The slow life has been incredible so far. We enjoy the days as they come, free camping and unforgettable experiences. With lots of van lifers from all walks of life, different countries or cities, each sharing their story around the campfire, it is where we hear of hidden oases to explore ourselves. We are so grateful for these moments and the recommendations, with lots of off-beaten-track gems and some small towns we would have missed otherwise.
I last left you in Tasmania. It was like walking back in time with its unspoiled landscapes, friendly humble eco people and a very chilled vibe.
Lachlan retuned to Japan for work, while Riley and I stayed behind in Melbourne, which was a great opportunity for my grandparents to visit. They flew in from New Zealand to spend some time with Riley and also see my cousin’s family in Melbourne.
I booked a little beach shack on the Mornington Peninsula that was 10 minutes back from the beach. We didn’t have great weather but we loved the time spent together. When the sun did make an appearance, we dashed to the beach for a good splash and play – such a sight to see my grandmother at the age of 79 swing Riley about in the sea and chase him along the beach.
We spent our nights quietly walking along the jetty watching the locals nab squid and whitebait over the edge. This inlet has so many great little spots for families to enjoy, lots of parks dotted along the shoreline that offer wonderful places to sit and enjoy some fresh fish and chips on the water’s edge.
Sadly, I received terrible news from home. My mother was admitted into ICU. Without hesitation we all pack up and head to see her in New Zealand. A flight plus a drive south to Whakatane soon found us in her arms. Riley instantly puts a smile on mum’s face and we are certain she will heal soon. With lots of kisses and cuddles we say goodbye and head back to my grandparents.
Back from our quick trip to NZ and needing to catch up on some time, we make a beeline for the Great Ocean Road. The last time we were here, we hired a kombi from our friends at Hire a Kombi and buzzed around for a few days. It is great to return as we had missed some spots and want to revisit others.
We normally free camp but decide to spend the night at Wye River campground. We rate their campground highly, with large sites on the river’s edge, personal fire drums, a playground and clean facilities.
The next day we slowly trek along to Apollo Bay where we agree to stay for the night – it turns out to be a good move with a huge storm passing through. The weather worsens and continues to head along our trail, and we battle along to Port Campbell, camping at the NRMA Holiday Park for the night with heavy wind and rain giving us a beating. It is another great campground with a large camp kitchen and a shared living room for Riley to play. Both times we have been here it has sadly had torrential rain – not showcasing the town too well, but still a great pie!
Warrnambool reminds me a lot of my hometown Rotorua” in New Zealand. Also famous for its geothermal activity, it boasts stunning lakes with natural hot pools. This busy coastal town is pretty, even on a cold rainy day. With the storm heads for us, we opt to stay and seek shelter.
As the storm batters the area and our very mini window wipers struggle to sweep away the rain, we bunker down at the Deep Blue Water Resort.
SCORE! This hotel has a thermal bath house, a nice indoor pool for Riley to have some swimming lessons with dad. To my excitement there’s also a washer and dryer, which I am desperate to get loaded, and stunning views of the ocean. We hit the local fish and chip shop for dinner, enjoy some telly and a hot bath.
Two days later, feeling fresh and the sun peeking through, we pack up and stock up, hoping to make South Australia’s Adelaide. Our first stretch finds us in the little town of Murray Bridge. It’s late, after a long drive, and we find a small Thai restaurant to feed our hungry boy and get cosy for bed.
The next day we visit the little German town of Hahndorf; I can’t resist a stroll through this quaint little energetic 19th century town. It’s bursting with life on this sunny winter Sunday with families giggling and enjoying their coffees. The Seasonal Garden Cafe calls us, a dreamy lush outdoor area with little tables spread throughout the colourful garden. I can imagine the weddings they must have here. Desperate to park here for life, we double up on coffees and eat green egg buddha bowls, while Riley runs amuck until we drag ourselves out.
After the loveliest day, we are happy and excited to be off to see our good friend’s parents, John and Frances, awaiting our arrival in Adelaide. You can hear Izzie from a mile away, making our arrival a little less discreet, but we are welcomed with giant warm smiles into John and Frances’ home and a beautifully home-cooked lunch awaits us – it feels like home. Riley cheekily plays around the pool and, running like a bull, makes himself at home.
