Will an A'van limit us? Kakadu, Lawn Hill, Kimberleys etc

Submitted: Wednesday, Apr 13, 2016 at 06:26
ThreadID: 132109 Views:4520 Replies:11 FollowUps:7
This Thread has been Archived

My wife and I are planning a 3 month trip to Northern Australia. Our original intention was to do the trip with our rooftop tent (Autohome Magiolina) on our four cylinder Suzuki Grand Vitara. But we are exploring more comfortable options and in particular buying an A'van (second hand) for the trip.

I'm wondering whether towing this van/trailer will significantly limit where we can go? In particular can we tow this sort of camper trailer into places such as:
* Kakadu
* Carnarvon Gorge
* Eungella
* Lawn Hill
* Purnululu

My concern is that this style of camper is not set up for off road use (as far as I can tell). It seems like it will be fine on reasonable dirt roads, and we don't want to go down rough 4WD tracks. But at the same time I don't want to drive to Kakadu (for example) and then find that we can't access the camp ground with our van because of things like steep creek crossings that this sort of van will struggle to navigate. I'm also worried that a long corrugated dirt road might shake such a van to pieces.

We love the rooftop tent, but it's a bit of work to set up the camp site properly. Also if we need to drive (for example to the start of a walk) we need to pack up the tent and possibly also the rest of the camp, rather than just leave an A'van and drive off.

I would love to hear from A'van owners in particular about where you can and cannot go with your van. We are looking at a 2009 Cruiseliner that has been factory lifted a little (4 inches). We are towing with a 4 cylinder 2.4 litre petrol Suzuki Grand Vitara.

I'd also love to hear from people who have been to these particular national parks, in terms of the access roads into the camp grounds.

Thanks so much in advance. I've never owned a van or camper trailer before so all advice welcome (assume I know nothing!).

Back Expand Un-Read 0 Moderator

Reply By: Sigmund - Wednesday, Apr 13, 2016 at 07:47

Wednesday, Apr 13, 2016 at 07:47
Purnululu access requires a unit designed for offroad.
AnswerID: 598579

Reply By: osters - Wednesday, Apr 13, 2016 at 07:53

Wednesday, Apr 13, 2016 at 07:53
Lawn hill very rough , canarvon gorge can be corrugated, leave your rooftop tent on and leave the van in storage for the offroad trips. Purnulul cant take vans in, but can be left at the park on the outskirts!!! Most caravanparks allow you to store your van while you do side trips!!!!
AnswerID: 598580

Reply By: Member - Stephen L (Clare SA) - Wednesday, Apr 13, 2016 at 08:42

Wednesday, Apr 13, 2016 at 08:42
Hi Peter

I have to disagree with the comment re Lawn Hill. If you come in through Gregory which is all bitumen, you will have less than 40 kilometres of dirt between there and Adels Grove, broken up into 3 sections.

Just slow down and take your time and you will not have any issues. There were many stock standard family cars, eg Ford Falcons and Commodores towning standard full length non off road caravans with no issues what so ever.

Stay at Adels Grove which in my opinion is a lot better that staying in the National Park at Lawn Hill. There are many great walks and most importantly, make sure you kayak the Lawn Hill Gorge....it is an absolute must do.

In most areas, slow down and drive to the conditions that you feel comfortable with and you should be fine.

Have a great trip.



Smile like a Crocodile

Lifetime Member
My Profile  My Blog  My Position  Send Message

AnswerID: 598586

Follow Up By: pmk03 - Wednesday, Apr 13, 2016 at 09:59

Wednesday, Apr 13, 2016 at 09:59
Have to agree with Stephen, We were there earlier this year & saw many on road caravans then also. They were travelling slowly but got there with no problems.
A fantastic place to visit.
Cheers Paul
FollowupID: 867764

Follow Up By: Ron A - Wednesday, Apr 13, 2016 at 15:07

Wednesday, Apr 13, 2016 at 15:07
Have to agree and disagree with Stephen.

No problems getting the van in all the way to the NP. Just drive to the conditions. We went in with friends and whilst we had a TVan they had a Jayco Pop Top Van.

We prefer to stay at the NP camp ground over Adels Grove. Facilities were spotless and designated camp sites were far enough away from each other.

If you have a kayak make sure you take it otherwise hire one. On old truck or tractor tube will also provide plenty of entertainment.
FollowupID: 867780

Follow Up By: Member - Stephen L (Clare SA) - Wednesday, Apr 13, 2016 at 20:06

Wednesday, Apr 13, 2016 at 20:06
Hi Ron

The great thing about Adels Grove, is it gives you a choice where you can camp. The Grove offer full jungle like atmosphere where you can camp only metres from the water, something that you could not do at the NP.

