Travelling the East Coast in a Kombi

Nov09

Travelling the East Coast in a Kombi

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Travelling is my passion. I have spent the past 12 years exploring both professionally and for pleasure – more recently travelling with children.

For me, it all began as I took to the skies as a flight attendant. Then I met my husband Lachlan – a pilot – while we were skipping around the Pacific. It was instant love, with both of us having adventurous hearts and the urge to see and do so much.

For the past three years, we have been travelling around Australia (‘doing the lap’, as people call it) in our 1962 vintage Kombi with our two kids, Riley and Alba.

Australia is stunning with every destination pulling at your heartstrings. Our adventures led us to Tasmania, along the Great Ocean Road, through the Nullarbor and finally to the west coast where we stayed for eight months tripping around.

This year has been difficult. Devastating bushfires erupted around Australia, destroying so much and leaving many small businesses and towns in need of support. This was the beginning of our mission to ‘fill our esky’ by shopping local. To start with, the children and I set off on our own mini road trip from Byron Bay to the Coffs Coast, doing what we could in our own way. More importantly, I wanted my children to understand what was happening in their country.

By March, Lachlan was grounded, due to the pandemic. There was so much uncertainty in the world, especially with travel restrictions and social distancing becoming the norm. But we were able to move around Queensland freely, enjoying the sunshine and picturesque locations. We thought this was a great way to support the tourism sector and help to keep communities and small businesses running.

We quickly found that our travels seemed to boost morale and encouraged others to plan their own holidays. It also helped us to maintain our own happiness and health.

We’d like to share with you some of our favourite locations along the East Coast that we’ve travelled to since we started our journey. If you’re looking to start travelling Australia, we hope this piece inspires you to make it happen and truly experience what you’ve been missing. As our country – especially regional areas – needs your support now more than ever.

Now, let’s start from the top…

Atherton Tablelands, Tropical North.

The Atherton Tablelands are a climb up the mountain from the coast east of Cairns. It’s an impressive 1,622 metres above sea level with green rolling mountains covered with rainforest.

The region spans over 60,000 kilometres with scattered farming towns throughout. Renowned for agriculture and horticulture, you will find everything from bananas and avocados to coffee and cattle. Stop at the roadside goodwill trolleys to support the farmers and of course enjoy the freshest of fresh farm produce.

Lake Tinaroo is full of recreational fun, fit for the whole family. Picnic on the water’s edge, go for a swim, fish (with a permit), or there’s water-skiing for the enthusiasts. Enjoy a drive through the luscious green countryside and stop to fill a basket of freshly picked strawberries at the Shaylee Strawberry Farm.

The Atherton Tablelands is famous for its waterfalls. We discovered Millaa Millaa – it was perfect for the children as we could all basically stand under it without being in the water itself.

Stay: NRMA Atherton Tablelands Holiday Park

Set in the heart of the Atherton Tablelands region and surrounded by lush and green rainforest, BIG4 NRMA Atherton Tablelands Holiday Park is eco-certified for nature-based tourism and located just minutes from the centre of town where you’ll find local boutiques and charming cafes. Stay in a cabin, or set up camp on a caravan or camp site before you spend your days exploring the stunning natural wonders that surround you.

Bowen, Whitsunday Region.

Further north, located along the Whitsunday Coast, is Bowen, and in my opinion, it is the most underrated town in Queensland. It really should be named the sunset capital with its candy floss skies every single night. Surrounded by pretty little islands, it’s perfect for yachters and fishers to explore. If you don’t have a boat, no problem – spend your days snorkeling around the coral beds in the beautiful clear waters of Horseshoe Bay.

Bowen isn’t just seafood and lovely beaches. It’s the home of the famous Big Mango of course with delish locally made sorbet and – our family favorite – dried mango. Being the oldest town in the region (established in 1861), it has a rich history. Learn about the Aboriginal people of the region and about the early European settlers.

