While we were celebrating Christmas in Paihia, New Zealand, I surprised Heather with the gift of renting a campervan for two weeks to explore the Australian states of Victoria and South Australia. We had originally intended to rent a campervan for our trip through New Zealand, but ended up going for the far cheaper option of renting a small car and staying in holiday park cabins and tent sites. Throughout our grand tour of the country we kept admiring all the blinging campervans we saw parked at the holiday parks each night, and started growing very jealous.
Finally, it was our turn! We ended up renting a mid-sized camper, which would still be considered small by US mega-sized RV standards. Our little home on wheels came with a fully stocked kitchen, containing two burners, a fridge/freezer, sink, and even a microwave. Towards the back was a seating area and table, which converted to a double-sized bed at night. And since it was a “Hi Top” van, the ceiling was high enough to comfortably stand on the inside. One thing our camper lacked, though, was a toilet. We didn’t see this as a big problem, since we would generally be staying in camp sites and other areas with public toilets nearby.
As was the case in New Zealand, Heather was still the only licensed driver, since my license had expired many months before on my birthday. She was a little daunted by the prospect of driving this “big rig”, but quickly familiarized herself with the vehicle.
After picking up the camper at Britz, we puttered over to the nearby Aldi supermarket to fill our fridge and pantry. This turned out to be an excellent place to shop, with cheap and delicious food on offer. We even located a delicious AUS $7 bottle of Marlborough, NZ Sauvignon Blanc – our favorite! After realizing how fantastic this economical bottle was we went out of our way to stop at every Aldi en-route over the coming weeks and “clear the shelves”.
We decided to ease into the camper lifestyle by chartering course for nearby wildlife destination, Phillip Island, only an hour and a half from Melbourne. After a bit of an exciting time trying to keep our campervan steady on the windy highway, we finally crossed the bridge and arrived at Phillip Island. We checked into our holiday park campsite, where we had reserved a powered site, allowing us to top up our power and water supplies off the common grid.
With our site squared away, we jumped back in the camper and made our way to the other end of the 16-mile long island to try and spot the main attraction – little blue penguins. While we had already seen a lot of these little guys in New Zealand, who can ever pass up the opportunity to see more penguins? Most tourists opt for the nightly “Penguin Parade”, which is much like the spectacle we had witnessed in Oamaru, New Zealand. Of course, the best wildlife encounters usually do not involve bleacher seats, “sky boxes”, concession stands, and expensive entry fees! We instead stopped by the completely free Nobbies and Seal Rocks scenic lookouts.
Here, we saw a good number of penguins in their hillside nesting sites.
We also saw them walking around and congregating under the wooden walkways.
After our penguin encounter, we hopped back in the campervan and returned to our campsite. There, we drew our curtains, turned on our interior lights, and cooked up a delicious pasta dinner.
Finally, it was time to convert the rear seats into a bed. We crawled in and flipped off the lights for our first night’s (very comfortable!) sleep in the campervan.
The next day, I cooked up a hearty egg breakfast. We planned to put in a good number of miles and make our way to the start of the Great Ocean Road.
But first, one more visit of the adorable little penguins at The Nobbies!
Back in the camper again, we pushed on towards Torquay and the Great Ocean Road. Since we were passing Melbourne again, we squeezed in another quick stop at Aldi to stock up on that cheap and amazing Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc!