Having recently sold our Retreat caravan and Nissan Navara we have purchased a Subaru Outback 2.0 litre diesel wagon in which to continue our exploration of this great country of ours.
As it turns out, for some reason the caravan has been advertised in a magazine, despite our best efforts to prevent this from happening, and we are still receiving telephone inquiries from people interested in purchasing the caravan – perhaps I should refer these people to the new owners in case they are having second thoughts.
Touring will be quite different for us in the new vehicle – we will need to adjust to limited space in the Subaru (it was easy enough to throw another item in the back of the truck or stow it in the caravan – in case it was needed) and we will also have to adjust to not sleeping in the same bed each night (one of the many benefits of caravanning).
On the flip side we can easily adjust to travelling 1,000 kilometres on a tank of fuel (we were able to do this in the Nissan too if we were not towing the van) but filling up 65 litres in the Subaru is much cheaper than 145 litres in the Nissan (if we were towing we might need to fill up twice in this range).
There is also a flip side to the flip side with the cost of an overnight stay increasing sharply. In the van a powered site in a caravan park might cost anywhere between $25 and $65; if one was free camping the direct outlay for the night would potentially be $0. With the Subaru we will be staying in accommodation ranging from onsite vans in a caravan park $60 to cabins $125 to motels from $135 upwards. In addition, one needs to eat and with only limited ability to prepare meals (in the caravan one had all the facilities needed for this purpose) the cost of eating may well be higher.
We are embarking on our first trip in this new mode heading south to Tasmania. Our first day saw us departing from the Sunshine Coast bright and early with our planned destination being Narrabri (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Narrabri) in New South Wales where we have booked a cabin in the local caravan park (http://www.narrabribigsky.com.au/) for the evening.
In order to avoid heavy traffic in Brisbane we headed west of the Sunshine Coast to Kilcoy where we encountered a heavy shower as we entered the town. As we approached Toowoomba we could see the Great Dividing Range swathed in low cloud and at the top of the range Toowoomba sat in a heavy mist. As we travelled west the sky was still quite overcast and it was quite bleak when we pulled up for smoko at Pittsworth.
Driving west through Milmerran the sky began to clear from its overcast grey to cloudy blue skies which prevailed through to Goondiwindi where we decided to stop for lunch at one of the local roadhouses.
Crossing the border into New South Wales we suddenly lost an hour of our day due to the different time zones as a result of daylight saving prevailing in the southern States and not in Queensland (we’ll pick up our lost hour when we cross back into Queensland at the end of our trip). As we moved southward toward Morree scattered showers (some quite intense) began to cross our path from west to east and we drove through a number of these.
We arrived at Narrabri at 4:36 pm (AEDT) after travelling some eight and a bit hours, and checked into our accommodation at the Big Sky Caravan Park. We filled the car with fuel then took a short walk through the town, purchased some food for our evening meal then returned to the cabin.
Friday morning was overcast with light rain falling in Narrabri and we headed off in wet conditions travelling south and south west through some quite heavy rain to Coonabarrabran, Gilgandra and on to Dubbo. As it was still raining and we couldn’t locate a sheltered spot in which to utilize our flask to make morning tea we purchased a coffee at a fast food outlet then drove on along the Newell Highway, through Peak Hill, Parkes and Forbes. The weather cleared south of Forbes and finished in a generally sunny afternoon.
Arriving in Wagga Wagga (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wagga_Wagga) we proceeded to the RSL Motel (http://www.waggarslmotel.com.au/) at which we had previously booked a room for the night. This is a very interesting setup as the RSL obviously operates a large Bowls Club and the Motel is adjacent to both and strategically located opposite the local race course. For our evening meal we visited the RSL Club and enjoyed a sumptuous buffet at a very reasonable price – it would have been very easy to act like two little piggies with the quantity and variety of food available.