Stay: NRMA Bowen Beachfront Holiday Park

This Bowen holiday and caravan park is the ideal location to explore the Whitsunday coast. The seaside hamlet overlooks beautiful islands and is well-known for its friendly hospitality and diverse local produce. Stay in a beautiful cabin or villa just metres from the beach, or soak up the sunshine on a caravan site or camp site.

Yeppoon, Capricorn Coast.

As beach-lovers, the sea and sand are where our hearts are most content. And Queensland really is a show-off! Endless lines of palm trees framing soft sandy beaches.

The town of Yeppoon on the Capricorn Coast is the answer for all you tropical beach-seekers. It’s a short drive north of Rockhampton and you are welcomed with warm rays of sunshine and by the good folk. This quickly became a favourite town for the kids. The esplanade is always busy with families enjoying the very cool Keppel Kraken Waterpark, and the community infinity pool around the corner.

This little town also has many other highlights. I suggest a good week here, especially if you love to fish and dive. A daytrip to the Byfield National Park is a must and so too is a dip in Stony Creek. Pack some lunch and spark up the community BBQ for a fantastic afternoon. A drive along the scenic Capricorn Coast, with unspoiled views of turquoise water, isn’t complete without a visit to Emu Park. Also, stop off to see the crocodiles at the Koorana Farm.

Keppel Konnections will safely nip you over to Great Keppel Island for the day where, if you are anything like us, you won’t ever want to leave. The island boasts pristine beaches – our favourite was Putney Beach. It was incredible for the children with shallow, clear water and a beach swing hanging from the trees. The Hideaway is a great spot for lunch and a cold beer; sit and enjoy yourself while overlooking the ocean.

Stay: NRMA Capricorn Yeppoon Holiday Park

Conveniently located close to the beach and just a short walk into town, this family-friendly holiday and caravan park in Yeppoon offers it all. From pedal go-karts, a giant waterslide and a playground for the kids, to a swimming pool, outdoor cinema and recreation room for the whole family – it’s the perfect base for everyone.

The Mid-North Coast

On a separate trip, we decided to explore another of Australia’s most famous coastlines. This time it would be the mid-north coast of New South Wales. It is the coast that keeps on giving – beautiful weather, hidden beaches, fantastic seafood and renowned for its tasty bananas.

You can’t visit the Coffs Coast without a stop at The Big Banana. It brought joy to our entire family. Great food, an adventure park, and of course each of us just had to have a chocolate-dipped frozen banana.

Explore Muttonbird Island, an iconic destination for anyone exploring the Coffs Coast. The beauty of this little gem is that you can simply walk from the jetty and be mesmerised by the glittering blue water. It is very popular during the whale migration season, when people from all over come to witness nature at its best.

Coffs Harbour is great fun for families. The jetty is great to walk along, admiring the rough sea or, for those eager fishing lovers, throw a line in! Not too keen on fishing? Grab fresh locally caught fish and prawns from the trawlers. On the other side you will find the beach for a swim and enjoy a coffee from the pop-up van by the jetty.

I assure you; you won’t be disappointed with a trip to Sawtell. This town is absolutely vibin’! We strolled through the little town and enjoyed boutique shopping, and the cute little cafes. My tip is to head to the headland for sunset and take in the views of the coastline. Even better, take a dip in the only ocean rockpool in the Coffs Coast region.

The hinterland here is gorgeous and it makes for one of Australia’s great scenic drives. Take a drive-up Dorrigo Mountain – it will amaze you with the little waterfalls and the dense luscious rainforest of the National Park will blow your mind. Enjoy the World Heritage-listed Gondwana Rainforests while you’re here. Go bird spotting, or head to Dangar Falls for a swim and hike. On your way back down the mountain, call into Bellingen for an ice-cream and a walk along the river. This town is all kinds of quirky and neat with artists flocking here to boost their work at the Old Butter Factory.

