Planning a road trip on the East Coast of Australia…

Travelling the east coast of Australia in a campervan is the perfect way to get to know this vast and varied part of the country and an experience that I can’t recommend enough. The freedom to go where you want to go, when you want to go, to stop somewhere on a whim, change your plans and sleep where you want is a wonderful feeling! This is my guide to planning a road trip on the east coast of Australia…

Campervan hire:

Our three-week adventure started in Sydney and ended in Cairns, covering a total distance of 2629 kilometres. We landed in Sydney, jumped in a taxi to Jucy rentals and picked up what was to be our home for the next three weeks, a green and purple campervan. This little beauty looked like it had been well-loved which made me like it even more!  We got given a quick briefing and then handed the keys. Our Jucy Van was compact but had everything we needed for our three-week journey. Bedding, pillows and towels were provided with the van along with pots and pans, crockery, cutlery and a map. The van had a small kitchen area at the back, which consisted of a camping gas stove, a cool box (powered by a leisure battery) and a sink. It also had a DVD player, but with so much exploring to do we didn’t get round to using it. Awesome campervan and an awesome company!

 

 

Things I took with me on the trip:

  • When planning for a road trip on the east coast of Australia, my first tip would be to pack fairly lightly as living in a van means you have limited space.
  • Guide books: Lonely Planet East Coast Australia and Cool Camping Australia – East Coast – I don’t know what we would have done without these two books. We found places we may not otherwise have visited and they really helped us out especially at the beginning of our trip when everything felt a little bit daunting.
  • Driving licence: Don’t forget this! Check out the Australian Government website for more information on driving in Australia with an overseas licence.
  • LED lights and torch: These were much needed as we stayed in some very remote campsites which were pitch black at night.
  • Keypod: We use one when we surf in the UK and I thought it would be perfect for Australia. It’s a small box, big enough to fit your car key in with a combination lock and padlock on top. It can be attached to the underneath of your vehicle and is perfect if you want to go for a swim or surf and don’t want to leave valuables and car keys on the beach.
  • Washing tablets: Although we could have bought these out in Oz I decided it was one less thing to spend our pennies on once we were there.
  • Resealable bags: Handy to store food in and to stop any beasties or bugs finding it!
  • Tea bags and sugar: Again something we could have bought in Australia but I just thought I would be prepared, and there’s nothing like a decent cuppa in the morning!
  • Anti – bacterial wipes: To clean down food prep areas in the van once we picked it up. You don’t know whose grubby paws have been on it before you! (Although the rental company did a very thorough clean it was just something that made me feel better!) They are also perfect for cleaning up after cooking.
  • Mobile phone and Wi-Fi Dongle: We were very lucky as our lovely friends Olivia and Jamie who we stayed with in Sydney lent us these – great for calling campsites in advance and Google mapping if you don’t have data to use abroad included in your phone contract.
  • We bought a USB charger to go into the cigarette lighter when we got to Australia. This proved priceless for charging our phones and camera batteries on the road.
  • I’m a big flip-flops wearer but I was so pleased I packed a pair of converse ‘just in case’ I needed them.  They came in very handy for bush camping. When it gets dark you never know what creepy crawlies are wondering around!  So I would definitely recommend packing some closed-toe footwear.
  • We took fairy lights and bought candles when we were out there, it added extra light to our camp and also made it look nice.

 

 

Sleeping:

National Park campsites:

National park campsites are the way forward for cheaper camping and for going back to basics. My advice is don’t be scared of long drop toilets and having no showers! I overcame this and experiencing these beautiful places, which can be off the beaten track and often with hardly anyone else around is awesome. It felt to us like ‘real’ camping. One tip my friend Liv gave me was to check under long drop toilet seats for spiders before you sit down! This was a great bit of advice, especially when you consider that most of the wildlife we came across were discovered in the long drop area! Liv did well at practicing her own advice….One night as we sat around the campfire in the Blue Mountains we heard screams coming from the dunny – she had found a nasty looking spider under the lid!  

You need to take your own water for most national park campsites and also need to pre book, although Black Rocks campground (one of our favourite spots) in Bundjalung National Park had signposts with a phone number to book upon arrival. Lots of these campgrounds can be found along very bumpy and long unsealed roads, but this adds to the fun! 

One night we parked up and slept on the side of a road, funnily enough opposite a campsite! It was quite a nice spot on the harbour front at Hervey Bay; we chose it as the car park just in front of our parking spot had a half decent public toilet that wasn’t locked at night. We had been on a whale watching trip which meant we didn’t get back until early evening and we had a lot of driving planned for the next day and got up at around 5am. Due to this we decided there was no point in paying for a pitch. Lots of car parks have no camping signs clearly displayed so they are of course a no go. I am not entirely sure as to whether we were allowed to camp on the roadside, but hey sometimes you’ve got to be a rebel and just live on the edge!

Head here for campsites in New South Wales: NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service.

Private campsites:

More expensive campsites were fantastic after a few days of staying in a national park or roadside camping where showers are non-existent.  So to pay for a campsite with showers, flushing toilets and even a laundry room was a small slice of luxury!  Most private campsites we stayed at had camp kitchens that were really well equipped with gas barbeques, fridges, ovens, sometimes microwaves, washing up facilities and plug sockets for charging electronics. Some even had free Wi-Fi, which was a big bonus.

For more information I’ve written a guide with all my favourite campsites to help with planning a road trip on the East coast of Australia: Cool Campsites on the East Coast of Australia.

 

 

 

The drive:

Driving the east coast is such a great way to see experience all the countryside and its differences as you head further up or down the country. The climate changed quite a lot from Sydney where there was a bit of a chill in the air to Cairns with its humid and very hot rainforest feel. I got bitten by mosquitoes further up the coast too. The temperature of the water also felt warmer as we moved further up the country.

On the drive we passed over hundreds and hundreds of creeks, we also passed sugar cane fields, plantations, rainforest, and ocean. It was interesting to drive through so many different towns like Rockhampton, with its quaint Victorian buildings making it look like it had stood still in time. Within the sugar cane fields were train lines, I loved watching the cane trains pass, transporting sugar cane to the plantations. There were also lots of banana farms up near Cairns and we also witnessed a few wild fires in this area; they were pretty scary looking.

There are plenty of opportunities to deviate from the main highway as sometimes the long straight road can get boring. All the way along there were brown tourist signs indicating an alternative route through places of interest and how many kilometers it covered before bringing you back onto the highway. We did this a few times; my favourite was the drive through the Glass House Mountains. The scenery was just incredible with bright red soil and the mountains looming high above the otherwise flat landscape. We stopped off at a great viewpoint for lunch and took photos; it was a lovely scenic diversion.

One thing to know about when driving in Australia is toll roads. These can be avoided but we ended up going through some in Sydney and then in Brisbane. They don’t cost very much but you need to make sure you go online or phone up to pay the charges. For NSW I used this website: myrta and for QLD: govia.  Phone numbers and websites are signposted as you go on the toll roads and you pay the charges by giving your car registration number along with the date and times you would have been on the toll roads. It is then automatically deducted from your credit or debit card, easy!

Although it is quite an obvious thing to say I would definitely recommend keeping an eye on your fuel as sometimes fuel stations were very few and far between. We often drove for an hour or two without seeing one. We tried to make sure that our fuel gauge didn’t drop below a quarter, that way we felt safe. Something else I should mention is that the Aussies are pretty strict on speed limits, so make sure you stick to them.

 

 

 

Rest stops:

We experienced a mixture of good and bad rest stops while on the road. Many with the words ‘Stop, Revive, Survive’ were brilliant, with toilets, gas barbeques and picnic benches sheltered from the sun. Some even provided free tea and coffee. Although, nice service stops turned into sparse truck stops with awful long drops on the Bruce Highway, north of Brisbane. So be prepared for some horrendous dunnys; hold your nose and don’t look down!

