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Roadtripping Australia From Coast to Coast

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Australia is huge, and nothing drives that home harder than driving from coast to coast. Alice wants you to take the plunge, see what most of us don’t, and explore our great land. Troopy Travels is her journey, but it could be yours too.

Sometimes in life you want a secure home, comfy couch, well-equipped kitchen, plenty of storage space, and of course, the ability to 4WD. In this case, a high-top Troop Carrier is the ideal home sweet home. The perks – a constantly changing backyard, having all your stuff with you at all times, turning the whole country into your playground, pure unadulterated freedom, and of course the hours (and hours) available to catch up on all the latest podcasts – are hard to pass up.

Lake Benanee, SA — photo by Angel Grimaldi In 2017, after many months of searching and an impromptu trip to Cairns, we bought Ohana, a 1998 75-series Toyota Landcruiser bushcamper (hightop) Troop Carrier. After some renovations, we set off on an 8000km trip to see some of our amazing country.

Getting Started

Our plan was to do a major engine conversion and get her running on hot chip oil (like travelling musician Charlie McGee of Formidable Vegetable Soundsystem). Those plans were quickly sidelined by the huge amount of work needed to make her liveable – a full overhaul, removing the entire interior, treating rust spots, insulating, rebuilding broken wall panels, sewing curtains and finally installing the furniture needed to make her comfy.

With the help of an eccentric stoned aluminium-worker out the back of Billinudgel, we crafted a pull-out bench/bed conversion complete with a lifting lid (perfect for storing surfboards and free dive gear underneath). A few months of construction later we had a working sink (with foot pump, linked to the 60L tank underneath), tiled kitchen bench, 12V fridge, a spice drawer and a couple of pot plants. Ready to roll.

How To Turn Your Vehicle Into An Adventure-mobile

  • Google and Gumtree are your new best friends For finding unique objects, selling all that stuff you no longer need, or learning how to wire up your new solar panels. Someone somewhere has done it before and probably shared a how-to guide.

  • Do your research While people have done it before, that’s no guarantee they’ve done it right. Different fridges, electrical set-ups, storage spaces, everything has pros & cons so take your time to find what fits (and how it fits) before you start. We spent many hours sitting in the shell of a Troopy visualising, sketching and constructing layouts from newspaper, tape and boxes, before we started actually building anything.

  • Suit yourself Take the time to think about what adventures you plan to have in your van (or truck). Ours was geared towards long-term living but if you’re a weekend warrior then you probably don’t need pot plants. But you may need a bike rack, ukulele storage space or a portable cooker. Whatever steams your beans.

  • Think minimalist: Less is more If you have space, you’ll fill it up with stuff. Plan to take just what you need and don’t overload (but make sure you have space for the important things – our stovetop coffee machine and backgammon board may not seem essential, but come on, they are).

  • Here comes the sun, use it Solar panels are cheap and easy to install, and with a second battery you can make sure cameras and phones are charged, run a fridge and have LED lights. With a good inverter you can even charge laptops and other 240V toys.

Boranup, WA — Photo by Angie Barrack

On The Road: Byron To The Blue Mountains

Before setting off on the long cross-country journey, we headed up north from our home in Byron Bay to test out the 4WD on the sandy beaches of North Stradbroke Island. Flinder’s Beach campsite is an exclusive location right on the beach, with ocean views available to a select group of the elite (i.e. four-wheel-drive access only).

Stradbroke Island, QLD — Photo by Angel Grimaldi We quickly learnt how to find the best hard sand to drive on, and how to get 2 tonnes of Troopy out of soft sand. After a good wash, we set off down the coast, got our last fix of greenery and waterfalls in the Blue Mountains, and headed for South Australia.

Photo by Samantha Macintosh

Here Be Dragons: South Australia

For lovers of wildlife and wild coastlines, the Eyre Peninsula is a paradise waiting to be explored. Leafy sea dragons and giant cuttlefish lurk in the coastal waters, and sea lions and great white sharks are a short boat trip away. Rocky cliffs backed by red soil and countless kangaroos meet the Southern Ocean.

The Eyre Peninsula

Here was the place the blissful reality of van life set in for us – waking up on the coast at Sleaford Bay, watching surfing dolphins from bed with the smell of freshly brewed coffee and not another soul to be seen (apart from the kangaroos behind us).

Explore the clifftops around Sleaford Bay Rd for some sweet parking spots, or if you have longer there’s some proper campsites and amazing hiking trails in Lincoln National Park. The nearby town of Port Lincoln is also the last place to stock up on emergency supplies (e.g. car jack, fan belts and duct tape) before heading off into the infinite abyss of the Nullarbor. Plus they do a great hot chips and pineapple fritters at King Neptune’s.

Sleaford Bay, SA — Photo by Angel-Grimaldi

Across The Bottom: Nullarbor Highway

A tourist attraction based on its complete lack of tourist attractions, the Nullarbor is home to the longest straight road on the planet, and also a whole lot of camels and, you guessed it, more kangaroos. The fuel is ridiculously expensive ($1.80/L) but the warm Emu lager is cheap.

We would wake up early, drive all day, and stop well before sunset to avoid wildlife casualties. There are plenty of free roadside campsites, some with more epic views than others. We stayed at a great one 13km east of the WA border (creatively named ‘Border Village 13km east‘) – the ocean views and whale spotting make a nice change from the dusty road, wrecked cars and scrub.

While it wasn’t the gruelling experience we’d been warned of, it was a relief to get to the endless white sand beaches and turquoise ocean of Esperance. Make sure your water is well-stocked and your fuel is full before you start.

Some Outback Driving Tips Might Be Handy: Outback Road Trip Survival Guide

West, It Might Really Be The Best: South-West Coast to Gnaraloo

West Australia is where the perks of owning a 4WD became extra perky. The coastal campsites of Boranup, climbing giant karri trees in Walpole’s national parks, surf beaches of Dunsborough, sand dunes of Lancelin and cliff roads of Kalbarri are pretty epic places to take your home to. Not to mention the seriously off-the-beaten-track campsites on the Coral Coast. It may have cost us approximately 2 hours, and one tyre, to travel the 75km to Gnaraloo, but it was worth it.

Gnaraloo And Ningaloo

Three Mile Campsite is a mix of long-term campers with the ultimate setups, Perth escapees and die-hard surfers – all with a love of solitude, seclusion and the sea. With incredible coral reef snorkeling (it’s the southern tip of the Ningaloo Reef) and insane waves for anyone brave enough to paddle out. From our campsite in barren seaside scrub, we could play backgammon while watching whales passing by, and I caught some of the most epic sunsets of my life.

Seals at Dunsborough, WA

Ningaloo Reef: Exmouth And Coral Bay

From there it’s just a short hop past