Stay: NRMA Darlington Beach Holiday Resort

NRMA Darlington Beach Holiday Resort is a family-friendly paradise just metres from the sparkling waters of Arrawarra Beach and only a 30 minute drive from the brilliant Coffs Harbour. Wake up to friendly kangaroos at your doorstep, relax in the beautifully manicured gardens and let the kids run wild on all the incredible facilities on offer – including the brand new waterpark.

Great Ocean Road, Victoria

There is something truly unique about driving the dramatic coastline of Victoria. The road wraps around the rugged cliffs’ edge and at every single turn you are greeted with stunning views of the ocean, which makes the drive all the prettier. Find beautiful towns dotted along the way inviting you in with their delicious eats and hot coffee with panoramic views. This is where our dream to travel around Australia had begun. Imagine surf, secluded beaches, wild weather changes and quaint towns leading to the famous Twelve Apostles. There is so much to explore!

I suggest taking your time to really soak everything in. Lorne, Wye River, Apollo Bay and onto Port Campbell – these small charming coastal towns all offer something special. At Aireys Inlet, known for where ‘Round the Twist’ was filmed, we went for a little wander to the lighthouse and we loved it. Lorne is heaven for surfers, and it’s a favourite little getaway town for Melbournians. I don’t blame them – it’s wonderfully vibrant with plenty to do. As parents, we can never avoid a playground and Lorne has a stellar one sitting on prime real estate too. Definitely check out the pub for a cold beer and a classic chicken snitty, before heading to Erskine Falls.

The Wye General Store is tucked away in a little nook near Wye River. The children can run free and play to their hearts’ content at the playground while you sit back and devour basically anything on their menu. I suggest digging into their southern chicken burger! I’m smiling as I write this. When your tastebuds are satisfied, take an easy walk around Separation Creek –around 40 minutes return. There are many treks around this area for all levels of experience.

The road gets busy, so let’s truck on. Next up is Apollo Bay where sea meets rainforests. Satisfy the beachgoers by chilling on the golden sand, maybe even throw a line in and catch some dinner, before heading into the dense rainforest of the Otways which is rich in Aboriginal history. The untamed waterfalls of Hopetoun is what I call nature’s meditation and an easy exploration for the little people. The last stop on our drive is Port Campbell, the closest town to the remarkable Twelve Apostles only 11 km away. It gets busy here, so I advise an early trip. The monstrous sculptures are especially pretty at sunrise. Walk to the lookout and take it all in or, if the budget allows, take a scenic flight to admire the splendour from above.

Stay: NRMA Port Campbell Holiday Park

Located at the western end of the famous Great Ocean Road, this holiday and caravan park is a great base to set up camp for a few days, as it’s only a short drive to the Twelve Apostles, Loch Ard Gorge, London Arch, The Grotto and the picturesque Port Campbell Discovery Walk.

Stay: BIG4 NRMA Warrnambool Riverside Holiday Park

Not far from the end of the Great Ocean Road is Warrnambool. Set on the banks for the Hopkins River, this holiday and caravan park is great for those looking to take some time out to relax after finishing their Great Ocean Road journey.

Throughout our time travelling around Australia, we chose to call many NRMA Parks and Resorts home. We could always count on them for fantastic clean facilities, offering a range of accommodation styles to suit all travellers, from powered sites, unpowered grassy sites to cabins. I love to cook for my little tribe and NRMA Parks and Resorts have the BEST camp kitchens around. Some even have a pizza oven! This is a massive win for my little people.

We always felt safe, with great security and respectful guests. Our children were in absolute heaven with so much to do during our stay. They spent lots of time in the pool playing and learning to swim, making friends as they biked around the park, bouncing on the shaded kangaroo pillows and enjoying the evenings with neighbours. A lot of thought has gone into where their properties are located, some of which are Australia’s hottest holiday destinations throughout the East Coast. The experienced staff will fill you in with local knowledge, suggesting great tours, restaurants and adventure fun. The team at each NRMA Parks and Resorts couldn’t have done more for us during our visits with big smiles and even bigger hearts.

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