We’ve bought a new car, a Ford Ranger XLT Super Cab. Although we were very happy with our Holden Colorado we felt it was time to upgrade, mainly because we needed more power. With a towing weight of 1.5 tonnes on the Kimberley Kamper power is something we really needed. Plus we wanted the additional comfort of things like Bluetooth, automatic lights and wipers, etc.
We’ve done many modifications to the Ranger, including taking the tub off and having a service body put in its place. We find that we love camping especially near the beach and as we all know the beach can be very windy. Canvas and wind just don’t go together. So Chris has fitted out the back with a bed, storage, fridge, lighting, lithium battery and loads of charging points for all our devices. Our most recent addition prior to coming away has included putting 3 semi flexible solar panels on the roof of the car (more about that later)
Pimba (Spuds Roadhouse) $5.00 per car
It’s late June and we have set off from home. First of all we needed drinking water in our tanks. We live in a area where we don’t have mains water and totally rely on rain water. Normally this is not a problem but as everyone knows South Australia has been suffering through a drought and our tanks have been quite dry. When we did get some rain, the quality of water in our tank has not been satisfactory for us to drink. So while doing some research, I found an entry on the Port Augusta Tourist Office website where they mentioned, if you need drinking water when travelling through, you can do this whilst purchasing your fuel at the service stations, just ask if you can use their drinking water taps. So we called into the Shell Service Station on the Augusta Highway and spoke with one of the girls at the desk. She was super friendly and said just go to pump 1 as there is also a water tap and just like that. we had water and fuel.
Our first stop was at Pimba (Spuds Roadhouse). This campground is set back from the road and is in a open area adjacent to the Roadhouse. They have flushing toilets, pay showers and bins. There is also a pump for fresh drinking water, you just insert coins and pay per litre. The grounds are well looked after by the Pimba Progress Association, they do a brilliant job of maintaining the facilities. You can buy a meal from Spuds Roadhouse and he also has a very well stocked shop for just about anything you need.
It was very cold when we arrived and we had a head wind all the way from home. So our first night was spent in the back of the car. With a very windy northerly blowing we slept beautifully and didn’t hear a thing. We topped up the car with diesel at Spuds, it was $1.79/litre and we were on our way.
Cadney Park Caravan Park $20/night unpowered
We set off from Pimba heading north and still with a very strong northerly head wind, Chris was grumbling by now. We called into Hutchinson Memorial as we planned to spend the night there, it is just before Coober Pedy. We pulled in and as I opened the door the wind slammed it shut on me before I could get out. Yep you guessed it, we didn’t stop there. Called into Coober Pedy for lunch and found a great little sheltered spot from the wind.
We topped up with diesel, price was $1.70/litre plus a jerry can and set off with that northerly wind still blowing hard. This next stretch of the highway from here is the most boring I’ve seen. Very flat, no trees and very desolate. I imagine it to be very inhospitable it reminded me of landscape in the Mad Max movies. Then of course as we are driving along, my mind goes into overdrive.
We arrived at Cadney Caravan Park and the wind had started to slow down a bit. The last time we stayed here would have been over 20 years ago. It is a nice little caravan park with brownish green grass. However that is only in the powered section. If you don’t require power (as we don’t) then you are relegated to the dusty paddock out the back. In saying that you are allowed to have a camp fire and it is very close to the amenities block. There is a water tap available but I am unsure what source it is from. I assume treated bore water but we didn’t need to use it. We did have an enjoyable evening and were treated to a beautiful sunset.
Desert Oaks Rest Area Free Camping
We packed up after a very peaceful night and continued heading north. We still had that annoying head wind blowing in from the north. On the bright side with it being a northerly the days were quite warm but it certainly did cool off quite a bit at night.
We’ve now crossed the border into Northern Territory and we chose to stay at a roadside stop we had seen on a previous trip. Very well set out and cared for with fire pits, tables and chairs and a rotunda. By now the wind had finally decided to slow down and we enjoyed our night by the fire cooking up a roast. There is nothing better than a meal cooked in the camp over over coals, with a beer and watching the sunset for another day. Sunsets are always beautiful here in the Northern Territory. There was very little road noise as it is a large area and set back a fair way.
