Black Rocks, Esk, NSW

Black Rocks, Esk, NSW

Sand dunes, huge black rocks, perfect grassy campsites, and a spectacular coastline – this is Black Rocks, NSW – an incredible natural paradise.

We have thoroughly enjoyed the past four days camped up at the Black Rocks Campground in the Bundjalong National Park in Esk on the NSW North Coast. We have spent quite some time in this area over the past 10 years, but this was our first time camping at Black Rocks as our usual ‘go-to’ is Woody Head Campground, just around the corner. Day trips to Black Rocks are great, but not the same as setting up camp for a few days!

‘Set behind the dunes amongst tuckeroo and banksia trees, Black Rocks campground is perfectly positioned right by Ten Mile Beach and near Jerusalem Creek. Not far from Evans Head, it is a great place for a family camping holiday, with campsites for caravans, camper trailers and motorhomes.’

When I posted on our socials about our trip, the most common question was ‘how was the road in?’ We found the road to be smooth and in really good condition. Dusty in the dry, and of course the rocks are still there as they always have been. But all in all, great condition. We did hear that just a few weeks earlier it had been very corrugated, so clearly some work has been done to it since then – my guess is in preparation for the Easter holidays.

Black Rocks Campground is extremely popular, and spots are snatched up pretty quickly, especially during the holiday periods. We stayed the week before the Easter Holidays and were lucky enough to secure the very last site big enough to accommodate a caravan, which was site 28. This is a GREAT spot! It’s a large, flat, grassy site with a clothesline, fire pit and undercover table and chairs. It is also right across from the beach, toilets and public BBQ. We even had a host waiting for us upon arrival!

There are 50 sites available at the campground and most of the sites are similar, but of varying sizes. Some are suitable for caravans, some for camper trailers and others just tents. Some are ‘walk-in’ sites and others can easily fit your whole setup.

You will find picnic tables, barbecue facilities, carpark, clean drop toilets, fire pits and clotheslines dotted around the place, and there is even a dump point if you need it. You will need to bring your own drinking water and firewood.

The beach itself is incredible and you could easily spend hours exploring the huge black rocks dotted all along the coastline. The weather in the previous few weeks had been a tad crazy which meant that the ocean and beach was covered in foam and quite vicious looking! It was also extremely windy for most of this stay.

Jerusalem Creek is well known for those who like to take the kayaks out for a paddle, and the Jeruslam Creek Walk is a 10.3km, three to four hour walk through the wetlands for people who prefer to explore with their feet on the ground.  

Black Rocks Campground is part of the Bundjalong National Park, which means that booking fees must be paid and permits are required. We paid $24 per night camping fee plus $8 per day for the car.

Click here to book https://www.nationalparks.nsw.gov.au/camping-and-accommodation/campgrounds/black-rocks-campground

BIG4 Caravan Park, Wye River, Great Ocean Road. VIC

BIG4 Caravan Park, Wye River, Great Ocean Road. VIC

We couldn’t have picked a better place to hold our first Titanium Caravan Owners Rally. BIG4 Wye River Holiday Park is such a beautiful, large and well maintained park with lots of wildlife and grassy, open spaces.

The park is located in a lovely riverside valley with mountains behind, a babbling river running through, and a surf beach right across the road. There is also a general store and cafe right at the entrance to the park. We ordered pizzas, lasagne and salad for everyone from here and it was delicious!

Most of us are self contained in our vans, but I did go and check out the amenities which seemed pretty new! The laundry was awesome and the large washing machines and driers both cost just $3 a load.

The new camp kitchen was great! Fully enclosed and self contained with tables and a large fridge. There was no cutlery that we could find though – so be sure to take your own. There are also outdoor tables and bbq’s – some sites even have their own tables!

For the kids there is a games room, adventure playground, jumping pillow, go karts for hire plus plenty of walking and riding trails.

There are cabins and powered plus un-powered sites, it’s dog-friendly and has all the regular awesome stuff that BIG4’s often have. Live music, firepits for hire, fire wood for purchase, drive through sites, disabled bathroom and the list goes on.

Check out the website https://www.big4.com.au/caravan-parks/vic/great-ocean-road/wye-river-holiday-park for more info or to book. Say you heard about it from us and you never know they might give you the VIP treatment 😉

The best part of this park is most definitely the location. The Great Ocean Road is undoubtedly one of the most spectacular roads in Australia!

Riverina Hotel Free Camp, Holbrook NSW

Riverina Hotel Free Camp, Holbrook NSW

We ended up doing 600km from The Great Ocean Road to Holbrook and flicked open wiki to find somewhere close by. This free camp popped up and the reviews looked good so we thought we’d give it a go. We always enjoy pub camping; chatting to and having a beer with the locals is always fun!

It’s right behind the pub as they usually are, which means it was also close to the road. There is a grassy area with some dirt/gravel areas and a large gravel car park on one side (parking for the pub and trucks). You can enter via Bowler street through the car park or down the little road just past.

Big rigs do come and go – one started up and left at 3am, and overall it wasn’t super quiet, but not too bad. It was a warm night though so we had all the windows open.

The grass was green and the trees large and shady. We had no problem pulling in, turning and parking. We were the only ones there (Sunday night).

You must go into the hotel to let them know you are staying (for safety reasons) and buy a meal or a beer to use amenities (we are self contained so didn’t need to use them but I hear they are well maintained). We did have a beer, sat out front and had chat with the locals.

This is a great overnighter in a really convenient place.

  • Dogs are allowed

  • Shower (we didn’t see this but it says there is one in the wiki description)

  • Toilets

  • Bins

  • Good phone reception (we are with Telstra)

  • 72 hour limit

  • Accessible for big rigs

We Loved the Historical Anchor Stampers in Lottah, Tasmania

We Loved the Historical Anchor Stampers in Lottah, Tasmania

We found the Anchor Stampers and it was one of the most interesting things we’ve come across on this trip to Tassie! I have lived here for most of my life and had no idea this place even existed. It really is great returning to my home state as a tourist.

The old Anchor Tin Mine was located on the southern footslopes of the Blue Tier and our visit to these rusted tin crushing machines was part of a half day trip to the Pyengana/Lottah region on Tasmania’s East Coast.

Pyengana Dairy

Our afternoon began with lunch at the Pyengana Dairy, a beer at the Pub in The Paddock (where sadly Priscilla 1 and Priscilla 2, the beer-drinking pigs, were hiding away in their little pig-house), a walk to the 90 – metre – high St Columba Falls and a visit to the incredible old Don Mine. It was an action-packed day, that ended with the short walk into the old Anchor Mine to view the old tin stampers.

Pyengana Dairy

Pub in the Paddock

St Columba Falls

Don Mine

We followed the GPS to Lottah where we found – nothing. Chris looked over at me while we were driving along the narrow, windy road surrounded by dense bush and said ‘great, another wild goose chase!’ But we were in the right spot and if you looked around, there was actually plenty to see. If we had more time, we would have included the Halls Falls Walk in the day’s adventures!

Given what we were seeing (which was nothing), you would never have known Lottah was once a bustling mining town and home to 150 miners and their families. The town had everything the residents needed including two hotels, a post office, general store and police station. Although any church goers weren’t catered for as interestingly, there was no church of any denomination. Lottah was once a main thoroughfare for those traveling between St Helens and Scottsdale but now the only way to get there is via a gravel road. This road runs alongside the beautiful Groom River that looks to have some stunning swimming holes – if you can find your way down to them! Lottah no longer has shops, and there remain just a few houses – which is so very different to a time when St Helens was built just to service Lottah and the Anchor Mine.

The Anchor Stampers signs are dotted along the road and not hard to see. Pull into the large, circular car park where you will find the beginning of the short 30 – minute – return walk.

 The track itself is a formed path that takes you gradually downhill with a couple of sections of reinforced dirt steps and past a few remnants of the mining days. You walk past the old dam and along what we think is the dam wall. It’s a bit overgrown in places with prickly plants like thistles and what appeared to be blackberry bushes, so be careful – I nearly tore a hole in my jumpsuit!

As you approach the first viewing platform, the two 10-head heritage stampers from the 1930’s loom up from the forest wall giving you a sense of being transported to another time; a time when there were no trees here, just a clearing with a working tin mine where hundreds of men laboured away, from 1880 until its final closure in 1996.

 Walking further down a little path, you will see that here are two different Stampers – one is the Thompson, brought across from Castlemaine in Victoria, and the other is the Salisbury, manufactured in Launceston (as you can see stamped on the front of each machine).

The stampers are huge and rusty and you can get right up close and even touch them- just mind the spiders!

The informative signs on both viewing platforms give a great explanation of what it used to be like here, and how tin mining has played such a huge part in Tasmania’s history.

As with most of Tasmania’s walks and hikes, be aware of snakes, leeches and ticks. Thankfully we only ended up with one leech on us this time! Our trip to the Don Mine delivered two leeches to Chris and five to me. Eek!

