Dream Van Build

Dream Van Build

Watch our VAN TOUR Video here

I’d been waiting for this moment. Every time Chris’s photos and videos arrived during the build process the excitement increased. Chris knew what to expect because he’d been to the factory. Watched the build happen. But despite the photos and videos, I was nervous. Very nervous. Was I expecting too much? What if… what if I didn’t like it? I wiped sweaty palms on my shorts and tried to calm my flip-flopping tummy as Chris backed the Hilux into the Caravans Coffs Coast Dealership and on up to our brand-new Titanium SS Hardcore caravan. (Full list of caravan specs are at the end of this post)

*Please note that we have since upgraded our tow vehicle to a Chev Silverado 2500 .

They let me go in first. Alone. I was supposed to take some photos before everyone else came in, but I was so overwhelmed it took my breath away. All I could do for a few minutes was gaze around me at one of the most luxurious vans I have ever seen. And it was ours.

We’ve had our new caravan for almost three weeks, and I planned for this first post about it to be completely different to what you are reading!

You should be seeing epic video footage of us towing it along beautiful open roads, photos with stunning backdrops and words of excitement and wonder at how well it handles the different terrain, how easy it is to set up and pack up and how we love traveling in our new home away from home. That’s not going to happen! I don’t need to explain why.

The COVID-19/Corona Virus epidemic has turned all of our lives upside-down and we are scrambling to maintain some sort of normality while home under self-isolation. We are so grateful though to even have our new van parked in our driveway at home, and not stuck down in Coffs Harbour at the dealership!

A few weeks ago, as the van was nearing the deadline for completion, the talk about closing borders and non-essential travel was being ramped up. We knew it was going to be close. We were due to collect the van on Friday March 27th but made a spur of the moment decision to head down to Caravans Coffs Coast in Coffs Harbour, New South Wales on the morning of Sunday the 23rd. 

The aim was to pick up the van and hightail it back home to Queensland as quickly as possible. This was the best decision we could have made. The borders were closed on Wednesday 26th at midnight. We made it back home with our new van in tow two days before the original pick up date and just 34 hours before the borders closed down indefinitely. Phew!!

We were disappointed not to be able to stay in Coffs for a few nights to test out the van, and then meander home as originally planned. But you can imagine what a huge relief it was to pull into our driveway with our brand-new caravan. We knew full well if we had have left it until the original pick up date, we might not have had it with us for many months. Check out the video here: https://youtu.be/ozd81c1Vth8

We’ve used these past few weeks of self-isolation to add our personal touches and we are so happy with everything about it.

The whole process from deciding to purchase this van right through until pick up has been incredible. The team at Titanium Caravans down in Epping, Victoria has produced our dream caravan. It well and truly exceeds our expectations.  The guys at Caravans Coffs Coast were wonderful to deal with too, making the entire process an absolute pleasure.

How did we decide on a Titanium van? Well from the very first phone call there was a sense of rightness about our decision. This was confirmed during our first visit to the Titanium factory. We got to meet the team and see the ‘well-oiled machine’ in action and we also had the pleasure of being shown through the FP Chassis factory.

When it comes to the build of this van, we are fortunate to have partnered with some amazing and very talented people. We got to go behind the scenes; to see how many of the components are put together. Read about our tour through the Cruisemaster Factory Here and watch our Titanium and FP Chassis tour here.

We are sticklers for top quality products, and we have nothing but the best on top of, underneath, inside and outside this van! 

The design process began with us explaining what we wanted, what we needed and why. Then the experts set about explaining what they thought we needed and why and together we have come up with our perfect van. 

The obvious choice for us was the Titanium Southern Star Hardcore and we decided on another 22.6” – this is our third van of this length. We are at a (wonderful) time in our lives where our kids are older and have decided they don’t want to join us much anymore, so we didn’t have to factor bunks into the floor plan. Do you know how much space you get when you take them out of the picture? Wow – what a difference!

We have been able to add a spacious ensuite with large shower, washing machine, huge window and lots of bench space with heaps of USB’s and charging points for all of our camera gear. We have my dream angled kitchen with large bench and lots of cupboards that can fit my Thermomix, thermal cooker and Airfryer (so much YAY!) plus a large pantry and huge 224L fridge. And don’t worry – we haven’t written the kids off entirely …  if they decide they want to tag along, we can fit two in the rooftop tent and the huge club lounge converts into a bed.

The interior came about after plenty of discussions and looking at samples with the experts, comparing what we’ve had in previous vans, what we wanted in this van and figuring out how we could make it unique to us.

It was incredible to sit with Phil in the design room and watch the layout changing before our eyes as he manipulated the CAD plans on the screen as we suggested what we’d like. ‘Need a cupboard to fit your Airfryer? No worries! Let’s make this a little wider to match the measurements and tada!’ This man brought a smile to my face more than once, that’s for sure.

The two toned black and white club lounge, beautiful ensuite, embroidered bed head with full length pocket and the waterfall benchtop in the kitchen are just a few of the ADU touches we added and are so pleased with.

The quality of the build both inside and out is what really took my breath away. The upholstery, cabinetry and finishing are all flawless and I still find myself sitting on the lounge with the footrest up, just admiring and appreciating.

This is a full off-road van that is set up for complete off grid living which again makes me smile from deep in my soul. It’s great to know that if this world gets any more chaotic and we have to live in our van, we will be able to do so quite comfortably. The Enerdrive battery system gives us the power we need to run not just the lighting but also the air conditioner, microwave and even my hair dryer and straightener if need be – all without plugging into mains power! Our roof is covered with 4 huge solar panels that pump the power back into the batteries pretty quickly and the car also helps to top them up if necessary.

What’s under the van makes it more capable than any van we’ve had before … and I’m so excited to test this out! I mean, if we managed to get the Jayco Starcraft across Middle Track to the surf side of Moreton Island, imagine where this van can take us!

Our SS Hardcore sits well behind our heavily modified Hilux and tows like a dream, even without distribution bars, due to the Cruisemaster Suspension in our custom colour, ADU Teal.  It’s a ‘tough’ looking van with adjustable clearance thanks to the airbag suspension from Airbag Man. (watch our Hilux Bagged Build video here: https://youtu.be/JhqQ_CDtpik)

I love that we don’t have to find even ground anymore, and that with the push of a button on the remote control, we can level out the van.

I’m really looking forward to returning to the Outback and testing out the Carafan system that sits proudly in the roof, right by the door as you walk in. This is a pressurising system that pumps the van so full of air that dust can’t possibly get in.

And the beauty of this system is that it works even when the van has slowed to let the trucks fly past or even when you are at a complete standstill. This sure would have been handy for our Big Red Bash adventure

The full-size fridge is big enough for all the fresh food I love to prepare before we head off and while we are on the road. The pantry is perfect for storing all the hard to find ingredients I bring along with us and the full oven and slide out kitchen plus room for all my appliances, all allow me to indulge my love of healthy cooking while we are away. This was very high up on the list when we were looking for our dream van. The slide out kitchen was a last minute addition that we absolutely love. This is Chris’s domain … he cooks and cleans out here. Gotta love that!

Another thing that was right up there for me was the option of having the inside lighting change to blue at night. I know most people wouldn’t think twice about this, but I love being able to dim the lights before bed to calm the mind before sleep, and if I need to turn the lights on in the middle of the night, I can do so without waking the brain up entirely.

Something that wasn’t on my list until it was already on the van was the lighting underneath the van. I’m so surprised that Chris added this and so happy that he did! I had no idea you could get rocklights that danced to music and changed colour just by sliding your finger across an app on your phone! This is the coolest thing and I spend many a night sitting on our Navigator Chairs outside the van just watching these lights. It’s kind of like a tropical fish tank, if you know what I mean? lol.

In summary this van is beautifully aggressive, luxuriously tough and exactly what we want and need in a van and we can’t thank enough everyone who has helped bring our dreams to life. Now we just need to get it out of the driveway and off adventuring around Australia like it was built to do.



Here are the specs if you’d like to know exactly what went into our Titanium Southern Star Hardcore. Links to purchase items available on caravan rv camping are next to those items.


  • 4400ATM – 2960 TARE
  • Tandem axle, 16” Boss IV Rims (Satin black and modified by Chris)
  • 265/75/16 M/T Tyres
  • 3 Arm Bumper
  • DO45 Coupling
  • Galvanized Wheel Box
  • 4” Raiser
  • Drop Legs
  • Single Alloy Step
  • Stone Deflector
  • 4” Chassis
  • 6” A Frame
  • Trail-a-mate Jockey Wheel
  • Mud Flaps
  • 1 x grey water tank
  • Black Chassis (option)
  • Toolbox on A Frame with 1 x Jerry Can Holder (option)
  • XT Airbag Suspension 3 Wireless Suspension 6 Stud (option)
  • Disc Brakes (option)
  • 3 x 85ltr Poly Water Tanks (option)
  • 1 x 65lt Poly Water Tank between axles (option)





  • Sliding Door to Ensuite
  • Slatted Bed Base
  • 6’2” Pillow Top Mattress
  • Fire Extinguisher
  • Toilet Roll Holder
  • Piano Hinges on all Doors
  • Metal Sided Drawers
  • Grab Handle at Entry
  • Footrests to Club Lounge
  • Large Ensuite Mirror
  • Nooks in Robes
  • Corner Cupboard standard height
  • Soft close drawers throughout
  • Black Towel Rails (option)
  • Full Height Pantry (option)



  • Gas/Elec Hot Water System
  • Frosted Shower Door
  • Thetford Toilet
  • Lockable Water Filler
  • Gas Bayonet
  • Tap on A Frame
  • Water Level Gauge
  • Black Kitchen Sink (option)
  • Corner Fibreglass Shower with Glass Sides (option)
  • Black Flick Mixer Taps (option)
  • Black Shower Rose (option)
  • Dometic Slide Out Kitchen Plumbed with Hot and Cold Water (option)
  • Gas Heater(option)
  • 2 x 12v Water Pumps (option)
  • Black Ceramic Vanity (Ensuite) (option)


  • Wall Ply: White Leather Grain
  • Floor: VTX-596 ODIN
  • Fridge: Black
  • Black Drawer/Door Handles
  • Bench Top Laminex: Grey Bardolino H1146 ST10
  • Splash Back: Arctic
  • J Mould: Black
  • Cladding: White
  • Awning Hardware: Black
  • Tunnel Boot Doors: Black
  • Chequer Plate: Black
  • All External Accessories: Black
  • Hidden Catches on Overhead Doors (option)
  • Base Doors: Razor Black Door Handles (option)
  • Upholstery: Two Tone Volcano and Glacier (option)
  • OHC: White Furniture/Black Cupboards (option)
  • Bottom Cupboards: Black Furniture/Black Cupboards (option)
  • Full Height Bed Head with Embroidered Logo (option)
  • Magazine Pouches Either Side of Club Lounge and Door (option)



Watch our VAN TOUR Video here

The Outback. So Much More Than Red Sand.

The Outback. So Much More Than Red Sand.

Nothing says Australia quite like our outback. The open spaces that seem to stretch on forever tell the story of the exploration and development of our wide, brown land, and reflect Australia’s pioneering spirit and unique identity.

We have just finished cleaning the red sand out of the caravan and truck that came home with us after our epic 12 days in the Australian Outback. What a mammoth task that was for Chris. He did well and I got some fantastic footage of our driveway looking like Big Red!

Dust. What dust?


We travelled about 3500km from Brisbane to Birdsville through Eulo, and returning home passing through Charleville and Roma to attend Australia’s most remote rock concert, The Big Red Bash. 9207 was the official total of people who attended the bash this year – which was just epic!


Looking down on Bashville from Big Red


History was made on day 3 of the bash as a Guinness World Record title was broken for the most people doing the Nutbush. It took a while to get all 2000 registered participants in the roped off area and a few rehearsal dances helped to pass the time. 1,719 people completed the challenge without being disqualified beating the original record of 522. Woohoo! So. Much. Fun! You can check out the video here: Nutbush World Record.

