Hello Jugiong free camping!
4th to 6th February: So, it was time to leave Gunning, we’d only planned on an overnight stay, and in our usual style hadn’t really thought too much about where we were heading. We knew there were several options further down the Hume Highway, and we figured we’d just drive until we found something suitable with enough room for us, that was a free camp, dog friendly camping, and of course suitable for kids. It turns out that place was Jugiong.
On arrival we found a tiny town, with a huge showground, which is where the free camp is located. Next door is the local pool which has hot showers, a definite plus for travellers, and there’s a service station just down the road with all the basics you’ll need as well as a top little cafe across the road that boasts lots of local tasty treats.
Another bonus – A kids playground. It turns out it was everything we needed with plenty of space, and we even managed to score a shady campsite, what more could you ask for.
Generally when we arrive in a place, we set up then head off for a bit of a look around, there is lots of gorgeous farmland around Jugiong and the Murrumbidgee River flows just behind the showgrounds too, perfect for taking the kids for a fish.
For a quiet little place, Jugiong turned out to be quite an eventful little stop for us. We tested out the Weber with our first ever roast, and we weren’t disappointed in the least.
Byron lost his 2nd tooth in two weeks.
Byron also learned how to skateboard, totally unrelated to the loss of his tooth by the way, and Amahli, not one to be beaten decided she couldn’t let her little brother beat her to learning a new skill, so gave it a try too. The flat road made a perfect skate arena.
We made friends with a couple of horses in the paddock behind the swimming pool, cheeky things they were getting lots of pats and we couldn’t resist giving them a carrot each in reward for their cheeky charms.
If you’re ever travelling down the Hume, then we can definitely say that Jugiong is a great little town when you’re looking for campsites between Sydney and Melbourne, with lovely locals. It’s a nice way to spend a few days relaxing, fishing and enjoying the space and peace.
3rd February: Saying goodbye to Bulahdelah free camping was a farewell of mixed emotions. Heading off on our journey toward the Spirit of Tasmania, and yet, not quite knowing where it was we would end up for the night. Being flexible is part of what we love about being on the road, always with a rough plan of where we might end up but never quite knowing what we’ll find en-route or if our intentions will quite work out.
It takes a lot of time to pack up our camp, a side effect of three kids, a dog and not having quite worked out what we don’t need. By the time we were organised, we chatted and said goodbye to our new-found camp mates, along with Paddy the 21 year old Maltese terrier (it’s true I promise), we hit the highway ready for the next stretch.
The biggest thing on my mind for this stretch of the trip was getting through Sydney. I used to love the fast pace of my birthplace. The city to me, always seemed to pump with action and vitality running through it’ veins, the streaming cars and people forcing it to life with their hurry to be somewhere. Now, the same sense of urgency that brings such life to the concrete cascades leaves me feeling suffocated and wanting to find peace and wide open spaces.
Don’t get me wrong, I love the occasional visit to the city, it is an amazing place that holds within it a wonderland of excitement and opportunity, but, driving the streets, especially with a caravan in tow wasn’t at the top of my list of things to look forward to. We drove straight through, grabbed fuel at Eastern Creek, an 85 litre top up, with the diesel priced at $164.9, so $140 later we drove out the other side toward the unknown.
It’s the simple things in life that help you choose a free camp site sometimes, and on this occasion, a children’s playground and hot showers won us over before we arrived in Gunning. We arrived fairly late in our usual style, so made-do the best we could as far as getting the van level, cooked up a feed and enjoyed real hot showers! We do carry a hot water service with us, but it’s really important to be careful with water when you have to carry what you need, on board, so it was great to enjoy a good rinse and hair wash!
Gunning is a gorgeous little NSW town, full of history, and buildings with personality. The camp site isn’t a huge area, but it’s large enough to provide space for travellers on their way along the Hume, there was around 12 vans and tents the night we were there, with space for more. The camp site is situated along a small creek, and offers paid access to the local pool, hot showers and toilets that are clean and well maintained, as well as a children’s playground and a picnic area with gas BBQ’s.
We knew we were only staying for one night, but, as always, it’s important to support the towns that support free or low cost camping, so we did a walk through town to take in the sights and grab a couple of coffees and some breakfast.
If you’re ever travelling the Hume highway, then it’s a great little spot to park and rest for the night.
Jan 28th to Feb 3rd: It’s a surreal existence when your dreams are happening around you. It’s a spectacular sense of accomplishment, mixed with a dash of disbelief, a slight twist of vulnerability, and a nagging sensation that it’s all going to crash down around you sometime soon. At least that’s how it felt to me.
