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