The following is an account of a couples 'trip' round Australia. This is
no ordinary trip. It is a complete circumnavigation around one of the most diverse
countries in the world. Terry and Brenda have kindly given permission to relay this
account of the trip in the Camping and Caravanning Club magazine 'Cornstalk' and the
following is a preview. All the photographs included have been put in as thumbnails
- just click on them to get the full sized image. I hope you enjoy this account as
much as I did, John.
Terry and Brenda Steen
The Ultimate Tour
departed Melbourne on 26th April transiting through the city onto the Princes Highway
going east and anticlockwise round the continent. Weather for the first week was a bit
changeable but warm, the campsites were good and we met a lot of fellow retirees (we are
over 60) also doing the "Big One" a dream of most Australians. The common term
for us all is "The Grey Nomads" anything up to 6000 to 8000 of us can be
caravanning on this route at any time.
Most caravan types are "Pop Tops" that means the roof raises about 15 to 18
inches when on site, this allows a lower profile when towing, reducing fuel consumption
and allowing one to maintain a higher speed.
Our 1976 Newlands caravan is a single axle full size van measuring 5.1metres (16'6")
long by 2.4 metres (8'.0") wide weighs 1700Kg when loaded has a nose weight of 197Kg.
The tow car a Jeep Cherokee 4.0L has a static nose limit of 165Kg but this is eased by the
fitment of Hayman Reece Weight Distribution Hitch which comprises of torsion bars fitted
between the towbar and the caravan 'A' frame the torsion bars are pulled up on short
chains and are sized according to the weights involved, ours are 250Kg in fact the two
chassis are locked together the chains allowing you to turn. Pitching and swaying are
virtually removed although I must state there is full flexibility and whilst turns of more
than 90 degrees are limited by the bars.
Our caravan brakes are electrically actuated via a controller /sensor fitted under the car
dashboard it senses retardation and is triggered by the electrical current from the brake
lights, the brakes can be controlled independently from the controller, great if you do
experience sway or get into difficulties.
have fitted a dual battery management system to the Jeep, the main battery (in the car)
takes priority over the auxiliary battery (Deep Cycle type) fitted in the caravan, both
batteries being charged whilst travelling. A regulated Solar cell of 50 watts is connected
to the caravan when on a non powered(240V) site so that full 12 volt power can be
utilised. The caravan is also standard 240V. So there you have the tech stuff.
We bought our caravan in Sept 1976 and toured for a while then put it on a permanent site
for ten years. Three years ago, just after I retired we decided to either sell it or if it
was still sound upgrade. It was fine so we upgraded, fitting a heavier axle with electric
brakes, painted it inside and out, fitted a Microwave oven, full size (double) spring
interior bed, steel belted light truck tyres 8 ply rating, rear bumper bar and spare
wheel, dual LPG Gas Bottles up front and a Jerry can holder for spare fuel (distances are
often greater than the Combinations range).
The old caravan never missed a beat, up the east coast we headed, stopping at some
beautiful campsites right on the beach or by a lake. Just before Sydney we turned left and
headed into the Blue Mountains, a place very reminiscent of the Grand Canyon but more blue
(caused by the vapour coming off the Gum trees). Having cut out Sydney (we've been there
plenty of times before) we again arrived on the coast road (Pacific Highway) and headed up
to the Queensland state border where all fruit and green leafed vegetables had to be
handed into a quarantine checkpoint, this by the way applied in both directions and at all
the other state borders we crossed.
We got to see MGMs Movie World on the Gold coast and visited Surfers Paradise. The
campsites here were a little dearer than the average of AUD$15 per night we paid
throughout the trip but many had Ensuites containing your own showers, toilets washing
area etc., some like Townsville were situated in the city but in a parkland along a river.
with a caravan rig on some of the roads was not the best, for instance try a single track
bitumen with questionable hard edges? where we met a Roadtrain on this stretch between
Mount ISA and Camooweal had us in the red mud with all the wheels on the left side, a good
job we had a 4WD, by the time the great leviathan had passed us it had thrown gallons of
red mud all over us, but you don't stop, screen washers are very important here. It took
us over two hours to wash it all off on arrival at Barkly Station which is just east of
Tennants Creek. Wild life was in abundance beautiful Parrots, Lorikeets, Zebra Finches,
Pelicans and the occasional Wedge Tail Eagle in the middle of the road eating the remains
one of the hundreds of dead Kangaroos knocked down by Roadtrains and unwary Caravanners
etc. The idea being not to check out of the campsite before Sun Rise to avoid the risk,
also the same at night, be safe on site before then.