Campground at Gap View Hotel $15/night unpowered
I had called ahead to our favourite caravan park G’Day Mate where we always stay and unfortunately they couldn’t put us up. Very, very busy due to school holidays. Not very happy but that’s the way it is. I did try another one but no luck. So back to my trusty app WikiCamps and found this place. It appears to be a new hotel. Very nice and modern hotel with fabulous facilities. The campground is out the back and the niceness does not continue out there. The unpowered section is on the left in a very dusty area with rubbish all blown in from the wind against the fence line. If you have a powered site then you turn right and there is a little grass and seems just a bit nicer. We had to drag the camper over to the powered section to attach our hose to the tap for water. We didn’t spend much time in the caravan park as it wasn’t very appealing. However, they have a campers bar and entertainment area which I must say is just fabulous. A couple of bars, pizza oven, games, big TV playing music and just a fabulous area to mix with fellow travellers. They have a lovely swimming pool area and the amenities were very new and clean. So all in all yes the campground leaves a lot to be desired, the rest was fabulous.I really hope they work on it and make it appealing as it would be a great park. We throughly enjoyed our meal in the hotel.
Devils Marbles Campground $13.20/night (National Park)
We pulled into Ti Tree for some lunch, they have a fabulous little park in town with shade, grass, bins and plenty of space to pull in. It goes in a circular direction making it easy to drive in and out. We topped up with diesel at Wycliffe Well at $1.79/litre. We checked the weather apps before we left Alice and the winds were still strong so we made the decision to sleep in the car again tonight. It was a wise decision, not because it was windy when we arrived, because the campground was packed. We arrived about 4pm and it was standing room only already. Big massive vans travelling together all nicely set up with spaciousness between themselves. All the little Motorhomes having to squeeze in between them. We found a place along the fence line. It turned out to be a very calm and balmy evening. Being Territory Day we were treated to fireworks during the Evening by some of the travellers. There are nice walks around the rocks and people also climb the rocks. I do find it a peaceful place to stay albeit sometimes windy and busy.
Davenport Ranges – Old Policeman’s Waterhole $13.20/night (National Park)
We made the decision to take the northern access road into the Davenport Ranges as opposed to the southern access road. Mainly because of fuel and time constraints.
It is 170km in from Devils Marbles. The first 55 kilometres to the turn off was quite corrugated and rocky and is the Kurundi / Epenarra Road better known as the Binns Track. Chris quickly decided at the beginning he needed to lower the tyre pressure. He put the front down to 28 psi and 32 psi on the back, this made the journey far more comfortable. The scenery was quite nice with rolling hills, loads of trees and just quite picturesque. All creek crossings (which were dry) all have a concrete base. After the turnoff to Old Policeman’s Waterhole the road becomes much smoother. In fact it was mostly sandy and once again all creek crossings were concreted. There are a couple of gates to go through. In fact we were quite confused when we approached the first gate as which is at the turn off to Canteen Creek. Our Hema Navigator was taking us to Canteen Creek and not through the gate. After a little while we turned around after thinking this doesn’t seem right. There are no signs and after we went through we realised we were on pastoral land. Once again there is another gate many kilometres down the road and no signs to say which way to go. So we just made sure we closed the gates and put them as we found them after driving through. When arriving into Old Policeman’s Waterhole Campground you go past the entrance to the Frew River Track and then find all the campsites along the waterhole. They are quite spacious and not at all close the next and every site is along the waterhole. They all have tables and fire pits. With loads of big shady trees we set ourselves up with a nice little campsite right at the very end.
We were woken up with this amazing sound. It sounded like a herd of monkeys had arrived. When we unzipped the window we were greeted with the most amazing view of still calm water and beautiful reflections. Chris dived out of bed with the camera to take photos of the water. In the meantime I had said to him so what is making all that ruckus? Upon further investigation he found further upstream a pair of brolgas, trumpeting away. Well that certainly put a smile on his face as he set off to photograph them.
