How to Live Your Van Life Adventure in WA
You may have seen a lot of Australia in your van. But if you’ve never been to the west coast of Australia, you’re in for a treat. It’s got all the things you love – open spaces, sea views and rugged wilderness – only bigger. And you won’t have to fight the crowds. You can get away from it all but still embrace new experiences, which is what van life is all about.
So how do you prepare for your trip? Firstly, you’ll be driving long distances, which means you need to do a seasonal purge. That’s right. Get rid of any belongings that might weigh you down. The key to van life is minimising, so if you’re buying something new for the trip, get rid of something by donating it to a friend or a charity. Whatever you do, make sure it’s practical. If you’ll be working remotely, make sure you have the tools and equipment necessary to work productively from your van. It can be a little more challenging than working from home.
Make sure your mail is sorted. If you haven’t already done this, automate your payments and get any important correspondence sent electronically. This will eliminate clutter, prevent unpaid bills and save on calls to that friend or relative who is keeping an eye on your mail!
Check that all your tools and equipment are in working order – and that you have extra fuel. You might be driving for hundreds of kilometres before you reach a major town or centre. There’s nothing worse than finding yourself in the middle of nowhere with no petrol and a broken tyre jack! And top up your multi-purpose cleaning products and basic provisions. These things are easily overlooked in the excitement of an upcoming trip, and they’re especially important if you’re travelling long distances.
Now that you’ve lightened your load and made sure that all your equipment is in tip-top shape, take out your trusty map (or plug in the GPS) and add these top sights to your itinerary.
Jurien Bay is about 2.5 hours north of Perth, and it’s one of the jewels of the West Australian coast. It’s got pristine beaches, parks and great cafes, and you might even see some sea lions lazing on the beaches. If you want to get up close and personal with these awesome creatures, Turquoise Safaris will take you to special habitats where they play, frolic and swim only a few metres from you. Jurien Bay is also a great fishing spot, so bring your rod or take a fishing charter adventure where all the equipment is provided and you get to keep your catch. What could be better than panfrying freshly caught barramundi in your van? When you’re done, make sure you drive up to Sandy Cape, a small recreation park 10 km north of Jurien Bay. There are plenty of camper spots by the water and you can spend the afternoons swimming, snorkelling and enjoying the salty air of the Indian Ocean. If you’ve got kids (or if you’re a kid at heart), grab a sandboard and surf the giant sand dunes.
Photo Credit: Tourism WA (Hutt Lagoon)
Three hours north of Jurien Bay is lagoon that will take your breath away. Its colour varies between pink, rose, raspberry and blue due to a carotenoid-producing algae that is unique to the area. The best time to visit the lagoon is on a cloud-free day between 10 am and 2 pm. This will intensify the colours in the water. It’s best to visit during the cooler months as the lagoon dries in summer, but there might still be some rose-tinged water for you to see. To explore on foot, park your van on Port Gregory Road and walk down to the water’s edge.
Photo Credit: Tourism WA (Yardie Creek, Cape Range National Park)
If you stocked up at Carnarvon and you’re heading north, don’t bypass the beautiful resort town of Exmouth. Make sure you book a spot at the holiday park because there’s a lot to see. Whale shark season is between April and August, so if you’re in the area during those months, book a swimming tour at Ningaloo Marine Park. The tour guide will take you out on a boat and wait for a signal from a plane overhead. When the signal comes, you’ll jump into the water with your snorkel and find yourself in the clearest, bluest depths, watching manta rays, whale sharks, sea turtles and fish life drifting around you. This is guaranteed to be one of the most awe-inspiring experiences you’ll have on the Coral Coast. If land adventures are more your speed, check out the rugged Cape Range National Park, with its spectacular canyons, limestone ranges and dizzying display of winter wildflowers. You can even camp in the park for a small fee.
Photo Credit: Tourism WA (Rottnest Island)
You can’t go to the Coral Coast without visiting Rottnest Island. Park your van in Fremantle and get the 45-minute ferry from Hillarys Boat Harbour to Rottnest Island. Go early because the island has a lot to offer. You can swim at over sixty beaches, whale-watch, join walking and bus tours, climb the Wadjemup Lighthouse and, of course, see the quokkas. This small type of wallaby can be found everywhere on the island, so bring your selfie stick to take a few photos. If you want to explore the island at your own pace, hire a bicycle at Pedal & Flipper, which also happens to be the largest bike hire facility in the southern hemisphere. One warning for vanlifers: the island is busiest during school holidays, weekends and the summer months, so plan ahead if you want to avoid the crowds.
These are just some of the gems you’ll find along the West Australian coast. But some of the best experiences are the ones you have on the road while moving from one destination to another. The spectacular sunsets. The silhouette of an emu against the landscape. Or those quiet moments in the van when you’re found satisfaction living light in your van.