We arrived home from holidays and instead of moping around for weeks afterward like I usually do, I was quite excited.
As you may have guessed there were travel related reasons for this behavious.
We took delivery of a brand new caravan just before we went overseas and there it was, all tucked up in it’s
little large Coat, waiting for our return. To compound the excitement I was also about to attend my first ever blogging conference on the Gold Coast in Queensland. My first thoughts were of flying to the event but it didn’t take Marty long to turn it into a caravanning adventure. Before that could happen however, we needed to make a smaller 600 km journey so that the van could have it’s first service.
Shakedown Caravan Road Trip to the Atherton Tablelands
That trip took us north to the Atherton Tablelands along the coastal Bruce Highway and home again via the Inland route, but the Gold Coast trip which covered a total approximate distance of 3000 km, was to be our first long journey.
The van is a 5.42 m (18 ft) Coromal. It is extremely hi-tech compared to the first old caravan we bought for $5,000 and as we drove it away from the dealership I felt as if we were leaving hospital with our first newborn child. Would we remember everything we had learned when we took delivery of this new baby? Would we forget something important and stuff it up? Umm we did have a few embarrassing moments like when we couldn’t turn the lights on! On the other hand it has been fantastic to charge our devices at both the internal and external USB ports. My parents were keen caravanners when I was a kid but they never dreamed of such a thing.
But what I love most is the en-suite. There are no more nocturnal wanderings for us and it also enables camping where there are no facilities. Another trip-changer is the solar panel on the roof, that supplies us with 12 volt power. Via a battery it operates everything except for air-conditioning/heating and microwave.
Free Camping Australia and Wikicamps
On our shake down trip to the Atherton Tablelands we were introduced to the WikiCamps Australia App by another couple, around the campfire one night. They were impressed, telling us how even when there is no internet reception you can use the off-line maps (although the App has prompted us to go to off-line maps we have not tried that function yet). We downloaded the paid version ($7.40) instantly and compared to other books available this is a real bargain (our kids gave Marty a book as a present years ago and it cost $70).
Some camps are located conveniently close to a main road but many are off the beaten track in gorgeous and interesting locations. They might have no amenities at all, or a combination of toilets, showers (mostly cold), potable and/or non-potable water and picnic tables.
The App also includes commercial caravan parks. When you click on a particular camp site it goes to that page and displays features as icons. Being able to read comments by previous camp site users is invaluable. Evidently having the paid version enables us to add sites ourselves also.
On the left is a screen shot taken before selecting Ravenshoe Heritage Railway and the next is after selection. The dollar sign indicates a charge involved – free camps have the same sign with a diagonal line through it. By clicking on the comments icon I could see that other users had paid $10 un-powered and $15 powered. Those prices were correct and we got the last site which was unpowered. With Ravenshoe being the highest town in Queensland and our visit being mid-winter the piping hot showers were fantastic. Without mains power we could not however operate our heater – Brrrr.
By the way the park was awesome, with great hosts who personally invited everyone on arrival, to join the campfire for happy hour that night, and the small country town itself had a real sense of community.
Notch Point Queensland
463 km south of Townsville we turned off the Bruce Highway toward our first free camp at Notch Point – a place I credit with making me Fall In Love with Australia all over again.
Although Notch point, Queensland (there is another on Dirk Harthog Island in W.A.) access is classified as 4WD, we only needed to engage 4WD when departing our sandy campsite whilst towing the van. The first half of the 12 km road from Ilbilbie was sealed, where-after it became a well graded gravel road and finally a rough dirt track (I was a newbie then and didn’t read the comments). The entry track was dry and sandy, but one large dip was (fresh water) wet. On arrival there were plenty of firm ground campsites and turning space for caravans. I suggest that all cars and vans coming here should have a high clearance and be suitable for off road conditions. It is best to arrive during daylight hours as the track leads haphazardly between trees and rocks. At times the road splits and a choice has to be made as to the best route.
Some people had dogs running free but I would not take ours. Cattle graze in the area and there are signs saying baits have been laid and the comments reflect this. The App doesn’t show a dog icon – yet another indication. Comments suggested heaps of sand flies but they were not a problem when we were there. 7 day limit. Remember to bring everything including water. The closest shops are Ilbilbie roadhouse on the Bruce Highway (food and fuel) and Greenhill Store, 814 Greenhill Road on the way to Cape Palmerston.
