Van life in Australia was my all time favourite part of my year in the country. Never have I felt so free, driving my home where ever I feel like.
Early January 2017 we bought our van, a 1997 VW transporter van, his name was Gus.
Gus was bought as an empty shell. We kitted him out with a simple bed frame, blow up mattress and some basic camping gear. We floated the idea of getting solar panels so we could have a fridge and charge our devices easily but in the end we didn’t. We’re campers, not glampers! An esky and some ice was all we needed to keep our stuff cold.
Gus took us everywhere, tens of thousands of kilometers, so many we lost count. We drove through every Australian state minus WA and Tasmania (saving them for next time). Good old Gus never let us down, majorly anyway. A few new tyres and the ongoing issue of a broken instrument cluster (we used to say Gus was still asleep, he liked a sleep-in sometimes, who doesn’t). Driving those baking hot empty outback roads with no idea of engine temperature, speed or even a fuel gauge is not for the faint hearted, and I would definitely not recommend it!
Camping in Australia is easy, there’s so many rest areas and free camping sites you can park up for the night, some of them amazing, some of them on the side of the noisy highway. An absolute must have before setting off on your Aussie road trip is an app wiki camps. It costs a few dollars, I think about A$8 but believe me it’s so worth it!
It shows you all the Camping spots, free and paid. Plus places of interest, hostels and probably the best feature, where to find a free shower! There is a huge community active on Wikicamps from backpackers to Grey Nomads (Retirees driving in around in their big fancy caravans) so there is always recent reviews and comments and literally everything you need to know, it really was a life saver!
The above screen shots are from our favourite free camping spot we found on the trip. Bendeela camping reserve is absolutely amazing! It’s located just south-east of Wollongong in the Kangaroo valley (about 2 hours or so from Sydney). The facilities are as good if not even better than some of the paid sites we stayed in, and this one is free!
William and his friends were the unforgettable part that make Bendeela so special. The Camp spot is on a nature reserve, full of bare nosed wombats. These wombats are susceptible to a disease called sarcoptic mange, and here at their little sanctuary they are able to roam around freely and undisturbed whilst having careful watchful eyes on them for their protection. It really is a great cause, and so lovely to see these usually elusive animals happy and free in the wild. Not only are there wombats to spot but plenty of kangaroos, bird species and we even spotted a few snakes. Needless to say we loved it here, and would recommend anyone to visit, spend a night or two and enjoy!
Van Life is great, but it’s not all sunshine and rainbows!
How long have you been without a shower?
How long have you been driving through and exploring dusty desert terrain in 40°C+ heat without a shower?
I’d put money on Carly and I going for longer.
We were pretty gross!
Baby Wipes were good, but they didn’t really cut it. Nothing and I mean nothing feels as good as a shower when you’ve been days and days without one whilst living in a van. Washing off that dust and feeling human again.
The flies in the outback are terrible, the most frustrating things on the planet! They get in your mouth, try to drink from your eyes, they’re disgusting! Yet the longer we went without showering, the more we started to stink, and that made us even more appealing to the flies. They had us right where they wanted us.
Mosquito netting and bug screening for windows is a good investment for your van. It will keep the flies out in the outback, and the mosquitos out when you’re anywhere but. Australian mosquitos are relentless, they sure know how to ruin a good nights sleep. Queensland and just about anywhere in north Australia it’s not really possible to sleep without at least one window open, you’ll cook! So I highly recommend bug proofing those windows unless.
All in all the good massively outweighed the bad on our trip. Nothing beats the sense of freedom you have driving your home around a vast country. We met some great people in places you wouldn’t even think of visiting if you were on a bus tour to the major sites. We found ourselves waking up in the most beautiful spots with spectacular views surrounded by wildlife. If you want to see Australian wildlife, camping is the best way. It takes you out into the unknown and into their home. From watching wild platypus in rivers whilst we drink our morning coffee to racing a flock of emu in the outback, it was magical.
At the time I didn’t really appreciate how special it was.
Not until I’d lived in an Australian city for a few months did I really cherish the time we spent in Gus. On the open road with no plan, and not a care in the world was great.
That feeling is what Australia is all about to me, and the only way to travel it. I can take or leave Sydney, Fraser island and The Whitsundays. The outback is Australia, as are the animals, the freedom and our old friend Gus!