Our first few days on the road, well I guess, closer to a week were spent catching up with friends and family before we travelled off into the sunset to enjoy our nomadic dream. It was nice, and a sort-of in-between, where we were officially on the road travelling Australia, and yet floating around the familiar tracks of our past lives, not yet truly on our way.
The 28th of January saw us drive out of Matt’s Nan’s driveway with no real idea of where we’d stop for the night, it was everything we’d wished for; point the car in the direction we wanted to go, and just drive. Take things as they come, trust the universe would lead us to where it was we should go, and enjoy the journey, after all, the journey really is the destination!
As evening began to hit, we decided to pull up in Bulahdelah. This is a pure case of deciding to take a chance on a place we’d driven through probably hundreds of times before, and yet never really looked around. Living on the Mid North Coast made Bulahdelah the fuel and toilet stop of the Pacific Highway when travelling to Sydney; a nice mid-point. But, the highway has since by-passed the little town, and we’d noticed there was a free camp in the area so it was worth a look.
Truly, camp sites don’t get too much better than this one. It’s a dog friendly and family friendly free camp.
We arrived to find a nice big vacant area right on the bank of the river, with a jetty to our left and the walkway to the bridge not too far away. There wasn’t any shade in our new found yard, but we figured we were only staying a night or two, so it we’d work around it.
Van up, table out and a couple of chairs, and we were dishing dinner before we knew it. We’d anticipated a late arrival so had thrown a big feed of beef stroganoff in the Dream Pot before leaving, it was perfect by the time we were ready to eat, and a nice reward after the drive and set up.
There was no time like the present for the kids. Bellies full, they had the rods unpacked, bait net in and were keen for a fish. It didn’t take long before the bait net was host to a small fish. Jackson didn’t like the look of it, with a few ominous spikes giving a warning not to get to close. He gave a yell to Matt to come take a look, and before Matt made it to the Jetty, a lovely guy in the campsite near went to take a look and not wearing his glasses put his hand in to retrieve the little thing.
Ouch! He’d been stung, and boy did we feel bad about it! First night in camp and we’d already inflicted an injury on some poor bloke! We dug out the bites and stings book and I enlisted the help of good old Google to identify the sucker, which we soon realised was a Bullrout. Luckily we carry plenty of pain relief and creams in the van, so we offered him some, and then advised to wash it with hot water as per the first aid directions, also assuring him if it got too bad we’d be happy to run him up to the hospital for them to take a look. Thankfully it was all fine and not too major, but lesson learned for the kids, not to let others touch their nets until we’re there. I’d hate to feel responsible for something bad happening to someone else, even if it’s unintentional.
Crisis averted, Matt and the kids fished well into the evening, before it was time to hit the sack, we figured we’d stay another night, and then see where the road led us.
This plan, to leave the next day happened for several days, and we ended up staying there for five nights. We didn’t realise at the time that the site actually has a 3 night maximum, but it wasn’t full and we spent money in town every day which we thought the small businesses would appreciate so not a major issue.
Our days were filled with swimming, fishing, wandering through town to stock up on supplies, and hanging out with our new friends, the resident geese and ducks, who would often make their presence known and had quite a bit of character about them.The kids enjoyed having a go at camp cooking, and even washing the clothes, although the fascination wore off pretty quickly 🙂
We chatted to locals, met lots of other travellers, some who’d been on the road for some time, others who were testing the waters and deciding whether to dive in and head around Australia full time on the big lap. (of course we told them to go for it, life’s just too short, we hope to meet up with them on the road) 🙂
If you’re in the area, then we can highly recommend this free camp. It’s an initiative of the local Lions Club, to help aid the community after the highway bypass. You need to be pretty self-contained, there is a tap on site for water top-ups, and there are toilets just a short 100 metre walk across the bridge, we carry our own shower, so that wasn’t an issue for us but I think there may be a shower at the showground for a fee.
Please, if you do decide to stay, support the local businesses, it’s a great spot, one of the best we’ve experienced, and by doing some groceries, going to the pub just for a drink or even for dinner, topping up with fuel, or grabbing lures from the hardware like we did it helps prove that the camp is bringing income into the town, as there have been rumours that there has been some objections to the existence of the camp there. We injected around $400 into the town, and most other travellers we talked to spent relative amounts depending on their length of stay, so the small businesses are truly getting extra income from travellers like us, and goes some way to show that towns offering free camping as an alternative definitely benefit.
It was definitely a difficult place to leave behind. Our deadline for reaching Melbourne to sail on Spirit of Tasmania was looming, and we knew we needed to be there by the 8th of February, so we had to give in to the demands of time and wave goodbye to our riverside home and continue on our way.
