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Summer Down Under
The summer months are the perfect time to explore the southern states
Words and Images by: ALI MILLAR

At long last, summer has finally hit! Let me tell you, I’ve been waiting for this for months. As many CMCA members return south from months of northern touring, those less fortunate souls who stayed behind to face the winter months are finally awakening from their hibernation, ready to get out and enjoy the best the summer has to offer. 

It’s the perfect time for us southerners to appreciate the many beautiful locations right on our doorsteps, while those that usually live further north can now return the favour and join the southern exodus. 

Whether it’s fi nding a quiet camp away from the busy coast or getting amongst it at the beach, there are countless spectacular places to explore down south. So here are just a couple of my summer favourites… 

GRAMPIANS NATIONAL PARK, VIC 

The rugged mountains of the Grampians offer a shady summer retreat. 

As you drive towards the Grampians National Park (NP), the mountains can be seen rising starkly out of Victoria’s western plains. They are breathtakingly beautiful, jagged sandstone outcrops, covered in rugged bushland and home to a rich Indigenous heritage. 

The Grampians NP (Gariwerd) is one of Victoria’s most significant national parks and contains numerous Indigenous rock art sites. The park is renowned for its rock formations, spectacular waterfalls and rich vegetation. 

I had lived in Victoria for nearly seven years before I made it out to see this place for myself, but have returned regularly ever since. There’s so much to see and you can always find a new walking track to explore or a new spot to set up camp. 

The Grampians are around three hours’ drive west of Melbourne. Halls Gap is the main hub and has a variety of accommodation, shops and facilities. Brambuk, the National Park and Cultural Centre, is just south of town and has information on the various walks and activities, which include bushwalking, 4WDing, kayaking, fi shing and birdwatching. If you are planning on staying in one of the national park campgrounds, many of which accommodate motorhomes, you can book your campsite there – alternatively, this can also be done online. 

Spectacular scenery along the many walking trails

The helpful rangers at Brambuk will discuss your options with you, but if you’re up for a bit of a hike I’d highly recommend tackling the climb to the popular Pinnacle via the Wonderland Loop – an excellent five hour circuit starting from the Halls Gap Caravan Park.

The Pinnacle Lookout offers spectacular views over Halls Gap and Lake Bellfield, with farmland stretching off across the plains into the distance. If you are keen to check out the vista but want something a little shorter and less challenging, the Pinnacle can also be reached from either the Sundial or Wonderland carparks. 

Mackenzie Falls is another highlight for your sightseeing itinerary and if you’re wanting to cool off there’s a small designated swimming area at Lake Bellfield. 

One of the nicest things about the Grampians is the abundance of wildlife and you can spend hours at camp watching the grey kangaroos grazing, enjoying the squawking of the gang-gang cockatoos and end the day listening out for the hoot of owls calling to each other from the trees at night. 

INNES NATIONAL PARK, SA 

The tip of South Australia’s ‘boot’ rewards travellers with relaxed coastal camping. 

The dry, arid heat of a South Australian summer is enough to knock your socks off and after a few blisteringly-hot February days exploring the Flinders Ranges, the coast was calling. With the flip of a coin, we headed to Innes NP, cooled by the ocean breezes on the very southern tip of the Yorke Peninsula, by chance happening upon a true South Aussie gem that has remained near the top of my list of summer camping highlights. 

This relatively small national park packs a punch, offering excellent camping, fishing, surfing, swimming and bushwalking, all easily accessible by 2WD. Long, sweeping beaches where you can fish for Australian salmon and shady campsites with walking access to the beach add to the appeal. 

There are eight campgrounds in the park and we had the luxury of having one all to ourselves during our late summer stay. Facilities are limited to drop toilets at most of the camping areas and only two – Stenhouse Bay and the Pondalowie Caravans and Trailers campgrounds – are suitable for RVs. Campsites are a very reasonable $12 per night and can be booked online. 

Exploring the park’s rocky coastline takes you on a journey through this rough coast’s past, with around 40 shipwrecks lying off the Yorke Peninsula. You can pay a visit to the remains of the park’s most famous wreck, the Ethel, although it’s not always visible, at times hidden beneath the shifting sands. As you continue your coastal journey, stop off at the Cape Spencer and West Cape lighthouses for sweeping ocean views from the cliff tops. 

