Part One: 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

Every caravan enthusiast has that one bucket list road trip in mind.

For RACQ’s Fleet and Business Sales Manager John Stark, conquering a full lap of Australia in his caravan with the family was a must.

John, his wife Tracey and 10-year-old son Cooper, set off from Brisbane in September 2017 for a six-month road trip in their Mitsubishi Triton towing their 23-foot long caravan.

The Stark’s headed west through the sweeping plains of outback Queensland through Roma and Charleville before heading north through Barcaldine, Longreach and Winton – the dinosaur capital of the state. Must-see attractions included the Tree of Knowledge (Barcaldine) and the Australian Age of Dinosaurs Museum (Winton).

From there they drove through Cloncurry, Mount Isa, Camooweal and across the border into the Northern Territory (NT) to Tennant Creek. John said one of his biggest regrets was not scheduling enough time to head north and visit Lawn Hill Gorge. Time was of the essence as far north Queensland’s tropical wet season was approaching, so they decided to leave that destination for another trip. 

While in the NT, the family headed south to Australia’s Red Centre to visit Alice Springs and tick Uluru off their bucket list. John said witnessing the enormous red rock in the middle of the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park was a highlight and an experience they will never forget.

Red soil painted their vehicle, caravan and shoes as they headed back north to Daly Waters through Mataranka and to Katherine to get a taste of NT’s tropics. There they explored Kakadu, Litchfield Park and spent some quality time in Darwin where they restocked the caravan and explored the local attractions. A powered site was essential to escape NT’s 42-degree heat as free camping was not an option due to not having a generator to run the caravan’s air-conditioner. Leaving the generator at home was a huge regret!

From Darwin the Stark’s headed south through Timber Creek towards the Western Australia border. Top tip in this area was to lock up your caravan and belongings and be very cautious of your surroundings. John recommended using padlocks and chains to deter thieves at caravan parks. On their way to Western Australia they had to pass through the Northern Territory Border Checkpoint at the Western Australia – Northern Territory border. This meant all fruit, vegetables and honey products needed to be binned.

WA was by far the family’s favourite state in Australia and what better way to start the adventure than a trip to Lake Argyle, the largest man-made lake in the world. They left their van on the side of the highway to venture down the heavily corrugated road to The Bungle Bungles, where drivers are encouraged to slow down and take their time along this road as it’s quite rough with a few water crossings. Following this was a drive along the iconic Gibb River Road visiting El Questro Wilderness Park which had some amazing walks and waterfalls.

Tunnel Creek was the next stop, where they swam in waist-deep water through caves in total darkness, with small freshwater crocodiles swimming around them. The next destination was Derby, a small town on the coast of WA which provided the first sighting of ocean since Darwin.

John said he was relieved to have reached the coastline during October, as he and the family were eager to cool off at a majority of WA’s pristine beaches. They arrived in Broome where their Mitsubishi Triton was making an awful noise in the engine. They dropped the caravan off at Cable Beach and sourced the local mechanic for a diagnostic. “The timing chain is about to snap” was the response from the mechanic who had dozens of cars lined up for repairs. John learnt quickly how remote they really were, having to wait over 10 days for parts to arrive via air. RACQ Ultimate Roadside Assistance helped John and his family during their time of need, as there were provided with a loan car until they could get back on the road.

While in Broome the Stark’s decided to take in all of the local attractions. Broome was the first town they encountered families on the road and they met many families in the caravan park and shared stories and advice on their adventures. From there many great friendships were made.

The road trip included Port Headland, Karratha, Karijini National Park, Tom Price, Dampier (where the Australian story of Red Dog originated) and Onslow, a sleepy little town on the ocean. When they arrived in Exmouth, they booked the caravan into Exmouth Caravans for a service and purchased some new gadgets. After hiring a boat in Exmouth, the family spent the day in pristine waters where they caught plenty of fish. They took their catch back to the caravan park with some hot chips and feasted with fellow travellers. Exmouth and Cape Range National Park were family favourites as the water visibility was fantastic for snorkelling.

To read about the Stark’s journey look out for Part Two: Lap of Australia in your November RACQ Living Road Trip enewsletter.

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