The entertainment was brilliant with our favourites being Busby Marou, Russell Morris, The Wolfe Brothers, Travis Collins and I loved The Angels. Chris – not so much. He preferred the Hoodoo Gurus which I can’t stand!  Adam Brand, Amber Lawrence, The Black Sorrows, Daryl Braithwaite, Kate Cebrano, John Stevens and John Farnham all hit the stage as well. It was epic. Hmm. I think I used that word already – but I can’t think of a better one! I was lucky enough (or crazy enough not to move! lol) to be front and centre for about 7 hours on the Wednesday. I could almost see up the performers nostrils! It was wow. just WOW – or should I say – epic? Check out my little compilation of The Angels here.


Front and centre! And yes, that’s The Angels behind me 🙂


The Black Sorrows


We had the best time at The Big Red Bash and the journey was definitely as fabulous as the destination! We saw so many amazing things, visited many fascinating country towns and made some wonderful new friends. And while that blog post is going to take a while to put together, I thought I’d share how I feel after my time in the ‘real’ Outback Australia.

The outback is hard to explain. It’s a desolate, lonely and often treacherous place – yet there is something about the vast emptiness that draws you in, tangles with your emotions and makes you think more deeply about almost every aspect of your life. The vibrant red of the sand and the vivid blue skies make for countless ‘wow’ memories that are forever etched into your mind, and when the dust settles and the sun goes down – the stars will burn so brightly that you will never forget the magic.

The wildlife will draw you in (and sometimes scare you back into your car!) and show you eagles bigger than you’ve ever seen, more emus than you can imagine and countless kangaroos, pigs and wild dogs dotted around on the endless flat plains. And when you see those wild dogs strung up from trees and hanging from fences, you’ll wish you had phone reception to google what on earth is going on! There was some serious roadkill as well; some of what we saw splattered on the road made me wonder how the vehicle ended up!

A huge positive of adventuring through the outback is meeting, chatting with and helping out our fellow Aussies who work so hard with minimal support.

There are so many tiny businesses in these small country towns that thrive when visitors spend a few days shopping, visiting local attractions and even just filling up the tank. It was devastating to see the effects the current drought is having on these outback towns, and we are doing all that we can to help.

We have organised a FUNdraise for Farmers camping weekend at Bigriggen, Scenic Rim (QLD) Nov 23-25, 2018 for those of you who would like to come along, and a donations button is right there below ticket purchases for those of you who would like to donate. You can also donate via our Facebook fundraiser here. Click here for ticket purchases and to read more.

And yes, every town we went through had Telstra 4G and we had contact with the outside world. Although, being cut off from the internet definitely adds to the appeal of the outback.

Stopping and having a chat to these inspirational people will open up your eyes to things that may have never even crossed your mind.

Not only are the towns filled with history and so much to stop and see, there are historical relics and landmarks dotted all over the place! Have a look at our drone footage of the Weengallon Aboriginal Rock Wells.

We are already planning our next adventure, and the hardest part is figuring out where to go! Finke? Uluru? Back to the Bash? Winton? Who knows, maybe all of the above. What we do know is that it will be epic and well worth all the planning that goes into it.

If you’ve thought about going, stop thinking and start planning! This is one experience you will carry with you forever.

Here is the link to the Big Red Bash website in case you are a teeny tiny bit interested in heading out to experience the magic for yourself. And who knows, we might even see you there. www.bigredbash.com.au

Central and North QLD 2016/2017

Central and North QLD 2016/2017

WARNING- this post is rather lengthy!

If you are planning a trip from Brisbane up to North East QLd (or Far North QLD) I hope this will give you a bit of an idea of where to go and what to see.

We visited so many amazing places it was hard to shorten the post. I’ve added lots of pics to try and make it interesting 🙂

Please don’t feel as though you have to read it all. Locations all have separate headings, so feel free to skip to the part that interests you.

Part 2 of 3




This is what we got up to on our 2nd roadtrip up to Cairns. We had been up with friends the year before (read part 1 here) and loved it so much that we decided to do it again.

We visited many different places and had a completely different adventure.

Coastal Way Up

  • AGNES WATER – 1 Night
    • 1770
    • Lookout of 1770
    • Calliope Historical Village
  • YEPPOON – 3 Nights
    • Various Lookouts
    • Rosslyn Bay
    • Emu Park
      • Singing Ship
      • Anzac Memorial
    • Byfield National Park
      • 5 Rocks
    • Flaggy Rock Cafe
  • AIRLIE – 2 Nights
    • Hydeaway Bay
      • Gloucester Resort
      • Montes Resort
    •  Bowen
      • The Big Mango
      • Horeshoe Bay
    •  Cardwell
    • Hinchinbrook Lookout
  • TOWNSVILLE – 1 night
  • CAIRNS (home base)
    •  Palmer River Roadhouse
    • Black Mountain
    • Mt Carbine

Inland Way Home

  • COOKTOWN – 2 nights
    • Cooktown Cemetary
    • Cooktown Museum
    • Cooktown Esplanade
    • Trevathan Falls
    • Archer Point
  • ROSSVILLE 1 night

    • Lions Den Hotel
  • CHILLAGOE – 2 Nights
    • Chillagoe Hub Information Centre
    • Chillagoe Weir
    • Chillagoe Smelter
    • Balancing Rock
    • Chillagoe Caves
  • CAIRNS (home base)
  • ROLLINGSTONE – 1 night
    •  The Central Highlands
  • EMERALD – 2 Nights
    • Sapphire Gemfields
    • Miner’s Heritage, Rubyvale
  • CARNARVON GORGE – 3 nights
    • Takkarakka Bush Retreat
    • Gorge Hike
    • Rock Pool
  • CHINCHILLA – 1 night
  • HOME

Agnes Water

December 17th, we set off from Brisbane for Agnes Water. This time we managed to get a great spot at Agnes Water Beach Caravan Park which is right on the water. The previous year we had 2 vans, and there was no space for us, so we stayed at the Captain Cook Holiday Park up the road.

This caravan park is lovely and while there is no pool or playground, there is plenty for the kids to get up to. Like riding, scooting, reading and surfing!:)

We only spent one night here before heading onwards and upwards!

Calliope Historical Village

We headed up the Bruce Highway, making a quick toilet stop at the Calliope Historical Village, which is an open-air museum located about 26 km south of Gladstone.

The boys went to the loo and the girls and I went in for a sticky beak and it was great fun! Lots of history is enclosed in those fences as the museum has captured and preserved some of the original historic buildings from the area. Many of the buildings contain exhibits of everyday life and railway history.

You can read about (and see!) the region’s rich railway history in the Ambrose Railway Station, see a 1940s wooden railway carriage and visit the Raglan Memorial Hall.

The girls loved seeing what the old school was like and I have also read about extremely popular markets that take place here seven times a year, attracting over 3000 people!

It was a short visit though as Chris was keen to keep moving.

We were having intermittent brake problems with the van, so we stopped in Rockhampton, so Chris could sort that out and the kids could eat ice cream.


We rolled into the BIG4 Capricorn Palms, Yeppoon on the afternoon of the 18th and the kids were straight into the pool and down the waterslide while I attempted to set up our new inflatable cloud bed thingies that I had thought would be a great Christmas present. I think Chris enjoyed watching me try to set them up more than actually getting the gift! It took hours and they only lasted an hour or so before your bum started hitting the hard ground. Argh. Oh well. That was my exercise for the day! And I did manage to get a few hours of reading in between re-inflation attempts.

Emu Park

As I mentioned in the previous blog post, Yeppoon is my favourite area – I could easily retire up that way (if we weren’t retiring in our caravan, of course). We had arranged to stay 3 nights, giving us a little bit of time to head off adventuring. Our first spot was Emu Park with its infamous ‘Singing Ship’ and ANZAC Memorial.

The area features parkland, lovely grassy areas, picnic facilities, a covered playground (this was new in our 2017/18 visit), a small beach and has an RSL, hotel & cafe close by.

The walkway to the singing ship is amazing with spectacular views and lots of information.

The kids read all the signs, listened to the haunting sounds of the wind whistling through the ship and admired the views of the sparkling blue ocean. The ANZAC Memorial is incredibly moving and beautifully created. It is a credit to those who contributed and to those who clearly take pride in maintaining such a special place. We learned a lot, including all about the ‘Purple Poppy’ (like the Red Poppy, but for animals).

That night we decided to grab dinner in Yeppoon, so we drove into Afishionado’s on the Esplanade for some fish and chips. It’s a cute little café/bar/restaurant set in the perfect location on the waterfront. Lovely friendly service and yummy food together with outside tables made for a fun family meal. Chris and I walked and the kids ‘scooted’ back to the car and we drove back to the caravan park to make ourselves comfy in their awesome ‘amphitheater’ to watch Peabody and Sherman.

Byfield National Park

The next day was probably one of our most adventurous day trips yet! We had heard so many good things about Byfield National Park and 5 Rocks, that we knew we had to check it out, even though it was a long drive over some pretty interesting HUGE sand hills!

As we were approaching what they called ‘Big Sandy’ we could hear 2 other guys on their radios having a chat – one was in front of us and one was behind. They were locals who knew exactly where they were going and exactly how to get there. We didn’t, and they could tell.  It was quite funny listening to their conversation about us! Eventually we made it to the top and I can’t even begin to explain the beauty of what lay before us.

Lookouts, incredible views and more 4WD tracks that led us right down to the water and beaches we had just been looking down over.

We ended up chatting with the guys in the other cars, and they took us down to a freshwater creek where they were planning on spending some time. We had a look and then headed back down to the waves, so Chris could get his boards out and the kids could play on the beach.

It was a full day spent at Byfield, and if you have a 4WD, we recommend that you go and do some adventuring of your own!

Flaggy Rock Cafe

December 21st meant time to move on from Yeppoon towards Airlie Beach stopping at the Flaggy Rock Café for a much needed ice cream. This is such a cute little roadside restaurant with a lovely dam out the back and beautiful gardens. Our kids always love the ice cream and Chris enjoyed his slice of carrot cake. There is plenty of parking even for giant caravans like ours. We were sad to hear that the co-owner has cancer and it was now up for sale.

After we had stretched our leg and tickled our tastebuds, it was time to get back on the road as we headed for Airlie Beach.

December 21st meant time to move on from Yeppoon towards Airlie Beach stopping at the Flaggy Rock Café for a much needed ice cream. This is such a cute little roadside restaurant with a lovely dam out the back and beautiful gardens. Our kids always love the ice cream and Chris enjoyed his slice of carrot cake. There is plenty of parking even for giant caravans like ours. We were sad to hear that the co-owner has cancer and it was now up for sale.

Airlie Beach

Woohoo! Another favourite spot of ours – The BIG4 Adventure Whitsundays Resort.

We have stayed here about 6 times so far and so far, every single time has been amazing! Our latest trip (17/18) we were blown away by the new mega water park, but – that was still under constructions during this trip. Never the less, the kids had a ball swimming, playing mini-golf, watching movies, riding their bikes, going on the jumping pillow and just being kids. We set up the Christmas lights, and then got stuck into relaxing.

Hydeaway Bay

We spent one day at Hydeaway Bay, about 45 minutes from Airlie. This truly is one of those hidden gems that you could spend your entire 2 weeks holidays enjoying, Perhaps not so much with the kids, but for the 2 of us? Easily.

We arrived at Montes Reef Resort and headed straight to the most beautiful beach I have ever seen in my life (I still haven’t been to Whitehaven though…), and what blew my mind was the fact that we were the only ones there. We stayed for about 2 hours, and a few people came and went. I could see people were staying in the cabins and there were staff members in the restaurant, but aside from that, Hydeaway bay was certainly living up to its name – and I loved it.

We had a delicious lunch at a table by the water, and then jumped in the car to do some exploring.

We found another resort just down the road, Cape Gloucester Resort, which was lovely. It has a beautiful pool, great bar, serves delicious food and has a stunning beach with speccy views and cute little huts dotted around for shelter. We stayed just long enough to have a look before heading down the road, up and over ‘Oh My God Hill’ and to our own secluded piece of sand, surrounded by rocks and more crystal-clear water.