Following on from our run in with the Road Train on the Barkly Highway and overnight at
Barkly Homestead we arrived at Tennants Creek, a largely Aboriginal populated town under
scored by the surprising find in the local supermarket freezer, Kangaroo Tails! We didn't
bother, that's not to say we have not tried Kangaroo before, its quite good really. All
the campsites we have stayed so far have Swimming Pools but surprisingly the ambient
temperature at Tennants Creek was only 16 Deg C. (A few weeks later it was 32 Deg C) and
the pool wasn't heated.
day we made our way south along the Stuart Highway towards Alice Springs but decided to
overnight at The Devils Marbles rest area (National Park) camping allowed AUD$5 per night,
Toilets(Earth) but no water or power available, time to rely on the 12V battery and solar
panel for lighting and the radio/cassette, no TV here, too remote. This place is amazing,
great red round ball shaped rocks perched one on top of another weathered that way over
millions of years, they look as if they might roll off any minute. The sunset was
absolutely spectacular and made those rocks literally glow red. The temperature outside
plunged to just above freezing, out came our portable Gas fire and soon we were cosy.
400 Kms south we arrived at Alice Springs where we were to pick up mail from home at the
G.P.O. We planned to stay a week, visiting the School of the Air (Princess Di visited a
few years ago). The historic Telegraph Station, Simpsons Gap in the Macdonald ranges and
the Ghan railway museum and a ride on the old Ghan train to name a few. Alice is the
birthplace of the Road Train a truck with up to three trailers and weighing up to 60 tons,
all vehicles give way to these fellows!
Continuing south on the Stuart Highway again and overnighting at Erldunda Roadhouse we
turn west along the Lasseter Highway to Ayers Rock (Uluru) and we were most impressed by
the good roads in the Northern Territory.
at the Ayers Rock resort we were surprised at the development of this place, Hotels,
Holiday units, Shopping centre, Petrol Station and Recreational facilities the camp site
was similarly equipped and had "drive through" sites, no reversing back
required. The resort is about 20 Kms from Ayers Rock itself and a AUD$15 five day pass is
required to enter the Aboriginal controlled National Park (the site is a sacred to
Aboriginal people). The pass includes access to the nearby Olgas (Kata Tjuta) National
Park and to Kings Canyon which is about 200Kms further on. Ayers Rock is a magnificent
sight particularly at sunset as the colour changes as the sun goes down and it can be
viewed from the campsite which has some conveniently placed lookout hills close by and it
is a photographers paradise.
The following day we drove to Ayers
Rock the size is deceptive for as you get closer it dominates the scene made more so due
to it being the only thing standing there on this flat scrub plain. We visited the
Aboriginal Cultural Centre for the audio visual display etc. then checked out the
"Rock" from close quarters deciding it was too risky to climb in our unfit
condition, a walk around the base was more in keeping.
On to the Olgas National Park about 50Kms where we walked the Olgas Gorge track noting
Dingo and Kangaroo tracks in the red sand. The Olgas and Ayers Rock are the remains of a
gigantic ancient flood over a 100 million years ago where sedimentary deposits layered
then upended as time went by and the earth buckled and twisted, both the Olgars and Ayers
Rock are the tips of subterranean strata which like icebergs have more below than is seen
above ground. There is so much more can be said about this place but space and time is
short. Tomorrow we head back north through Alice Springs retracing our steps then on up
through Elliot, Daly Waters to Katherine stopping enroute at Erldunda, Alice and another
cheap night at the Devils Marbles and a free one at the rest area at Daly Waters where we
sat outside the caravan star gazing, the atmosphere there was without any pollution,
cloudless so stars were immense and in their millions, we were startled by two stars that
moved at right angles to one another, finally realising we were looking at man made
satellites, we counted 5 of them over an hour period.
After an early start with both of us keeping a wary eye open for those unpredictable
Kangaroos, which bound in front of you. We continued our journey north up the Stuart
Highway from our stop at the wild camp area at Daly Waters. We arrived at Katherine
Riverview Caravan Park that was still recovering from the effects of the devastating
floods of February. The campsite was very dusty (the flood brought in layers of mud) and
trees still contained debris high up in their branches. We were surprised at how high the
water had been, it would have easily covered our caravan. We appreciated the great effort
the people of Katherine had put in to make their town a liveable place again.
