Around this time last year, we were driving from Melbourne to Gold Coast. We pretty much winged it because the whole point of a roadtrip is to be exciting and spontaneous but there are a few things I can share and help you along on your big adventure! I hope this inspires you to do something different and experience something you’d never have thought twice about.
Day One – from Melbourne to Lakes Entrance into an unmarked town…
We picked up our first rental from Wicked Australia because they have the cheapest vehicles on the market and their vans had #vanlife vibes instead of being plain and boring and white. However, they are pretty basic so you’ll need to figure out how to bring along pillows and linens.
We took Princes highway out of the city and there wasn’t even a chance for us to bicker over who gets to control the music because we were distracted by the changing landscape and enthralled by the newness of it all. I had also created a playlist of our songs thrown together. A beautiful chaotic mix of two.
Our first stop was Lakes Entrance and it is a quaint coastal town with decent fish and chips. After dinner, we headed off with no idea where we would be spending the night.
There were a few paid campgrounds but none of them answered our calls and we weren’t sure what the protocol was so we kept on going until we came to this tiny town which I’ve marked down as Halls Lake (but unable to find on Google Maps) and stayed at an inn that very first night.
We weren’t quite ready to live dangerously and adventure is only good in increments.
Tip #1 Campermate: The one app to rule them all
You can’t just park or poop anywhere, so this was the app I used to help with food, rest stops and of course, camp grounds.
Day Two – Visit the capital of Australia and see the biggest sheep in the world before heading for the mountains…
We headed off so early that the streets were filled with mist and our windows was fogged.
We drove off into the oncoming dawn with the windows down and our breath chilly in our lungs, singing a new tune and enjoying a different side of Australia.
We thought it would be a good idea to visit the capital so we took the Hume highway towards Canberra which turned out to be a carefully planned symmetrical city.
It was built as a compromise between Melbourne and Sydney, both of which sought to be the country’s capital.
We did not stop until we got to Goulburn where we had brunch and then it was off to Sydney! After the organized infrastructure of Melbourne and Canberra, Sydney was like a rebellious teenager filled with winding roads and tiny streets.
The road up to Blue Mountains was a straight shot and we drove until night fell, all the way I day dreamed about what it would be like if we made our home in the mountains, a place romanticized for me by another photographer blogger.
We stopped at an Italian restaurant in Katoomba for dinner and re-discovered the joy of being able to drink from the tap. Warmed with pasta and baked cheese, we drove daringly into the forest in silence. Both bracing for whatever awaits.
When we arrived, it was late and the campgrounds were filled with other cars and tents. We laughed at our own paranoia, huddled up against the cold winter air and went to bed filled with relief.
Tip #2 License to drive: Malaysian drivers, you are good to go with your Malaysian drivers licenses
As long as there’s English on your license, you can drive in Australia but if not, you’ll need to get it officially translated!
Day Three – Get blown away by the Blue Mountains and live on the beach
We woke up bright eyed and giddy with the experience of staying in the forest with a bunch of strangers. There is something freeing about living like this and we loved it after just one night.
We brushed our teeth up a hill, out of sight and with our precious drinking water before answering Blue Mountain’s call.
We wasted some time trying to find a good lookout point (the downsides of not doing any research) and we were pointed to Lincoln’s Rock after an unsuccessful romp around Wentworth Falls aka Flat Rock.
Once we arrived at Lincoln’s Rock, I knew that it was the spot that people risked their lives for.
As I ran towards it, wondering what is the safest way to climb onto the ledge, Adam pointed out that it was extremely dangerous. Paired with the howling winds, he didn’t think it would be the greatest idea. When he saw my face fall, he pulled me to another ledge with an outcropping underneath and told me it’s just the same. And it was.
After I took my fill of pictures, we went back to Sydney to pick up our monster of an RV and dropped Wicked off.
Driving a self-contained vehicle is nothing like driving a minivan and I learnt it the hard way while trying to make a turning. But it also gives you more freedom because: portable bathroom.
Today was when the app failed us for the first time – we spent hours going up a winding trail only to find ourselves outside someone’s holiday home. We hauled butt out of there when we saw a CCTV aimed as us and we ended up at Putty Beach Campground instead. It was worth it though, because come morning, we discovered just how beautiful it was.
I penned a letter to myself here, reminding myself what was beautiful about the trip and catching that particular moment in digital ink.
He keeps reminding me it’s never goodbye; it is “see you later”. Those are the little whispers I treasure and in my heart, I hear it echo.
Tip #3 Campervan rental: Save those big bucks with relocation deals
The biggest well kept secret is that rental companies need drivers to move their vehicles from one place to another so that means you could rent a fully equipped RV for only 1AUD per day.
Day Four – Go where the road takes you and then try urban camping…
With nothing else on our to-do list but to drop the car off in Brisbane the day after, we took it slow and stopped whenever we saw a town or pretty sights. We discovered that one of the best feelings in the world is going where the road takes you without a care in the world.
We explored lakes and sat around simply enjoying the peace that has settled over us, watching crystal clear waters crashing gently against the shores and letting the crisp chill air invigorate us.
While Blue Mountains took my breath away, it was Newcastle that Adam fell in love with.
Come evening, we settled in Roses Park near Coffs Habour and we went for Mexican food with my cousin and his daughter. I recounted to Adam our family history and how in two generations, there has only been two girls born into the family and I am one of them. But the curse has been lifted and we’ve been blessed with Leia not too long ago.
After dinner, Adam tells me how he wishes to have a daughter like my cousins’ and that was the first time I hear him talk like that. We’ve come a long way since then and he’s accepted that I want four kids because one is a lonely number, two is trouble and three will spoil the youngest so four is perfect because each will have one other.
Tip #4 Best travel time: Driving at night is a complete waste because you’re letting beautiful sights pass you by
So you should reserve driving for dawn and do your shopping when night falls 🙂
Day Five – discover the beauty of Byron Bay and appreciate the unpolluted night sky
The park was filled with dogs and I saw a Pitbull loitering outside our mobile home. I rushed into the caravan to grab my half-eaten sandwich and Adam tries to stop me because it’s a Pitbull. But he doesn’t know dogs like I do and no matter how fearsome a particular breed might look, all dogs are the same at heart. I stop a safe distance away and let the dog come to me and he does. He takes the bread so gently in his mouth and trot off to bury it.
We hang around for a bit, people watching and cleaning up the mess we’ve made including dumping our waste into pre-designated areas. After that, we leave for Byron Bay because we wanted to hit every tourist spot along the way.
I tried to have a picnic outside when we reached the beach but it was far too hot and I was far too determined. I stubbornly sat out in the sun until Adam appeared and gave me an exasperated look, ushering me back into the car because we had to get going if we wanted to get to Brisbane on time.
As we pulled into Hugh Muntz, I realize that this will be the last night we spend under a starry sky before returning to a society of white walls and bright lights. I tried to take some pictures but failed horribly, lacking the lens needed for astrophotography. It might sound silly, having something like “take picture of night sky” on my wall of to-dos… but no more sillier than my dislike of the term bucket list.
Tip #5 Sunnies are vital unless you want to go blind.
It was such a fun and fulfilling trip we’ve resolved to one day be true vanlifers and live in a van for a year.
While we envision ourselves still young and able-bodied, we saw an elderly couple empty their black tanks and shuffle back into their school bus house. Who knows when we will live the dream? A year from now, or ten or forty? But I know this: home is where you make it and I hope we’ll find it together.