Our first trip away caravan in NZ, Bay of Islands Jazz Festival

Last weekend was our first trip away in the caravan since we shipped it to NZ from Australia. Middle of winter in New Zealand so not the best time of year to be in the caravan, but the weather gods were kind to us and we had a few good days while we were away. The photo above is the wharf at Paihia, and the one below is the beach on the way to the wharf from our camping ground.

We went to the Bay of Islands Jazz and Blues Festival . This festival has been going 30 years or so but we never knew about it until my brother in-law mentioned they were going up with friends.  What a great weekend and great festival. Well worth the $60 weekend pass to the festival. It has been many years since we have been to Paihia, it has a lot more interesting eating places now.

One of the many bands playing was Midge Marsden with Chet O’Connell, it was the best we have ever heard him. Steve was delighted as we used to go see him every year at the Auckland “ Music in the Parks” at Blockhouse Bay in Auckland many years ago.

Another really good band was a Japanese band called Chihiro Yamazaki + Route 14 Band. Really interesting and a bit different from what we had seen before. So many bands playing and so many of them from overseas. Most of them were great, a few we didn’t like that much. Some venues were better than others.

The bands played in various venues, some were pubs, one a conference rooms, and a couple of sports clubs around Paihia and Russell, the bands played from midday till about 9 or 10pm and rotated around the venues. There was a free bus traveling the route which we didn’t use much as we walked most of the time. We felt very virtuous, until the last day when we were a bit over walking and waited for the bus to take us back to the camping ground.

We stayed at the Paihia Campervan park about a 20 to 30 minute walk from the Paihia township.  The sites were boggy, really boggy, felt like I needed my gum boots. The site behind us was worse, pleased our site was ok out the front of the caravan.

The interesting thing about NZ camping grounds is that there are no sullage points at each sites like there is in Australia. You are expected to have a grey water tank and empty it at their sullage dump point. In this camping ground the sullage dump point was also the black water (toilet dump) dump spot. All very odd. In Australia the toilet dump points are separate. 

The other interesting thing is that there are not water connections for every site. In this camping ground we had to fill our water tanks using their long hoses that they have scattered around the camping ground. No kitchen, just a bbq shelter and outdoor sinks behind the office. We also had to pay $2 for a shower. In comparison Australian camping grounds offer much more for your money.

The other thing we discovered was that the power connection points are different. Good thing we discovered this the day before we left Auckland so we could change the plug end on our power cord.

On the way up to the Bay of Islands we stopped overnight in Whangarei to break the three and half hour drive.  We stayed at a Top 10 park next to a national park that had good walking and bike tracks in the bush and along the river. 

 

The Whangarei Top 10 caravan park had one water tap for 4 sites, the showers were free, great amenties, great location. Small caravan park.

On the Monday we drove straight back to Auckland rather than stop overnight as a storm front was meant to be coming up to Northland. 

 

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Reflections on our 2 year trip around Australia

As my sisters and some of my friends know I didn’t want to travel around Australia in a caravan, nor did I think it would take us two years. I thought Steve was crazy and I had hoped he would flag this dream of his. 

Upon reflection I enjoyed the trip and I am pleased we did it. We saw much more of Australia traveling this way rather than a “fly in and out” sort of holiday as I suggested. We had time to stay longer at places we enjoyed because we had no timetable, apart from weather constrictions and pesky school holidays filling the camping grounds.  We saw some amazing places.

Two years travelling was not really enough time to see all of Australia, so many places we didn’t visit. I understand now why we meet people who had been on the road for 7 years or more and were still travelling, and now I no longer think Steve was crazy. It took me about a year to really adjust to this life style, it wasn’t until we got to the Northern Territory that I got more comfortable with the life style. There a a lot of grey nomads in Australia, it is a way of life for many.

The places I enjoyed the most.

Cable Beach in Broom, top of Western Australia. No beach view at this camping ground but it was a short walk to the beach to watch the sunset and the camels and all the people and cars on the beach. A very popular place, so many people. This is where the large numbers of Grey Nomads migrate to over winter.

80 Mile Beach, Western Australia. Nothing there apart from an endless beach covered in shells, a camping ground, fishermen. Can really chill out here as now where else to go. No beach view from the camping ground but a short stroll over the sand dune to the beach.

Coral Bay, Ningaloo Reef, Western Australia. If you like snorkelling off the beach straight over soft coral this is the place to go. No view from the caravan park we stayed at, but a short walk over the road to the pristine stunning beach. If you want to pay prime dollar for a site with sea view views there is another camping ground down the road. Fresh drinking water in limited supply in this township so make sure you take plenty of fresh water. And the place is very popular so have to book in the high season. If you like snorkelling then the Ningaloo Reef is a must visit. There were some great looking National Parks camping grounds near Exmouth that were on the doorstep of the reef. 

Cotton Tree Camping ground in Maroochydore, Queensland. If you pay prime dollar you can get a water view site in this mega camping ground. Very popular as a weekend spot for the locals, be prepared for the camping ground being over run with kids in the weekends.  I liked it here because of the proximity to the water, the weather was hot so I swam every day. A water toy playground. I also liked it because it was walking distance to a shopping centre and cafes.

South West Rocks, New South Wales. Most sites in this rather basic camping ground had water views, either of the beach, or the river. Too cold for me to swim while we were there, but stunning views. Close to a shopping centre, cafes, pubs. 

Kakadu, near Darwin,  Northern Territory. The highlight of this place was the Ubirr, the aboriginal rock art and the stunning views from the top of the rocks. The camping ground itself was also good with a resort style pool that I swam in during the hot afternoons.

The Pinnacles near Cervantes, North of Perth, Western Australia.  A must visit National Park, surreal landscape.

 

There were many more places that were great, but the ones I mentioned were foremost in my memory. And the more I re-read this the more places i want to add to my list.

Regrets

We should have spent more time exploring Victoria and New South Wales, but at the time we were travelling through them when the weather was cold and we wanted to get up to Queensland for the warmer weather.

We didn’t spend much time up in the rural places or the tablelands as we stuck to the coast where ever possible. I do like the sea rather than the bush. 

We didn’t do any free camping. We didn’t really see any that looked very interesting in Queensland, but there a lot more interesting free camping spots in Northern Territory, Western Australia and South Australia. I liked the luxury of the flush loos, power and water in caravan parks too much to want to rough it, but there were a few free camping places that we saw that would have been amazing to wake up in.

The amenities

Some of you may have noticed that the state of the camping ground amenities were important to me. In general the amenities were ok in most places and stunning in a few. The guests more often than not were the problem rather than the cleaning standards of the caravan park.  But in some places the actual caravan site, town, location or the views made any substandard amenities irrelevant. For example Coral Bay, it didn’t matter that we could not hook up to fresh water, or that we showered in salty water every day, or even that we didn’t have a view from our caravan site, the location was stunning.


What I disliked the most

The whole idea of towing a caravan, the travelling, and directing Steve onto a caravan site. 

Steve did all the driving, we only drove for a couple of hours on most trips, apart from a few longer trips. After a year of Steve driving we both agreed that if I drove it would be way too stressful and unsafe for both of us.

I hated directing Steve onto a site, it took both of us over a year to get better at this team work. It played havoc with my gut for the first year or so. A great way to loose weight. 

Steve’s backing skills improved tenfold and I was able to give better instructions by the end of our two year trip. It was funny, in some tight spots that took a bit of manoeuvring to get into that people came over to tell us what a great job we did. Still stressful. Everyone watches the new arrivals in Caravan parks, the afternoon entertainment. When someone does a bad job I feel a bit better about our skills  and I applaud those who ace it first time. I am not looking forward to directing Steve when it is time for us to move the caravan onto our driveway as it is narrow, more narrow than a caravan site, and Steve won’t have visual sight of the driveway as it is on an incline.. No wiggle room.

