Long Weekend with the Crew at Habitat Noosa

Long Weekend with the Crew at Habitat Noosa

Think an enormous campground on the banks of an enormous flat lake where enormously good times can be had!

Habitat Noosa is a 65-acre eco-resort in The Great Sandy National Park on the Sunshine Coast with 500 metres of lake front on the Noosa River. The stunning Lake Cootharaba, the largest salt water inland lake on the Noosa River is the gateway to the upper Noosa River and the Noosa Everglades.

This weekend (being a long weekend), the lake was filled with people on stand-ups, kayaks, canoes and when we were here before (years ago!) we saw people sailing, wind-surfing, kite surfing and fishing. Complete with solar-sites, 9-par golf course, bistro/bar, micro-brewery, watercraft for hire and even tours into Australia’s Everglades, it’s no wonder this place was completely booked out for the Ekka long weekend! I had no idea that there are only 2 Everglades in the world … The Florida Everglades and these ones – The Noosa Everglades. There is also direct access from here to some ripper walking trails in the National Park.

Please note that as this is a national park, no pets are allowed and all rules that apply to national parks apply.

 

Watch Video Here

We went with our regular crew of about 12 vans and a few that used the wilderness glamping and luxury glamping tents. Oh – and of course the teenagers that swagged it under the gazebo.

It was a long weekend for most, but not Chris’s kids who live on the Bayside. Most of our friends headed up on the Thursday, but we had to wait for the kids to finish school on the Friday and then enjoy the long weekend traffic all the way up. It took just under 4 hours! Others who went up earlier in the day had the same headache. Oh, how we love the weekend traffic to the Sunny Coast! 

We picked up our late check-in pack from reception and pulled in through the bright red boom gate about 7pm. The campfire was roaring, and beers and conversations were already flowing. What a relaxing way to end to another hectic week.

The next morning we thought we would get up early to snap a few pics of the sunrise over the lake, but the closest we got to that was a shot of the light seeping in through the hatch in the roof of the van as the sky changed from dark to light. It was overcast and threatening to rain.

It soon cleared up to a beautiful morning filled with exploring, water ‘sports’ reading, sunbaking, wheelies and just hanging out.

While I was reading/sunbaking on the beach I overheard the people behind me saying that the guys in reception had said a storm was coming about 3pm. The winds started picking up about 11:00 and mid-afternoon the ‘storm’ hit. It was more like a windy sun shower … but it made for some interesting times none-the-less!

At 12:00 the (big) boys headed over to the Eco-brewery to try 6 of the 8 beers on offer. This is Australia’s only artesian micro-brewery using water that has been filtered through time in the Cooloola sandmass to produce delicious, preservative free beer. This was by booking only due to Covid restrictions. They had one hour to finish the 6 jugs and did so easily!  

While the boys were at the bar, I headed back to the van and baked some scones in the air fryer and the teenagers did ‘teenager stuff’.

The rest of the day was filled with more of the same; friends, brews and good times (and Chris annoying everyone with the video camera!)

When Sunday rolled around, there was no feeling of ‘it’s gone way too fast!’ from us! The kids caught a lift home with our mate’s son who’s now on his P’s (how cool is it when the kids start driving?!) and we simply packed up and headed off to our next destination – Glastonbury Campground in the Brooyar State Forest. Now that’s an adventure for another time …

HABITAT NOOSA

  • Powered/unpowered sites
  • Glamping tents
  • 9-hole par 3 golf course
  • kiosk
  • watercraft for hire
  • Everglades tours
  • new toilets and showers
  • renovated camp-kitchen
  • group and education centres
  • CootharaBAR – bar and bistro
  • Eco-brewery artesion micro-brewery
  • kiosk serving breakfast, snacks and First Batch coffee
  • two levels and styles of glamping accommodation

Book here: https://www.habitatnoosa.com.au/

Camping from $33 per night

Wilderness Glamping from $150 per night

Luxury Glamping from $239 per night

We Love the Muk Mat

We Love the Muk Mat

The Muk Mat ™ is one insanely good Aussie product made from recycled materials. The WHAT? I hear you ask. The Muk Mat ™! It’s one of our most asked-about camping accessories so I thought I’d do a little write up about it for you.

Let me begin by saying it’s not just a ‘camping’ accessory. We actually use these at home as well.