Melbourne – here we come. After a later start than we had for the past couple of days, we departed Wagga Wagga en route to Melbourne on Saturday morning. After filling the vehicle, we set off along the Olympic Highway through Uranquinty, The Rock, Henty and Culcairn joining the Hume Highway at Table Top. Following the Hume, we pulled off the highway to have our morning tea at Lavington but once back on the highway we quickly passed through Albury and Wodonga then on to Wangaratta. Our lunch stop was a diversion off the highway to Benalla where we had a tasty meal at one of the local pubs.
Once back on the road we made good progress and soon passed Euroa and Seymour and on to the outskirts of Melbourne. We let the vehicle GPS guide us in to the port area only getting off track once when we encountered a road closed due to roadworks.
We arrived at the port about 4:00 pm and had a wait of about 30 minutes before we could start the slow process of boarding the ship (https://www.spiritoftasmania.com.au/). The process of queuing, checking, and loading the vehicle took about an hour and a half even though we were in the first thirty vehicles to be loaded. Our vehicle was loaded into the lowest deck of the ship and we were among the last to disembark once we reached Devonport.
The crossing was not the greatest with prevailing weather creating reasonably large swell once we entered Bass Strait. There was a lot of rocking and rolling (and I don’t mean the music type) and a lot of noise from the ship (perhaps this had something to do with the location of our cabin). Sleep was hard to come by and what little rest we had was rudely interrupted 45 minutes before we were due to dock by the announcement of our pending arrival in Tasmania.
Eventually we, and the vehicle, were on solid ground in Devonport and once we cleared the dock area we went in search of coffee as we had decided not to have breakfast on board. Finding the golden arches on the opposite side of the river to the Spirit of Tasmania we ordered coffee and escaped through the light rain to a location where we could recover before moving on to Burnie where we had booked accommodation.
We poked about Devonport and then moved on to Ulverstone via Turners Beach and Leith. At Ulverstone we took a walk through the sleepy main street, had a bit of breakfast at one of the bakeries doing business on Sunday morning and visited the Cradle Coast Farmers Market (on every week) (http://cradlecoastfarmersmarket.weebly.com/about.html) where we picked up some large yummy cherries and small tasty plums.
From Ulverstone we drove along the back roads to Penguin
then along the coast to Sulphur Creek and Blythe Head where there is supposed to be a Penguin Colony (although we saw no sign of the colony in the brief visit we made to the site).
Eventually we reached Burnie where we found a parking spot (eventually – as there was a surf carnival on and parking spots were hard to come by in the city heart) then walked around the business centre looking at the various shops (few of which were open). Eventually we made our way to the Information Centre and Makers Workshop (http://www.discoverburnie.net/what-to-see/makers-workshop.html) where we had a light lunch watching the surf carnival from afar. After lunch we drove north to Wynyard (principally to fill in time until we could check in to our accommodation) and took a stroll up the main street.
At Burnie we are staying at a Bed and Breakfast known as Seawatch (http://www.seawatchbb.com/) and arrived just after two pm; we checked into the room and, as we were both tired, stayed put for the rest of the day. The house is set high on a ridge overlooking Burnie and has a great view over the sea. The hosts seem very pleasant and accommodating, a continental breakfast is supplied with many choices including eggs that can be cooked by guests.
Monday arrived bright and clear with only light winds so after catching up on some missed sleep we decided to visit the Emu Valley Rhododendron Garden (http://www.emuvalleyrhodo.com.au/) a few kilometres out of Burnie. We spent a couple of pleasant hours wandering through the beautiful gardens which have been established and are maintained by volunteers. The setting is very serene and pleasant and although it isn’t currently peak flowering season there were a number of trees with blooms and the general setting was really worth seeing and meandering through – we also had good exercise traversing the tracks and trails in the gardens.
Leaving the gardens were drove on to the Hellyers Road Distillery (http://hellyersroaddistillery.com.au/) where several varieties of single malt whiskey, cream liqueurs and vodka are produced. The venue provides tastings of the products and also has a café where we decided to have an early lunch and partook of some delicious food.
After the distillery we purchased a few supplies to see us through the next few days then filled the vehicle in preparation for the next phase of our journey to Bothwell tomorrow morning.