Australia – Some Finer Details

Australia – Some Finer Details

First, a heads up on this blog; there are fewer pictures and there is no “travel” component as such, it’s been put together more to to provide information relevant to those possibly considering doing something like this in Australia and hence differs from our usual “ sights-based” content. During our travels here by campervan through 2023/2024 we’ve picked up invaluable tips and been given excellent advice from all manner of folks we’ve met along the way. Countless people have asked questions about the “how”, “how long”, “when”, “how much” etc, relating to long term van travel in the country. I promised a few I’d build a summary blog to address as many of those questions as I could in order that so much of what we have learned might be shared with others. Hopefully those contemplating an extended trip down here ( with or without your own campervan ) will find this useful. Most reading this would be coming from North America or Europe.

Iconic Ayer’s Rock ( Uluru ).

When To Go:

Given the great latitudinal difference between the north and south of the country, it’s always a great time to be travelling somewhere in the county. In fact, the Australian winter ( June-August ) is considered high season for travel in the northern part of the country and the outback in general. Simply too hot and/or humid at any other time and subject to heavy rains. A bit of a generalization but the southern half is best in the Australian summer. It’s usually very easy to plan your travels to be in the best weather at least most of the time so it does not really matter when you come unless your time is limited and you have a very specific part of the country in mind.

Beautiful sunny weather, beach near Esperance, Western Australia.

Travelling By Van:

The primary reasons for shipping in our van were:

a) Australia was just one part of a bigger global trip so we had/have no intention of buying and selling ( or renting ) everywhere we go,

b) We’d be here a long time ( 12 months plus ), and

c) We could go anywhere we wanted – rentals place significant restrictions on where you can go  and unless you buy something with 4×4 capability many of the best parts of Australia are out of reach. It’s extremely expensive for a long rental as well. Renting was not viable for us.

I’ve previously compiled information on the shipping “to” Australia here, and of course the shipping “out” of Australia was detailed in last week’s blog, so won’t elaborate any further on that this week.

You don’t need to bring your own vehicle of course, and it only starts to make sense economically if a) you already own a suitable van, and b) you plan to spend at least 6 or more months down here. Otherwise, renting may make more sense. Alternatively, buying and reselling is viable and lots of ( predominantly ) younger travellers do it, but almost all of those would be in vans in the sub $A10,000 bracket where any valuation drop on sale would likely be modest. Also, that price bracket has a ready resale market. The more expensive the van, the more difficult the resale process and the bigger the risk of material loss on sale, and possibly a lengthy sale process – one has to allow some “sale time” prior to departing, not the fun part of the buy/sell strategy !

For us a campervan was always the way to go when setting off for global travel ( which included Australia ). Not too big to be awkward to drive, there being nothing to tow, it being easy enough to park, relatively affordable to ship, 4×4 capable and ( veryimportantly ) fully self-contained. For us, simply the ONLY vehicle choice that represented the combination of all the things we wanted and needed for overland travel. We have so far been extremely happy with the choice.

Cost of Living/Travelling in Australia:

We have had lots of questions on this. Generally similar to Canada, very broadly speaking, but probably higher than the US.

Fuel was by far our biggest expense and we probably averaged about $A1.85/litre for diesel. That “average” is probably a bit high because of the long distances we covered in more remote ( and thus more expensive ) areas. Stay near the cities and you’ll pay less. Unleaded gasoline is slightly cheaper than diesel in most places. Fuel cost matters because a) distances are huge, and b) campervan/RV’s tend to use a lot of it. Our 3.0 litre turbo diesel Sprinter averaged about 13.5 litres/100 km or 17.5 miles per US gallon overall ( we did not think that was too bad ). If you are driving a gasoline/petrol vehicle the base grade in Australia is 91 octane, much higher than the standard 87 in Canada and even 85 in some parts of the US, so not exactly an apples and apples comparison I suppose. In North America most folks use the ( app ) and in Australia, the ( app ) to seek out the best places to fill up. These apps are hugely valuable as prices can move significantly between different centres..

Diesel fuel on the Oodnadatta Track. Here at A$2.99/litre ( US$7.45 per US gallon ). We carried enough to pass this one by.

When it came to food prices ( our next biggest expense ), Lois felt Australian prices were definitely a bit lower than those in Canada, but probably above the US. The current exchange rate helped a bit with the Aussie dollar averaging about 65-66 cents US and 87-88 cents Canadian during our time here. It can often be higher than that thus making it more expensive for visitors. Two huge food retailers dominate in Australia, Coles and Woolworths, ( though Aldi stores, very popular, are also widespread ) – one can simply Google their websites to look at prices for specific items.

I’m a beer drinker, Lois enjoys wine. Australia makes plenty of both ( of excellent quality, the wines probably globally more well-known ). Note – no one I met in 13 months drank “Fosters”, nor does any Aussie consider it the national beer. Advertising myth…! Aussies buy beer typically in a 24 or ( now ) 30 pack and it’s by far the most economical way to buy it. You’ll pay a hefty premium to buy beer in 6 packs ( and almost no one does ). Prices for beer and wine are broadly on par with Canada but again not as cheap as the US. I’m talking prices at major liquor retailers, such as Dan Murphy’s, not prices in restaurants.

For most folks, those would be the big items. Beyond these fairly standard expenses costs will vary depending on lifestyle choices.