Two refreshment stops that stood out for me were Frosty Mango, serving, you guessed it all things mango. This was recommended in the Lonely Planet Guide I mentioned earlier. We bought a mango smoothie for the road, it was so good! Tooloombah Creek Roadhhouse an hour north of Rockhampton was also a great little stop off. We were greeted by a lovely lady who fueled up the van and told us a joke at the same time… “What happened to the beans that were travelling in Australia?… They ended up in Cairns!”… It made me laugh anyway! After a chat with this lovely lady we purchased coffee, two slices of her delicious homemade cake and continued on our journey. I really loved chatting to locals, who more often than not were very welcoming. Some also passed on useful information to us such as a fuel attendant in Byron Bay. I told him we were heading to Mission Beach at some point in our journey, he told us how nice it was and recommended a great campsite. A bit of local knowledge sometimes goes a long way.

 

I hope this has given you a bit of an insight into planning a road trip on the east coast of Australia. If you have any of your own tips please feel free to add them in the comments below; I’d love to hear them. Writing this post has made me want to go back to the land of down under right now! With 1633 miles of the east cast of Australia explored I can’t wait to share the rest of my adventures with you all…

 

For more on Australia take a look at my other posts:

Five Things to do in Sydney

Whale Watching in Australia

Three weeks in three and a half minutes

 

 

Cool Campsites on the East Coast of Australia…

Cooking a chilli on the camp fire

Discovering cool campsites on the East Coast of Australia

From Sydney to Cairns the east coast of Australia is made for a road trip, with endless beauty from the ocean to the rainforest there’s so much to explore. Hire a campervan or car, pack up a tent and go on an adventure down under. There are some very cool campsites on Australia’s east coast, from pitches with beach views, to dreamy spots surrounded by nothing but rainforest. It’s such a fantastic way to experience Australia. I went on a road trip from Sydney to Cairns a few years ago in a campervan with Matt, we covered 1633 miles in 3 weeks. There were a few very long days of driving, sometimes 8 or 9 hours but it was always worth it for the for the adventures we had and the cool campsites we stayed at. Driving is such a great way to see the ever-changing landscape and climate as you go up or down the coast and having the freedom to decide where and when you want to stop is fantastic.

Most of the campgrounds we stopped at we only booked the day we arrived or we just turned up and inquired if they had space.  In high season it’s probably best to book in advance as pitches can get fully booked months beforehand. National park campgrounds are often cheaper than privately owned ones and often need to be booked before you arrive. They will have limited facilities but are an amazing way to experience the great outdoors; proper camping if you will. It is necessary to take all your own equipment including water and food to these campgrounds as there will not be anywhere to purchase anything nearby.  If you are planning a road trip on Australia’s east coast read on for my favourite campsites from Sydney to Cairns…

 

My favourite campsites on Australia’s East Coast:  

Euroka Campground, Blue Mountains National Park

The Blue Mountains area is a beautiful place to camp and Euroka campground is the perfect base.  Found along an unpaved road amongst the bush this spot is popular with cockatoos and kangaroos.  Facilities are basic with pit toilets and no showers.  Sites are unpowered and unmarked which gives the campground a natural feel and there are fire pits for cooking.  Bring water with you as there is none available at Euroka. It’s a tent only campground and is a popular one, so book before you go.  From Euroka walk to Nepean River and enjoy being in the Australian outback.  Visit Katoomba for a coffee and Echo Point Lookout for a fantastic view of the famous Three Sisters.  There is a cable car and scenic railway to really make the most of the incredible views here.  Wentworth Falls is an awesome place to stop for a hike and take photos of the gorgeous waterfall.

 
 

Racecourse Campground, Goolawah National Park

Set behind the sand dunes of Goolawah Beach, Racecourse is a relatively small campground with only 20 sites. I loved watching the sunset on the gorgeous beach and waking up to the sounds of the ocean. Be sure to go well equipped to this spot as it is fairly remote, but magical! Matt and I woke up very early one morning to watch the sunrise over the ocean. We parked up a short drive from Racecourse campsite on Point Plomer Road to cook breakfast. There were kangaroos in the field behind us and dolphins jumping in the ocean in front of us. It was an awesome spot for breakfast!

 

 

Trial Bay Gaol Campground

This is an incredible spot for camping, set on a peninsula in Arakoon National Park.  The ocean is right on the edge of the campsite and has some water front pitches. The facilities are top-notch with toilet and shower blocks, its worth noting that the showers are coin operated.  Trial Bay is a fantastic spot to see whales on their annual migration north in the winter and in spring on their way back south.  We saw whales during our stay here which was totally unexpected and an amazing experience. We also had kangaroos pass us by in the evenings while we were barbecuing.  If you love the beach and the outdoors then this cool campground is totally for you.

 

Calypso Holiday Park, Yamba

Yamba holds some really memorable moments on our road trip.  A small town with a fishing harbour and cool surfy vibes.  It was one of my favourite stops, so much so that we ended up staying an extra night.  Calypso Holiday Park has pitches and cabins right on Clarence River, a gorgeous relaxing spot with fantastic sunset views.  The town and beaches are all within walking distance and the YHA does a great breakfast.  Take the short drive to Angourie, the beach there is a National Surfing Reserve.  Stop by the Blue Pools for a dip or leap in from the cliff edge.

 

Black Rocks Campground, Ten Mile Beach, Bundjalung National Park

It took around 45 minutes to drive along a very bumpy gravel track surrounded by dense woodland to reach Black Rocks. This place put me on the edge of my camping comfort zone for sure! It is one of the remotest places I have ever stayed and most definitely ‘wild’ camping, I loved it.

Set behind the sand dunes of the stunning and untamed Ten Mile Beach the pitches are very private. Separated by woodland it felt like we were the only people there, apart from the faint murmur of voices somewhere in the distance.  Black Rocks is an incredible place to explore, there’s Jerusalem Creek for fishing, the coastline and miles of undisturbed bush behind the dunes.  Each drive in pitch comes with a bench and fire pit, the facilities are basic with only pit toilets and no showers. Be sure to arrive fully equipped and self-sufficient and take enough water for the duration of your stay.  I loved that there was no light pollution, the starry skies were out of this world and in the van at night you couldn’t even see your hand in front of your face.  We got freaked out one evening in the dark too; as we were sat in our van having a few drinks we could hear a lot of rustling and something circling the camper…after a long time we spotted a possum by torchlight.  Not so scary after all, but slightly creepy in the dark, in the middle of nowhere!  This is a very cool campsite on the east coast and hands down one of my favourites of our whole three weeks in Australia.  If you like having your own adventures in complete remoteness then this is the campground for you.

 

Broken Head Holiday Park, near Byron Bay

This beach campground has awesome views of Broken Head Beach, a short stroll away.  It is around 7 kilometres from Byron Bay so it’s a nice distance to escape the crowds in high season.  Spacious pitches, not too close to fellow campers, a camp kitchen and BBQ area plus a camp kiosk mean it has everything you need.  The campsite is a short drive from Suffolk Park a lovely small town with a bakery, fuel station and convenience stores.  We couldn’t find a campsite with free pitches in Byron so this little gem popped up at the right time.  Byron is world-famous for its surf scene and the beaches are beautiful but it can get very busy so Broken Head is a great spot for a bit of tranquility.  We spotted dolphins in the surf here while swimming in the sea and said hello to some huge lizards near our van.