By now the kids had had enough of the sun and Cooper was lying under the car for shelter as the wind had picked up and flipped our awning up and over the car!

We decided it was time to head back to the BIG4 and relax for the remainder of our final day in Airlie.

Next stop – Bowen which included The Big Mango, Horseshoe Bay and smoothies at the Horsehoe Bay Resort. It was a quick stop this year, unlike last year where Chris and I spent a few hours swimming and sunbaking.


We were keen to get on the road and make it to Townsville in time to set up and go grab some dinner in town. Chris has been here many times before and pre-warned me not to be expecting anything fabulous. And well, he was right – it was very dry, and there wasn’t much beauty around! Having said that, we were’t there for long, and I’m sure there are lovely pockets as there are in most cities – we just didn’t get to see any.

We checked into the BIG4 Townsville Woodlands Holiday Park and settled in. I quite like this little park even though it was dusty and small. The pool was fabulous, and the water was as warm as a bath … the temperature outside the pool was just as warm – and I was in heaven! I just love the heat and Townsville delivered in that department.

Chris gave us a little tour through the city centre, took us up into the ‘nicer’ suburbs and we ended up having dinner at Cactus Jacks (which we found out recently is owned by someone Chris works with!). It was delicious, and the restaurant was fun.


We were on the road before sunrise this New Year’s Eve, as we embarked on the last leg of our journey to Cairns stopping off only at Cardwell to stretch our legs and show the kids Hinchinbrook Island with a walk along the water.


We pulled into Ingenia Holidays Cairns Coconut Resort, set up our Christmas lights and started exploring this huge 5 Star Caravan Park. It’s great how they take you around on the golf buggy when you arrive, so you can choose your spot, or simply get an idea of how to get to where you are meant to park. The park seriously is that big.

Christmas day was spent enjoying the park with Chris’s cousins and their kids. Waterslides, swimming, totem volley, climbing ropes, 2 jumping pillows including The World’s Biggest Jumping Pillow, a crazy 8 seater bike, spa, 2 pools, and adults only heated spa, a water park, bike paths and more- yep. You seriously struggle to do everything at this place!

Inland Route to Cooktown

December 27th and we hit the road again heading even further North. Chris and I had been to Cooktown last year and knew it was something that our kids had to see for themselves.

Last year it rained non-stop and even flooded for the first 2 weeks of our trip, including the entire part where we explored our way up to Cooktown and back. So to experience it again with blue skies was amazing.

Mount Carbine presented some pretty speccy views as we headed up and we pulled over to snap a quick pic or 10. We stopped for lunch at The Palmer River Roadhouse where the kids checked out the small ‘museum’ and then it was onto Black Mountain.

With the sun beating down, it was like a different place from the dark, gloomy mountain we visited last year. It’s so very mysterious and there a lot of ‘culture’ and history surrounding it. Some Aboriginal, and some not. It is a significant place for the Eastern Kuku Yalanji Aboriginal people of the area and is a focus of several Dreaming stories and continues to be important to this day.

There are stories of people, horses and whole mobs of cattle disappearing into the labyrinth of rocks, never to be seen again. Apparently, pilots report aircraft turbulence and magnetic effects over Black Mountain (thermal currents), and people have reported loud bangs (cracking boulders) and mournful cries (wind and water).


We arrived at the BIG4 Cooktown Holiday Park which was entirely different to the unattended caravan park we stayed at last year!

It was tiny, there weren’t many people around and the staff were lovely. I had one complaint – and it was a big one … swooping plovers! They were horrible, nasty and very, very protective. The park manager gave me a big stick to wave around. Eeek. With that and all the mosquitos, it wasn’t my idea of fun! Needless to say, I didn’t head out of the van very much. We were safe in the little pool, which was nice.

Captain Cook Museum

We spent a solid day exploring Cooktown with the kids, and they loved every second of it. We did Fisherman’s Wharf, the town, The Captain Cook Museum and The Cooktown Cemetery.

At Fisherman’s Wharf, we stood where Captain Cook first stood, had photos with the Captain Cook monument, read about the skull they found in the well when it was drained and wandered around just taking it all in.

The Captain Cook Museum is housed in the stunning nineteenth-century former convent, St Mary’s and is filled with a varied assortment of exhibits.  The Endeavour Gallery contains an original anchor and cannon from the HMB Endeavour! It gives a fascinating insight into the 7 weeks that Captain Cook and his crew spent at Cooktown repairing their ship.

The other exhibits are so very different, one from the other.

Toys, dental equipment, tales from the Palmer gold rush, Chinese heritage, the maritime history of Cooktown, nuns cells and dormitories plus personal stories ond objects from local families make up a fascinating, cultural place to visit. The dental tools really grabbed our attention!

Grassy Hill  – what a view!

The kids imaginations were running wild as they pictured what it must have been like for Captain Cook to navigate his ship through the reef.

Captain Cook himself climbed this 162m-high hill looking for a passage through the reefs.

The 360-degree views of the town, river and ocean are truly spectacular.

Cooktown Cemetary

The Cooktown Cemetery took our breath away as we wandered from tombstone to tombstone reading story after story of tragedy, triumph and mysterious events experienced by the people who made up the early settlement of the township.

This story was fascinating. A woman raised by the aborigines was brought back into society by authorities and couldn’t survive.

The oldest tomb stone in the cemetery. A priest who died 10 days after arriving in Cooktown.

Trevathan Falls

We went back to the caravan park and asked the lovely lady at reception if there were any ‘safe’ swimming holes or waterfalls around that were free from crocodiles, and she smiled saying that though many claim to be safe, there weren’t many that she recommended. She gave us a little map and sent us on our way to Trevethan Falls.

Trevathan Falls is a breathtaking waterfall and fairy-tale like swimming hole that is very well hidden by the rainforest. The locals keep it a secret, and it’s easy to see why! It’s not marked on the main road, is totally secluded and away from any tourist attractions.
It’s a bit of a long bumpy drive to get there, and I’d imagine a very hard road to navigate in the wet.

They assured us there were no crocs here…. so I got in.

And then promptly got back out when Chris pointed out that bubbles were rising from somewhere….or something!

A turtle. It was just a turtle!!