This was one of the great joys of travelling by van in Australia. Finding free ( or “wild” ) camping spots ( also known as “boon-docking” in North America ) is generally very easy in Australia and the practice is very widespread. Everyone, and I mean EVERYONE, uses an app called Wikicamps which is an excellent camping tool and will save travellers huge amounts of money. There are a host of other free or low cost camping  apps and Facebook groups dedicated to helping you find a safe, free ( or very low cost, say $5-10 ) site for the night. “Pub” camping is hugely popular. Many towns and cities advertise themselves as “RV Friendly” ( free dump sites, free water and almost always a flat, safe area to camp often near the centre of town ). We’ve camped pretty widely in many different countries and in our opinion only NZ is in the same league when it comes to making RV camping as easy, safe and low cost as Australia. Paid campgrounds are generally $25-60 depending on location and services ( and whether powered or not ). We very rarely used them, though, and most long term travellers don’t. One of the great things about travelling in a van in mostly sunny weather, with a big battery bank, a DCDC charger and large solar capacity is that we rarely needed to “plug in” ( in fact, only 4 times during our 13 month stay ). It provided us great freedom and flexibility.

THE app used by all campers in Australia. Indispensable.
The Sprinter van gave us incredible flexibility, convenience and maneuverability all the while providing a comfortable area to sleep, cook and relax. Here on Tasmania’s west coast.
One of our more unique camping experiences: a remote, ( currently unused ) WW2 gravel airstrip, Northern Territory.
Dream wild camping spot, Sandy Cape, Western Australia.

Curiously though, no large, national supermarket-type chain ( a la Walmart ) in Australia offers the free overnight experience that North Americans can fall back on (when all else fails !) with a Walmart, Cabelas, Cracker Barrel etc type experience. Not sure why, no one could tell me, but given the smorgasbord of other free camping options it’s not a huge loss (with the exception of big cities where free camping options are definitely more scarce in Australia). As I have indicated often in previous blogs, you can find literally EVERYTHING a camper would want on “Wiki”. If you are reading this you will likely have been following our blogs and I often made reference to places we stayed at, both mainstream and ( occasionally ) the more unique. Both Lois and I would agree that the ease of camping helped enormously to make the trip so easy and enjoyable overall. Almost never any “drama”.

The Roads:

Main roads are of good quality and even the secondary roads have improved greatly over the years. Outback dirt tracks ? Well, they can be pretty rough ! Tolls are only common in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane and you can get by without them. Roads are well signposted, speed limits are reasonable, just remember, STAY ON THE LEFT ! The same as driving in the UK. It always helps when there are two in the car and most would be travelling in pairs at least so the extra set of eyes definitely helps with navigating generally.  

Overseas visitors do need to be aware of speed cameras.  You can be caught speeding ( or make some other infraction ) and not know it until your bill comes in the mail or you get a follow up bill from the vehicle rental company. These can be VERY nasty and, as I have mentioned before, you can ( and people do ) get multiple fines before you ever learn of the first one ! You have been warned. Not a system I like particularly ( give me a good old cop with a radar gun any day ) but, knowing about it in advance, we simply always carefully stayed under the limits ( easy in a van, we did not usually drive fast anyway ).

Fuel is good quality, ( called petrol in Australia, not “gas” ) and we never got any dirty fuel, even in the outback. All diesel is ULSD and lots of vehicles in Australia use it, it’s as prevalent in Australia as it is in Europe. Filling up differs slightly in that Australians customarily pay for their fuel after they have filled up.


Australia has a great selection of attractions  – we had no problem spending a year looking and some spend even longer. It all boils down to one’s personal tastes. I have commented on all of them as we travelled through so won’t rehash here, but I will add a few random thoughts. Every town, even most small ones, has a visitor information center almost always staffed with friendly, knowledgeable locals who delight in helping travellers out. Maps, guides, and brochures are generously provided at no charge and clean washrooms are almost always on hand. We found this service consistently amazing. Many beachside communities also offer free barbecues so you can cook up what ever you like while enjoying the beach. Yes, propane is included, free.

This building needs no description – Sydney, NSW.
While remote, outback roads can be rough, dusty and very corrugated, major highways and secondary roads are generally excellent.
Pristine clear waters of the Western Australian coast.
Little Penguins, Philip Island, Victoria.
On the beach, Great Ocean Road, Victoria.
One of Australia’s more famous roads. Many travellers look forward to “crossing the Nullarbor”.
Up close with dolphins ( yes, this close ! ), Monkey Mia, Western Australia.
Public barbecue, beachside, Townsville, QLD.

Admission fees to sights can vary from free ( National Museums for example ) to ocassionally expensive but most things are in line with what you’d pay in Europe or North America. One thing we did find a little bit inconvenient was National Parks passes. The parks themselves were great, often stunning in fact, but ( despite the name “National” ) park passes are only sold state by state. Yes, you need one for NSW, another one for Victoria, another one for Queensland….and on and on. At $70-80 for a vehicle ( average cost ) in every state, it can get costly. An annual National Parks pass in the US for example ( giving access to all 50 states ) is $US80 for comparison. The Canadian version is about $US115 but both cover every national park in the country. A truly “National” parks pass would make a lot of sense in Australia, alas, not available yet to my knowledge.


Everyone, and I mean EVERYONE in Australia has a “mobile” phone ( the term “cell” is, of course, understood but always generates a bit of a giggle ). SIM cards are cheap, (if not free), and pay by the month Data/Voice/Text plans are widely available from multiple vendors. Coverage in the cities and major towns is excellent however it can be sparse between centers in the outback ( as we’d been warned ). It’s amazing how many Australian RV travellers have their own Starlink dish ( paying about $170AUD/month ), especially those who spend serious time in the more remote areas where cell phone coverage is often nonexistent. We often wished we had one !

While Wifi is available in all malls, McDonalds, Starbucks etc as you would expect, it’s not as common in every coffee shop or small business as it is abroad. Inconvenient on occasions, yes, but we simply purchased more data from our supplier- it’s pretty affordable. We got some odd looks when we asked some of the small local cafes if they had wifi. Very few did.


