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Exploring the Red Centre: Our Darwin to Melbourne Road Trip

Julian Morgans from Vice hit to road in for a campervan trip from Darwin in the Top End, through the Red Centre and all the way to the cosmopolitan city of Melbourne. Here’s how he describes this experience…

Darwin to Melbourne is a long way. Exactly 3,753 kilometres actually, which breaks down to a few hours each day, if you want to do it over the recommended three weeks. And this is exactly what I did with my girlfriend back in early June. We got the Hitop campervan from Travellers Autobarn and filled it with food, water, hiking equipment, and a whole bunch of glow sticks that we never actually used. And how was the trip? Magical. And do we have any particular recommendations? Oh, you bet we do.

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Pack Things You Actually Need

As mentioned, the glow sticks were a total waste of time. But strangely it was the last-minute items that really came in handy. In no particular order, I’ll HIGHLY RECOMMEND THE FOLLOWING ITEMS IN ALL CAPS:

  • Take an AUX cord because you’ll need music.
  • Take portable speakers because you’ll need music at night.
  • Take insect repellent, mosquito coils, and a mosquito net for the obvious reasons.
  • Take a hat, sunglasses, bathers and heaps of water. I’ve always found three litres per day, per person to be a good rule of thumb.
  • And unless you’re going in the middle of summer, take a million jackets, scarves, and jumpers. Because it’s the apparently-hot Australian outback, but the desert thermometer will plunge to subzero temperatures every single night.

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The NT Is Spectacular

We found the whole of the NT to be the most picturesque part of the trip. Nitmiluk National Park (Katherine Gorge) is utterly spectacular and open for swimming throughout the winter months. Also, the area is only home to freshwater crocs, which are the smaller and more timid cousins to the infamous saltwater variety. And do a dinner cruise if you can afford it. $200 gets you a five-course meal cruising down the river at sunset with wine. Incredible is an understatement.

Further south, and about two hours off the Stuart Highway, is the Iytwelepenty/Davenport Ranges National Park. This place is huge and beautiful, but fairly remote. If you want to camp by a pristine waterhole (also croc free) and have the place to yourself, check out Whistle Duck Creek.

Then of course, is Uluru. It’s very famous for a reason and you’ll be surprised how moving you’ll find it. But for the sake of karma or manners or whatever you believe in, maybe don’t climb it.

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Coober Pedy Is Very Weird

You know that town in Australia where people mine opals and live underground? That’s Coober Pedy. And to be clear, it’s really weird in a good, entertaining way and you should check it out.

You can get an underground motel room for about $120 a night, and you’ll find it surprisingly peaceful sleeping inside a rabbit warren. A lot of the underground buildings are former opal mines, but many are just designed to be buildings with pubs, restaurants, and churches all burrowed into the sandstone. John’s Pizza Bar & Restaurant is the best food in town and don’t forget to buy an opal. You’ll feel oddly fond of them after a day in Coober Pedy.

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The Best Part of Adelaide is the Barossa Valley

Australian wine is a big deal, and some of the best comes from the Barossa. Only an hour from the city you’ll find yourself among rolling hills and vineyards. If you’re on a budget just buy a bottle from a cellar door and a lump of Coon cheese. Then you set up the van’s outdoor table and watch the sun sink over the vines. It’s warm. It looks a bit like Tuscany—and it’s very much on the way to Melbourne.

Barossa-Valley

What’s the Best Thing to Do in Melbourne?

So look, I’m from Melbourne, which for some reason makes it hard to recommend things in my hometown. But if I was a visitor I’d eat lots of food (around Brunswick Street in Fitzroy), see some music (in exactly the same area), and possibly not bother with the Great Ocean Road. For some reason, tourists love that road. But it’s just a long and slightly unnerving drive along a cliff. And frankly, there are better bits to see Victoria’s beaches.

Like Wilsons Promontory. That’s the most southern part of mainland Australia and it’s an utterly pristine national park. Drive the three hours down from Melbourne down to the Prom, and then do the day hike to Sealers Cove if you want a private beach in the garden of Eden.