Nitmiluk National Park some 30kms away contains the Katherine Gorge and is one of the big
attractions of the Northern Territory and a cruise up the 13 levels is not to be missed,
we decided on a 2 hour cruise through the first two.
The system has been carved out of the sandstone rock over millions of years, abundant with
birds, fish and freshwater crocodiles which are not too dangerous to humans unlike the
saltwater crocodile which is very dangerous, thankfully there were none of those here. The
weather was very hot and humid and a visit later to the local Hot Springs just close to
the Caravan Park was very enjoyable.
The following day, a hot one 35 deg C we visited the Katherine Show where local farmers
bring their cattle and produce to display. It was also the final day of the Rodeo where
competitors on horseback had to catch and rope a steer, others had to ride the Brumby or
"Bucking Bronco" quite a dangerous and violent activity many literally
"biting the dust". There were tents with side-shows and those selling the
accoutrements of the cowboy lifestyle. A swim in the Caravan site pool was a most welcome
end to our day.
After cleaning all the dust out of the van we headed north again this time the destination
was Bachelor in the Lichfield National Park just 80 kms south of Darwin. Lichfield Park is
a very large sandstone plateau area with Nature reserves, River Gorges, and Waterfalls
rich in fauna including freshwater and saltwater crocodiles and exotic birdlife. An area
similar to and not much smaller than the great Kakadu National Park that will be
remembered by those who saw the film "Crocodile Dundee". Our campsite at
Bachelor was delightfully set in the bush the colourful Lorikeets and Honeyeaters came
every morning and evening to be fed by the camp managers right outside our pitch. Bachelor
town was an old military base from WW 2 and still has many of the old Nissen huts
converted for residential use.
A Butterfly farm nearby is worth a visit, it is run by a chap who originated from
Yorkshire who set it up from scratch only one year ago. Many beautiful butterflies and
extraordinary caterpillars can be seen in a natural setting. The visit was topped by a
welcome Devonshire tea. We departed Bachelor 23rd July and headed south back towards
Katherine to overnight before turning west and to our next destination Timber Creek on the
mighty Victoria River.
Our drive to Timber Creek was via the Victoria Highway that wended its way west through
mountainous areas and magnificent valleys edged with red rocky escarpments, colours
varying from orange red to the lilac haze of the horizon. Circle F Caravan Park, Timber
Creek is situated on the side of the Victoria River, despite its remoteness Timber Creek
was well-serviced with good clean facilities, swimming pool, a little dusty but pleasant.
The pioneer A.C.Gregory named Timber Creek in 1855 now essentially a cattle area, it once
was a sheep farming area but the Spear Grass common in this area adhered to the
sheeps wool eventually working its sharp point into the sheeps flesh. The
Spear grass finally working its way through into its vital organs killing many thousands
of sheep. The River Victoria is also noted for the Barramundi fishing a popular sporting
activity with locals and tourists.
Also popular on site is the feeding of
freshwater crocodiles each night at 5.00pm. The site warden or caravan park manager
(usually owners in these locations) go down to the river with offal or other delicacies to
feed them, but not the saltwater crocodile which is very dangerous, thankfully there were
none of those just here, they being further up river. Circle F caravan park is also the
general store, pub, motel and restaurant where in the evening we enjoyed a three course
meal which included the fabulous Barramundi fish very tasty steamed or BBQ style roasted
A boat cruise up the Victoria River with Maxs River cruises was undertaken. This
wide expanse of water is full of Barramundi and other species of fish, which explains the
big crocodile population. We were to see them at very close quarters from the boat both
"Freshies" and Salties" came to inspect us, of course the boat skipper had
some food for them so I guess they were trained to respond.
the riverbank are many Boab trees, which are only to be found in this area of Northern
Territory and just a few hundred kilometres west into Western Australia. The Boab tree
that can live for up to 2000 years is easily identified by its unusually wide trunk in
which water is stored. The tree seems to be leafless most of the year then as late spring
comes it flowers then puts on its leaves, it does bear fruit which can be eaten if you
dont mind the taste. Flocks of Sulphur Crested Cockatoos dived among the trees as we
made our way downstream to a small island where we were given a cup of Billy Tea done on
an open hearth. Our skipper Brian then entertained us with stories of the local pioneers
and a demonstration of Bull whipping making his whip crack like a bullet.