Archer Point

We also took some time to take the kids to see Archer Point, where we had stayed overnight in our vans last year. It was as spectacular as ever, and much easier to get to without the van in tow! We even took the Hilux up a crazy steep track, but we had to turn around as the bikes were on the roof and wouldn’t have made it under some low-lying trees. It made for some pretty interesting photos though!

From there it was onto The Lion’s Den Hotel where we once again wrote our names on the fan! The kids scribbled on the walls and window sills as well, and we set up our van out the back for a wonderful night.

Unlike last year, the sun was shining (it wasn’t raining), the river was lovely (not flooded), and there were no mango’s falling off the tree every 5 minutes!

Lions Den Hotel


We left the next morning and decided to head back to Cairns with a slight detour through Chillagoe. And what a great detour it was! We headed down a long, dusty road known as Waterfall Way to find a genuine outback town with fascinating attractions like unused smelters, huge caves, giant bugs and lovely people.

Driving into town we could see the tall chimney at the ruins of the old smelter which we had read about and couldn’t wait to see! But, we had no idea what else was around, so

we checked into our little caravan park (no slabs here!), leaving the boys to set up and the girls and I went to the Chillagoe Hub Information Centre.

I’m so glad we stopped in as there is so much more to Chillagoe than we thought! We discovered that Chillagoe was the site of an ancient coral reef and today the coral has been transformed into massive limestone bluffs containing over 560 known caves, the largest having over 11kms of passages! Of course, the caves were extremely high up on our list of things to see. As was Balancing Rock, the Chillagoe Weir and of course the old smelter.

We managed to fit the weir, Balancing Rock, Pompeii Cave and the smelter all into the day we arrived quite easily, as everything is so close and easy to get to.

Our first stop was the Chillagoe Weir, which was a huge disappointment as all we could see was stagnant water, definitely not the popular swimming spot we were led to believe that we would find.

So, we followed the map onto Balancing Rock. It was a fairly short drive and an easy walk to see this magnificent piece of rock balancing on its end! We climbed right up, and the view is pretty special. There are also sorts of curious things to see, like this rock with a hole in it just the right size for Chris’s head to fit through.

We found a few little caves that you could do self-guided tours of, and Chris guided himself into them while the kids and I waited up the top and held our breath!

Pompeii Cave was fascinating. One HUGE chamber filled with natural light. Chris went down, and we could see his torch flashing up through the ground! We did this after Balancing Rock and before the smelter.

Chris went a little deeper …

The Chillagoe Smelter is like walking through the pages of a history book as you wander around the outskirts and read about what went on here in years past. It is an industrial site with tanks, pits and toxic contaminants like asbestos. This is why the area is roped off. We all loved it, but you don’t need much time to see it all.

Day 2 we headed off on some guided tours of the bigger caves.

Royal Arch Cave was our first tour. We all met the tour guide outside and were given our own torches. We squeezed through tiny little places and ooh’d and aah’d at the walrus shaped formation and sparkly, black fig tree roots.

‘The Walrus’

Black Fig Tree Roots

Crazy big cave spiders!

The laundry chute was the kids favourite – they had to scoot through on their bellies, onto their backs and wiggle their way through. We saw cute little bats and not so cute ginormous cave spiders with their eyes glowing in the dark and of course all the amazing chambers and little tiny cracks we had to squeeze through and under.

Trezkinn Cave had just been reopened after having all new infrastructure put through and the lighting was incredible. The place is just insane!

From here we took the short drive back to Cairns where we spent time catching up with family for New Years before starting our adventures on our way back home.

Josephine Falls

We had to take the kids to Josephine Falls again as they’d had so much fun there last year. We spent an hour or so sliding down the huge natural waterslide and swimming in the rockpool at the bottom.

Cooper almost made it on his feet!


Next it was onto Cardwell for a quick stop at Cardwell by the Sea on our way to Rollingstone. We wanted to get there as early as possible and enjoy the fabulous BIG4 Rollingstone Beachfront Resort. We arrived to be greeted by friendly staff, a lovely caravan park with streets lined with palm trees and absolute beach front sites, which we were lucky enough to secure!

We had a wonderful time and wished we were able to stay another night, but no … we had to leave early the next morning (January 5th) to make our way to our next destination, Emerald!

What a view to wake up to!

The pool has a waterfall over a cave – very cool 🙂

The kids made us cocktails but dropped them in the sand – so the lovely staff gave us real ones from the bar 🙂

The Central Highlands

We filled the tank and took extra fuel in case.

The scenery was drama filled and palm-tree void! Open, flat, long stretches of ridiculously bumpy road; our windscreen spattered with both rain and bugs. We were surrounded by road trains and fields of what look like cotton, dead sticks and birds.Some dirt was red, some brown. Some grass was green, some brown. Nearly all rivers were been dry with sandy river beds.

We saw Eagles hanging out by the road … a road which was white, brown and black.Occasionally piles of boulders could be seen close by. Trees were sparse, never completely blocking the view of the open plains.

There were a few cows; some alive and grazing, others simply a pile of bones on the roadside. We saw a few rubbish filled ‘truck stops’ (campsites) that we chose not to stop at … and not much in between!

We also saw a few letterboxes … I guess someone has to tend to the cows and fields of dead sticks!

What an experience that road was. We nearly lost one of the bikes off the roof at one point! We only managed to save it thanks to a truckie passing by that radioed through to let us know.


We checked in at the Emerald Cabin and Caravan Village which was almost empty, as was to be expected this time of year. The park was OK, but we found the staff to be a little bit rude. Still, I guess you can’t have wonderful people everywhere you go, right?

We had arranged to catch up with some of Chris’s friends who live in Emerald and take the kids to the gem fields. Covering almost 900 square kilometres, the Sapphire Gemfields is one of the world’s largest sapphire fields, and includes the townships of Anakie, Rubyvale, Sapphire and Willows Gemfields.

As we drove in, we looked intently out the window pointing out all the little mounds and caravans parked alongside in the dedicated fossicking grounds.

We did a tour of the underground sapphire mine at the Miner’s Heritage in Rubyvale and then did some panning for gemstones.

