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

 

 

What to pack for a glamping trip in the UK…

Us Brits are well known for talking a lot about the weather. This is because it can be so unpredictable, March can be good for sunbathing while August might bring torrential rain. We often experience all the seasons in one day too. So when it comes to packing for a glamping trip in the UK it can be tricky to know exactly what type of weather to pack for. Plus this type of adventure means you may need to pack lightly as your chosen accommodation could be tight on space. I've put together a handy list to help you get to grips with what to pack for a glamping trip in the UK.
Glamping:
Glamping is a more luxurious style of camping. I've stayed in some really cool glamping spots, a bus, a Shepherd's hut, a safari tent and campervans. Some have been more luxurious than others but they've all had the same theme: a unique place to stay whilst embracing the beautiful outdoors. It might not be everyone's cup of tea, especially if you aren't used to having to get up in the middle of the night and venture out to the bathroom like the Shepherd's hut I stayed in. But there are so many styles of glamping now from budget to extravagant there's something to suit everyone.
What clothes to pack:
  • Layers: for the ever-changeable weather you'll need t-shirts, long sleeved tops and jumpers for chilly evenings.
  • Leggings: I always pack leggings for relaxing in after a long day out exploring the local area.
  • Footwear: If it's the summer I pack flip flops and converse for the day and Ugg boots/warm shoes for sitting outside at night. If your accommodation is in a field and its been raining you might want to think about packing wellies.
  • Warm jacket: If you have a fire pit then you'll definitely want to be sitting outside under the stars - even in the middle of the summer the evenings can get chilly in the UK so pack a jacket.
  • Big socks: I love being cosy!
  • You might want to pack spare towels for the beach.
Other essentials:
  • Dry shampoo: If there's no electricity your hair dryer and straighteners will need to stay at home. If it's just a few days then I find that dry shampoo is my saviour.
  • Portable charger: Again if there's no electricity take one of these for charging phones and laptops. I just bought this nifty little one for charging phones it has enough juice to do 5 charges: Duracell Portable Power Bank.
  • A small mirror: You may have a bathroom with mirror in your accommodation but if not I always find packing my own mirror is essential for doing hair and make up.
  • Board games: If you can fit it in a game of scrabble is perfect for rainy evenings.
  • Fairy lights: Add a bit of cosy lighting to your setting.
  • Logs: If you have a log burner or fire pit you may need to buy logs. Check with your accommodation as wood may be supplied.
  • Torch: If lighting is limited it's always handy to have your own.
  • Batteries: For the fairy lights and torch.
  • Matches: They may already be provided so double check this.
Food:
Check what kitchen facilities are available before you go and if there is a welcome pack. Depending on your budget most kitchen essentials will be provided which means you can keep your packing list down.
  • Make a chilli before you go - perfect glamping food, easy to re-heat.
  • Buy essentials: Milk, bread, teabags etc.
  • I always take zip lock bags with me, as they are perfect for keeping open food airtight.
  • Marshmallows for the for the fire pit.
I hope this has given a bit of an insight into packing for a glamping trip in the UK. I'd love to hear what glamping adventures you have planned. Let me know in the comments below.
Happy Glamping!

 

My favourite UK Glamping spots:
Warmwell House Huts
Big Green Bus
Shaldon Beach Hut No. 1
For more on my Glamping adventures in the UK head here:
Glamping in Dorset
All Aboard the Big Green Bus
Beach Hut Living
Unique Places to stay in the UK
For Glamping further afield: The Ultimate Glamping Retreat in Bali

 

 

 

Travel Hammock Review…

Relaxing with a book in my travel hammock
When Cool Hammocks asked me to review their *travel hammock I racked my brains for a good spot to do this. Then I realised that as I live in the New Forest the answer was literally on my doorstep. So with a book and my hammock packed in my rucksack I went in search of a good spot to relax in. I chose Wilverley Inclosure as it’s always a nice place for a walk and a peaceful place for chilling in a hammock….

