Here is our review of our travelling adventures from the last year. In 2020 we wrote our first blog reviewing our year of travel. The worldwide coronavirus pandemic continues to create many challenges to travel. In Australia, the international borders were mostly closed, so no trips to other countries were feasible. Our home state of Western Australia stayed relatively virus-free (quite unique around the world), partly due to very strict state border controls. So we were left to continue exploring our own backyard, and also had the chance to head interstate.
We continued to make good use of the van we bought last year. In the end, we managed to hit the road a few times and stay at 31 different campsites in our caravan, a pretty impressive effort we think.
This review is all about our travels for 2021, which is different from our 2021 Annual Christmas Letter, which summarises our year with only a brief summary of our travels. We (will) have also written a 2021 Travel Blogging Year in Review, which is just about the specifics of blogging and the performance of this website.
Lists of Trips in 2021
- 2021 January: Wave Rock, Esperance, Porongurup & Denmark
- 2021 June-July: Topend and Central Australia Tour
- 2021 Oct, Manjedal Scout Camp
- 2021 Nov, Eagle Bay WA (Clare only)
- 2021 Dec, Nannup WA
In addition to the trips listed, we had a city staycation and the kids were off on scout camps to various destinations in the bush.
Despite the travel restrictions in place, we have had some amazing experiences. Here are our highlights of the travel year.
Best Road Trip – Perth to Darwin (Solo!)
Rob drove solo up the west coast of Australia, Perth to Darwin, 7 days of driving and 4200km.
Best Bushwalk – Panorama Walk, East MacDonnell Ranges
The Panorama Walk was spectacular, a little hidden gem in the East MacDonnell Ranges. The East Macdonnell Ranges does not get the accolades it deserves, the panorama walk at Trephina Gorge is one of the best. It is an easy day trip out there from Alice Springs, with other walks and rock art to see on the way. Special mentions for the Kings Canyon Rim Walk, the walk to Maguk (Barramundi) Falls in Kakadu, and the climb to the peak of Castle Rock in the Porongurups.
Best Tour – Coober Pedy Old Timers Mine, SA
You take a self-guided tour of the Old Timers Mine, allowing you to explore all the nooks and crannies, and learn about how the mines used to operate. Another tour worth mentioning was the Mala Walk, a free guided tour by a ranger around the base of Uluru. See our top-10 tours ever.
Best Sunset – Uluru, NT
A family portrait at the Uluru sunset viewing spot. There’s no filter on this photo, that really is how the rock looks as the sun sets. This was part of our 2021 Tour of the Northern Territory and Central Australia. Also from this trip, we had almost as amazing sunsets at Mindil Brach in Darwin, at Yellow Waters in Kakadu, and while sitting on the Devils Marbles in the NT.
Best Free Campsite – Boondi Rock, WA
On our final night of the big road trip this year, we had a last-minute decision to stop at the Boondi Rock campground. It is a small free campground near Boondi Rock outcrop, a perfect low-key finish to our trip.
Best Food Experience
The best chips and gravy you may ever have can be found at the Madura Pass roadhouse. The last time we came past here the restaurant was closed, so we timed our trip so we could drop in and have a couple of these mountain plates of chips. It says a lot about these chips to beat a crocodile and chips meal at the Darwin Stokes Hill Wharf meal, the camel burgers at Kings Canyon Station, and the home-cooked Jonny Cakes at Little Roper Stock Camp. Oh, and of course the food selection at Darwin markets is hard to beat.
Best Family Fun – Lake Magic, Wave Rock, WA
It was a magic time at sunset on Lake Magic near Wave Rock, Hyden, Western Australia. We had to wade through sinking mud on the edge of the lake. The hard dried crusty salt was tough on the feet too, but it was all worth it. We had a lot of family fun cruising the Corroboree Billabong in the NT too.
