Do you recommend booking anywhere?

Submitted: Saturday, Feb 14, 2009 at 08:17
ThreadID: 65958 Views:3242 Replies:13 FollowUps:8
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In May we are heading off for 100 days of camping with our two children aged 5 and 6. This has been a 2 year plan to get to this point but I still have a couple of questions I would like to ask those who have done it all before.

We plan to go to leave NSW travel to Port Augusta, Alice and onto Darwin/ Kakadu. Then along the Gibb River Road and down the WA Coast to somewhere above Perth and then back across the bottom.

1. Is this too far for 100 days, with kids?

2. How long do you recommend to stop at anywhere particular. ie we are planning on doing the GRR over 2 weeks, do we need longer to see it properly?

3. Finally, is there anywhere particular that you recommend we book into before we leave? ( I realise this question is like how long is a piece of string, we have plenty of books with all the places, but I would like to know those places that stick in your mind and that you would particularly like to return to)

We are travelling with a camper trailer and are self sufficient so don't need caravan parks etc but will no doubt mix the two to form our holiday.

Thanks for your feedback,
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Reply By: Ozhumvee - Saturday, Feb 14, 2009 at 08:39

Saturday, Feb 14, 2009 at 08:39
You may have to book for the popular places like Broome where all the grey nomads congregate if you want to stay in a van park.
Otherwise while plenty of places like Alice will be busy just time your arrival into town in the morning and you will usually get a site.
If intending to arrive late somewhere it could be wise to ring ahead at least 24hrs beforehand.
Your 100 days might be a bit optimistic, we've done Sydney to the Kimberley, GRR and back home in a similar timeframe with three kids. Max amount of travel on the transport sections on the blacktop was 550k/day.
We did make the top end and Kimberley the destination so didn't linger at places like Alice along the way. Aim to spend the most amount of time as far away from home as possible. I'd suggest that you come back down the Tanami and leave the southwest of WA for another trip. Might also be worth going up through western QLD on the blacktop and coming back though Alice and Port Augusta if deciding on the Tanami route. Will depend on whether QLD drys out this year too.
We usually stop at least every 4 or 5 days for a rest day somewhere. We always bush camp if possible as they are the best with a stop in van park occasionally to wash and shower.
When stopping for a cuppa or lunch let the kids run and play and give them their tucker when back on the road. Lets them let off steam and get some exercise rather than making them sit and eat. Yes you may get a bit of mess in the truck but it will get filthy anyway with everyone getting in and out. We also had a bag with cars, spades, buckets etc etc and they would all dive out and create little towns and roads at every stop. Always wondered what other travellers would have made of their constructions as especially at overnight stops they were quite elaborate.
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Follow Up By: Member - Scared (NSW) - Saturday, Feb 14, 2009 at 10:50

Saturday, Feb 14, 2009 at 10:50
Thanks for your advice Peter. I have looked up the Tanami track and from a recent post and debate I think it is a bit much for my first trip, this is where I get the Scared title from. I think we might leave this for a little later.

I agree with your comments on feeding the kids as we travel.
Thanks for the tip about booking in the day before, in my mind I thought book before we go or not at all, booking the day before allows you freedom to change our plans as you travel.

Thanks for the tips.

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Reply By: Fiona & Paul - Saturday, Feb 14, 2009 at 09:07

Saturday, Feb 14, 2009 at 09:07
Scared off the top of my head I'd say you could do it, but there are many more experienced travellers here than me as I haven't yet been down the west coast & GRR so the time frame would need validation with some other members here, probably.

Make sure you give yourself enough time to stop and smell the roses, enjoy or learn about the outback lifestyle. You will meet lots of fantastic people along the way Broken Hill & Silverton are worth a couple of days for sure if you haven't been there.

We stayed one night each at Peterborough and Port Augusta on our trip to Ayres Rock and should have made more time to look around. Coober Pedy has some beautiful spots on the outskirts of the town, especially if you like photography and or seeing the beautiful colours around sunrise/sunset.

The size and number of salt lakes on the Sturt Hwy up to Marla are well worth having a good look at and I would assume you would divert to Uluru and Kings Canyon on the way to Alice Springs. To listen to the dingoes howling at night from the caravan park at Kings Canyon will live with you forever because there ain't much between there and Perth.