Away from the coastline, stroll through the historic village of Inneston and explore the ruins of this abandoned gypsum-mining town. Take the one-hour loop trail to truly step back in time. 

Other walks in the park take in the rugged cliff tops and endless coastal dunes, with spectacular scenery along the way, and the opportunity to sight rare Tammar wallabies that are part of a growing population in the park. 

But for me, sitting on the quiet stretch of beach near our camp as the sun was setting and watching a pod of dolphins frolic near a small group of surfers, all enjoying cruisy waves on the reef break at Pondalowie was a highlight and one that totally nails this national park – relaxed and peaceful yet wild, rugged and totally freeing. 

Journey Planner : 

Getting there 

  • Innes NP is just under 300km southwest of Adelaide via Port Wakefield.

Stay

  • Stenhouse Bay or the Pondalowie Caravans and Trailers campgrounds inside the national park.

More Info

  • www.environment.sa.gov.au/parks

BUCHAN CAVES, VIC 

Buchan Caves Reserve is a place of tranquil beauty – both above and below ground. 

As you descend into the belly of the cave, the darkness gathers. The steps spiral down through the dark tunnel before the cave opens up into one of the many chambers hidden beneath the hillside. If you’ve heard of the tiny town of Buchan, it’s most likely because of these caves, which extend for 3km through the hillside of the leafygreen Buchan Caves Reserve. 

The well-maintained reserve is home to an array of exotic plant species, planted as part of the landscape design prepared by renowned landscape architect Hugh Linaker in 1929. The valley, which contains a campground, picnic areas and the visitor centre, features colourful deciduous species that blend with the native Australian plants, creating a peaceful setting. 

The reserve is small enough that you can walk from the campground to the cave entrances and the starting points for the numerous bushwalks. However, there are sealed roads throughout and carparks near both cave entrances. 

The caves are a comfortable 17°C, year-round, with humidity reaching up to 90 per cent, making them the ideal place to hide away from the hot summer sun! Daily tours operate through the Fairy Cave and the Royal Cave. The mesmerising calcite-rimmed pools of the Royal Cave are a highlight, filled with crystal-clear water that perfectly reflects the delicate formations. 

Once you’re done underground, there are several short walks available. Try the 4km return walk to the Granite Pools for the view it affords over the Buchan Valley. 

The reserve’s shady campground is small and intimate, with communal fireplaces and picnic tables. The RV-friendly sites are easy to drive in and out of and most have power. There are two amenities blocks, a coin operated laundry, kids’ playground, a covered barbecue area and a camp kitchen. 

At the end of a day of exploration, take a cooling dip in the stream-fed swimming pool, which is filled by fresh running water throughout the summer months. What more could you want for a relaxing getaway? 

Journey Planner:

Getting there

  • The town of Buchan is 360km east of Melbourne in Victoria’s Gippsland region. The Buchan Caves Reserve is just on the edge of town.

Stay

  • Camp on site at the reserve’s campground – book online or at the visitor centre on site.

More info

  • www,parkweb.vic.gov.au/explore/parks/buchan-at-cave-reserve

BRUNY ISLAND, TAS 

For spectacular summer coastal touring, Bruny Island has it all.

From the vantage point of the Truganini Lookout, Bruny Island stretches off in either direction – dramatic, forested capes fall sharply into the sea towards the south, while in the north, open pasture and dry bushland dominate the scenery. The narrow isthmus that joins the north and south is known as The Neck and the Truganini Lookout offers one of Bruny’s most iconic, 360-degree views. 

Bruny is accessible by a short ferry ride from Kettering. Large vehicles are accommodated and ferries run regularly. The island offers a tantalising mix of natural attractions, interesting history and gourmet delights. Sweeping arcs of white sand line its edges in some parts, while rocky shorelines beg to be explored in others – there’s certainly no lack of options for swimming and fishing. 

