So, we survived! Forty days, one and a half months in camper van cruising down the coast of Australia. It wasn’t always easy- particularly when we hit that solid month of rain in Queensland, but from the Great Barrier Reef to the Blue Mountains and down south of Sydney it was an interesting and varied experience.
There are a whole slew of different companies offering camper vans of various shapes and sizes. I’d first read about Travellers Auto Barn in the Lost Girl’s book, and they had such a good experience that I decided to contact them myself*. After a careful perusal of the website I decided on a Chubby van, the compact mini-van sized campers for two. I mainly picked a chubby because they are the cutest and I’ve very sensible like that.
The first and most important thing I can say about Travellers Auto Barn is that they have some really terrific customer service. When we picked up the van in Cairns we had a ton of questions- we actually left and returned to the office three times! The staff was so friendly, patient and helpful- it was a great note to start the trip off on. While we didn’t run into any difficulties on the road they have a help line and I was secure that they would do whatever they can to lend a hand.
As for the van itself: it was pretty basic. Most of the inside was taken up by the bed (which can also be converted into a table although we never bothered to do that). There is a little kitchenette in the back with a hot water heater, toaster and sink. Liz and I aren’t really cooks so it provided pretty much everything we needed. For a small extra fee the company can also provide essentials like sleeping bags, pillows and tea towels. It’s not the comfiest bed I’ve ever slept in- but for sleeping in your car I think it’s pretty sweet.
If I were to do it again I would probably spring for one of the bigger van models. While the Chubby was cute, and probably the easiest to drive, it still felt pretty cramped for two people (Liz in particular is much taller than me and kept hitting her head and other body parts inside the van).
We quickly developed a day to day routine. We stayed at caravan parks mostly (easy to find in any reasonably sized town) but if you are sneakier than us you can camp on the street or in the wild. Our motivations were slightly biased though as we were mostly camping in the rain and we wanted the luxury of electricity. You can plug the van into a powered camp site and run lights, fans, even laptops off the battery. This made us feel less like we were camping and more like we lived in a very tiny, movable apartment.
There are some drawbacks to camper vanning- gas is expensive (and a vehicle that big needs a lot of it) and you’re very much at the mercy of the weather. Nonetheless, in a country as beautiful as Australia, there’s nothing quite like being able to see the stars out your window at night, or watching a beach sunset from your mobile living room.
So would I do it again? The fact is, if you want to really see a county as vast as Australia, there’s nothing quite like traveling by car. Flights between cities or 12 hour greyhound bus rides will only tell you part of the story- it’s so much better to have the freedom and flexibility of your own transportation.
*Full Disclosure: Travellers Auto Barn gave me a 50% discount on our camper van rental as well as free living equipment.