One thing that we looked forwarded to every night, was our campfire, something the is also banned in the Lawn Hill NP.

Each to their own, and would not hesitate in recommending Adels Grove over Lawn Hill. I do not have any shares in Adels Grove ( mind you, I wish I did ) but one very happy and satisfied customer that will go back there again



[Image cannot be loaded]

Smile like a Crocodile

Lifetime Member
My Profile  My Blog  My Position  Send Message

FollowupID: 867794

Follow Up By: Ron A - Thursday, Apr 14, 2016 at 07:42

Thursday, Apr 14, 2016 at 07:42
As you said Stephen, "each to their own"

Thankfully we are all different and enjoy varying aspects of our escapes to the bush.
FollowupID: 867808

Reply By: Frank P (NSW) - Wednesday, Apr 13, 2016 at 08:50

Wednesday, Apr 13, 2016 at 08:50
Hi Peter,

Back in 207 we had a Cruiseliner which we loved but at that point we had confined ourselves to east coast National Parks. On some of those trips there were longish dirt access roads and dust was a problem. I did a lot of work inventing and making dust covers for all the vents, the perimeter, the long hinges and the two-part door. I had the 3-way fridge operating reasonably well on 12V but with the fridge vent cover in place it would not work, as expected, and the covers had to be removed when not required and replaced when back on the dirt.

We took it on one outback trip, from Sydney to Carnarvon Gorge. There was only about 50km of good dirt road from memory, the rest of it was sealed. But in QLD those sealed roads on black soil were bouncy and uneven. No big deal, but the suspension was working hard all the time.

The microwave met us at the door on one occasion and much of the light-weight ply cabinet work which was held together with plastic fittings (no glue) had to be re-tightened and reinforced. The bed platform came adrift and the battery was not sufficcicently clamped down 20kg of battery held in place by a fabric strap and two wood screws. It was never going to work.

On returning home, further inspetion revealed that all the long hinges for the triangular side walls had 6 inck long cracks which I attribute to the constant bouncing on the black soil roads.

All this is after only one outback trip. With more outback travel on our agenda we sold the Cruiseliner and replaced it with something far more solid.

Despite the factory " lift" I do not believe the Cruiseliner is suitable for what you want to do and will cause you heartbreak. It's a great little camper for light duty but unsuitable for your planned trip. I think you need to find an alternative.


Lifetime Member
My Profile  My Blog  My Position  Send Message

AnswerID: 598587

Follow Up By: P_Young - Wednesday, Apr 13, 2016 at 08:58

Wednesday, Apr 13, 2016 at 08:58
Thanks Frank. That's helpful (and worrying).

I've read a wide range of views from A'van owners about this topic (some seem to go off road successfully, and others not). It's left me uncertain. We are very limited in terms of options, given our small tow vehicle. I don't want a canvas based option such as a camper trailer, and the A'van seems the next best thing. I appreciate hearing your experience.
FollowupID: 867759

Follow Up By: HKB Electronics - Wednesday, Apr 13, 2016 at 09:20

Wednesday, Apr 13, 2016 at 09:20
You could look at one of the VistaRV's

Lifetime Member
My Profile  Send Message

FollowupID: 867761

Reply By: Member -Pinko (NSW) - Wednesday, Apr 13, 2016 at 13:56

Wednesday, Apr 13, 2016 at 13:56
We followed an Avan camper across the Anne Beadell piloted by a couple in their seventies.
Living is a journey,it depends on where you go !
VKS 737 mobile 0049 selcall 0049

My Profile  My Position  Send Message

AnswerID: 598595

Reply By: wendys - Wednesday, Apr 13, 2016 at 20:17

Wednesday, Apr 13, 2016 at 20:17
Only about 20kms of gravel road to get to Takkarakka CP at Carnarvon Gorge, which is the only place you can camp. Wasn't too bad - but watch for the cattle grids, which were a bit higher than the road surface!
Road from Gregory Downs to Adels Grove is usually reasonable - depends when graded. People from Mt Isa regularly come up for weekends, that way, in conventional cars and plenty of tourists with conventional vans. The section from Adels to the National Park tends to be the roughest - another argument for staying at Adels!
Kakadu roads should be fine, ditto Litchfield NP - don't miss this.
Only visited Eungella once, long time ago - my memory is of a steep, winding road to get up there. Others might be able to comment about towing up there.
AnswerID: 598612