So that about covers the issues that most matter to would-be travellers. In addition to the above, as we travelled around we were reminded of some of the customs and practices in Australia that will delight visitors ( especially those from North America ). Tipping is not required ( though it’s never refused ! ) and posted prices in stores represent the actual price you will pay ( taxes are always included in the price ). Almost 35 years of living in Canada (and of travelling often in the US) and I still find the standard practice of adding embedded taxes at the point of sale just odd. I have no idea why it’s done that way. That said, Australia has the odd inexplicable thing, too; why, for example are we not allowed to turn left at a (red) light when there is no traffic coming ? Not sure, but you definitely can’t !

Lois and I truly hope that this closing blog on Australia provides some value to our readers and that at least some of those who have followed our travels “Down Under” through 2023/24 will, at some point find the opportunity to explore the country for themselves. It’s been an incredible experience for us, it offers so much to the visitor and, in what is currently a rather troubled world, offers a fun, safe, and adventurous option for those with a passion to explore.

We’ll now take a few weeks off ( at least ) while we enjoy some family time back in Canada and return to our blog as the ship carrying our van nears its next destination.

Till then………

Farewell, Australia !

Farewell, Australia !

Incredible. I just can’t believe we are already at this point. But, almost exactly 13 (amazing) months after arriving, this past week we bid Australia a very sad “adieu”. Completely coincidentally, we realized that global mega star, Taylor Swift, flew in to Melbourne in a lavish personal business “jet” on the same day we flew out on a very late and rather cramped “Jetstar” commercial flight – despite the rather oxymoronic name, (and as all Aussies would know) a “Jetstar” flight is certainly NOT a jet for the stars ! I read this article on how Taylor travels – check it out in case you ever wondered. Lavish !

Our comparatively plebeian m.o. aside, it has been absolutely wonderful to spend this much time in my home country – we have been truly blessed to have seen and done so much and to have been able to spend so much quality time with all our family and many old friends. We would not have missed it for the world. Allow us to bring you up to speed on a very, very busy last 12 days or so ( I’ve sort of rolled almost 2 weeks into one here, so settle in, it’s a lengthy edition).

The almost 5 weeks spent on Tassie just seemed to fly by. Heading down there we were concerned it might be too long in such a very small place but it was, for us, just about right. We met many though, who spent 3, 4 and in one case, 6 months there !

Our last 12 days in Australia.

Sometimes you get a little “payback” when doing a return trip on the Spirit of Australia ( Tasmanian ferry ). Delighted to have enjoyed a dead calm 10hr crossing south to Devonport (you could have water skied behind the ferry on that crossing), Bass Strait gave us a bit of revenge on the journey north to Geelong, with 3 metre swells reminding us that we were definitely on the high seas. Doors to the outside decks were sealed for the duration.

Very calm by the time we got to Geelong ! In the final 3 hours it slowly navigates the shallow depths of Port Phillip Bay. That part of the journey is always sheltered from the high seas.

Back in Geelong we were now at liberty to firm up our plans to ship the van on from Australia. Frankly, we had expected to have had this confirmation on such a sailing long before we even went to Tasmania but upheavals in global shipping of late have meant that passage is now often not confirmed until just a couple of weeks before sailing. It leaves precious little time to make your personal plans (related flights etc ). Requests were placed long ago ( as is the norm ) with a primary route request and a secondary route but as of us getting back to Geelong we still had no confirmation – to anywhere !!!! See Shipping Out Of Melbourne at the end of this blog for full details of our booking which was ( thank god ! ) firmed up by the end of the week.

While waiting for the shipping confirmation there were still quite a few things for us to do. First up was a trip around Geelong to the scenic Bellarine Peninsula, or, more specifically, the community of St. Leonard’s, home of my cousin Helen and her husband, Bernie. They’d graciously agreed to act as a mail drop for a few Amazon items we’d needed but it was also wonderful just to stop by, catch up and spend a little time wandering their beautiful beachside neighbourhood. St. Leonards, and nearby Portarlington, gave us an opportunity to enjoy a little slice of trendy, almost rural, Victoria before immersing ourselves back in the hustle and bustle of Melbourne – given the perfect weather both were full of summer beach-goers.

Jeff, Lois, Bernie, and Helen, in St. Leonard’s.
Many kilometres of secluded beaches ring the Bellarine Peninsula, with Melbourne visible just across Port Phillip Bay.
Bellarine Peninsula, beachside, near St. Leonard’s.

Street side cafe scene, trendy Portarlington.

There was another matter to attend to and it made good sense to deal with it before leaving Australia. With 63,000 kilometres on our trusty BFG KO2 tires (42,000 of those on Australian roads – including many on harsh, corrugated outback tracks ) it was time for a set of new All-Terrains. Given the KO2’s had served us so well it only made sense to stick with the brand; the helpful folks at Bob Jane T-Mart took good care of us but had to make the tire changes manually as the van was simply too long to go on the hoist and too high to go inside the work bay.

Manager, Clayton, of the Bob Jane store measuring his hoist to see if our 6.9m long van would fit. Not quite, it turned out.!
Even if it was shorter, it was still too high for their shop access. Tires were changed the old way.

Still awaiting shipping confirmation and with its departure imminent ( but now getting encouraging news at least ) the decision was made to do a little exploring of rural Victoria without going too far from Melbourne. Our shipping agent advised that a Port of Melbourne departure was now possible on our requested route. This was great news – earlier, the advice had been that we’d possibly need to drive 3,500 kms to Fremantle in Western Australia, and load there- not a prospect either of us relished ( traversing the Nullarbor once on this trip was interesting – doing it twice, not so much) ! The approval may come at short notice, so “don’t go far”, was his advice !

Spent a couple of nights back at Little River Hotel camping after leaving Bernie and Helen but found the dust not conducive to unpacking and cleaning the van. That, and a desire to do some more exploring took us on to Ballarat.
Ok, we’ve seen lowered cars/trucks in our time but this one takes the cake ! Little River Hotel campground.

Ballarat, its history intrinsically linked with Australia’s gold rush era and famous for the Eureka Stockade, seemed like a good option to explore. Just an hour and half north-west of Melbourne, with much to see and an excellent municipally-run campsite, we ended up spending 4 nights in the area with much of that spent preparing the vehicle in anticipation of an impending shipping approval. Nice to be out of the big city and apart from some wind the days were just  beautiful. It’s certainly an interesting city.

Avenue of Honour ( to fallen Australian soldiers ), Ballarat
Unlike the pub camping in Little River, the municipal campground in Ballarat offered grassy sites, fresh water and much more space – ideal for a big vehicle thorough clean, unpack, repack.
Downtown Ballarat .
Eureka Stockade memorial, Ballarat.
Remnants of what is believed to be the original Eureka Stockade flag, Eureka Museum, Ballarat.
Story of Ballarat’s origins.
“Welcome Nugget”, the largest single piece of gold found at Ballarat, weighed 69kg ( over 152 lbs ) !

Finally, and with only a week till the cargo cutoff for port delivery, our van was confirmed on the requested RoRo ship. Hallelujah – at last we had our shipment confirmed ! We could now book plane tickets home for a return visit with our kids and new granddaughter while our van sailed to its next destination. There were many days we had doubts it would all come together. We will, for now, keep the next destination “up our sleeve” – it should make for a little more anticipation when our first blog from there is written ( feel free to submit your best guess in the comments………but you might be surprised). I will also put together an “Australia In Review” blog in the next week or so. It’s by far the longest time we have spent in any single country since we began the OneEndlessRoad global journey back in 2019. There’s definitely some valuable information and general tips we can provide to any readers contemplating an extended trip “Down Under”, as we know several readers are. Stay tuned for that.

Our travels over the 13 months and 42,000+ kms we travelled while in Australia.
Very much looking forward to reuniting with our son and daughter of course, but especially this little bundle of joy, granddaughter Hadley, who is already 6 months old.
Managed a couple of days R&R in Waikiki, Hawaii while en route back to Canada. Nice to break up what’s normally a 15 hour direct flight.

Lastly, we also know there are readers on the OneEndlessRoad subscriber base ( including 3 or 4 we’ve met up with in Australia ) who are keen to hear of our “shipping out” experience. While, as at time of writing, the ship has not sailed, our van has now been delivered to the MIRRAT terminal in Melbourne for onwards shipment. Rather a sad moment actually 😔. Ironically, right back to the very same terminal through which our ship ( and van ) had entered Australia more than a year ago. The addendum below documents our preparation, the step by step process we followed, and the documentation required – costs will be added up once we get to our destination as there are port charges and fees there that we don’t yet know. Heads Up: Unless the excruciating minutiae of an overland shipping tale holds you in thrall, probably best to exit this week’s blog right about now – you’ve been warned !

Till next week…….


As mentioned above, this process has taken an extraordinarily long time to get confirmed – months in fact. We were wait-listed on several ships before getting confirmed on ours. In normal circumstances this would not happen but such is the state of global shipping that it is the norm now. Container shipping seems easier right now ( in terms of getting space ) but we are too big for a container thus must go RoRo ( on a specialized car carrier ). So we had to be patient.


Our preference was for Melbourne or Sydney since they were close to where our travels ended but most shippers offered the option of either of those ports, and Brisbane or Fremantle – all at the same cost. Too late for us now, but based on the conversations we had with several other overlanders who shipped in, Fremantle was the easiest port to clear ( customs/quarantine there just seemed to be easier and it was less congested ). With no quarantine process on exit I don’t think the port of departure matters as much- go to which ever is closest.

Back where it all began ! Almost 43,000kms later, our van back in front of the Melbourne RoRo Terminal ( MIRRAT ), ready for delivery and loading on to a RoRo ship to sail out of Australia.


Once the agent got us confirmed they issued a Bill Of Lading ( or BOL – in flight terms, your airline ticket ), an Export Receival Advice ( or ERA – a boarding pass of sorts ) and a vehicle condition declaration. This is all done by phone/text/email – you often never meet your agent ( although we did while we were in Fremantle ). The BOL is required by Australian Customs to clear your Carnet ( it was stamped in when we came to Australia and once you have the BOL you take your Carnet to Australian Customs to be cleared out). This must be done BEFORE you take the vehicle to the port. With the Carnet stamped an appointment is made to deliver the vehicle to your chosen port. They give an appointment receipt, review all documents on arrival at the port and assign a port escort to take you to the drop point inside the secured port area.

Our port delivery appointment.
Declaration that is completed and left in the vehicle for shipping line review.


In the case of Melbourne, Customs are NOT at the port, they are near Melbourne Airport. Just take your passport, BOL and Carnet – mine was processed in 30 minutes but they can take 24 hours. Likely true of other cities as well.

The indispensable Carnet stamp. The counterfoils are stamped when you arrive and again when you leave. Without every page stamped in and out, your Carnet deposit will not be refunded.


Another very important step is Marine Insurance. Not obligatory but you’d be crazy to ship anything valuable without it. Many shipping agents either sell it or refer you to insurers who cover marine cargo. We have always taken it, as much for the risk of a “general average” claim ( it’s an insurance concept dating back to Roman times, and a risk not to be taken lightly – it could bankrupt you ) as for the protection of our vehicle itself. Cost depends on vehicle value so my quote may differ from yours but ours worked out to about $580 per $100,000 of insured value. Accepting a higher deductible reduces this of course. The vehicle is covered from the time it enters the port here till the time I drive it out at the other end. Our cover is fairly basic – more bells and whistles, more premium.

Marine Transit insurance.


