For many good reasons, it’s time to explore Australia for the first time – or again.

By Michael Browning

State by state, region by region, road by off-road, Australia is awakening from its enforced Coronavirus travel slumber.

There is no universal advice yet, but it’s fairly safe to say that by the next round of school holidays in late July, you should be able to travel to most of the country, although some remote communities may remain off-limits a little longer to keep them safe. So this is very general advice and you should do you own detailed homework before hitting the road.

Just how far you will be able to travel, and when, could vary. It looks like many states will allow you to venture up to 500km away from home, maybe more. For some, this represents a solid day’s travel; for those taking less-travelled roads, it will take longer.

But if the Coronavirus shutdown has taught us something, it’s to slow down, smell the roses and ignore what our parents told us – talk to strangers.

Like a football team re-emerging to play, we need to prepare for this new dawn like it’s our first. Even the experienced amongst us will need to recall our hitch-up routine, check there are no ants or mold in the water tanks or taps, lubricate some moving parts that have been dormant for many months and ensure we’ve packed all necessities of off-grid travel: power cords and water hoses, an extra spare wheel, a jump starter or leads, a fuel jerry can, a working jack and puncture repair kit, basic tools, snatch strap, etc.

For many, the trip will be their first beyond the safe cocoon of the caravan park and here you need expert advice and some pre-planning. Be aware that when the travel ‘gun’ goes off, many people will be off and running for the best spots, whether in your state or someone else’s.

For example, following the cancelation of the sold-out 2020 Big Red Bash in early April, most existing ticket holders are planning to be there from 6-8 July, 2021 rather than get a refund.

The BRB organisers say only around 10 per cent of ticket holders have asked for and received a refund for this year’s event and these tickets will go on sale via the event’s website from 9am on Tuesday, June 2. So if you want to be there, you need to act now. This is just one example.

As one of a handful of Australian companies exclusively manufacturing extreme off-road camper trailers, hybrid off-road caravans and now – since its recent purchase of long-established custom off-road caravan specialist, Trakmaster – TRACK – and its many owners, has proven history here.

The experience in meeting demanding Defence Force contracts and the collective remote area experience of its many owners has been incorporated into its RV products over more than 30 years, allowing owners to head into difficult terrain with unique confidence.

There’s no disputing that the Tvan is a hard shell camper trailer icon, after being voted Camper Trailer of the Year several times since its introduction in 2000, with its profile as distinctive and proud as that of a Porsche 911.

The hybrid pop-top Topaz launched in 2011 shared much in common with the Tvan, but its larger size made it more appealing to many couples and long-term travellers. The latest T4 range introduced last year is ever roomier inside and brings many new comfort and technical features to this extreme off-road range.

Now with the addition of Trakmaster caravans, TRACK adds larger off-road caravan expertise from a specialist custom manufacturer to its range, offering long-term travellers the confidence to live off the grid in comfort for extended periods.

A common feature of all these models is that they were designed with harsh operating conditions in mind, meaning that they are highly sought after on the second hand market, where they hold their value better than most faux off-roaders.

If you are considering investing in an off-road camper or caravan, you really need to benchmark them first against other ‘off-roaders’ on the market.

So, once you’ve done your homework and made your choice, where should you go?

 

NEW SOUTH WALES

New South Wales has been quick out of the blocks, encouraging travellers to explore Australia’s most populous state. But while vast, you don’t have to travel very far to ‘get lost’.

Go north from Sydney and you have the magnificent Wollemi, Barrington Tops and adjacent National Parks, or follow the coast to Crowdy Bay and numerous other great Central Coast camping spots.

Cross the Great Dividing Range into Outback NSW and explore some wonderful historic towns around Inverell, like Tingha and Bundarra. Taste the wines of the Hunter Valley, or travel west of Sydney to immerse yourself in the vast Blue Mountains National Park, with its breathtaking lookouts, wild rivers and remote camping spots.

What about Mungo National Park, north of Mildura, with its great indigenous history, or if you would like to make your trip historic, follow the route of famed explorers Burke and Wills via Menindee, from where they forged their way towards the Gulf of Carpentaria.

Travel down  the South Coast and your dollars will be really appreciated in the bushfire-affected areas. Visit the zoo at Mogo, enjoy an ice cream at Tilba Tilba and a coffee on the wharf at Tathra, with great seaside camping in the Bournda National Park, just south on the way to Merimbula.

Then of course there’s the vast Kosciuszko National Park, with superb camping if you have a heater in your RV or are allowed to enjoy an open fire.

In the State’s deep south, there’s idyllic camping along the banks of the Murray River. Pack  your rods and almonds for that pan-cooked fresh trout! Then zip over the river at Corowa to indulge the wonderful Rutherglen, Victorian wines.

