Posts

Top Camping Spot Review – Badgers Creek, Healesville, Victoria (Healesville camping!)

The Yarra Valley has always been a favourite for this Achtung Camping pair pre-baby.  Now with child, things have changed slightly.  Undoubtedly one of the best attractions of the Yarra Valley are the wineries – from which we were only able to visit one this time with toddler in toe and spend the rest of our time in Healesville camping.  But we chose well, TarraWarra Estate had the most beautiful grounds and architectural buildings we have ever seen.  It doesn’t matter if you are a beer drinker, the grounds here and amazing restaurant plus modern art gallery have more than something for everyone.

Healesville itself has become a bit of a foodies hotspot and we were impressed when walking into the Healesville Hotel or Giant Steps however the high price tags that accompanied the not so impressive meals left us with a bit of a bad taste in our mouth at the end.  All in all we think $7.50 as the going rate for a pot of beer in all places we visited to be a bit stiff.  Yes the amazing beer garden and décor at the Healesville Hotel made up for the stiff drink prices but we still couldn’t stomach a second night eating here after paying $35 for average mains the night before.

The campground – Big 4 Badgers Creek is about 5 minutes drive out of Healesville and unfortunately the 45 minute walk with no footpath along a busy dark road was too much for us to brave on foot.  As per the majority of Big 4 Campgrounds, the facilities were abundant and so was the price tag – we paid $55 a night in an off peak period, for a non powered site.  I do not want to know what a powered site costs over Christmas.  If you are going to make use of the tennis courts, games room, small pool, brand new showers and toilet block, kitchen with massive flat screen TV and playground then maybe it’s worth it.  We cook in our around our van and didn’t make sure of anything other than the toilets and playground so it wasn’t worth money for us.  Please note also that there was an outdoor WEDDING hosted IN the campground the Saturday night we stayed, complete with MC and 50 odd drunk guests.  When I complained about the noise the next day and the ridiculousness of hosting a wedding next to people with kids sleeping in tents the staff member said the owners were trialing it as it was something they wanted to do ongoing in future.  This was enough for us to say, never again Big 4 Badgers Creek!

Location – As most know, the Yarra Vally is amazingly close to Melbourne and even from Geelong the 2 hour drive was worth it.  We’ll be back, but next time we’ll be checking out some bush camping!

Badger's Creek campground

Badger’s Creek campground

Badger's Creek campground

Badger’s Creek campground

Badger's Creek campground

Badger’s Creek campground

Badger's Creek campground

Badger’s Creek campground

TarraWarra Estate

TarraWarra Estate

TarraWarra Estate

TarraWarra Estate

TarraWarra Estate

TarraWarra Estate

Top Camping Spot Review – Cumberland River

This is undoubtedly one of the most breathtaking spots to camp in Victoria, with shear cliffs framing a river upon which you can camp on it’s bank.  The perfect beach is only a minute walk away (although you need to cross the busy Great Ocean Road so take care with children!).

There are a number of walks starting from the campground, ranging from 30 minutes return to full day walks.  We loved the walk to Jebb’s pool which was close by and a great place for a cool, shady swim.

The campground – although the setting is world class, the campground leaves a little to be desired – showers are 20cents for 5 minutes, which we woudn’t mind, however without knowing this before arriving you have to be lucky to have enough 20 cent pieces with you for showers each night.  Worse still the reception was also ‘out’ of 20 cent pieces for the 3 days we camped here.   A problem as the closest place to change money is Lorne.

There is VERY limited power and running water at this campground, which didn’t bother us however it might if you are not ready for a self sufficient stay.  All in all, our biggest issue with the campground was the lack of shade/trees and that the camp spots were mostly just dirt and not grass covered – making it hard to keep things clean.

Location – Cumberland River is about 10 minutes drive past Lorne, and 2 hours and 10minutes from Melbourne.  The distance and amenities make it great for a long weekend.

Caravan Salon Exhibition Dusseldorf 2017

Achtung Camper reporting on the latest and greatest from the campervan world internationally.  We recently attended our second Caravan Saalon Exhibition in Dusseldorf, Germany and got to see what the biggest and best companies from Europe and the UK are doing campervan and motorhome wise.

The first thing that hits you when you attend a caravan and camping exhibition overseas is the sheer size.  We are used to (what we feel are!) very large exhibitions with lots of sheds and km’s to cover in Australia.  Arrive at an exhibition in Europe and you’ll see just how small the market is here.  The vast array of (often extremely similar) campervans on offer is baffling.  How can any of these companies compete with each other when they all look so similar!  That question is answered by walking through the streets in any German town – where you will spot at least one new T6 campervan or old Westfalia parked on pretty much every street corner.  Campervanning is BIG here!  And with THEIR climate, you’d wonder how so many people find the cash to finance a camping mobile they probably won’t be using for 50% of the year due to the hard winters.

And the differences in travelling style that the climate and landscape bring are reflected in the features included in the campervans built for travel in the UK and Europe.  Densely populated areas and no long dry spells of unrelenting heat mean it is always easy to fill up water and food no matter where you are on your travels.  Unlike Australia where you might drive for days without a clean water source or food store, it is not necessary here to be as self-sufficient as it is during an Australian road trip.  We considered the harshness of the Australian when looking the features in 90% of the campervans on offer in Europe and the UK:

  • One small draw fridge as opposed to our ‘large’ 50, 65 or 80 litre upright fridges.
  • One 10 litre water tank as opposed to our 40-litre tank.
  • Minimal cabinetry/storage as opposed to our full cabinetry. The majority of trips here are taken over the weekend not months at a time.

We were disappointed and proud all at once, on one hand there was little to learn from companies who have LESS features and usability than an Achtung Camper.  Conversely, we were proud when it sunk in that these guys actually have it a lot easier than the folk building campervans for the Australian public.  Sure, it’s easy to build a van with minimal cabinetry, water and food storage.  But Achtung Camper (and the handful of other Australia suppliers) had managed to fit so much more into that small space, and still make it liveable.

Our disappointment continued when we finished our third enormous hall of campervans on show.  Westfalia (the original VW campervan converter and still the most prominent) and 90% of the other companies all had the same modern grey interior.  Yes, it looks slick and inoffensive, but to us? It’s just plain boring!   Where were the crazy fashionable boundary pushing interiors?   (In Geelong, apparently!)

Then we came to a very small setup with only two vans on show and two young men talking to the press.  The German company called Kampagnia was opened only 2 years earlier and offers about 20 different film faced formply colours to choose from for your cabinetry.  Colours we could only dream about were available here.  After chatting to our new friends for a while we found many similarities between their company and ours, two young people with a drive to do something different and let clients personalise the look of their vans, a drive to do something colourful and cutting edge.

Another company worth mentioning – Dogs Campers (crazy considering having a dog as a pet is not nearly as popular in Germany as it is in Australia).  That’s right, campervans designed specifically for the camping dog owner.  We loved some of their features such as the integrated dog cage but didn’t really like the brash dog-related branding on the outside of the vans.

That’s not to say we didn’t get some great new ideas from the exhibition  and European market offerings.  Quite the contrary, Achtung Camper are now working harder than ever to integrate some awesome new features to our range.  Here are some of the ideas we are currently working on for our vans:

  • Diesel heater with hot water.
  • LED exterior light as a feature for the Nature Lover conversion.
  • LED light strips for the interior.
  • Power control system/phone app to view water tank level, leisure battery power level, temperature inside and outside.
  • Better quality plug and play cold shower.

The real highlight of the exhibition (besides the free champagne and finger food at 10am on Trade Day!) – being able to step inside a 1.5-million-euro motorhome.  Yes, something this crazy and ridiculous exists.  Check out the pics below and dream away…!

CHOOSING YOUR VEHICLE: The Hyundai Campervan VS the VW Campervan

We are often asked which van we would recommend for a campervan, the Hyundai Iload or the VW Transporter.   There is obviously no easy answer and lots to consider when choosing between the two.

THE ORIGINAL CAMPERVAN

As the VW has historically been used as a campervan in the UK and Europe, there are a lot of accessories readily available and made specifically for this type of van. Check out Just Kampers Australian website for a glimpse of what is available to purchase for the VW (but not the Hyundai). Most notable here is the passenger swivel seat base which to date we cannot source for the Hyundai.

You are also unable to sit in the Hyundai rock and roll bed seat facing outwards when the tailgate is up due to the different height of the Hyundai roof.

Another point to keep in mind is that the step into the Hyundai is higher and the sliding door opening smaller than in the VW, this makes it slightly more difficult to step into a Hyundai campervan.

Winner: VW

THE UP FRONT COST

If you are purchasing new, the price is like for like. Although if you have a limited budget and can only afford second hand, Hyundai vehicles drop far more in price than the VW once they leave the showroom.   For $28K you could buy a Hyundai Iload with low kms and still under warranty, however would not find anything similar in this price range when looking at used VW Transporters.

Having said that, Ronny our German Achtung Camper director would 100 times over tell you there is no comparison between German and Korean workmanship.   Achtung Camper can also get a good discount on new T6 vans purchased through us to convert into a VW Campervan. These two points lead us to the following conclusion:

Winner:

Hyundai if you are purchasing second hand.

VW if you are purchasing new.

 THE ONGOING COSTS

Regardless of whether you want your van to be a campervan or a normal passenger vehicle, Hyundai vs VW comes down to a few deciding factors:

  • A 5 year warranty on Hyundai vans as opposed to 3 years with VW.
  • Cheaper ongoing servicing and parts with Hyundai.
  • More mechanics in Australia are able to service/repair the Hyundai than a European model.

Winner: Hyundai

 For more information on our campervan conversions visit http://achtungcamper.com.au/conversions/

 

HELP! I’M CAMPING AND THE WEATHER IS BAD FOR THE FORESEEABLE FUTURE

We’ve been stuck more than a few times with only a week or two of cherished holiday time, a campervan and BAD WEATHER.

So what to do when your stuck camping and the weather is bad? Will you stay or will you go? As weather predictions are often wrong and I’m sure you chose your current destination for some great reasons, you might want to stick it out a few days before you make the decision to bail for good and head somewhere dryer/warmer.

Our advice for sticking it out:

  • Did you bring some boardgames and a deck of cards with you? If not, go and buy some pronto!
  • Do you have a good book with you? I hope so!
  • How many bottles of red wine did you bring? Go and buy some more!
  • Do you feel like an antipasto platter for dinner with your wine? It will go down very well…and doesn’t require any cooking or washing dishes. A few different types of cheeses, cold cuts, dips and nice bread are just what the doctor ordered in this weather.
  • If you have an ipad, tablet or laptop with you then you really do have entertainment on tap for at least a couple of days in the form of unwatched movies and TV shows.
  • (If it’s possible) drive out of the camp spot and get the paper plus go for a coffee or lunch somewhere in a café or pub close by each day (prevents cabin fever).
  • Check out a map and see if there are any interesting towns or cities within an hour or two’s drive and somewhere nearby to camp. Towns and cities offer LOTS more to do during wet weather than your free camping national park experience.
  • Similarly, have a look if there are any wineries in the region – always a lot of fun.
  • Make a nice bonfire if it’s not raining all the time and toast some marshmallows. Trust me this is almost better than campervanning in warm weather!

Our advice for bailing:

  • Our first instincts when you’re camping and the weather is bad are always to just drive as far North from where we are as possible to escape any COLD we are trying to get away from. But think again before you use this tactic as it often rains more the further north you go, and that ain’t no fun at all. You might also only have a few days and don’t want to waste too much time driving further away from home.

A last thought to leave you with, you’re still in Australia…the weather isn’t really THAT bad…

camping in bad weather

If you have any tips on camping in bad weather please comment below!

For more camping related blogs visit http://achtungcamper.com.au/blog/

 

How to buy a campervan in Australia

By the time people come to us for a conversion they’ve pretty much worked out how to buy a campervan in Australia but there are other options available that many might not be aware of.

The question of budget really determines what options are available to you when looking to buy a campervan in Australia, with the cheapest options as follows:

  • Check out caravancampingsales.com.au and Gumtree.com.au for a well priced used campervan homemade or professionally built.
  • Purchase a used van on carsales.com.au and DIY the prerequisite basics (check out pinterest, instagram, Vanlife and a plethora of other DIY information on the internet for ideas and information):
    • Curtains
    • You can get an additional window fitted if required by avadirect.com.au
    • Throw a mattress and bedding of some sort in the back
    • Visit justkampers.com.au (make sure it’s the Australian website) for VW campevan accessories
    • Check out Ikea for some awesome small space storage options

If you have a little more cash to spend, but not the time, then buying a pre-made campervan might be right for you. Again, check out caravancampingsales.com.au for newer campervans for sale.

If you have the cash AND the time, and want a more personlised camping machine then you can buy a new or used van (or order your new VW T6 through Achtung Camper) then present to us for a customized conversion.

A laste note – many people come to us keen on purchasing a campervan however have never really spent time camping in a tent, campervan or otherwise. Our suggestion? Before you go splashing all that cash spend some time in the great outdoors and see how you like it. Yes camping in a tent is a little rougher but it’s pretty much the same concept and if you don’t enjoy being outdoors all the time in nature then campevanning is probably also not for you.

Similarly, if you’ve had a caravan before or are tossing up between a caravan or campervan take out quiz here: http://achtungcamper.com.au/blog/campervan-or-caravan/ to ascertain whether a campervan really is the correct travel machine for you.

One last thought to leave you with…

how to buy a campervan

Campervan accessories – websites and shops to check out when shopping for your campervan

You’ve got your campervan but now you need the accessories! Where to start?

We’ve put together a list of the best value shops and websites to check out before you start your journey.

Justkampers.com.au

This is a UK based VW campervan accessory online shop that has EVERYTHING you need and more. Now with an Australian online shop based in Sydney, they have van hardware to electrical items to the kitchen sink. Literally.

Ikea

Yes that’s right, Ikea. They have great storage solutions for small spaces plus amazingly cheap bathroom and kitchen accessories, in plastic and other travel safe materials. We’ve picked up amazingly compact clothes racks, magnetic spice rack containers and tiny portable LED alarm clock/temperature gauges just to name a few.

Ikea storage

Ikea storage

BCF, Rays Outdoors and Aussie Disposals

Although Aussies seem to win on price, they just don’t have the range that you’ll find in the other two stores.

BCF is handy when looking for outdoor shelters/tent style marquees to attach to either the side or back of your van.

Rays has a great selection of camping chairs, kitchen necessities and lighting options.

Jaycar

If you pass a Jaycar pop in and check out their range of camping accessories, most being electric. They have some great lighting options and power solutions and can usually help you with any advice you’ll need on getting the right product for you.

How does the leisure battery work in my campervan?

With an Achtung Camper campervan you will be fitted with a second leisure battery to run your campervan electrics from.  This works automatically and ensures that your main car battery will never run flat.    The leisure battery automatically charges whenever the car is running.

When stopping somewhere without power for a few days in your campervan (or if you don’t have a 240 volt connection in your van) you’ll be able to run your fridge, lights, TV, charge your mobile phone and laptop without a problem.  You will be able to stand stationary with your van and not turn it on for 2-3 days if it’s colder weather and about a day if it’s quite hot.  After a certain amount of time if you haven’t started the van and have been running all of these appliances your leisure battery will go flat.  You will notice if it’s flat because your fridge will turn off.

If you have noticed your leisure battery is flat have two options:

  • You can go for a long drive (3 hours minimum to fully recharge your battery).
  • You can idle your van for about 30 minutes to get it up to a good charge and then get your solar panels out and connect them which will recharge the battery.

If you are free camping and plan on spending longer periods in the one spot we’d suggest getting out your solar as soon as you arrive and placing it in a nice sunny position so you can forget about it and have unlimited power.