So, what is it? It’s a mat that looks like grass and gets rid of almost anything that’s stuck to your shoes or feet. Or, as described on their website ‘muk mat is a portable synthetic grass mat designed to get the muk off your feet and shoes.’

 

 

They are durable with a super soft feel (this is very important for me!) and come in 3 different sizes; 50x65cm, 90x60cm, 60x120cm or the step mat 62x26cm. We find the larger size to work best for us at home, for the van and below the step of our ladder to the rooftop. We had the 90x60 and upgraded to the larger size just recently (the larger mat is image pictured outside the caravan in the first image). The step mat for the caravan is great as well. We have this as well as the one below the steps and our van floor stays pretty clean! 

 

The mats are also super easy to clean. Just give them a shake or a quick hose down and leave to dry. There are holes in the heavy base meaning water drains straight through.

Let me clarify that it is NOTHING like the artificial grass squares you can get from Bunnings. Not even in the same ballpark. It’s made using a quality 40mm blade, green synthetic turf and comes in a variety of trim colours; earth grey, ocean blue, pitch black, earth brown and I think I’ve seen green and pink on the website somewhere too! (Limited editions maybe? lol)

We’ve been using the Muk Mat’s ™ for over 2 years now and rate them a 10/10. In fact, we love them so much that we have one for the 4x4, one on the step in the caravan, one at the front door of the caravan and of course no house is complete without one at the front and back doors! 

We’ve used it on dry and wet sand, dirt, mud, dry and wet grass and at our front and back doors and it’s an absolute winner each time.

All Australian, locally handcrafted, with a sleek binding to suit your style, it looks cool, feels lush and travels easily, but most importantly, it WORKS.

Click on the link to be taken to the Muk Mat ™ website and order your own! https://www.mukmat.com/shop

Moreton Island

Moreton Island

Moreton Island is one of our favourite Aussie destinations, and we are so lucky to have it right in our own backyard.

Chris has been holidaying on the island since he was a kid and has been bringing me along for the adventures for the past 10 years. (yup – we have been together 10 years this October!)

 

He’s told me stories of his parents, aunties, uncles and cousins all loading into an old troopy and camping up at the Ben Ewa Camp Ground; of how he used to head over as a teenager and get up to all sorts of mischief (like falling off a tailgate that snapped when they hit a bump driving along the beach) and camping with tents and gazebo.

We first camped on Moreton many years ago in an old tent that I brought with me from Tassie. Since then we’ve camped in our rooftop, camper trailer and even towed our 22’6” Jayco across to the surfside. Yep – it was a little tight through Middle Track!

We’ve spent weeks camped up in the dunes on the surfside in the middle of summer, weeks in the same dunes in the middle of winter, a few nights in the glamping tents and multiple nights in other various campsites dotted along the beach on both sides of the island. We’ve had a wander through ‘The Birdcage’, a house for hire in Bulwer where family were staying and of course we’ve had a sticky at the Tangalooma Resort. And while it’s not our preferred type of accommodation, we have friends who love it.

There are plenty of choices for those who decide to stay on the island and this trip we spent 3 nights in the Castaways Glamping Tents and 3 nights in beach campsites. (See our review on Castaways on our YouTube video. Link here https://youtu.be/rVBlaKkaJFI )

Needless to say, we love Moreton and don’t really mind where we stay as each area has its own ‘uniqueness’! We do prefer absolute beach front though and love the sunsets and calm waters of the Western Beach and the sunrise and surf over on the Eastern side.

 

We’ve spent time snorkelling, fishing, sandboarding, surfing, hiking, exploring, kayaking, swimming, sunbaking and of course drinking and eating! There is so much more to do than hang out on the beach and we highly recommend exploring the old World War II Bunkers that are scattered across the island.

There really is so much to see and do and we would love for you to watch our latest YouTube video as we show you around the island. Link here https://youtu.be/rVBlaKkaJFI

Sadly the weather wasn’t the best for us on this particular trip and we had a day or two that was more suited to curling up with a good book and a cuppa! This meant we weren’t able to climb Mt Tempest, explore the Blue Lagoon or head down to Kooringal and the Gutter Bar. But we suggest that you do!

We often get asked how long we recommend staying. Let’s just say we stayed for 6 nights this trip and still didn’t do everything that we wanted to!

