Our introduction to vanlife was a three day road trip all the way from Melbourne to Sydney for New Year’s Eve. When you think of firework displays at NYE, you think of Sydney Harbour Bridge. Spending NYE overlooking Sydney Harbour was a must do on our list and we’d paid over the odds to make sure we had a hotel close to the centre.
We plan to free camp as often as possible in an attempt to save money and so the planned route was from Melbourne to Lake Hume to Kangaroo Valley to Sydney.
Now I’ve read a lot about Australia and road trips; about the distance between cities and the obvious fact that you always need water. I’d read horror stories about breakdowns in desolate places. You’d think that we’d be fully prepared…
We’d already packed most of our belongings into the van over two previous trips to the storage facility. We had far too many clothes as we originally planned on living in Sydney for three months so we filled a suitcase to send home and chucked one out. The cost to send the suitcase was $380. Not the best start to the day.
Our van has a dual-battery system with an inverter which enables the fridge to run as well as normal electricals without running the starter battery flat. The previous owners had bought the starter battery from a wreckers and it had been a bit dodgy. We always had to use our two deep cycle batteries to jumpstart the engine. I thought that it would just need a good run out to charge everything.
We set off from Melbourne with plenty of petrol at 1:30pm. The van was a mess with all of our extra stuff but we planned to have a proper sort out at Lake Hume, a four hour drive away.
I won’t elaborate too much unless you want me to but here is a brief summary of day one:
- One bottle of water each
- One lost tarpaulin
- One breakdown a mile off the highway and RACV callout
- A drive through a superstorm (literally couldn’t see anything but branches flying past our van)
- One petrol stop
- Learnt our van is rubbish on hills
Time: 6.5 hours
One of the worst days of travel I’ve ever had but pulling up on the shores of Lake Hume was a perfect end to the day. We managed to unwind pretty quickly despite being very thirsty.
After the stress of the previous day, we woke up feeling relaxed and ready for the biggest travel day. We didn’t realise exactly how far we were going or what was in store for us when we got there either.
We set off at 9am to the local town before our journey commenced an hour later.
- One brand new battery (the van starts like a dream – our problems are solved)
- McDonalds Breakfast
- Two stops for petrol
- An incredibly steep 10km decline into Kangaroo Valley
- One proper meal
- Australia is actually really hilly
The free camp was absolutely perfect and you could see that as it was nearly full. The park is managed by NSW Water and there are wardens working 24 hours a day. We spent an hour unpacking our stuff and sorting the campervan when a huge wombat popped his head out from under our van. There were quite a few wombats walking around eating the grass and you could see kangaroos in the next field.
We awoke in the middle of the night to the van rocking from side to side. A wombat had decided to scratch his back under our van!
It was on day two that I realised we really could manage living in the van for nine months.
Time: 7.75 hours
We were not far from Sydney now but had to navigate through its heart to our hotel on Darling Harbour. We set off at 8:30am refreshed and ready.
There was no way we were going back out the valley the way we came as the likelihood of us making it up the top was 0%. The hill out of the campsite was steep enough.
We changed our plan and went south to reach the highway and then come back on ourselves along the coast. We had no idea whether this way would be worse. Luckily for us the hill out of the valley wasn’t as steep or as long although we still had about 10 cars (and a caravan) behind us. The road was beautiful with sweeping curves and huge overhanging trees. I would love to drive that road again albeit in something with power.
The highway into Sydney had many long ascents so we didn’t break any records for speed. We kept catching glimpses of Sydney in the distance. It looked huge.
We finally passed a welcome sign although it was still 40km to central Sydney through suburb after suburb. Emma successfully navigated us all the way to Darling Harbour without a satnav which was brilliant.
Having checked into our hotel, we went to explore only to find that, just like everyone says, Sydney is huge! It seemed very different to Melbourne but there was nothing like walking onto Circular Quay looking up at the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge. This is the view that everyone knows of Australia.
We spent most of the day scouting out locations for New Year’s Eve before settling on Observatory Hill.
Time: 3 hours
Total Distance: 1,033kms
Total Time: 17.25 hours
This felt like an absolutely epic road trip and one that showed us how prepared we need to be. I cannot believe that we broke down without water. Whilst it was only a mile from the highway, it felt as though we were in the middle of nowhere. Next time someone tells us our tarpaulin fell off the roof, we’ll keep driving.
Currently, we have no plan apart from Sydney in March so it’s just a case of exploring as much as we can.