Miriam Vale Queensland
Miriam Vale is 429km south of of Notch Point. When southbound turn left off the highway at the Big Crab Service Station to reach the main street which runs parallel with the highway. It is easy to drive through town without finding the pretty main street, with it’s old time shops, pub and park.
Free Camp Miriam Vale Showground on Southern outskirts.
We were the only campers – probably due to the amenities building being locked. The grounds were well maintained with some undercover seating areas that probably provide catering/bars for events. Although the rear of the site is a fair distance from the highway, traffic noise can still be heard. Staying at a typical country showground was an Australiana experience in itself with an atmospheric morning mist lifting from the show ring and lingering in the bush. The grounds themselves were grassed with a few tall trees. 24 hour stay limit.
Gold Coast Caravan Parks
The Gold Coast is a further 600 km south of Miriam Vale.
The three parks we stayed at – two on the Gold Coast and one on the Sunshine Coast charged approximately $50/night on a nightly basis.
Ocean Beach Tourist Park, 22 Hythe Street, Miami Beach. 07) 5667-2710
A well maintained small park situated between the Gold Coast Highway and Miami Beach with security coded access to the esplanade. Between the park and the beach is the Miami Beach Surf Club (bar open for Sunday Afternoon sessions only). Beneath the bar, Piccolos Espresso is open for breakfast and lunch daily with a dedicated bicycle parking area out the front. The park was a nice spot to be, but was booked solid with Grey Nomads (retirees escaping the southern winter) with only the occasional family or younger couple. Miami is great for beach walking and the Esplanade path connects to Mick Shamburg park and the headland via steps. From the headland there are panoramic views north to the skyscapers of Surfers Paradise and south to Coolangatta.
Miami Beach Surf Club and Piccolo Espresso. The caravan park is directly behind.
Sunset View from Mick Shamburg Park looking North to Surfers Paradise.
Tallebudgera Creek Caravan Park, 1544 Gold Coast Hwy, Palm Beach. 1300 672 700.
We decided to stay on longer at the Gold Coast but couldn’t extend our booking, so we packed up and moved 10 minutes south to Tallebudgera Creek.
This park, situated on the banks of Tallebudgera Creek (where it swells to lake size) was as huge as Ocean Beach was cosy. It seemed there was a kayak on every car top and the creek beach frontage was the obvious launching point. The beach is perfect for families with a creek swimming enclosure to compliment the three pools in the park. A pathway leads beneath the bridge, with it’s cool looking pylons to the ocean, or over the bridge to the Burleigh Head National Park walking track.
This park is an excellent spot for those who enjoy Kayaking, SUP, fishing, boating, swimming or just relaxing on a beach. I like the sense of freedom that open spaces bring and this park has that feeling.
It is very difficult to see in this photo, but the swimming enclosure is in the far left corner of the creek – it has a white floating border.
Sunshine Coast Caravan Parks
Coolum Beach Holiday Park, 1827 David Low Way, Coolum Beach. 07) 5445-1476
212 km north of Tallebudgera, Coolum Beach, is traditionally our family’s top holiday destination. When the kids were young we rented holiday homes at nearby Peregian Beach, with my sister-in-law and her kids. We all have great memories of those days, but now there is just the two of us we stay at Coolum Beach Holiday Park, but it would also suit families. The location is fantastic, with full beach frontage, shops directly opposite, parkland on both sides and the Coolum Beach Surf Club a short walk away. Holidaying here makes it easy to explore the awesome array of other beaches located on the Sunshine Coast.
When the sun is not shining the body board stays behind and we indulge in leisurely beach strolls or indulge at a coffee shop and there are always the hinterland towns of Yandina, Maleny and Montville to explore.
Our time lazing on the beaches of the Gold and Sunshine Coasts was over and we turned our tails for home.
Only an hour from Coolum we got side-tracked at Cooroy. In our defence it was Thursday – craft market day – and the town was buzzing. We stopped for morning tea and stayed for hours. There will be a separate post on Cooroy.
Budget Travel Talk
For those who are wondering about the cost of living in Australia, these are our costs for 20 days.
Distillate Diesel $640
Commercial Caravan Parks Gold and Sunshine Coasts $624.00
Budget Travel Talk has no connection with WikiCamps Australia and did not receive any compensation for this post. Our only motivation is to share information on this budget friendly travel tool.
Have you used the WikiCamps Australia App?
This post is linked to Nancie’s Travel Photo Thursday at Budget Travelers Sandbox.
You can add the link to your travel inspired post below.