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!
Isuzu Dmax 2016 Dual cab 3.0L turbo diesel. You can read more about this here – 4WDing Australia’s Dmax.
EDIT – If you want to see how its gone after 3 years and 50,000km, check out the Dmax Review.
Outback expedition deluxe soft floor camper trailer. You can read more about this here – Our Outback Expedition Deluxe Camper Trailer.
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
Number of nights
Number of places stayed
Top 6 favourite places
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!)
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 Falls and Koolpin Gorge at Kakadu
Swimming at Florence Falls, Buley Rock Hole and Wangi falls in Litchfield
Yellow Water Cruise at Kakadu
Watching the bush fires at Litchfield National Park
Amazing, quality family time
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 for many of the nights
Number of nights free camped
Number of nights low cost camped
Number of nights in caravan parks
Number of nights higher cost non caravan park stays
6 (El Questro and Manning Gorge)
Number of nights in an Airbnb
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
Mt 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
Number of set ups and pack downs
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 4WD track and the 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
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)
Number of photos taken
GB of video recorded
Number of tantrums from Oliver
A fair few
Number of overcast days
Number of days with rain
Number of blown tyres
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)
Cost of accommodation
Cost of eating out/bakeries/ice creams etc
Cost of washing
$62 (12 loads)
$537.77 (Soap in Broome, Thongs, BCF, Crocodile teddy bear, Steel in Darwin, Pharmacy, Trailer spares, Oliver Clothes, Car wash and Minor car service)
$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 per day/week
$140 per day for the 3 of us, or $943 a week
Break down of costs
Meals out/bakery stops etc 5.5
Car service 2%
LPG bottle refill 0.1%
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.
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!
We’d probably be a bit more relaxed in terms of booking things too, and just take it as it comes. We’ve learnt over the years that travelling without expectation is the best way, and not having a rigid plan helps hugely with this.
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.
To start with here’s a great one if you have young kids – Camping with a toddler; 35 ways to make it easier
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.
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!
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!
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!
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
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
Thoroughly enjoyable reading and happy for you in your family aceivement.
Many thanks for sharing. Happy travels.
Hey Carol and John,
Thanks a lot for that. Glad you enjoyed it
loved reading this. great summary. and i love your honesty
I’m glad you enjoyed it. Thanks too.
All the best
Thank you! What a brilliant post!
I giggled throughout it and got even more excited for our half lap next year.
Thanks again. I’ve bookmarked it as a perfect reference.
Glad you enjoyed the post. You’ll have a ball, just go with the right expectations!
This is such a great blog to read. We have a 2 year old not so easy kid and we are planning 100 days of national parks in a motorhome.
My question is how much of hike/trek/walks were you able to do with Oliver and what do you do when you are not going thru the wilderness? How do the toddlers get entertained, etc.?
You blog has given us a bit of perspective but I want to know more about the difficult, bad abd not so good days.
Thanks. We did pretty much every walk we would have normally with Oliver, in the backpack carrier. That said, I’m fairly fit, very tall and didn’t have too much of an issue going where we needed to. We had a few comments at El Questro like ‘he’s not going up there’ and ‘why would you take a child up there’, but if you are capable there’s no issue. Just do it safely and don’t push the boundaries too much! It is hard work carrying someone on your shoulders though!
There will be bad experiences. I don’t think we’ve ever had any days that were a complete flop; they tend to get over things pretty quickly and move on. Toddlers will entertain themselves to an extent; looking around, playing with sticks and stones etc. That said, a good high chair was a life saver to keep them still for a bit, and if its warm a little bath bucket was awesome for them to play in while we relaxed for a bit.
The easier your setup is to use, the more enjoyable your trip will be but you will adapt and learn pretty quickly. Its not easy, and there will be times you are over it, but on the flip side you’ll have some amazing experiences as a family and your kids will remember it for a long time to come. Oliver is always asking to go camping now, which I’m happy to roll with!
All the best
Hey Aaron, Great read and some nice insights, looking at our first camper trailer purchase for trips north from the Great Southern with 3 kids 4-9yo. Farm kids but camping kids so some nice points in your blog. Hope the new addition to the family is settling in
Cheers mate. You’ll have a ball with a camper trailer.
Our little one is a year and a half old now, and nearly at the stage when we wrote this post. He certainly keeps us on our toes.
All the best
We’re currently in Darwin on our big lap (albeit not going entirely to plan with WA borders still closed)
I was just doing a random search on n Litchfield NP and found your blog. Very interesting 👍
We had pretty much dismissed Lorella Springs due to reports of shocking roads and some average reviews, but having just read about your experience it may be on again!
In the meantime we have a week in Litchfield coming up and then hopefully a visit to East Arnhem Land. Great blog
Thanks for the comment. Litchfield is amazing. Lorella is too, but as the season gets on the water pools dry up and it becomes less amazing. Bear that in mind when you decide to go or not!
Have fun in East Arnhem Land!
So glad I found this as it sounds very similar to a trip my husband and I want to embark on May-July next year. We will have a 4 year old and a 9 month old with us and hoping to go up to Kunnunurra & back-coastal 1 way & inland the other. We’re going to go inland first rather quickly & slowly back coastal but thought it might be a bit busier in July so now thinking might go up coastal slowly & back inland…some of your camps sound great. I’m intrigued to hear if you know of any more campsites or hidden gems between Coral Bay & Broome. We will be stopping in Karratha as have friends there. We will be 4wd capable and towing camper trailer. We were originally thinking of doing Gibb river road but have now changed our minds as kids aren’t best age for that and time. We hope to do some of the easier gorges and sites at each of the entrances to the road though (winjana/tunnel creek/el
Any more hints and sites to see with the kids along the way would be awesome!
I would still do the Gibb; its amazing, even with young ones as long as you pick your camp sites well. Places like El Questro, Manning Gorge and Windjana are all easily accessible and amazing to spend some time at.
We love Cleaverville, Cape Keraudren, Port Smith and 80 mile is nice too. Barn hill is supposed to be amazing as well.
The croc park in Broome is well and truly worth a visit, as is Cable Beach for sunset when the kids can splash in the little pools. They’ll have a ball; so much to explore in each place!
We might see you up there next year!
All the best
We enjoyed reading of your travels as we are planning similar for this coming April .Perth -Darwin -and then home through central Australia.we have a small squaredrop camper and a Mitsubishi ASX ( not 4wd) will we miss out on too much beong only 2wd. Gravel roads are ok just not creek crossings etc.
Thanks for the comment. You’ll still have an amazing time, but a 2WD does restrict where you can go, and it will depend on how far you want to push it. There’s a lot of incredible 2WD accessible places though; you’ll have a ball overall. Expect it to be very busy!
All the best