After breakfast we set off to find the ruins of the police station ruins. As there is a lot water you have to walk a long way round to find a spot to cross over. The Waterhole is fed by the Frew River and is a permanent source of water. The Rangers have put pink ribbons along the track you follow to the police station ruins. As they are quite old and probably not built that well, there is not much left nowadays, mainly just a pile of rocks.
The late 1890’s saw drovers arrive with cattle and prospectors also arriving to try their luck. A homestead was built during this time on the other side of the waterhole. In 1914 there was a mining boom, The Hatches Creek mine was established about 10km away from the homestead. This bought hundreds of miners to the area. In 1920 the authorities saw the need to build a police station to settle troubles between the Aboriginal people and pastoralists. This was built at the site of the old homestead.
The walk from the campground to the ruins is about a 3.8km return walk with deviations to other parts of the river to take photos. It is mostly flat, a little rocky and one water crossing with a little rock hopping required. On the way back we walked up to where there was no more water and crossed back over to the other side. All along there are pockets of water with many opportunities to photograph the bird life.
While talking with another camper he mentioned there was another campground further up stream along the Frew River 4WD Track which is a 17km track taking you out to the northern access road. The other campground is about 7 km up the track, so we set off to have a look. Although it looked quite good, I personally preferred the main campground. We did have some fun though mucking about on the track and testing out the car. Being a new car with all the bells and whistles, it was certainly whistling going along track, not wanting to get to close to this and that.
Whistle duck Creek Campground $6.60/night (National Park)
After heading back out to the Binns Track you come to the turn off to Whistle duck Creek, it is a further 25km along this road to the campground. The road in was fine, not too bad at all and was a little more picturesque than the road into Old Policeman’s Waterhole. There are a lot of ghost gums so with their white trunks and beautiful green foliage, I understand why I love these trees so much. There had been a big bushfire go through the area and you can see the damage caused. The plants, trees, etc are recovering, albeit slowly. I have to wonder if we were not as impressed with this campground because of the fires or because there are only a couple sites next to water. I’m thinking the later, we are always drawn to camping next to water. It would have to be one of the most relaxing vistas. The rest are inland and really don’t have much appeal. Also we are not sure if the campsites were damaged and not replaced after the fire or what. But there are certainly not as many as indicated on the board when you come in. We camped in the area that said sites 3 – 4 but there were definitely 3 in this section. So should read 3,4&5. We camped in 4. The toilets were not as well looked after with a big roll of toilet paper just left on the ground. We had a drive around and had look at the creek down at the day area. Very shady with lots of big trees but all burnt out. We settled in for the evening and did manage to take some nice night time photos. We only stayed here one night wishing we had camped longer at Old Policeman’s Waterhole.
Banka Banka Station $20/night unpowered
We have always driven past here, so this year we decided to call in and stay. I’m so glad we did. Such a fabulous place, everyone is so happy, friendly and helpful. The amenities very well set out and extremely clean and cared for. The lady checking us in, even asked us which way our camper opens up and which side is the kitchen. So we had the kitchen side away from the afternoon sun. Where do you get that considerate caring service these days.
They have walks, a kiosk and a communal fire pit where everyone is welcome to come with your own drinks to sit and chat with fellow travellers. Children were given marshmallows and sticks to roast with around the fire. Perfect!
Daly Waters Pub Caravan Park $20/night unpowered
We have been coming to Daly Waters Pub since the early 90’s. We’ve certainly noticed huge changes over the years. From a quirky small pub with staff who have time for a yarn. These days, they have extended the park from the nice little green section in the middle we used to camp in to gravel areas around the extremity and large dust bowls over the road in the overflow sections. We were in the gravel section at the back behind the new toilet/shower cubicles and unfortunately the same way the breeze blows the septic smell to. Personally I think I’d prefer the overflow section next time. It is quieter and not smelly, just very dusty. This year, we noticed the addition of extra toilet/shower cubicles and a swimming pool.
We throughly enjoyed our beef and Barra BBQ, @ $34.50/person which includes the salad bar. This entitles you to a bottle of house wine at $15/bottle. Next time, I’ll stick to a beer! The Pitt Family Circus was not on this night due to injuries, so we were entertained by the duo Lou and Phil.
