Often when one dreams of escape, it’s usually of palm littered beaches in a distant and faraway land, but how many of you have taken the time to explore this great sunburnt land? Australia is brimming with easy and accessible adventures, many of which can be accomplished over a weekend. There’s nothing more Australian than hitting the open road with a car full of mates, camping gear in the boot and a quiver of boards strapped to the roof.

To celebrate the spirit of the Australian road trip and to encourage you to partake in your own summer adventures, we’ve teamed up with our friends at North Journal, Bear Rentals, Dead Kooks, and Poler to bring you eight epic Australian summer journeys – all easily obtainable! Each journey will provide inspiration and expert tips from locals within each area and the Corona creative community that’ll help make your next roadie a breeze.

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Corona Journey No.41 – The Sapphire Coast by Mitch Cox

Never heard of the Sapphire Coast? No biggie, neither had I until I realised it would be one of the last stops on our laid-back six-month lap of Australia. We’ve travelled far and wide around this crazy country, through tropical Queensland, the vast Northern Territory, the empty and arid South Australia and the diverse landscapes of Tasmania. But somehow this little stretch of coast had been left off our list, until now.

The Sapphire Coast is at the very bottom of NSW, almost halfway between Melbourne and Sydney. Packed with killer campsites, inland waterholes and some of the best beaches I’ve come across in Australia, the Sapphire Coast is more laid back than NSW’s north coast alternative. After a solid six months on the road, and a substantially reduced bank account, we were on a bit of a tight budget for this last leg of the trip. However, it ended up being the most jam-packed couple of weeks we had had in months.

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From our very first day, the variety of beaches immediately stood out. We spent our days visiting endless stretches of sand, each one more perfect and pristine than the last. The water was crystal, the sand white and it just seemed a whole lot less busy than the rest of NSW. Most nights we would settle down in a free camp, partly because of our lack of funds and partly because of our desire to hear the ocean at night and wake up to the sun rising in the van. The towns had a laid back vibe while the locals were some of the friendliest people I’ve ever met. Cape Conran, just below the Sapphire Coast, was the perfect spot to kick off our adventures. I spent the day diving for abalone with my new mate Tony, a retired legend who seemed eager to pass on his skills in the water. He taught me where to find them, and how to prepare them for eating. After a lazy afternoon in the sun, we cooked up our abalone feast complete with cold beers and a killer view of the sun setting over the ocean (a rare sight on the east coast).

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We slowly made our way north, checking out every turn-off and back road along the way. One of the best things about the Sapphire Coast is that everything is in close vicinity. Thanks to a bunch of friendly locals we got some tips on some pretty amazing spots, which we would never have found on our own. We spent a day lounging about at Tura Head in one of the best natural rock pools I’ve ever seen and found a perfect beach that was less than 50m long and accessed by a five-metre gap in the cliffs (the name is Wallagoot Gap if you’re interested). The next few days were spent chilling out in Mimosa National Park nestled in amongst the trees where curious wallabies regularly visited us. If you plan on staying in a National Park I would recommend collecting a bunch of firewood before you enter – the rangers won’t be too happy if they see you collect a single twig from inside the park!

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As we made our way further and further up the coast, the days became warmer, and we knew this was a pretty special area. The highway follows the coast and only detours to pass through picturesque farmland or the odd little town. Camel Rock was something I’d been wanting to check out, and a short walk around the corner was Horse Head Rock. Both of these are worth a look, and if you can be bothered getting up for a pre-dawn stroll, they look pretty amazing at sunrise. There’s also some top notch surf at Camel Beach, just don’t leave anything valuable in your car.

As the days went on and we lazily made our way North, we eventually came back into familiar territory and left the Sapphire Coast behind. Our trip was far from over, with spots like Mollymook, Jervis Bay and Kiama making the drive back to Sydney seem like a separate escape in itself. Sadly, we did eventually come back into Sydney after a full six months living out of my severely overloaded Toyota HiAce.

Summer’s finally here and loading up your vehicle and hitting the open road is the best escape! Whether it’s up the coast, down the coast, or inland, doing a little bit of planning (not too much) before you leave is going to make your trip a whole lot easier and give you more time to focus on scoring waves or rocking up to the perfect camp spot. If you’re feeling a little tight on money after the festive season, a weekend away in your van isn’t going to cost you a fortune. In fact, it has got to be one of the cheapest ways to travel! Van life has been good to me, so I’ll share a bunch of tips on how you can get a taste of being a van bum, whether it’s for the weekend or for good.

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Choosing Your Vehicle

First up, you’ve got to have some wheels. It’s called “Van Life” for a reason; vans in any shape or size are perfect for road trips. Station wagons are great also, but once you add all of your gear and your partner or a couple of mates, you’re going to run out of room real quick.