Please make sure to book your trip well in advance as the Micat’s more popular ferries can book out pretty early. If you are planning on camping you will need a camping permit before you head on over. Book and get everything sorted here: https://www.moretonislandadventures.com.au/

Let us know what your favourite Moreton Island experience is and if you haven’t been over, are you planning on it? If not, why not? We are sure you will love this perfect island holiday destination as much as we do!

Check out our YouTube Video here

Camping – What is it Really?

Camping – What is it Really?

‘Yes mum. I’ve rinsed my feet in the bucket. YES! I’ve wiped them on the towel too.’ I shook my head, laughing a little as I walked inside.

If I had $1 for every time someone said to me, ‘I don’t like camping,’ I’d be a very rich woman! In fact, I grew up with a mother who doesn’t like the feel of sand beneath her feet let alone the idea of camping near a beach, camping in the bush… or well, camping anywhere at all! My dad, on the other hand enjoys time spent in nature, so I could experience both perspectives firsthand.

I spent the first 10 years of my life in Tasmania and remember heading off with my grandparents, aunties, uncles and cousins for the school holidays; packing our beanies, jackets and gumboots, making jaffles and listening to campfire stories until we were sent off to the bunks inside the giant canvas Taj Mahal-like tent. We would swim, hike, check out the wildlife and do all the things kids love to do on family camping trips. We loved it! Mum? Not so much.

We moved to Ecuador, South America when I was 10. My parents were missionaries with an organisation known for its medical and radio work in Latin America. Initially, we went to a town right on the edge of the Amazon jungle. We spent a couple of years there and I loved it – mum, not so much! Who wouldn’t love all the exploring we did? There were a few of us, and if we weren’t swimming in waterholes and rivers, swinging off vines, riding our bikes all over, or playing with our pet dogs, we were digging holes deep in the mud while being careful not to get worms in our feet of course, and playing in the torrential downpours that happened every day around 2 pm. Check out this pic of my mum with our old Renegade!

When I was about 13, we moved to Quito, a vast city up in the Andes mountains where there are way less creepy crawlies and much less oxygen! Dad was involved in what was called Medical Caravans – not anything like the caravan we have – and mum did a bit of nursing but worked mostly in publicity and radio. Those early teen years in Quito I spent doing what rebellious teenagers do. But there were a couple of times during those years, when I was about 15, that dad took me camping to the radio station’s antennae farm. It was out in the country a bit, in a town called Pifo (pic below). Dad probably thought it was the only way to get me away from all the chaos of being a teenage girl in a crazy city! It not only did that, but it also rekindled my love of getting outside and staying out for a night or two.

I moved back to Tassie when I was about 16 and eventually took up camping on my own. With a 6-man tent from KMart in the back of the car, I’d strap my young son, Sam,  into his car seat and head off with friends to the East Coast when we could. Fast forward to me being the age now that my mum was back when I remember her complaining about sand in the tent and I can honestly, and surprisingly, say that I’m following in her footsteps, although not to that extreme. Yes, I grew up with a love of camping, but that has slowly but surely developed into a love of glamping. Before I met Chris, I used to have my tent and a few camping bits and pieces that travelled with me in the back of a car. Since Chris and I met back in 2010, we have slowly worked our way through tents, rooftops, camper trailers and caravans until what we have now – our dream caravan and an Alucab roof top tent on the 4x4. We’ve also worked our way through Hilux’s!

Chris is very much a ‘go with the flow’ kinda guy who couldn’t care less if there was sand in the tent, no showers for weeks or canned food for a month so I appreciate that he has put up with my need (want) for a more ‘civilised’ approach to ‘camping’ and has indulged me along the way (not without our fair share of disagreements I might add).

We’ve come such a long way in the camping world that two years ago we invited my parents to come with us on a three-week road trip to Cairns – yes, my non-camping friendly mum! They slept in the caravan bunks and on the odd occasion, booked a cabin if we all needed a bit of space from each other. And they LOVED it! Especially my mum. So much so, that she has mentioned, occasionally, that she wouldn’t mind selling the property in Tasmania and heading off in a caravan of their own. Look closely at the pic below and you’ll see my dad giving a double thumbs up out the window. Lol. And check out the smile on mum’s face! She had a great time.

Which leads me to this… camping might not be what you think it is, it’s what you want it to be. What do you think camping is? And what would you like it to be? Let’s uncover some camping truths.

1.Camping is basic … or is it?

It can be as simple as a swag and some freeze-dried food, but it sure doesn’t have to be! If you want to glamp and you have the budget to make that happen, then go for it!  Here are 3 ways you can go from camping to glamping.

  1. Buy a top of the range caravan and a luxury 4x4 to tow it with

Expensive? Sure. Comfortable? You betcha! We recommend  Titanium Caravans from Caravans Coffs Coast if you are after one of the most well-appointed luxury vans on the market. This is our fourth off-road caravan and the absolute best by far. Why does this caravan take us from camping to glamping? Let me explain.

  • We have a full off-grid Enerdrive lithium battery system giving us access to 240 power whenever we need it. And we don’t have to be plugged in.
  • We have a washing machine, air conditioner, microwave, gas heater, smart TV all which are usable at any time thanks to our battery system.
  • I am able use all my kitchen appliances (think Thermomix, Air Fryer etc) wherever we are, whenever we want to.
  • We have a toilet, full shower and large ensuite … where I can blow dry and straighten my hair whenever I feel like it
  • We have a large club lounge that’s as comfy, if not more comfy than the couch at home
  • We have air suspension from Airbag Man that makes it super easy to level the van up – no more rolling out of bed!
  • We have a slide out kitchen with plumbed hot and cold water and triple burner gas cook top OUTSIDE the van
  • And the best part? We have so much storage and room to move that we truly feel at home when we are traveling

 2. Book a cabin at a Holiday Park

Don’t fancy spending as much money on your holidays as you would to buy a house? Then don’t! Book a cabin or glamping tent at one of the many top-quality caravan parks around the country. In fact, most of these parks aren’t even known as caravan parks anymore. Think of; Resort Camping, Holiday Park, Resort, Caravan Village… and the list goes on. Booking a weekend in a cabin will cost you far more than booking a caravan site, but if luxury is your style and you don’t want to spend tens of thousands of dollars on a set-up, then this could be the way for you.

 3. Take your ‘basic’ set up and head to a caravan park/resort

You don’t need all the fancy gear to enjoy the luxuries of a Holiday Park. If you have a tent, bedding, some camp chairs and an ESKI – you’re all set! Almost all parks have amenities with showers and toilets (it pays to check and read reviews first). Most parks have camp kitchens with fridges to store your food, BBQ’s and microwaves to cook, and sinks for washing up. And, if you don’t want to do any of that, many have their own restaurants and cafes plus food vans that stop by on weekends. Generally, the more you pay, the nicer the amenities. If you have kids, many of the larger parks have jumping pillows, playgrounds and swimming pools.

2. Camping means long drives in the car … or does it?

This is generally the case for us as we love to get out and explore new and unknown areas, but it most definitely doesn’t have to be this way. We have a few local haunts that we head off to when we need to get away from home but don’t have the time or the inclination to spend hours in the car.

Do some research on Google, Wikicamps, YouCamp or even just the BIG4 websites and I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised at what is close to where you are now or where you want to be. We love the Gold Coast Holiday Park in Helensvale, which is just an 18-minute drive from where we live, and close to where we like to surf.

Check out these parks close to Australia’s capital cities.

Brisbane –  https://www.big4.com.au/caravan-parks/qld/greater-brisbane/sandstone-point-holiday-resort

Melbourne – https://www.melbournebig4.com.au/

Adelaide – https://www.aspenholidayparks.com.au/our-parks/adelaide-caravan-park/

Perth – https://www.midlandtouristpark.com.au/

Canberra – https://www.big4.com.au/caravan-parks/nsw/capital-country/governors-hill-carapark

Hobart – https://www.big4.com.au/caravan-parks/tas/hobart-surrounds/hobart-airport-tourist-park

Darwin – https://big4howardsprings.com.au/

Sydney –  https://www.big4.com.au/caravan-parks/nsw/greater-sydney/ingenia-holidays-nepean-river

3. Camping is just for outdoor lovers, or is it?

I hear this so much when I tell people what we do! If only they knew what really goes on when people go camping across the country.

If you take the time to wander around the campsite, you will see people talking, laughing, drinking, eating and relaxing, and then sleeping and doing it all again! You might throw in a dip in the pool, beach, or whatever body of water is close, or stroll through the local township, if there is one, or nearby park. And of course, there’s always plenty of time to put your feet up and read a book or have a snooze. We find we are the odd ones out with our mountain bikes, zest for adventure and love for the great outdoors! 