We have not been further north, yet, we are envious of your trip but don't rush it, we did on our trip because we had to meet relatives - we will never do that again, gotta be flexible,

Hope this helps and good luck on your trip.
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Follow Up By: Member - Scared (NSW) - Saturday, Feb 14, 2009 at 10:58

Saturday, Feb 14, 2009 at 10:58
Thanks, I would prefer not to book as it does stop you having the freedom to stay longer where you choose to do so.

Thanks for your list of places of interest I will now look into some of them further that escaped my interest first time round.

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Reply By: Member - Rick P (NT) - Saturday, Feb 14, 2009 at 09:48

Saturday, Feb 14, 2009 at 09:48
Hi Mel
Answer to question 1. Yes it is going to be a long way and you will want to be well organized with your 2 kids, give them plenty to do for the hours on end in the car. portable DVD players seem to be the go in the back of the car now days.
2. Can only give you advice on the NT part of your trip. You will need to book into most parks because it's the tourist season that time of the year. But 24hrs ahead should be ok. Try to get into McDonald Range Park in Alice, free pancakes on Sunday as well. Free Spirit in Darwin is always very popular and then Cooinda in Kakadu where the action is because you will want to go on the Yellow Waters cruise. There is plenty of free camping along the way there are 24hr rest stops on the Stuart Highway some even have toilets, but you will get a bit noise with the road trains going past at all hours of the night.
3. Go to Tourism Top End in Darwin and checkout what you might be interested in. You could just spend a week in the Top End alone and not see it all.
Good luck and enjoy the journey.
Rick P
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Follow Up By: Member - Scared (NSW) - Saturday, Feb 14, 2009 at 11:06

Saturday, Feb 14, 2009 at 11:06
Thanks Rick,

It is great to have some particular advice because there are so many choices in all the books as to where to stay but to have some special places pointed out helps alot with the mass of information you seemed to be faced with trying to plan a journey. The books make it all look wonderful but at the end of the day time is limited and some places are just that more memorable than others.

We have a DVD player and some old Gameboys, books, pencils etc and just have to get on the road to test the Km's per day. Suggest 550km as suggested earlier is about the limit when you are setting up camp etc.

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Reply By: MEMBER - Darian (SA) - Saturday, Feb 14, 2009 at 10:25

Saturday, Feb 14, 2009 at 10:25
To me, 14 weeks seems enough to do that trip and get the all important quality time on the way. Having been similarly self sufficient in our camper on such trips, we don't book ahead - never been stuck for a good overnight camp. IF a caravan park site is important in a particular place (eg. Broome), just stage your travel so that you turn up around 10am. We did just that and drifted into the Tarangau CP in Broome around 10.30 last August - straight in, despite warnings from all and sundry re the absolute necessity of booking ahead.
Two weeks is plenty for the Gibb IMV - a few pics of the Gibb road surfaces on my site at [ ]..... have a good 'in.... its wonderful up there.
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Follow Up By: Member - Scared (NSW) - Saturday, Feb 14, 2009 at 11:25

Saturday, Feb 14, 2009 at 11:25
We have roughed out an itinerary which involves 30 something driving days which theoretically leaves plenty for doing other things but sometimes on paper this looks fine but having never done this type of travelling all the time I understand it could be like assuming in this territory that 100km on the map takes you an hour, just not the case.

We are no stangers to travelling long distances having just done 4,500km in 2.5 weeks but this was unfortunately not in our camper.

When you have to set up camp at the end of a days journey it changes the ball game. We have spent plenty of nights in our camper, over 60 in the past 20 months but we mostly set up for a couple of weeks in the one spot, or weekends etc but have not moved constantly.

We had heard from lots of people you need to book but again thinking about that, those people probably require caravan parks etc to house their vans and plug in their appliances. I think following the advice we have received we will be able to comfortably camp our way around and call into parks as desired, even if it menas calling in early if we really want that spot.
Thanks for your advice,Mel
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Follow Up By: MEMBER - Darian (SA) - Saturday, Feb 14, 2009 at 19:37