We have been invited to stay for a few nights in their lovely pool house – what an absolute treat! That night the five of us go into the city of Adelaide for a few wines and nibbles, before returning home for dinner.
The next day Izzie is off for a new part and a quick look-over, so John and I take a walk along the water to enjoy a morning coffee – sometimes a challenge with a busy boy. Not long after, we return home to meet Lock and head off to the Barossa Valley. John packs up the car and offers to be our tour guide. Spoiled, I know!
Our drive is a little over an hour, and we approach the valley as the afternoon sun is delicately bestrewed across the vines. It’s undoubtedly beautiful, and already I see why this area holds the wine crown — and I haven’t had a sip yet.
I have loved Maggie Beer since I was a teenager, so first stop is her farmhouse. We check out her on-set kitchen, have a nibble on her famous handmade goods and buy a few treats to take away. Off to find wine, John spots Kaesler winery and pulls in at their cellar door. It is beyond words and we score a taste of their premium “Ole Bastard” (shiraz) in awe! Sadly, the price tag doesn’t suit our budget.
Moving along with little time in the day, we stop in at Saltram for a connoisseur moment and a gelato for Riley, then quickly drive on to Lachlan’s all time fave, Yalumba. It’s an experience we will never forget: warm and inviting winemakers, sky-high open dwellings, a fireplace and every parents’ dream – a play area. We spend a good hour here learning about heritage wines, winemakers and enjoying cheese.
The day is closing in and a long drive awaits us, so we hit the road after an unforgettable day. Frances is home with a lovely home-cooked dinner and excited to hear about our tour. We could happily stay in their warm company for a lifetime, but the road is calling and we are tracking slightly behind. An early morning pack-up, a sad goodbye and off we go. We head for Port Wakefield to catch up with our friends who lived in Tokyo with us.
A pie in the park meet-up isn’t enough, so we reconvene at Seppletsfield in the Barossa to spend the night camping with our friends. We find a good spot in Seppletsfield with camp cabins by palm trees, a wicked camp fire, farm animals and a playground. The next day we plan another wine tour together with our friends in Izzie. Some great finds include kids play areas, an indulgence of wine and a sprinkle of antipasto.
We head to the little town for supplies to cook up a camp meal before heading back. Such a great night, sat around the fire yarning and stirring the casserole over mighty fine wine while baby slept!
In the blink of an eye we are off, and somehow I direct us along the coastal road completely in the wrong direction — oops! This is kinda standard for me. Lucky we are well stocked and we can enjoy a roadside lunch before arriving in our next little town.
We often eat lunch on the road. I like to carry non-perishables like wholegrain wraps and tins of tuna. Our little fridge does well too, keeping fresh fruit and veg crisp for up to three days without charge. We recently bought solar panels that help boost our power, too. Riley loves smoothies and we found an awesome USB 12-volt blender – score!!! This way I can whiz up smoothies while camping for my little fussy eater. Our little kitchen also has a sink with running water and a mini pantry. We had USB ports put in and an extra battery.
We finally make it to Wallaroo, park and check out this historic little town located on the west of the Yorke Peninsula. It’s an area renowned for fishing and dolphin sightings, but the rain doesn’t hold which sadly lowered the chance of a dolphin spotting. We spend the night anyway.
Rain greets us again as we head along the peninsula to Corny Point, thankfully clearing as we arrive. The road to the beach camp spot is metal and a bit hard on the ole girl, but she manages well and is happy to arrive at our snug little spot underneath the trees. A little climb over the sand dunes and we are at the beach.
After the months we have had on the road, I can now proudly say I can solo set up our camp in 20 minutes. We figured early on that is was easier if Lock takes Riley off to find firewood and search for bugs, keeping him out of the way while I get things organised.
We are all set up in our little nook. For sunset we head to the dunes, spark a fire for marshmallows and enjoy the last of the daylight. There is really nothing better than watching the sun slowly fade after a big but good day.
The next morning calls for beach walks, dirt plays and outdoor adventures before moving on to our next little gem. Our spot was great, but overnight it has completely filled up with a massive crowd of protestors — while we agreed with their movement we wanted to just chill.
