Doc Hol­i­day What are the top spots on NSW south coast?

The Sunday Mail (Queensland) - Escape - - ADVICE - Claire Suther­land

Dur­ing COVID-19 months, my part­ner and I have re­flected on how for­tu­nate we were to cruise the Adri­atic and Mediter­ranean with Vik­ing last May/June. With our wings clipped we’re now plan­ning a road trip from the NSW south coast to Syd­ney and on to north­ern NSW, sup­port­ing ru­ral ar­eas as we go. We want low- to mid-range ac­com­mo­da­tion and won­der what your thoughts are on cabins in the big parks and whether you have any rec­om­men­da­tions. We hope to take two to three days to reach Syd­ney. We’d es­pe­cially like to ex­plore the Jervis Bay area. Do you have any se­cret spots or must-sees along the east coast?

Ex­cel­lent plan. I think you’ll find the sheer beauty of the beaches around Jervis Bay, in par­tic­u­lar, will match any in the Adri­atic and Mediter­ranean. I haven’t stayed in any hol­i­day cabins along the route you’re tak­ing, but I’ve al­ways found them to be clean and cosy and per­fectly ad­e­quate for a com­fort­able stay in other lo­ca­tions, though they can be a lit­tle noisy if you travel dur­ing school hol­i­days.

If you’re trav­el­ling be­tween Septem­ber and Novem­ber, make sure you stop off in Eden and do a whale-watch­ing trip (or visit one of the van­tage points on land). You’ll be in with a good chance of see­ing one of thou­sands of mi­grat­ing hump­back whales. The town’s Killer Whale Mu­seum is worth a visit, too.

A bit fur­ther north, swing off the high­way to visit Cen­tral Tilba for its quaint main street and in­ter­est­ing shops. Tilba Sweet Spot sells the most in­cred­i­bly in­tense sour drops (among hun­dreds of other old-fash­ioned lol­lies). There’s also Bath Patis­serie, a shop that sells di­vine hand­made salt scrubs and bath bombs that are per­fect Christ­mas gifts.

Fur­ther north, it’s worth try­ing to get a lunch or din­ner book­ing at Rick Stein’s restau­rant at Ban­nis­ters in Mol­ly­mook. If you re­ally wanted to treat your­self, you could also spend a night at this lovely bou­tique ho­tel (though it’s def­i­nitely not “mid-range”).

And fi­nally, Jervis Bay it­self. There’s a num­ber of towns to base your­self. Hyams Beach is prob­a­bly the sleepi­est and loveli­est. Huskisson has more in the way of shops and restau­rants, and there’s an ex­pan­sive hol­i­day park right on the wa­ter there. If you like walk­ing, make your way into Bood­eree Na­tional Park and do the easy hike through the for­est to Whit­ing Beach – it’s in my top three favourite Aus­tralian beaches. It’s an

PIC­TURE: TOURISM AUS­TRALIA 8km re­turn trip, but there are count­less other beaches ac­ces­si­ble by car in the park, too.

There’s also a re­ally lovely botanic gar­den here, the only Abo­rig­i­nal-owned botanic gar­dens in Aus­tralia. And, if you have time, drive out to Point Per­pen­dic­u­lar light­house and look­out. It’s within a De­part­ment of De­fence fa­cil­ity and is closed on gun­nery prac­tice days, but its sheer cliffs and stun­ning views are worth see­ing if you can. There’s also a beau­ti­ful beach and camp­ing spot within the fa­cil­ity at Hon­ey­moon Bay.

LEE: COM­FORT ON THE ROAD

I’ve never flown first class, but I have been lucky enough to fly in busi­ness a cou­ple of times. There’s no deny­ing that a lie-flat bed is the only way to fly – and I’d cer­tainly poke out my own eyes be­fore say­ing no to an up­grade – but the pointy end of the plane does have its dis­ad­van­tages. Once you’ve had a taste of champers on take-off and lux­u­ri­ated in all that ex­tra space, it’s im­pos­si­ble to en­joy be­ing squashed into a cheap seat up the back – ever again – be­cause you now know ex­actly what you’re miss­ing out on. Some things re­ally are best left to the imag­i­na­tion.

Hitting the road in a camper trailer, with a full-sized bed that you don’t have to re-make ev­ery day, power for lights and all your gad­gets, a kitchen with stove, sink and wa­ter on tap, plus lots of stor­age space, is like fly­ing busi­ness class com­pared with camp­ing in a tent. Sales of camper trail­ers have boomed in re­cent years and you can pick up a cheap im­port for less than $10,000. It’s per­fect for the oc­ca­sional week­end in a na­tional park, or camp­ing hol­i­day up the coast, but if you head into the Outback, the dreaded cor­ru­ga­tions will soon be­gin to dis­man­tle it.

