Planning our RV trip to Tasmania

We are planing our next RV trip to and around Tasmania. (Actually by the time you read this we will be well on our way). We have been asked many times just how do we go about planing our trips, including making available my packing lists etc. I will post my packing lists soon but for now I will just give a general overview here.

First of all, we tend to do a lot of free camping now that we have been introduced to it on a trip to Western Australia back in 2010. What suits us does not necessarily suit everyone, but I sure do recommend you try it at least twice. We certainly love it and it suits our personalities etc. There is a wealth of knowledge and experience out there. Most people are willing to share with you what works best for them. Also the internet is chock-a-block with personal blogs by travellers who share their candid moments, their trials and of course all the many great things regarding their travel adventures. I am just starting to list the RV blogs I like to read when time and data download allows. You will find the blogs I read the most on the right column of this page.

Different people have different expectations, personalities, agendas, family circumstances etc. I certainly wouldn't want you to be turned away from the idea of free camping or even RV travel, just because you've have read somewhere about how difficult someone else found it and that it was not for them. It is true, it is not for everyone but I do suggest that you "give it a go". You will most likely be enriched by the experience.

Free camping by the Murray River

Why do we free camp?

We like to free camp for several reasons:
  1. Sure we save on accommodation costs, but there is more to it than that. 
  2. We love the lack of specific planing required. We can just rock up when we like, which fabulous if we decided to alter anything along the way. Maybe we liked the latest spot because of the views, our attitude or maybe we have befriended someone and we'd just like to spend a little more time with them. 
  3. We also like the more open spacing that is available at a free camp rather than being boxed in to a specific location. If we don't like the noise of our neighbours dog, their taste in music or maybe their gennie, then we can freely move to a more distant spot or leave altogether. 
  4. The friendliness & comradeship is usually fantastic. We find the people who also camp at these sort of locations are of a similar mind set and are much easier to get along with.  Wonderful happy hours usually ensue and even sharing a camp fire is not uncommon.
  5. Some others like it because they can get away from everyone and tend to camp right away from anyone else. Personally, we like a little company to chat to.
It is not something that would appeal to everyone. 
However we just love it.

Plenty of space for free camping at Gregory Downs

You can't always free camp

Don't forgo a town or area just because it doesn't offer free camping or even low budget camping - that is just cutting off your nose in spite of yourself. There is so much to see, you'd hate to miss a gem for a few dollars. So I suggest, you save when you can and spend when you have to. You can camp further afield and travel in or you can spend a few dollars and save time and petrol. You could skip a location altogether but it might be worth those few dollars!

Don't get caught up with the few negatives and instead concentrate on all the awesome aspects of spending time “on the road” and enjoying our great country and ALL it has to offer!

Camping at  Farm Stay property paying a few dollars for the convenience of being close to town.

So how do we actually pick a camp spot?

We use the Camps Australia book and we chat to like minded people. We have a general idea that we want to get from here to there. Our Camps Australia Wide 6 book is getting a tad outdated and I hear they are about to bring out the number 8. Still it is not too far out dated and will probably be updated with the next edition. We have been encouraged to get WikiCamps on our phone or tablet and the soon to be released GeoWiki is another great option which is for CMCA Members only geographical Wikipedia containing points of interest for RV travellers.

Our trip parameters

Time frame

Obviously we have to make some generalized plans and some concrete ones. Maybe it is just the way we are but we try not to set anything down in concrete unless we absolutely have to. We did have to book a passage on the Spirit of Tasmania to go over and the return trip and since we wanted to spend as much time as possible on the road from the time the motorhome was road worthy to when we must return which is a week before a family commitment in April. So all up we had hoped for 5 or even 6 months but the bus just  wasn't ready yet.

In the end we will have 4 months in Tasmania with an additional 2 weeks to get to Melbourne to catch the boat and about 1 week to get home after disembarking, before we have a family commitment that is set in concrete.

The boat trip had been booked months ago so that meant that our travels through Victoria had to be curtailed significantly. We did want to stop by some family and friends on the way south, so that meant a coffee/lunch break in northern Canberra and then a  4 or 5 day stay in Deniliquin, near the Victorian border. (I used to live in Canberra and so a sightseeing around this lovely city is not something that is necessary for us on this trip.)

Deniliquin's famous Ute


We had decided to do a trip around the island of Tasmania for all of summer. With about 40 per cent of Tasmania designated national parks  and the convict history also adding to the world heritage designation, there was always going to be plenty to see and do on this wonderful island state of Australia. As hinted at earlier, we had hoped to spend some time seeing Victoria prior to getting on the boat, but it was not to be. 

Just before we arrived in Devonport we found out that a very good friend and his wife were working and helping out in Penguin and so we begged a few days off to visit them before we were to commit to some volunteer work (with MMM) that we like to do from time to time. We met a lovely couple on the boat and they recommended that we stay at Cooee Point in Bernie  and that was close enough to visit with our friends in beautiful Penguin

The beautiful flowers at Penguin even line the roadsides

After this we had not commitment other than we wanted to see as much of Tasmania as we could as one never knows when we'd have the opportunity to visit this wonderful island again.

Expect the unexpected.

I am so glad we don't have our plans set in concrete. As noted in earlier posts, we couldn't get away when we wanted. Then we had the wonderful news that dear friends who generally live in South Australia were going to be spending some time helping one of their friends, so we aimed to spend a few days visiting them. When we finally rocked up for our MMM job in Perth, their plans hadn't gone as they had hoped and they didn't need our services for another 3 or so weeks. so we decided we'd head off and sight see around Launceston for 3 weeks. Another wonderful surprise soon after we arrived was that one of our daughters got engaged and so we decided to fly home for one week to celebrate with her and her fiance!


So have a plan but be flexible. Don't push yourself too far, you want your trip to be memorable for all the right reasons! So be prepared for whatever the road trip can throw at you, whether it be the weather, health issues or whatever. And we haven't touched on mechanical possibilities though these are much reduced if you have made sure to have your vehicles serviced prior to setting out on any trip, but that is to be covered in another blog post in the future.

Remember, you are travelling for leisure,
so take all the care you can beforehand and then STOP worrying.
Hit the road and enjoy everything that a time on the road has to offer you.

A short stay in Newcastle

After all the kafuffle getting out of Wollongong which were covered on our earlier posts here and here, we finally made it to Toronto (near Newcastle) more than a week later than originally planned. The purpose of this trip is really to check out the motorhome and make sure everything is working fine, which it was once that oil leak was sorted out!

We stayed in the driveway of Rob’s sister in Toronto to spend some time with her and use her place as a base for catching up with other friends nearby.

We spent the first day sightseeing around Newcastle. We especially loved the Hunter Wetlands, though not the mozzies! We were very fortunate to see not one but three Rare Freckled Ducks amongst all the other bird life there. A lovely day finished off perfectly in the company of wonderful friends near Morisset.

Rare Freckled Duck

On the second day we were escorted by Rob’s sister, Ingrid and we visited Fort Scratchley and were blessed to be there for the firing of the guns, since they had a few extra shots with a cruise in dock.

We can certainly recommend taking a guided tour of the Tunnels at the Fort. It was a 90 minute tour but never boring as the guide was very informative and interesting. Did you know that they actually did fire the guns at a Japanese submarine during WWII?

Fort Scratchley gun fired
 We took a short scenic trip on the way back after a leisurely & delightful lunch on the wharf.

Waiting for lunch on the Wharf

Unfortunately, this was all the time we could spare in Newcastle since our shakedown tour was delayed. We called in to the Manly area (Amberley) for 2 nights on the way home to catch up with one of our sons and a daughter who live nearby, since it would be close to 6 months before we see them all again.

With just a few days at home to complete the odd job and to repack for a longer trip, we were soon back on the road, this time to Melbourne via Deniliquin getting there in plenty of time to catch the ferry to Tasmania.

Shakedown trip - On our way at last

A lot of little things that had us wondering if we were ever going to get the bus on the road. Eventually we can leave. On Saturday, we make a little stop past a friend for a bit of advice and then finally we are truly on our shakedown trip to Newcastle, just 240km or 15 miles.

We've sprung a leak

Rob, being the cautious guy he is, decided to pull over after about 80km and take a look around, check temperatures of the tyres etc when he noticed some serious oil leaks on the ground. Murphy had one more trick up his sleeve and it was the most serious one yet. He really threw the spanner in the works. We had stopped in a dead zone as far as reception goes and we were quite worried about moving the motorhome at all but we knew that only a few kilometres up the road was the town of Wilton.

So with great trepidation, we very slowly drove to the town and parked as soon as it was safe. We tried numerous times to contact the mechanic but being a weekend, we knew it was very possible that it could be Monday before we could get hold of the mechanic. We decided to top up the oil and move around the corner to a quieter side street and we camped there for the weekend. Though we hadn't planned on sleeping there, we are still trialling the motorhome and that was something we were able to do anywhere we happened to be.

Making the most of it

So we decided to relax and enjoy ourselves as much as the situation called for. We found a lovely shady tree nearby and sat and read after a wander around the historic church and graveyard there. Being a hot 39 degrees, we appreciated every bit of shade we could before we headed inside and tried out the air con and the various aspects of the motorhome.

Wilton Church

On Sunday, we decided to unhitch the car & go out and visit the area and call in at a cousin of Rob who lived about 15 minutes away. so he could come and fix the problem which ended up being faulty clamps on the oil hose hidden behind the turbo.

We finally made it to Toronto (Newcastle) mid afternoon yesterday in 36 degree heat (That's 96.8 F)!

Camped in Rob's sister's driveway

Various delays

The whole experience of converting a bus into a motorhome has taken a lot longer than we ever expected. Three major delays being basically caused mainly by delays from manufacturers: the chain, the slideout mechanism and the reconditioning of the engine. Two major health issues didn't help either, my cancer diagnosis and Rob's lung clots which had him in hospital for 5 days just as I am starting to recover from cancer.

Now we can really get started in living the rest of our lives and for us that includes lots of road trips. We plan to spend Summer in Tasmania.

Shakedown trip & blasted Murphy

We had planned to start our maiden trip just days after our launch BBQ party. However old Murphy was a very unwelcome visitor, in fact he stayed around and created mischief several times in the following week. I went through a stage where I fervently wished we had never started this bus conversion. I wasn't able to voice thought as I didn't want to bring Rob down as he had to bear the brunt of the responsibility of sorting out all the hassles and I am sure there were times that he felt the same! I think Murphy had decided to move it with us for a while.

A big part of our problem was getting this engine reconditioned
It basically started  a couple of months earlier with getting the engine reconditioned and adding a turbo onto the job. We were first given a 3 week window for the job. The mechanics had so many problems themselves with the job. First it was much harder to remove the engine than expected. Parts needed were not the ones listed in the Mitsubishi manual - they had changed the parts and hadn't bothered to note the changes in the manuals and to make matters worst, the bus is a grey import so many parts are not necessarily kept in Australia. 6-8 weeks later the specialist engineer doing the job collapses at work and had to be rushed to hospital so a replacement engineer is needed. Finally the mechanic gets the engine back and there are more hassles in getting back into the engine area as room needs to be made for the turbo addition which makes it too tight to fit in the same space.

I can't believe I was so caught up that I forgot to take any photos of the BBQ
We were so confident that the bus would be back weeks earlier that we 'booked' a date for a BBQ launch party. Even the day before the party, it seemed as though we were not going to have the bus back in time. We decided we would have to blow up a photo and post that where the bus should have been. Thankfully we get a phone call that we could pick up the bus just hours before the party. There was no time at all to clean it up let alone pretty it up for showing, so a sweep and a borrowed doona off the spare bed in the house had to suffice for 'interior decorating'. We were just happy to have the bus there at all. The party went on to be a huge success.

We weren't going to be able to leave within days of the party as originally planned as Old Murphy stuck his head out again. We had a few things such as fixing. When Rob picked up the bus on the day of the party, he drove it home and then he found he was locked inside the bus, The door handle had broken in such a way that the mechanism inside the latch was broken. In the end we had to completely replace the handle. I haven't had time to remove the hand written note to push (as you turn) yet!. (Yet another little job for on the road.)

