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Wandering Australia: Follow us on a lap of Australia

By Brendan and Nikita Shanley, 14 Apr 2021 Explore

Follow us on a lap of Australia

The Shanley family embark on a lap of the map.

Part 1: Victorian Grampians

THE mountain ranges of north-east Victoria were one the highlights of our travels and definitely one of the most challenging 4WD treks of the first part of our trip.

We were wondering what we were getting ourselves into when local Victorians would say “the Grampians have nothing on Vic High Country” but we were up for the challenge.

We drove along the Victorian south coast and headed inland towards Dargo, with the Dargo Hotel being our first stop and meeting point with some mates.

The hotel is an icon and boasts a strong community feel. Despite the impact and anxiety the first month of COVID brought, we felt welcomed and part of the community having just walked through the doors. Dargo is a great but tiny community and well-worth a stop at the pub for a beer or for the night. We camped on pub grounds, with amenities available for a small fee.

The following day we joined a convoy of four-wheel drives heading into the mountains to a beautiful free camp spot by the fresh, flowing creek at Talbotville. There was a drop toilet available but no other facilities and we had to be completely self-sufficient, which is how we like it. It was here we would base ourselves for a few days while we hit some 4WD tracks.

Our mates with us had some ATVs and, along with the 79 Series, they were put to good use. The best and most challenging drive we did in this part of our travels was the Billy Goat Bluff track. Whilst it is not for the faint-hearted, the views are absolutely spectacular, offering 360-degree views of the Victorian Alps.

Billy Goat Bluff track is only seven kilometres long, but as one of the steepest in Victoria it ascends 1200m and took us around two hours from camp to get to the top. When people said to us “You’ve just got to commit” they weren’t lying, and our 79 (as light as we could make it) reliably and steadily climbed the mountain.

At the summit, there is a parking area and we were very lucky to catch the sun starting to go down from the Pinnacles – a once in a lifetime opportunity. We took the same amount of time, if not longer, getting down, as we had to slowly creep along the loose, rocky surface to get safely back to camp.

Once we tested out the tracks and many water crossings around Talbotville, we had an overnighter at Scotts Reserve just out of the quaint historical town of Woods Point. You can’t go through this town without the photo opportunity at the abandoned service station. It is still in its original form from the gold-mining era of the late 19th century when the town was alive with many shops and even a hospital. There are many small camp spots around here, complete with drop toilets and fire pits.

Our next stop was another High Country icon – Craig’s Hut, where we camped nearby. As we learnt while visiting, Craig’s Hut was originally built for a prop in The Man From Snowy River film and has been a tourist attraction ever since. We spent a sunset at Craig’s Hut, which again provided spectacular views over the mountains. Toilets are available but there are no other amenities; our RTT and a good campfire were all we needed.

LAP OF OZ: 79 Series + Bruder combo

It was so helpful to travel with Victorian locals who have experience with the area, and we would highly recommend ensuring you’re confident with mountain tracks before embarking on an adventure in the High Country. It definitely pushed the big 79 to her limits, but she didn’t let us down ... as always. For Brendan, our lover of heights and mountain ranges, this is an item well and truly ticked off his bucket list!

The Victorian High Country has spectacular views with an adrenalin rush included and is highly recommended … and there’s still plenty left for us to explore!

Part 2: Limestone Coast

OH how we have missed the South Australian landscape!

We have found SA to be an untouched wilderness. It’s almost like the South Australians have kept it a secret so it stays that way, which we completely understand. It was new to us to see farmland reaching to the sea, and the rugged coastline along the Southern Ocean was just awe-inspiring.

As we are now back in SA over on the western side, we have been reminiscing about our 2020 adventures on the eastern side of this fabulous state. Last year we travelled from Renmark over to the Barossa, down through Adelaide and the Fleurieu, fabulous KI and back up to the Limestone Coast along to Victoria.

While we have many stories and piccies from SA, we want to share our time along the Limestone Coast with you, where we decided to base ourselves for a week at Kingston SE, 30 minutes’ drive north of Robe.

 

We stayed at a privately owned campground known as ‘Will’s Beach Shack’ owned by, not surprisingly, a little legend called Will! He has a 10-acre property just out of Kingston and for $10 a night there was private beach access, hot showers and water available.

Brendan had the opportunity to get the dirt bikes off the trailer and hit the sand for a 20km run on the beach to explore. We spent a fair bit of time in Kingston, stocking up on food, doing some school work and checking out the local jetty and beach.

Heading south on the Limestone Coast, we were then joined by Josh and Mikayla from @travelling.campers to hit the sand tracks from Robe to Beachport. It was certainly an action-packed day full of sun, surf and lots of beach driving. Again, an adventure most 4WD enthusiasts could tackle; although, a bit of sand driving experience wouldn’t go unnoticed.

Before tackling the tracks to Beachport, we checked out the vibrant coastal town that is Robe. Being the biggest and most well-known town of this area, Robe offers boutique shopping, cafes and a historic old pub with a great little beer garden. We went to see the gaol ruins which the girls loved learning about, and spent some time driving around the hilltops where there is breathtaking views and many walking tracks. While we didn’t stay in Robe, it would be a great place to base yourself for a week.

We left there bright and early, Mahalia coffee in hand (gorgeous little coffee and gift shop) and headed south, entering the beach at Little Dip Conservation Park. There were spectacular ocean views all the way along the coastline, and plenty of UHF banter to keep us entertained.

The beach driving is relatively straightforward with lower tyre pressures and tide knowledge, however closer to the water there were some very soft spots as Brendan discovered bogging the big 79 to its diffs. With the help of the MaxTrax and some good ol’ fashioned digging, we were back on track and headed for Nora Creina. This is a gated settlement of a few houses and, well, let’s just say, clothes are very optional.

BEST 4X4 TRACKS: Close to Adelaide

Just north of Beachport we spent the late afternoon playing around in the sand dunes where there is sand for days and we imagined careering around in dune buggies. Nevertheless, it was so much fun in the cars and we did manage to get lost in the dunes with our trusty Hema maps helping us out. The kids (and the adults!) did so well considering we spent a good 10 hours in the car – we all crashed as soon as we got back to camp.

Our time spent on the Limestone Coast was, like most of our trip, full of adventure and wonder, and we will definitely be heading back to do more exploring. We highly recommend it for a good variety of experiences and a great family time.

Untl next month … go wander!