My van of choice is the good old Toyota Hiace – probably one of the most common cars on the road. Toyotas are great because they are renowned for being reliable. I’ve clocked up over 400,000 km in mine, driven through rivers, sand, mud and deserts and she hasn’t missed a beat. Also, if you do happen to need a couple of spare parts almost every mechanic will have worked on one before, and every wrecking yard will have a bunch of parts laying around. If you plan on stacking up some serious mileage, you can’t go wrong with a diesel engine. You’ll save plenty on fuel and you can drive through rivers!

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Packing Smart

I’m not going to go into converting your beaten up tradie van into your very own home on wheels (see how to fit out a van here), but I will give you some tips on how to pack it. The Sapphire Coast is the ultimate activity destination; it’s made up of reef breaks, sand breaks, pristine water for snorkelling and inland waterfalls waiting to be explored. You will probably want to pack everything you need to immerse yourself in all of this adventure, and by the time you’ve got all the basics, you will realise how precious space is.

I’d recommend bringing a range of boards; a log for the smaller surf, and your conventional shortboard for those bigger days. Snorkelling gear is a must as there are some solid dive spots all over the coast, some easier to negotiate than others. If you’re into fishing, grab a rod and some tackle because the Sapphire Coast is famous for its seafood and it has some amazing fishing spots. Solid camp chairs are also essential. You’re probably wondering where you’re going to fit all of this stuff? Easy, use your roof! So many people don’t utilise that massive storage space sitting just above their heads. You’ll need some solid roof racks and to invest in some cam straps for easier loading/unloading of your gear. A waterproof storage pod is a good way to keep everything safe and secure up top, but if you’re a little low on funds, waterproof dry bags will keep your gear safe and dry without the added cost.

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Eat Well, Spend Less

Living in a van, even just for a couple of weeks, is all about budgeting. Sure, it would be awesome if you could just pop into the pub every arvo for some beers and a parmy, but pretty soon you’ll notice the bank account taking a hit. Stocking the van with a range of affordable but nutritious foods won’t just keep you on the road for longer, it’ll keep you healthy and fit for those bigger days in the surf or for that solid hike up a mountain. We recommend canned food. Cans are the best, they are cheap, healthy (if you choose well) and they won’t take up any of your precious fridge/esky room. You can also stock up on a bunch of cans before you hit the road, and they will never go stale on you. Mixed beans can be added to a meal for protein, and they soak up the flavour of any dish. Canned corn kernels will give your Mexican feast a boost, and will only set you back 80cents. Next up are spices. Instead of paying more for flavoured rice and meal bases, buy a bunch of staple spices and add your own flavouring. Not only will you save money, but you will know exactly what’s in the next curry you whip up. Lastly, grab yourself brown rice and pasta. Most of our meals have either brown rice or pasta as a base. The carbs will fill you up, and they’re cheap. Here’s my very own super-budget-Mexican recipe:

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Fry up some carrots and onion or anything else you’ve got on hand, throw in some meat (optional depending on your budget), add a can of diced tomatoes, a can of mixed beans, a can of corn kernels and flavour with some paprika, chilli and cumin powder. Add your pre-cooked brown or white rice, mix it up and fry for another ten mins. Add to the mix some corn chips, cheese and a Corona, and you’ve got yourself a super cheap and tasty Mexican feast!

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Cooking with Fire

Another way to cut down on your expenses and feel like a boss at the same time is to cook your meals on a fire. It’s a cool experience using nothing but a fire to cook a nice meal for your friends. Many campgrounds have built-in fire pits with all the extras enabling you to cook, but the time will come when you rock up to a killer spot without this luxury, so you will have to build your own. To start, keep an eye out for an old bbq that’s ready for the tip. You’re after the metal cooking plates, as these are the perfect base for your outdoor kitchen. You can buy them new from a camping store, however, the old BBQ trick works just as well and will save you some cash. Next up, grab a shovel and dig a hole a little narrower than your plate, making it about a foot deep. Find some rocks or hard timber and line your hole on two sides, trying to make a level surface in which to place your BBQ plate. Get your fire going well before you want to start cooking, as you ideally want a large bunch of hot coals to do most of your cooking. After an hour or two, you’re ready to cook! Grab a cast iron pan/pot and cook as per usual – or go full gorilla and cook directly over the coals. Everything tastes better cooked over a fire!

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The Art of Free Camping

The Sapphire Coast has a whole range of excellent camping areas, most are National Parks, and you’ll probably have a little beach all to yourself. Saltwater Creek, Mimosa Rocks and Mystery Bay are all top notch spots that are worth checking out. If you want to save a few bucks, there are also a heap of great free camping spots if you know where to look. The key to free camping is to be discrete – don’t start cooking up a meal for all your mates in the middle of town, and don’t leave a mess when you leave. I’ve free camped all around Australia, and while NSW probably has the fewest options, they are out there. First up, you might have to give the coast a miss for a couple of nights. The East Coast of Australia is super built up and everywhere close to the beach is going to be pretty difficult to find a free camping spot, but there’s nothing wrong with spending the night in a nice inland forest. If you’re discrete, you can also spend the night in most towns. The key here is to do your cooking and eating in a public park or reserve, then once it’s dark head to a quiet nearby street for sleep. Getting up with the sun also helps to avoid conflict; wake up early and head to a nicer spot for brekky and a morning coffee. There’s nothing wrong with having a snooze by the side of the road, just don’t make a scene and you should be okay. Some quality block-out curtains can also be a massive help to keep people with prying eyes from peeking in, and will also keep you cool on those hot summer days.

