FOR two months, French international student Olivia Merlen travelled 16,000km across Australia. She shares her camping stories and tips in this travel series.
As you can probably hazard a guess just by looking at the map, Melbourne to Cairns is quite a long way to go. It’s even longer when you quite literally and figuratively lose yourself in the small country towns and the green sceneries of national parks, while trying to avoid the crowded East Coast.
For the intrepid travellers among you who are thinking of going the distance like me, here are a few highlights and tips from my trip.
And first up, get a book on cheap camps, buy maps instead of relying solely on a GPS, and only bring camping equipment you can’t do without.
Wilsons Promontory and 90 mile beach
Wilsons Promontory is an obvious starting place when travelling to the east of Melbourne, but I reckon it’s something every foreigner should discover. The coastal drives, beautiful beaches, clear water and native wildlife will make you feel like you’re a thousand kilometres away from the city.
After visiting Squeaky Beach, we walked the 1.5km track to Picnic Bay in search of some quiet. Hidden in the shadows and untroubled by our presence was a wombat. It was grazing the grass behind us, so close we could almost reach out to touch him.
Wombats weren’t the only wildlife we saw on this leg of our tour. After setting up camp, we heard laughing sounds that could have easily been mistaken for monkeys’ cries. Instead, they were from little birds with long beaks called the kookaburras. (Here’s a link to a video of a laughing kookaburra if you’ve never seen or heard one before.)
Heading north from the promontory, we spent Christmas Eve at Ninety Mile Beach. A multitude of camping spots were hidden in the dunes between the beach and the road.
It was the perfect way to spend Christmas until it started to rain and we had no option but to have dinner under the car’s boot and open our presents in the tent with the thunder raging outside.
Crossing the border from Victoria to New South Wales
As we headed towards NSW, a succession of national parks awaited us. We wove through the heart of mountains and forests and kept running into kangaroos.
In the Errinundra National Park there was a designated, though remote, camp spot. The next day we crossed the border between the two states.
We continued on with a long drive through the countryside and made a quick stop at the Platypus Reserve. Unfortunately, it was too early to see any of these shy animals.
Eventually, the forests gave way to the sea and to the beautiful landscapes of Batemans Bay. We had to get a move on if we were going to keep to our plan of covering at least 250km a day, but we did stop at Pebbly Beach, home to heaps of kangaroos.
After a short glimpse of water, we immersed ourselves back into the green scenery of national parks, the Kangaroo Valley and a tourist drive that led directly to the Fitzroy Falls – magnificent waterfalls located in a foggy landscape.
Stay tuned for part two of this article series as Olivia shares the best sights and camp spots between NSW and Brisbane.