Unusual Things – Budgie Swarms at Henbury
The unusually high rainfall has helped the breeding of wild budgies, with huge flocks of birds flying around our campsite at the Henbury Meteor Craters, near Alice Springs in the Northern Territory.
Weird Thing – Teddy Tree, Nullabor SA
The teddy tree is just one of the many unusual trees you may come across on your way across the Nullabor. What else did we find unusual or weird in 2021? The flocks of birds at Henbury meteor craters, the Stonehenge replica in Esperance, a farm truck teetering on a ledge, a horse coming to visit us in the Daly Waters Pub (actually all of Daley Waters was a bit weird).
Most Unique Experience – Coober Pedy Underground House, SA
We all had so much fun staying underground like the locals in Coober Pedy, South Australia.
Best Art Experience – Aboriginal Art in Alice Springs
We were so stoked to buy this artwork from the artist in Alice Springs. It is now sitting pride of place above our mantlepiece at home. The Aboriginal art in the galleries was pretty impressive, but mostly out of our price range. We say some cave art around Kakadu too. Special mention to the surprisingly good sculptures along Chainsaw Sculpture Drive in Albany WA.
Best History Experience – Albany’s Brig Amity
We were lucky to arrive at the Brig Amity in Albany just in time to enter and explore inside. Other historic experiences of the travel year are exploring the WW1 bunker East Point Darwin, and the few old telegraph stations along the Stuart Highway.
Best Museum – Alice Springs Megafauna Central
The Megafauna Central museum was a surprise find in the Alice Springs Mall. Other museums we had the pleasure of visiting in 2021 were the Royal Flying Doctors Museum in Darwin and the School of the Air in Alice Springs.
Favourite Sporting Travel Moment
We hired a couple of canoes and paddled the second gorge at Katherine Gorge, a fantastic family day out. As an active family, there are a few other sporting moments from our travels, such as playing a few holes on the Nullabor links golf course, a game of frisbee golf at Manjedal, and cycling and walking around Uluru.
Best Lookout – Nawurlandja lookout, Kakadu NT
Looking out over Kakadu from the Nawurlandja lookout near Nourlangie Rock (Burrungkuy) – a worthy replacement for Ubirr which was closed. The rock art nearby was amazing too. Other great lookouts were the Castle Rock lookout near Porungorup, Baruwei Lookout over Katherine Gorge, and the hill behind Banka Banka Station.
Best of Nature (Flora) – Wildflowers at Manjedal
A highlight of our few days staying at the Manjedal scout camp was the beautiful displays of wildflowers everywhere you walked.
Best of Nature (Fauna) – Little Roper Stock Camp
Not only can you camp at Little Roper Stock Camp in Mataranka NT, but you can also play with their animals too. It is clearly the best place for families to stay in Mataranka. It was a close call between the animals at Mataranka and the baby kangaroos at Alice Springs, jumping crocs at Adelaide River, kangaroos on Luck Bay beach near Esperance, the smelly bats in Katherine Gorge, and finally being chased by ducks at the park in Merredin.
Best of Nature (Mineral) – Kings Canyon
Taking the Rim Walk at King’s Canyon in Central Australia you can truly appreciate the spectacular red sandstone canyon.
Best of Nature (Water) – Bitter Springs
Bitter Springs is the better choice of the hot springs near Mataranka, Northern Territory. Grab onto a pool noodle and float down the river. Even better, grab a snorkel and see the underwater world in the crystal clear waters. The Mataranka Hot Springs were pretty good too – the best advice we were given was to head there in the evening for a swim in the dark.
Favourite Travel Photo – Broome Camel Tour
Tourists on camels along Broome’s Cable Beach, WA. It’s not hard to take a great photo of this scene.
We are impressed that so much was accomplished this year, including many memorable experiences. We hope you have had an equally good year despite what is happening around us. At these times we need to adapt, look forward to things, and be grateful for what we do have. We are looking forward to greater freedoms and more travel in 2022.