If you are staying in a resort/holiday villa you can spend as much time indoors or outdoors as you like. You can indulge yourself by lounging by the pool, eating in the restaurant, having a cocktail at the bar, or reading a book in the guest lounge.

4. Camping is just for young families and caravanning is for Grey Nomads!

Camping is for everybody and if you don’t believe me, open up Instagram and see for yourself! Newsfeeds are filled with photos and videos of young families, teenage friends, young lovers, middle-aged couples, older couples, grandparents with grandkids. You might see entire generations sharing their adventures as they get out and enjoy camping together! And the exact same can be said for caravanning.

While its generally true that the younger families can’t afford the fancy van and the expensive 4x4 that the retirees can afford, we are seeing a huge shift in who’s towing a caravan along for the holiday break. More and more young families and couples are investing in a lifestyle that they know will bring more fun and less stress to their way of life. We are one of these middle-aged couples! We have our dream van and 4x4 and we are only in our 40’s, and we wouldn’t have it any other way.

5. Camping = constant cooking

While I do agree with this to some extent, I firmly believe that you only cook as much as you want to. We have friends that don’t like cooking much and generally eat takeout the entire time we are away! If you love cooking (like I do) then this won’t be a problem. I have a variety of appliances that I take with us depending on where we are headed.

  • My thermal cooker usually gets loaded up before we leave home, so our dinner is ready and waiting that evening. This gives us time to set up and relax without having to meal prep at all.
  • I have a Thermomix that whips up a mean curry in half an hour, instant desserts and all sorts of easy mealtime deliciousness. I also take the air fryer so we can bake cakes, quiches, bikkies, nachos and even cook the snags if we want to in half the time it takes to preheat and use the oven!
  • Other times I make double meals the week before we head off and freeze them so all we have to do is defrost and enjoy when we’re away.
  • Sometimes, if we know we will be with lots of friends and they’ll be eating out, we only take a few meals worth of food with us and buy food from the restaurant.
  • Caravan parks have camp kitchens so even if you don’t have a BBQ, you can take your meat down and cook it on theirs.
  • If you want to keep it cheap and basic, buy a large pack of sausages or premade hamburgers and some packets of salads and you’re set!

It does all depend on how much you eat and how much you want to cook as to how much time you will be spending cooking. But I do find that no matter what you intend to do while away, a rough meal plan and grocery list makes all the difference.

6. It’s too hard packing and unpacking … or is it?

It most certainly doesn’t have to be! But again, this comes down to how much time and money you are willing, and able, to invest into your setup and of course, how much ‘stuff’ you want to take with you. When we had tents and gazebos and all that jazz it would take hours to pack the car at home and even longer to set up once we arrived. When we graduated to the camper trailer, it took less time at home and slightly less time to set up and pack up.

But nothing can compare to the simplicity of having a van large enough to store everything inside that you will need… permanently. We are the stage now where all we need to do is pack our food and clothes and head off. We have everything else we need in the van ready to go. We even have enough food in the pantry to last a few days if we don’t pack anything before we leave.

We have taken this one step further and have the same with our 4x4. Kitchen ware, toiletries, cleaning products, sunscreen, insect repellent, camp chairs, and everything we need lives permanently in the canopy so all we need to pack are clothes, towels and extra food. We have a pantry drawer fully stocked with staples and snacks all the time.

The main thing to remember is to only take what you need! Don’t take all the ‘just in case’ items. And yes, I know that Chris would be shaking his head at me and laughing if he read this (he doesn’t read anything, so I think I’m OK! Lol). It’s taken me a looong time to learn that I don’t need as much as I think I do, and I take less and less with me each trip that we take.

While I understand not everyone is able to leave the setup mostly ready all of the time, it’s what we have worked our way up to and are so glad that we did!

If you really can’t be bothered with all the ‘stuff,’ pack a swag, or tent and bedding, your basics, camp chairs, and an ESKI with your food in it, and book in at one of the luxury resorts and use all of their ‘stuff’! They have plenty of it ready and waiting.

