My Top 5 Destinations from 2018

What an amazing year 2018 has been for me with over thirty thousand kilometres driven, at least ten thousand photographs captured and more than twenty five articles published.

I have explored the best 4WD locations around Melbourne, tackled tracks in the High Country with the legendary Ron Moon and taught a few 4WD newbies a thing or two about how their work vehicles cope in the High Country. I borrowed my father’s campervan and followed the Silo Art Trail in Western Victoria before exploring the Food Trail in the Sun Country along the Murray River. A run along the flowing Darling River was followed by a visit to Sturt National Park and Mutawintji National Park in north-western NSW.

After that, I had little time to prepare my Prado for my epic four-month solo adventure from May to September. I covered over 20,000km through stunning sections of the Northern Territory and Western Australia, some so remote I felt truly alone, others so populated I felt overwhelmed. Deserts, gorges, National Parks, Australia’s Coral Coast, the Pilbara and the Kimberley were all extensively explored, and I was blown away by the beauty of it all. This trip ended with a crossing of the Simpson Desert via the Madigan Line with a great friend of mine and I will always remember the experience we shared covering some of the most outstanding country I have ever driven.

So out of all this, I have come up with my Top 5 Destinations that I visited during 2018. If you haven’t been to any of these places, I suggest you add them to your bucket list for 2019 and beyond.

1. Dirk Hartog Island, Coral Coast Western Australia

Without a doubt, DHI topped my list. With stunning beauty, rugged coastlines, historical precincts and perfect hosts, Tory and Kieran, why wouldn’t it be? Access is limited to 20 vehicles at a time and the only way to get there is via boat or barge. The waters on the east coast are turquoise blue, perfect for paddle boarding, swimming and relaxing while the west coast offers excellent rock fishing, surfing and blowholes that add the WOW factor every now and then.

The accommodation options at the Homestead include the top-notch Dirk Hartog Island Eco Lodge, the Ocean Villa and campsites or you can enjoy bush camping at several designated beachfront sites. When I departed the Island, I felt like I had left a part of me there, I just want to go back.

2. Talawana Track, Great Sandy Desert Western Australia

So remote, so alone, so happy. Hema Maps consider the Talawana to be one of the most corrugated tracks in Australia, so I was expecting a hell of an adventure. What I didn’t expect were the stunning landscapes, the epic colours, the solitude and the peacefulness. The track itself was harsh from Windy Corner, but the further I drove, the better it became as my Prado and I became one with the surroundings.

Being able to walk to the crest of a long, burnt orange sand dune and just sit and reflect is something I will always remember. The solo camel who stood and watched me as I stood and watched him, not a word was spoken, just a simple gesture. The sadness of so many burnt out vehicles, beaten by the spinifex, bad wiring or just bad luck who is to know? If you love desert touring, the Talawana Track is one that should sit high on your “to do” list.

3. Vic High Country with Ron Moon

To be lucky enough to go on a trip with my mentor and 4WD idol in January of this year was so cool. Ron Moon is an icon of the 4WD industry and he led me along tracks I had wanted to experience for over 20 years. Another mate, Willem, was with us too. He is a tough bastard with mobility issues but he didn’t let them get in the way of a good time. Davies Plain was a highlight as was a revisit to Dargo and the Wonnangatta. We are spoiled in Victoria with our High Country, its rugged beauty, stunning vistas, crystal clear streams and fabulous pubs. Thanks to Ron and Willem for such a bloody fantastic journey.

4. McGowans Beach, Kalumburu Western Australia

Hosted by the wonderful Matt Flinders, this remote section at the northernmost section of the Kimberley just blew my mind with its beauty. The Kalumburu Road is regarded as being atrocious most days, but I was lucky to be following a road crew that had done an amazing job to fix the track. It was only the last section that was as rough as guts and savage on tyres and suspension, the bitumen in Kalumburu was a welcome site.

McGowans Beach is a short drive north of the town and an absolute paradise. You can basically camp where you want and then enjoy what this place has to offer. Try your hand at prying Kimberley oysters off the rocks, casting a line, kicking back and relaxing or exploring the region. Matt knows all the best spots to explore and even pointed me in the direction of an ancient waterfall only just opened to whitefellas by the Traditional Owner – what an amazing place.

5. Tropic of Capricorn

From Rockhampton on the east coast to Warroora Station on the west coast I experienced so many spectacular places and scenery and met some amazing people. Longreach, Diamantina Lakes National Park, Alice Springs, Hay River Track, Sandy Blight Track, Gary Highway, Talawana Track, Newman are some of the points I reached and a heck of a lot more in between.

This was the most epic adventure I have ever undertaken, and it took me months to plan but once I reached the point where the Tropic of Capricorn reaches the Indian Ocean I knew that I had completed the trip of a lifetime and I look forward to doing it again one day.

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