I disliked having to visit a doctor every month to get my blood tested, I wish now I had changed to a different blood thinner that didn’t need a blood test every month. It was much easier in the more remote towns as the doctors had the finger prick test which meant I got an instant result and I didn’t need to go to a lab.

NZ, and a house

We are now back in NZ, we are still waiting on our household stuff to arrive from Australia. It is taking much longer than the caravan and the ute. The caravan is now in a storage place while we sort out the overhanging trees beside our driveway. We are busy cleaning up our house and property after having tenants in it for 8 years. The garden needs a lot of work to get it back to the state we left it in. Most the house is ok, apart from the dusty lampshades, the dog hair everywhere, the curtains that have never been cleaned or even vacuumed. But the worse of it as I discovered yesterday was the rangehood, so full of fat and very difficult to clean. Steve pulled off the wall yesterday to make it easier to clean. Still hard work.

We have yet to buy a lawn mower and the lawns grow longer every day, but anyway enough of this. What I am trying to say is that I had forgotten how much work there is in owning a house with a large garden. Our mini herb garden in the caravan was much easier, and the housework was much easier and quicker in a caravan. And it is cold in Auckland at the moment and our house is cold, like 3C inside our house at 10am yesterday, oh to be back in warmer places.

I am looking forward to our own laundry, and our large vege garden once we get it restablished.

 

 

 

 

Mornington, Victoria

Our last stop before we head home to NZ was Mornington. About an hours drive from Melbourne. Nice town, beautiful looking coast and beaches.

The jetty in Mornington:

The other side of the coastline:

The township was busy, full of people, cars, traffic, lots of eating places. We stopped for lunch one day at a very nice Japanese fusion cafe. Brilliant food. We had tried going to the cafe down by the jetty, but all the carparks were taken so we ended back in the main shopping strip.

We stayed at the Mornington Gardens Holiday Village a few kms out of the main town. A very nice place though some of the drive thru sites looked a bit tight, but our site was extra large. Fantastic library at the camping ground. Most of the park was housing, felt a bit like a retirement village.

We spent most of our ten days here cleaning the caravan and the ute and the mats etc in preparation for going to NZ. Hopefully we have cleaned everything enough to pass the customs inspection. But I am sure there will be something we have missed. A little bit frustrating as autumn leaves were constantly falling on the caravan after we had washed them all off. We are hoping the wind on our trip into Melbourne blew off any stray leaves. Steve is a brillant planner and organised everything down to what we did each day in prep for the move back to NZ.

We may have a small caravan, but it took a lot of work to get all the dirt off after being on the road for two years. What surprised us was that the silicon came up white again after we washed off the red dirt from up north. We gave our gas tanks away to a fellow resident as the tanks could not come with us. 

We delivered the caravan to a towing company near the port, they took it to the port as we were not allowed to drive into the port.

Then we spent three nights in Melbourne at the Mantra Melbourne Central on Little Bourke St, on the first day it felt rather odd and the streets were way too busy after spending so much time in small towns. But by the second day I was beginning adapt to all the people around. The crowd of people around Flinders and in the underpass to the Southbank footbridge is amazing, I had forgotten about the crush at the train station on the commute.

Great food hall in the Emporium shopping centre next door to the hotel, we went to Dainty Sichuan for dinner one night and shared a wonton soup. 

We met up with some of Steves old work mates and some of my old work mates, we checked out the Arbory bar next to Flinders and the Beer Deluxe. Steve tried a few beers.

Interesting hotel. It is an old building converted to apartments. The apartment had a decent size lounge and kitchenette, but small bedroom and very awkward access to the bathroom as the bedroom door and the bathroom doors clashed. One door had to be shut to get thru the other door. The room also didn’t have any natural light as the frosted windows opened out into a narrow light well between buildings. We would not stay there again, but the location was fantastic.

 I loved the entry doors to the apartments.

