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3 months with a camper trailer, 4WD and toddler; the summary

On May 14, we headed off from Perth on the trip of a lifetime; 3 months with our little son Oliver, an Isuzu Dmax 4WD and a soft floor camper trailer. We covered a large portion of the Pilbara, Kimberley and Northern Territory before returning via the Coral Coast to Perth. In the coming weeks, we will share a heap of information on places that we stayed, what we enjoyed, what was hard and what we'd change next time.

However, in this post we will cover in substantial detail the trip as a whole; fuel costs, how many kilometres we drove, how much we spent on food and accommodation, what we liked and didn't and lots more:

We'd been planning this trip for a very long time, and two days before departure we found out Sarah was pregnant, and about 6 weeks along, which made things interesting!

Tow vehicle

Isuzu Dmax 2016 Dual cab 3.0L turbo diesel. You can read more about this here - 4WDing Australia's Dmax.

Isuzu Dmax with bigger tyres

Our 2016 Isuzu Dmax

Trailer towed

Outback expedition deluxe soft floor camper trailer. You can read more about this here - Our Outback Expedition Deluxe Camper Trailer

Relaxing at Cape Keraudren

Our soft floor camper trailer

Who went

Aaron, Sarah and Oliver (nearly 2 year old boy)

How'd you get 3 months off?!

I've been working at the same place now for nearly 9 years, which made it possible to get about 8 weeks of long service leave. Couple that with 2 weeks of annual leave and 2 weeks of unpaid leave, and I was sorted. Sarah looks after Oliver at home, so had no drama's getting time off!

Total kilometres done and where we went

15,540

Number of nights

81

Number of places stayed

28

Top 6 favourite places

Kalgans Pool
Litchfield
Lorella Springs
Mataranka
El Questro
Coral Bay

Kalgans Pool in Newman

Kalgans Pool; one of the most amazing camp sites ever

Top 2 least favourite places

Katherine (just didn't do anything for us. Hot springs are nice, and Edith Falls are amazing), but the rest of the town was pretty average

Dundee Beach (not much to do, especially with a toddler. Beautiful beach though!)

Dundee Beach NT

Dundee beach is truly amazing, but there's not much to do there.

Favourite experiences

4WD track into Kalgan's Pool
Laying in the tent and listening to the dingo’s howl at Lorella Station
Fishing at Rosie Creek, Lorella Station
Cable Beach Sunsets
Maguk, Gunlom and Koolpin Gorges at Kakadu
Swimming at Florence Falls, Buley Rock Hole and Wangi falls in Litchfield
Yellow Water Cruise at Kakadu
Mataranka hot springs
Watching the bush fires at Litchfield National Park
Amazing, quality family time

Lorella Springs fishing

Catching big Queenies one after another at Lorella Springs

Maguk at Kakadu

Maguk at Kakadu; a truly stunning place

Bitter Springs Mataranka

Bitter Springs at Mataranka

Litchfield National Park fires

Watching the bush fires burn at Litchfield National Park

Worst experiences

Backing into a car in Broome
Backing into a tree in Katherine
Damaging the front quarter panel in Kakadu
Getting smashed by sand flies at Dundee Beach (Sarah)
Sarah's morning sickness
Oliver teething/ending up in our bed

Katherine tree vs car incident

Some substantial damage from backing into a tree at Katherine

Maguk camping at Kakadu

More damage at Maguk camp ground

Accommodation

Number of nights free camped

3

Number of nights low cost camped

44

Camping at Ningaloo Station

This is what you get for $50 a week for a family of 3

Ningaloo Station

Ningaloo Station; a truly amazing place

Number of nights in caravan parks

27

Number of nights higher cost non caravan park stays

6 (El Questro and Manning Gorge)

Number of nights in an Airbnb

1

Where did we stay?

Bilyuin Pool x 1 night
Kalgans Pool x 2 nights
Cape Keraudren x 2 nights
Cable Beach Caravan Park in Broome x 4 nights
Larrawa station x 2 nights
Lakeside Caravan Park Kununurra x 5 nights
Katherine Riverview Caravan Park x 4 nights
Lorella Springs x 7 nights
Mataranka’s Little roper stock camp x 3 nights
Bundy Station x 3 nights
Dundee Beach x 2 nights
Free spirit Caravan Park in Darwin x 5 nights
Kakadu Sandy Billabong camp x 3 nights
Kakadu Maguk Falls x 2 nights
Kakadu Koolpin Gorge x 2 nights
Litchfield Florence Falls old 4WD camp site x 4 nights
Lee and Jennies x 2 nights
Zebra Rock mine x 2 nights
Kununurra Airbnb  x 1 night
El Questro private riverside camp site x 4 nights
Manning Gorge x 2 nights
Windjana Gorge x 1 night
Port Smith Caravan Park x 3 nights
Cleaverville x 5 nights
Nanutarra Roadhouse x 1 night
Ningaloo Station x 3 nights
Coral Bay x 3 nights
Wooramel Station x 2 nights
Coronation Beach x 1 night