Saturday, Feb 14, 2009 at 19:37
Re great spots in WA - hmmm - as is often the case, our 11 week trip round there (and down through the NT) in 08 (slept every night in the camper) was really just a "good intro" - next time, we have plenty more to see and do, even on the same route ! Hilights ? Francois Peron NP, above Denham (remote, good fishing - fun driving in deep sand), Cape Range NP and the fab. Ningaloo reef swimming (exc.. a must), inland at Milstream Chichester (tops) and Karajini NP's (great), Port Smith, Broome beaches, Middle Lagoon north of Broome (exc. good), and Mt Elizabeth Station just off the Gibb RR. We went clockwise, but were dogged by rain mostly across the bottom and up as far as Carnarvon..... then things fined up nicely. Yet to do the SW corner. Easy to have a great time in WA !!
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Reply By: Tim Owen - Saturday, Feb 14, 2009 at 10:45

Saturday, Feb 14, 2009 at 10:45
I just checked the diary - we spent 17 days in the Kimberly starting from the day we arrived in Halls Gap (off the Tanami) and finishing the day we arrived in Broome. We were on a 3 month trip from Gippsland (Vic) return inc central oz, the kimberly and west coast. We should have spent more time in the Kimberly, and more time in the Pilbara. Make sure you can stay put for a few days at a time (ie. enough juice for the fridge, or solar) as you will no doubt come to places so sensational you just want to stay put and enjoy them.

Can't comment on the kids bit.

We were in a Troopy campervan, and treated ourselves to some pre-booked B&B accom in Broome - so we were on a schedule for that part. We did not book any Caravan Park accom - and generally found there was something around when the time came to have a shower/do some washing etc. You will be doing plenty of swimming in beautiful fresh water - so the need for showering is minimised. Personnaly I'd rather have the flexibility, and wear the uncertainty (and perhaps in some places less than ideal sites), than have to be somewhere all the time. That is me though. If it were my old man, he'd have the schedule planned down to the hour.

After our B&B we went to Cape Leveque and on return to Broome the CPs were fully booked, but the youth club and rifle clubs both were operating 'overflow' camping areas which were fine for our needs.

Enjoy your travels.
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Follow Up By: Member - Scared (NSW) - Saturday, Feb 14, 2009 at 11:34

Saturday, Feb 14, 2009 at 11:34
It is just hard to know how long to plan to have in these places but to know that you had 17 days and wanted longer is great to know as we can add some extra days in there just in case.

I don't know if we will do the Pilbara at the moment as such, we want to check out Coral Bay and don't know how to divie our time in the WA. Haven't really got into the Pilbara information yet and I guess these are the great decisions we have yet to make. Do you recommend any particular areas of the Pilbara that are must see?

We plan to hot tail it to the top end as we can always come back to Central Australia as it is the closest for us to do again when we don't have as much time, but to divide the time between the top end, GRR and WA is a difficult decision.

We would prefer to have the freedom and not be booked in an overflow camping is not a problem, especially if it gives you the flexibility to stay a little longer if you are enjoying life.

Thanks, Mel

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Follow Up By: Tim Owen - Saturday, Feb 14, 2009 at 15:54

Saturday, Feb 14, 2009 at 15:54
I'm sure others could advise better than I. Karajini National Park is the 'keynote' destination - and was really the only place we visited. It was the highlight of our trip though - and in my view Australias most spectacular National Park (of the ones I've been to so far - and I've been to quite a few). You need to be willing to get wet and be a bit advernturous to see the best of it.

My most memorable experience was the day we spent lazing around in Spa pool at Hamersley Gorge. Sensational. Some of the walks are not that 'kid friendly' there (although many are fine), but the natural beuty of those gorges is just amazing. There are few walks we 'skipped' and some we rushed - and I'm kicking myself we didn't spend more time there soaking it up.

I'm also sure there are many other places to explore in the Pilbara that we didn't see.

Don't drive all that way and not go to the Pilbara - a visit to Karajini is a must in my view.

BTW Coral Bay is a nice spot - especially for the kids. You will need to book ahead there. We were extremely lucky and got a great spot in the Caravan Park - but it could have gone either way.
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Follow Up By: Member - Paul C (WA) - Saturday, Feb 14, 2009 at 23:58

Saturday, Feb 14, 2009 at 23:58
You'll kick yourself if you come all this way and don't see the Plibara. It's a long way to come back again.
Karijini is a must. As a minimum 2-3 days should let you have a good look.
Millstream is a must. Again 2-3 days.
Gregorys Gorge 1-2 days
Stops at Python Pool,Woongarra Pool, Cleareville, Burrup Peninsula to name a few.
Head out to Tom Price and/or Newman and do a Mine tour.