So, there you have it. What ‘camping’ is and what it can be! From a swag under the stars to a luxurious caravan plugged into power and water at a 5 Star holiday resort, there are options for everybody whether a lover of camping yet or not. All I ask is that you give it a go and not let your ‘lack of adventure’ ruin the adventures you can experience … and if you don’t like it the first time, make changes until you do. If my mother can become a lover of camping (glamping), I’m sure almost anyone can. Check out the pic below … I’m very happy with her change of heart!

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.

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 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 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.

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.

CHASSIS

  • Tandem axle, 16” Boss IV Rims (Satin black and modified by Chris)
  • 265/75/16 M/T Tyres
  • 3 Arm Bumper
  • DO35 Coupling
  • Galvanized Wheel Box
  • 4” Raiser
  • Drop Legs
  • Single Alloy Step
  • Stone Deflector
  • 4” Chassis
  • 6” A Frame
  • Std 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)

EXTERNAL

  • Dometic Awning
  • Ranger Windows
  • Camec R/H/H Entry Door
  • Ranger Roof Hatch
  • 4 Seasons Hatch
  • 12 v Power Hatch (shower)
  • Tunnel Boot
  • Composite Roof
  • Coast to Coast Access Doors
  • External TV Box
  • 2 x Fold Down Picnic Tables (option)
  • Dometic Slide Out Kitchen (option)
  • Carafan CP700 Dust Pressure System (option)
  • Fibreglass Door (option)

INTERNAL

APPLIANCES

  • Swift Gas Electric Oven
  • 12v Rangehood
  • Microwave
  • Fusion bluetooth stereo
  • Top Loader Washing Machine
  • Dometic 224ltr Fridge
  • Truma Inventor Air Conditioner (option)
  • 28” NCE Smart TV (option)

INTERNAL

  • 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)

ELECTRICAL

  • Enerdrive Lithium Battery System
    • AMG Board 40A AC 40A DCDC 2000w inverter inc Simarine
    • 2 x 200amp B-Tec Lithium Batteries
    • 4 x Tank Sender
    • 4 x Enerdrive 180w Solar Panel
  • 2 x Lights in Tunnel Boot
  • 12v and 240v External Plug
  • 12 Pin Flat Car Plug
  • LED Reading Lights
  • Radio Antenna
  • TV Inlet/Outelt
  • Smoke Detector
  • 2 x Internal Speakers
  • Bargman Handle Light
  • LED Light over vanity/sink
  • LED Tail Lights
  • USB Point at Table
  • Sirocco Fan in Bedroom
  • Annex Light x 2 Anti Dazzle with Sensors (option)
  • 240v / 2 x USB Points in Nooks (option)
  • Flush Mounts USB (option)
  • Dual Lense Reverse Camera
  • Rock Lights Under Walls (option)
  • External Speakers (option)
  • Blue Light Option on Ceiling and Reading Lights (option)
  • Light Over Slide Out Kitchen

PLUMBING

  • Gas/Elec Hot Water System
  • Frosted Shower Door
  • Dometic 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)

COLOURS

  • 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

Kangaroo Valley and Buladelah, NSW. By Charli

Kangaroo Valley and Buladelah, NSW. By Charli

The first time dad has ever been worried … of course we’re all scared to death.

We were driving through a mountain range down an extremely steep, slippery road and were all scared for our lives.

When mum had found what sounded like an amazing free camp on Wikicamps (Bendeela Recreation Area), one person’s comment has mentioned ‘windy, slippery roads’ – and we were finding out first hand exactly what that person had meant! ‘

One wrong move and we’re ‘dead meat,’ that’s what dad said anyway.

Not to mention we had a 3 tonne caravan dragging behind us, making everything 100 times more difficult!

We finally make it through the steep mountains and get to a cute, one street country town. There are loads of little shops and cafes lining the main street, and a lovely old bridge that crosses a small ravine with a gorgeous river flowing underneath.

When we finally arrived at the free camp mum found on Wikicamps, we saw tonnes of wombats and kangaroos, some ducks and even a black cat!

We wandered around the campsite for a while, following a pathway that led us through some bushes to a stunning lake called ‘Lake Yarrunga’. The reflection of the surrounding trees on the water was absolutely beautiful.

Lake Yarrunga was formed when the Tallowa Dam was constructed in 1976, it’s an extremely important lake, as it is a part of the water supply for Shoalhaven, Illawarra and Sydney.

