark, Western Australia
Greens Pool - My Favourite Beach

Finally, I thought Perth was magic. I’d been to Perth a couple of times before, but not with the same spirit as I did this time. This time it was more about food and Perth duly delivered. What struck me about Perth was how new and shiny everything was. It is clearly evident that the mining boom which has been going on for about 10 years now is paying dividends for Western Australia’s capital. Thousands of people work on remote mine sites around the state and fly to and from work on what they call a “fly in fly out” basis. The mines are desperate for workers and consequently people are lured there with big pay packets. The lifestyle sounds somewhat brutal, but I wouldn’t mind giving it a go one day.

Polenta & Mushrooms at Toast, East Perth
Polenta & Mushrooms at Toast, East Perth
City Beach, Perth
City Beach, Perth

We didn’t get further north than Perth. If you look at a map, you’ll realise that Perth isn’t far north at all! So we had a fab time in Western Australia and didn’t even scratch the surface. Had we headed north to the famed areas of Shark Bay, Ningaloo Reef and the Kimberley, we would have had to drive about 5000km further and taken weeks to do it – we just didn’t have the time. But these places have reputations larger than the areas we visited and I am supremely confident that they will stack up.

I’d like to say that I cannot recommend Western Australia highly enough, but that would sound stupid. So I’ll just say that if you plan to go anywhere in Australia, try to take a roadtrip in Western Australia. It is magnificent.

Buying a Campervan

This is the third in a series of posts about my 2011 roadtrip around Oz. Check out Tasmania, South Australia and Western Australia!

Before embarking on the recent roadtrip around Australia, Heather of theresnoplacelikeoz.com fame and I gave quite a bit of thought to the process of buying a campervan. We really had no idea how much we should expect to pay, what sort of features we should expect or how roadworthy they would be, but after conducting heaps (in other words next to zero) research, we went ahead and bought a campervan. After having travelled in said van and speaking with other campervanners, I’m quite confident now with the state of buying and selling a campervan in Australia and these are my expert (done it once – I’m an expert!) observations.

Roadworthiness

Most of the vans we looked at when purchasing our van looked like bombs. Since that time, most of the backpacker campervans we’ve seen are bombs. We thought ours was bad, but it had nothing on most of the vans out there. Most have a lot of rust, dodgy tyres and bits hanging off them or taped on. This poses a bit of a problem in that many of these are unsafe, but more importantly for people on a tight budget, they are hard to get registered because of mandatory roadworthiness inspections. The only way to avoid this is to pay a lot of money for a van that will easily pass the pre-registration roadworthiness inspection or try and find a dodgy mechanic to pass it for you.

Campervan in Tasmania
Campervan in Tasmania

Registration

In most Australian states, vehicles over 5 years old require an annual inspection to verify that they are roadworthy. If they don’t pass this check, they can’t be registered. The question is, how do most of these vans get registered if they are unroadworthy? Well, it would appear that there are “ways” to pass vehicle inspection checks. Most cheap backpackers seem to be willing to take a few safety risks for the sake of some money. I understand that.

The process of transferring registration from one party to another after purchasing the vehicle is quite simple. You need to make sure that the registration papers are with the vehicle and that the reverse side of these is filled out when handing over the cash as this is how the vehicle registration people know that ownership has been changed. Once this paperwork is filled out, both parties must submit their half of the paperwork to the relevant state registration authority and pay a fee for the transfer (based on sale price – about 5%). It’s quite a simple process.

Mechanical Integrity

Aside from issues of roadworthiness and safety, there are also a multitude of mechanical issues that can arise with an old beat up van. We had to replace our engine before we hit the road because it was so badly damaged. Even a mechanic wouldn’t have been able to determine this prior to it going into a workshop. Most of the vans we’ve seen on the road go OK, but some blow smoke and we’ve heard of countless people breaking down and having to conduct repairs in remote towns.

I guess the point here is that the purchase price of the van is just the start. You are almost guaranteed to have to fork out more money to have it repaired as you go. On top of this, regular servicing will be required as well as run of the mill maintenance issues such as new tyres, wiper blades and cracked windscreens. We saw plenty of vans with pieces of cardboard for windows!

Seats Inside Campervan
Seats Inside Campervan

Features

Most vans we saw were simply an empty shell with a bed and some storage built into the back of them. Most of these vans can seat 2 or 3 people. Ours could seat 5 as the bed could be folded away whereas most beds are permanent fixtures. Most vans also don’t have fridges or external electricity supplies, so keeping stuff cold and charging electronics can be a pain. We regulalry bought ice and used an esky whenever we needed to keep stuff cool and utilised long life milk all the time. We also had a power inverter which allowed the charging of electronics through the car lighter.