 

About the hammock:
The travel hammock comes in a variety of colours, blue, camouflage, lime and pink. I chose the blue. It rolls up to a really small size, great if you are packing light for a camping trip and to save on space when travelling. If it gets dirty it can be hand washed and is super lightweight.

 

How it works:
Having not put up a hammock before I was a little concerned as to how I would get on with it. But once I found some trees to attach it to it was really simple. Unroll it and then fasten it with the integrated ropes and hooks. The ropes are fully adjustable so wind them around a tree a few times and then fix with the hooks. That is literally it, fast and simple to use.

 

What I thought:
Having not owned my own hammock before I was really impressed. It was easy to put up and comfortable for relaxing in. I love how small it folds down and will definitely take it on my next camping trip.  It’s the perfect accessory for adventurers, even if you don’t plan to go any further than your back garden! To purchase your own travel hammock head to Cool Hammocks.

 

How to find my perfect hammock spot:
If you are planning a weekend in the New Forest and want to re-create your own chilled hammock vibes then stop at Wilverley Inclosure to find your spot. It’s a ten-minute drive from Brockenhurst and Burley. The Inclosure itself has a nice 2-mile round walk through ancient woodland. When you want to stop, find some trees and hang the hammock at a distance of roughly two thirds the length of the hammock. A hanging height of 6-8ft should do nicely. Finally, pick up your book and don’t forget the beer! Hammocks are permitted for use in the forest as long as they don’t damage the trees or endanger livestock.
To spend more time and explore this beautiful area why not stay over night at a campsite. There are ten in total in the New Forest, the nearest one to Wilverley is Setthorns. In the heart of the forest it’s in a gorgeous, secluded location just right for pitching up a tent and daydreaming in a hammock. Head to Camping in the Forest for more information.

 

*I was gifted my travel hammock in exchange for this review. As ever all opinions are my own.*

 

 

 

Unique places to stay in the UK….

Shaldon Beach Hut No.1 - one of my favourite unique places to stay in the UK

Unique places to stay in the UK

I love exploring my home country and seeking out unique and unusual accommodation is top of my list when I’m researching a trip. Although small the UK has some awesome places to stay. I’m a huge fan of camping and glamping but I also love staying in a classy hotel.  So I thought I would list down my favourite places to stay in the UK and explain what makes them unique. Read on for some inspiration on a staycation with a difference…

 

The Big Green Bus, East Sussex

This awesome bus needs no introduction on what makes it unique.  Matt and I stayed on the bus for my 30th birthday with friends, we had the best time!  Parked up in the Sussex countryside the Big Green Bus has been converted into a cosy retreat.  It sleeps six, with two double beds and bunk beds upstairs, has a fully-fitted kitchen, bathroom, lounge area and an outdoor heated shower (there’s also a shower inside.) The lounge has a log burner and there are all sorts of original bus fittings. Upstairs the front area is decked out with original seats and a collection of books; it was the perfect place to chill out with a glass of prosecco or two.  Outside there is a campfire and a wood fired hot tub for hire. This has to be one of the most unique places to stay in the UK!  Read more on my glamping trip on the bus here: All aboard the Big Green Bus: glamping in East Sussex.

 

 

Shaldon Beach Hut No. 1

I loved staying in this dreamy little beach hut.  Nestled on the shoreline of the Teign Estuary in Shaldon with direct access to the beach it is the prefect retreat from the world.  The beach hut is compact as you would expect but it is perfectly formed.  Inside is a galley kitchen, bathroom, lounge with a sofa bed, under floor heating and a lovely mezzanine level with a comfy mattress.  Bi-folding doors open out onto a private terrace overlooking the beach and steps leading onto the sand.  On a sunny day it’s a beautiful spot to sit, read and watch the world go by.  Shaldon is a tiny village in Devon full of west country charm.  There’s plenty to explore and gorgeous beaches too.  I wrote a post all about it: Beach Hut Living…

 

 

Hollies Cottage, Cheddar

This cottage in Somerset has to be one of the cosiest places I’ve stayed in on my list of unique places to stay in the UK. Matt, Emily and I had a lovely long weekend in Cheddar, Somerset for New Years Eve in 2016.  This quaint cottage had an open fire in the lounge and a spiral staircase leading up to the bedroom.  Drinking champagne by the fire on New Years Eve while watching fireworks out of the window at midnight was a lovely way to see in the New Year.  The cottage location is fantastic, it was very quiet but just what we wanted.  Along the road from the cottage sits The Cider Barn, full of west country cider and lovely locals.  Cheddar Gorge and caves is a 10 minute drive along the road and the gorgeous beaches of Weston-super-Mare only a 40 minute drive.

