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Melbourne and Bendigo

Before going ashore at Port Melbourne we called in to the on board  help desk and enquired about our caravan parking options,  while we spent the day in the city. Although the lady helping was lovely  we were basically told, “good luck with that!” and sent on our merry way.

This didn’t fill us with much optimism, so we could hardly believe it when we came across street side parking, within a few hundred metres of the port. It was still dark so Paul and I both hopped out of the car to see if there were any ‘no parking signs’. A local man, walking his dog, went past so I asked him if he knew if parking there was ok. He noticed that we were from WA and struck up a conversation that ended with him inviting us  to have breakfast at his place! We were keen to get into the city so didn’t take him up on his offer but are still struck with the kindness he showed.

After determining that we could park there (and for free too) we took a short walk to the tram stop and headed into the city for some breakfast. It had been decided that Ben & Paul were going to go on a tour at the MCG (Melbourne Cricket Ground), while the rest of us spent some time in the city. The tour didn’t start for a couple of hours so we all did the touristy thing at Federation Square and Flinders Street Station before separating for a few hours.

Signing some artwork in Federation Square

Signing some artwork in Federation Square

Flinders Street Station

Flinders Street Station

Reardon, Emma and I did our own walking tour around Melbourne City, including visiting China Town and the South Melbourne Markets where they got to go on a treasure hunt, locating various stalls within the markets to receive some goodies. One of which was a pansy each that we then lovingly nurtured for the next few weeks as we criss-crossed Victoria!  I would have loved to have gone to the famous Queen Victoria Markets but typically they are closed on Mondays and Wednesdays which were the only two days that we were in Melbourne!

Enjoying the colours at the Town Hall

Enjoying the colours at the Town Hall

The loot from the treasure hunt!

The loot from the treasure hunt!

Chinatown

Chinatown

Paul and Ben really enjoyed the tour which cost $30 for Paul and $15 for Ben for a combined tour of the MCG as well as the National Sports Museum (NSM), which is housed underneath the MCG. They were able to go into the members lounge and the top-tier of the grandstand as well as take a walk around part of the boundary. Ben was a little disappointed that he wasn’t able to actually walk on the  grass itself but the groundskeepers were a very serious bunch and being that it was footy season they were in the middle of preparations for the next big game. The National Sports Museum was an absolute hit with both of them and showcased a huge range of sports with many interactive things to do. An absolute must for any sports fan visiting Melbourne.

Ben at the MCG

Ben at the MCG

Preparing the hallowed turf

Preparing the hallowed turf

Ben in Melbourne

Ben in Melbourne

My manly man with his pansy on the tram!

My manly man with his pansy on the tram!

By the time we all met up again we were  pretty exhausted and so settled for take away and staying in a caravan park just out of Melbourne. The weather was pretty mild but Emma and I still enjoyed the toasty warm under floor heating in the ladies showers!

Next we headed inland to Bendigo for a few  days. We stayed just out-of-town at the Huntly Rest Area,  this had barbecues, a gazebo and well maintained toilets. Best of all was that the van was backed against a paddock containing cows which would walk over for a feed in the evenings.

Feeding our bovine buddies

Feeding our bovine buddies

There are heaps of things  to do in Bendigo, one of Australia’s original gold boom towns. The Victorian Architecture of a number of the buildings was stunning, with some  listed with The National Trust. It would be easy to spend a couple of full days walking around the city just taking in all of the landmarks. A good place to start would be the ‘talking tram’ tours that are available. The local Visitors Centre is also a wealth of information and it has an amazing 3D model of the maze of mining tunnels that run underground.

We would also recommend a walk around the beautiful Rosalind Park which, as well as having a wonderful gardens, is also home to a fernery, conservatory and a number of statues. A visit to the Alexandra Fountain is also worthwhile and the kids enjoyed looking at the ornate design which included seahorses and dolphins.

Another beautiful building was the Sacred Heart Cathedral which is open for public viewing, with lots of information regarding its history displayed inside. It was late afternoon when we visited and the setting sun shining through the windows was quite beautiful.

Bendigo Public Buildings

Bendigo Public Buildings

Law Court steps

Law Court steps

Near Bendigo Clock Tower

Near Bendigo Clock Tower

Soldiers Memorial

Soldiers Memorial

Queen Victoria Gardens

Queen Victoria Gardens

Alexandra Fountain

Alexandra Fountain

Sacred Heart Cathedral

Sacred Heart Cathedral

Inside the cathedral

Inside the cathedral

Afternoon sun shining through the windows

Afternoon sun shining through the windows

A morning was spent visiting Bendigo Pottery which, as well as being Australia’s oldest working Pottery, this complex  also houses a number of artists studios which you are able to visit and purchase some of their wares. In the pottery section of the complex, original kilns can be viewed and a tour taken through an interpretive museum. The kids and I indulged in a half hour pottery lesson ($12 each) where we got to sit at a wheel of our own and under the instruction of the local potter created our own vases. It was so much fun and definitely something I would like to do more of in the future. We produced two masterpieces each with the second being produced independently. For an extra $10  you can get your pieces glazed in your chosen colour. We did this and also organised postage back to Perth. What a great souvenir of our time in Bendigo.

Original chimneys at Bendigo Pottery

Original chimneys at Bendigo Pottery

Old kilns

Old kilns

Potter Emma

Potter Emma

Potter Ben

Potter Ben

Potter Reardon

Potter Reardon

The masterpieces!!

The masterpieces!!