So really, none of these vans have any features at all! Most of the stuff inside is just basic camp equiment that can be picked up at Kmart such as camp stove, tent, storage containers, chairs, water canisters and pots and pans. For example, a 3 man tent can be had for $15 brand new as can a portable stove.

Where to Look

There are basically two ways to do this. Either go onto gumtree.com.au and search for vans there or head down to Kings Cross in Sydney and look at all the vans on Victoria Street. There are heaps of them and they all seem to be for sale.

Bed Inside Campervan
Bed Inside Campervan

Prices

So for a featureless campervan that is unsafe, mechanically unsound and an allround nightmare, what would you expect to pay? We had heard $3000 bandied around as a price to aim for and this region proved to be correct for us. Cars with 300,000km+ will generally go for $3,000 and those with 200,000km+ will go for about $4,000. Add fridges, air conditioning and other luxury items and the price climbs VERY quickly to $5,000. Most people are content with the basic deathtraps and hence try for campervans closer to $3,000, although some vans we have seen on the road are definitely not even worth that much. The people inside them have been pretty trashy too. Next time I buy one, I will plan on spending $6k all up. $3k purchase and $3k for repairs up front.

How do the costs stack up to renting a van? Well, let’s just say you did spent $6k in total on a van (purchase + repairs + rego) and sold it for $3k. It cost you $3k out of pocket. Hiring a van is sometimes as cheap as $80 per day. So it would be cheaper to rent a van if you were going for for anything less than 37 days. That’s not really that long. But there is hassle in buying and selling plus the stress of mechanical issues. Realistically, I’d look at renting for anything up to about 45 days. More than that and buying would be my choice. Better than renting altogether would be buying a cheap station wagon and camping… Plenty of people do that too.

So there you have it. My uber-comprehensive guide to buying a backpacker-style campervan. I’m happy to field questions or provide “expert” advice.

Australia Roadtrip – South Australia

This is the second in a series of posts about my 2011 roadtrip around Oz. Check out Tasmania, Western Australia and campervan purchase!

There’s something about the recent roadtrip that I embarked on with Heather (theresnoplacelikeoz.com) and Nicole (chasingwonderlust.wordpress.com) that gives me a new desire to travel. South Australia was a point in our travels where we had to decide whether to push on to Western Australia across the Nullarbor or return back to Sydney. Needless to say, we pushed on and it was the best decision of the journey. For me, South Australia was the turning point of something bigger than just the Oz Roadtrip plus there were plenty of fantastic things to see and do after the disappointment of the (not so) Great Ocean Road.

Normanville and Carrickalinga

Normanville Jetty
Normanville Jetty

About 80km south of Adelaide along the coast are the towns of Normanville and Carrickalinga. They’re tiny little things with hardly any reputation and as a result they’re quiet. We went as a bit of detour to try and find some food and ended up falling in love with the absolutely stunning beaches. The water is calm, the sand is bright yellow and the water is unbelievable – double turquoise all the way! I reckon this would be a top spot to hang around with a family for a while – I kind of wish we’d stayed for a bit longer, but the camping nazis are out in force which led us to push on.

Port Parham

Port Parham Sunset
Port Parham Sunset

Port Parham is one of the most bizarre places I have been. It’s about 60km north of Adelaide along the coast, but it feels like you are in the middle of the desert albeit with the ocean on one side. It has a pretty good free campsite with a toilet and this encourages loads of campers to hang out for a while. The town is a small dusty old thing and the beach is not of the variety that you’d choose to go swimming at. In fact, it is the beach that makes this place so weird. Firstly, there is an ocean of dried seaweed between normal land and sand and this seaweed is metres thick and stretches as far as the eye can see – you have to walk over it to get to the beach. Once on the beach you notice the flattest piece of land imagineable. After walking about 300m to the water, you notice the flatness continues right into the ocean meaning that you can walk for kilometres into the water before getting into trouble. As a result, when the tide advances or retreats, you can see a river of water flowing in a particular direction – a sight to behold! Oh, and the sunset here is brilliant. One last thing – we got done by an infestation of mice in the van. Probably half a dozen of them.