 

 

White House Cottage, Port Isaac

I have never stayed anywhere like Port Isaac, the picture perfect Cornish village is like no other.  Made famous by the popular TV series Doc Martin, it can get very busy during the summer months.  But during the winter months it’s a quiet and tranquil place to stay.  There is no parking in Port Isaac itself so you have to park on the outskirts and take a short walk down into the village.  We stayed in White House Cottage a few steps away from ‘Doc Martin’s House’ on Roscarrock Hill.  There is no parking with the house so it was a bit of trek to the car park but when you have views as lovely as in Port Isaac it really doesn’t matter.  White House Cottage had beautiful views of the harbour and Port Isaac itself from its elevated position on the hill. Turn left out of the house and follow the narrow road up onto the South West Coast Path, beautiful views and stunning walks are literally on the doorstep.  Port Isaac itself has some gorgeous shops, cosy pubs and cafes to buy an obligatory Cornish pasty or cream tea.  Tiny alleyways and quaint fishing houses all add to the charm of this stunning Cornish retreat.  For more on what to do in and around Port Isaac click here: Port Isaac, the ultimate Cornish Retreat…

 

 

Hotel du Vin, Poole

Boutique hotels with unique rooms are what a stay at Hotel du Vin are all about.  Matt and I stayed in the Poole hotel for his birthday, it was a gorgeous mini-break.  Our room was so stylish and featured a roll top bath in the centre of the room.  I loved the attention to detail and the way the room was in keeping with the building which dates back to 1776.  On the quayside in Poole Harbour it’s in a fantastic location for exploring this lovely area of the south coast.  Hop on a ferry to Brownsea Island or visit the upmarket area of Sandbanks. Hotel du Vin often have some great deals, we reserved a room which included dinner and breakfast.  The evening meal was so delicious and a sommelier to help pair our wine with our meal was a very nice touch.  A weekend in Poole, Dorset has all the details of our dreamy weekend escape.

 

 

A campervan

If you’ve read any of my other posts you’ll know I love a road trip, especially if it’s in a campervan.  Matt and I used to own a Mazda Bongo campervan and had some awesome adventures.  We went to Scotland, Wales, Dorset and spent a lot of time in Devon and Cornwall camping in some beautiful places.  We also camped closer to home on the beach on Hayling Island once and drank rum and coke until the early hours!  I loved having a campervan, having the freedom to go where you want, park up in a beach car park and have a cuppa while doing a surf check and having a few beers in the evening by a fire pit…there’s nothing better!  One of my all time favourites to camp at is Incledon Farm.  Being a working farm you often find a chicken or farm cat strolling by your van or tent.  Incledon Farm is in a tiny place called Georgham, just along the road from Croyde in Devon.  It’s a short drive to all the nearby surfing spots and a lovely spot for camping. As far as unique places to stay in the UK goes a campervan is at the top of my list. It is perfect for a staycation with a difference, choose where and when you stop and explore the open road.  If you are planning a road trip in the south west  The Cornwall Camper Company have some awesome vintage VW campers available to hire.

 

 

Beach Retreat, Milford on Sea

Owned by my parents the Beach Retreat started life as a garage, my Mum and Dad have turned it into a stunning one bedroom apartment.  Light, airy and full of seaside charm they have done a wonderful job and created a perfect little place for two to relax by the sea.  It has its own private entrance and parking and comes with a lovely little welcome pack of coffee,tea, milk, scones and jam.  Located a short walk from the seafront in Milford on Sea and a 10 minute walk to the village centre it’s a fantastic place for a break on the outskirts of the New Forest.