From Bendigo we headed to Echuca where we spent a number of nights camped alongside the mighty Murray River. It was pretty cold while we were there so Paul and I thought it would be a good idea to buy some tummy warming port to  slowly sip by the campfire.

Needless to say it was here that I vowed never to drink again!

Again!

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The one that was supposed to be an update but turned into a rant!

Without doubt Tasmania is a state which boasts some of the best free or budget camping available within the entire country – and the bonus is that most of these places come with incredible views.

The agricultural  town of Scottsdale provided one of our favourite ‘free’ camps so far. It was a great base to explore the surrounding area, including a Forest EcoCentre or even a half day walk to the top of Mount Stronach, should you so desire. The camp itself is located at the town’s ‘people park’ and includes a duck pond, frog pond, playground, board walks, free barbecues and gold coin showers.

Stanley nestled away behind the duck pond at Scottsdale

Stanley nestled away behind the duck pond at Scottsdale

We are becoming big fans of towns, like  Scottsdale, who provide RV friendly facilities. We also believe that it is such a savvy  move for these towns to provide these facilities – for use by both locals and visitors. Being able to save on camp fees (we made sure to leave some money in the donation box) allowed us to support some of the local businesses with our custom.  Share the love (or money in this case) is a motto of ours. Of course, travellers are likely to spend more time (money) in places they feel welcome.

This is a stark contrast to the experience we had further along the coast at George Town, via Bridport and Anderson Bay.

After checking out the town, including driving out to Low Head, we called into the Information Centre to enquire about their camping facilities, as were listed in our Camps Australia Wide Book. The ladies in the centre didn’t even look up as we entered and one of them only got out of her chair after we stood at the help desk for a while. Upon enquiring about the possibility of camping outside  we were  told that they no longer allowed campers to stay.

Fair enough.

The lady that couldn’t even be bothered to get out of her chair then proceeded to lecture us that it wasn’t fair on the owners of the nearest caravan park for us (or anyone) to want to camp at the information centre, even for a small fee. She continued, pointing out that  the caravan park owners had to pay land rates and insurance fees and maintain the park and these costs needed to be recouped from travellers.

I could feel my cheeks burning  as she was talking to me and I felt like a naughty little child. We were then offered the opportunity to park in the car park after all, at a cost of $12 a night but for no facilities –  they locked the toilets when they closed the centre for the day.

It was a bit of a no brainer that we didn’t opt for this very kind offer!

Walking back to the car I was a little stunned (but unfortunately for Paul had not been rendered totally  speechless). In fact, I found the way we had been spoken to totally offensive. Had we simply been told that camping at the centre was no longer available it is likely that we would have gone to the caravan park in question overnight anyway.

Instead we couldn’t get out of there fast enough.

A family of five travelling Australia is not without their own overheads.  Ours, for example, have included car and caravan registrations – as well as insurances, roadside assistance costs, diesel (oh, the diesel), car and caravan maintenance (Paul is pedantic about our servicing schedule), new tyres for both vehicles, National Park Fees, road tolls, tourist destination fees, food bills (our kids all have hollow legs), medical/dental costs and the list goes on.

In addition to these we also have our house in Perth generating its own expenses. This includes not only the mortgage but also land rates, water rates, property management fees, maintenance costs, building insurance, landlords insurance etc.

Of course when we decided to travel Australia we were fully aware of all of these costs, thus we worked bloody hard to save as much as we could before hitting the road. In fact, some weeks we barely saw Paul as he was not only working long hours, he was also doing work for people in return for goods or services to help get us on the road.

Where possible we tried to pay 12 months up front for insurances and registrations. We also ensured we had put aside enough money to cover the shortfall between mortgage payments, property management/maintenance and rental income costs  for 12 months.

We made the choice to travel and undertook this adventure with our eyes fully open. Our travels are self-funded. Most people on the road can say the same BUT there are also some who travel our great land, blatantly, on the back of other tax payers (that’s a whole other rant). With the effort it has taken to get on (and stay on) the road we reserve the right to seek cost saving alternatives if available.

Additionally, since being on the road we consider ourselves to have been responsible campers. We have never parked in areas where camping is not allowed, have never left rubbish behind, always put something in donation boxes and help other travellers when we can.

We consider travelling Australia a privilege not a right.

For it to be implied that wanting to save some money on camping fees was somehow inappropriate is totally out-of-order. We have stayed in excess of 50 caravan parks during our travels and have spent thousands of dollars supporting local businesses throughout the country. The reality is we cannot financially support EVERY business , be it a caravan park or other.

It is incredibly ironic that in this instance the very people responsible for welcoming and helping visitors instead managed to completely alienate us. Businesses that may have benefited (even slightly) from us passing through, ultimately missed out on our custom.

George  Town and Low Head are both places worthy of visiting (we would have liked to stay longer) with plenty on offer for tourists including a penguin rookery, maritime museum, light house and York Cove. Plenty of information about this area is available online and even at nearby Information Centres but seriously folks, give the George Town one a miss.

Lowhead Light House

Lowhead Light House

Water tank mural at George Town

Water tank mural at George Town

Penguin Rookery at Low Head

Penguin Rookery at Low Head

*dismounts high-horse*

I realise that having the above rant has now put me even further behind in getting up to date with the posts but feel the need to document the good with the bad. In years to come when we look back through our story it can’t just be about the places we have visited and Paul’s shortcomings can it now?!

MERRY CHRISTMAS EVERYONE!!