Reply By: Member - Wildmax - Wednesday, Apr 13, 2016 at 22:00

Wednesday, Apr 13, 2016 at 22:00
We had an AVan for 10 years until 2011, and took it into a number of the places you mentioned without serious problems. Most of them are accessible mainly on bitumen or good gravel, and you should have no difficulty if you drive to the conditions. Our AVan made it across the Gibb and into to Lawn Hill among other destinations.
2018 Hilux and Black Wolf 210 tent - for the outback tracks less travelled
Formerly an AOR Eclipse and a TVan

My Profile  Send Message

AnswerID: 598617

Reply By: Member - Robyn R4 - Thursday, Apr 14, 2016 at 08:46

Thursday, Apr 14, 2016 at 08:46
Hi Peter!
We owned an AVan for a few years and only sold it when hubby's work changed and it faced a few years unused in the garage. We are not fans of canvas and loved it. We mainly did tar but it did Carnarvon easily. We did Kakadu without a van a few years ago but don't remember it as being that bad...
I've learned that when you (or I!) enquire about roads, it can be very much a case of the ol' "how long is a piece of string" conundrum...
Last June, hubby and I came unstuck on the Savannah Way, 77km east of Borroloola. After we limped it back into town we discovered that we were simply the latest in a long list of vehicles to come to grief because the road was absolutely horrendous (we'd just done the Plenty and the Tanami and the Gibb, and the Savannah was in the OMG category on its own). It hadn't been graded for over a year (political reasons). But a month or so later it was graded and was probably as smooth as the proverbial for the next travellers (who would have thought it was a superb road!).
We are (hopefully) doing Cape York this July in our tough-as-nails little home-made trailer.
We then face the task of choosing a "real" van to replace it. Like you, it'll then be a case of "will we be able to do that road", "can we get there"...
It's hard to know in many cases until you get there and go by your own gut feeling! Hubby reluctantly gave up on his Kalumburu dream last year on our Kimberley trek when he saw the road's condition and talked to others.
We think we may end up packing a little tent into the van somewhere for those times that we are so close and could unhitch and push on further without the van.
It's damn hard to know the answer...that's why we've taken 3 years to work out what van we'll be buying after the trailer goes.

Robyn :)
AnswerID: 598625

Reply By: Rangiephil - Thursday, Apr 14, 2016 at 09:17

Thursday, Apr 14, 2016 at 09:17
Re the Bungle Bungles
about 6 years ago when we were there the volunteer "Camp Host" had brought in an A van with I believe a flipped axle.

He said that he had to remove the rear jacks to get across the steep creek crossings, and AFAIR he had a problem with the large hinge at the back.

So really an unappealing idea to take an Avan into the Bungle Bungles and the rangers would probably be cross , but it has been done.

Probably not such a need now that there is a caravan storage facility at the start of the track in. Previously you had to go to Turkey Creek or risk leaving the van in the open on a creek bank down the road.
Regards Philip A
AnswerID: 598627

Reply By: 9900Eagle - Thursday, Apr 14, 2016 at 09:42

Thursday, Apr 14, 2016 at 09:42
Most of the areas are covered so here is a little about Eungella. You can come into Eungella the back way via Lissie creek Road. Lissie creek road was closed about 3 weeks ago when I went through but there was nothing wrong with it, except for a washout that had a good detour round it. It is a fair bit of dirt but it was very good. You can camp at Mt Britton on the way through and there is only about 6 K's of good dirt on the way in. Moonlight creek dam camping area a little further along from Mt Britton is not suitable for your A van. It is pretty flat going all the way in past Eungella dam to Broken River and then it starts to get a little winding but is good road. Down the range and on to Mackay is fairly steep and winding but really no problem, if you have a uhf radio just listen for any trucks calling as you need to give them room on the bends. Not many trucks use the road but there is the odd one.

Have a good trip
AnswerID: 598630

Follow Up By: P_Young - Thursday, Apr 14, 2016 at 10:12

Thursday, Apr 14, 2016 at 10:12
Thanks. That's very helpful
FollowupID: 867814

Reply By: Member - Drew Cruiser - Wednesday, Apr 20, 2016 at 16:38

Wednesday, Apr 20, 2016 at 16:38
We did a trip a couple of years ago with a few families and one of them took an A Van. It pretty much shook to pieces on the corrugations and the water tank fell off. The cupboard doors were wrecked and it was sold as soon as they got back.
AnswerID: 598888

Sponsored Links