Top 10 secret places in Australia to visit on a 4WD camping trip


Lee Atkinson spent 10 months driving 40,000km in a 4WD with a camper trailer on a “big lap” roadtrip around mainland Australia.

Here are her top 10 spots she says not to miss.

1. EYRE PENINSULA, SA

The Eyre Peninsula is one of the country’s best kept secrets when it comes to beach holidays. OK, the water isn’t exactly tropical and is home to some rather big sharks, but it has some of the Australia’s most dramatic coastline, the best seafood in the country and next to no tourists. We camped with water views on either side of Port Lincoln in both Lincoln and Coffin Bay national parks and again on the outskirts of Ceduna at Wittlebee Conservation Park. We filled our days on coastal walking trails, testing out our four-wheel-driving skills on sand dunes and feasted on ridiculously cheap freshly shucked Coffin Bay oysters every night. It was a very hard place to leave.

AUSSIE BEACHES LOCALS LIKE TO KEEP SECRET

THE AUSSIE SPOTS THE WORLD WANTS TO VISIT

YOU HAVEN’T SEEN AUSTRALIA UNTIL YOU’VE DONE THIS

THESE AMAZING SPOTS ACTUALLY EXIST IN AUSTRALIA

Coffin Bay National Park receives barely any tourists. Picture: Jem Cresswell

2. MOUNT AUGUSTUS, WA

It’s not a real Aussie road trip without at least one big thing and you don’t have to be on the road for very long before you’ll have driven past an assortment of super-sized cement animals, giant lobsters and fibreglass fruit but the most impressive was Mount Augustus, the world’s biggest rock. So how big is it? Two and a half times bigger than Uluru. The road that circles its base is 49km long, which gives you an idea of its massive size. Never heard of it? Me either, until I got there. It’s in the Gascoyne region of WA, between Carnarvon and Meekatharra.

Lee Atkinson road trip around Australia.

Mount Augustus, the world’s biggest rock, is 2.5 times the size of Uluru.

3. WESTERN DESERT, WA

I love the outback and the beauty of doing such a long road trip was it gave us lots of time to really explore the tracks that spear through the western deserts between the Red Centre and the west coast — Gunbarrel Highway, Grand Central Road, Sandy Blight Junction Track, Gary Junction Road and the Telfer Mine Road. It’s about as remote as you can get, but spending time in the desert is an experience that you won’t soon forget. They can be challenging but they really are the ultimate roads less travelled.

Lee Atkinson road trip around Australia.

Driving the Grand Central Road in the Western Desert region.

4. THE PILBARA, WA

I’d never been to the Pilbara before our big lap, and it’s much grander, more expansive, more mountainous and much more magnificent than I had ever imagined. We spent a couple of weeks exploring the gorges of Karijini National Park, the oasis-like waterholes of Millstream Chichester National Park, camping beside beautiful rivers and bumping along very scenic 4WD tracks and the largest collection of rock carvings in the world on the Burrup Peninsula. It gets my vote as one of Australia’s most underrated landscapes.

Lee Atkinson road trip around Australia.

Karijini National Park in the Pilbara is home to some of Australia’s most underrated landscapes.

5. MOUNT ELIZABETH STATION, KIMBERLEY WA

The Kimberley is one of those larger-than-life places where just about everywhere is pretty amazing, but Mt Elizabeth Station, around halfway along the Gibb River Road, was an absolute highlight of our 10-month trip. If you like a little 4WD fun you’ll love this place as much as we did. Favourite spot was Wunnamurra Gorge, which has a deep pool fed by a waterfall and rock walls covered with sacred Wandjina figures. Mount Elizabeth is also home to one of the best, and toughest, 4WD tracks in the Kimberley, the Munja Track. It runs 220km north to the coast, takes several days and is pure adventure all the way.

Lee Atkinson road trip around Australia.

Aboriginal artwork at Wunnamurra Gorge, Mount Elizabeth Station.

6. MARY RIVER, NT

There’s some great croc-spotting opportunities all over the Top End, but the one that made the most lasting impression on us was on the Mary River, roughly halfway between Darwin and Kakadu. One particular spot — Shady Camp in Mary River National Park where a barrage across the river has freshwater one side, saltwater the other — is famous for its barramundi fishing, but it’s also home to the densest population of saltwater crocodiles in the country. We camped nearby and after dark we set up watch with our spotlights during high tide. We lost count of how many crocodiles we watched haul out of the water and cross the barrage. It was one of the most amazing wildlife moments in my life — both terrifying and exhilarating.

Lee Atkinson road trip around Australia.