Every now and then it’s nice to escape the confines of the van for some chill time, and so we were really excited to test out the facilities at The Country Club Villas near Launceston. Before arriving we’d taken a look around Launceston so we could relieve some of our curiosity about the area and wind down without feeling we were missing anything. We took a walk around Cataract Gorge, which we’ll be writing about soon, and is definitely worth the visit, before heading to the Villas for a couple of days of down time.
A three bedroom villa was such a treat for the kids, with Amahli enjoying a room of her own, allowing her an escape from her brothers for a couple of days, every girls dream! While we were treated to a television all of our own in our room, it was nice to lay in bed and catch up on the news and some of our favourite shows we don’t often get the chance to see on the road.
The big draw card for the kids was the Pay TV on the main television in the lounge-room. We all got to enjoy Iron Man 3 while we were there, which Byron was particularly happy about, as when we went to the movie theatre to watch it, he’d fallen asleep within the first 15 minutes. The full kitchen was a lovely bonus, including dishwasher, a perfect holiday for me, no more washing up after everyone, although we didn’t eat dinner it, instead taking advantage of the range of eating options on site and over at the main country club.
Night one we were treated to some gourmet pizzas from Bolters Pizzeria. I have to tell you, if you are ever in Tasmania, you just have to try the Peri-Peri chicken pizza, it was the best pizza I think I’ve ever tasted, and that’s saying something seeing as I used to manage a pizza store! The kids tucked into a seafood pizza which left them all happy with bellies full and taste buds content.
The main country club offers pony rides for kids, or trail rides for adults and children over 8, so on our second day the kids got to enjoy a pony ride, which they loved as it had been a while since either had been on a horse. Byron isn’t really interested in horses, so instead he grabbed some food for the ducks and waited quite impatiently for the other kids to finish their ride so he could have some fun of his own.
Night two we took advantage of the courtesy bus between the villas and the main country club, and headed over to try the menu at The Watergarden restaurant. This is a really budget friendly place to eat as a family, with meals starting from around $8. We took advantage of the great prices and opted for a surf and turf scotch fillet, unbelievable value at only $17.50!
The weather in Tasmania has been fantastic, but it’s a bit cooler than what we’re normally used to, so we were all excited to try out the spa and heated pool, heading up twice a day for a swim. The kids took the opportunity to enjoy the playground too, which gave me and Matt some time out while they burned some energy.
We had a great couple of days relaxing and taking some time out from our busy travels just to chill, enjoy the company and the great atmosphere, and of course the great food that Tassie has to offer, we haven’t been disappointed while dining anywhere yet, and there’s so much local produce to try that it’s going to be a challenge to sample as much as possible over the next few months!
*Disclaimer – We stayed as complimentary guests of the Country Club but all opinions and information here is, as usual our own honest opinion, tested out for the benefit of our readers.
Who knew it would only take a couple of hours for us to become smitten with Tasmania!
After an extremely exciting and busy day, we took the picturesque drive to Stanley to relax in the serene setting of the Stanley Seaview Inn. Wow, what a treat! Our first day on the island saw us waking at 5am to depart Spirit of Tasmania, detouring to Christmas Hills Raspberry Farm, stopping to explore Anvers Chocolate, and finally complete the tremendous day relaxing in an apartment complete with what could arguably offer one of the best views in Australia.
We checked in, and headed off to our apartment which offered us enough room to park the van, and unhitch so we could head off to grab a bite to eat without the hassle of towing. We’d planned to unpack our gear and head straight off to explore, but we soon realised that would be impossible. The view captivated us, and so we took the time to have a bit of a breather and recover from our busy day.
The apartment was beautifully designed, with a fresh, modern interior, free wi-fi, and offered a lovely in-room breakfast delivered that evening, ready for us to rise when we pleased and enjoy the stunning view over The Nut and the ocean from the balcony.
Amahli is our resident foodie and was excited to find our breakfast tucked away in the breakfast hatch. There was lots of variety to choose from, so everyone in the family was well catered for!
The kids kicked back to soak up some television, as it had been weeks since we’d watch any and they were pretty happy to be up to date with some of their favourite cartoons. Before too long though, they were keen to explore the sites and surrounds and we took a walk around the grounds to track down the playground they’d spotted on the way in.
I daresay there are very few family accommodation options that snuggle you in amongst gorgeous farmland with a view out to the ocean and one of Tasmania’s true icons. I’m not sure the kids realised it, but they probably uncovered Australia’s most scenic playground, get a load of the view! I really wish they’d share some of their energy with us because after a busy day they still found energy to play!