Rising early and filling up at our Circle F petrol station we headed off towards Kunanurra
and the West Australia border where we had another fruit and veggie quarantine check point
to negotiate. Arriving at Kunanurra Hidden Valley Caravan Park we found it quite crowded
but got a nice corner pitch on grass however the kerbs were enormous and I had to bump up
them quite aggressively to get the van onsite. Kunanurra is at the gateway to the Hidden
Valley National Park, in which we did some walking, is a popular tourist destination for
the Lake Argyle and Ord River areas, also close by is the Argyle Diamond Mine which is
open for inspection, albeit with very strict security. The Ord River irrigation scheme has
opened up vast areas of previously barren land to huge fruit and vegetable growing farms
hence the need to ensure no pests and diseases are allowed in.
Kunanurra is also the gateway to the rugged Kimberleys, which are beautiful and relatively
untouched. It spans an area of approximately 420,000 square kilometres, which is bounded
by the Great Sandy Desert in the South and continues up the vast coastline of Western
Australia in the north. The Kimberley contains many wonders and has an awe-inspiring
landscape of clear waters, Waterfalls Rainforests, Gorges and immense mountain ranges. As
we made our way south along the Great Northern Highway to Halls Creek we passed through
some of this wonderful countryside and promised each other to return one day for a longer
more thorough travel experience.
Overnight at Halls Creek Caravan Park. This place is locally called the oasis of the
Kimberleys and has a large Aboriginal population we were surprised at the signposts in the
town " No Grog to be consumed in the streets or parks" our Caravan Park had a
high steel fence all round. We were informed that cyclones were not unusual so the fences
are there to limit the dust storms. I have my doubts?
The following day we travelled on to Fitzroy Crossing leaving the Kimberleys and onto a
flat plain, part of the Great Sandy Desert and a bit boring. We arrived at Fitzroy Lodge
Caravan Park, which was a very welcome site, well equipped and surprisingly green after
the dryness of the days travel. As we had arrived early in the day we elected to do
the Gekie Gorge Cruise and made our way to river and the National Park 21 kilometres away.
Gekie Gorge National Park is a geological relic of an ancient coral reef and abounds with
wildlife, Freshwater Crocs, Turtles, Monitor Lizards, Brolgos and White Headed Herons to
name a few the cruise was spectacular and so different than the other two cruises we had
next destination was Broome on the West Coast noted for its mining and pearling
industries, fishing and the fabled Cable Beach Resort. However we had been advised earlier
that getting onto a site without booking was very difficult due to the popularity and
shortage of sites. Up to this point on our trip we had not needed to book anywhere, so we
decided to overnight stop at Roebuck Roadhouse about 34 kms from Broome. 240V power was
not available so we used our 12V system again.
so close to Broome we just had a day trip into the town and a look at Cable Beach. We are
past the sunbathing bit and dont go too much for swimming in the sea, blue as it
was, so we just sat in the shade of the beach caf? eating ice cream and taking in the
sights, no not the nude beach.
The overnight at Roebuck Roadhouse was very noisy, as dusk fell the Road
Trains pulled in to park until morning, some with refrigeration packs had the motors
running all night so sleep was just a bit trying.
0645 am 2nd August and the sun was up so off we go, travelling south now but still on the
Great Northern Highway the Indian Ocean on our right and scrub on our left, we headed for
Sandfire Roadhouse where we had planned to stay.
Arriving at Sandfire we were surprised at the expensive fuel and site cost and the site
didnt impress us either. Someone had recommended Eightymile Beach a few kms further
on, we headed there and found it was down an unmade dirt road 10 kms long, but we were
committed and bumped our way down to the campsite. The Campsite really surprised us it was
a well-equipped, large campsite, but all the 150 plus 240V powered sites were occupied,
fortunately plenty of non powered were available so once again we did the 12V thing.
During our two day stay at Eightymile Beach Brenda became a
"Beachcomber" I thought with all the seashells she had picked up we would need
another trailer. There were some really beautiful shells and she would use them to make
pictures and ornaments. Fishing is one of the other things attracting "Vanners"
to this place we saw Atlantic Salmon caught with rod and line off the beach.
Back on the road again we skirted the coastline and followed the edge of
the Great Sandy Desert. The countryside was rather flat and covered in scrub, a highlight
was seeing a Thorny Devil a kind of lizard we were lucky to see it as they are well
Again Wedgetail Eagles were soaring in great circles above the scrub and sometimes we were
startled to see them in the middle of the road eating the carcass of a dead animal and
playing "Chicken" with us flying off only when we were a few metres from them.