 

 

Noosa River Holiday Park

It doesn’t get more scenic than Noosa River Holiday Park.  Wake up to pelicans bobbing along on the river right in front of your van or tent and enjoy a barbecue with a glass of wine in the well equipped camp kitchen as the sunsets.  It is in the most perfect spot only a few steps from the sandy shoreline.  I’ve stayed in this campground a few times now, even if it is full the staff will do their best to accommodate you.  Matt and I once parked up in the overflow car park for the night among boats and trailers; we could still see the river from our spot!  The town, Hastings Street and Gympie Terrace are all within walking distance.  While you are in the area make sure you take a trip to Noosa National Park, it’s a stunning walk along miles of beautiful coastline.  Hire a paddle board and explore the river too, there are some interesting mangroves a short paddle across the river.  Go inland here to see the incredible Glass House Mountains and to visit the markets at Eumundi.

 

Ferns Hideaway Resort, Byfield

This is most definitely a hideaway. Found in the middle of nowhere surrounded by rainforest, friendly wallabies and fruit bats. Camping at Ferns Hideaway comes with complimentary use of kayaks to explore the stretch of privately owned creek. Matt and I absolutely loved paddling along the creek and exploring this hidden spot. Pitches aren’t marked out, you chose where you would like to park up. It is a lovely, small site with with a camp kitchen, clean shower facilities and welcoming owners. There is also a swimming pool and restaurant on site along with a handful of log cabins. If you are looking for a unique campground on the east coast of Australia then Ferns Hideaway is it.

 

 

Big4 Whitsundays Tropical Eco Resort, Airlie Beach

I loved the laid back vibes of Airlie Beach, we stopped here to go on a Whitsunday Islands boat trip.  The pitch we stayed on at this Big4 site was partly shaded by tropical plants, perfect for keeping the van cool.  A camp kitchen with two fridges and gas barbecues, plus a playground, swimming pool and clean facilities make this a great spot.  A trip to the Whitsunday Islands is a must when on the east coast of Australia.  Whitehaven Beach is a well-known beauty spot on Whitsunday Island, pure white sand and sparkling turquoise ocean make it a picture perfect paradise.  Book onto a day trip or jump aboard a sailing boat for a longer trip on the water.

 

Mission Beach Hideaway Holiday Village

This campground is very convenient for the beach which is just over the road and my gosh what a stunning beach it is. Miles and miles of golden sand backed by palm trees, it is a breathtaking spot. We stayed at Mission Beach Hideaway Holiday Village for less than 24 hours but had a really nice time. The facilities are well-kept and there is a swimming pool and camp kitchen.  Mission Beach is popular for sky diving, trips to Dunk Island and exploring waterfalls. Around 40 minutes north of Mission Beach is the gorgeous Etty Bay, it’s a small, secluded beach with a café and a caravan park with cabins, powered sites and tent pitches. We went in search of the cassowary, a shy bird known to live in the area.  Sightings are rare, so to see one on the beach would be fantastic; unfortunately we weren’t lucky enough to find one when we were there.

 

 

NRMA Cairns Holiday Park

This campsite wouldn’t have necessarily been my first choice, everywhere was full so from what I can remember it was one of our only options. It was pretty packed and pitches were quite close together, but the facilities were clean and it had a great camp kitchen and a pool. It also had a little veggie garden which you could help yourself to, a nice little touch. Cairns is the place to be to see the Great Barrier Reef. I will never forget catching a glimpse of it for the first time; crystal clear waters and colourful corals. Snorkelling above the reef and spotting a turtle was an incredible experience.

 

Once you’ve found and booked your campsites on the east coast of Australia, head to my post: Planning a Road Trip on the East Coast of Australia for tips on what to pack and what to expect on your adventure. 

If you have time check out this short video of my first road trip down under: Three weeks in three and a half minutes.  

If you are looking for ideas on things to do in Sydney I’ve got a post all about it here: Five things to do in Sydney.  

For whale watching here’s the lowdown on an amazing day trip: Whale watching in Australia.

 

Adventures in California with Jucy Campers…

*Thanks to Jucy for helping Matt, Emily and I make this road trip possible.  Find out more at Jucy USA and follow them on social media @JUCYworld.

 

I LOVE a road trip; since Matt and I sold our campervan we’ve not had much of chance to go on van adventures. So when the opportunity popped up to plan a road trip with Jucy Campers in California we jumped at the chance.  This was our first road trip with Emily who is 21 months old, so we wanted to make sure we did it right.  The Jucy Trailblazer was the perfect size to accommodate the three of us without feeling too big.  At night, Emily slept in the main part of the van with me, while Matt slept in the penthouse. We hired a car seat from Jucy as ours did not make it out on our flight from London, it cost a very reasonable $40. We found it took a bit more organisation to camp with Emily than we had been previously used to when it was just us; but we soon got into the swing of things. Emily loved hiding up in the penthouse and really enjoyed the freedom of exploring the campgrounds we stayed at.  I love Jucy’s vans, you can’t miss the green and purple branding, it’s a real head turner. We got asked about our van by passers-by a lot, it seems it is quite an uncommon thing to see a small campervan in America. Big RVs with pop out sides towing cars are a very popular choices and made our Jucy van look like a baby in comparison! One huge positive of having a smaller vehicle is that it is perfect for navigating the small and winding national park roads as well as being able to fit into any campground or parking space you like. It might be compact but that doesn’t mean there is no space in these eye-catching beauties. Let me tell you more….
The Trailblazer sleeps four, the roof pops up to form ‘the penthouse’ and inside there is a very comfy double bed. A ladder attaches to the outside of the van for very easy access and it all zips up tight making it very cosy at night. I loved waking up in the morning, unzipping and admiring the view. If there is only two of you then sleeping up top means you can leave the rest of the van set up for ‘day use’. Downstairs the van has two bench seats with a fantastic amount of storage underneath and a table which can be stowed away too. The kitchen is in the boot and comes equipped with everything you need. Storage cupboards, two gas stoves, a chiller and a sink. Pots, pans, crockery cutlery and a bottle opener are all included. As is a duvet, pillows, blanket and towels, this is a great bonus as I’ve found in the past that this is something that not all hire companies provide free of charge.
For more tips and tricks on camping with little ones check out my blog post all about it: Road Tripping with a Baby in California.  Read on for planning, packing, the route and our favourite spots…

 

Planning a road trip in California
First things first choose a rough route, you can book campgrounds before you go or if you prefer just rock up and see if there are spaces available. During peak seasons I would definitely recommend pre-booking campgrounds as popular ones often get reserved months in advance.  Reserve California is brilliant for booking national park and state beach campgrounds.  Search in the area you want to stay in and it’ll show you all the nearby campgrounds, it has an interactive map too.  Visit California is a great website for planning and researching your road trip in California.
It’s always a good idea to check driving rules and regulations in the country you are visiting. In America they drive on the right hand side of the road and you can turn right on a red light. Also check tolls, these can be paid for online.  If you are planning on driving over the Golden Gate Bridge make sure you pay for the toll using this website: goldengate.org
I always choose campgrounds with pitches that have a fire pit, there’s nothing like cooking on a fire by the beach or keep warming on chillier nights while stargazing.
There are often ‘camp hosts’ at campgrounds, they live on site and are there to help. You can usually purchase firewood from them for your campfire too. A lot of pitches in national park and state beach campgrounds come with benches and fire pits.
I find buying all your essentials once you’ve picked up your camper is a really good idea.  Head to a supermarket for all your food supplies and firewood.  That way you know you have everything you need for your road trip without having to worry about stopping later on in your journey.
It’s a good idea to buy water and keep a supply with you as national park and state beach campgrounds don’t always have drinking water.
Be sure to fuel up well in advance of getting low. Sometimes fuel stations can be few and far between, especially in more remotes spots such as Point Reyes National Seashore.
Our Route:
Starting in Marin County we picked up our van in Oakland and dropped it off in LA.  Both collection and drop off was really straight forward.  From Oakland we drove north to Point Reyes and worked our way down the coast towards San Diego, covering over 1000 miles in 7 days. *The route we chose had to be adapted slightly due to the wildfires in California and because of part of the Big Sur being closed after a land slide last
*The Big Sur re-opened in July 2018, two months ahead of schedule, so you can now drive all the way along this epic stretch of road.
 
Point Reyes National Seashore
After picking up our camper in Oakland we headed up north to Point Reyes National Seashore and stayed in an area called Inverness. This part of California is unlike any other I’ve been to before and reminded me of the Scottish Highlands; I guess quite fitting with the name Inverness too. Inverness felt like something out of Dawson’s Creek, dreamy sunrises over water inlets with rickety old wooden piers and rolling hills in the distance. It was so very tranquil, the days were sunny, if a little chilly and in the evenings all you needed was a jacket, beanie hat and campfire to warm up. Don’t miss the Cypress Tree Tunnel, it’s a very popular spot for photos and produces a very Instagrammable image! Point Reyes Lighthouse is also a must visit, the 308 steps are well worth the climb down and back up again. The views of nothing but uninterrupted ocean are out of this world. During whale season it is the perfect place to sit and stare out to sea on the lookout for these majestic creatures.  At certain times of the day the lighthouse is open so you can have a look inside and learn a bit about its history.
The walk up to the lighthouse has incredible views of the rugged coastline, even on a foggy day you can’t not be impressed by the untouched beauty of this place. A short drive from the lighthouse near Chimney Rock elephant seals lazily snooze on the shoreline. This was on our itinerary but we completely forgot to stop there, so make sure you do!
I’d definitely wear layers on a trip here, the day started off warm but quickly changed to fog and drizzle.  We warmed up after climbing back up from the lighthouse but quickly chilled down again.
Monterey
On the way to Monterey we chose our route so we would get to drive over the Golden Gate Bridge, It was such an awesome experience to drive over this iconic structure.  We of course found somewhere to stop for photos too.  There are viewpoints either side of the bridge, we stopped at Fort Baker.  Check out Seven Places to Gaze at the Golden Gate Bridge for more locations.
Monterey is a gorgeous seaside town famous for sea lions, the Monterey Bay Aquarium and Cannery Row. Take a stroll along Fisherman’s Wharf and say hello to the sea lions, spend half a day exploring the aquarium and grab some lunch on Cannery Row. The waterfront street was once home to sardine canning factories and has kept much of its old industrial charm. I loved the aquarium and taking photos on Cannery Row, although a little touristy it was nice to soak up the atmosphere.
The Big Sur
This part of Highway 1 is undeniably one of the most stunning drives I have ever done. Rugged coastline, turquoise ocean and miles of open road. This stretch of the drive is pretty remote, forest on one side and coast on the other. *It’s worth noting that part of it is currently closed due to a landslide in 2017. But don’t let this stop you from planning an adventure along the Pacific Coast Highway, it can still be done. Bixby Bridge and McWay Falls are both beautiful must sees, the whole route is just so scenic and a photographers paradise. Plaskett Creek Campground opposite Sand Dollar Beach is a wonderful camping spot. Pitches come with a bench and fire pit. The campground has basic facilities with no showers but it’s worth it to be able to wake up to amazing views and complete silence. There are a whole host of campgrounds and lodges to stop the night at as well as eateries, we loved Big Sur Roadhouse.
If you are driving from the north you can still explore a lot of it and visit the famous natural landmarks dotted along the route. It is currently closed at Ragged Point. Either turn back on yourself or take a detour along Nacimiento-Fergusson Road back onto Highway 101, although the latter may not be the safest route to choose. The road is narrow and winds up through the Santa Lucia Mountain Range. The views are stunning but it is often only wide enough for one car and with a sheer drop off the edge of the road it is definitely not a route for larger vehicles or the faint hearted! We chose to drive back on ourselves and pick up Highway 1 at Monterey.  Check this website for updates on the road closures along the Big Sur: bigsurcalifornia.org
*The Big Sur re-opened in July 2018, two months ahead of schedule, so you can now drive all the way along this epic stretch of road.

Carmel by the Sea
We briefly stopped in Carmel en route to Morro Bay. I adored this up-market seaside town, full of quirky side streets and oldy worldy homes. Clint Eastwood was once the mayor of Carmel, he also used to own the Hog’s Breath Inn, a quirky pub in the town. Don’t miss Carmel Bakery, they make delicious sandwiches and the array of cakes and sweet treats inside are to die for!
Morro Bay
We didn’t have a lot of time to explore Morro Bay as we arrived late afternoon and left early the following morning. We camped at Morro Strand State Beach Campground, overlooking the beach and Morro Rock; it’s a lovely spot. I loved getting cosy by the campfire while watching the waves roll in and waking up to the sounds of the ocean. Being able to step straight onto the beach was awesome and Emily loved hunting for sand dollars.
Carlsbad, Encinitas and Cardiff by the Sea
We spent a lot of time in the Carlsbad area as we stayed with family for Christmas while we were on our road trip. I adore the surfy town of Encinitas, every other person is a surfer and there is a brewpub on every corner. Our favourite was Bier Garden, Baja fish tacos with a beer here while watching the world go by was a real treat! Cardiff has beautiful beaches, the famous Los Olas Mexican restaurant and a campground on a bluff overlooking the ocean.  Carlsbad is a great spot for stand up paddle boarding. We picked up boards at Sun Diego surf shop, first time rental is just $2 for a board and wetsuit. It’s two blocks to the beach so you might need a couple of rest stops on the way but it’s well worth it. We spotted dolphins and seals while on our paddle boards which was amazing to see!
Lake Jennings
The campground at Lake Jennings is another of my favourites, overlooking the lake it’s a peaceful spot with gorgeous views. Around 30 minutes drive east of San Diego the lake is a great base for exploring the city. Reserve a pitch overlooking the water, get the campfire going and relax with a beer in hand.

Packing essentials for camping:
Tea bags: Always at the top of my list for camping, you can’t beat a proper British cuppa!
Torch, tea lights and fairy lights: It’s handy to have a torch to light up your camp at night or to get to the toilets when it’s pitch black. Tea lights and fairy lights are of course optional, but I love making the van and our bench look a bit shabby chic and cosy in the evenings.
Anti-bac hand wipes: Good for cleaning the ‘kitchen surfaces’ and for your hands when cooking. Also a good cheat instead of washing up!
Zip lock bags: Handy for storing open food and keeping your van tidy.
Portable charger: Good for charging your phone, although the Jucy vans have USB ports so you can easily charge on the road.
Although there is ample storage I’d definitely recommend packing as lightly as you can. A lot of privately owned campgrounds often have washing facilities so there is the option to do laundry on the road.

 

There’s nothing like a road trip in a campervan. Having the freedom to go where you like and when you want is the best. Plus being able to stop at anytime along the way with all the essentials in the back is an awesome way to have an adventure. California was made for road trips and Jucy vans are made for exploring!

 

 

Road Tripping with a Baby in California….

*Thanks to JUCY campers for helping Matt, Emily and I make this road trip possible.  Find out more at www.jucyusa.com and follow them on social media @JUCYworld.

 

Roadtripping with a baby in California…in a campervan. It might not be everyone’s idea of fun, but if you plan it right it’s the best way to explore and a fantastic way for kids to enjoy the outdoors.  We’ve done a lot of road trips over the years; our last one with JUCY was back in 2013 in Australia and New Zealand. This trip was a bit different as we now have Emily who is 20 months old. Planning involved choosing shorter drives with more stops and campgrounds with good facilities.  We chose to hire a campervan with JUCY as we had used them before and loved the compact size of their vans.
One thing that I love about JUCY is that they provide everything you could possibly need to camp very comfortably. Pillows, duvets, bed linen and towels are all included as is kitchen utensils, crockery, cutlery and the kitchen sink. Not all camper companies provide all of this. For an extra charge you can hire camping chairs, sat nav, car seats and add-on mileage packages.
The trip didn’t get off to a great start, after landing in San Francisco I received a text from our airline to say our car seat hadn’t made it on our flight. Not good for a road trip! After the initial stress we hatched a plan, rather than wait for it to arrive which would ruin the beginning of our adventure we chose to hire one with JUCY. We found a taxi company who provided car seats to get us to the Jucy branch in Oakland and on arrival explained our problem. The lovely JUCY crew were so accommodating and had so many seats to choose from. At $40 for our whole 19-day trip it was a bargain.
The JUCY Trailblazer Van:
So let me tell you more about our van. We hired the JUCY Trailblazer, its compact size is perfect for winding national park roads and means you can park up anywhere and fit into pretty much any campground you fancy. This seems to be quite a unique concept for America as it’s all about the huge RVs that are the size of buses! We loved the size of this van, it was comfortable to drive and didn’t feel too big. The Trailblazer sleeps four, two in the roof and two in the main part of the camper. Inside the two bench seats convert into a bed and in the floor there is tons of storage space plus a table for use inside the van. The roof pops up with the turn of a handle or with the push of a button and reveals the comfiest double bed with canvas sides. The kitchen is at the back in the boot and comes complete with cupboard space, a chiller, sink and two gas stoves. There is everything you need from cutlery, to pots and pans, crockery and most importantly a kettle for a cuppa and a bottle opener for beer! I should mention the campers also come with DVD players.  Emily and I slept in the main part of the van while Matt had the roof ‘penthouse’ all to himself. This set up worked well and it meant that there was plenty of space for Emily to move around in her sleep!

Useful tips and tricks:
Pick up your van and head straight to a supermarket to stock up on essentials, food, water, baby food, alcohol, (definitely an essential when camping with a toddler!) etc. We found this really useful to do before we set off, that way we knew we had all our supplies with us.
Hire a car seat or take your own, if we hadn’t needed ours for the car journey to and from the airport in the UK I would definitely have just hired it through Jucy.
Be sure to have a good supply of water with you as a lot of campgrounds, especially national park ones don’t have water on site. There are no on site stores either so it’s a good idea to take everything you’ll need with you. If you camp at a private campground that’s not owned by the National Park Service they will often have a camp shop with a few basic supplies.
We booked our campsites in advance but you can often turn up and enquire about availability. Some campgrounds only offer walk up sites while others have to be booked months in advance as they are so popular.
Be flexible, if you don’t have fixed dates, book campgrounds as you go along.  Although now we have Emily we prefer to pre-book, but it’s sometimes fun to change plans and head somewhere different. Our plans altered slightly due to the wildfires in California
I would definitely recommend getting to campgrounds early in the afternoon to get set up and organised.  On a few nights we were racing against the light and nearing Emily’s dinner time so it was sometimes a bit stressful. I struggled to get used to living with Emily in such a small space for the first few days but once we got organised and into a little routine it all worked out perfectly. She had so much fun checking out her new little home and loved exploring the penthouse.
Cooking was really easy, Emily enjoys a lot of finger food so we could whip up a little buffet style meal for her straight from the chiller or use the camping stove to heat up something warm. The kettle came in handy to boil water to heat through her bottles and she loved eating at the bench by the campfire.
We factored in our drives along our route to fit around Emily’s daily nap, which worked out really well.

Packing:
We tried to pack as minimally as we could due to space restrictions in the van, it was made a little bit harder by having to pack for colder conditions in northern California as well as for the sunnier part of our trip further down the coast.  Plenty of private campgrounds do have washing machines so if you pack lightly you should be able to find laundry facilities at some point on your trip.
Some things I couldn’t live without when camping are:
Anti-bac wipes, tea bags, washing up liquid, sponge; snacks for Emily and nappies are all on my essential packing list. I love to have a few things with me before I arrive. Knowing I’ve got tea bags for a decent cuppa is always high on my packing list!
A torch or led lights are perfect for campfire cooking and going to and from the toilet block in the middle of the night.
Zip lock bags are great for storing perishables on the road.
A portable charger for your phone is always a good thing to have. There were USB ports in our Jucy van so we were able to charge phones on the road.

Our favourite campgrounds:
Morro Strand State Beach Bay:  Right on the beach, the facilities are basic and there are no showers but it’s worth it for the views and beach access.  Pitches have a fire pit and bench. We had a pitch overlooking the beach, I loved lying in bed listening to the ocean.
Carpinteria State Beach:  A really nice, clean campsite by the beach, walking distance to a few local shops and a lovely spot for building sand castles.
Lake Jennings Campground:  Around 30 minutes east of San Diego this is a gorgeous campground overlooking the lake. Popular with fishermen it’s a quiet spot. Sites have a bench and fire pit, we chose a really lovely one with fantastic views of the water.  Don’t expect much from the toilet and shower block as it was pretty basic but they were clean and tidy.  The campground also has a play park.
A campervan is perfect for a road trip, choose your route, stop for a cuppa along the way and park up for the night at beach campground.  It’s really easy to do with a baby too, it just involves a little bit more planning and organisation.  We soon got the hang of it and enjoyed exploring at a slower pace than before we had Emily.  There’s nothing quite like having the freedom to explore in a very cool van with everything you could possibly need to have an awesome adventure!
Do you camp or go on road trips with your kids?  Let me know in the comments below, I’d love to hear all about your adventures…

 

Exploring Sequoia National Park…

After a 6 hour drive covering 223 miles from Los Angeles in our very cool Wicked campervan we arrived at Lodgepole campground in Sequoia National Park.  Reaching the park we stopped at the ranger hut and paid the entrance fee.  I was surprised to learn there was a 45 minute drive further to the campground, after such a long drive I thought we had arrived!  The final part of the drive was beautiful though and made up for the fact that I was done with sitting still for so long.  The road got smaller as it started to wind higher and higher up into the park.  Driving through the Giant Forest we got our first sighting of the huge trees that Sequoia is famous for.  At some points on the drive, if you looked down you could see tree trunks below and looking up the trees continued well above the road, just incredible.  We continued driving higher up until we arrived at Lodgepole campground, here at 6720 feet above sea level the air felt fresh and clean.

Pulling up at the ranger hut to check in, I noticed a sign showing that there had been 5 bear break – ins in the campground during the past week.  I had read about black bears in the area and the need to put all food and scented items in a bear proof box 24 hours a day…I was excited and apprehensive all at the same time about stumbling across a bear and this made it feel all the more real, but I still didn’t think that I would actually be lucky enough to have a bear encounter….
Sequoia works hard to make everybody aware of bears with notices in toilets about being careful with rubbish and stickers on bins reading ‘care for bear’.  There is the possibility that if they break into cars they may have to be put down if they become aggressive, by knowing this it made me want to be very conscientious and look after the bears.

We found our pitch amongst the trees, complete with a bench, fire pit with a grate for cooking and a bear box, the rush of the nearby river could be heard in the distance, what a fantastic welcome.  I wasted no time in putting most of my belongings into the bear box just to be on the safe side!  As we settled into our surroundings the light began to fade and the smell of campfires filled the air encouraging us to set up our own.  Lodgepole has a very handy shop within driving distance so we already had our firewood ready to go.  All of a sudden we heard the sound of a car horn followed by banging and someone shouting, Matt and I both looked at each other and said at the same time ‘BEAR!’  Rushing over to where the commotion was happening we heard someone saying it was a mother and baby that had been nearby and we just caught a glimpse of them disappearing into the woodland high above the noisy campers.  If you come across a bear the best thing to do is apparently stand your ground and make as much noise as you can to scare them off.  This explains all the noise we had heard.  I couldn’t believe we were only an hour into our stay and had already had a bear sighting, it finally started to sink in that they really were around us!  Settling back around the campfire I felt a little uneasy peering into the darkness wondering what was watching us.  With nothing but the light from the fire the star trail above was just stunning, laying back on the bench and looking skyward it looked 3D, almost like I could touch each star.  Listening to the distant crackles of campfires made me sleepy and after cooking steak and veggies on the fire we retreated to our cosy van for the night.

