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