Caravan Parks down the West Coast have been fully booked and some Councils have removed overflows. With the completion of upgrade projects and reduction in workforce, their may be more vacancies around the time you intend to travel (If you need a CP)
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Reply By: Member - John and Val W (ACT) - Saturday, Feb 14, 2009 at 13:32

Saturday, Feb 14, 2009 at 13:32
Hi Mel,

First up, you will have a great adventure and the kids will love it. If you are heading for Alice early on in your trip I would book in there as you should be able to plan your arrival date there pretty accurately. As for the rest, ringing a few days ahead should be OK and will avoid tying you down to a schedule too much.

Last year we did the Kimberley and the Pilbara in about 10 weeks (see our blog for details) but no children in tow. Spent about a month in the Kimberely and a bit less in the Pilbara. There is a lot more to the Kimberely than the GRR.

Last year we had to change our route north from Alice as rain closed the Tanami - just shows that the best planning can come unstuck at the last moment.

There is heaps to see and do in and around Alice, including East and west Macdonnells and for the kids sake I suggest you spend at least a few days there. The Desert Park is a must, as is a similar one near Batchelor just north of Litchfield NP. Allow a full day at each to see what is there.

Litchfield and Kakadu are must do's but there are other great spots like Douglas Daly hot springs and Bitter Springs that the kids would love. And dont forget to check out some of the WWII airstrips - go for a drive down the runway and explore the bunker systems. And as others have said allow time for swimming - but only in safe water!

Overall while I think with 14 weeks your trip is do-able, my suggestion would be to attempt a bit less so the kids have a bit more time to explore. Perhaps go up the centre to Darwin exploring as you go, do Kakadu and Litchfield, then back to Katherine, across to Kunanurra and Kimberley, GRR to Broome then back to Alice via Tanami track and then home.


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Reply By: Motherhen - Saturday, Feb 14, 2009 at 17:51

Saturday, Feb 14, 2009 at 17:51
Hi Mel

With the exception of Melbourne ready to catch the Spirit of Tasmania, we never book. I hate deadlines, and prefer to amble and stop where we want to. We do prefer to bush camp most of the time, except when in towns. We have never been turned away, even if told we have the last spot. I agree, when you are sure of your time frame, ring to book at major centres if in peak tourist period. In Kununurra, we arrived during peak season just a few days before annual show weekend, hence overflow camping at Show Grounds was unavailable. All parks were fully booked for powered sites, but there was plenty of room in the unpowered areas. Usually only a day's wait for people needing power as so many travellers were coming and going each day.

We spent three and a half weeks touring at a leisurely pace from Derby to Kununurra along the GRR including Mitchell Falls and Kalumburu. This did not include all the sightseeing around Kununurra. Don't miss Purnululu - spent two nights there.

As Tim said, Karajini is beautiful. When we were there, people had pre schoolers going up and down the climbs into the gorges. One couple had a toddler bounding ahead, and smaller child on the Dad's shoulders. We commented at how well the little kidling was doing on the big steps cut into the edge of the gorge "Yes, replied the Mum - fourth gorge today".

We spent around two weeks based at and near Alice Springs (including East MacDonnells, Chambers Pillar and Rainbow Valley) before heading out through the West MacDonnells, Palm Valley, Kings Canyon (that it a long walk i wouldn't fancy taking small children on, although there is an easy walk into the centre of the valley), Uluru and Kata Tjuta. We saw nothing north of Alice - planning that for this year.

We were away just over four months; basically nine weeks in the Kimberley (including a delay at Kununurra) and five weeks around Alice Springs to WA border via Uluru.

My idea of relaxing travel is to have a general direction, go at the pace you want, stopping where you enjoy it and learn from other travellers and locals about the hidden gems not on the tourist brochures. When about half way through your time frame, turn around, if possible taking totally different roads. Sometimes we get a lot further than we expected to; sometimes we don't get as far, but we enjoy every thing we see, and don't feel we've wasted a lot of fuel to see a little bit here and there while racing between.

We don't travel with children. Most places require some walking, so it depends on how active your children are. We stayed at the camp site for each feature overnight, to get an early start on the walk before it got too hot. In the Kimberley, some key walks cross at the top of waterfalls, eg Mitchell Falls, which are shallow but can be quite fast flowing.



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Reply By: wendys - Saturday, Feb 14, 2009 at 18:47

Saturday, Feb 14, 2009 at 18:47
Two general comments. 1. To cover the area you have outlined, you will be moving a lot and not staying very long in one place. Years ago, we had 17 weeks LSL and were going to "do" WA so we would not have to worry about travelling all that way again. We went Eyre Peninsula, SW WA, Perth, Cue, Mekkatharra, Mt Augustus, Back to coast to Shark Bay, Coral Bay, Pilbara, Marble Bar, Broome, Derby, GRR, Bungles, Darwin, Kakadu, Central Aust & home. Longest we stayed in any one place was 5 days (due to rain closing road out). Only about 3 weeks into the trip, we started listing all that we would want to see and do "next time". Felt we barely scratched the surface then.
2. You may get very tired of setting up and taking down camp.
To the places given by others, I would add Litchfield NP - good "swimming" for kids at Buley Rockhole; camp Wangi. Keep River NP. Bungles. On GRR - ElQuestro, Home Valley (kids will love seeing sunbaking crocs from the camp area), Mitchell Falls, camp at King Edward River (kids swim), Mt Barnett - kids swim. Marble Bar. Eighty Mile beach - great for kids. Karijini - camp Dales Gorge. Coral Bay - snorkelling etc.
Note - from Geraldton you can cut inland on bitumen through sandstone and down to Kalgoorlie - avoids Perth area.
AnswerID: 349062

Reply By: A J - Saturday, Feb 14, 2009 at 19:30

Saturday, Feb 14, 2009 at 19:30
Hi Mel - when we started travelling with our children our eldest was only 18 months old. We did numerous long trips over the following years. Our approach was to travel fast for the first three days then slow up and enjoy the area which we were in. See everything that we could as it was a long way from home. Never booked ahead before we left -

The area which we travelled through at the start of the holiday was later filled in when they got older and schooling was important. On these shorter trips we let them make the decision on where they wanted to go. It was influenced by books they were given to read - Like the book about Burke and Wills saw us travel to Innamincka that year.

Two years in a row we went to the caves at Naracorte because they enjoyed it but it did not matter to us - just turn a different direction when we left.

You and your children will enjoy the trip and the teachers should advise you that they will learn more on holidays than being in school.

Our children kept simple notes on what they saw and did each day - they also learnt their times tables on one trip.

Enjoy your trip


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Reply By: HGMonaro - Saturday, Feb 14, 2009 at 19:44

Saturday, Feb 14, 2009 at 19:44
Here's our trip, you might find some info in them.

Cheers, Nige
AnswerID: 349068

Reply By: aka - Sunday, Feb 15, 2009 at 08:36

Sunday, Feb 15, 2009 at 08:36
Make sure you go to Kalbari the kids can feed the pelicans and walk the in the bird sanctuary go to the pinnacles at Cervantes if you get to Albany see the whaling museum
AnswerID: 349120

Reply By: Member - Richard H (NSW) - Sunday, Feb 15, 2009 at 09:21

Sunday, Feb 15, 2009 at 09:21
You state that you are going through Broken Hill.

As a suggestion stay at Penrose Park at Silverton, you can bush camp there & it's cheap. Plus Silverton is interesting and you can walk to the pub.

No shops at Silverton though, and remember this, S.A. Agriculture will check your vehicle at the Oodlawirra check point, so use up all of your fruit, tomatoes, otherwise you'll loose them. They usually let vegies through. You can stock up at Woolies at Port Augutta.

If you haven't already, get a copy of the latest Camps Australia Wide book, it is money well spent.
AnswerID: 349134

Reply By: ian - Monday, Feb 16, 2009 at 17:47

Monday, Feb 16, 2009 at 17:47
Hi Mel,
we have done a few similar trips with our kids. We have been to all the spots you will visit.
Talking books were good when driving. Library will let you have them for about 6 weeks, then mail them back.
Our experience is that the following generally/definately need a booking. The lineup at the gate is mostly for caravans trying to get in, but many c/parks will treat you as a van on a set site cos you have wheels.
I would not risk Darwin, Kununurra, Derby, Broome, Exmouth...particularly if you co-incide with any school holidays.
Feel free to call on 03 9561 3312 if you want totalk about your trip. We are mostly home day and evening.
Have a good trip.
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