Part Two: Lap of Australia

RACQ’s Fleet and Business Sales Manager John Stark shares the story of his six-month caravan journey around Australia with his family.

Distance  37,500 kilometres 
Travel time  Six months
Time of year  September - March
Vehicle type  Mitsubishi Triton and 23-foot caravan

Highlights

 Museum Age of Dinosaurs in Winton, Tree of Knowledge in Barcaldine, Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, Devils Marbles south of Tennant Creek, Lake Argyle in the Kimberley, Broome and Exmouth in Western Australia and swimming with sea lions at Port Lincoln.
Missed opportunities

 Lawn Hill, Blue Mountains

Fuel used  6000 litres of fuel, $8750
Fuel consumption  16-22 litres per 100km (varied due to weather and road quality)
Most expensive fuel stop  $1.99 per litre in Uluru, Northern Territory
Best Apps  Wiki, Fuel Map and Spotify
Most used items  BBQ, car fridge and UHF radio
Most wished for items  Washing machine and coffee machine 

Road trip marked on a map of Australia

After conquering a road trip through the top half of Australia (refer to Part One: Lap of Australia) RACQ Fleet and Business Sales Manager John Stark, his wife Tracey and 10-year-old son Cooper knew their epic adventure would soon come to an end.

The second half of the road trip was a completely different experience as they drove the coastline from Exmouth in Western Australia (WA) back to Brisbane in their Mitsubishi Triton towing a 23-foot long caravan.

With an aim to see as many new places as possible, they avoided the big cities and headed straight to Coral Bay to explore Ningaloo Reef.  From there they visited the Carnarvon Space and Technology Museum, the Point Quobba Blowholes and Shell Beach (a Shark Bay World-heritage site) to see the remarkable Hamelin Pool Stromatolites, where they saw the oldest and largest living fossils on earth. They also explored the Francois Peron National Park and handfed dolphins on the beach at Monkey Mia.

The family fell in love with WA’s spectacular National Parks, coastline cliffs, white sandy beaches, fairy floss sunsets and tropical reefs. Their next big stop was Perth where they could rest and replenish their supplies. At this point in the trip the Starks were two weeks ahead of schedule meaning they could explore some inland tracks between Perth and Albany. They climbed Mt Frankland and tackled the Granite Skywalk in the Porongurup National Park before heading to Margaret River for Christmas.

The family had pre-booked a 10-day stay in Margaret River knowing accommodation would be scarce over the holiday season. John described Margaret River as a sleepy coastal town with plenty of amazing breweries and wineries. They treated themselves to fresh local seafood, desserts from The Margaret River Chocolate Co and The Margaret River Dairy Company. They also visited the four underground caves in the area which were more than one million years old.

From there they travelled through Albany to Esperance via Wave Rock. Cape Le Grand National Park was a highlight of this area as it had stunning white sandy beaches and opportunities to see kangaroos on the beach at Lucky Bay. While enjoying a cold beer at one of the local pubs, the Starks ran into a couple which they had met at Uluru who were also doing the same lap of Australia. John was astounded that they had managed to cross paths again 20,000km later and became good friends with the pair. They celebrated New Year’s Day and travelled through South Australia (SA) together.

From Esperance they made a quick trip to Kalgoorlie and toured the Super Pit gold mine before tackling Australia’s longest straight road, the Nullarbor. The road to SA was long and boring with challenging head winds and heat waves.

As they drove along the Great Australian Bight in SA, they stopped at Penong to see ‘Bruce’ – Australia’s biggest windmill – and explored sites near the Eyre Peninsula.  Some of the highlights included the Pure Coffin Bay Oysters and Farm Tours where they ate oysters straight from the farm and Port Lincoln where they swam with playful sea lions in the ocean. 

 

The next stop was Port Augusta before spending two days exploring the Ikara-Flinders Ranges National Park, which had amazing swimming holes and scenery. After many failed attempts to book accommodation in Adelaide due to school holidays, they decided to spend five days on the Murray River relaxing in Renmark where they caught yabbies and visited local wineries.

In need of a break from the caravan the Stark’s decided to take the ferry across to Kangaroo Island for a camping trip. Despite facing terrible weather, they were blown away by the size of the local oysters and sampled fresh marron (a type of crayfish) for the first time. Aside from the great seafood, other highlights included the Remarkable Rocks and Admirals Arch in the Flinders Chase National Park.

When they arrived in Victoria, they headed to the Grampians National Park and used this as their base to complete the Silo Art Trail. They then drove to Ballarat to visit the Sovereign Hill Gold Museum and then explored the famous Great Ocean Road to see the 12 Apostles and Loch Ard Gorge

The next stop on the map was in New South Wales. They headed inland to Canberra for a visit to the Royal Australian Mint, Parliament House and Questacon – the National Science and Technology Centre and the Parkes Observatory to visit ‘The Dish’. After a quick visit to the Taronga Western Plains Zoo in Dubbo they headed back towards the east coast stopping in at Port Macquarie, Nambucca Heads and Coffs Harbour before crossing over the NSW/QLD border back home to Brisbane.

Overall John said the six-month road trip was an adventure of a lifetime. They spent 80% of their trip in caravan parks, enjoyed all the tourist activities, saw amazing World Heritage-listed sites and met some sensational people. Tasmania was on the cards but sadly booked out months in advance, making it impossible for them to get the caravan over the Tasman Sea. The Starks plan to tick Tassie off their list in 2020.

Top travel tips

  • Have RACQ Ultimate Roadside Assistance.
  • Always lock up your car and caravan.
  • Prepare to be flexible with your itinerary as plans change on the road.
  • Always know the weight of your caravan and vehicle.
  • UHF radio is a must with communication between road trains and other travellers.
  • Keep a lookout for water, petrol stations and supermarkets.
  • Purchasing an annual pass to explore all of WA’s National Parks and Reserves was more cost-effective than purchasing tickets to every park.
  • The wet season is generally from November to April and some roads are impassable due to flooding during this time. Seek advice from visitor information centres to assist with planning your trip.
 

Taking your own road trip?

RACQ can help you on your way, whether it’s providing maps and guides for your journey, car hire, discounted motorhome hire with Apollo Motorhome Holidays, insurance or roadside assistance so you’re covered 24/7 on your trip.

Road trip benefits