close to 1 month ago, we went on our longest and most daring adventure ever, an 18-day road trip downunder, of which we settled ourselves in our mobile home, a 7.21m campervan, which we drove for around 2200km. thanks to the internet, we were able to plan and place bookings for our destinations, both before departure and while in australia. since many of our friends and colleagues asked about our (budget conscious) itinerary, i shall be posting it here for all to share:
day 1: Singapore –> Sydney on-board SQ241, landed around 1800hr, picked up a Mitsubishi Outlander (2/4WD) from airport which we booked via Thrifty, drove and checked in at the Central Railway Hotel.
day 2 (sunday): Zig Zag Railway, took a real chugging Steam(ing) train (a must-do for Thomas & Friends fans, which operates only on certain days). we went cherry picking at Stockman’s Ridge. and we checked in at the Best Western Coachman’s Inn Motel for the evening.
day 3: Jenolan Caves at the Blue Mountains, am so glad we were driving an auto car with Manual Override, cos there were some extremely steep downhill roads and we need not depend entirely on the brakes. went on the guided tours into Lucas Cave. left for Scenic World at Katoomba, and took the Skyway and the Railway. Cableway wasn’t operating that day. checked in at the Blue Mountains Backpacker Hostel for the evening.
day 4: visited Govetts Leap and Evans Lookout, afterwhich headed straight back to Sydney. we went straight to sign out our Campervan at 653 Garderners Road. transferred all our barang barang from the mit onto the merz, and headed back to airport to return the mit. took a cab back to pick up our mobile home, and we were on our way to Port Stephens. our dear GPS led us through the busy Sydney central and across the Harbour Bridge! (we were happily driving and din realise it’s a toll road! on day 13, we learnt that the way out is FREE *phew*). and somehow the GPS also happily led us onto the OLD Pacific Highway, so it was a very slow drive cos traffic was pretty heavy until we hit the Sydney-Newcastle freeway. checked in at Birubi Beach Holiday Park around 8pm.
day 5: morning we went dolphin watching on-board the MoonShadow Cruise. we were able to see more of the dolphins in SeaWorld later, but this trip gave us the opportunity to watch them swimming in their natural habitat. after lunch, we went to the Toboggan Hill Park . there’s an indoor play area but we were after the outdoor ones. if you like the luge in sentosa, you would love the high-speed Tobaggan ride even more (: we werent able to catch the tractor train cos it only operates during weekends. we played the mini golf which featured many challenging holes. the maze offers another fun activity but we had to hurry back to our mobile home cos thunderstorm was looming in the horizon. indeed, the heavy downpour came within minutes of starting the engine as we began to drive off. we were back to birubi beach holiday park watching rain the entire evening and into the night.
day 6: we had a 8-hour trip to cover for the day, so early in the morning, we went for our last activity in Port Stephens, sandboarding. we we brought to a sand hill area in the red mini bus shuttle you see in this web page, and each of us was given a wooden surfboard. you’ll first have to climb on top of the hill, put down your surfboard, sit on it, push yourself forward and off you go at really high speed. your only “braking device” is your hands on your two sides. and we ended overturning towards the end cos of improper control of the cg. the trick for any adult+child surfing combi is for the adult to lean all the way back at tipping point and it’ll be a smooth ending. as the rain was chasing us, we were back in our mobile home and hit the road for Coffs Harbour soon after. our next stop for the day & night was at the Darlington Beach Holiday Park. again we arrived after office hours, and helped ourselves to the check in documents placed at the unmanned counter (:
day 7: Darlington Beach Holiday Park is the most lovely stopover place that we had. in the morning, we woke up to kangaroos chewing grass just steps away from our parked mobile home. this is the first time we ever come this close to wild kangaroos. perhaps already used to humans invading their (original) natural habitat, they would just look up for a while as you walked near them, but were soon back to their grass chewing as if you were never there. there was only one joey among the group of kangaroos this day. it was a free-and-easy day, and swimming, pillow jumping, beach strolling were the activites we had all in the park itself.
day 8: we set off for gold coast at around 10:30am and headed straight to the SeaWorld. it was past 3pm when we reached. we’ve booked the passes online beforehand and these passes would allow us unlimited entries to SeaWorld, MovieWorld and WaterWorld for the next few days (in fact two of the passes’ valid till 30th Jun 2012 if we were going back). it was a windy day and the cable car was off-service. the 1+ hr passed very quickly and we set off to our stopover for the next 4 nights, the Gold Coast Holiday Park.
day 9-11: the great thing about having a mobile home is we could schedule our time flexibly to go to either SeaWorld first or MovieWorld later. the best part is we were able to have our lunch in the campervan while taking a break, before re-entering the venues for more fun and play. this would not have been very possible (not impossible though) if one were to just rent a car and drive around. the mobile living space just makes the difference (:
day 12: taking a break from the 2 Worlds, we set out for a full day at the Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary. at the park, we were able to see many native animals, e.g. koalas, dingoes, wombats, and yes, up close to interact with lots of kangaroos (both reds and greys). the tickets included the unlimited train rides in the park which is real fun. the best experience of the day, which was quite unexpected, was the WILD lorikeet feeding at 1645hr. this is the second feeding session for each day, and one would be overwhelmed by the sheer no. of WILD lorikeets that came on time for the honey-based feeds. the lorikeets are not owned by the park, but they had been conditioned to come back each day during the feeding time for food, and unknowingly entertain the parks’ visitors. i wonder how it all started off, but it’s definitely a win-win for both lorikeets and humans. unlike the SG bird park where you need to pay a standard fee for limited feeds, one just need to make any amount of donations, and you can virtually treat the lorikeets to a buffet. yes, unlimited refills.
day 13: we said bye-bye to gold coast and begin our return journey to sydney. on this day, we once again stopped by Darlington Beach Holiday Park for more beach, sea freeze and the jumping pillows (:
day 14: we bidded farewell to darlington beach and headed for Karuah jetty as the next stopover. along the way, we stopped by the Ricardoes for strawberry picking. the starwberries are grown in shaded hydroponic greenhouses. and yes, on this day, we tasted some of the largest and sweetest strawberries we ever had. one simple word, fresh!
day 15: we planned our day to reach the fringe of Sydney and stop over at the sydney gateway holiday park, the most crowded campervan park we had experienced. in the morning, we hit the Oakvale Farm and Fauna World for more wildlife interactions. the goat feeding (milk) session was exciting as you see the goats coming to you to suck empty the milk from the bottles (avent bottles btw) within seconds! and following this, we had a chance to pat some smooth-n-silky koalas lazing on the branches. the afternoon was fun time at Dizzyland just a stone’s throw away.
day 16 (Sunday): this is the saddest day of all as we were to say bye-bye to our mobile home for 1.5 week. as if heaven can feel our mood, we experienced one of the heaviest storm in Sydney around 12-1pm, which delayed our return schedule. and becos of this, we had our last unplanned lunch of Hungry Jack in the campervan. oh yes, we checked back in at the Central Railway Hotel in the morning to unload the luggages in the morning before returning the vehicle. for the afternoon, we missed the pyrmont bridge opening due to delays by the earlier rain, but we still managed to visit the bridge’s operating room, interacted with the gentleman in-charge and learnt about the mechanisms of the bridge. the adventure of the evening was to buy the Family FUNDAY tickets, available only on Sundays, which allowed unlimited rides on light rails, buses, ferries, and trains (the monorail’s excluded btw), for just $2.50 per pax! hence we experienced taking the light rail, change to a rail heading towards blue mountains (no we are not going there), stopped at granville station to take the double-decker train back to sydney harbour. and we took a whole round trip on the ferry going around the harbour and under the sydney harbour bridge (: the night was a cooling one as there’s slight drizzle, but gladly it stopped when we alighted the ferry. we made good use of our funday tickets, took the train back to Central station, and from here, it’s just a 15 mins walk back to the hotel. yes we realised Central Railway Hotel is really that near Central railway station. the other railway station that’s also abt 15mins away is Redfern.
day 17: 2 attractions we went on this day, the Maritime Museum and the Sydney Aquarium. it was an experienec to board and look around the vessels on display, and we particularly like the destroyer and the submarine 😛 we only went over to enjoy the marine life at 1800hr as we had bought the $50 family deal (: we got to see the dugongs, which were once mistaken as mermaids. they were feeding on lettuce when we were there. and yes, we stayed all the way till 8pm, a rare closing hour for attractions.
day 18: we boarded SQ232 for our return trip at 1215hr sydney time. it was the first time we flew the A380. we did not get to experience th upper deck this time round, but this is truly one large passenger jet! we reached SG at past 6pm back home.
while we hold the above memories dearly, we also hope that the iternerary above would serve as useful reference for friends who aspire to do a similar driving holidays downunder too (: