Trip Report: Big Caravan Trip Part 1 – Melbourne to Darwin

After months of planning we departed in July on our 11 week, 15,000km “half lap” of Australia. This trip report is basically a collection of the best photos from the first part of our trip from Melbourne to Darwin via Central Australia and Kakadu.

For anyone who is into caravans, we got a Jayco Starcraft Poptop 17.58-3 Outback for the trip. Most caravans seem to be designed for 2 people (grey nomads) and we could only find 2 caravan models suitable for a family of 4 that had some offroad capability that come in under in 2500kg ATM which is the towing limit of our Prado.

Henley Beach in Adelaide

We never planned to go through Adelaide but some last minute exhaust issues meant we spent a few hours enjoying the sights of Adelaide.

Parham beach north of Adelaide
A typical dinner in the caravan when we were down south and the nights were much cooler. Now we are up north it is shorts and thongs all day and night.
Somewhere near Woomera. Oh what a feeling….
The Breakaways near Coober Pedy
We had some friends from Port Lincoln join us for about 5 nights from Coober Pedy to Uluru. We stayed at Riba’s Tourist Park at Coober Pedy in the caravan above ground and our friends (let’s call them the “Woollies”) camped underground in their tent. It is recommended you take some ear plugs.
We did an opal mine tour and a bit of noodling (searching for opals in piles of dirt) which the kids enjoyed.
We had some great nights camping on the side of the Stuart Highway. As the Woollies could drive faster than us (because they weren’t towing a caravan) they could go ahead and find the best camp sites.
It seems that sitting on the roof of your car and watching the sunset at Uluru is a very popular thing to do.
Uluru. It’s a big rock.
Sunset with Kata Tjuta in the distance on the left.
Luckily the Woollies had some intel on a sweet bush campsite not far from Uluru. No other people for miles.
This desert track was pretty narrow and resulted in some pinstriping on the new van.
Kings Canyon
Glen Helen Gorge
We really enjoyed our time at Ormiston Gorge but in the end decided not to stay the night.
Ormiston Gorge
Ormiston Gorge
Near Serpentine Gorge
The bird show at Alice Springs Desert Park was very good.
The Daly Waters Pub had a lot of character. The food was pretty good too.
When we got to Mataranka we felt like we had finally reached the top end. The weather was warm, the vegetation green and tropical and the waters infested with snappy things.
So when we got to Bitter Springs we sent the kids in first to make sure it was safe.
The upper pool at Gunlom in Kakadu is sometimes referred to as Nature’s Infinity Pool
The lower pool at Gunlom at Kakadu.
Ubirr at Kakadu. We saw lots of Aboriginal art in this area.
Ubirr (Kakadu).
Burning off / fuel reduction between Ubirr and Jabiru as seen when driving back to our campsite

The trip has gone well so far. We have been on the road for 3 weeks with 8 more weeks to go. This first stage has been a mix of covering lots of highway kilometres to get north with some really special places along the way.

From a power and fuel consumption perspective a petrol Prado is not surprisingly a pretty crap vehicle to tow a caravan with. There is a reason that nearly everyone tows with a big diesel 4WD. Luckily the Prado comes with 180 litre fuel tanks or we would be stopping to fill up several times a day. (When we got the car in  2005 the D4D diesel engine was not yet released and we had no plans to caravan around Australia).

We had a period of 2 days near Coober Pedy where we had to drive into a moderate head wind. We couldn’t hold 5th gear (it is a 6 speed manual) so we had to drive at 80 km/h in 4th gear and just watch the fuel gauge drop……quite annoying. But our fuel economy seems to be improving a bit – possibly as a result of cleaning the MAF Sensor.

Apart from that and few electrical issues trying to run the fridges the car is going well. While we never plan to drive at night we have had a few occasions to do so – on one night for about 4 hours. The new Nitro 140 lights have come in very handy. Luckily no road kill so far although a dingo and cow gave us a scare in Kakadu.

The kids seem to be enjoying themselves – especially when they are swimming. Not so much when they have to do their schoolwork.

We have one more day in Darwin and then we head west for the Kimberley which I am expecting will be a real highlight of the trip. So stay tuned to the world of Bretto for Part 2 when we get to Broome.

5 thoughts on “Trip Report: Big Caravan Trip Part 1 – Melbourne to Darwin”

  1. Stunning photos, looks like you are having an amazing time. Very envious!

    Look forward to Part 2 of your journey.

  2. Great to see that you’re all having a great time. It looks pretty hot there, so that’s keeping any jealousy at bay, Looking forward to the next post.

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