Lake Yarrunga is absolutely gorgeous and is filled with plenty of wildlife including platypus, ducks, birds and heaps more. And yep – I read all that information from a sign near the lake 🙂

As we were taking in our surroundings, we noticed that we could hear our voices echoing throughout the hills! We were standing on the wooden ramp cooeing and shouting into the hills, just to hear our voices talking back to us. We did that for about 20 minutes, until mum came over and told us to be quiet because we were echoing throughout the whole campsite. Oops.

We walked back to the caravan and decided to relax out the front and enjoy the views. It’s so green and so peaceful. Soon after, we decided we were starving and begged mum to cook us dinner, so we could hurry up and eat s’mores after.

For dinner, mum had cooked a beef and vegetable stew, and it had cooked in her thermal cooker while were driving. We ate it with a side of potato bread that tasted delicious! Who knew bread made out of mashed potato could taste so good? After that, we finally got to do what we had all been waiting for since we left home in Queensland, eat s’mores!

Although it wasn’t how we expected to, it still tasted delicious.

This whole trip we have been looking forward to sitting around a warm, cozy fire and toasting our gigantic marshmallows on the long pointy sticks we’d specially hand picked from the bush, smearing the melted marshmallow onto chocolate covered biscuits. But sadly we aren’t allowed to have fires where we were staying. So instead of eating them around the fire, dad lit the gas burner in the Dometic outside kitchen and we toasted the marshmallows that way. We had just picked up our brand new caravan, and we are super happy it’s got a slide out kitchen. I just hope we get to have s’mores again tomorrow night!

Next day: Kangaroo Valley to Bulahdelah River

We woke up to a nice warm caravan, with the smell of porridge wafting through the air. Mum and dad had woken up early to have a nice, peaceful breakfast without us kids making a racket. After we had brekky, we hooked up the van and drove off to our new destination, Bulahdelah.

On our way dad insisted we stop at one of his favourite pie shops called ‘Heatherbraes Pies‘. Mum got her favourite steak and mushroom, dad got a Jillaroo, and Aylah, Cooper and I all got an original beef pie. Once we all finished, our bellys were full and we were absolutely delighted with the delicious pies.

Soon after several stops at service station, we finally arrived at Bulahdelah. It’s a beautiful free camp right next to a gorgeous river that has plenty of space for heaps of caravans, tents, camper trailers, ect.

About 10 minutes after we arrived, we spotted a rope swing hanging out over river. We all desperately wanted to swing off it, but it was way too cold to go swimming. Cooper being the person he is, decided to show off to everyone how cool he is by swinging into the river without falling off. That didn’t go to plan. The first swing Cooper had, he slipped off the stick and landed strait into the river! We all burst out laughing as we all watched Cooper walked out of the muddy river with shame and embarrassment.

Of course Aylah wanted to have a go after Cooper, so she took of her shoes and grabbed onto the stick. She was hesitating for about 5 minutes until finally she built up the courage to swing over the river. We were all 100% certain she was going to fall in, but surprisingly she didn’t! She even swung 10 or more  times and still didn’t fall into the river. That really did shock us all.

And then it was Golden Hour! Time to snap a few pics as the sun set over the Myall River.

Later on we collected some rocks and made a fire pit. We grabbed the wood from our Navigator bags the that we had collected and dad had cut with his new chainsaw and began to build our fire.

The sun sank slowly, casting an orange glow. Birds were flying down the river, over the water and looping back around. Mum obviously decided to take photos of the sunset and they turned out amazing.

The campfire was lit, the chairs were set in a circle, relaxing music was playing from the caravan, everyone was sitting around the fire and everything was perfect.

A bit later dad cooked up some delicious meat patties on the slide out kitchen and mum put together some hamburgers for dinner. Aylah, Cooper and I sat around the fire and demolished our burgers faster than the parents could even make theirs! And of course we had s’mores after!

We had some Colourful Fire Packets (that you can buy from our online store here! https://www.aussiedestinationsunknown.com.au/product/colourful-fire-packets/) and dad decided it was a good time to toss one in. Lucky we had already eaten our s’mores as you can’t roast marshmallows with the colorful flames bouncing around. It did look beautiful though and was an almost perfect night. We finally got to roast our marshmallows over the open, warm fire, sitting under the stars enjoying each others company.