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Keeping Clean

One of the best things about the summer roadie is that you’ll hopefully be spending plenty of time in and around the water; whether you’re surfing, swimming, diving or just floating about, showering is going become less of a priority. However, at some point, you’re going to need a proper shower. Several of the National Park campgrounds on the Sapphire Coast have showers, as well as all the caravans parks, but I’m sure at some stage you will want to go a little off the grid. There are a million different ways of showering on the road, and we’ve tried a whole heap of them over the years. There are solar shower bags, electric hot water showers, and roof mounted tank systems – all of which will keep you clean. On my van, I built a little roof top shower which works a charm and is super simple to build and use. It consists of 100mm PVC pressure pipe (make sure you use pressure pipe as opposed to sewage pipe as it’s designed to be in contact with drinking water). On one end of the tube add a 45-degree section and an end cap with a simple tap installed. On the other end, grab a T-section with screw caps, and add another tap – this will act as a valve to let air in as water comes out the other end. Make sure you use water safe PVC cement to glue everything together and use only pure silicon to seal any joins. Paint it black and it’ll warm up nicely on a summer’s day, and is perfect for a nice afternoon shower or just washing up the dishes. I’ve attached mine with stainless steel hose clamps, and it hasn’t budged an inch after 50,000kms around Australia. Another solution which is probably the easiest and cheapest of them all is the shower bucket. You’ll need a metal bucket (try Bunnings) and the fire pit you made earlier; while you’re waiting for the fire to warm up to cook on, fill your bucket with water and pop it on the metal grill over the fire. Don’t hold your breath, it’ll take a while to warm up, but putting something over the top to keep the heat in will speed things up. Once it’s heated to your liking, find a nice private area, grab a bowl or jug and shower away! A hot shower has never been this easy, and you won’t need any fancy electric equipment to do it.

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Stay Charged

Living on the road is a good chance to take a break from technology. We’ve become chess champions and read way too many books, but the time will come when you’ll want to charge up your phone or look at some photos on your laptop. The best way to keep your gear charged is to do it while you’re driving. Your car’s alternator is pumping out a heap of energy, more than enough to charge all your electronics at once. Buy a quality inverter, which converts the 12v from your car to 240v which most of your gear will need (don’t bother with those that plug into your accessory outlet, they usually can only handle a few amps before they blow a fuse). Instead, go for an inverter which wires directly to your battery. Also, don’t go overboard with your wattage, you can buy 1000 watt or 2000 watt inverters, but for your laptop, cameras and phones, 300w is more than enough. If you plan on staying somewhere for more than a couple of days, the time will come when charging your gear while driving just isn’t going to work. The best solution is solar. It sounds a bit full on, but with a bit of research and some cheap panels off eBay, you can stay in one spot indefinitely (providing you have enough food and beer). There’s a range of other easy options; my favourite would be the portable jump starter, consisting of a battery in a box already wired up with a range of connections for your phones and laptops. It will also jump start your car if you get a dead battery, so it’s a win-win!

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Living in a van on a summer road trip is the ultimate experience. It’s easy, fun and a great way to explore Australia without the added expense of motels or camping grounds. You should now know what to look for in the perfect car, how to pack it like a pro and how to save a fortune on food. Keeping clean with your very own shower and cooking up a storm using nothing but a campfire will impress your mates to no end. You’ll be able to keep connected with the friends you left behind by being able to charge up all your gear. The Sapphire Coast makes for the perfect spot for a summer getaway, and being right between Sydney and Melbourne you have no excuse not to go!

Photos & Words: Mitch Cox

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Want to win the ULTIMATE Corona Summer Journeys prize pack? Then share your Summer Journey with us!

There’s a hefty summer bounty up for grabs including:

– 1 x Bear Rentals Camping Package
– 1 x Poler 2-Man Tent
– 1 x Dead Kooks Custom Surfboard
– 2 x Poler Napsacks
– 2 x Poler Rucksack Bag
– 1 x Poler Cast Iron Dutch Oven
– 2 x Poler Camp Vibe Mugs
– 1 x Corona 120L Esky
– 2 x Corona Towels
– 2 x Corona Caps

 

To share your Summer Journey with Corona simply upload a photo from your adventure to Instagram, tag @coronaextra_au and three friends in the caption, along with the hashtag #CoronaJourneys. Easy!

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For more entry details and T&C’s click HERE.