 

Fantastic flight home, we got brilliant seats in front of the bulkhead so heaps of leg room and no need to squeeze past anyone. Even our trip out of the NZ airport thru customs was amazingly fast. 

We are now back in NZ, busy organising our move back into our house. That is going to be a shock to the system having a house and a large garden. Our Household stuff doesn’t arrive back till early June by the time it clears customs,  so we are staying at my sisters place again. Loving it.

 

 

Apollo Bay to Torquay, Great Ocean Road, Victoria

Apollo Bay was a very nice place.

We chose to stay at the Apollo Bay Holiday Park park close to the township rather than the Big4 which was a couple of km down the road. It was a great location and was a couple of minutes down the road to the beach or the township. Great walkways along the  foreshore. The caravan park was a small caravan park and not many sites, mostly cabins. Great facilites, but very small sites. The neighbours were very close. It suited us for the two night stay. We stopped here because it broke the drive up from Port Campbell, and there was a brewery up on the hills that Steve wanted to visit. 

The Forrest Brewery was a 40 minuted drive inland thru the forest to a town called Forrest. Nice little town with a general store and the brewery. The town was busier than we expected and the brewery had a several customers. We stopped there for lunch and a beer tasting then drove the long way back thru the Ottoway Forest. Very narrow winding roads.

The drive along the Great Ocean road to Torquay was slow, winding, multiple road works with single lanes. Spectacular views! The odd thing was that there no overtaking lanes or even cut outs for the drive going towards Melbourne. Plenty if you were travelling in the opposite direction from Melbourne. Lots of tourist buses on the road.

Sorry about the bad photo, but there was no where to stop safely. We drove thru Lorne and we were going to stop there for a break but the place was so busy and we could not find a place to park with the caravan in tow.

In Torquay we stayed at the Torquay Foreshore Caravan Park, close to the township, the beach and a pub brewery. A no frills beachy caravan park. A very large caravan park but filled with mostly permenant holiday caravans. We chose to have a beach site which was sandy and grassy, behind a sand dune to the beach and a famous surf beach. So many surfers out there hoping to catch a wave.

 

 

Great walks along the top of the cliff edge and along multiple beaches. Steve wonders why we never discovered this place while we lived in Melbourne for 6 years.

While we were here the weather was kind to us and we got some wind free sunlight. We even had a site that had sun morning and afternoon. The nights were cold though and it took a while for the caravan to warm up in the mornings.

Shock horror, we decided to stay for an extra night and because it was a weekend night the cost jumped up to $50 a night. Mmm

A couple of days ago we left Torquay and headed to Melbourne. We have a week to get the caravan ready for a boat trip to NZ. Lots of scrubbing to do after two years on the road. Our days are busy cleaning. We are staying bit out of Melbourne so no trips into the city until we drop the caravan off at the shipping depot.

 

 

 

 

 

Port Campbell and Twelve Apostles, Great Ocean Rd, Victoria

Port Campbell is a nice little town, has the basics. We arrived the day after the storm and the sea was quite wild.

I think in calmer weather the sea may flat by the looks of the historic photos on foreshore. The life guards here have abseiling training as park of their job to rescue people from the cliff edges.  I imagine the beach would be great in summer.

We stayed at the camping ground in town which was a stones throw from the beach and the township. Not a bad place, showers had great water pressure. For some reason we were as far away from the loos as one could get, and on a site that was a fraction too short. But no one behind us so all good. Weather was not great and it was still blowing a gale. The caravan rocked a bit with the wind as we were side onto the wind again but at least this time the door was sheltered from the wind. Just a head wind walking the 100 odd steps to the loos.

Port Campbell is close to the Twelve Apostles so a popular spot for tourists and the reason we decided to stay here for two nights.

Fantastic spectacular sea cliffs around here. We did the tourist thing and drove to the Twelve Apostles. I didn’t realise how busy and popular it was. They have very large car park, which was full of cars, and about 10 tourist buses in while we were there. The walkway was busy.

We also stopped at a few other popular places.