Wilsons-Promontory

And congratulations! You’ve just driven 3,753 kilometres from Darwin to Melbourne. And as promised you wore a lot of jumpers, used zero glow sticks, and had one of the most amazing experiences of your life. Or at least that’s what we did.

Looking to head out on a similar adventure to Julian’s? Travellers Autobarn has six locations around Australia, so you can travel north, south, or straight through the middle! Get a quote and start planning your trip today! 

This weeks blog comes from Mackenzie, winner of the World Nomads Travel Writing Scholarship 2016.

”I knew it was only a matter of time before I’d get lost in Oz. Someone had thought it was a swell idea to give an American a lefty manual camper van and send her into the Australian wilds with virtually no structure or cell service. The perpetual optimism of these people is astounding. There are no distances on any signs to Barrington Tops National Park. So when I was cruising down the east coast toward Sydney and I saw such a sign, it was like seeing a sign in Oregon for a national park in Canada. But I was a foreign fool, and knew not that Barrington Tops was in actuality several hours away, and a national park sounded pretty, so off I went inland, following a sign that said only “Barrington Tops follow Gloucester.” Two hours later I did make it to Gloucester, where no fewer than three people pulled up to my van and asked if I needed directions.

barrington-tops-journey

Maybe it was my furrowed brow over an outstretched map that called attention to me as an outsider. Or maybe it was the giant lumbering camper van with orange lettering reading TRAVELLERS AUTOBARN i.e. I’M A RAGING TOURIST SOMEONE SAVE ME on the side of said van. Who knows. It shall always remain a mystery. Off I went with fresh directions, this time down a one lane road heading into the deep green mountains. Can’t be far now! Then the road became a corduroy-patterned obstacle created for the sole purpose of rearranging your organs. So there I was, lurching and pitching through the perfect idyllic countryside–verdant hills, purple trees, cloudless sky, eucalyptus-scented air, when finally, the air became cooler and trees shady. I saw the official park sign. I had made it.

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The sun was going to set in 3 hours, and I’ll be damned if I leave without some sort of spectacular view, so I drove my jalopy higher still into the mountains for another 40 minutes, passing ‘roos, leg-sized lizards, wild black turkeys, and red foxes; but still no humans. I found a lookout with a trailhead and decided to go explore. As the sun got lower I considered turning back, until I heard the falling water. Following the noise further I came upon Gloucester Falls, a pretty spot for a picnic but time was against me and I raced the setting sun back to the safety of my van. It was all very lovely but nothing was living up to my expectations after the arduous adventure of getting here.

journey-barrington-tops

No sooner had the darkness settled and the bright full moon risen that I started hallucinating. It took a few moments for me to realize that the floating glowing dots I was seeing weren’t figments or fairies–they were fireflies. Fireflies! I had never seen them before, and within minutes I was surrounded by hundreds of them, bobbing and blinking in the pitch black. They were utter magic. Feeling less alone and wholly enchanted, I was able to fall asleep to the wild sounds of Barrington Tops, cocooned in floating lights.”

waterfall

Inspired to hire a campervan and road trip to Barrington Tops? It’s not too a far drive from Sydney, or you could detour on your way down from Brisbane. Head over to the Travellers Autobarn Website and get yourself a campervan quote!

Or, for more customer experience stories, head over to our blog!

Jess and Ben – an awesome couple from the UK – currently backpacking around the world – hired a campervan from Travellers Autobarn to drive up the East Coast from Sydney and back again: they share their epic adventure with us this week.

”The flight to Sydney had been pretty terrible, to be honest. The 8 hour flight from Kuala Lumpur to Sydney, overnight, had no in-flight entertainment, no food, no free drinks (including water) and no blankets to provide respite from the air conditioning which I assumed had been set to “English winter”, and my attire was suited to the hot Bangkok afternoon that we had set off in. I must also add, it’s very surreal walking around the airport and city in 30 degree weather seeing Christmas decorations everywhere whilst locals are dressed in their summer clothes.