Kakadu camping options

Sitting around the fire at Maguk Camp ground in Kakadu

Number of set ups and pack downs

28

Dundee beach caravan park

Packing the camper trailer away at Dundee Beach

Fuel

Amount of fuel consumed

2145.2 litres of diesel

Average fuel economy

13.8L/100km, GPS corrected

Best fuel economy

10.5L/100km around Kununurra including the Old Halls Creek and back track going into Wyndham

Worst fuel economy

Around 18.5L/100km into a head wind on the way to Broome

Most expensive fuel

$3.00 per litre at Lorella Springs. We didn't have to fill up, but wanted to take a different way out. 40L of fuel for $120. Totally worth it though.

Average fuel price

$1.48 per litre of diesel

Filling the Dmax with fuel

We took 3 jerry cans with us

What broke

Camper trailer water fitting (broke the plastic barb off)
Wind screen (3 stone chips and 2 big cracks)
Trident lockable fuel cap
2 cracked phone screens
CTEK 240V battery charger
Evakool Fridge latch
Bull motor body canopy mud guard (hit by a big rock or something)
Canopy mounts cracked (possibly due to the accident)

Water tank fitting broken

Day one, on the first gravel road and we bust the water tank fitting

Number of photos taken

9200

El Questro 4WD Tracks

Enjoying some tracks at El Questro Station

Photography at Litchfield

A lot of time was spent taking photos and videos

GB of video recorded

192

Number of tantrums from Oliver

A fair few

Toddler tantrum

Ollie having a tanty at the Territory Wildlife Park

Number of overcast days

11

Number of days with rain

4

Number of blown tyres

Zero

No punctures

The Toyo AT2 tyres did us proud

Expenses

Fuel Cost

$3181.69

Groceries cost

$1626.35

Camp oven roast

Our first crack at a roast in the camp oven

Cost of tours/entry fees

$686 (Outback show Katherine, Territory Wildlife Park, Crocodylus Park, Royal Flying Doctor Service admission, Kakadu NP entry, Yellow Water Tour, Bachelor Butterfly Park, Zebra Rock Mine Tour, Broome Bird Park, Museum at Kununurra and Katherine)

Kakadu tour options

On the Yellow Water Cruise at Kakadu

Cost of accommodation

$2468.61

Cost of eating out/bakeries/ice creams etc

$651

Cost of washing

$62 (12 loads)

Random Expenses

$537.77 (Soap in Broome, Thongs, BCF, Crocodile teddy bear, Steel in Darwin, Pharmacy, Trailer spares, Oliver Clothes, Car wash and Minor car service)

Unexpected Expenses

$2110.5 (Insurance excess x 2, Medical Imaging for Sarah's pregnancy - yay, replacement quarter panel, broken water tank fitting and auto electrician in Karratha for the camper trailer)

Total cost

$11325

Total cost per day/week

$140 per day for the 3 of us, or $943 a week

Cleaverville camping

Camped at Cleaverville

Break down of costs

Fuel 28%

Accommodation 21%

Unexpected 18%

Groceries 14%

Tours 6%

Meals out/bakery stops etc 5.5

Car service 2%

LPG bottle refill 0.1%

Random 3%

Washing 0.5%

Sarah's pregnancy

Finding out Sarah was pregnant two days before leaving was a bit of a shock to the system; we'd been wanting another one for a while, but thought it wouldn't happen for a while!

Sarah did amazingly well, with a lot of physical effort required to do the hikes in Kakadu (she did Jim Jim Falls, Maguk and Gunlom at around 12 weeks pregnant). Morning sickness was like last time, with Sarah not feeling great a lot of the time, and often giving nutrients to the plants nearby our camp. Oliver learnt to follow her, bend over and cough over the plants too which was rather amusing.

Overall

Memories made

Can't put a number on it, or describe it accurately – amazing

Would we do it again

In a heartbeat

Things we’d do differently next time

We'd stay at Caravan Parks less often. Our most enjoyable stays were at stations, bush camps, 4WD only access sites and national parks. Unfortunately in the northern part of Australia a lot of the camp sites are extremely busy and require advanced booking, which meant caravan parks.

Not only does avoiding Caravan parks save you a fair bit of money, but we actually prefer it. Being confined to a little site near others with busy roads nearby isn't our idea of a good time, especially when you have a toddler who just wants to run, or is having a bad night and screaming!

