We have been on the road almost a month now and are currently exploring Darwin in the NT. Below are the places we have been since my last blog post.
For anyone wondering how the kids have been holding up in the car, they’ve been good but we’ve definitely had our moments. We try to keep the drives between 3-5 hours but because of headwinds, a caravan that sometime decides to fall apart, poo explosions (so many!!) etc it can sometimes take longer. Our longest days have been just over 9 hours in the car. Archer and Olive will always snooze, sometimes Iggy will too but she usually occupies herself with an activity or work book. She is loving writing at the moment and drawing all the things we have seen. The kids are always hungry so we make sure to pack lots of snack food (fruits, crackers etc) we also have a fridge/freezer in the car to keep everything cool. We have the iPad as backup when things get crazy or we’ve exuded all other options.
Port Hedland to Eighty Mile Beach 255kms
4 hours – 2 stops
Stayed: Eighty Mile Beach caravan park. You have to drive 8kms down a red, dusty and heavily corrugated road (not ideal for our old girl, her interior was turned inside out when we arrived ha) A beautiful caravan park with the turquoise blue beach just a minutes walk away. The beach is filled with beautiful big shells and some tropical and colourful ones. Amazing spot to watch the sunset when the tide is low. They only had unpowered sites left at $35 a night (we aren’t set up with solar panels etc so no power. We made dinner on the bbq then we all watched a movie on the iPad and were in bed early.
Eighty Mile Beach to Broome 376kms
So this is the drive where we had our first hiccup on the road. We decided to check out Barnhill station (halfway between 80 Mile and Broome) because the beach looked amazing but you have to drive along a heavily corrugated gravel road for 10kms and it was really tough on the old girl. We realized we probably couldn’t get to the beach from the caravan park as it was really busy so we turned back around and drove the 10kms back. We then decided to check out Ramada Eco Beach retreat which was just up the road but another corrugated gravel road roughly another 10kms (you also have to jump out several times to open/shut gates as it is situated on a working cattle farm- really great opportunity to see Brahma cattle up close) Anyway, when we finally got out of the car we could smell something burning on the caravan. Upon inspection we realized it was from the wheel bearings which had failed and fallen apart. We were incredibly lucky to have stopped when we had as we were probably moments from losing the tire completely off the van. So we decided to have lunch at the resort (in hindsight, bit silly of us as we lost a lot of time doing this) and then return to the van to fix, which is when we realized we would need new bearings (didn’t have spares on us) and would need to drive to Broome to buy from Repco (which was closing at 5) and we would only make it bang on 5! We jumped in the car, left the caravan at the retreat and drove very fast to Broome. We managed to get to Repco in time and also check in to the caravan park that we had paid for and were expecting us. By the time we got back to the retreat it was 7pm and we knew we couldn’t fix the van in the dark so we asked the bar staff at the retreat if we could get a room. We got a safari tent for the night and pretty much went straight to bed. In the morning we woke up at 7, worked on the caravan for 3 hours after a few more hiccups and then were finally on the road heading to Broome.
Stayed: Cable Beach caravan park $65 a night – absolutely beautiful site with a lovely (freezing) swimming pool and wonderful amenities.
Sights: It was extremely windy while we were here so we tried to escape somewhere more sheltered. Headed to James price point one of the days. Terrible corrugated gravel road in but a phenomenal place to see. Red cliffs contrast the white sand and turquoise water underneath. Spent a few hours here, still a bit windy and some flies but definitely worth it to see the landscape. Came back in time for sunset at cable beach, drove onto the beach to watch the camels wander by and the kids loved it.
We missed the Thursday night beach markets so went to the Sunday morning market in town. A few local stalls, we picked up some coffee beans from the Kimberley Bean Co stall which was flat out busy.
Broome to fitzoy crossing 397.5kms
7.5 hours 3 stops
Stopped at Willare roadhouse at 12.15pm to find the back panel of the caravan had fallen off (second hiccup) which took 3 hours to fix.
Got to Fitzroy crossing bang on 6pm (just made it before it got real dark.)
Stayed: Fitzroy River Lodge $45 night – didn’t even see much of the area as we got a drive through site and stayed attached to the car as we had another big drive the next day and needed to leave early.