A coffee stop at Pardoo Roadhouse broke the monotony a bit.
As we travelled south the countryside started to change, there were more trees and we saw
more rest areas. We pulled off onto one at De Grey River a nice sheltered spot on the
banks of the river and free one so a peaceful nights stop was made, a few other
"Vanners" also had made that decision and before too long the place was full.
We were due our 48,000 kms service on the Jeep so made Port Hedland the
next stop we had booked into Cook Point Caravan Park to ensure a few days to get the
service done. Port Hedland is a shipping terminal for the great ore container ships
berthing here so is not the most exciting of places, however the campsite was excellent
and just close by the beach.
7th August and the Jeep now serviced we continued on to our next stop at
Roebourne. The journey was becoming more scenic with the Hammersley Ranges clearly visible
in the distance, passing grassy plains of spinifex and seeing the occasional Dingo and
Kangaroo we made our way into the old historic town of Roebourne and the gateway to the
Pilbara region. Roebourne is the oldest active town on this North West Coast and was named
after Sir John Septimus Roe in 1864 who was the first Surveyor General of Australia.
were not far from the coast we travelled to Point Samson a popular beach retreat for
locals and visitors where we had been told you could get delicious locally caught fresh
fish and chips at Mobys restaurant. Whilst here a short sidetrack led us to
another old historic town called Cossack. First settled in 1863 and situated in a river
estuary, it was a natural Harbour. Established as a major shipping port for the North West
Region it has over the years been abandoned, the lovely old buildings although some in
ruins, still remain and are being restored gradually, a unique look at the colonial past.
On the way back to Roebourne Brenda my wife was intrigued to see a Shell
museum as we entered town and insisted we stop for a look, hoping to get some ideas and
for information on the shells she had collected. Sandys Shell House contained one of
the most comprehensive displays of seashells and marine artifacts in the Pilbara.
Our journey through the Pilbara region began with us traversing through
green undulating hills and Savannah grasslands with the backdrop of lilac blue hazed hills
with snake like threads of white Snowgums weaving their way through the grass, edging
meandering creeks and river beds. So far on this trip we have seen mostly cattle farming
but here in this more verdant pasture we are seeing sheep.
Occasionally we are seeing rocky outcrops looking just like the spiky backs of huge
Dinosaurs. Dotted here and there are strangely shaped termite mounds, one in particularly
made us laugh as someone had written "Buddha" on it in big white letters.
Leaving Nanutarra Roadhouse after filling up with fuel after a short
distance we came upon a road sign that read "Drive with caution Royal Flying Doctor
Emergency Landing Strip" the strip was in fact the highway we were travelling on.
Throughout our journey today we have seen a spectacular and beautiful
display of wildflowers along both sides of the highway as far as the eye can see. Ground
hugging yellow ones, some blue and long stemmed, drifts of lilac and pink flowers and pink
succulents. Bushes of cerise and pale pink and Wattles with bright golden yellow. But most
of all the vast expanse of white flowers looking like fallen snow and like blood in the
snow an occasional patch of Sturt Desert Pea looking as if they are watching you with
their red petals and black eyes. Among all this are darting beautiful coloured
Not wanting to use the air-conditioning in the car we had the windows open and the sweet
perfumes of the flowers drifted in.
Passing through the Tropic of Capricorn we noted a rest area at Lyndon River and spent the
night there listening to the sound of the water tinkling over the rocks lulling us to
On to Carnarvon passing heathlands and again natures wildflower
display ever changing its kaleidoscope of colour. Now we see wild Lupins banked at the
road edges, Swifts darting and marshland wildlife, Herons and occasional Cormorants.
Through all this we listen to our favourite programme on ABC radio "Macka on a Sunday
morning" for those who dont know its a Dinkum Aussie outback phone in
radio programme and very entertaining. Arriving at Carnarvon Plantation Caravan Park we
met a few "Vanners" who we had met weeks earlier and spent time sharing each
others experiences and swapping campsite information.
Carnarvon is situated in the Gascoyne district and is the centre for the
agriculture and fishing industries and also houses the OTC Satellite tracking dish which
is no longer used but is a local landmark being quite large.
On to Denham and Monkey Mia, which is situated at the top end of a spit of
land, again we drove past heathland with riots of coloured wildflowers what a privilege to
see it. Monkey Mia resort is right on the beach and is famous for the Dolphins that swim
in each day to be hand fed by visitors, under the guidance of the rangers. This place is
very well organised with great facilities although the pitches are on crushed seashells
and sand that arent too bad for caravans but I imagine difficult to knock pegs into.
restful time was spent here we met quite a few visitors some from UK, Europe and USA.