The Anchor Stampers are well worth a visit. I rate this little-known attraction a 5/5 ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

RV Retreat, Coolongolook, NSW

RV Retreat, Coolongolook, NSW

Overnight Campground for Self-Contained Vehicles

This morning we left the Gold Coast to head south. It’s day 1 of our brand-new lives … Aussie Destinations Unknown: Full Time Travellers! We know we have to be at various places in Melbourne next week, and we are catching the Spirit of Tasmania on December 11th. We’ve just booked 4 nights at the Melbourne Caravan Park for our time there, but leading up to those dates, we have no accommodation booked, and no idea of how far we will travel each day or where we will be stopping. Just like today. Chris felt that Port Macquarie was it, as he put the cruise control on, gave his feet a break and hunched himself over the steering wheel to stretch the stiffness out of his back. That’s generally my cue to flip open the laptop and start searching on wikicamps or Hipcamp.

Today wiki delivered a pearler of a spot! The reviews were fantastic, photos beautiful and location just one hour south of where we were. Chris had a look and decided he could drive a bit further and here we are. At the RV Retreat in Coolongolook, just down the road from the Cherry Pie Bakery, on the corner of Lombard and Park Streets.

Chris pulled over and I wandered through the gate and down the drive, following Denise’s instructions and the large signs saying ‘OFFICE’.

I was greeted by two smiling people, Matt & Denise and a gorgeous view over lush green fields, immaculately kept grounds, a dam filled with water lillies and a genuinely friendly country vibe.

Denise gave me a map which showed us where to park and all the things to do in the surrounding areas. There’s quite a bit to see here – I wish we could stay for another night! The reviews were right and the images genuine. What a find! I couldn’t believe our luck. Wikicamps – you’ve done it again.

We drove a small way down a dead-end street that looks like it leads up to the mountain behind the property and turned right through the large wooden gates and into our site. The roads are made out of what looks like crushed rock – not dirt, but not gravel, and browny/orange in colour. Dust free compacted road base is what Chris said it looked like when I asked him! This not only looks really tidy but offers a stunning contrast against the greenery and bright blue sky.

We were parked up in no time with the windows and hatches open letting the country breeze flow through the van. Being 31 degrees today, its surprisingly comfortable inside! We have a wrought iron table and chair setting right beside the van and the ‘site’ is very private.

We headed up to the brand new camp kitchen (‘The Happy Shed’) for a bit of a look to find a bar (installed a few weeks ago!), table and chairs, couches and lounge chairs, large table with table cloth, BBQ, trolley with insect repellent, stubby coolers, bin bags hand sanitiser and all sorts of practical things, a book exchange (woohoo!) and some antique goodies splashed around. All set in a wide-open shed with views down over the dam.

Chris and I love things to be neat, tidy, functional and to look good – and RV Retreat is all of those and more. The attention to the finer details is such a refreshing change.

About 4:30 Denise walked over to us and we had a great chat while Matt was at the RFS about a kilometre down the road. Originally from Sydney, they love this part of the country and moved up here for a bit of a sea change. Matt’s family was originally from here, so they already had the connection. Oh, we chatted about all sorts of things … including the new tunnel open in Sydney until she headed back to the house, ready to welcome some more guests.

Sure, RV Retreat is right behind the freeway so the sounds of traffic is there, but it’s definitely tolerable – and the sounds of the birds are what my ears tuned into in no time at all.

I can’t recommend this property highly enough, and for just $15 per night (that was for both of us!) you can’t go wrong.

DETAILS:

  • Location: Corner Park and Lombard Streets, Coolongolook (a bit over an hour south of Port Macquarie and 25 minutes to Tuncurry and Forster)
  • Cost: $15 (2 adults)
  • Power: No
  • Water: Tank water available in the kitchen
  • Amenities: No (must be self-contained)
  • Pets: Yes. On a leash as there are chooks and sheep
  • Dump Point: Yes – across the road at the BP
  • Rubbish and Recycling Bins: Yes

Close By:

  • 2 cafes within walking distance (Cherry Pie Café and Salty Dog)
  • Caltex Service Centre (open 24 hours) on other side of highway
  • BP Service Centre (open 5am – 10pm) has liquor licence (on other side of highway

10 minutes away in Nabiac you will find:

  • Butcher (opposite the bakery)
  • Baker (open Monday – Saturday)
  • The Village Café & Takeaway (next to the pub)
  • Nabiac Pub (courtesy bus picks up from RV Retreat Tuesday (from 5pm) and Friday and Saturday (from 3pm)
  • The Nook (local handcrafts)
  • Foodworks (open from 7 daily)
  • Farmers Market (last Saturday of the month) at the Nabiac Showground 8 am to noon.
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.

CHASSIS

  • 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)

EXTERNAL

INTERNAL

APPLIANCES

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

PLUMBING

  • 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)

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)

 

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Watch our VAN TOUR Video here