Mary River National Park is renowned for croc-spotting.

7. ARNHEM LAND, NT

Getting to eastern Arnhem Land by road takes a bit of effort — it’s a two-day drive from Katherine, 4WD only (no caravans allowed) and you’ll need to organise two permits online before you go — but it’s worth it. Motel accommodation is available in Nhulunbuy, but the permits include some of the best beachfront camping I’ve seen anywhere in Australia, the fishing is legendary and the Yolngu art centre at Yirrkala is extraordinary. Spending time in Arnhem Land is a deep immersion into our indigenous culture that you just don’t get to experience anywhere else in the country.

Lee Atkinson road trip around Australia.

Nhulunbuy’s beachfront camping — some of the best anywhere in Australia.

8. CAPE YORK, QLD

Driving to the top of Cape York is close to the top of most bucket lists. This was my first time on the Cape, and I’d mistakenly thought that the allure of the place was all about the adventure of getting here. Now I understand that it’s the destination itself that gets under your skin and why so many make the long haul up here year after year after year. Think beachfront camping and beachside bars where you can watch the sun slip into the sea, fishing, wild national parks with rainforest, wetlands, WWII ruins, waterfalls, plunge pools and rock art galleries.

Lee Atkinson road trip around Australia.

Pajinka, The Tip of Cape York.

9. MACKAY HIGHLANDS, QLD

Eungella National Park (pronounced yun-galah) in the Mackay Highlands tends to get overlooked by a lot of people seduced by the tropical warmth of the Whitsundays, but it was one of our favourite spots. The park is split into two sections, above and below the ranges. Up the top are lots of rainforest walks, lookouts and Broken River, one of the best spots to see platypus in the wild. Down below is Finch Hatton Gorge, which features delightfully icy swimming holes fed by waterfalls. We camped, but there are plenty of accommodation options.

Lee Atkinson road trip around Australia.

Eungella National Park tends to get overlooked in favour of the Whitsundays.

10. THE GRAMPIANS, VIC

I’d been to the Grampians in western Victoria a few times before, but never really explored beyond the big-ticket attractions like Mackenzie Falls and was keen to do a few bushwalks. The sealed road between Dunkeld and Halls Gap (65km though the middle of the Grampians National Park) is one of most scenic mountain drives on sealed roads in the country — we based ourselves in the friendly little caravan park in Dunkeld just so we could drive to Halls Gap, where most of the walks are, twice a day. (The fine food at the Royal Mail Hotel may have also had an influence.) Favourite walk? The five-hour loop from Halls Gap around the spectacular Pinnacle Lookout, past the high-walled Grand Canyon and the Venus Bath Rock Pools.

Lee Atkinson road trip around Australia.

Stunning views from Pinnacle Lookout in the Grampians.

Lee Atkinson’s latest book, Explore Australia by Camper Trailer, is published by Hardie Grant Travel and is available from all good bookstores. RRP $39.99.

Read more of Lee’s tips in the Escape Camp & Caravan special issue, on sale in Coles, Woolworths and newsagents nationally from Monday, September 24, 2018. RRP $9.99.

Escape Camp & Caravan special. Out September 24, 2018.

Escape Camp & Caravan special. On sale September 24, 2018.





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Children allegedly steal liquor and 4WD before highway police chase


Five children are accused of stealing alcohol, then a car and trying to outrun police up the M1 Motorway between Logan and Brisbane.

The group of boys and girls — aged between 12 and 14 — allegedly stole a large amount of liquor from a bottle shop in the Brisbane suburb of Sherwood, at about 5:30pm on Friday.

The police helicopter spotted them and began tracking the Toyota LandCruiser.

“The vehicle allegedly drove erratically at high speeds around the Logan area, posing a risk to other road users,” a police spokesperson said in a statement.

A tyre deflation device punctured the car’s tyres, however the 14-year-old boy who was allegedly behind the wheel continued to drive dangerously on the rims of the car.

Space to play or pause, M to mute, left and right arrows to seek, up and down arrows for volume.
Dashcam footage of the 4WD, with the driver accused of ramming a police car.

Police pursued them north along the M1 Motorway where they allegedly rammed a marked police vehicle.

The four officers inside suffered minor injuries and were taken to hospital.

Another three police cars that tried to intercept the group were also damaged.

The car was eventually stopped in Greenslopes
The car was eventually stopped in Greenslopes.(Supplied: Prickle Evans)

The children were eventually stopped near Greenslopes, in Brisbane’s south, and some were taken into custody without incident.

They have been charged with a range of stealing and driving offences and will be dealt with through the children’s courts.

Police bodycam captures second police chase

In a separate incident, a man has been arrested following the dangerous operation of a vehicle through East Brisbane on Friday evening.

At about 5:30pm, a stolen car driving dangerously collided with three stationary cars at the intersection of Stanley Street and Wellington Road in East Brisbane.

Space to play or pause, M to mute, left and right arrows to seek, up and down arrows for volume.
A 20-year-old man from Brisbane is assisting police with their enquires.

During this time, police saw the car and began a short pursuit along Stanley Street at Woolloongabba.

The car continued driving dangerously onto the Pacific Motorway, colliding with two other cars, at which point police terminated the pursuit.

The driver continued through Brisbane City before crashing into a truck at the intersection of William Street and Margaret Street.

The car was significantly damaged causing the driver to leave the scene on foot.

Police found the driver in the botanical gardens a short time later and arrested the man.

A 20-year-old Stafford Heights man is currently assisting police with their enquires.



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LDV D90 review: Big Chinese 4WD brings strong value


Sales of Chinese sales are booming in Australia, and a big reason these brands are they add lots of standard equipment for a much lower price compared to rivals. But is it worth taking a punt on one of these new-to-Australia brands? Here are five things you need to know about the LDV D90.

media_cameraThe LDV D90 is a big beast.

THIS IS A BIG VEHICLE

The LDV D90 is longer than a Toyota Prado, wider than a Ford Everest and higher than an Isuzu MU-X, making it a sizeable beast.

It’s a big unit, with a good degree of room in the front and back seats. Smaller adults will be happy in the third row, too.

Loosely based on the LDV T60 ute, the D90 has rugged underpinnings with proper four-wheel-drive and the ability to tow up to 3100 kilos, matching the best in class.

It’ll compete against the Toyota Prado
media_cameraIt’ll compete against the Toyota Prado

YOU GET A LOT OF GEAR

The D90 has been on sale for three years, but the new diesel model is a fresh addition for 2020. Diesel power is only available in top-end Executive trim, which means you get a lot of gear for $47,990 drive-away.

Quality Continental tyres are wrapped around 19-inch alloy wheels, the central touchscreen is a massive unit with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, the tailgate has electric power, the leather seats have power adjustment and the steering wheel is heated. That’s competitive kit for the money.

The top-end Diesel is priced at less than $50,000 drive-away.
media_cameraThe top-end Diesel is priced at less than $50,000 drive-away.

IT’S A SAFE BET

Chinese cars had a deservedly poor reputation for safety when they first arrived in Australia, but that’s no longer the case. The D90 has a five-star safety rating, made possible by driver aids such as auto emergency braking, blind-spot monitoring, lane departure warning and more.

Further peace of mind comes from a five-year, 130,000 kilometre warranty with roadside assistance and the promise of a loan car if anything goes wrong.

BUT THERE ARE FRUSTRATIONS

The LDV matches or beats many rivals on paper, but there are oversights reflecting its relative lack of experience in vehicle manufacturing. A range-topping car should have satnav and digital radio connectivity these days, but they’re noticeably absent.

Head restraints on the back seats block rear vision as they don’t fold out of the way, and the lack of a physical volume knob on the stereo makes adjusting the audio a nuisance, particularly for front passengers who don’t have access to the steering wheel-mounted controls.

There are a few compromises.
media_cameraThere are a few compromises.

The impressive suite of driver aids take over the digital dashboard display with prominent warnings also blocking your view of important elements such as the speedometer.

IT’S AVERAGE ON THE ROAD

LDV’s own twin-turbo diesel engine is a 2.0-litre, four-cylinder unit with impressive 160kW/480Nm outputs. Drivers coming out of refined petrol-powered cars might find it coarse, but it’s no worse than ute-based rivals such as the Mitsubishi Pajero Sport. That said, there is a lot of turbo lag, and the eight-speed auto sometimes needs a moment to make up its mind.

The D90’s huge size helps iron out small bumps, but passengers might not like the nautical sensation of body roll in the bends.

Gripes aside, the D90 is a value-packed offering worthy of examination by buyers on a budget.

LDV D90 EXECUTIVE DIESEL VITALS

Price: From $47,990 drive-away

Warranty/servicing: 5 yrs/130,000km, about $1850 for 3 yrs/50,000km

Safety: 5 stars, 6 airbags, AEB, lane-departure warning, blind-spot monitor, driver monitor

Engine: 2.0-litre diesel, 160kW/480Nm

Thirst: 9.1L/100km

Spare: Temporary spare

Boot: 343L (7 seats), 1350L (5 seats)

Originally published as China’s new Toyota Prado rival



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