If you want some­thing tough enough for re­mote area travel and will last the dis­tance on a big, or even a small­ish, lap, you’ll need to spend more and choose an Aus­tralian-made camper. Th­ese start at about $25,000 for es­tab­lished brands such as Cub, Track­about and Jayco. If you want to see what a state-ofthe-art 2020 camper looks like, check out the Pa­triot X3, which starts at about $70,000, or the amaz­ing Bruder EXP-6, the ul­ti­mate of­froader, which will set you back some­where around $160,000.

We’ve got an Aus­tralian-made Johnno’s Camper Trailer. We paid $25,000 for it back in 2009. It’s pretty ba­sic by 2020 stan­dards, but it was built as a rent-a-camper, so it’s small, light and as tough as a tank. We’ve done about 20 long trips in it, in­clud­ing a 40,000km lap of Aus­tralia in 2014 and three months in the western deserts and Top End last year. I’ve tried to work out the to­tal dis­tance we’ve trav­elled with Johnno and my best guess is about 90,000km.

Unhitching once in a while and camp­ing old-school style with a tent, or go­ing min­i­mal­ist and just rolling out a swag, can be so lib­er­at­ing, be­cause we can go to places that might be very dif­fi­cult, or in­ac­ces­si­ble, with any trailer. We don’t tow in the Simp­son Desert, as drag­ging a trailer over steep, rut­ted dunes is a pain in the neck and can dam­age the track. When we get back into Johnno, it feels like I’ve scored a magic up­grade to busi­ness class. Well, pre­mium econ­omy.

BILL: ROUGH ‘N READY

Ev­ery time we hitch up and hit the road with Johnno, I ex­pect it to be the last trip to­gether. About three quar­ters of those 90,000km we’ve dragged him along be­hind the ute have been on outback tracks, in­clud­ing renowned ve­hi­cle killers such as Gun­bar­rel High­way in WA and Cen­tral Arn­hem Road from Kather­ine to Nhu­lun­buy in the NT.

He re­ally should have fallen to bits by now, and if he does de­cide to do that some­where in the mid­dle of the Gib­son Desert, well, I’ll get out the shovel and give him a de­cent burial.

What to buy next? I’m not quite sure. What­ever it is will be small, light and built in Aus­tralia. Our car in­dus­try is fin­ished, but we still make the world’s best car­a­vans and camper trail­ers. Although the Aus­tralian prod­uct can be rel­a­tively ex­pen­sive com­pared with im­ports, you get what you pay for in su­pe­rior de­sign, qual­ity and dura­bil­ity.

Re­sale val­ues on Aus­tralian-made campers and car­a­vans are strong, so you re­coup a de­cent per­cent­age of the pur­chase price when you trade in or sell.

If you want to ex­plore beyond the bi­tu­men, small and light beats big and heavy ev­ery time. In se­ri­ously out-there parts of the Top End, tracks can be very nar­row, wind­ing and cov­ered by a low canopy of thick veg­e­ta­tion. Creek cross­ings can be tricky, es­pe­cially when the wa­ter starts ebbing at the base of your wind­screen. In the NSW and Vic­to­rian high coun­try, some climbs are so steep you’re point­ing at the sky. Or a long, long, long way down. On desert tracks, you’ll en­counter mas­sive dunes and deep, al­most liq­uid fine sand. Then there’s bull­dust. You don’t want to get stranded in this stuff. Trust me. Nei­ther is it a great idea to get bogged on a beach, es­pe­cially when the tide’s com­ing in.

My point is in all of th­ese sit­u­a­tions, the big­ger and heav­ier your trailer, the more dif­fi­cult it will be to drive any­where off the bi­tu­men – if you’re able to drive there at all – and the more likely you are to get stuck. Ex­tra weight also means heftier fuel bills and more wear and tear on brakes and tyres.

What I want next is some­thing sim­ple, light, strong, ef­fi­cient and can go any­where. I know. We’ll try some­thing com­pletely dif­fer­ent – an off-road ad­ven­ture mo­tor­cy­cle. We’ll be fine camp­ing with a lit­tle tent and a one-burner stove. Lee did a lot of back­pack­ing back in the day. She’ll love the idea. I’m sure …

UNHITCHING ONCE IN A WHILE AND CAMP­ING OLD-SCHOOL STYLE WITH A TENT – OR GO­ING MIN­I­MAL­IST AND JUST ROLLING OUT A SWAG – CAN BE TRULY LIB­ER­AT­ING

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