Kuga Campervan

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This weeks blog article comes from the wonderful Rachel Brown Photo Blogger. Rachel is a single mum of three grown children and fully embracing the chance to travel now that they are older. Rachel hired a Station wagon from our Darwin branch to go and explore Kakadu National Park and shares her road trip adventure and photographs with us in this weeks blog.

Stationwagon hire

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This weeks blog post comes from the awesome Courtney from Toronto, who went on an epic campervan trip from Darwin to Perth in September/ October 2016. We are stoked to hear that she loved her Kuga campervan – nothing makes us happier than our road trippers having an awesome time! She shares her adventure with us and describes what van life means to her.

Van Life is so special. There is so much romance built up around van life and it’s all so freakin right! I don’t know how to describe it without being so so cheesy, but then again some of my friends actually call me cheesy court. There is just something so refreshing, liberating, freeing and exciting about van life. Everything we need is in this van, got our fridge, our vino, our bed, some books, a journal, a good playlist and each other.

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Our Marketing Coordinator, Tasia, did this drive last year with friends and shares her epic road trip adventure!

Get inspired and trade your boring office job for the dusty roads of the outback, the laid-back cities or the beautiful beaches of Australia. Welcome to our series ‘On the road with’, where we chat to customers about their experience with a Travellers Autobarn campervan. This time we caught up with Helen, a young backpacker from Norway that just returned from her road trip down the East Coast of Australia in a Kuga Campervan.

Name: Helen (24), Sofie (24) and Live (22)
Country of residence: Oslo, Norway
Total days on the road: 21 days
Type of camper: Kuga Campervan

G’day! Tell us a bit about yourselves
We are three girls from Oslo. We are backpacking around Australia to experience everything crazy we can’t do back home in Norway. In Norway we call it “ut av deg sjæl opplevelse” (out of yourself experience).

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Photo by @helen2710 (via IG)

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Get inspired and trade your boring office job for the dusty roads of the outback, the laid-back cities or the beautiful beaches of Australia. Welcome to our series ‘On the road with’, where we chat to customers about their experience with a Travellers Autobarn campervan. This time we caught up with Brian, a German travel photographer that just returned from his epic road trip down the East Coast of Australia.

Name: Brian B.
Country of residence: Hamburg, Germany.
Total days on the road: 60 days.

My name is Brian, I’m 29 years old and originally from Hamburg, Germany. I usually go on holidays in Europe but my girlfriend took some time off after she finished studying. She asked me if I wanted to travel Australia and New Zealand with her for 2 months. How can I say no to that?

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A day in the life of a backpacker.

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You wake up at the unthinkable time of 7am due to the sunshine flooding in the windows. You try to go back to sleep, but you can’t. The day is beckoning!

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Oh Ningaloo! Three hundred kilometres of stunning coastline and a wildlife encounter to rival any bucket list item: swimming with a whale shark! The road less travelled apparently offers the better memories and well, what can I say: it does!

I just got back from my Western Australia trip in a campervan last week and I simply loved it! Still dreaming about the white sand dunes around Lancelin (good sand boarding!), the moon-like Pinnacles desert and of course one of the highlights, Cape Range National Park where kangaroos, koalas and turtles wait for you and where you can snorkel the 300km long Ningaloo Reef (World Heritage listed fringing reef for its outstanding beauty and biological diversity) which in no way should be less famous than the Great Barrier Reef – I want to fly back TODAY and do it all again and again and again…

After snorkelling on its coral forests for a couple of days, I cannot imagine there being a healthier coral reef system anywhere on the planet. Nor one that draws such abundant marine life! I could talk hours about my memories but I will try to put it all in a nutshell and leave the West Coast for you to explore yourself and make your own memories. Just make sure if you do, that you travel in the season (April – July) to swim with a whale shark, animals that can grow up to 12m in length and are the biggest fish in the sea – a gentle giant AND vegetarian so don’t panic!

Roadtripping from Perth to the Ningaloo Reef must be on your bucket item list for Australia – and it doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg when you travel by campervan. There are many cheap places you can camp overnight along the route and it’s so remote and diverse that you will just love it!

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