Seeing the Dolphins swim in was quite a moving experience to see these wild but gentle
creatures and the trust they have in us and seeing the delight on the childrens
faces as they were able to hand feed them.
A 400-km drive took us from Monkey Mia to Kalbarri stopping briefly at the
Overlander Roadhouse for fuel we continued on being startled once by a very large red
Kangaroo bounding across our path. Approaching Kalbarri our next stop, we saw fields of
wheat and other crops interspersed with tracts of wildflowers. We dropped down from the
hilly terrain into Kalbarri, which nestles on the edge of the ocean and the Murchison
River the scene was stunning as the sun glinted off the water lighting up the whole area.
Our campsite was the Tudor Caravan Park and was quite good but a little dusty under foot.
The coast along Kalbarri National Park is awe inspiring, the wind and surf
pounding the craggy cliffs and little inlets, we watched fishermen riding the boiling sea
in small dinghies and seeing the occasional Dolphin surfing towards the beach, a sight
neither of us has ever seen before. Whales could be seen blowing in the distance as we
walked along the cliffs on our evening stroll.
Packing a lunch we drove 36 kms to Kalbarri
National Park to see the Murchison River Gorges surrounded by Blue Grey Smoke bushes and
Grass trees and if you were observant as you walked, there were lovely delicate wild
orchids to see. Following the paths we made our way to the numerous lookouts and to a
spectacular rock formation called Natures Window a lookout that superbly frames the
upstream view of the Murchison Gorge and river.
As we made our way south again we stopped for couple of days in Geraldton
at the Sun City Caravan Park, quite nice, situated right on the beach and sheltered by
high sand dunes. We visited the old Geraldton Jail museum, which also houses a craft
exhibition buying a few trinkets.
The trip today was quite horrendous after passing through pleasant farming
country with a few small hamlets here and there, we were besieged by a very heavy rain
storm which practically obliterated everything as we drove, forcing us to stop for a
while. Leaving the rain behind us we headed away from the main highway towards Julien and
to our next stop at Cervantes a small coastal Cray fishing village right in the Nambung
National Park and famous for the Pinnacles rock formations.
Pinnacles Desert in the Nambung National Park is an area of sand of various colours and
thousands of limestone pinnacles that range in size up to 5 metres in height and 2 metres
thick at the base. Dutch sailors first spotted the pinnacles from the sea before European
settlement and thought they were the remains of an ancient city. These formations are
actually a group of limestone pillars standing in a sandy desert, they were formed
thousands of years ago when ancient plant roots formed a weak cementation of calcite
within the dunes and have been exposed by the wind and shifting sands.
Thursday 20th August we left today for Perth the capital city of Western
Australia and our last mail pick up, we will stay for 6 days.
The weather on our visit to Perth was quite cool with showers, a welcome
relief after the high temperatures experienced up in the northern areas of the state.
with a population of just over 1.2 million is one of the smaller of the major cities of
Australia, but even so is the capital city of the largest state, Western Australia. The
city centre is built on the banks of the Swan River and ringed by a series of gardens,
parks and reserves including the magnificent 404 hectare Kings Park. The green slopes of
Mount Eliza in Kings Park contrast dramatically with Perths modern skyline and the
serene blue hills of the Darling Range can be seen in the distance.
The Perth Holiday Park at Caversham is 20 kms east of the city and right in the wine
growing area of the Swan Valley and an opportunity not to be missed to visit the wineries
and taste some of the excellent wines produced here.
Perths history began in March 1827 when James Stirling in command of
HMS "Success", spent two weeks exploring the Swan River area, and reported on
the desirability of establishing a permanent settlement there.
On 2nd May 1829, Captain Fremantle arriving in HMS "Challenger"
took formal possession of the West Coast of Australia by hoisting the union Jack on the
south side of the Swan River. The colony of Western Australia being formally set up on
18th June 1829, the site chosen was at the mouth of the Swan River and named Fremantle
after the Captain of HMS "Challenger" and becoming the port. Several places were
considered for the site of the capital but finally a location was found 19 kms upstream
from the port near a wide expanse of water near Mount Eliza.
A visit also to the old town of Fremantle was made, noted for the grand
old buildings kept in beautiful and original condition and the port takes you back into
the early beginnings of this fine town. A visit to Fremantles grand old indoor
market should also not be missed with a range of products from fruit and vegetables to art
So much more could be said about this area but we have to press on to our
next stop at Margaret River and our campsite at Taunton Farm.
Taunton Farm Caravan Park winner of the 1997 W.A.Tourism award is in fact also a working
farm and it was nice to see all the animals, a great adventure for young children to help
bottle feed the newborn lambs and perhaps chase the geese from around the caravan.
A visit to the local Fontis cheese factory had us tasting vintage
cheddar cheese and lemon custard yoghurt of course we bought cheeses to bring back home.
Complimenting the cheese was a visit to the locally well-known Redgate winery where we
purchased some very nice port.
A day tour took us through Dunsborough a popular holiday resort in a
sheltered bay and on to Cape Naturalist and Cape Leeuwin both with a lighthouse and where
the Southern and Indian Oceans meet. Finally finishing our day at Jewel Cave where we
journeyed on foot deep underground experiencing the wonder of crystalline rock formations
including the worlds longest straw stalactites, the organ pipe cavern and the
beautiful Jewel casket.
Today is the 29th August and we awoke to torrential rain and occasional
thunder and lightning it eased a little and we managed to pack up and get on our way to
Pemberton travelling through great Karri, Jarrah and Marri tree forests.
site at Pemberton was very wet and no concrete hard standings so with all the rain it made
it very wet and muddy, keeping the inside of the van clean was difficult. Although the
weather was showery it did not stop us from going into the Karri forest to see the
Gloucester tree. A 250 foot tall Karri tree named after the Duke of Gloucester who visited
it in 1946 helping drive the first rail of a 153 rung ladder system now used by those
daring enough to climb 60 metres to the viewing platform at the top.
Many birds were observed including some colourful Western Rosellas that
followed us hoping to be fed. Further into the forest are the Cascades, a series of
waterfalls flowing over rocky ledges, which were boiling and raging with the recent rains.
On now to Walpole a small settlement on the south coast, and our campsite
at Coalmine Beach Caravan Park located on an inlet and the Frankland River. Surrounded by
woodland and with the weather now much better we enjoyed the quiet tranquil setting with
the waterway and the magnificent Karri and Tingle tree forests.
One of the main tourist attractions here is the Tree Top Walk, constructed
in the Tingle Forest canopy, it is a 420 metre long aluminium bridge in a "U"
shape that takes you up 40 metres above the forest floor high into the canopy giving a
birds eye view of the Valley of the Giants.
Driving through stunning scenery we arrived at Albany, Middleton Beach
Caravan Park now another clean park right on the beachfront within easy reach of the white
sands and sea. A constant reminder of our location was the booming and crashing of the
surf on the shore.
The coastline in this area is quite spectacular with untouched beaches, rocky inlets and
many islands. Albanys claim to fame was its whaling industry having the last
operational whaling station until its closure in 1978, the station is still there but now
a museum called Albany Whaleworld. In its hey day the whaling station slaughtered 850
whales per season. An interesting tour around the museum but a macabre picture to see and
hear what went on in those days, we thank God it isnt practiced anymore in
What a pleasant contrast when further along the wild and spectacular coast
we observed at a quiet cove, up to 5 whales frolicking in the sea quite close in.
It is Day 131 of our trip and the 3rd September we are travelling now
through pastoral scenery with occasional farmlets, following this magnificent coastline to
arrive at Esperance a resort and seaport town that has a population of 8500.
The first recorded visit here was by Dutch explorer Pieter Nuijts in 1627
but settlement was not until 1863. A visit here must include the great Ocean drive over 30
kms of road skirting the rocky coast. Care whilst driving here is needed as the
spectacular scenery is very distracting, better to stop often to take in the brilliance of
the blue sea with frothy white surf the picturesque bays, inlets and islands. Finally the
road ends at the Pink Lake so called due to the colour of the algae in the water at
certain times of the year.
We also visited the Mermaid leather tannery, this one was rather special
though as the skins were not from animals but from fish, yes thats right fish. Quite
remarkable leatherwear products made from Shark, Groper and others, some skins are very
tough others really delicate, the skins are descaled prior to tanning then colour dyed.