The following morning we woke up early and sat planning our day with breakfast and coffee. Matt was having a look down towards the river when all of a sudden a bear appeared and strolled along very near to us.  He or she didn’t seem to notice us, it was such a special moment as with no one else around we were the only ones to see this beautiful creature.  I was not expecting that at breakfast time!

 

With a plan decided we put on our walking boots and jumped into the van.  The first stop was to see General Grant Tree at Grant Grove.  This beauty is the second tallest Sequoia tree in the world at 268 feet high by 108 feet in circumference, it is huge and very difficult to get a photo of the whole thing!  The tallest by the way is the General Sherman Tree also in Sequoia, standing at 274.9 feet.  My advice would be to get to Grant Grove early, we arrived mid morning and it was very busy.  The General Grant Tree Trail is a short paved trail leading past the Fallen Monarch, a giant hollow Sequoia you can walk through from one end to the other and then continues past General Grant.  Interestingly in the 1800s it was used in many different ways from a hotel to a stable for US Cavalry horses.

Next we decided to drive to Buck Rock lookout a fire lookout tower sat up high at 8500 feet.  From what I had read in the Lonely Planet Guide to California it has fantastic views but we didn’t quite make it there….we got to an unpaved road which became very dusty and full of potholes, although it was only a couple of miles to the lookout the potholes were never-ending. So, Matt and I decided to leave the van and attempt to walk the final few miles, but in the midday sun it was just too hot and for some reason I had an uneasy feeling; there was no one else around and I had a bit of paranoia about bears!  We got round a corner and did spot the tower in the distance, it looked incredible perched high up on a rocky outcrop but was just too far in the heat.  There were also huge plumes of smoke from wildfires that were just incredible to witness.  Feeling defeated we reluctantly gave up and missioned back to the van, we hadn’t been walking for that long maybe 45 minutes or so but I was really pleased to see our van!  We found a shady spot for lunch and drove back to Lodgepole where after checking back in to a new pitch (it was so busy I had to reserve two separate sites) we strolled along the gorgeous alpine stream within the campground and had a chilly but refreshing paddle.
The following day it was my birthday, what a novelty it was to wake up in Sequoia, I had bought a few presents and cards with me from home to open too.  With a 5 hour journey ahead of us to San Francisco we were keen to get back on the road but also wanted to make the most of this beautiful National Park, so a birthday hike to Tokopah Falls was on the cards.  Setting off early on the 1.7 mile trail to avoid the heat of the sun the walk started just a stones through from where we had been camping.  Following the river along through the trees watching out for bears, the walk was very varied.  We strolled past alpine meadows, scrambled over rocks and marveled at the huge granite rock formations high above us until we arrived at the falls.  We didn’t see another soul on the journey and were pleased to see the falls that marked the end of the trail and still no one else around.  It really felt quite magical to be the only ones there. We reached the end of the path and clambered down the huge rock face to sit right by the falls, although not as powerful as probably during the winter months it was beautiful to see and sitting back to take in the view from where we had just walked, the valley between the canyon was clear to see.  It was such a birthday treat!  The day got even better as we were walking back we stopped for a glug of water and peered down to the river where we spotted a bear….we watched in silence as it crossed the river and started to walk up the embankment towards the path we had just walked along.  Holding our breath we took a few steps back as it crossed right over the track and into the undergrowth on the other side.  We continued to watch it as it snuffled and foraged.  If it had smelt us it didn’t let on.  Such an awesome sight!

Tips and tricks:
  • The $35 entrance pass into Sequoia lasts for 7 days.
  • I made an online reservation for Lodgepole campground before arriving which was $22 a night.
  • Fuel up when you can as fuel stations can be few and far between, Stony Creek Village had fuel pumps.
  • There was pretty much no phone service in the park, if you are desperate Stony Creek Lodge had free WiFi.
  • Lodgepole has a well-equipped shop, make sure you buy your firewood there and don’t bring it in from somewhere else, this helps to prevent the spread of disease.
  • There are coin operated showers at the visitor centre in Lodgepole, make sure you’ve got some quarters handy!
I loved everything about camping in Sequoia, the sights, the smells, and the sounds. Sequoia National Park is perhaps overlooked compared to others such as Yosemite, I had not heard of it until I started researching.  I also read how busy Yosemite can get during the summer so I opted for Sequoia instead.  Give it a go, believe me you won’t be disappointed.
For a round-up of our California road trip take a look at my previous post: Camping in California with Wicked Campers and more to do in Sequoia: 9 things to do in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park.
It was back into the mystery machine and onto the next adventure, San Francisco and the Big Sur…

 

Camping in California with Wicked Campers…

Ad: Matt and I were given a discount by Wicked on our campervan in exchange for this blog post.
What could be better than hitting the open road in your own campervan?  Having a kitchen and bed right there on the road with you means you are totally independent and free to explore…
This is exactly what Matt and I got up to in August in California; a collaboration with Wicked Campers saw us pick up an awesome van ‘Mystery Machine’ from their depot in Los Angeles.  With its eye-catching artwork it got a lot of attention!  We chatted to so many people, families would ask for photos next to it and people would wave to us on highways, it felt like we were famous!  Let me tell you a little bit more about our beauty of a camper, it was a GMC Safari two-seater and around 16ft in length so it wasn’t too intimidating to drive.  The ‘kitchen’, found at the rear of the van came complete with a sink, cool box, storage units full of utensils, pans, crockery, cutlery and a gas burner.  Initially I was a bit sceptical as to whether the cool box would keep all our food chilled.  We bought ice every two days to put in it and it did the job brilliantly so there was no need to worry about warm beers and burgers!  During the day the van could be used as a seating area with bench seats and with ample storage under the seats it allowed all our gear to be hidden away.  There was a table for indoor and outdoor use and two outdoor chairs, perfect for sitting next to the campfire.  At night the seats turned into a large comfy bed.  Bedding isn’t provided (something worth remembering if you have a travel budget) having said that at the depot there was a free shelf to help yourself to with all sorts of left over goodies.  We found a kettle, perfect for making cups of tea.  There was also bedding and pillows from previous owners, although we chose to stop off at a Target to buy pillows, a sheet and a sleeping bag which we unzipped to make into a duvet for two.  Cosy.

At the time of picking up the van we chose to hire a Sat Nav as an extra add-on.  I had bought a massive map but for an extra $5 a day it seemed like a no brainer, and we were right as getting out of LA proved a bit of a challenge…we were very grateful for it.
In my previous blog Planning for a Californian Road Trip I mentioned how much I was looking forward to cooking on a campfire.  This lived up to my expectations and much more, it chilled down a bit in the evenings so a fire was the perfect way to keep warm and such a great way to experience our surroundings.
We drove just under 1000 miles in eight days and stayed at five different campgrounds with lots of stops in between.  Starting with two nights in Sequoia National Park, followed by two nights near San Francisco and finished up with three nights along the Big Sur.

California road trip

 

Campground information:
We stayed at….

 

Lodgepole Campground
This lovely campground is right in Sequoia National Park.  Facilities included a shop, cafe and coin operated showers within driving distance from our pitch.  Some tent pitches are right by the Kaweah River and there is a great walk to Tokopah Falls within the campground.  Lodgepole is in a great location to see all the sites of Sequoia.  Each pitch had a bench, fire pit and bear box.
Here’s some more on Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park:
Exploring Sequoia National Park
9 Things to do in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park

 

San Francisco RV Resort
In the seaside town of Pacifica, within easy walking distance of shops and restaurants and very easy to get into San Francisco; 30 minute bus journey to Daly City followed by 20 minutes on the train.  As it sounds, this is a big RV park and we were the smallest RV by about 20ft!  It isn’t that pretty to look at but is situated on a bluff with ocean views, free showers, laundry facilities and a pool.