Bush camping with 4WDing Australia

We much prefer bush camps than being sardines in Caravan Parks

Was it all amazing?

No. Not at all. To be completely honest, on day 2, I really thought we might have made a terrible mistake, and this same thought popped up a couple of times later on too. Long service leave is absolutely unreal, and thinking that I'd possibly 'wasted' it was a bit hard to swallow.

Travelling with a young toddler is hard work, and even though he's been camping with us many, many times before, it takes time for them to get into the swing of things. They will have bad nights, tantrums and travelling with a wife who was constantly feeling sick made things even harder.

We had experiences that really weren't that pleasant at all, and at first I was quite discouraged by it. You see, we spent 5 weeks in the Kimberley before kids (you can read about that here - 5 weeks in the Kimberley summary), and had the most relaxing and amazing trip ever. This 12 week trip was totally different, and that's purely because of Oliver being there, and Sarah feeling crook.

However, the longer we travelled, the easier it got, and if you look at it with a decent perspective even at home toddlers are difficult. For those hopping from caravan park to caravan park with children in a nice caravan, a travelling life is much easier than how we did it.

Sitting back in Perth though, and flicking through the photos and talking to friends and family about the trip, I just want to hook the trailer up and head away again. Yes, there were average times, and even times we wished we were at home, but as a whole it was truly awesome.

There will be a lot of posts in the future about what we've learned, what we'd do differently and what we'd avoid completely in the near future. Stay tuned.

Quality family time

Nothing can compare to the incredible time we shared as a family. Hours upon hours with just the three of us, until the last 4 weeks of the holiday where we met up with my brother and his wife, and my folks. From there, it was different, but fantastic to spend time with other family.

We spent so much amazing family time together through the trip and had an absolute ball. I work long hours each week and it was a huge change for me.

Travelling Australia as a family

You can't get better quality family time than travelling Australia together

Where to now?

Well, for now, we are settling back into Perth and getting ready to have another baby. We'll keep camping (we are heading away over the September long weekend and have 10 days booked over Easter next year) and day tripping as much as possible.

We are planning a lap of the country in a few years, but it will be once both kids are out of nappies and can take care of themselves.

We hope you've enjoyed the summary, and if you have any questions or comments we'd love to hear from you!

 

6 comments… add one
  • Anne August 27, 2018, 7:25 PM

    We are thinking of doing a similar trip and it is great to see the total cost so I know what to budget for. Would you do it in a soft floor camper trailer again?
    PS I think I would take as many if not more photos than you!

  • Aaron Schubert August 27, 2018, 7:37 PM

    Hey Anne,

    We would do it again in a soft floor, but there’s no doubt its hard, especially when you can’t take your eyes off a toddler for more than a few seconds at a time. With older kids it would be much easier.

    So many amazing places to take photos of!

    Aaron

  • brendan parker August 27, 2018, 8:30 PM

    Hey Dude ,I was just going to write you a note and say how much I enjoyed your trip ,and I admire your dedication to detailed accurate notes so looked up your name and couldnt believe it ,I realize we have known one another for a long time (Thomas dad) we camped together when you were in short pants .
    Congratulations on your marriage ,bambino and great adventure .
    I have been on the same tracks and been keen to return to Lorella Springs which I approached from Booraloola side a few years ago, comming up on the Binns Track through the Territory ,we had great fish haul out at Bing Bong and were still BBQing fish at Lorella Springs
    I have just sold on my beloved Serries 80 Turbo D 24 valve Landcruiser (400000 km, second one ) and replaced it with a 100 series Sahara TD so all those accessories have been repurchased and fitted again ,I tow a soft floor Trak Shak with solar panels in a frame .
    I am just back from Hanns Track to the Great Victoria Desert and back
    Deborah and I live at Denmark ,Thomas London ,Louis City Beach
    Got the canoes here for when you call with Oliver and his sibling
    Best wishes to you and your wife Bp

  • Aaron Schubert August 28, 2018, 5:25 PM

    Hey Brendan!

    What are the chances – unreal. Thanks for the well wishes. Sounds like you’ve had some epic adventures as well. I’ve always had fond memories of your 80 series; they are a great vehicle. I called into your old house in Bull Creek many years ago to see if you guys were still around, but there was another family there!

    We looked at the Trak shaks, and love them as well. Sounds like you have a great setup with the new 100 series.

    We will have to catch up; lovely part of the world you now call home

    Take care!
    Aaron

  • Carol and John Hunt August 29, 2018, 6:21 PM

    Thoroughly enjoyable reading and happy for you in your family aceivement.
    Many thanks for sharing. Happy travels.

  • Aaron Schubert August 29, 2018, 6:27 PM

    Hey Carol and John,

    Thanks a lot for that. Glad you enjoyed it

    Aaron

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