Today is our longest journey 538 kms from Esperance to Ciaguna following
the great Australian Bight, stopping at Norseman for fuel we were advised to check our
water quantity as there was no water until we get to Eucla and the South Australian
We found a quiet rest stop at Ciaguna on which we decided to overnight,
but Brenda was a bit concerned as we were the only caravan at the rest area, however her
worries about safety were short-lived as within two hours there were eight other caravans
The following day and a trip of 379 kms to Eucla which is just 120kms from
the South Australian border. During the journey a number of vehicles competing in the
Round Australia car rally passed us going in the opposite direction, Eucla Caravan Park
was a welcome relief after the quite arduous journey undertaken mostly into a 20-km/hr
headwind. The Caravan Park was dusty but good facilities even though a 5-minute hot shower
was $2 coin operated.
9th and today our big duel with the tortuously arrow straight Eyre Highway and the famed
Nullabor plain a treeless wilderness, imagine our surprise and amazement to see a lone
woman pushing a shopping trolley containing all her worldly possessions along this road
miles from anywhere. The Great Australian Bight is quite an impressive sight, the treeless
plain suddenly comes to an abrupt end dropping over a hundred metres to the sea below. We
arrived safely at Ceduna at 3.45pm South Australian time the tiring days journey completed
earning a two-day stay here.
Ceduna is situated on the shores of Murat Bay and is the furthest western
town of South Australia.The name Ceduna is a derivative of the Aboriginal word
"Chedoona" meaning "resting place" an apt name for us at this time.
The nearby fish and Chip shop looked inviting and was advertising the local delicacy King
George Whiting famous for its delicious tender flesh, it was very nice.
We were awakened in the morning at 6.00am with quite a start as a siren
wailed on the fire station just across the street. The siren however got us on our way
earlier than usual to drive down the Eyre Peninsula to Port Lincoln and our Campsite at
Kirton Point which looked out onto one of the worlds largest protected natural harbours in
From our van window we could see a line of Pelicans standing on the nearby
jetty looking like waiters in a restaurant in their black and white livery.
Matthew Flinders discovered Port Lincoln in 1802 naming it after his
native Lincolnshire in England it was initially considered for the state capital but was
rejected in favour of Adelaide due to a lack of fresh water.
A scenic drive took us on to Port Augusta that is known as the crossroads
of Australia it has a well-developed port for the export of wool, minerals and wheat.
Driving down towards Adelaide and skirting the Flinders Ranges and the
Spencer Gulf we passed through the industrial town of Port Pirie. Just before entering the
outskirts of Adelaide we were confronted by a timber house being transported on a very
large transporter it took up the whole road. The escorting police signalled us to move
left and onto the grass shoulder of the roadside, but this is not unusual in Australia you
have to be on guard for anything on the roads here.
At last we found our campsite at Westbeach, a large holiday resort and
Caravan Park with all the facilities you would expect. A short walk through the sand dunes
brings you out onto a beautiful beach.
Adelaide is a gracious, well planned city set on a coastal plain between the rolling hills
of the Mount Lofty Ranges and the blue waters of Gulf St. Vincent and is the only major
World City completely surrounded by parklands.
Our stop here will be for three days one of which will be to visit an old
friend and another we will visit historic Hahndorf a pioneer village set in the Adelaide
hills and first settled by Silesian and Prussian refugees in 1839. The towns main
street is lined with magnificent old elms and chestnut trees. Most of the buildings have
been restored and the town has a leisurely, old-world feel about it.
climb up the Adelaide Hills out of the city is a long and tedious steep winding road
turning on itself in places and not helped by the road improvements currently being
undertaken. Finally arriving at the top of the climb at Eagle on the hill we followed the
rolling hills through Murray Bridge and towards Mount Gambier stopping briefly at Elliston
to photograph the giant Crayfish model.
Lieutenant James Grant named Mount Gambier in 1800 after sighting an
extinct volcano, the city was built on its slopes and is surrounded by large softwood
plantations and rich farming, horticulture and dairy country. Our campsite at Blue Lake
City Caravan Park is almost at the tip of the extinct volcano crater and the drives
through sites are set on terraces down the sloping park. Mount Gambier has four crater
lakes and the Blue Lake is the deepest at 197 metres and provides the cities water, and
changes colour from dull grey to brilliant blue each November due to chemical changes in
We departed Mount Gambier for our home state Victoria on 19th September
but planned to stop overnight at Halls Gap in the Grampian Mountains before continuing
Our complete circumnavigation of the Australian continent was finally
realised as we made our way off the Western Highway and turning right onto the overpass
which we crossed going the opposite way nearly 5 months ago.
We had finally made it home to Melton after completing a 23,300-km journey
with no major problems with either car or caravan.
Terry & Brenda Steen