This section of the blog will go into detail about our time in each location. It will be more of a journal than anything else and will include things we enjoyed, as well as any aspect we might do differently if we were to plan it again.
Day 128 – Tuesday 11th December
The campervan depot was a few miles out of the city so we loaded ourselves up and jumped on a tram before getting off at the bus stop. We were due to collect the camper at 10am so, when the bus didn’t arrive we ordered an Uber and panicked we would miss our slot. We needn’t have worried; the camper place kept us waiting for 2 hours before showing us around our temporary new home!
By lunchtime we were finally on the way to our first destination: Phillip Island. Once there we saw the first of – what would soon be many – incredible views Australia has to offer. Parking the van, we wandered down the beach to find the start to the hike of Cape Woolamai. There were a few surfers braving the cold and blustery waters and a couple of people sheltering from the wind at the foot of the cliffs but, other than those, we didn’t see anyone during our hike.
Up on the clifftops the views were surreal; sandy white beaches with bright blue water lapping up onto the shore. As beautiful as China and south east Asia had been, we’d missed the coast! Hiking around Cape Woolamai we were pleasantly surprised to see our first wallabies, although perhaps the most surprising of all was how scared we were of them when they wouldn’t clear the path to let us through! The views were incredible and we knew we were in for a treat along our east coast trip.
Back down on the beach we threw the rugby ball around for a while before sitting on the sand and watching the surfers do their thing, mesmerised by the beauty of this stunning country.
In the evening we drove to the Nobbies, a beautiful headland on the south-west of Phillip Island, home to Australian Fur Seals, Penguins and a variety of other sea birds such as Silver Gulls. We wandered along the boardwalks, hoping to catch a glimpse of a few penguins as they made their way to their burrows for the night. There was just one lone penguin hiding underneath the boardwalk whilst the rest were already tucked up for the night. Still, we were lucky enough to see them in their burrows sheltering from the cold.
James and I strolled to the far end of the boardwalk, taking in the views and hoping to catch sight of more Australian wildlife. The wind was even more blustery now and, as James sat on the fence so I could take a photo of him, his brand new Saint Kilda hat flew off his head into the sea and was lost forever! I think it’s safe to say he was NOT happy (he was smiling through gritted teeth in the photo below!) Although he wasn’t the only one who lost their hat that day; we passed a few guys chasing their caps along the boardwalk!
With a disgruntled James we set off to find some dinner and a place to camp for the night however, as we were driving, the sun began to set and we couldn’t resist stopping off to watch. We noticed a sign for the beach so drove along a narrow country lane to a dusty gravel track and continued until we arrived at the car park. The sunset on the beach was stunning and we watched until it was almost completely dark.
Then we had to navigate our way back to the van. Through some bushes. With no shoes on. I was absolutely terrified of standing on a snake and it retaliating with it’s fangs. Thankfully, we made it back in one piece with just a few more obstacles to climb: finding somewhere to eat, camp and setting the bed up in the dark…
Number 1 didn’t go too well as, by the time we had made it back to civilisation after spending so much time watching the sunset, nowhere was open. Not a supermarket, convenience store or takeaway.
Eventually we had no other option than to search for a McDonald’s – except missing dinner, but that is NEVER an option for James! Luckily for us there was one a few miles away so, with grumbling stomachs, we drove to Leongatha and ordered a mighty feast of burgers and fries. Tired, full and ready for bed we found a free rest stop to call home for the night.
Day 129 – Wednesday 12th December
Waking early to the sound of birds chirping and cars passing on the busy main road we left straight for Wilson’s Promontory National Park with a day of hiking planned. After a quick breakfast in the car park and a peek in the Visitor Centre, we set off for a wander around the park known for it’s granite mountains and abundance of wildlife.
First on the agenda was a 7.5km circuit walk via Pillar’s Point and Squeaky Beach. The trail to Pillar’s Point was sandy but quite flat so it didn’t take long to get there. When we reached Pillar’s Point the wind was gusting so much James decided it might be a good idea to hold onto his hat; I don’t know what he would have done if he’d lost another one! There was a lovely older couple having a rest on one of the rocks and we chatted to them for a while about travelling and the UK before continuing our hike to Squeaky Beach.
The hike down to Squeaky Beach was a little steep but the views on the way were beautiful. Squeaky Beach is quite literally named so because when you walk on the beach, the sand squeaks. I obviously tested that out and ran around in circles for a few minutes listening to the squeaks. We were so excited by the squeaks that we completely forgot to take any photos, just videos of me running around like a nutter!
It was a lovely day, if a little windy, but that made the conditons perfect for surfing. There were a handful of people paddling out on their boards, waiting for a decent set of waves to roll in. Deciding it was a bit too chilly to sunbathe we resumed the hike to Tidal Beach then circled back to the car park. By now we were more than ready for lunch so I set about cooking soup on the small gas cooker, laying the table on it’s side to use as shelter from the wind.
Once we’d eaten and had a bit of a chill in the camper we decided to explore Wilson’s Prom a bit more. We’d set our sights on hiking Mount Oberon, a summit which we’d heard a very bold statement about; “The views from the top of Mount Oberon are the very best in Australia!”
They weren’t far wrong, the views were spectacular!
After a busy day of hiking we opted to drive to Boolara, a tiny town 115km north of Wilson’s Prom. We were so surprised by the green rolling hills along the way; we had expected almost desert-like terraine ‘in the bush’, however it was very similar to the Yorkshire countryside we’d grown up surrounded by.
Having researched camping in the area we found a community-run pub which offered free camping with just a $5 fee per person to use the facilities. We had planned to eat at the pub however, when we arrived they said they were not serving food as it was ‘out of season’. Now, as I said earlier, Boolara is a tiny town. There is not a lot to do, including a lack of places to eat and only one shop. And we all know James couldn’t possibly skip a meal! We made it to the shop half an hour before they closed and realised it was also the only cafe in town, so we ordered pie and chips, thankful we had made it on time!
Back at the pub we had a drink in the bar while the locals held their weekly community meeting before we watched Netflix back in the camper.
Day 130 – Thursday 13th December
With an 80km drive to Walhalla we ate breakfast and set off, hoping the weather would hold out!
SPOILER – it didn’t.
The drive to Walhalla through the forest was stunning, with huge trees towering above us on both sides and steep drops into the gully below. Arriving, we drove through the small village to the far car park, taking in the beauty of this small mining town. Excited to explore, we parked the camper and decided to stop in the cafe for a pie.
Unfortunately, just as we stepped out from the cafe all set for a hike, the heaven’s opened and unleashed torrential rain. We tried to brave it and managed to take a few snaps but in the end we retreated to the camper to wait out the storm.
We’re not fair weather explorers but the rain was so heavy that the road began to flood and a river seemed to appear where the road once was. Disappointed, but thankful we were able to see the town for a short time, we set off back down the winding road listening to Christmas song and heading for warmer climates.
In the much larger town of Sale we grabbed lunch at a Burrito bar and had a wander around the shops looking for a red bikini (all will be revealed…well, not all!) before doing a bit of supermarket shopping.
In the evening we cooked fajitas in the camp kitchen of Sale Motor Village where an elderly gentleman from Germany began talking to us about his time in Australia. He had been to Australia more times than he could remember (20+) and travelled around the perimeter of the country in a campervan, so he got out a map and told us about all the places we should visit and why.
It was great to get some travel tips from a seasoned traveller who was extremely passionate about travel, in particular in Australia. After eating, we retired to the camper to get into the Christmas spirit watching Love Actually and eating mince pies.
Day 131 – Friday 14th December
With a bit of a lie in and making the most of the warm showers (a lot of the campsites we stayed in were free and had either cold showers or none at all!) we headed for Seaspray and 90 mile beach for breakfast with a view. It was an absolutely miserable day, with rain and howling wind. After a bowl of granola we wandered over the sand dunes and onto the beach, trying not to get bowled over by the wind. James was not impressed as he wanted to throw his rugby ball around but it was so gusty we would probably have lost it to the sea. One very quick walk later and we were back in the van on our way to Lake Entrance where we decided to have a bit of an admin day in Funky Monkey Cafe, sheltering from the British weather (which we didn’t sign up for when we came to Australia!).
Eventually, after stuffing our faces with burgers, fries and muffins (or a smartie cookie in my case), we made our way to Lake Tyers Beach where we had heard the Water Wheel Tavern offered free camping – with the added bonus of hot showers!
In the evening we ventured to the tavern for some food and found it was absolutely jam-packed with people both dining and drinking. It was some sort of charity evening so we ordered a couple of pizzas and drinks and bought some raffle tickets. Unfortunately we didn’t win but it was a great evening mingling with the locals.
Day 132 – Saturday 15th December
It was a foggy start to the day but less windy so, after a healthy breakfast of leftover pizza, we spent a couple of hours walking around Lake Tyers Beach throwing the rugby ball around (much to James’ delight). With a busy day planned we hopped back in the camper and drove to Nowa Nowa for a wander around and lunch at the Mingling Waters Cafe. By this time the sun had come out and it was much hotter!
With Robbie Williams singing in the background we drove the short distance to Stony Creek Trestle Bridge, the largest standing bridge of its kind in the state of Victoria. It was originally built in 1916 and remained in use until it was damaged by a bushfire in 1980. It was absolutely huge!
As we continued our drive north we stopped at a lookout point near the snowy flats and at a tiny, wooden information centre in Orbost. The lady in the information centre was really helpful and suggested we didn’t take the route we had planned as the road was unsealed and it wasn’t advisable to drive on it with the camper. So instead we decided to take a detour along the Marlo Loop, stopping in Marlo and at the Salmon Rocks en route.
