TRAVEL

Edi­tor Sue Wheeler shares the high­lights of her fam­ily’s very first camper­van holiday when they drove from Ade­laide to Melbourne.

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Have camper­van, will travel – around the Great Ocean Road and Kan­ga­roo Is­land.

WE LOVE CAMP­ING but had waited for our son Wilf to get a bit older for a camper­van driv­ing holiday – and now was the time. Af­ter a how-to tour around our Apollo Euro Deluxe mo­torhome from staff at the Ade­laide of­fice, we set off in what was go­ing to be our dinky home with wheels for a week. Did I de­lib­er­ately not lis­ten to the bit about emp­ty­ing the toi­let? I’m not sure, but it was safe to say I would prob­a­bly be busy with some­thing else when that job arose. I’m not good with pumps and slurry… and be­sides, my hus­band Nathan is an ex-farmer. Surely that’s in his job de­scrip­tion, not mine?

There was some­thing very com­fort­ing and cosy about liv­ing in a mo­torhome with ev­ery­thing you need, but at the same time I felt this great sense of free­dom and ad­ven­ture. It’s so ex­cit­ing just be­ing able to take off and stay some­where for as long or as lit­tle as you like. And there’s never any “Mum, I’ve left my swim­mers/foot­ball boots/ favourite hat at home” be­cause your house is right there with you all the time. Here are some of the best bits of our fam­ily road trip... Be­fore hit­ting the Great Ocean Road we drove to Cape Jervis and hopped on a SeaLink ferry for the 45-minute jour­ney to Kan­ga­roo Is­land. Clearly

I’d been liv­ing un­der a rock: I hadn’t re­alised how in­cred­i­ble this is­land was. Its stun­ning con­ser­va­tion parks, unique nat­u­ral beauty and the sheer num­ber of an­i­mals you can see roam­ing in the wild (glossy black cock­a­toos, emus, koalas and kan­ga­roos among them) make it an Aus­tralian buck­etlist des­ti­na­tion for sure. Be­cause it is iso­lated, the is­land is free from many of the coun­try’s pests and dis­eases, which is why so many bird and an­i­mal species have flour­ished. Over a third of the is­land is pro­tected in na­ture re­serves.

BIRD IN THE HAND

We’ve been to the bird show at Syd­ney’s Taronga Zoo a couple of times, so when I heard about the In-Flights Birds of

Prey dis­play at the Rap­tor Do­main, I did won­der if we should skip it. There’s a lot to see on the is­land and we were only scratch­ing the sur­face. Thank­fully a SeaLink staff mem­ber told us it was un­miss­able, and we all agreed it was one of the top ex­pe­ri­ences of the holiday. We held owls, fal­cons, kook­abur­ras and a mas­sive wed­getailed ea­gle (1), which was so heavy that Wilf couldn’t hold it up with­out the help of the keeper.

The Rap­tor Do­main cen­tre is all about en­vi­ron­men­tal ed­u­ca­tion and re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion. Most of the birds in the pre­sen­ta­tion have been in­jured or or­phaned and are not suit­able for re­lease into the wild. The cen­tre’s aim is to cre­ate aware­ness and en­cour­age an ap­pre­ci­a­tion of con­ser­va­tion. It was

such a priv­i­lege to be around these amaz­ing crea­tures and, luck­ily for us, there were very few peo­ple there in the low sea­son, so it was like hav­ing a pri­vate show. The cen­tre’s Fang-Tas­tic rep­tile show is also great.

A WILD DAY OUT

On the sec­ond day we thought we’d let the lo­cals show us the sights and booked the Re­mark­ably Wild Day Tour through sealink.com.au. Our first stop was Clif­ford’s Honey Farm for a talk and a tast­ing. Orig­i­nally im­ported from Italy, the Lig­urian bees on Kan­ga­roo Is­land are be­lieved to be the last re­main­ing pure stock of this bee in the world. We bought some of their beau­ti­fully fra­grant honey… and we all had a home­made honey ice-cream (well, it’d be rude not to!).

Next we headed west to Han­son Bay Wildlife Sanc­tu­ary (drowsy koalas

THERE ARE SO MANY THINGS to see and places to stop along this fa­mous, awe-in­spir­ing coastal route (3). In a camper­van is a per­fect way to see it; driv­ing at your own pace, me­an­der­ing your way through breath­tak­ing scenery and stop­ping at many wa­ter­colour-wor­thy look­outs and small towns.

We had a plan of where we wanted to reach each night and what we might want to see along the way, but hey, you can be flex­i­ble on a trip like ga­lore in the Eu­ca­lyp­tus trees), and played “spot the sea lion” from the board­walk at Seal Bay Con­ser­va­tion Park. Then we wan­dered around the Re­mark­able Rocks (2) – yes, they are truly re­mark­able – and Ad­mi­rals Arch in Flin­ders Chase Na­tional Park. The rugged coast­line, stun­ning sea views and weirdly-whipped rock for­ma­tions were beau­ti­ful in brac­ing June weather. this. The Kan­ga­roo Is­land trip had eaten into our sched­ule a lit­tle, so one day we drove for five hours to make sure we’d reach Melbourne by the end of the week. How­ever if you had seven days on the Great Ocean Road, you could be more easy­go­ing.

At the end of each day we pulled into a tourist park and picked our spot. It was pretty empty due to the time of year – June is the low-sea­son, so no book­ing ahead was re­quired.

AN­TIQUES ROAD­SHOW

I’m a sucker for a charm­ing lit­tle vil­lage like pic­turesque Port Fairy (4-5), at the start of the Great Ocean Road com­ing from Ade­laide. Its streets are lined with di­vine 19th-cen­tury cot­tages with more than 50 build­ings clas­si­fied by the Na­tional Trust. I wan­dered into Peri­win­kle An­tiques and bought two adorable ter­rines and a gravy boat (6-7) and a colour­ful striped bas­ket from Ocean Belle on Bank Street (8).

TOWER HILL

Just 10 min­utes from Port Fairy is Tower Hill Wildlife Re­serve, a crater of the dor­mant vol­cano that’s per­fect for a quick ge­ol­ogy les­son. In just one of the 30-minute walk­ing loops we also saw koalas and emus up close. Other in­hab­i­tants in­clude seals, dol­phins and an im­pres­sive col­lec­tion of wa­ter birds. No short­age of wildlife here!

APOLLO BAY SCAL­LOP PIES

Be­ing both a foodie and a seafood lover, I wasn’t go­ing to miss sam­pling the de­li­cious and fa­mous scal­lop pies from the Apollo Bay Bak­ery. As I still sali­vate when I think about it, I con­sider it the best $10 I’ve ever spent… on a pie! If we’d been there longer I’d have had one for break­fast, lunch and din­ner. Note to self: come back in Fe­bru­ary for the Apollo Bay Seafood Fes­ti­val.

TWELVE APOSTLES

A trip on the Great Ocean Road isn’t com­plete with­out vis­it­ing these icons

(9). Although it wasn’t the sun­ni­est of days, the light and cloud for­ma­tion were amaz­ing, so they looked re­ally mag­i­cal. We walked 30 min­utes to Gib­son Steps look­out, above the beach, for a great view east and west.

LOVE LORNE

Be­fore hit­ting Lorne, we made a quick nine-kilo­me­tre de­tour to Ersk­ine Falls (10). One of the high­est drops in the Ot­ways re­gion, the falls plunge 30 me­tres into the tree-fern gully of Ersk­ine River. What’s a road trip with­out a water­fall stop?

Frankly, my fam­ily could have left me in Lorne and I would have been quite happy. It’s the largest re­sort town on the Great Ocean Road and its lovely and laid-back life­style had me at “hello”. Across from its horse­shoe beach are cool cafes and shops – plenty of saun­ter­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties and nice home­wares to be had, too! And given it is only a two-hour drive from Melbourne, Lorne would be a fab­u­lous week­end des­ti­na­tion.

There’s some­thing for every­one on this coastal trip: nat­u­ral won­ders, walk­ing, wildlife, swim­ming, shop­ping and great food. Would we hit the road in a camper­van again? You bet.

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