A tick on the bucket list
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Gerald and I are working through our bucket list and on the list was to drive across the Nullarbor Plains. With a son now based in Perth and family in Adelaide we decided to tick it off. Having been involved with the Holiday Park industry for 20 years through the TOP 10 Holiday Park group of New Zealand we thought it was time to try out travelling around in a campervan. We chose to use an Apollo motorhome and go camping for 11 days at the end of September. Picking up the van in Perth all went smoothly and we were impressed with our modern vehicle that was well presented. First off we drove down to Dunsborough. This area is lovely; a definite highlight - close to the coast with timing just right to see humpback whales off the coast. We did a short walk at the lighthouse at Cape Naturaliste viewing humpbacks breaching close to shore. We also saw our first bandicoot in the bush plus a snake on the walking track and kangaroos in a field – a totally different experience to driving around in New Zealand!
Next stop was Busselton; this area is great as it is so close to Margaret River which is renowned for wine, olive oils and olives. Great place to stay is Beachlands BIG4 Holiday Park. We recommend wineries Brown Hill and Cape Mentelle. Drove through to Augusta one day where the Indian Ocean meets with the Southern Ocean. Our timing was right here as well with all the wild flowers including many orchids in bloom due to the rain.
We then had three days in Albany, a coastal area with plenty to do like coastal walks and visiting the old whaling centre. We also drove into Mt Barker another wine growing area and to the Porongurup National Park where you walk up to a viewing platform called a skywalk. Not for the unfit or the fainthearted. Tip for travellers - need to purchase a National Park day pass. Great area, stayed at the Middleton Beach Big 4 Holiday Park and this was lovely.
Esperance was our next stop, voted to have the most beautiful beaches in Australia. Don’t doubt this but our timing was off as it rained. Drove the Great Ocean Road 40ks which would be amazing on a sunny Australian day.
Time to hit the Nullarbor and our first stop was Balladonia. The drive to get there was through Karri Forrest which was beautiful. In Balladonia we got a tip from another couple in a motorhome that we could not fill up with water anywhere on the Nullarbor so it was time to conserve. Also advised not to travel after sunset as the kangaroos come out - would not like to hit one so we made sure we settled before sundown. It’s great to meet other travellers on a self-drive adventure and we definitely appreciated these two tips!!
Eucla was the next stop with nice views over the ocean. We visited a Whale Centre at the Australian Bight. Cost of $14.00 is so worth it for the views - white sandy beaches and sheer red cliffs. It was another lucky day for us with two southern right whales in the bay. In season, hundreds come here to calve and mate.
We came off the Nullarbor at Ceduna and stayed at the BIG4 Holiday Park. A tip for our fellow travellers - when moving from Western Australia into South Australia you have to dispose of all fruit and vegetables because of fruit fly controls. Here the scenery changed from vast dry plains with dingos and emus and plenty of roos to farmland with enormous areas of crops ready to harvest. We were told by a couple travelling in a camper to go to Ceduna Foreshore Hotel and have oysters and King George whiting. We did and were not disappointed.
Port Lincoln was our next stop. Driving through more farmland the colour brown is replaced with the colour green and scrub have become trees. Clare is a place where we have been before and we wanted to go again so we planned a couple of days here to visit wineries and relax. To get here we drove through Melrose which has a great coffee shop in an old blacksmith shop. It’s as though the blacksmith has just left. Jim Barry wines were first on the list in Clare. We usually drink Pinot Noir or Shiraz wines but we decided the Jim Barry Riesling is a must. A good walking and cycle trail takes you passed many great wineries.
On finishing off in Adelaide we had travelled 4,500kms. We got to know the van very well! We had no problems; all we had to do was fill it up with fuel. Our advice to anyone travelling in Australia is to allow plenty of time, it’s a big place with lots of things to see and do. Hiring a campervan from Apollo was a great choice, it was a fantastic way to travel and see this small part of Australia. We loved the freedom of setting off in the morning and being able to tailor our trip to what we felt like doing that day and then finding a holiday park or camping ground in the evening. We’ve got the self-drive travel “bug” now and next on the bucket list is travelling in an Apollo through our own neck of the woods – New Zealand. Book your self-drive adventure - http://www.apollocamper.com/.
*Gerald Nolan is the Chairman of the TOP 10 Holiday Parks Group.