Fleurieu Peninsula

Fleurieu Peninsula Sunset
Fleurieu Peninsula Sunset

I already mentioned one part of the Fleurieu Peninsula previously – Normanville and Carrickalinga are located on the peninsula and are just west of the famed McLaren Vale wine region. McLaren Vale is one of my favourite wine regions as it’s relatively compact, the wineries aren’t too massive and it has a focus on good food as well as wine. South of here is the Langhorne Creek wine region which is tiny and is home to a number of great wineries. One I will never return to is Bremerton Wines – on day one we had a wonderful meal there, but when we returned the next day for a coffee (we’d already sampled their wines), the lady took an attitude towards us that is best left in the 20th century. One of complete and utter disdain. How dare we enter their winery and ask for a coffee. This kind of rubbish is common in wineries in Australia and the sooner they stop being precious the better.

Rant aside, there is also the lovely town of Victor Harbor to visit on the Fleurieu. We camped here for free and took a walk along the causeway to Granite Island. They also have a horse-drawn cart taking tourists across, but it’s a gaudy tourist trap that would best retired.

Fave town on the Fleurieu Peninsula? Wilunga. It’s officially part of the McLaren Vale wine region, but it really doesn’t push the wine angle very hard. We were there when the local farmers’ market was on and the selection of cakes, pastries, fresh produce and other great food was amazing. The town itself retains a type of charm that is often lost when the tourist masses descend – but this place has held its own and done it brilliantly.

One last word on the Fleurieu Peninsula. We downloaded the official Tourism SA iPhone app and it proved to be an excellent guide around the place. There were quite a few bugs with the app and it was slow, but the information contained within it was fantastic and enhanced out experience.

Moonta Jetty
Moonta Jetty

So these were the highlights of South Australia for me. In many ways these are unorthodox, but I think tourism in South Australia should avoid the man tourist centres because they are over-rated – much like anywhere else really. Get off the beaten track, make your own path and you can really discover some fantastic places in South Australia. Very impressive.

Australia Roadtrip – Tasmania

This is the first in a series of posts about my 2011 roadtrip around Oz. Check out South Australia, Western Australia and campervan purchase!

It’s been three months (!!!) since I returned from Bali after completing my research and writing for travelfish.org and in the period of time that has passed I’ve been doing a few things… Namely planning a road trip with Heather of There’s No Place Like Oz and Nicole, Heather’s friend.

So a few weeks ago we bought a campervan, fixed it up and hit the road. The first couple of weeks were spent in Tasmania and the following were the highlights for me.

Freycinet National Park

 

Friendly Beaches
Friendly Beaches

This national park is located on the east coast of Tasmania and is home to long sweeping white sand beaches, dense bushland and heaps of wallabies. We stayed at a place called Friendly Beaches where there was free camping if you had a national park pass (you probably will need one of these at some stage in Tasmania unless you’re really scamming it) and the walk to Wine Glass Bay is beautiful. I was quite surprised at the crowds, but they didn’t detract too much from the experience.

Hobart

I’d already been to Hobart a couple of times before this trip so I knew what we were in for. We stayed for $20 per night at the Big4 tourist park next to the airport and cruised around some cool cafes, took a look at Salamanca Market and took a drive up Mount Wellington. It’s all pretty cliche for Hobart, but these are great things to do there. The best coffee without a doubt was at Doctor Coffee where they make coffee at a standard that is up there with some of the best few in Sydney and Melbourne.

Cradle Mountain

 

Close up of Baby Wombat
Baby Wombat

Most people visiting Tasmania visit the Cradle Mountain National Park and do one of the walks around there. It’s actually possible to hike from the car park near Cradle Mountain right across country to Lake St. Clair. That would have been a nightmare when we were there as it was freezing cold. One night it snowed and it was Summer. Clearly Winter temperatures are going to be cold all the time and it could be rather unpleasant! Highlights when going there for day walks as we did are the fantastic 5km long boardwalk where we saw a few wombats including a baby and its mother; the Dove Lake circuit and great pizzas served through into the evening at the visitor centre.

OK, now onto a lowlight. We thought Christmas Hills Raspberry Farm was disappointing. The coffee was bland and the French Toast literally looked like a toasted sandwich with raspberry jam on it — $15.80!!!

The last point to mention is that mobile phone coverage in Tasmania is VERY patchy. Vodafone have almost zero coverage outside of the Launceston to Hobart corridor and Optus are not much better. Telstra eclipse the lot and have coverage in most towns that tourists are likely to visit. It wasn’t a big deal for me, but I know some people can’t go a day without mobile phone/3G coverage.