At over 100km from north to south, Bruny’s worth setting up a base and taking the time to explore. The Tasmanian Parks and Wildlife Service operates a few campgrounds, two of which are suitable for motorhomers – Jetty Beach camping area and The Neck campground – both of which offer limited facilities. 

If food is your thing, make sure you visit the Bruny Island Cheese Company and don’t miss the Get Shucked oyster farm, either. Follow this up with a trip to the Berry Farm for ice cream. 

As you head south, stop by Cloudy Bay for a walk on the beach and when you’ve done enough strolling, rest on the rocks and watch surfers glide across the face of the water at this renowned surf break. 

Cape Bruny Lighthouse stands sentinel on the south-west tip of the island, where you can wander the grounds and enjoy the views from the cape, before exploring South Bruny National Park. 

The Fluted Cape walking track in the park offers excellent views but if you’re after something less arduous, take the track to Grass Point where you can see the remains of an old whaling station. 

A word to the wise: while you’re out walking, keep an eye out for snakes – on my last visit we encountered several on just one stretch through the dunes! 

Journey Planner: 

Getting there

  • Bruny Island is accessible by a 20-minute crossing on the Mirambeena ferry from Kettering, 40km south of Hobart.

Stay

  • Pick a coastal campsite at The Neck or Jetty Beach in the south.

More info

  • Bruny Island Ferry: www.brunyislandferry.com.au
  • Camping: www.parks.tas.gov.au

BOURNDA NATIONAL PARK, NSW 

Find summer camping perfection on the far south coast of NSW. 

The far south coast of NSW often flies under the radar, shadowed by its popular cousins further north. But this stretch of coastline is one of the prettiest going around and often lacks the crowds you’ll find further up the coast. 

With picturesque beach towns like Merimbula and Tathra nearby, as well as Bega just inland, most of the services you’ll need are easily accessible and this part of the south coast can keep you entertained for quite some time. 

Among the multitude of south coast gems is Bournda NP. It’s an easy 20 minute drive north of Merimbula and is home to the Hobart Beach Campground, perched on the edge of Wallagoot Lake and just a hop, skip and a jump from a stunning surf beach. The campsite has an amenities block with showers, barbecue facilities and picnic tables, and costs $24 a night if you want to stay in the national park. Park entry fees are $8 per vehicle, per day. 

This is the sort of place that once you’ve stocked up on supplies and set up camp you could easily while away the days strolling along the beach, watching the bird life from the comfort of camp or setting up your rod and wandering across to Bournda Island at low tide to try your luck. 

Nearby Bournda Lagoon is a great place for a picnic and its calm waters are perfect for a swim. From here, there’s a nice loop walk that follows the edge of the lagoon and takes in some of the coastline. It’s signposted as two to three hours but it’s nice to take your time and stop off for a swim and even a fish along the way. 

Calm warm water, soft sand, gentle breezes – you can almost smell the salt-sea air, can’t you? 

Make sure you explore a little further afield while you’re in the area too. A visit to Mumbulla Falls at the Biamanga Cultural Area, about an hour north, is a must. This is a sacred site to the Yuin Aboriginal people and you can learn about some of the area’s Aboriginal heritage through interpretive signs. Although it’s very tempting, out of respect the custodians request that visitors do not swim in the falls. 

On the drive out, stop in at Kalaru Koffee on Tathra Road for a caffeine hit. The café doubles as a post offi ce and store - browse the selection of cards and gifts while you wait for your coffee. 

If you’re more of a beach person there are endless sweeping beaches to comb along, many with lovely, still lagoons behind them – perfect if you travel with a kayak. If you haven’t explored this part of the coast before, put it on your list. It’s a real beauty! 

Journey Planner:


Getting there

  • Wallagoot Lake in the Bournda NP is around 20km north of Merimbula.

Stay

  • Hobart Beach campground

More info

  • www.nationalparks.nsw.gov.au


Tags: Summer Season Beach Coast Ocean RV Caravan Campervan Motorhome Holiday Grampians Victoria Innes National Park Buchan Caves Bruny Island SA South Australia TAS Tasmania
Category: Destinations
Written: Thu 01 Dec 2016
Printed: December, 2016
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