The kids were blown away by what was on display and what was available to purchase in the store, It stirred a fire in their bellies to get out there and start sifting! 🙂

This was my little stash

Sifting through a bag of wash yielded a few good stones for all of us. We loved the tour and the little history museum. The kids really enjoyed everything about it – I mean, what kid doesn’t dream of finding gemstones in a pile of dirt, right? Lol.

We had lunch at the RubyVale Pub which was delicious. What a cool little place with some very interesting characters!

Carnarvon Gorge

We packed up and hit the road again, this time headed to Carnarvon Gorge. I think we all have mixed feelings about that place! We had a wonderful time and saw some amazing things – but at the expense of our feet! We all ended up in so much pain it wasn’t funny.

Still, adventures were had, and that’s what Aussie Destinations Unknown is all about, right?

Once in the Carnarvon Gorge National Park, we stopped to check out the memorial of where a plane had gone down. The wrecked plane was still there, lifted high on poles with engines and debris scattered around and the tail and cairn below.

We continued on and checked into the Takarakka Bush Resort, collected our map of all the bushwalks from reception, read the sign advising us to start with shorter walks, and went to park the van and set up.

The following day, we chose to ignore the advice we were given, and set out on the full 24km hike through Carnarvon Gorge. With the kids. Without appropriate footwear. What could have gone wrong?

It took just five minutes to drive to the mouth of the gorge where our walking adventures began delightfully as we skipped across the river using the strategically placed rocks to stop our feet getting wet. We found this to be a common occurrence throughout the day as we came to river after river, all dotted with the same handy little rocks.

This place has to be seen to be believed, we have read about it but until you see it for yourself, you can’t really grasp its true breathtaking beauty. So diverse.

Gum trees, pine trees, palm trees, clouds and spits of rain, scorching hot sun and blue skies, complete stillness, gusts of wind, aboriginal art work etched into the rocks, waterfalls, river, cliffs, sharp rocks, round rocks, pigs, birds, butterflies, snakes, dragon flies, crazy water jumping spiders, sand, water, rain from the sun (we think it was cicada pee – lol) and not many other people at all. Simply breathtaking (literally!)

We honestly had no idea what we were in for, even after reading the brochure. We planned on walking for 5-6 hours …. and ended up with many blisters and aches and pains after doing the full 24ks in 7 and a half hours!

We were very sore at the end and wondered how we would manage the other walks the following day, but we did, and they were just as lovely. We finished our adventures at the Rock Pool where the kids all went for a swim and spent hours jumping off the large rock/cliff and into the cool water below.

We spent 3 nights and 4 days at Carnarvon Gorge and loved all of it (minus the sore feet!). We recommend taking your time and starting with the shorter walks! 😛

Chinchilla … where it was so hot it was either air con or pool! 39 degrees will do that for you 🙂

From there it was time to head home. We spent our last night at the Chinchilla Tourist Park in Chinchilla where the weather was scorching, and the swimming pool was cold.

This may have been our second trip up to Cairns, yet it was completely different to the year before, and we loved every second of it.

So many words and so many photos, 3 trips North and I still haven’t seen all I want to see! I trust this has given you a tiny insight into this incredible part of our planet, and if you made it to the bottom of this post – well done!

Until next time,

Happy planning and safe travels,

Bigriggen – fun for the whole family!

Bigriggen – fun for the whole family!

Name: Bigriggen

Web: https://www.big4.com.au/caravan-parks/nsw/north-coast/sawtell-beach-holiday-park/facilities

Location: 196 Bigriggan Rd, Bigriggan Via Rathdowney QLD 4287

Date of Stay: March 3-5, 2018

Type of Park: Mountain/National Park/River

Rating: 4.5



A family-friendly, dog-friendly caravan park and camping ground located just an hour from both Brisbane and/or the Gold Coast that accommodates even the biggest of caravans/campers.

Bigriggen Park is far enough to “get away”, yet close enough to spend less time travelling and more time enjoying. It’s the perfect place for a weekend escape which is exactly what we did. ‘Relax and unwind amid peaceful surroundings and natural wonders just waiting to be explored’ is what it says on their website. And while it didn’t go quite that way for us, we still thoroughly enjoyed our stay and highly recommed that you check it out.

Everything about Bigriggen is picturesque, even the driveway. The tall trees, wooden fences, and rolling hills were just lovely. The lady at reception who greeted us was charming as she fluffed the freshly cut grass off the doormat.

It wasn’t hard to find the ‘perfect spot’- an unpowered site not far from the little BMX track and close to the entrance to the swimming hole/creek. Within minutes – well, almost, we were all set up and the kids had disappeared on their bikes. I wandered over to check out the amenities, which weren’t too bad for a bush retreat. Three toilets, three showers and as clean as they could be considering everyone’s shoes were covered in mud and freshly cut grass! There was a mop and bucket that was used every now and then and not a drop toilet in sight.

There is a lovely little creek/river/swimming hole  that would be lovely in Summer! Kids (and adults) were scooting down the rapids on all sorts of inflatables – coming back up through the bush and doing it again. It would need to be a tad warmer for me to get that wet! I had a quick dip in the swimming hole, and that was enough for me.

The huge open spaces at Bigriggen are just what kids love – and all sorts of games were going on around us. Cricket, frisbee, soccer, volleyball and tag were happening alongside people relaxing, laughing, eating, drinking, reading, playing with their dogs, preparing the fire for when the sun went down, and all sorts of other ‘weekend activites’.

We were told to be prepared for lots of wildlife to come out at night, but we didn’t see anthing other than a horrible looking spider that one of our friends moved (yes, MOVED – not killed) for me.

The next day we set off to explore some of the ‘natural wonders’ but ended up with a broken CV/drive shaft. We spent most of the day waiting for the boys to comeback with tools to put the broken Hilux back together (which they did quite well!).

This leaves us wanting to return for another weekend, perhaps even a long weekend, so we can really explore the area, and spend some time just relaxing and enjoying the park.

We loved our stay at Bigriggen and we will be back soon, that’s for sure! 🙂



  • Walking & Relaxing
  • Swimming
  • Cycling (there is a small BMX track)
  • Fishing
  • Canoeing
  • Bird Watching
  • Platypus Spotting
  • Nocturnal Wildlife Spotting
  • Cooking & Conversation around a campfire (20kg firewood for sale or BYO)




  • Amenities block (an extra one opens up during peak periods)
  • DumpEzy dump point
  • Flushing toilets
  • Hand basins with soap dispensers
  • Hot showers that require $1.00 coins
  • Kiosk
  • Bait
  • Firewood



Lovely! The lady was charming upon check in and everyone was concerned and trying to help when we phoned for help.



100 acres, 45 acres of high hilltops and bush and 55 acres of gentle river flats for Camping (all unpowered) Plus 30 powered sites



  • No set camp sites for unpowered
  • Site is accessible with 2WD
  • Numbers capped in peak times (so it doesn’t get crowded)
  • Plenty of campfire drums to use when no fire ban is in place
  • Location (so much to nearby!)
  • Outdoor Activities
  • Pet-friendly
  • Close to Brisabe/Gold Coast
  • Great for kids
  • River/Water
  • Fairly cheap
  • Kiosk is well stocked and well-priced.



  • freshly cut grass was everywhere (I’m sure this doesn’t happen often)
  • most scenic drives nearby require a 4WD (only a negative if you haven’t got a 4WD!)
  • fire wood is a bit pricey but great quality





Heading down the rapids

Just before we broke it

There is so much open space!






Kingscliff Beach Holiday Park

Kingscliff Beach Holiday Park

Name: Tweed Coast Holiday Parks Kingscliff Beach

(not to be confused with its sister park further down the same road, Tweed Coast Holiday Parks Kingscliffe North)

Location: 125 Marine Parade, Kingscliff, NSW

Website: http://www.tchp.com.au/tweed-coast-holiday-parks-kingscliff-beach/

Date of Stay: May 2018

Type of Park: Beachfront

Rating: 5/5 (Chris said 6 out of 5!)




We had heard plenty of positive reviews about this ‘amazing newly renovated caravan park in Kingscliff’ and while sitting around the caravans with friends at Sawtell this Easter discussing what the next ‘special event’ was, we discovered it was Chris’s birthday and booked our spots right away. We were lucky and all but one of us in the group managed to secure the premium beach front sites we had heard so much about. This park books out well in advance!

We arrived at a stunning and modern holiday park that is indeed located on absolute beach frontage in the heart of Kingscliff.

The sun was setting as were checking in, and the sky was the most incredible hues of pink I had ever seen! Before we had even made it to the site, I was on the beach taking perfect photo after perfect photo.

The park is just metres from an array of cafes and boutique stores. With a bowls club to one side, a fantastic park to the other, the Kingscliff Beach Hotel directly across the street and a breathtaking expanse of ocean out the front, this really is the ideal park in the ideal location.

This trip is in honour of Chris’s 43rd birthday and we are sharing it with some wonderful friends; most with caravans and with one family who are staying in the units across the road.

We have kids ranging from a few months old right up to 15 and many ages in between! Our kids (10, 12 and 13) had a ball riding, surfing, playing and just ‘being kids’. It’s great to see what they get up to when you remove their devices.

It has rained on and off for the first day, but even so, it was lovely. I came prepared with gumboots and a raincoat, a beanie and some warm clothes and I’m as cozy as can be.

The first evening was spent having drinks with our friends around the vans while the kids rode around and hung out in the camp kitchen. The first night was spent listening to the sounds of the waves, the rain on the roof and the distant strains of the live band from the Kingscliff Beach Hotel as they belted out tunes like Rolling on the River to the applause from the crowd.

The next morning I was up early to capture some new sunrise shots on the beach out the front of the park. What started as a 20 minute outing turned into a 90 minute walk on the sand down to the break wall and river and back through the parks dotted along the way.

I must say I was completely blown away by absolutely everything I saw. There has been so much thought put into the design and layout; from the table tennis table (with artwork and bats!), lounge chairs, trees, paths, undercover areas (with beachy artwork), lush grassy areas and of course views that take your breath away each time they appear through the trees.

The Surf Club located right next to the park does a HUGE and ridiculusly delicious breakfast. The staff were lovely and so helpful when I mentioned that I didn’t eat eggs or gluten. The chef came up with all sorts of alternatives that kept my tummy very happy 🙂

Kingscliff is a magic little town, and this is definitely our new favourite place.

The staff at the park are incredibly friendly, the grounds and amenities are immaculate, and Chris has said that he could ‘live here in a permanent van forever’. It’s his favourite camp ground yet – and that’s a pretty big call! Being a surfer, it’s easy to see why he feels this way – all you have to do is look out the window of the van to see perfection.

  • Fully accessible, clean and new amenities
  • Camp Kitchen
  • Beach Access Walkways
  • Sheltered Barbecues
  • Wi-Fi

We found the staff to be incredibly friendly and accommodating both on the phone and in person. When we arrived, another couple was setting up their van in our site. The staff were wonderful when faced with this problematic start to our weekend, and we were parked in our absolute beach frontage site without too much delay.


• Powered Tent Sites with Synthetic Grass
• Tourist Sites with Double Wide Slabs
• Beachfront Tourist Sites (this is what we stayed on)
• Tourist Sites with Ensuites
• Luxury Beachfront Cabins



  • Views
  • Location
  • Staff
  • Park grounds
  • Suitability – it’s great for couples, singles, families, groups of friends and any other combination!
  • No swimming pool or play equipment. A pool might have been nice in the colder weather (if it was heated). There is no playground, play equipment or games room either, but there is the park next door with bike paths and the beach out the front. So, it’s not really a negative … more of an observation.
  • No pets allowed. This isn’t a negative to us, but it might be for some.
  • No shelter anywhere – a gazebo would be a necessity in the warmer weather.



Our view


What a stunning backdrop


The beach out the front at sunset


The Kingscliff Beach Hotel


Surfing at Sunrise


A short walk to the river delivered this view


The brand new park next to the caravan is immaculate


A table tennis table!


A birthday breakfast with a spectacular view at the Surf Club


The kids love it!


Camp Kitchen


Clean, modern amenities