Australia in a campervan-Sydney to Cairns
Travelling Australia by camper van is one of the most popular ways to explore the giant country. On the Pacific Highway along the east coast one hardly sees the LKW´s as on Europe’s roads, but a huge number of camper vans and caravans. Many good campsites, wide roads, maximum speed of only 110 km/h and considerate drivers compensate the small disadvantage of left-hand traffic by far again. The many national parks on the way, the really beautiful beaches and of course the Great Barrier Reef with its tropical island world are scenically rewarding. Those who can also enjoy the miraculous creatures of the diverse marsupials will find their paradise here.
Travel time and duration
The route between Sydney and Brisbane is in New South Wales, the best travel time is between October and March. The route from Brisbane to Cairns leads to the tropics of Queensland, where the best travel time is between May and September. We were on the road in September, had it cool with rain in NSW and warm with lots of sunshine in QLD. We only had one month time for the trip and to be honest that’s almost too little. Of course there are a lot of things left on the road. If we would undertake the journey again at the same time of year, we would start in Cairns and only travel to Brisbane. But we wouldn’t want to miss the excursion to the southern Byron Bay because of the fantastic whale watching.
As a family we had really no desire to go into accommodations, the eternal suitcase in and out annoys enormously. Of course one does not come with such a huge box to the remotest corners of Australia but in one month one has on this enormous distance anyway hardly time to go into detail. We are enthusiastic about the caravan journeys and would do it at least in Australia at any time again. There are several larger providers and a variety of models. We played it safe and booked already in Germany with an Australia specialist.
Visa and driving licence
I don’t know what happens if you forget, but you also need a visa as a tourist. It doesn’t cost anything up to three months and can be applied for online.
There are several visa options to choose from, for us it was form 651. We had totally forgotten, filled it in the evening before and arrived without any problems. Just as theoretically you need an international driver’s license or a translation. I organized both well at the Automobile Club, but was never asked to do so at any time.
Driving in Australia
The first few minutes take getting used to and you ask yourself a bit if you didn’t expect too much from yourself. Left-hand traffic and then an unusually large cart? But the Australians are a really relaxed drivers. No one pushes on the freeway, no headlight flasher and hardly anyone drives faster than the maximum speed allowed and that is only 110 km/h. Here are two tips for beginners:
- Intersections are mainly controlled with roundabouts, not with traffic lights. Here everyone blinks when driving in and not when driving out. On multi-lane roads it is better to line up in advance, there is no lane change within the roundabout.
- At regulated intersections of multi-lane lanes, right-turners also line up to the right.
This is a sad chapter, the bills are just melting away. Australia is really an expensive travel destination. We had USD with us, but they didn’t use us much, because there are hardly any exchange offices and many banks don’t really feel responsible. In Australia we usually pay by credit card and cash is withdrawn from ATMs with the ATM card. A camping site costs between 35 – 80 A $.
Along the tourist east coast there are hardly any camping sites without Internet. However, often only a few hundred megabites are included in the price, who needs more has to pay extra for it.
Route from Sydney via Brisbane to Cairns
Australia is certainly not a destination for city tours, only a few cities are worth a visit. Exception is certainly Sydney with its icon, the impressive Sydney Opera House with the Sydney Harbour Bridge in the background. The best overview of the 5 million inhabitants of Sydney can be obtained from the Sydney Tower. In the botanical garden, Royal Botanic Gardens, we meet the first Australian animals in the wild. Ibise steal French fries from the tables, water dragons lie under the bushes and the laughing Hans lives up to his nam e expected much more from the Wildlife Sydney Zoo, but the location at Darling Harbour is worth the visit. From here it is not too far to the Fish Market. With its many restaurants it is a paradise for lovers of seafood. Be careful with the seagulls, they are sometimes really aggressive in search of food. We covered the whole tour by foot in one day.
The Blue Mountains are only recommended under reservation in September. Therefore we only planned a short visit to Glenbrook, the eastern gate of the national park. The first kangaroos are already jumping through the area at the Euroka Clearing campsite and those who stay overnight have a good chance of encountering a wombat. Officially the campsite was still closed.
The peninsula Port Stephens is known for being able to spot koalas easily. We were lucky and already at the camping site one of us waddled two meters in front of us in the evening. At night with the flashlight in the adjoining forest on the way, the yellow eyes of the Possums shine towards us. In the Tilligerry Habitat there is a 1 hour round trip through eucalyptus forest with very good chances to see koalas.
Camping with Koalas
On the way to Coffs Harbour, it is worth visiting the 72 ha Sea Acres Rainforest Centre and the Koala Hospital in Port Macquarie. From Coffs Harbour, a good but narrow road leads up to the Dorrigo National Park. The 2,5 h long Wonga Walk leads from the Dorrigo Rainforest Centre through the most beautiful rainforest. The crazy singing of the Catbirds and the Wipbirds provides the necessary atmosphere.