The vehicle must be clean, working, with no leaks and no flammable contents. Take anything valuable with you on the plane ( we learned, the hard way ! ) and secure things that must be left in the van as best you can. Theft is an issue on any RoRo passage since port staff and shipping staff have access to your vehicle to drive it on an off the ship. Our highly valuable things are with us. We paid a little more for extra baggage on the plane to minimize theft risk on the ship. We’ve also been advised to prepare for the unexpected – what if the vehicle doesn’t start or the driver can’t figure out the controls ? Batteries can go flat over time while a vehicle is sitting idle and to that end we prepared basic jump start instructions in two languages along with a picture of the jump start contact points in the engine bay ( on a Sprinter van the battery is not easily accessible as it’s under the drivers seat). We left details on the passenger seat in the van. Better to be “looking at it than looking for it” as they say !

With solar panels, fans and exterior roof lights, we pegged our van’s height at 2.9 metres. We were pretty close. Here, going in for a final clean before shipment.
Highlighted yellow circles show the red and black contact points for a jump start ( if needed ) – this image is included on a laminated sheet on the passenger seat.
What to pack, what to leave ? We’d be going from a summer in Oz to the middle of winter in Canada while the ship had our van – but for how long ? All major valuables are with us on the plane. Once bitten, twice shy……..!


Sometime in advance of the ship’s load date ( just prior to sailing ) a window of time will be given for delivery of your vehicle to the port. Pick your day, contact the port and book your slot, usually done via the port’s website. We had no one assist us in delivering the vehicle to the port and it all went smoothly. MIRRAT was very organized and we were in and out within 45 minutes. Security is very tight at all ports and in every port we have been to an escort is required to accompany you through gate controls, document checks and so forth. In Buenos Aires we even had to wear hard hats, steel toe boots and a Hi VIZ vest. Just the vest in Melbourne ! The escort is paid for at the port and takes you through the security process to the point where you drop your vehicle . They then take you back out to the port exit, handing you a receipt to confirm that the vehicle is now in their hands. At this point delivery is done. Fingers crossed it arrives unharmed at the other end !

Following the port escort to the drop point.
I asked Daniel, our port escort, to stand in front of our vehicle ( all 4 sides ) for photos to confirm what condition it was in when we parted company with it at the port ( lest there be any damage in transit ).
Turns out the German folks( Ute and Stefan ) that we met in Tasmania were shipping their Sprinter van out of Australia at the same time, and on the same ship ( but that doesn’t mean we were both going to the same destination ! ). The yellow sticker tells port staff what ship to put it on and where it is ultimately to be unloaded.


Sometime after the ship sails, the shipping line will send a confirmation to our agent confirming our vehicle was safely loaded ( hopefully ! ) and that the ship is on the high seas. At that point I will be sent an invoice to pay for the freight and port fees. That’s about it, other than tracking the progress of the ship there is not much to do until it nears its destination but I’ll outline that process as and when we get closer to it.

I hope this helps those shipping, or even contemplating shipping, out of Australia. I’ll provide detailed costing when the journey is complete. Feel free to reach out to me on [email protected] if you require any further information.

Tasmania: The North

Tasmania: The North

Working our way west  ( anticlockwise ) since arriving, Tasmania’s northern attractions were left for last. No particular reason for travelling this way other than the fact that it left Cradle Mountain for the end of our trip and potentially in a better weather pattern – or so we had hoped. It’s definitely one of Tassie’s “biggies” in terms of attractions but it is notoriously weather sensitive

Leaving Pyengana, we came down from the hills through Derby, Scottsdale and on to the coast at Bridport, one of Tassie’s favourite holiday destinations. A very touristy town with a great beach, it looked like the kind of place locals come with their families for a beach holiday. Not being beach weather during our time there it seemed a bit pointless to stay, so on we travelled to historic George Town.  Despite the historical connection, our main reason for visiting was to pop in and see an old school friend who’d recently relocated there – wonderful to catch up with Nick and we agreed neither of us had changed at all in the 45 years since we were at school together !

Above, Jeff and Nick- a great, though short, visit while in George Town.

Launceston sits just below George Town and is Tassie’s second largest city. We used its excellent shopping options to replace some kitchen ware and also took in its downtown sites and its big tourist draw, Cataract Gorge. Following some recent overcast weather, Launceston was on its best behaviour while we were there !

Cataract Gorge, Launceston.
Selfie, Cataract Gorge, Launceston.
I did mention shopping – hard to keep Lois out of the baby stores, especially in the bigger cities.

Just west of “Launy” ( as locals call it ) is the Kentish region of Tasmania – including the delightful towns ( and myriad attractions ) of Deloraine, Railton, Mole Creek and Sheffield, so the next few days were spent exploring between the group of them ( they are only 20-30 kms apart ). Deloraine probably the pick of the bunch for us – spotting a ( generally hard to find ) platypus on the Meander River was a real treat, as was the drive to ( and hike from ) nearby Liffey Falls.

The tranquil Meander River, Deloraine. Generally a good spot to see notoriously shy platypuses, just as the sun sets.

Near Liffey Falls, the “Big Tree”.
Liffey Falls, Deloraine.
Us, Liffey Falls.
Beautiful flora, Liffey Falls.
Creative garden “art”, Sheffield.

Mural, Sheffield ( which bills itself as the “mural city”).

If Wineglass Bay was the star of the east coast, undoubtedly Cradle Mountain National Park is the gem of the north. Arguably Tasmania’s top attraction ( certainly one of its top few ) “Cradle”, like the Franklin wilderness, is World Heritage listed. Its hikes and walks are legendary with choices to suit all levels of fitness and interest. Crater Lake, Dove Lake and Lilla Lake are probably the most popular at the north end of the park ( where we entered ) and the hikes that connect them all are indeed pristine. Surprisingly, some of the very short hikes close to the Visitor Centre were equally impressive – our mindset is generally that you have to hike far to see the best, but it’s not so at Cradle Mountain. That said, die hards can tackle the 8 day Overland Trek (and plenty were ! ) but it was a bit outside our capability given the equipment that we ( don’t ) carry ! Not just lots of flora at Cradle but some impressive fauna as well with lots of wallabies, kangaroos, eagles, wombats, and ( of course ) snakes. Tassie only has 3 species but all are venomous – we managed a close up of 3 Black Tiger snakes on the way to Dove Lake. Enough for us !

The weather just did not look good as we approached the park.
View of “The Boathouse” on Dove Lake, the day we arrived. Cradle Mountain not even visible. Fortunately the weather improved two days later, our patience ultimately being generously rewarded.
We bussed up to Dove Lake when we arrived, despite the rain and cloud. Miserable conditions but Cradle Mountain was still just visible.
Section of steps, Cradle Mtn NP.

Red fungi, Cradle Mountain N P.
Pretty creek, Enchanted Forest Walk, Cradle Mountain N.P.
A type of lichen growing on a host tree, Cradle Mountain NP.
On the way to Dove Lake ( Cradle Mountain NP ), noticed these three Black Tiger snakes by the side of the road. Tasmania only has 3 kinds of snakes but ALL are venomous. Best avoided !
Yellow fungi, near Crater Lake.
Lois, taking a rest.
Jeff, taking a break.

The forest had a rich covering of moss.
On day 3 it all came together – finally, blue sky and sunshine ! View across Lilla Lake with Cradle Mountain visible in behind.
Picturesque Wombat Pool, with Cradle Mountain visible as a backdrop.
View of Crater Lake on day 3.. Pristine.
Lois, on one of the rockier, steeper sections of the hike to Crater Lake.
A very fuzzy view ( shot at long distance with only an iPhone ) but the wombat is clearly visible, foraging on grass.
The overlanding vehicle you own when money is no object ! A very impressive rig, ready to take on the world parked at Cradle Mountain just as we were leaving.

After 3 days at Cradle, and with our return ferry to the mainland just days away, we made our way ( indirectly ) back to the ferry town of Devonport, travelling first through Waratah, then up to the north coast via Burnie, Penguin and Ulverstone. The fine weather continued giving us a wonderful final memory of Tasmania. Having spent almost 5 weeks here, we can truly say it’s a great state to visit, it’s easy to navigate and, after the huge distances of Queensland and Western Australia, it’s refreshingly easy ( and usually quick ) to go from A to B ( we met a couple bikers who lapped the island in a week ). As such, you can cover a lot of ground in a short time.

Beautiful waterfalls at the quiet town of Waratah on the way out of Cradle Mountain.
Parked up in Devonport waiting for the ferry back to Geelong and met James and Jaime, a New Zealand couple who had just shipped their truck camper over from Auckland. Only the 4th foreign registered vehicle we have encountered so far in Oz.

We now sail back to Geelong and begin preparations for leaving Australia 😔😔. In fact, when I say “begin” the word is a bit of a misnomer since we have ( for the past little while) already been exploring shipping routes out of the county. We are often asked “when are we going back” but in fact we have never wanted to simply return to North America – the question then, was “Where to next ?” Nothing firm yet but stay tuned for developments !

Will certainly miss “Tassie” – it has been everything we expected and in some cases more. The weather was a bit wobbly early on but we managed some great days where it mattered most and in the last few days it was consistently great. We leave with wonderful memories of places and people, but we are also happy to be getting back to the mainland. There is, at this stage of our journey, much to do !

Till next week…..

Hobart & The East Coast

Hobart & The East Coast

Hobart and beyond. East coast travels.

I don’t think we have had two better “weather” days than we enjoyed in and around Hobart, Tasmania’s beautiful capital city. Fortunate, because it is a beautiful city on the Derwent River, and the sunny skies provided for a complimentary backdrop to it all. We were certainly overdue for some consistent sunshine and Hobart did not disappoint us. It was, however, still not as hot as we’d been expecting given we were now right in the middle of summer. That said, one must remember that anything above 25 Celsius ( 77 F ) is considered hot in Tassie !

Constitution Dock, Hobart. This is where the end of Australia’s famous Sydney-Hobart yacht race is celebrated.
Tasman Bridge, Derwent River, Hobart.
View of Hobart from the north shore.

There’s loads of history in the place (it’s older than you think), and has some of the country’s best preserved convict-era buildings. Its downtown is compact, easy to navigate and the waterfront, centred on Constitution Dock, makes for great walking and good old fashioned people-watching. A highlight for us was the drive up to Mt. Wellington ( tight in a long van – but we made it ) where expansive views of the city, the harbour and nearby towns are on offer from a vantage point more than a kilometre above the city itself. Noticeably cooler up there, too. The curious opening times ( closed on two midweek days ? ) of the avant-garde MONA ( museum ) prevented  us visiting it during our stay. Not sure it was our cup of tea in any event !

Backstreet near Salamanca Market. Lots of beautifully preserved convict-era buildings in Hobart.
London ? Or Hobart ? Parts of the city, especially around Battery Point, had a very English feel.
Mount Wellington. The drive up was intense but the views were worth it.

The convict era left Australia with some well preserved and infamous gaols ( jails ) and Tassie has two that standout, both close to Hobart. Port Arthur ( which we’d both explored on previous trips ) is certainly much larger, but we found the Richmond jail ( a new attraction for us ) to also be most worthy of a visit. Fascinating history, and, while smaller, better preserved than its more famous (infamous ? ) peer further east.  Richmond probably has the best collection of period buildings in any small town in Tasmania, annd also claims Australia’s oldest ( and one of its most photographed ) functioning bridges. Among a host of other attractions as well, this quaint little town also offered up a great farm camp !

Lois, in front on Richmond gaol ( jail ).
Beautiful Richmond Bridge. Still in use, and the oldest stone span bridge in Australia, opened in 1825.
Camped here on a farm just outside Richmond, one of the nicest spots we stayed at. The animals brought back memories of South America.

