We had only ever flown once – the short return trip from Land’s End Airport to the Scilly Isles in a small plane. Then two of our three daughters moved to Australia. By 2012 our eldest, Cathy, had a daughter – our first grandchild – and our second, Becky, was getting married. Down Under, here we come!
In late September, we flew out, had a few days in Singapore and Sydney, and collected a Toyota ‘hippie camper’ from Apollo Motorhome Hire. It was three years old, small and basic, but it would do us fine.
Why hire a campervan? Because we have one in England, we like the lifestyle and thought it would give us flexibility. We were right.
We had 20 days to reach Becky in Melbourne after spending time with Cathy and granddaughter Nicki at Painsville on the way.
Our first couple of nights were at a site in Katoomba in the Blue Mountains. It was fantastic seeing the rain forest and going to the valley floor where we saw lyre birds – a rarity even for locals. The night sky was also incredible.
The Prince’s Highway took us along stunning coastal scenery. The Kiama Blowhole was impressive and ideal for lunch in the ’van.
Cathy phoned and told us she’d meet us at the General Store in Cabbage Tree, the only shop. That’s where we met our 22-month-old granddaughter and her dad.
At the Painsville campsite we had private en-suite facilities at no extra cost. We went to nearby Raymond Island where kangaroos and koalas are in the wild. Near the Wilsons Promontory campsite we spotted emus, a wallaby and a dingo. On Philip Island we saw sunset penguins parade ashore.
After arriving at a basic site at Honeysuckle Point, we told the warden we were English and why we were in Australia. He waived the fee, saying: “I don’t charge travellers – only tourists.”
Our other daughter, Helen, flew in for the wedding. It was the first time in four years that all the family had been together.
We loved it so much we’re going back soon and – yes – we’ll be hiring another ‘hippie camper’.
If you've been inspired to hire a motorhome Down Under, check out our essential guide to motorhome hire. You won't be the first – or last – to fall for the freewheeling life on the road in Australia. Donna Garner and her husband Phil, who are now motorhome touring full-time, first discovered a passion for motorhomes when they hired a 'van in Australia, as she explains in her blog, 'On the far side of the world'.
There must be something about a big country that lends itself to motorhome touring, because it was a fly-drive wild camping motorhome tour of Canada that first convinced Carl Gilham to buy a motorhome when he got home to the UK. These are just two of the inspiring stories written by readers for our regular 'Tour that changed my life' series in the magazine. If you're trying to decide whether or not to buy your first motorhome, click here for more stories that will help you make up your mind!