So onwards we go, and the next little slice of heaven is the Innes National Park, a beautiful stretch of coastal paradise. Driving along we spot a herd of emus — excitedly we pull up to show Riley, completely forgetting our ole girl’s engine isn’t the quietest and scares them off. Gosh though, in that moment it was beautiful to see wildlife so close.
The Innes National Park is huge. We head to all the main sights and book our spot, recommended by the ranger, and can you believe it there isn’t a soul in sight and no reception – just us, the stars and our popping fire. The sky is pure magic and practically pink by sundown. We bath Riley by the fire and cook dinner — make our bed, snuggle in for a bedtime story and kiss him goodnight. That night Lock and I sit up fire gazing and planning our days ahead.
We reach Port Augusta, the main town before the Nullarbor Plain. Lunch is a fancy Subway sandwich before pulling into Discovery Holiday Park to power up for the next few days.
At 5am the next morning, my birthday kicks off with daddy smiling and holding a big store-bought cake, balloons, coffee and peanut butter for date dipping, and Riley slobbers me with kisses.
We hit the road, unsure of what is ahead, but it’s a great start with sunny weather and quiet roads. Streaky Bay is our next stop. We aren’t there for very long, but what we see leaves a lasting impression – pink sunsets and waterfront at the Discovery Park campsite. Our powered site is lovely and we build a fire on the beach directly in front of our spot. Riley goes nuts at the playground before his bath in the baby room that is fitted with a real tub — so both Riley and I jump in. We end my magical birthday with fresh-shucked oysters from the local followed by fish and chips from the onsite store, and a splurge on red wine matched with a sunset to forever dream about.
At first light we head off, another big day ahead and sad to leave the most perfect campsite thus far. A quick fuel-up and coffee. We make the straight, hitting Yalata at the eastern end of the treeless plains by 1pm where we are ready for a break and pull into the Nullarbor Conservation Reserve. We love the old fuel house, and while we let Riley free for a burn, I have a quick $1 hot clean shower before we start the crossing to WA, aiming to make Eucla which is a further 2½ hours away.
Eucla is the border of South Australia and Western Australia, and we are stopped at a customs check point and mainly searched for prohibited food items such as onions and garlic, then sent on our way. The tiny town of Eucla has an incredible history including, for laughs, the Nullarbor Nymph. Aside from this, the little town has little to offer and is pretty creepy at that. We stay on as it is dark and nab a spot to camp for $50. We would have free camped and did check a few spots, but they were on cliff edges which were amazing, just not toddler friendly.
Our little van and toddler both tend to attract dirt and mess, so I take the opportunity to shower and wash both baby and the kombi before settling in to watch a movie together. Lock is knackered from driving all day long and is out like a light.
The camp is full of campers all jetting across the straight, and thankfully all leaving first thing. We join them. The straight is incredible at this time of the morning – the red dirt runs for miles and miles, and against the morning sunrise it is simply stunning. A coffee stop at the Mundrabilla Roadhouse along the Eyre Highway is a must — the ladies in there make a good B&E and have a kids’ corner for little ones to play in.
Today we are pushing to make it to Esperance. We have limited time to get to Perth to catch a flight to Sydney for a wedding and have zero time to sightsee.
Never happy to be on the road nearing dusk, we roll into the waterfront town and pull into the local pub hoping for a quick dinner. Riley runs rings at the pub with built-up energy and enjoys his apple juice.
With much hesitation, we agree to book a room due to our late arrival – setting up camp in the dark when tired can tip you over. We wake fresh and early to enjoy a walk along the water and little town. We have big plans for Esperance and get to it quickly, checking out Cape Le Grand National Park’s Hellfire Bay and Lucky Bay.
Our ole girl makes it onto the crunchy sand, saving us from lugging lunch to the beach — it was perfect ham and cheese sandwiches and a cold brew on the sand! The water here is unbelievable, crystal clear and turquoise blue. We spend the night, and though it’s gusty and busy with building new facilities, it is unbeatable.
Sadly, that’s it, and we are racing to catch our flight from Perth to Sydney. Izzie is cleaned and stripped then stored safely, and our hearts are heavy as we head to the airport.