We left home pre-lockdown, with borders opening, and within weeks found ourselves on the road with grey nomads heading north for the winter as states were shuttering around us.
But travelling a long and winding road ruled and regulated by the fight against COVID-19 has delivered some lessons about life as well as travel.
Before you go, see state travel restrictions here
1. Sometimes old-fashioned is best
Everybody has a story. That’s what you discover sitting around a lounge room fire or a communal breakfast table when you swap the anonymity of big hotels for an old-school guesthouse or bed and breakfast.
On a recent road trip staying in traditional lodgings (Karbeethong Lodge at Mallacoota), we met a pilot who flew for remote missions throughout the Pacific; a couple who abandoned big-city jobs to buy and rejuvenate a guesthouse six hours from the nearest capital city, and at Church House B&B in Gundagai, a farmer and writer who commuted 700 kilometres between her two properties.
Want to meet your fellow Australians and put money in small-town pockets? Skip big, bland hotels and resorts and stay small. You might even get a carafe of port and some chocolates before bed.
2. It helps to have friends
When I was a kid, holidays often consisted of driving to a relative’s and staying. While house guests might be like fish and go off after three days, the generosity of friends and family can make travel a pleasure –possible even – when mobility is limited.
Between lockdowns we managed to stay far too long with a generous friend – hopefully paying our way with home-cooked meals, some good wine and company. We also managed to house-swap with other pals, giving both of us a change of scenery that cost us nothing.
3. Road trips will rarely have you asking ‘are we there yet?’
Take it slowly and wander between pristine beaches, stopping to stroll in wild national parks like Croajingalong and Little Desert. Buy fish from co-ops as seals play in the river alongside at Narooma. Breakfast in seaside cafes. Fossick for antiques in village emporiums, hike to waterfalls, picnic beside creeks.
Despite some of our most major highways closing after fires in early 2020, Australian roads are fabulous for long haul drives with spur-of-the-moment stops and unscheduled sleepovers in whatever town takes your fancy.
Noodling up the coast from Melbourne to Sydney is a perfect example –thousands of pristine beaches, friendly coastal towns, an abundance of good accommodation and plenty of fine food.
4. Camping grounds are one of Australia’s best-kept secrets
Can’t afford a waterfront home for $5 million plus? Rent one for the night for about $40. Cruising the coast in June, we passed so many sublimely-sited camping grounds that we felt like buying a tent there and then.
Places where your campsite’s lawn melts straight into the sand, like Merry Beach and Lake Conjola on the NSW South Coast, with kangaroos nibbling all around, abound up the east coast.
Add well-maintained modern amenity blocks and the camaraderie of kids running around like barefoot kings and what’s not to love?
5. There’s no place like home
Grounded after years of regular overseas travel, you discover the wonders closer to home. Stuck in our own state, we explored breathtakingly beautiful towns we’d never been to before (hello Mallacoota, Marlo and Paynesville in Victoria).
We hung out it places we’d previously sped through (Merimbula and Bowral in NSW), and found ourselves regularly pulling over for just a night but staying longer. Added to that, figuring in no long-haul flights, no soaring euro or US dollar pricing, no jet-lag, no crowds, and we may holiday closer to home for years to come.