 

Sunset Sate Beach Campground
Hidden behind sand dunes we weren’t too sure about this campground when we first arrived, the pitches were a bit close together and dusty but we learnt to love it.  The beach was a steep hike over the sand dunes but worth the trek, it felt pretty wild and watching dolphins gracefully play in the waves was brilliant!  The family next door to us were lovely offering us firewood and inviting us to join them on the beach for a sunset barbecue.  Our pitch had a bench and fire pit, there were coin operated showers and plug sockets.

 

Plaskett Creek Campground
Found at the southern end of Big Sur, at the time of staying this campground only portaloos as the toilets weren’t in use!  I don’t know for definite but I am assuming this was because of the drought, which was going on at the time of our trip.  It wasn’t great but by that point we were pretty used to living out of our van so didn’t let it effect us, you can either be positive about these things and just get on with it or choose to ruin your trip by being miserable about it!  We took the positive slant and had a great stay here.  Each pitch had a bench and fire pit.  Just over the road is the beautiful Sand Dollar Beach.
Here’s my favourite things to see and do along the Big Sur:
9 Things to do on the Big Sur

 

Carpinteria State Beach Campground
Lovely, clean and right on the beach, we could step straight onto the sand from our pitch!  The beach had coin operated showers and plug sockets. This was our last night in the van and it couldn’t have been in a better place to end it.  We watched seals play in the ocean and had prosecco (we are such posh campers!) while watching the sunset.  Waking up during the night to the sounds of the waves was wonderful too.

 

Useful things to know:
Firewood – Plaskett Creek and Sunset State beach campgrounds had a ‘camp host’ who lived on site, buy firewood from them instead of buying wood from elsewhere, this helps prevent the spread of disease.
Water – Most of the campgrounds we stayed at had potable water facilities, although we always made sure we had enough with us.
Site full – I mentioned in my previous blog post about booking campgrounds well in advance for the summer season as at peak times everywhere gets fully booked.  I was so pleased I had reserved pitches, as each site we turned up at was already full.  Definitely something to bear in mind when planning a camping trip in California during the summer season.
Fuel – Fuel up when you can as there were limited gas stations in Sequoia and along the Big Sur.  A lot of the gas stations have a pay at pump machine, I found that my UK credit card would not always work in these but I quickly learnt that you can prepay in the gas station up to the amount you need.  If you fill up under the amount then your card only charges to the amount you used.
We had a fantastic road trip and loved the quirkiness of our camper, it was so comfy to sleep in and the kitchen had everything we needed to be self-sufficient on the road.  It’s not everyday you wake up to watching the sunrise over the ocean from your bed or have the ability to pull over on the side of the Big Sur for a 30 minute nap in your bed! (and get woken up by a Mexican family queuing up outside to have photos next to your van!!)
More California camping and road trip adventures coming up shortly…

 

Somewhere on the Big Sur

Planning for a Californian road trip…

Matt and I are jumping on a flight tomorrow to Los Angeles for a road trip and camping adventure in California. We are looking to get back to nature with two nights in Sequoia National Park, followed by some city adventures for two nights near San Francisco on my birthday and then onto the Pacific Coast Highway for some sun and surf.  We are following the coastal road all the way back down to Los Angeles stopping off along the Big Sur on the way.

California road trip

We are very excited to be collaborating with campervan hire company Wicked.  You can’t miss their vans covered in cool artwork.  I am looking forward to reporting back about the van and the adventures we have along the way!
While researching the trip I realised that we would be in California during high season and booking campsites well in advance was a good plan as I found that the popular sites especially beach front ones were fully booked a few months ago!  Of course many sites don’t have reservations and operate on a first come first serve basis, but as we are only there for a short time I decided I would book in advance rather than worry about where we were going to stay on the day.  We have done it this way before in Australia and New Zealand though and it was easy peasy to just turn up.
We are staying in a mixture of privately owned campsites, National Parks and State Beach campgrounds.  Privately owned campsites are great for shower and laundry facilities.  National park ones are perfect for going back to basics and being at one with nature, often with limited facilities and sometimes no showers.  The bonus though is that many of them allow campfires, which I really can’t wait for.  The type of van we are using has a ‘kitchen’ in the boot so cooking outside while the sunsets will feel like such a novelty, the weather looks set to be warm and sunny too.
For reserving National Park and State beach campsites I used Reserve America and Recreation.gov.  Both are good for trip planning and show current alerts in the parks.  One thing I was surprised to learn about was a black bear warning for the campground I booked in Sequoia National Park.  Each pitch comes with a bear proof box and all food, toiletries and anything that has a scent or odour must be placed inside so as not to attract the bears!  I am slightly apprehensive and excited at the same time!  I would love to see a bear but not too close to our van!  Back to the research, Nomadic Matt has some useful blogs on road tripping in America and a good old-fashioned map and Lonely Planet guide to California have also been vital in planning this trip.
Camping essentials:
From previous camping trips abroad I have discovered a few very useful items that are easy to pack and save a bit of hassle on arrival at your destination…
Anti-bac wipes – I’m a bit of a clean freak so these are perfect for campervan cleaning and also good for cheating on the washing up!
Head torch – A very useful camping tool, especially for finding your way to the toilet in the middle of the night…
Re-sealable bags – Good for storing opened food and anything else you might need to store.
Power pack or car charger – A necessity for charging camera batteries or phones on the road.
Tea bags – Being an English girl I need a good cuppa!
Washing tablets – I hate having to spend on things like this when I’m away!
We will be covering around 1000 miles in 8 days; Check back for my adventures, photos and van stories coming very soon…if anyone has any suggestions on places to stop and things to see I’d love to hear them…

Filthy Fox Camping Product Review…

Ad: I was gifted the products by Filthy Fox in exchange for this review.
I love camping, so when the lovely people at Filthy Fox, a very cool company specialising in festival gear and camping equipment asked me to review some of their products I jumped at the chance.  With a trip down to Cornwall on the cards I thought it would be the perfect place for test driving some camping essentials.
Here’s what I thought…
Neon headlight
A head torch is a very useful bit of kit when camping, if there is no source of light then this is my number one go to. It has a trusty little clip so can be attached to almost anything.  There is also a strap to wear around your head, useful when you don’t want to hold it.  The headlight has three different settings: bright, slightly dimmer and an intermittent flashing ‘SOS’ option.  (Or if you are at a festival perhaps a disco light!)  It comes in yellow or pink and is very practical.
Dry shampoo
This is my trusty go to when on the road and even when not camping for that matter.  It is perfect for giving your hair an extra days cleanliness before you need to wash it, something that is not always easy when camping.  It is great if like me you have a fringe, spray it on, give your hair a rub and then brush it out and hey presto your hair looks instantly fresher.  It gets a big thumbs up from me.
Anti bacterial wipes
These are brilliant for feeling fresh and are useful in lots of different situations.  One is to avoid washing up!  Of course it should only be used as a temporary measure but a quick wipe over of plates and mugs is much easier than washing up in the rain in a muddy campsite!

Enamel camping mugs
I love the classic look of these mugs, I always drink copious amounts of hot drinks when I’m camping, as you can see from the photo an afternoon coffee to warm up and a scrummy Viennese Whirl worked very well in the campervan.

 
Camping chair
I absolutely adore these chairs, functional, pretty and very comfy!  Complete with a handy cup holder, they fold down and fit neatly into their own carry bag.  Light weight and very reasonably priced the ‘raindrop’ camping chair is a must when camping or at a festival.
 
