We are a family of four. Two adults and two daughters aged six and nine. We vanned through Europe in 2016 for 100 days so we are well accustomed to smaller spaces and campervan road trips. With our sights set on Dubbo Zoo the great Midwest Region of NSW became our highway for an adventurous winter sojourn.
Day 1: Drive from Sydney – Cudgegong
We picked up our upgraded Maui six berth van around 1pm at Britz headquarters in Banksmeadow. We unpacked everything – clothes, food, helmets, books and games, and left our suitcase in the car. Less is more in a campervan. We knew we couldn’t rent a kids bike for our youngest so we travelled with it inside the van at our own risk. Thankfully nothing was damaged.
Our booking included six towels, bedding and pillows for three double beds. I brought a few extra towels, a blender for breakfast protein smoothies and some Tupperware to store food in. We filled the fridge and cupboards, hooked up Spotify to the stereo and away we went.
With two days planned midway to meet friends in Mudgee we took the Blue Mountains route through to Hartley to eventually turn on to Castlereagh Highway. Hours later with the sun rapidly setting, our plans to spend the first night at Capertee National Park were aborted when I realised the Park was 50km in-land (next time I will read the fine print!). I quickly rang a campground near our location. This sudden change was serendipitous.
Cudgegong Waters Park is just off Castlereagh Highway as you head to Mudgee. The location is spectacular overlooking and with access to Lake Windamere. We booked a powered spot right next to a huge jumping pillow (huge tick from the kids) overlooking the lake – a perfect ending to a day of driving.
Day 2: Drive from Cudgegong – Mudgee
Our morning started off a little raggedy having not slept well after trying to sleep without heating. Lesson one – if it’s cold and you’re plugged in – use the heater. A cup of tea and another round of jumping does wonders and soon we were back on the highway to Mudgee. This wintery campervan road trip sure was throwing us some interesting challenges.
We arrived around 30 minutes later at Mudgee Riverside Caravan & Tourist Park. Though not as quiet, spacious or picturesque as Cudgegong, we were in walking distance to the main town with all amenities, including bike hire and cafes, on our doorstep. Plus we were right near the river and park.
Our friends stayed at Parklands Resort, also in walking or riding distance from us so we could easily meet up without driving.
We explored the town, then returned to our van to eat an assortment of delicious goodies from Dad’s Deli. Having outdoor table and chairs even in winter is essential – you want to be able to entertain and also enjoy the fresh air and sunshine.
Day 3: Mudgee
We love to bike ride as a family so the idea of bike riding through vineyards tasting cheeses and wine en route was big on my list. We hired bikes first thing in the morning from the lovely and helpful staff at Country Fit Mudgee located a minute’s walk from our campground.
Blessed with brilliant winter weather, sunny but cool, we chose an easy route that took us past a few vineyards and allowed us to eat a picnic lunch.
Read more: Family-friendly wineries in Mudgee
Day 4: Drive from Mudgee to Dubbo
Our last day in Mudgee we kept things simple. Empty the toilet – check. Pack away all loose items in the van – check. Visit the town one last time to see the shops – check. As it was the third Saturday of the month we squeezed in a quick shop at Mudgee’s Farmer’s Market for some famous Mudgee honey and condiments. We then ate a delicious gluten free lunch at Elton’s and hit the road for our adventure in Dubbo.
Though we were still hoping for a night out in the wilderness during our campervan road trip, the idea of no electricity for heating squashed that longing. After viewing three different campgrounds we settled on the one furthest from town (about 3 minutes) for more space and quiet.
Situated across the road from Westview Drive-In and a five minute drive from the Zoo, we booked a powered site at Westview Caravan Park. Though the drive-in was closed for the winter I would definitely check opening times if booking again.
Day 5: Dubbo
No matter how early you arrive at Taronga Western Plains Zoo Dubbo, you can rest assured others have the same intention especially on a Saturday. To book a cart, get there extra early. We didn’t so we chose to walk the park for the morning and then book a cart for the afternoon. This was a perfect arrangement and I highly recommend walking parts of the park, especially with kids.
As someone who doesn’t visit city zoos, my kids and I were in awe seeing the animals. The zoo itself is easy to traverse and there is space for picnics and rest. My favourite moment was eating our packed lunch next to the Addaxes and later seeing the male lion walk right up to the glass barrier. Breathtaking.
After an epic day, we decided to leave the last section of the zoo for the next day as we had a two-day pass. Having cooked or prepared most of our meals we treated ourselves to take-away from Royal Indian Resto Bar an incredible Indian restaurant in town.
Day 6: Drive from Dubbo to Cudgegong
The great thing about traveling in a campervan is that you travel with everything. Including the kitchen sink! We decided to get up, get dressed and head to the campervan section of the zoo’s car park to eat our breakfast. We then made our way back inside the zoo but asked for directions to cut through so we could get to the final sections quickly. This was also advantageous as there were very people in this section so early in the day.
In the late afternoon after an ice cream stop in Mudgee we headed back to Cudgegong for our final night in the van. We were determined to make a fire and roast marshmallows under the stars and that is exactly what we did. We booked the same powered site but this time we drove down closer to the lake to make a fire at sunset and eat dinner. Then we stargazed and my youngest spotted a shooting star.
Day 7: Drive from Cudgegong – Sydney
It was time to wrap up our campervan road trip. Our drive back to Sydney was relatively easy. We had a lunch stop at Blue Mist Café in Wentworth Falls. Then we dropped the van back at headquarters. It was after hours and so the Britz helpline told us where to leave the van and keys.
It felt a little odd having the road trip behind us as we then headed home in our very small, very low car. We were tired but oh so happy having had a marvellous winter sojourn.
Packing list for a winter campervan road trip
- Jackets, gloves, beanies, explorer/ski socks
- Have the option of a powered site
- Use sleeping bags as extra blankets
- Take ugg-boots for inside van
- Check that you are able to have a wood fire (we were only allowed at one place)
- Outdoor table and chairs – hire them from your van provider or bring your own
Miriam Hechtman is an Australian writer, creative producer and poet. During her career she has worked as a journalist, events manager and documentary producer. She is the founder and host of POETICA, a creative initiative for live poetry and music in Bondi, Sydney. She is mother to two daughters and wife to one man. See: www.movingtrainsproductions.com