Fitzoy to Kununurra 648kms
9 hours – 4 stops
(One of our bigger drives, leaving before 7am always seems to make the drive go faster – kids fall asleep and it just seems a little less crazy) The drive from the Bungle Bungle turn off to Kununurra was stunning which definitely makes the long drive a little easier.
Stayed: Lake Kununurra caravan park – $65 a night for waterfront site. Absolutely beautiful park right on the lake (crocodiles swimming past included) The facilities are a little dated but the view is worth it. They host dinners on the lake and we had a yummy Texas bbq the first night for $15 a plate.
Woke up at 5am to get ready to head to El Questro which is roughly an hour drive. We left the caravan at 6am and the drive was absolutely beautiful into the wilderness park, watching the sun rise over the huge mountains. We got to Zebedee Springs just after 7am which is when they open and there were already people there. It’s only open to the public from 7-12pm every day and after that it’s for El Questro guests only. The short 10 minute walk to the Springs is amazing with large Livistona palms towering above. We went straight to the top of the spring which was a little climb with the kids but totally manageable. We kicked off our sneakers and clothes and jumped straight into the 30 degree pool and had it to ourselves for only a few minutes before others climbed in. We spent over an hour here before descending to the pools below, which are supposedly cooler but felt just as warm on a fresh morning. The bottom two pools are probably the most beautiful to look at with palms growing straight up from the bottom of the springs. The kids loved it and Olive especially was so relaxed. We spent 3 hours here and when we jumped into the car the kids all fell asleep so we decided to head back to the caravan park and enjoy the serenity there rather than pushing the kids limits by exploring more gorges.
Kununurra to Lake Argyle 70kms
45 minutes – no stops
Stayed: Lake Argyle Caravan Park – $52 a night. This place was buzzing, no surprise with an infinity pool that is classed as one of Australia’s best.
Sights: We decided to go a cruise of the lake which we booked through the caravan park reception. A lunch cruise at $125 per adult and $70 for Iggy (+ 2 under 2 for free) This was an incredibly informative tour and it was amazing to see and hear about the sheer mass of the lake. It also included fish feeding, a little swim and an amazing bbq lunch cooked on the back of the boat. It was only a few hours so a great length for the kids who all fell asleep the moment we got back to the caravan. Spent the evening watching the sun go down from the infinity pool and lining up behind the oldies to get ‘the shot’ of the lake!
Lake argyle to Katherine 510kms
7.5 hours 4 stops
Another big drive but an exciting one, crossing the border and changing into a new time zone.
Stayed: Katherine Holiday Park – $58.50. A sweet little family owned park a few minutes out of town. The owners were really sweet with the kids, showing them Owls and taking them for a drive on their buggy. A little mango truck drives past at night selling frozen/ dried mango and home grown veggies too.
Sights: Edith falls is roughly a 40 minute drive away so we headed there on our second day. For those who live in Perth, it was a little reminiscent of ‘Serpentine Falls’ only on a larger scale. We did the 2km return walk to the Upper Pool which was a little work with the kids (one baby carrier) and a 34 degree day. Made it to the pool and everyone enjoyed a little swim in the rock pools and watched the waterfall.
The highlight of our time in Katherine was definitely the thermal pools. The Katherine Hot pools are located in town and get extremely busy, there is even a pop up cafe open near the car park. These pools are a good mix of natural and man-made with concrete steps at the lower end of the pool. The top end of the pool is warmer and you can even see the open spring where the water is emerging from. There are lots of locals here and I felt a little uneasy leaving our bags unattended. I was probably the most nervous about crocodiles here as their sign noted that salt waters can enter the area undetected! We also headed to Mataranka which is 110kms away but only took us 50 minutes to get there as the speed is 130 majority of the way. Bitter Springs is at the start of the town and is a very beautiful, more natural spring with plenty of vegetation up to the water. The turquoise water is incredible and the current takes you all the way around -all you need is a noodle and you are set. Unfortunately these Springs weren’t ideal for us with the 3 kids (deep water and difficult to stand) but we had a little swim and enjoyed it. Mataranka thermal pools (only a short drive further up the road) appears more like a swimming pool and has a concrete edge all the way around perfect for sitting on. This made it so easy for me to sit with Olive in the water while Tye swam with the others in their floaties and vice versa. Recommend this pool if you have little ones like us!
Fuel cost total for 3 weeks $1873 – 7300kms