The last few weeks before we moved into our van were busy and we were tired! We were packing, preparing, selling, farewelling and celebrating so when we, finally, set off we didn’t get any further than a caravan park in Perth for the first few days. We sat there, drinking a bottle of bubbles, not more than a few kilometres from where we had lived, but feeling a sense of freedom that is almost impossible to put into words.
After a few days of rest and catching up on sleep, we set off down the Albany Highway and enjoyed a night at The Porongurup Range Tourist Park. The Porongurup National Park is stunning, with some amazing walking trails. Of course, you cannot take your pets into any National Parks in Australia but The Porongurup Range Tourist Park is one of the very few we have come across during our travels that does allow you to leave your well behaved pets in the caravan park while you go off and enjoy the National Park and there were a couple of dogs tethered to caravans while their owners were off site. Our Bobby is, however, not one of those well behaved dogs so we just enjoyed the scenery from a distance.
From there, we continued South to Albany and then joined the South Coast Highway, heading East to Esperance. Our next overnight stop was Cheynes Beach Caravan Park. This is where we found out that, although caravan parks may advertise as being dog friendly, some are stricter than others about which dogs are welcome in their park. Cheynes Beach Caravan Park only allows small to medium sized dogs but Bobby most definitely falls into the large dog category. It was almost dusk by the time we got there and it is the only caravan park in the area so, of course, we had to stay there so I told them we had a medium size dog with us. Thankfully they let us stay the night but we had to body block Bobby each time we walked by reception with him! The caravan park is surrounded by National Park but there is an amazing dog friendly beach just outside the caravan park. Miles and miles of white sand and we had it all to ourselves. Bobby just ran and ran, smiling, wagging his tail and enjoying freedom that he never had in the city.
Continuing along the South Coast Highway, we decided it was time to try some free camping so we spent the next night at the old Fitzgerald townsite. It was a great experience for our first free camp, apart from the swarm of mosquitoes that tried to feast on me when I went outside to turn the gas on. We spent the rest of the evening inside the van!
The following day, we arrived in Esperance, a well know holiday destination in WA, famous for it’s beautiful white beaches. When somewhere is this famous, you tend to have fairly high expectations and, unfortunately, we were really disappointed. You cannot deny that the beaches are stunning but the town doesn’t live up to the hype….an unhelpful Visitors Centre, too many fast food restaurants and overpriced, packed caravan parks. Our original plan had been to spend a good few days in the town but we made a quick exit and headed North to Gibson Soak where there is a large, free RV park next to the hotel. If you are in a self-contained vehicle and want somewhere to stay close to Esperance then this is a great option.
And that was it…only 4 days after leaving Perth, we had done our trip along the South Coast Highway to Esperance. So what did we learn in those first few days of van life?
- Slow down! We definitely rushed the first part of our trip. We were too focused on getting to Esperance rather than enjoying the journey. Take time to explore places that you pass, some of them will end up being more interesting than the destination you are heading for!
- Don’t assume that a dog friendly caravan park will welcome all dogs. If you are travelling with a large dog, it may be worth phoning ahead to find out if you and your pet will be welcome.
- Top tourist spots are going to be busy, expensive and probably a little disappointing.
- Free camping is amazing and it doesn’t take long to get used to not having daily hot showers.
- Emptying your van toilet in the dump point in the middle of a town starts to feel normal.