The Road Trip Finale

Our road trip has come to an end and we are back in Tamworth (safe from fires). We drove over 5200 km since my last post, when we departed Margaret River. We continued down the southwest coast, staying in Denmark, Albany, and Esperance, before heading back up and across the Eyre Highway, through the Nullarbor. From there, we explored the Eyre Peninsula, the Great Ocean Road, and Melbourne before deciding to throw in the towel and head back to Tamworth to avoid driving into fire affected areas.

Along the southwest coast, we saw some of the most beautiful beaches we’ve seen since embarking on our trip around Australia. Stopping for a night or two in each Denmark, Albany, and Esperance, the beaches just kept getting better and better – super soft white sand, and shallow, crystal clear, calm blue waters. Our favorites were probably in Albany and Esperance – Albany because of the deserted/secluded nature of the beach by the caravan park, and Esperance because of the views. Along the way we did the Valley of the Giants Treetop walk, which was a suspended walkway that takes you up amongst the tops of the giant Tingle trees. These are some of the oldest and tallest trees in the country, reaching heights of 70 meters. We also hiked along some of the rocky coastline, checked out the marine life, and enjoyed the cooler temperatures. Since it’s summer and we were trying to camp as much as possible, we watched the weather closely to follow the cool fronts. We also checked out Stonehenge near Esperance, which is a scale replica of the original, made out of pink granite quarried from the area.

Giant Tingle Trees
Lucky Bay and Esperance

We were sad to leave the southwest area, but had to start making our way back to the eastern portion of the country. The drive took us back across the Eyre Highway and the Nullarbor. We timed our departure right, because as we hit Norseman, the “gateway city” to the Eyre Highway, they shut down the roads heading north and south from there due to fires that had flared up. Had we decided to stay another day in Esperance, we would’ve been stuck for awhile. Those road closures made our drive across the Nullarbor very easy because there was NO traffic going our way, meaning no truck trains to pass!

The 90 Mile Straight on the Eyre Highway

We spent one uneventful night at the roadhouse in Border Village along the way before heading into the Eyre Peninsula. The Eyre Peninsula is known as being the seafood capital of Australia, and it was definitely not disappointing to be able to indulge in fresh oysters, fish, prawns, squid, lobster, etc. In addition to the seafood industry, this is another farming area of the country, which gave us amazing scenic views of golden wheat fields that stretch right up to the ocean in places. We spent two nights in Streaky Bay and enjoyed a camp spot on the beach, had a visit from Santa on a firetruck, and did a 10km hike along the coastline.

Coastal Hike

From there we made our way down to Port Lincoln for two nights leading into Christmas. This was a weird holiday for us being away, and something we actually struggled with a little bit, missing family. For a little normality, we found a Christmas service to attend and really enjoyed the unconventional/interactive way the message was conveyed and the lovely acoustic music to accompany the Christmas hymns. We did stay in an AirBnB here because all the campgrounds were fully booked already.

Our travels then took us back to Clare for two nights, spending Christmas Day and Boxing Day here. We randomly discovered Clare at the beginning of our road trip and loved it, so made a point to go through on our way back. It’s a smaller town in the Clare Valley Wine region. Not much was open since we were there over holidays, but we enjoyed the historic architecture, took a stroll through the park, and checked out a nearby gallery and winery.

Long shadows in the park in Clare.

From here we made our way down to The Great Ocean Road, stopping for the night in Mount Gambier, Portland, Forrest, and finishing in Melbourne for New Years. Something we were unfortunate enough to discover is that if you want to camp on the ocean along The Great Ocean Road, don’t go between Christmas and New Years! Or if you want to, make sure to get your reservations in a year in advance….We heard that outside of that week, you’d be fine not making a booking. We improvised and found campgrounds not too far inland at Mount Gambier and Forrest, but in Portland, we stopped in a campground and they were kind and squeezed us in a spot not normally used for camping. The campgrounds we saw along the way had caravans and tents packed in like sardines.
The Great Ocean Road is a scenic drive that stretches west of Melbourne along the coast. It offers up spectacular views of the beaches, coastal towns, and sheer cliffs that plunge straight into the ocean. This drive might be best known for the Twelve Apostles rock formation, but there are many sights along the way worth a look.

Twelve Apostles Coastline

Since campgrounds were super packed, and a heat wave was coming, we decided to get an AirBnB in Melbourne for two nights. We spent a day exploring the city, checking out the art galleries, Queen Victoria Market, Chinatown, and the extensive array of cool graffiti/street art.

At this point, with the heat wave, crazy winds, cool front, and dry lightning, more fires sparked up and started getting out of control. Our original plan was to continue along the coast and slowly make our way back to Tamworth, but with the fires, we made the smart decision to cut it short and take the more direct, less fire affected route “home”. A lot of cute little towns dotted the highway on the way back – and many “big” things and silo art to see along the way. We stopped overnight in the town of Narrandera and stayed at the Historic Star Lodge, before finishing the long drive.

So, we are back in Tamworth now until the 14th, when we will leave for Asia. We’ll be spending our time here hanging out with our friends, and making plans/bookings for the next leg of the trip.

Regarding the fires, I’m sure you’ve all seen some sort of footage on TV or on social media. Not sure how much they do show on the news at home, since we have our own issues, but it’s really bad. If you pray, please do – the firefighters seem to be fighting a losing battle. So much dry brush in the bush (forests) that catches fire and moves quickly, with no rain to help. We are safe and not anywhere near the worst of what they are showing in the news. It is really heartbreaking to watch, too many human and animal lives lost, and many homes wiped out in the wake of the flames.