From Richmond our route took us out near Port Arthur ( known for its coastal drive as well as the prison) then heading north up Tassie’s east coast. More populated, more accessible and generally attracting more visitors than the west, the lack of traffic there both surprised and pleased us since many other travellers had warned us in advance that it would be busy.

A few days easy cruising up the east side took us through many of the well known towns and some spectularly scenic coastline. Wineries, breweries, fishing villages & some of the whitest beaches in Tassie await those who explore this corner of the island – but the jewel in the crown of the east coast is undoubtedly Wineglass Bay (on the Freycinet Peninsula ). It’s the stuff postcards are made of, visitors being rewarded with a spectacular view of its crescent-shaped white sandy beach after a hike that is short but certainly gets the muscles working. In a week that gave us mixed weather, Wineglass Bay served up a gem of a day while we were there.

One of Tassie’s most iconic and beautiful walks.
Wineglass Bay from the lookout.

Ironhouse Brewery, Winery and Distillery, north of Bicheno. A beautiful spot where we sampled the offerings and parked up for the night. Many of these types of places encourage RV travellers to stay overnight, so we did.
You can’t always sample beer, wine, spirits, and even artisanal ice cream in one place, but you could here !

Upon reaching St Helen’s the main east coast road more or less comes to an end and the highway turns west for the mountainous climb up to Scottsdale. Taking the small road which continues just a little further north past pretty Binalong Point takes one to another of the east coast’s highlights, the Bay of Fires and an area known as The Gardens. Certainly the coast’s nicest beaches and some really unusual rock formations, but given the water temperature we had to content ourselves with “looking” rather than swimming. Perhaps with a wetsuit !

Pretty Binalong Bay, the beginning of the Bay of Fires.
The Gardens, Bay of Fires.
The Gardens, Bay of Fires.

Leaving the coastline and climbing up into the mountains, a rather circuitous road took us to the small community of Pyengana known for both the historic “Pub in the Paddock” and impressive St Columba Falls. Both well worth a visit !

Historic Pub in the Paddock, Pyengana
Nearby St Columba Falls, Pyengana

From here continue heading west and explore Tasmania’s central north, the final leg of our travels in amazing Tasmania.

Till next week…….

Tasmania : Across To The East

Tasmania : Across To The East

Leaving Queenstown, some of Tasmania’s nicest hikes and most beautiful scenery can be enjoyed as one drives towards the east coast, across the Lyell Highway – it’s an area that is home to Lake St Clair, the legendary Franklin River, and, supplying much of Tassie’s power – the Lake Gordon/Lake Pedder hydroelectric project. We’d anticipated exploring this part of Tassie since we landed and we were not disappointed.

Recent travels…….

Between Nelson Falls and Derwent Bridge it seemed we were in an out of the vehicle constantly – the combination of some sights close to the road and other attractions that involved short ( but at times strenuous) hikes. Fortunately the fickle weather gods smiled on us this particular day and allowed us to soak it all in, coddled in wonderful 25 degree sunshine ( which had been rare ). 

Moss covered tree in the rainforest.

In an environmental sense the Franklin River has an almost mystical appeal to most Australians – it’s not just a pristine Tasmanian wilderness but is considered one of the world’s great wilderness areas, much of it World Heritage listed.  Any Australian old enough to remember the national debate that raged in the early ‘80’s about the proposal to “Dam the Franklin” can now rest easy knowing it is safely protected. The ( admittedly ) small part of it that we explored was certainly stunningly beautiful. Those keen to go much deeper ( literally ) can sign up for rafting trips covering much of its length and lasting up to 11 days.

The Franklin River.

View from Donaghys Hill, hike near the Franklin River.
No prizes for guessing which route we took !
Lake St Clair is the southern end of one of Tassie’s most famous hikes, The Overland Track.

Just before the Franklin dam saga, a gigantic dam that did get built was the Gordon dam, backing up waters from Lake Gordon and Lake Pedder to create a huge hydro electric power system critical to Tasmania’s power grid. Definitely off the well-beaten track, but It’s a beautiful drive in to the dam and a very impressive engineering feat-  Lake Pedder also offered up some great camping.

Camped by the beach, Lake Pedder.
The Gordon Dam, near Lake Pedder.

Following the Gordon Dam diversion, Cockle Creek was our next stop, taking us – not just as far south as you can go in Tassie ( by road ) – but ( Tassie being the southernmost state ) as far south as you can drive in Australia. While certainly scenic, apart from a rather famous trek, there’s not much that would take you to Cockle Creek other than its “extremity” claim. Unlike Australia’s northern extremity, Cape York, Cockle Creek is barely 2 hours south of Hobart, so it does not involve any kind of arduous travel. Anyone that makes it to Hobart can easily  tack on a detour down to Cockle Creek, whereas Cape York ( almost 1,000kms from Cairns ) is an adventure all of its own…! 

Traditional Tassie home, near Cockle Creek.
End of the road marker – Cockle Creek is the most southerly point ( by road ) in Australia. Having reached the northern extremity ( Cape York ) it only made sense to “bookend” the experience !

Prior to spending a few days in Tassie’s laid back capital ( Hobart ), there was one other southern charm that Tassie offered up to travellers – Bruny Island. A place we were told ( by many ) not to miss, “Bruny” definitely matched expectations. A rustic, charming, spread out, beach-ringed “foodie“ haven, Bruny didn’t disappoint. It’s an easy 20minute ferry from Kettering, itself only 40 minutes from Hobart, and provides excellent  camping, wineries, breweries, distilleries, and wildlife opportunities among other attractions. A historic lighthouse, rugged coastal scenery and possibly the island’s prettiest beach rewards those who make the trek to Bruny’s southern reaches. Well worthwhile in every respect!