VICTORIA

Victoria is the undisputed home of bush camping, with many opportunities to access idyllic remote areas and some of Australia’ best National Parks within a day’s drive of Melbourne.

Heading east, you can put your travel dollars into fire-affected Mallacoota Inlet, travelling via the Princes Highway to Genoa and then turning right. OK, it’s all on bitumen to there, but once you get to the coast, you’ll find an entire network of fascinating forest tracks that take you back towards Melbourne via the Croajingalong National Park through great camping places like Wingan Inlet, Shipwreck Creek, Mueller Inlet, Thurra River, Point Hicks and Cape Conran.

Or, from Melbourne, take the alternative northern route via Bruthen after Sale and you can access Victoria’s fabulous High Country to Omeo, where you have a wonderful range of camping options along the Cobungra, Bundara and Mitta Mitta Rivers, surrounded by one million acres of Alpine National Park. Maybe shortcut to Dinner Plain or Hotham Heights to enjoy the roof of Victoria.

Closer to Melbourne, vast alpine wilderness areas extending from Mansfield to Heyfield awaits you, with many stunning camping spots around Dargo, Walhalla, Wonnangatta Station, Jamieson and Howqua along pristine rivers.

Sheepyard Flat in the Howqua Hills Historic Area near Mansfield, is one of the best places you can cut your teeth on free camping, but because it is very popular, you’ll need to be aware of social distancing requirements. And – like all Victorian National Parks – check availability before you pre-book online.

North of Melbourne, there’s the vast Lake Eildon area and the Murrindindi Scenic Reserve, north of Kinglake.

Heading west, there’s the Lerderderg State Park that you can access via Gisborne or Bacchus Marsh, with some delightful pubs at Greendale and Blackwood.

How long since you’ve been to the Grampians National Park? Or depending where you live, you can access the Wyperfield or Murray Sunset National Parks.

What about the Great Ocean Road? With the bans on overseas arrivals, you’ll largely have the place to yourself, without dodging overseas drivers. Continue past Lorne to the Wye River or Kennett River camping areas and from there, head inland into the Otways.

Or keep going to Mount Gambier, visiting the Lower Glenelg National Park for some kayaking before exploring the fabulous wines of the Coonawarra region, just 50km north of the Blue Lake City.

Call Outback HQ in Bayswater North on 03 8727 6100 for more suggestions, or check out where you can go officially at the VIC Department of Health

CANBERRA

The ACT might be small in area, but it’s a very rewarding destination, with superb camping areas easily accessed in the magnificent National Parks that surround it east to the NSW South Coast and south to the Kosciuszko National Park. There’s also some fascinating history surrounding the creation of the nation-building Snowy River Hydro-Electric Scheme in the late 1940s and early 1950s.

QUEENSLAND

Due to its 20-degree-plus daytime temperatures, Queensland is ‘tourism central’ for southerners in the winter months, but its accessibility from other states was still under question at the time of writing, so you need to keep checking the link below before making definite plans.

‘Must do’ highlights for Tvan or T4 owners include the Cape York Peninsula, where the very challenging Telegraph Track through gullies and across rivers is an option to the corrugated, but less demanding bypass road to the Jardine River and then further to Pajinka at the very tip.

But you don’t need to go that far. Cross the Daintree River just north of Port Douglas and there are some great camping spots on Cape Melville and further north at Lockhart River on the east coast.

In the Gulf of Carpentaria there is Karumba, while Adels Grove on the river adjacent to the Lawn Hill National Park on the NT border is a true oasis at the end of a very corrugated road, with plenty of local history to explore in the area.

If you, or your kids, are into dinosaurs, then 50,000-year-old remains of giant kangaroos have just been discovered at the South Walker Creek mine site in Strathfield, Central Queensland. However, the area around Winton and Longreach is more commercially accessible to view our Nation’s fascinating pre-human history.

Further south, there’s the real Outback Queensland, where you can immerse yourself in the history of the mysterious Min Min lights at Boulia, watch camel racing at Bedourie, horse racing at Birdsville, or visit the remote Betoota Hotel, with its adjacent caravan park, when it finally opens for business, hopefully in 2021.

Or instead, go offshore and the beach driving sands and inland lakes of Fraser Island beckon. Don’t forget to wash the salt from underneath your tow car and camper or van when you leave.

Find out where best to go through your local TRACK dealer, Kratzmanns Caravans in Burpengary on 07 3888 2725 – or in North Queensland, call Horizon Campers in Garbutt on 0409 000 872.

Then to find out when and where you can travel.