Camping south of Coffs Harbour
We continue on the Pacific Higway M1 to Byron Bay, a paradise for drop-outs. The place is also sometimes really nice and it is therefore worthwhile to choose a camping site close to the centre. Belongil Beach with its fine sand stretches along the coast for a long time. Somewhat disappointed to have discovered so far hardly any wild animals, we booked a tour with Wendy. Totally likeable she led us to hardly known areas near Lismore. In just one day we saw a dozen koalas, lots of kangaroos and wallabies, flying foxes in masses and even the dainty red-legged filanders in Victoria Park Nature Reserve. With a top speed of 110 km/h we continue on the two-lane M1 to Hervey Bay.
Camping right in the centre
The city proudly calls itself the whale capital of the world. Let’s get on the track and book a day trip to Fraser Island in combination with whale watching in Platypus Bay. The whales stretch their snout up to the boat, brave snorkel with them and photographers get into raptures. The tour is an absolute must. But in our next station there is already a culinary experience waiting and we want to go on.
Camping near the fishing pier
It is considered to be the steak capital of the east coast, so we test it now. First we try to get some fish ashore from the boat dock at the Fitz Roy River and then we move disappointed to the city to order a 1 kg rump steak as consolation. We live in South America and are spoiled there of course. The 1 kg steak costs just 35 A$, is enough for 4 people and can be seen and tasted above all. But now we have again enough of the city life and move as the next place to go to a national park on the beach.
Camping near the Steakhouse
Steakhouse The Bush Inn
Cape Hillsborough National Park
We have not reserved a single campsite yet. The Hillsborough National Park is mainly visited to watch the sand kangaroos at sunrise at Casuarin Beach. Since there is only one camping site on the spot, we booked it online in time to be on the safe side. Of course, seeing wild animals is always a special experience, but if you can almost crawl them and there are more photographers than animals, it loses a little sense of adventure. Nevertheless there were great photos.
Camping directly at the Casuarin Beach
The clearly arranged city is the starting point for tours to the legendary Whitsunday Islands. There are indeed 74 of them, most of them uninhabited, but the Whitehaven Beach at the east side of the main island is mainly visited. As the sand consists of 99% quartz, it is considered to be the whitest beach of the world. The only downer is the danger of jellyfish and sharks, so it’s no fun to swim.
Camping with swimming pool outside the centre
The city with 200 000 inhabitants is a springboard to Magnetic Island, known for the good possibility to observe koalas. 20 km south of it lies the Billapong Sanctuary, where you can feed these cute koalas twice a day. On the way to Mission Beach, just outside Ingham, you can do guided tours with Aborigines at Mungalla Station. For us Townsville is just a stopover on the way to Mission Beach with the hope to see Kasuare there.
Camping on the beach with road in between
Many go to Mission Beach because of the beautiful beaches. We also stay in the southern part of the town directly on the beach, in perhaps the most beautiful camping site so far. Near here the Kennedy Memorial Walking Trek starts along the coast and the sandy beach towards Hull Heads. This is supposed to be a good way to observe cassowaries. Even at the camping these, unfortunately somewhat aggressive, animals often come to visit. So you have to keep your eyes and ears open. Maybe you are as lucky as we are and experience these fascinating creatures from almost frightening closeness.
Camping directly on the beach.
Our fishing successes so far are not even soooo bad. To top that, we need a professional and a boat. Allister from Hooked Up fishing adventure takes us from the pier in Mission Beach to the open sea and to Dunk Island. A great fishing area, in addition we are accompanied by several dolphins and could even observe a really big sea snake far away from the coast. At the moment we are camping next to the Malanda Falls and grilling the fish fillets of today’s catch. On the way we stopped at the private sanctuary Tarzali Lake, a great spot for platypus. At the less impressive Malanda Falls there are two short trails through the rainforest. Here two filanders jumped through the undergrowth and from Platypus Viewpoint we could observe a Johnstone river snaping turtle. This is also a good area to see tree kangaroos. If that doesn’t work you should visit the nearby tea plantation Nerada. There you can not only enjoy a cup of fresh tea, but you can also observe tree kangaroos on the access road. Another highlight are the cute little rock kangaroos in the Granite Gorge Nature Park. They are so tame that they can even be fed.
Camping at Malanda Falls, from here two small circular walks start through the rainforest.
Daintree National Park
The journey along the coastal road is one of the most beautiful stretches of the whole journey. As if through a tunnel, the road leads through the oldest rainforest on earth. Already on the way to Cape Tribulation you will find the Daintree Discovery Centre, with the best information about fauna and flora. Various tours are offered on the campsites. During boat trips at Copper Creek or the Daintree River you can observe groin crocodiles. We park our motorhome in the Jungle Village. He has access to the Dubuji Boardwalk, which leads in less than an hour through the forest dominated by Licuala fan palms. At night we could observe a Giant white-tailed rat and an owl otter with a flashlight on the way. There are also guided night tours to spot smaller animals such as frogs, lizards, insects but perhaps also long-nosed predators.
Jungle Village Camping with great bar or Cape Trib Camp right on the beach