A “paddymelon” – a small, somewhat kangaroo-like animal common on Bruny Island.
Bruny Island lighthouse.
Jetty Beach, Bruny.
“The Neck”, viewpoint on Bruny Island.
The “Bread Store”, Bruny. The fridges are filled with piping hot loaves each day and sold via the “honour” system.
View from our hike, Adventure Bay, Bruny Island.
Selfie, Adventure Bay.
A popular “foodie” spot – the cheese was spectacular, the craft beer, not so much.
On Bruny we met our 3rd international overlander. Stefan and Ute had brought their Sprinter 4×4 to Australia from Germany ( via South Africa ).

 Hobart (and more of the east coast) beckon as we’ll turn generally north after Bruny.

Till next week…..

Tasmania- The West Coast

Tasmania- The West Coast

Note: It appears that last week’s blog did not get picked up for distribution for some reason ? We use Mailchimp, which has, hitherto, reliably distributed each weekly update that we produce but seems that last week it had a hiccup of sorts. Anyway, for those that did not get last week’s, this week you get two. Enjoy…….!

Travels of late…….
Wild coastline near Arthur River.

Given its proximity to Arthur River and multiple other traveller reports of it being a worthwhile detour, we opted to drive the “Tarkine Loop” just prior to heading south of the Western Explorer highway. Well worthwhile with some great hikes, sink holes, lakes, and panoramic viewpoints to checkout.

Arthur River, from bridge on the Tarkine Loop.
Already bumping into folks we’d met on the ferry coming over. Here with Paul and Tanya on the Tarkine Loop

One of the real highlights of driving the west coast, though, is taking a route known as the “Western Explorer” – a remote, hilly, windy, and VERY dusty track between Arthur River and Zeehan. We’d expected far more traffic than we saw and ( quite happily ) had the “road” ( I use the term generously !) almost to ourselves. It can get very beat up after rains and heavy use but timing helped us here as the route had just been graded in advance of the expected influx of summer traffic. With steep hills, sharp corners and dust often obscuring visibility it can be hazardous – as always, driving to conditions is key. In order to tame drivers’ appetite for speed ( 80km/h would be fast on this road ) distances are given in terms of “time” to destinations, rather than the usual kilometres.

Red dust in the outback, white dust in Tasmania ! Western Explorer “highway”.
In Tassie, we’ve seen lots of “live” wildlife but there’s also been a lot of roadkill.

The only settlement of any note between Arthur River and Zeehan is Corinna – not so much a “settlement” even as a ferry crossing with a pub, gift shop, and campground. Being the point where the punt crosses the river though, it is incredibly lush, scenic and a real travellers crossroads – we’d love to have spent a night even, but inquiries as to campsite availability yielded a polite “Sorry, full for the season!”.  Popular place !

The hotel at Corinna, a beautiful little oasis on the Western Explorer.
The Corinna ferry, just one vehicle at a time.

Zeehan was  at one point a major mining location but its mining glory days are long gone. Remnants of the mine ( a tunnel carved from rock  ) are visible and the road in and out to the tunnel was, well “exhilarating”, shall we say – one lane only and definitely THE narrowest dirt road we’ve been on in Tassie so far. Not for the faint of heart ! Our first time camping at a golf club, but not to be out last, with nearby Strahan offering up the same arrangement the following day ( thankfully this time on grass, not mud ! ).

The Spray Tunnel, Zeehan. No glow worms when we visited sadly.

Strahan is more or less the major town on the west side of Tassie, and a beautiful port with a scenic mountain backdrop. A bit like Arthur River in that it is primarily noted for its great hikes and river cruises ( the Gordon River, in this case ), but unlike Arthur River, where the weather was spectacular, in Strahan it was not – sadly just too misty and windy to enjoy any of its outdoor pleasures. Now, not that we are suddenly becoming “culture vultures” ( as my sister called us ) but, given the inclement weather, we thoroughly enjoyed a little indoor entertainment while there – Strahan’s legendary play “The Ship That Never Was” – in fact, it’s Australia’s longest running play, and based on a true story. Not what we expected in Tassie, but highly recommended !

Strahan port.
Saw this topographic map of Tasmania in Strahan – now it makes sense why it takes so long to cover what seem like very short distances…!
Macquarie Heads, near Strahan.
The play was hilarious. It’s an institution in Strahan.
“The Ship That Never Was”.

The hiking path to Hogarth Falls, Strahan.

Strahan is as far south as you can go ( by road ) on the west coast and at this point the highway turns eastward towards historic Queenstown. Like Zeehan, Queenstown was originally primarily a mining town ( copper, mostly ) – while it’s still got a solid mining base it’s now morphed into some pretty serious tourism endeavors, with nearby hiking and mountain biking trails bringing tourists from far and wide. Its steam train had been a big draw but track repair means the route is currently a shadow of its former self, only running a fraction of its normal route. We passed.

Street art, Queenstown.
Iron Blow, an abandoned open pit mine, Queenstown

I’ll close this week on a somewhat bizarre note. Not sure whether to laugh or cry, actually. All Australians know of the Tasmanian Tiger – a wild dog like animal native to Tasmania that became extinct when the last known specimen died in a Hobart zoo in 1936. Rumors of sightings appear in the media occasionally but it’s generally accepted that, sadly, they are gone forever. I’ve included a picture of one of the last surviving examples below:

Just as we were about to leave Queenstown, we wandered around the campsite and came upon ….wait for it – a Tasmanian Tiger ( or so it appeared ) ! We absolutely did a double take, both of us knowing there were none known to exist, either in captivity or in the wild. Turns out our camping neighbours must have really wanted one and used a vegetable dye to make their kelpie look like a Tasmanian Tiger. Hmmmmmmm……!

As close to a Tasmanian Tiger as you will get these days !

From Queenstown our route onwards will take us across some pretty spectacular scenery, famous lakes and rivers, indeed some of Tassie’s very finest ! More on that next update.

Till next week…..