Rechargeable festival radio
These days it’s all about playing music on your phone but there is nothing quite like a good old radio especially if you want to save battery life on your phone.  What’s more the radio is solar powered, so as long as it’s light you will have music.  But fear not, if the sun isn’t shining then there is also a wind up handle.  One minute of winding equals twenty minutes of radio time.  It is easy to pack and store due to its small size and the speaker has a great sound output.  I love this tiny radio!

017_Filthy Fox

 
Emergency charger
Preserving phone life is very important and plug sockets don’t tend to be easily available if you are in the middle of a field, so this emergency charger is an absolute genius.  Small and compact it is easy to carry and will bring your phone back to life when you need it.  Don’t forget to charge it before you go away though.  It comes with a USB lead so it can charge not just phones, but all sorts of other gadgets too.

From tents, to wellies, to waterless shampoo Filthy Fox have got all sorts of goodies.  With spring time just around the corner make sure you check them out for your next festival or camping trip.

Cheers 2014….you’ve been a good’un!

It feels like this year has gone by very quickly so I thought I would take a look back and jot down all my trips and travel highlights from 2014.  As well as travelling further afield this year it’s been wonderful to have done some trips within the UK.  It might sound strange but exploring closer to home without jumping on a plane has felt like such a novelty, especially as I am on an aircraft most days when I am working.  Many of these trips have also been with friends, I have loved sharing adventures with those closet to me.
If you would like to read more on each trip click on the links within the text to see the full blog posts….

 

Port Isaac, Cornwall:

The year started off with a long weekend away in Cornwall with friends.  We stayed in the tiny seaside village of Port Isaac and hired a cottage right on the harbour front.  I loved waking up to the smell of salty sea air and watching the waves roll in with a cup of tea in hand.  The weekend consisted of blustery cliff top walks, cosy cups of tea by the fire in our cottage, cream teas, Cornish pasties and plenty of cider….bliss!

 

The Big Green Bus, Sussex:

2014 is the year I turned thirty, to celebrate I stayed on a bus in the Sussex countryside.  On the face of it I know that might sound slightly odd but this was no ordinary bus.  The Big Green Bus featured on Channel 4 television series George Clarke’s Amazing Spaces and is fully converted with two double bedrooms, bunk beds, lounge, galley kitchen and bathroom with hot water. Adam the owner has turned this old double-decker workhorse into the most amazing glamping retreat and has kept lots of the original features of the bus such as the drivers cab.  At the same time he has turned it into a cosy and unique space to relax in.  The log burner added marvellously to this!

 

Beach Hut 1, Shaldon:

Matt also turned thirty in April and as a surprise I booked a stay in a beach hut.  Just like our stay on the bus this was no ordinary beach hut and also featured on George Clarke’s Amazing Spaces.  The compact, bijou hut found on the shoreline in the quaint seaside village of Shaldon in Devon is one of a kind.  It screamed luxury from all its tiny corners.  Under floor heating, bi-folding doors opening up on to a private terrace with beach access and the cosy bedroom up in the roof completed this quirky little abode.  Glamping in style!

 

Work Trips:

I am so lucky that I get to incorporate my passion for travel in to my day job working as cabin crew for a British airline.  This year on work trips I have bought souvenirs in the markets of Mauritius and cycled along the Bermuda railway trail.  I’ve shopped in Orlando, been on a road trip and visited a shooting range.  I have paddle boarded, surfed and watched the sunset in Barbados, canoed in Antigua and sunbathed in St Lucia.  I’ve shopped in the south of France for sparkling cider, fresh bread and smelly cheese and explored the tiny streets of the old town in Nice.  I have blogged from a hotel roof top with a freshly squeezed orange juice and incredible views of the Mediterranean below.  Closer to home I have eaten ice cream on the beach in Jersey and cycled along the shoreline from St Helier to St Aubin, eaten a Scottish breakfast in Glasgow with my brother and walked along the Royal Mile up to the castle in Edinburgh….

 

Camping trips in the UK:

A trip in our campervan to Polzeath in Cornwall in July meant surfing, sunset barbeques and cider drinking at a beach pub.  (I think I have a theme running here!)  Closer to home Matt and I discovered that we could camp on the beach front on Hayling Island, a seaside town 10 minutes drive from us.  We have not had the opportunity to go away in our campervan as much as we would have liked this year due to work commitments so we grabbed this idea with open arms.  One sunny Friday we spent the day on the beach swimming, followed by a barbeque and camping under the stars listening to the waves roll in.  It was such a novelty to be able to do this so close to home!

 

Centre Parcs, Longleat:
Following on with the thirty theme my best friend organised a trip for her big day to Centre Parcs in Longleat Forest.  It was a fantastic weekend and a very active one, we cycled, played tennis, jogged around the lake, walked in the woods, ate pancakes and went mad in the rapids.  I love trips away with friends.

 

Australia, New Zealand and Bangkok:

Matt and I flew to Australia at the end of August to see two of our dearest friends get married, in between fighting jet lag we paddle boarded in Noosa and ate breakfast on the beach, took photos of incredible views in the Glass House Mountains and admired waterfalls.  We drank prosecco in Sydney harbour with magnificent views of the Harbour Bridge and the Opera House too. While in Sydney I met up with Jayne Gorman, a fantastic travel blogger who recently moved down under.  Jayne has a wonderful way with words and really inspires me.  I love reading her posts on Girl Tweets World, check it out, you won’t be disappointed!
From Australia we flew to New Zealand where we hired a campervan and crammed all sorts of adventures into a ten-day road trip.  This included snowboarding, camping by crystal clear lakes and a helicopter tour over the west coast glaciers.  We drove for miles without coming across another person, ate porridge to warm up in the mornings, and became mesmerised by Milford Sound.  Another highlight was seeing glow worms shining brightly deep underground in a cave by Lake Te Anau.  We were perched in a small boat in the pitch black on an underground lake, amazing!  New Zealand has the most incredible scenery I have ever come across from lakes, to mountains, glaciers to rainforest, ocean and miles of open road, it was a stunning!  For more New Zealand adventures click on the link here: 10 day road trip itinerary South Island New Zealand.
Leaving New Zealand behind we celebrated our fourth wedding anniversary in the air en route to Bangkok.  This was our third visit to this buzzing city, I just love it!  We climbed up a temple, drank beer while watching the world go by on Koh San Road, sipped coconut water through straws, bought souvenirs on Rambuttri Street and most randomly of all did a wheelie in a tuk tuk, something I have never experienced before!  But, that’s a whole other story in itself!

 

I have been lucky enough to work with some great brands and companies through my freelance work this year, I am hoping to expand even more in 2015.  My new years resolution is to also write more of my own personal blogs, this is something I love doing but with a full-time job I often struggle to keep up with it.  On that note one of my favourite posts this year was my interview with author Lucy Clarke.  Her two books The Sea Sisters and A Single Breath have gripping storylines and include themes of travel and the ocean.  I can’t recommend them enough, they are the perfect holiday companions.  I’m really looking forward to her third book in 2015.
My travel plans so far for 2015 include a cosy winter break in Fowey in Cornwall, a road trip on the west coast of America, and hopefully a trip to Iceland.  Matt and I are also in the process of moving house so I’m sure that will keep us busy for the first few months of the year.  Who knows what the rest of the 2015 will bring, but I am looking forward to it.
What have been your favourite travel moments of 2014 and what are your travel plans for 2015?  I would love to hear them…
Happy New Year and I hope 2015 brings you lots of exciting travel opportunities….
 

Australia and New Zealand video edit with Jucy Campers…

Ad: Matt and I worked in collaboration with Jucy campers and were given our van in exchange for blog and video content.
I mentioned in my last post 10 day road trip itinerary South Island New Zealand that I would share the links to the work we did for Jucy, a campervan company that Matt and I collaborated with while we were in Australia and New Zealand, so here’s an awesome edit put together by Matt…