With night drawing in we continued to Bellbird Creek and found a rest area at a cafe/bar where we demolished pie and chips before calling it a night.
Day 133 – Sunday 16th December
It was a lovely warm morning so we ate breakfast in a lay-by in the sun before venturing off to find the McKenzie River Rainforest Walk. The walk was only a 1km loop but the rainforest was beautiful and full of a variety of plants and trees, with noises from creatures echoing all around us.
Our next stop was Croajingolong National Park as we wanted to hike up Mount Everard and visit the Turra River sand dunes however, the road was unsealed and extremely bumpy and the camper started slipping all over the road. James did a great job of keeping us on the road but halfway along the 10km track we decided it wasn’t safe so turned back. We were disappointed as we had a lovely day planned and were potentially going to camp down there too, however it just wasn’t safe.
As we continued our journey we stopped at Genoa Falls, a small waterfall which wasn’t that impressive! There was, however, quite a large Lace Monitor Lizard and it was the first one we’d seen since arriving in Australia. They can grow up to 2.1m in length and this one wasn’t far off at all! Not only that but he was blocking our path down to the falls and we didn’t know what to do. Thankfully it decided we didn’t look that tasty so wandered off into the bushes!
After our morning exploring we were ready for some lunch so headed to Gipsy Point to heat up some soup while looking out over the lake. It was the perfect spot for lunch, with the place to ourselves and a beautiful view.
Nice and full we drove to Malacoota to set up camp for the day. Just as we pulled up to the campsite a huge kangaroo hopped across the road, right in front of our eyes. We couldn’t quite believe what we were seeing!
Foreshore Campsite was a bit pricey but it was worth it for the view over the Wallagaraugh River and the hot showers! We chilled in the sun for a while before wandering into town and having a drink in the local pub. The weather in Australia can change so quickly, as we found out when we began to cook dinner. Wind, rain and thunder halted our cooking on the gas stove so we grabbed everything and ran up to the camp kitchen to continue making veggie pasta. There were some games in the camp kitchen so we played ‘hoops’ while we waited for dinner to cook. James won, as usual! Once we’d eaten the clouds cleared, making way for a stunning sunset!
The campsite had no phone signal so we decided to go for a drive to find some. As it was dusk the animals were out and we saw out first Koala! It was happily wandering towards a tree in someone’s front garden and began to climb it. We were so excited to have seen a kangaroo AND a koala in the same day that we couldn’t believe it when we pulled up alongside a small mob of wallabies that just stood there as we watched them in awe.
With no phone signal to watch Netflix or download a movie we spent the next two hours playing chess (James beat me!) before heading to bed, much later than planned (we got far too invested in the game!)
Day 134 – Monday 17th December
The view over the river was pretty awesome to wake up to! With the sun shining we grabbed a couple of pies from the bakery opposite the campsite and headed down to Tip Beach for a few hours to make some surprise Christmas videos for our families (hence the red bikini…still to be revealed). Our next drive would take us across the border into New South Wales.
We drove towards Mount Imlay however, taking the turning off the main road, the track was unsealed and we thought once again we might have to turn around and bail on the hike. Thankfully, although a dirt track, it wasn’t quite as bad as the one in Croajingolong National Park and we managed to get to the foot of the mountain.
Parking up there was only one other vehicle so we packed our bags and got ready for the hike. Just as we were setting off a couple, about our age, came down and said they hadn’t made it to the top because there was a big, angry snake on the trail that wouldn’t move. Safe to say I was terrified! But despite the news, we decided to go for it anyway.
The moutain was pretty steep and we were shattered by the time we got to the top but the views made it all worthwhile! We even saw two snakes near the peak which was awesome, especially seeing as though they slithered away from us; I’m not sure what I would have done if they had come towards us.
Actually, I am.
I would have run in the opposite direction and left James to fend for himself!
Three hours after putting on our hiking shoes we were back at the camper and ready to set off for Eden. After the amount of wildlife we had seen over the last couple of days we thought we’d seen it all. Turns out we were very much mistaken. As we were driving back down the dirt track a huge, and I mean HUGE, lace monitor lizard (much bigger than the one we saw earlier) casually crossed our path and made it’s way up the opposite embankment. We could not believe our eyes. It was so brazen and completely unfazed by us. Oh, and did I mention it was huge?!
All the excitement had made us hungry so we drove to Eden where James got the most humungous portion of fish and chips I think I’ve ever seen! Once he’d demolished the lot, we drove to find a campsite for the night where we were treated to even more wildlife as several wallabies pottered about on the grass outside our camper.
Our neighbours happened to be the couple we had passed at Mount Imlay and they were pleased to hear we hadn’t had any run-ins with the snakes!
To be continued…
What a fascinating read !!
Thank you Vicki!