Anybody can, and should experience ‘Van Life’, but it doesn’t mean you need to sell all your belongings, quit your job and completely change your life to experience the ultimate road trip. Van life can be as simple as hiring a rental van for a weekend up the coast, or taking the family caravan out on the road to your desired destination. There’s no guidelines.
I’ve done my fair share of travelling the past few years, and a lot of that time has been spent in a van of some sort. From living in my pop top for the better part of a year at home in Tasmania, to driving an old bus around for six months with two mates up the east coast of Aus, to living and working in an old Hi-Ace with two Californians in Byron Bay. Each experience was completely different, but shared a common thread of searching for an adventure on wheels.
My sister and her partner had just spent the past year discovering every nook and cranny of our big, beautiful country in an adventure bus, and had found themselves at an endpoint. After settling in WA and trading up the bus for something with a little more off-road capacity, they suggested I fly over and drive the van back home to Tassie for them.
The weather and surf in Tasmania were dismal, I was broke, and my good mate Zach was keen to tag along to Perth – it was settled. The plan was to fly to WA, pick up the van, then drive it home to southern Tassie with no agenda besides sticking mainly to the coast. 4129 kms in total – easy stuff.
We left a layer of frost on our windscreens and made our way to the airport, rugged up in jeans and jumpers. A plane ride and quick outfit change by the conveyor belt in Perth airport saw us walking out into 42-degree heat to pick up our home on wheels.
One of our Perth mates, Annie, insisted that we wait for her to finish work before driving straight to Margaret River. I checked the swell forecast for Margs and it was looking pretty good for the following day, so we hit the road. The following morning the three of us woke up in the van, only to realise we’d somehow misplaced the van’s keys. But luck was on our side as we found a spare, and so we got our things sorted to drive over the headland to the nearest beach. That day produced the most enjoyable waves I had surfed all year. Just the three of us out, with perfect right-handers – easy takeoff with a small barrel section which funnelled into a long wall ending on a heavy shore break. We spent a few days in that zone, even running into a mate from Tassie by chance and cruising around with him for a couple of days. A week in and we knew we’d made the right decision going on the trip.
After spending some time exploring Margaret River and its surrounding towns, we started heading towards the place that I was most excited for: Esperance. It is one of the most beautiful places I’ve been to; just minutes out of the main strip of town is a stretch of beach with the clearest water you’ve ever seen, surrounded by crazy orange granite rocks, and lush green bush. And, if you’re lucky, there’s a pretty bloody fun left-hand wedge in the corner of the beach also. Drive a little further and you’ll get to a number of secluded little bays with similar setups. It’s perfect beach after perfect beach. We surfed the left wedge and were pinching ourselves on how transparent the water was.
It’s not unusual to surf with a pod of dolphins, however, make sure you’ve got the right fin as the area is also renowned for its men in grey suits. Head a little bit east and you get to the Cape Le Grande National Park where you can feed the kangaroos on the beach. This was the only place we paid for camping the entire trip, and we knew we had to check it out. Turned out to be a great call, as we spent the afternoon hiking up to the top of a granite boulder field, before sinking a few Coronas as we watched the sunset over the ocean. The perfect way to spend my birthday!
We ventured from Esperance along the Nullarbor, and into South Australia where we were greeted by more perfect, uncrowded waves, beautiful landscapes, and interesting locals who were happy to share a yarn. I’m not going to name the spots along the south coast we explored, however, I highly recommend getting down to the bottom of a beautiful nation – it’s a must-see.
The days rolled in and out of each other like groundhog day, as we traversed the 4129km towards home. Along the way we met many amazing people, swam with dolphins, enjoyed many cold cervezas around the fire, hiked mountains, ran out of fuel, watched the sunset over the ocean, enjoyed live music, learnt to cook a mean green Thai curry, visited small towns, got caught in one of the craziest storms I’ve ever witnessed, and basked in the most spectacular sunrises. A fair share of achievements, in a relatively short period of time.
Exploring this great nation in a van is the definition of freedom and adventure – the accessibility it offers is second to none. Whether it’s for a weekend, a week, a month, a year, or a lifetime – do yourself a favour and have a go at ‘Van Life.’ You won’t regret it.
Check out more of Nick’s EPIC Corona Journeys HERE.