We’ve hit a mini milestone of 50 days caravanning around Australia. During that time, we’ve discovered free camps in sand dunes, braved chilly water on canyoning adventures, and snorkelled with playful seals. Here are five of our favourite experiences from our first 50 days of our lap of Oz:
BAY OF FIRES – TASMANIA
We’d heard there were some amazing free camps in Tasmania, Australia’s island state, but we didn’t realise how great they would be until we drove into Bay of Fires Conservation Area. Situated on the East Coast, the Bay of Fires contains plenty of beachside camping areas that are free to use (as long as you leave after four weeks). Our favourite was Swimcart Beach, where you can camp right behind the dunes of a white-sand strip hammered by wild turquoise waves. It’s magical on both sunny and stormy days, and is a popular spot with beach fishermen and anyone who loves strolling the high-tide mark in search of treasures.
SNORKELLING WITH SEALS – TASMANIA
With soaring dolerite cliffs pounded by a typically rough sea, the Tasman Peninsula is an ocean-lover’s playground. Home to endangered albatross, common dolphins, leafy sea dragons and Australian fur seals, this is the place to immerse yourself in nature. We spent half a day with Wild Ocean Tasmania, exploring impressive sea caves, spotting white-bellied sea eagles and sooty oystercatchers and – the best bit – snorkelling with long-nosed fur seals. We pulled dry suits over winter clothes and slipped into a cool sea, resting our bodies on a semi-submerged floating platform, heads underwater, staring at the seals in wonder. The seals zipped past leaving streams of bubbles as crayfish chattered below the bull kelp and pretty ctenophores floated by our masks. For salts, young and old, this is an experience that can’t be missed.
CRADLE MOUNTAIN CANYONING – TASMANIA
If hiking isn’t your thing but you don’t want to miss out on Cradle Mountain-Lake St Claire National Park, sign up for a canyoning adventure. The water will be icy – it’s Tassie, after all – but we highly recommend sliding down rocky chutes, jumping off ledges, abseiling over walls and swimming in hidden pools dressed in layers of neoprene while making your way through Dove Canyon. This is a 50-metre-deep quartzite canyon and is physically and mentally challenging. Cradle Mountain Canyons is the company to go with and is based at Cradle Mountain Visitor Centre. FYI, if you’re camping, head 20 minutes away from the park to Lake Gairdner camping area (off the Cradle Mountain Road). It’s a private property down a long dirt road but is free, and perfect for self-contained travellers. If you reach Moina, you’ve gone too far.
PADDLEBOARDING POINT DANGER – VICTORIA
Craving salt and sea, after a month in Tassie we made a beeline for Torquay, one of Australia’s favourite surf towns. We arrived on a hot autumn day and quickly unstrapped the paddleboard from the roof of the 4WD and hit the water. The surf at Cosy Corner was almost non-existent but made for a relaxing flat-water SUP. However, swell continued to call, so we paddled out to Point Danger where nice three-foot waves rolled steadily in. If you find yourself in Torquay, check out the Australian National Surfing Museum, and, if you’re a beginner surfer, join a group lesson at Torquay Surf Beach, around the headland.
JOHANNA BEACH – VICTORIA
Victoria’s iconic Great Ocean Road has plenty of beautiful towns and campgrounds to call into but our favourite was Johanna Beach, in Great Otway National Park. You’ll veer away from the cliff edge for a while, following narrow country roads, past paddocks of dairy cows, before you turn onto a dirt road that leads back to the coastline and windswept Johanna Beach. A few Melbourne locals had told us to head here and we’re stoked we did. Apparently, when the swell isn’t working at famous Bells Beach for the Rip Curl Pro, the surfers relocate to Johanna – and it’s easy to see why. When we visit, the waves are large, messy and threatening as the Southern Ocean pounds the shore. Johanna is also halfway along the Great Ocean Walk, a 100-km trail that starts in Apollo Bay and ends at the Twelve Apostles. If you head there, be aware that the campsite is basic, with drop toilets and nothing else. Be sure to take drinking water with you, and don’t leave any rubbish behind.