One of the best things about touring Australia is getting out there and seeing the sights. After all, it’s why you hit the road in the first place, isn’t it? And while you’ll occasionally want to splurge and do something a little fancy, the camping life can be pretty cheap if you’re willing to make your own fun.
Now, you could put down your hard-earned cash on expensive tours (and there’s nothing wrong with doing that – sometimes it’s absolutely the way to go), but for anyone on a tight budget it’s a sure-fire way to cut your trip short, so you’ll need to balance out the costs somehow. You can do that by choosing your own adventure and getting creative to get the most out of your trip on your own terms, while still making your money go the distance.
There’s heaps of inexpensive ways to keep you and your crew entertained – both on the road and at camp – so let’s get exploring!
One of the most popular and easy ways to discover our country’s finest is on foot and a lot of the time it won’t cost you a dime.
Bushwalking is a great way to experience the raw beauty of nature and there’s no lack of walking tracks, of various lengths and levels of difficulty, criss-crossing our countryside. Many trails, particularly in national parks and reserves, have interpretive signage, so you can even pick up some local knowledge as you enjoy your stroll.
When you arrive in a new town, get a feel for the place by creating your own self-guided walking tour. Do your research first – some towns have marked, self-guided heritage trails, with detailed maps and information sheets to provide context as you go.
For the fitness nuts out there, step it up a notch and keep your exercise regime intact as your travel – new campsites can offer endless opportunities for exploring on your morning run.
Bring along the kids’ bikes and the little tackers will be happy tearing around camp for hours. Add yours to the mix and all of a sudden you’re heading off on adventures and seeing the sights while you’re at it.
Riding a bike forces you to slow down, allowing you to take in more than you would behind the wheel of a car (plus you’re saving on fuel). You can explore more widely than you would on foot and you have the added benefit of exercise. An all-round winner, I’d say!
Forget that expensive bus tour – creating your own self-drive adventure allows you the freedom to dictate where and how long you stop, and is more budget-friendly.
Work out what the region has to offer – it may be wineries, food trails, waterfalls, four-wheel-drive tracks or simply beautiful scenery – and hit the road. You could work out a route in advance or, better still, just wing it! Point your car down any track that takes your fancy and see where you end up. Regardless, you’re bound to come across something interesting along the way.
Save cash on takeaways by packing a picnic lunch, a good map and your sense of adventure!
ON THE WATER
If you’ve already got your own watercraft then you’re pretty set for exploring the waterways. As they say, you haven’t seen a place ’til you’ve experienced it from the water!
Pack a kayak to make the most of gorges, waterholes and coastal areas. You can pick up an inflatable model for a few hundred bucks and they’ll easily pay for themselves once you factor in the cost of hiring one each time.
IN THE WATER
There’s plenty of fun to be had floating around Australia’s waterways on inflatable tyre tubes, lilos or pool noodles. They’re cheap and take up minimal packing space, but provide many hours of relaxing in the cooling waters in return.
If you’re camped by a river or lake, string up a rope swing with a few knots in it (check water depth and look for any submerged rocks or logs first) and you’ve got easy entertainment right out front.
Back at camp and looking for something to keep the kids (or you) entertained? Scavenge around and you’ll likely find a veritable bounty of items for a bit of bush craft.
Kites are a fun and easy project the kids will love and you can usually pull the materials together from your camping kit. You’ll need newspaper for the kite’s body, sticks to make the frame, tape or glue to hold it all together, and string to tie the frame and to fly it. Get the kids to decorate the newspaper first then add a bit of wind and you’re up, up and away!
LIVE AND LEARN
Kicking back at camp with time to spare and little distraction is the perfect time to hone your skills or even learn something new.
Dust off the old guitar and drag it out to the campfire or, if you’re new to the music game, consider the ukulele – they’re comparatively cheap and easy to learn, as well as smaller to store.
Not feeling the musical vibes? Use your time at camp to hone your bush survival skills or perfect that fishing knot. Being out in nature is also the perfect time to learn more about our native flora and fauna, diverse ecosystems and unique Indigenous history, and there’s heaps of great information out there. Work out what you want to focus on and pack accordingly!
If you sit still and look around you, you’ll be amazed by the amount of life you can see. You really can spend hours watching the birds flit past, the insects hard at work, and the animals that wander by your camp.
Start a list of the different birds and animals you see and keep adding to it. If you have a book of Australian birds, you can easily identify the different species and mark them down.
In the evening, grab your torch and take the kids spotlighting around camp. Look for eye shine up in the trees and even on the ground – you’ll find hundreds of tiny spider eyes staring back at you.
The full feature appeared in Caravan World #570. Subscribe today for the latest caravan reviews and news every month!