 

 

The Snug, Lymington

The Snug can be found in the old market town of Lymington on the edge of the New Forest. It is a cosy, boutique townhouse which has been lovingly restored and really lives up to its name. Full of character from the Belfast sink in the kitchen to the fireplace in the lounge, it’s a luxurious little bolthole for up to four people. The bathroom is an Instagrammers dream with a roll top bath and metro tiles, it has been finished to perfection.  All the small details have been thought of too, the gorgeous New Forest Aromatics products all produced locally add the finishing touch to the bathroom and the welcome pack full of local goodies is such a treat! A stones throw from the High Street, the cobbles and the quay the location couldn’t be better.

 

 

Have you stayed anywhere unusual in the UK? If so, let me know in the comments below. I’m always looking for somewhere unique to stay….

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…

 

A weekend in the Purbecks, Dorset…

I love exploring locally; sometimes I think it’s easy to forget what’s on the doorstep.  So having had withdrawal symptoms from campervan living in California and with the weekend free, Matt and I decided to head to the Purbecks in our van for a mini adventure.  The Isle of Purbeck or the Purbecks for short is nestled nicely on the Jurassic coast in Dorset.  A UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2001 the Jurassic Coast got its name due to its impressive geology….and runs for 95 miles all the way to Devon.  You can actually walk the whole thing along the South West Coast Path.
We stayed at Burnbake campsite near Corfe Castle.  The campsite does not take reservations and there are no marked pitches so turn up, pick a spot that takes your fancy and that’s it!  The campground has a small shop on site, a toilet and shower block, washing up facilities, laundry room and a pop up café with a tent and log burner.  The cafe serves up a great English breakfast for £5.  The cost was £12 per night for one adult with a tent and car or campervan plus £6 per extra person.  Burnbake allows campfires but they must be contained, we hired a fire pit for £4 and bought logs from the shop, perfect!

 

Worth Matravers was at the top of my list of places to visit.  It is a tiny village full of Purbeck stone cottages, a duck pond, tea rooms and the Square and Compass pub.  From there we followed the coastal path to Winspit quarry on the edge of the cliffs.  It is very popular with climbers and also has some very dark, eerie caves to explore.  We continued along to the National Coastwatch Institution lookout station and St Aldhelm’s Chapel.  This 13th century chapel is still in use today and has very old graffiti on the stone walls inside, some of which from what I could make out were from the 16th century!  This lovely walk was around 5 – 6 miles and only one thing was on our mind on the way back…a cider and pasty at the Square and Compass.  We made it back to Worth Matravers and went straight to the pub for our well-earned treats!  I love the fact that this pub only serves pies and pasties, so simple!  It also randomly has a small fossil museum inside, a great showcase of all the amazing fossils and artefacts uncovered along this magnificent stretch of coast.
A Sunday stop off at Lulworth Cove and lunch at the Lulworth Cove Inn was a nice way to finish the weekend before heading home.  This perfect horse shoe shaped bay has crystal clear turquoise water and is beautiful all year round.  There are some fantastic walks along the cliff top from the cove, we just had enough time to go on my favourite stroll to Durdle Door before we said goodbye.
More things to do in Dorset...
Corfe Castle, towering high above the village of Corfe this is a great place to stop for a photo opportunity, we didn’t have time to climb up but I loved seeing the imposing ruins on the drive to and from the campsite.
Poole harbour is another great spot for exploring, having lunch or for a weekend break.  We stayed at Hotel du Vin right in the harbour for Matt’s birthday earlier this year: A weekend in Poole, Dorset.  The sun was shining and a lovely boat trip around Brownsea Island rounded off the weekend nicely.
Swanage has a steam railway, which travels 6 miles from Swanage to Norden, one of the stops on the line is Corfe Castle, this would make for a great day out.  Buy a day ticket or spend an evening dining on it,  I’ve not had the chance to go on it yet but I would love to experience the dining train.
Dorset has the prefect mixture for adventure with coast, valleys, rugged cliff tops and tiny village hideaways to explore.  There is so much to do in this beautiful area I still need to go back for more!

 

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.