Quick Trip to Brisbane

Our holiday was over for another year, but I had purchased an Iveco Daily while on the Gold Coast. I now had to go and collect it. I needed to find a flight to the Brisbane Airport and also book another trip on the “Spirit”. With only one ship on the run, while the other was in dry dock. The first two efforts to try and book both trips, one of them would become sold out or the cheap flights would disappear. Finally a Monday morning flight from Launceston (Tas) at 6.20am to Brisbane with a very short stop over in Melbourne and a 7.30pm sailing from Port Melbourne back to Tassie on Wednesday night, two and a half days to drive almost 1800km.

The alarm went off at 3.00am, an hour and a half drive to Launceston, check in was an hour before the flight because of heightened security risks. The fog was like pea soup around the airport, just what I needed I thought, but not to worry my flight left on time. I landed in Melbourne and by the time I found where my connecting flight was leaving from, they were calling for final boarding. A two hour flight and Brisbane here I come.

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The Gateway Bridge on the M1 Motorway just before the plane landed in Brisbane.

I had barely picked up my bag from baggage pickup and Leon McTaggart was on the phone. He was just down the road, he came around and picked me up. We then went to a local service centre for a coffee and to finalise all the details, get a final rundown on the Iveco’s workings, hand over a cheque, say our goodbyes and I was on my way out of the city, hoping to make Goondiwindi before dark. While the Iveco had a GPS I was very pleased that I had the Sygic GPS App on my Samsung S7 phone. I didn’t need to learn how to use a new GPS operating system trying to cross Brisbane heading for Ipswich. I will leave that for when I get home, not travelling through the tunnels and toll roads of inner Brisbane. Anyway I was on the road just before midday, a couple of stops for a coffee and stretch the legs and Goondiwindi was reached just after 4.30pm. The first 360km was out of the way. I checked into a cabin at the Goondiwindi Tourist Park. A bonus was a free shuttle bus to and from one of the local pubs for a counter meal and then early to bed.

Day 2 started after a good nights sleep and breakfast at McDonalds, no laid back breakfast when not on holidays. Day 1 was just getting familiar with driving a new vehicle, Day 2 was a chance to see how things worked and  how it went. 750km of driving today gave me the chance to see how the Iveco handled at 90km/h, 100km/h and even 110km/h on cruise control. While I don’t plan to drive at 110km/h very often, I was extremely pleased how smooth it travelled, with no vibrations or rattles anywhere. I normally drive at 90km/h with the 5th wheeler in tow and the Iveco will happily handle this in 6th gear all day long.  An Ace Caravan Park cabin at West Wyalong was my 2nd stop on the way to Melbourne, a very nice counter meal at the Royal Hotel, just a short walk up the road, early to bed and an early start for the final 590km tommorrow.

Day 3 started a little earlier than planned, while the Ace Caravan Park was very centrally located, it was also very noisy as it was almost at the junction of the Mid Western Hwy and the Newell Hwy, as well as a train line to the rear of the park. I was on the road at 5.15am and in no hurry as I had plenty of time now. The cruise control on 90km/h was a good option as it was still dark and I did come across 3 very large grey kangaroos just standing by the side of the road. The last thing I needed was to clean up one of these in my new toy.

One thing I did observe was the amount of trucks pulled up for a sleep in the roadside rest areas. This is something Grey Nomads normally don’t see if they are travelling in daylight hours. We drive past these parking areas during the day and they are mostly empty with only a few travellers stopped in them. Trust me they are very well patronised overnight by our truckies having their mandatory rest breaks. No wonder the truckies get irate when grey nomads setup camp in them, especially the truck dedicated areas.

The sun eventually came up and I was making good time, just a couple of stops for breakfast, stretch the legs and to top up with fuel. I finally arrived in Port Melbourne very early at 2.30pm. As the Iveco was under 6m parking was not a problem, less than a 100m from the check in gate.

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You won’t find parking this close with a caravan in tow

With 3 hours to fill in, I filled in my time with a walk around the foreshore in both directions away from the “Spirit”. It is all flat walking, with plenty of interesting sights to take in.

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Lost of history around the port area

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The view from Princes Pier.

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Another smaller pier gives another view of the Spirit.

Time soon passed by and I was soon on board. In another first for me I had decided to sleep in the recliners this time as I was travelling alone and didn’t see the need for a cabin. The recliners were reasonably comfortable, although they could have layed back a bit more. I did manage a good nights sleep, I didn’t hear anyone snoring probably did help. The recliners were ok but I will choose a private cabin when Dianne and I head north next year and we will definitely won’t be travelling as far each day either.

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Back Home to Tassie

We are heading home today after six weeks travelling to and from Queensland. We have never travelled towards the ferry terminal from the east before. After looking at three options including one suggested by the caravan park and one by a friend, both of which involved driving along the edge of Port Phillip Bay for the last part of the trip. We decided to use the Motorway and the Domain Tunnel (I think) onto the Westgate Freeway and into the ferry terminal. We choose this route to avoid as many traffic lights and general traffic as possible.

We had a 1.00pm checkout from the park, which while we were grateful, we would have three hours to fill in. We did manage to delay leaving until 1.30pm. We decided to park in a known parking area on Williamstown Rd. We were planning to use the Todd Rd exit, however the GPS had us come off at the Montague St exit as we were in the wrong lane, no real problem as long as we didn’t go under the Railway bridge, which only has a 3m clearance and the source of three bridge strikes per week on average by high vehicles. As long as we turned into Normanby Rd, which leads straight into Williamstown Rd, we would  have no problems. We managed a U-turn in light traffic just before Todd Rd and parked in our preferred spot on Williamstown Rd. With almost three hours to fill in, a couple of short walks revealed we were only 200m from a small group of shops that the local truckies were using for their needs. Two or three small coffee shops, a bottle shop and a chemist were just off the main road, nothing extravagant but if the truckies use it, they must be good.

Route to the Ferry Terminal that we used

The main issue with catching the ferry to Tasmania is finding a parking spot for anyone towing with a caravan. We have stopped on Williamstown Rd. for our last two trips, several places to park and no parking fees, with a couple of a small parks to stretch the legs.

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Map showing where we parked, the Montague St Railway Bridge and the Todd St exit that we should of taken, only to prevent us from doing a U-turn.

Check in begins at 5.00pm, we left our parking spot at 5.15pm aiming to arrive just before 5.30pm, hoping that all the early birds had checked in. We were able to drive straight into the quarantine check point with no holdups at all. Once through quarantine we proceeded to the ticket office with no delays, we usually line up for anything up to 40 minutes, not this time, almost no one ahead of us. We went straight through the ticket check in, and within five minutes we were parked up on Level Five in the over 2.1m level with some general freight and lots of other caravans and motorhomes. We found our room for the overnight crossing and were ready for a feed by 6.00pm, only problem was the restaurant wasn’t open for another half an hour. I did say we were quickly on board.

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Access to Deck 5 (and others) via the cue on the left, a quick U turn and head for the ramp. The ramp is steep enough that one does not want to stop halfway up with the 5th wheeler in tow. We just let the vehicle in front get well in front before we head up the ramp.

Anyway we had a calm sailing and arrived safely in Devonport ready to disembark just after 6.30am. We arrived back in Penguin just after 7.15am, ready for breakfast and now we must adjust to the colder weather that Tasmania in August will deliver.

Dandenong South

We had another early start this morning, around 9.00am. All plain sailing, but there were some weather forecasts being broadcast about some damaging winds for Saturday, our 2nd day on the outskirts of Melbourne. We arrived at the Berwick Showgrounds well before lunch, a lovely spot, but, there is always a but, all the camping areas were under some of the worst looking trees you would not want to be anywhere near with damaging winds forecast. We were both adamant that there was no way we would be setting up camp here. A couple of phone calls later, the Dandenong South Caravan Park had some vacancies. As it turned out they had a couple of spots sheltered from the wind. It was around 2.00pm by the time we were setup and sat down for lunch. The rest of the day was spent looking around display homes. It is information overload, but we did see some great ideas, all we need is a budget to match.

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Day 2 started with a short bus trip to Dandenong Train Station, where we met up with Tony and Thuy Maw, a former workmate and his wife then by train to Flagstaff Train Station in what should of been a straight forward 40 minute trip. However fate struck again, this time by an electrical malfunction on some switch gear. A 30 – 40 minute wait and we were on our way again. Flagstaff Station is only a very short walk to the Queen Victoria Market for Diannes once a year visit. No trip away doesn’t involve a visit to the market. A quick tram trip after Diannes retail therapy to the Southbank precinct, a walk around and a cup of coffee and only a short walk across the Yarra River to Flinders Street Train Station and back to Dandenong, picked up Tony’s car and finished off the day with a buffet meal at a Food Star Restaurant.

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If you leave here and you are still hungry, there is something wrong.

Day 3, started with a visit to the Dandenong Market, much the same as the Queen Victoria Market. However it does keep Dianne Happy.

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A  trip to Frankston and lunch at a foreshore restuarant, a walk along the boardwalk, with a walk out to the end of the Frankston Pier.

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The Frankston Pier.

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Hope they don’t grow this big in real life.

A two or three day stop over in Melbourne is enough for me to be pleased I don’t have to live here, as driving in the traffic is not for me. It doesn’t worry me, but I would much prefer life to be just a little less full on. Tommorrow we are heading home, our trip has almost come to an end.

Sale

Another early start today, we want to get to the Sale Showground early today, rain is expected late afternnon, we need to do some washing and get it dry before it rains. It didn’t when we had to wait for a fuel tanker to get out of the way at Bruthen so we could fill up with diesel. A quick setup, straight to laundrette, washing done and yes we did get it dry, as it was very windy, although we had a couple of small showers.

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How would you like to drive this motorhome around Australia

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A great firepot 

Day two at Sale was just checking out what the town had to offer, just a lazy day really with a walk around the botanical gardens.

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We also had a look at the historical Swing Bridge on the outskirts of Sale. It has been fully restoredto working order and it is opened at selected times each week. It has just been repaired again after vandals jammed the turning mechanism and caused over a hundred thousand dollars damage.

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We are heading to the Berwick Showground tommorrow, it is only 50km to the Spirit terminal. Rain is forecast for the next few days, lets hope it doesn’t hinder us for our last few days near Melbourne.

On the Banks of the Snowy River

On the road at 9.00am, we are travelling to the Snowy River, just off the Princes Highway today. It is a reasonable drive of 350km, we didn’t take into account that while the road is in good condition, driving was not fast by any standards, plenty of changing scenery, but up and down some windy roads all took time. We stopped to top up with water, grab some supplies and had lunch in Bega, all that probably took two hours. Back on the road we didn’t arrive at the Snowy River until after 4.00pm

There are several campsites on both sides of the river. You can access either side of the river at Orbost. We stayed to the northeast side of the river on the road that heads to Marlo. The road is only metres from the river only seperated by a line of trees. the campsites are only small, some had room for a small camper or two, some had lots of large overhanging trees. As always seems to be the case, the last one was the one we chose as there was some grass and no overhanging limbs.

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A reasonably level grassed area between the road and the river in a quiet country setting

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What more could you wish for, a free camp on the river, less than ten minutes off the highway

We have travelled through lots of country and seaside locations along the east coast heading from Sydney to Melbourne. We have not had time to explore at all, we plan to stop at the Sale Showground for a couple of days before one last stop at the Berwick Showground for three nights. We really only came this way to see what was on offer. Two or three weeks at a minimum would be needed to do this area justice and late February to mid April would be an ideal time. We have been very lucky with the weather, I am still in shorts until now, we may get one more fine day if we are lucky, but the forecast doesn’t look as good for the last few days of our holiday.

Potato Point (Beachcomber Holiday Park)

We set off for Batemans Bay around 9.00am, no problem navigating around Wollongong. The road south started off as two lanes, a few roadworks and then good single lane highway. Lots of different terrain to contend with, but lots to see. It is a shame that we do not have time to seriously check out all that the south east coast of New South Wales has to offer. We arrived in Batemans Bay right on lunch time. Too early to stop so we headed south for another hour after lunch and ended up at Potato Point at the Beachcombers Holiday Park at the mouth of the Tuross River. An isolated area in a national park. The last 2km’s was on a good solid road with no potholes, but boy was it rough, first gear all the way.

We had the choice of sites as there were only four other vans about, all we had to deal with were the kangaroos, plenty of them, but they were very tame. You could almost walk right up to them.

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Kangaroos outnumber the guests

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Kangaroos just making themselves at home

As the name suggests, there is lots of beach, it is approxiamately 2km to the mouth of the river from the park along some pristine beach. Tuross Head is on the other side of the river, although to reach it by road would be a 20km drive.

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Two deep channels and a couple of sand bars seperate me from Tuross Head and prevent me from going any further.

Tommorrow should see us setup camp on the banks of the Snowy River at Orbost, 100km east of the NSW/ Vic border.

Sea Cliff Bridge

We were on the road just before 9.00am as we wanted to be through Sydney before lunchtime. Everything went smoothly although it is a little stressful, one wrong turnoff or a missed instruction from the GPS and things could get very ugly. Lots of traffic lights, although we sailed straight through 80% of them. Traffic was moderate most of the time, although we did strike a little heavy traffic on a couple of sections. Sticking to the middle lane or at least one lane off the left edge of the road does help as the left lane does tend to be a little narrower a lot of the time and a few trees seem to be just that little bit close for comfort, are overhanging the outer lane as well.

To drive the Sea Cliff Bridge at Clifton has been on my bucket list for a while and I wasn’t going to miss this opportunity. The road down off the highway was a little steep and winding, we just drove steadily. Dianne doesn’t like bridges or heights, so I failed to mention this as we drove over the bridge hanging out over the edge of a cliff with the Pacific Ocean below. You actually don’t get to see much as you drive over it, the only solution, set up camp at nearby Coledale, have lunch and come back for a better look.

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Dianne was too preoccupied taking photos to realise where she was.

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Dianne was a little apprehensive, with just a little coaxing she had a wonderful time, very high bridge railings to keep everyone safe, Dianne and I walked over and back, nothing to worry about.

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A constant stream of people were walking over the bridge.

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A keen fisherman, rough seas and the tide was about to turn, he was staying well away from freak waves crashing onto the flat rock shelf. It didn’t take much imagination to see how people could get themselves into trouble at times.

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Lots of rock formations walking along the rock ledges along the bottom of the many cliff faces.

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Another coal seam extending right to the beachfront.

Just an overnight stop at Coledale, we are heading to Batemans Bay tommorrow, what will we find there.

Lake Macquarie

We decided to spend 3 days at Belmont Pines Caravan Park on the banks of Lake Macquarie, twenty minutes south of Newcastle. First impressions were positive, absolutely waterfront position.

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The view from the rear of the 5th wheeler.

We had a spot out of the wind, some spots were copping a fair blast from a moderate wind. We didn’t really have a clue what there was in the area to fill in a few days, nothing obvious stood out, did we set up camp in the middle of suburbia. A tour around the park along with a short walk to get the hang of the area filled in the day.

Day two started with a drive into Newcastle, we came across Fort Scratchley, a fortified big gun and cannon batallion used from the late 1800’s through to World War II, a free self guided tour takes you around the outside with 360° views around the harbour, over Newcastle itself as well as up and down the coastline.

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The view up the river

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The lighthouse in the distance along with the breakwalls at the mouth of the river.

An underground inspection of the tunnels and gun emplacements on a guided tour takes a little over an hour and the guide gives a very informative talk, well worth the small cost. Luckily almost all the guns that have been used at Fort Scratchley are still on site.

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Day three started with a trip to the Travelhome 5th wheeler workshop, mainly because we were in the area.

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A frame not long out of the jig in front with an almost finished van in the background.

Just down the road was Cave Beach, luckily the tide was out and I even coaxed Dianne to come exploring. What a fantastic time was had exploring caves carved into the cliff face by tidal action over time.

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Lunch was at the local club, talking to a few locals we were advised that just down the coast was the historic Catherine Hill Pier. We decided to have a look, another good decision. Coal mining right off the beach, along with several mines a little inland and the rusting remnants of a disused pier used to load coal ships.

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A large coal seam right on the beach, there was even a blocked off mine shaft right on the beach just to the right of the picture straight into the coal seam.

The day was getting late, but we were being informed of places of interest to have a look at by the locals, nothing like a little local knowledge. We just didn’t have the time, maybe we will have to have a return visit on another trip, although we had a quick trip out to Warners Bay on Lake Macquarie, not far from the caravan park. I went a for a short bike ride around the foreshore bike and walking track, a very good place to see the sites on the edge of the lake, while Dianne had a coffee across the road in a local coffee shop.

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Some parts of the lake are very picturesque and accessible, while others do not have good access.

An early start for tommorrow as we will be navigating through Sydney on a Sunday. We are heading around the coastline to Melbourne this year, never been this way before. The weather looks as though it will be reasonably warm for the next four or five days, time will tell.

Kempsey

Today we are heading south to Kempsey, planning to drive most of the day. A few rest stops and also check out a couple of free camp areas on the way down, just for future reference.

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Macksville rest area, just off the highway, just for an overnight stop.

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Frederickton, a couple of kilometres off the highway, it would be great to visit South West Rocks.

We treated ourselves to a great value for money counter meal at the South Kempsey Hotel. I actually thought we had the kids menu when I seen the prices.

Only a short drive to Lake Macquarie tommorrow for three days, we plan to drive through Sydney on Sunday and hopefully the traffic will be a little lighter.

Gold Coast

Our holiday budget has just been blown out of the water, luckily not with a breakdown, but with a chance conversation with a caretaker at the Caloundra Caravan Park, we have upgraded the Holden Colorado with a late model Iveco Daily for our tow vehicle. We have been looking for a while, but an extremely well looked after light truck that was almost an exact match for what we were looking for, just popped out of nowhere. It hadn’t even been advertised anywhere. Some quick decisions were made, a deposit made. All I have to do now is get back to Tassie, get on a plane and fly back to Brisbane and drive my new toy 1800km back to Melbourne, another trip on the Spirit of Tasmania and a few modifications and we’ll be set for some camping in the Tassie summer.

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Room for some passengers and some extra carrying capacity

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Deal done.

We met up with Peter and Veronica again and went and checked out the local 5th wheeler seller.

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I down for a finders fee if Peter and Veronica take one of these home.

We like to visit one big ticket item on the Gold Coast each year on the way home. This year we re off to the Outback Spectacular, we have been here before but there is a new show this year and we were not disappointed. No photos are allowed at the show, but we had a great feed and were thoroughly entertained with a fabulous show. If you ever get the chance, you will have a good time.

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Tommorrow we head south, just a long day driving, goodbye Queensland, we have had a fantastic time mostly relaxing with some great weather, certainly warmer than back in Tasmania.