We had to replace the door handle completely
Another problem was that we couldn't figure out why the hot water wasn't firing up. It was just one hassle after another, so now the maiden trip was rescheduled for the Friday.

Whilst Rob is fixing all these little problems, I am tearing my hair out trying to pack the motorhome. I have a list that I have modified with each previous trip (in the caravan). It itemizes every little thing from toothpicks to the cooker. I am so glad for it esp with starting the motorhome from scratch. I was NOT convinced that EVERYTHING was going to fit in the bus, but I realize now in hindsight that I have room left over, but I am being miserly with using up that 'spare' space.

I am also trying to work out where the most practical place for the stuff to go, which is quite a challenge. I have moved the mugs 3 times already!

For our destination, Newcastle was chosen as it is far enough away to give it a decent first run and close enough to run home to fix any problems and to pack anything I have forgotten before we started our major trip to Tasmania.
Visiting Newcastle was also a great opportunity to catch up with family and friends as well. The awning arrived during our delayed week but it will have to wait until we come back from the shakedown trip as will a few not so important jobs - some of which Rob can do once we are really and truly on the road. There are just too many important things that need to be done first. We did get the name signs up though since Signarama Miranda sent a young man to adhere the stickers on for us and they look great!

So Friday comes along, I am starting to calm down a bit and can even get some regular housework done whilst waiting for Rob. Murphy has yet more tricks up his sleeve for us: The wiring for the towed car was about 6 inches too short - the people fitting the A frame didn't allow for turning. Next the indicator lights etc wouldn't work o the towed vehicle. We couldn't work that one out so the motorhome has to go off to the auto electrician to get him to sort it out. Apparently when the mechanic took the engine out, he cut the wires and must have forgotten to rejoin them in his haste to meet our deadline. At least it was a simple job - the wonderful auto electrician  at Figtree Auto Electrics didn't even charge us to fix it for us! So rather than stress we decided to stay home one more night. At last everything is ready to go. We decided it was better to leave first thing in the morning.

It is ridiculous just how many little hassles, old Murphy shoved our way. They were annoying rather than insurmountable. We needed a holiday just to de-stress from preparing for our holiday. I am so thankful it is not always so difficult - all just part of the teething problems!

Murphy had one more trick up his sleeve... find out what in the next post! (This post is long enough!)

Cutting down the “to do” list

This past week has certainly been a busy one.
For starters we had arranged a thank you BBQ for all our family & friends who have supported us in one way or another. We booked the date about a month ago when it seemed that we would definitely have the motorhome back and we’d have enough time to clean it out, pretty it up and start packing it ready for its maiden trip.

The engine that caused so much angst has come back

Well, it seemed a reasonable time frame at the time. We weren’t to know that it would still not be here until the day of the party. The engine reconditioning has dragged out to be a much more complex job than everyone expected and to top it off the poor specialist doing the job collapsed at work and has been in hospital since. So the company had to find another person to finish the job.

In the meantime, Rob did other work especially around the house in preparation for leaving for several months away, such as slashing the paddocks, clearing the gutters and downpipes, clearing the leaf litter under the windbreak etc.

Even without the motorhome, he was able to work on the Grand Vitara which is our towed vehicle. He put up a person barrier (like a mini bumper bar) to guard shins from the hitching point for the A frame towing bar as well as a stone guard frame he made himself and I sewed up the screen part.

Getting the stone guard frame set up on the car

So obviously with a big BBQ party to cook and arrange, I had my work cut out for me before the party. Since the party, I had the inevitable clean up to do and then the exciting part of starting to pack the motorhome. I would not manage either the party prep nor the packing if I didn’t rely on lists to keep me on track.

My very comprehensive RV packing list

I am now half way to getting everything into the motorhome. I have forgotten just how much stuff we had kept ‘permanently’ in the caravan let alone the foodstuffs and clothing etc that need to go in each time.Thank goodness I had made a packing list and modified it each time we did a trip. It covers pantry staples, soft furnishings, toiletries etc.

Next is the shakedown trip! Believe me there's more drama ahead!