London Bridge:

The Arch:

 

 Me all rugged up:

The Grotto

There was a bit of a foodie tourist route as well with several diary companies that had cheese tasting, a chocolate place, and of course a craft Brewery, we gave the snail farm a miss, and we didn’t do the whole route. The whole route was listed as 5 hours driving! 

Sow and Piglets Breweries:

So we had a pretty full on day driving around to some of these places.

The sun came out for a brief while this afternoon, we were a bit lonely down this end of the park.

This morning the wind had died down and we headed off towards Melbourne. The site proved as difficlut to get off as it was to get on because of the deep storm water gully and the height of the road. Bottomed out driving forward so we backed out of the site. Even the ute bottomed out when Steve tried to back out to get try and hitched up. 

Very winding and narrow roads thru native forest. Was a slow trip with the caravan in tow.  Inching closer to Melbourne.

 

Port Fairy, Great Ocean Road, Victoria

Beautiful little town, the port itself is in the river where it is protected from the wild seas there were a couple of squid boats amongst all the boats.. The first few days the weather was lovely. 

On this side of Griffiths Island the beach is lovely, we watched the learner surfers while we ate our Bacon and egg roll from the cafe.

On the other side of the island it is all rock and pounding waves and is where the experienced surfers hang out.

 

The photo above was taken the day before a nasty storm hit Australia. I wonder if it was the same storm that hit NZ? A camping ground person came around it all its guests to warn us of the impeding storm and potential for damaging winds. By that time we had already pulled in our awning and packed everything away. The Southcombe camping ground was not very busy and we had our choice of over 300 sites.  The camping ground was close to the island and there were plenty walks from there. The downside to the camping ground was that it was on the wild side of the island so it got the full force of the winds.

The township was an easy walk across the sports ground to the town centre. Lots of old buildings.

The island was accessible by a causeway, and took us about an hour to complete the circuit. From September to March Shearwater birds nest on the island, they had gone by the time we were there.

We ended up staying an extra day there because we didn’t want to travel on the day the storm hit. We spent the day in the caravan and going to amenities between the rain breaks. I spent some of my day knitting. Relearning how to knit cable.

 The caravan rocked a bit because we were side on to the wind.

 

The weather had calmed down a bit yesterday so we headed a bit closer to Melbourne. Weather still not that great, wind is howling and it keeps raining.

 

 

 

 

 

Port MacDonnell, Limestone Coast, South Australia

After Robe we drove a couple of hours along the coast to Port MacDonnell. Port MacDonnell is a small fishing town and lobster catching town. Laid back, relaxing and friendly.

As much as I liked the township of Robe it was such a relief to arrive in a caravan park that had large sites and hardly anyone there. The gentleman at the caravan park thought about what site would suit us, and the direction of the wind that was very strong that day. Very welcoming. We stayed at the Port MacDonnell Foreshore Tourist Park, a basic park but well laid out with hedges between every two sites. We were tucked in behind a sand dune with the sound of the waves crashing onto the beach behind us. Lovely and peaceful.

 

Below is a photo of the beach, lots of seaweed on the beach but less by the park. There was a strong smell of decomposing seaweed on the day we arrived with the strong winds stiring up the smell,  but it was tolerable and added to the seaside village experience.

The park even had its own sunset on our first night.

We only spent two nights here, so on our second day we drove into Mount Gambier which as only 20 minutes or so away to stock up on our supplies. The Foodland in Robe was so expensive, and my favourite 70% Lindt Chocolate was $5.11 there, shock horror! Coles in Mount Gambier had it on special for $3.50, a much better price.

The Blue lake in Mount Gambier was looking splendid that day:

In the afternoon we drove out to the ruins of the old lighthouse in Port MacDonnell, spectactular views, and fantastic walkways all along the coast for miles.

Today we leave Port MacDonnell and will cross the border into Victoria.

The blue dot on the map is Port Macdonnell.

 

Ps the camping ground got busier yesterday afternoon and we actually had a neighbour or two last night.