Cameron McMillan and family hit the road for a taste of motorhome life.
'We have a slight problem." We're travelling in a taxi from Sydney Airport to get our campervan for the seven-day trip to Melbourne when my wife realises the pick-up location closed at 3.30pm. Due to delays at the airport — aka kid wrangling — it's now 3.35pm. This is entirely my fault, since I was the booker and my wife is reading my comprehensive printed (in colour, I might add) itinerary.
Not a great start to a campervan trip if we're without a campervan — our accommodation and mode of transport.
Fortunately the good people of Britz Campervans come to the rescue and, after a quick demonstration — wait ... what did she say about flushing the toilet while using the shower? — it's not long before we hit the road.
DAY 1 — 1233KM TO MELBOURNE
We dip our toes into campervan life on the first night by parking outside a friend's house in the northern Sydney suburb of French's Forest before actually dipping our toes into the cool water at Dee Wye beach the following morning. It's a hot summer's day — a classic Australian day at the beach. Bronzed gods in Speedos, kids learning to surf and an octogenarian swimming laps in the ocean-side pool. It's hard to leave the sand and get in the campervan but we have some driving to do — quite a bit over the next week. The fastest way to Melbourne is via Canberra on the Hume Highway but we're here for the scenic route down the Princes Highway to experience ocean vistas and kangaroos standing roadside as if they're ready to hitch a ride. And we seem to have room.
We travel to our first destination which is the quaint beachside town of Kiama (pronounced Kai-Am-A by the locals), just 146km and roughly three hours by campervan away.
We find our camping ground, reverse into our spot, hook up the power, empty the toilet, and put up the awning — a process we will repeat and eventually perfect several times. Our two boys, aged 6 and 3, love sleeping in the top bed that sits above the driver, while we get plenty of room at the back of the vehicle.
Kiama is known for its blowhole, which sits out on a point looked over by a lighthouse.
It's a great view across the bay and the blowhole has a 2.5m-wide opening and has been recorded at heights of more than 30m. It's not quite reaching that range when we arrive but it's an impressive sight that has the kids enthralled.
The benefit of driving a campervan is that your home is always with you.
We come across an open swimming pool next to the beach, and instead of having to pop back to a hotel to get our togs we're able to pull over, close the curtains and get changed. Although the pool was very cold, we were given a warm reception by local whales a few hundred metres off shore. An amazing experience.
DAY 2 — 1087KM TO MELBOURNE
The next day is the shortest drive of the trip, 60km to Huskisson, just over an hour away. On the way we stop off in Berry, a beautiful historic town worth a stroll. Huskisson, population around 800, sits within Jervis Bay, and is another quaint easy-living town just a stone's throw away from golden sand. We wanted to spend a bit of time in this region, which meant longer drives near the end of the trip. Another point off for the itinerary maker — I should have made the whole trip a few days longer.
A few kilometres down the road from Huskisson is Hyams Beach, which claims to have the whitest sand in the world. It's a stunning spot, however Instagram and the search for a perfect picture may have to answer for the number of beachgoers with selfie sticks in hand.
DAY 3 — 1021KM TO MELBOURNE
The next day's destination is Tathra, a lovely drive with the Tasman Sea to your left for much of it. It's the unexpected detours that can make these journeys and about 10 minutes out of a windy Batesmans Bay there's a sign that says "Mogo Zoo next 10km". A quick internet search and it seems a goer. I've never been and doubt I ever will be as close to a Sumatran tiger that was strolling around its enclosure and the wide range of monkeys was a hit with the children.
It's Melbourne Cup Day so at Tathra Beachside camping ground — which has waterslides — guests are greeted with champagne upon arrival. There's a decent crowd making the most of the public holiday over the border in Victoria and the beautiful beach a minute's walk from their camping sites. Another great spot to stay.
DAYS 4 AND 5 — 751KM TO MELBOURNE
Over the next two days we drive for Phillip Island with an overnight stop in Lakes Entrance. We travel through many small towns, and the odd city, over the Victorian border through roads surrounded by bush and high gumtrees along with the occasional sign of bush fires. I Spy gets interesting when we start to spot a number of roos poised on the side of the road.
We pass the likes of Wombat Creek, Cabbage Tree Creek, Bellbird Creek and Tonghi Creek. It's a lot of driving and not much exploring and the iPads are running out of content, I'm constantly reminded by the back seat passengers. Thankfully our next destination has plenty for the kids.
DAYS 6 AND 7 — 151KM TO MELBOURNE
We park up for the final time at a camping ground in Cowes, the northern part of the Phillip Island — everything on the island is within 15 minutes' drive. Phillip Island is a must for fans of wildlife and a great family destination
Just down the road is the Koala Conservation Centre, where along high walkways you stroll through eucalypt woodland to see the famous furry Aussies in their natural habitat.
On the western part of the island is the Antarctic Journey at the Nobbies Centre, full of interactive displays — the highlight being the augmented reality experience where it actually seems like whales and penguins are sharing the room with you.
But the best part of the trip was still to come — real penguins. The Penguin Parade is a must if you're on Phillip Island. Each night at dusk hundreds march up from the sea to their burrows higher up the beach.
We have a prime location inside a bunker, where you're level with the penguins as they make the walk by a window. We then follow them from a walkway just metres away as they waddle along. Watching the penguins wee journey is a superb way to cap our own one.
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