The village of Stanley is situated in the North West of Tasmania, and offers a unique history into the fishing industry and settlement within the region. There is a self-guided history tour with a booklet available to assist your walk through town, and lots of gorgeous historic buildings all maintained beautifully that make the effort more than worth it. We grabbed a bite to eat at the Stanley Hotel, where such an active day took the toll on a certain someone.
After dark, the fun didn’t stop! A quick addition of jackets and warm clothes and we were off to spot some penguins which grace the shores of Stanley. We were waiting with other tourists in a spot dedicated to watching them arrive on shore, and almost gave ourselves pneumonia in the hope of seeing the illusive birds. Finally giving up to head back to the warmth of our apartment, we did a turn in the car park only to find a single Little Penguin waiting there! Talk about exciting! A drive through town uncovered lots of gorgeous penguins hanging out under cars and crossing the road in front of us, we even managed to get a little bit of video footage we’ll put up soon.
Please be mindful if you’re watching penguins to use ONLY a red torch, or cover your torch with red cellophane. White light disturbs the penguins, and it was sad to see people not following such a simple rule to try to keep disturbance to these little wonders to a minimum.
Of all places to visit in Tasmania as a first stop, I would definitely recommend Stanley. We were absolutely sad to leave Stanley Seaview Inn the next day, they have a couple of accommodation options available for families, and regularly have deals on their website so be sure to take a look. We said goodbye to the comfort of the apartment and hit the road with van in tow once more, but we didn’t leave straight away, we have lots to share about our day spent exploring the town still to come, we’ll be sharing soon.
*Disclaimer – We stayed as complimentary guests of Stanley Seaview Inn but all opinions and information here is, as usual our own honest opinion, tested out for the benefit of our readers.
I’m a firm believer that it’s the parts of the journey you don’t plan for that have the potential to make the most memorable moments. Our travels through the Northern Territory proved this theory. We had a list of most popular icons we wanted to tick off our list. When we arrived in Central Australia we headed straight to Australia’s largest icon, but once we’d explored Uluru with the kids, we discovered there was more to the region than just the popular monolith.
We visited the Olgas, only taking a short look because the kids were so little and had already done a lot of exploration, it was a beautiful sight, and I can’t wait to take them back there now they are getting older.
We’d made friends with an overly friendly emu at Curtin Springs who apparently had a fetish for hot chips and made its way into the car in search of a treat, and I may or may not have given a little squeal at it’s enthusiasm.
Then we figured, while we were in the area, we should probably visit King’s Canyon, so, not knowing where we were going to stay, we headed off into the unknown to discover another part of Australia’s brilliance.
Central Australia is red. The dirt stains clothing, cars, skin, anything that comes into contact with it, so at this stage of our journey, almost everything had taken on an outback hue.
As we travelled toward Kings Canyon we spotted a place to stay; “Kings Creek Station”. A working camel station that also offers accommodation, so we figured why not. To this day I still remember the conversation Matt had with the guy who checked us in, and my reaction at the time makes me giggle now.
“Would you like a grassed site or are you happy just on the dirt? We try our best to keep a couple of grassed sites.”
(Remember the outback is dry and dusty, keeping green grass here DOES take a lot of effort, and it was something we hadn’t seen in a while, let alone set our tent up on!)
“Nah mate, don’t waste your grassed site on us, we’re happy with the dirt, kids are covered in it already.”
I tell you, grass seemed like such a luxury at the time, although I didn’t really mind, I was used to the dirt by then, but I really remember wishing we could have just one day with some greenery under the tent. If we had to make the choice again though, I’m sure we’d do the same thing, that red stain is part of the outback experience.
So, what do you eat for dinner when you’re staying on a camel station? Why, camel stroganoff of course. We figured we should get into the spirit, and while I haven’t had the opportunity to eat camel since, it was a nice meal at the time, and I’m sure we’ll give it another go when we take the kids back again, this time trying one of the famous camel burgers.
Kings Creek Station was the first campfire we’d had in a while, so we pulled out the marshmallows, took in the amazing outback sky, and it was such the perfect place to base ourselves for exploring Kings Canyon the next day.
There is just something so beautiful about the Northern Territory, it’s industry, it’s people, it’s culture and it’s red dirt that stains everything from your clothes to your skin, before making it’s way to steal your heart. It’s the little things, the unexpected things that will make your journey so much more memorable. I can’t tell you enough to look beyond the major landmarks and soak in the small, memorable moments you’ll look back at so fondly for years after your travels.