Jalmurark Campground Elsey National Park $13.20/night
We were last here in 2017 and we were really disappointed with the condition of the campground and the walking tracks, plus there were no campground hosts. We were pleasantly surprised this year to see campground hosts and a very well cared for campground, lovely hosts and very clean and tidy amenities. We throughly enjoyed our time here and wished we could have stayed longer. We found a fabulous site over the other side which included a grassed area with table and chairs and a fire pit.
We planned to set out for our walk to Mataranka Falls in the early morning but didn’t get going early enough. There was another photographer by the name of Peter Young camping across from us, he noticed Chris’s camera gear and we got talking. So word of warning, you really need to start this walk early in the morning as there is not much shade and it is a vey hot walk in. I misread the sign and thought it was a 4.2km return walk. After walking for sometime, I mentioned to Chris this is taking such a long time for a 2km walk. So after he said no, no it’s 4.2km one way, I was really annoyed we hadn’t got going earlier, especially as I was the one who kept talking to other people. Guess that will teach me! The track was in much better condition this time and I welcomed the addition of bridges put in over the creeks. Other times, we had to walk along a tree log, you know like walking the plank. The track is fairly flat but has very long sections of sand to walk through. the first kilometre is easy, shaded with a new bridge. The 2nd kilometre is sandy with part shade. The 3rd kilometre has less shade and a mixture of sandy and rocky sections and the 4th kilometre is all rocky and no shade at all. The last section to the falls is over all rocks but very cool and shady.
Bridge Creek Rest Area (Free camp)
Last time we drove to Darwin we drove past this rest stop and thought next time we come up we must stop. Located on the Stuart Highway past the turn off to Douglas-Daly Hot Springs is this great little rest stop. It is a large area and there was some grass albeit brown. The rest was quite dusty. It has toilets and they even provide soap to wash your hands with. Fire pits and wood is supplied and a rotunda with seating, plus other table and chairs spread around. It really is a great spot. However, if you camp too close to the toilets you will have the smell and if you camp where we were you have more road noise. The road noise was quite constant and went most of the night. When there was no traffic it was extremely pleasant. We lit the fire and asked some people camped next to us to share the fire and have a chat. We met a lovely old man called Tom travelling with his dog Matty and Eileen and Colin travelling with their Avan. It was very busy and must have been over 40 vans in for the night.
Hidden Valley Caravan Park $55/night Premium Powered Site
This is the second time we have stayed here now. It is a well laid out park with very friendly staff. Last time we stayed right near the entrance opposite the pool, this section has a new amenities block. This time we booked a premium powered site which is in the older area. We had site 136, the sites are great with loads of shade. This section is near another much older amenities block and camp kitchen. The camp kitchen is well set out with fridge/freezer, tv, microwave, kettle etc. however the big industrial fridge/freezer is very loud which I found quite annoying at 3am in the morning. We had our usual visit to the Darwin yacht club where we enjoy a cold beer and a relax looking at the ocean.
Mindil Beach Markets, well what can I say. They never disappoint, they are on during the dry season on Thursday’s and Saturdays.
We spent 4 days in Darwin, mainly on business but once the business activities were completed we enjoyed some time at Fogg Dam. The photographer we met told us we should go there at sunset. Knowing Darwin as we do, we knew immediately this was going to be place where we will be murdered by midges and mosquitoes. So we both packed clothes that only left our hands and head exposed. Yep, that was exactly where I received my bites.
Fogg dam has Board walks and viewing platforms all around the dam. There are varying lengths of walks. We took the shortest one as we wanted to survive the massacre we would endure from the midges and mosquitoes.
We were rewarded though with a lovely sunset and a few different types of water birds. We were lucky enough to see a forest kingfisher. I saw him fly into the tree and recognised him by his brilliant blue colour. He was very sweet, and after we moved to another location he came down to the handrail and posed for us.
Our last night saw us back at Seafood on Cullen for dinner. It is a all you can eat seafood buffet. We don’t normally go for this type if meal but the food is nice, service is great and it is right on the water. So perfect for watching the sun set.