The Great Budget 4wd Trip Around Australia – Week 4

Palm Trees Airlie

This week seemed a bit disjointed, as we hadn’t really planned too much and the rain seemed to mess us around whenever we did!

We only stayed one night in Cape Hillsborough National Park, in the interest of saving money, but wished we has spent more time there, especially when we got to Airlie

Bach, which we found super expensive, crazy and crammed after so much bush camping!

Cutting our time there short, we were left at a bit of a loose end for G’s birthday, but luckily the unexpected paradise of Dingo Beach and Cape Gloucester nearby saved us.

From there we headed to Bowen.

Distance Travelled:


Spot of the Week:

Smalleys Beach, Cape Hillsborough National Park. What a stunning little place, intimate, but with large campsites (only 11 of them) and a stunning stretch of beach at your doorstep. We certainly thought Smalleys was way better than the Cape Hillsborough Caravan Park.

Free Camp of the Week:

Bloomsbury BP Station (free HOT showers – you can beat that!)

Tip of the Week:

Get WikiCamps the app on your phone and tablet if you are thinking of road tripping Australia. Believe me, it’s the best $6.99 AUD you will ever spend!

WikiCamps is a great directory for thousands of free and low cost campsites in Australia, with all the facilities of each of the camp sites/accommodation sites listed alongside. It’s our primary source of finding where to sleep and we couldn’t do without it!

Disaster of the Week:

Rain, rain, rain every day rain! Some days a lot, some days a little, but either way camping in the rain and essentially living outside in it, can be a real drag. Not what we expect from you Queensland!

The Budget ($ AUD):

Fuel – $98
Groceries – $145
Camping Fees – $92
Bunnings – $35
New Headlamp – $20
Battery Tester – $15
Total – $412

(A little over budget again – by $12 – but we’re blaming the fact that we spent almost $70 in supplies this week, including a new headlamp and battery tester so we can better guess how much charge we have left in our dual battery system. Without these extras and the Bunnings bits we bought too – including a doormat for wiping dirty feet off outside the tent – we’d be well under budget)


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Day 1 – Mackay

Shoal Point Mackay

We were still enjoying being with friends in a real house and had a proper lazy Sunday, just tinkering on the car, hitting a few shops up for bits we needed and squeezing in a walk down the beach – bliss!


Day 2 – Mackay to Smalleys Beach (Cape Hillsborough National Park)

After a lovely last morning in Mackay, we hit the road about lunchtime and made the short journey north to Cape Hillsborough National Park.

We checked out the Caravan Park here, but didn’t think much of it, so opted for the cheaper and more remote National Park Campground at Smalleys Beach instead.

Again only $6 per/p per/n, it was a real steal and one of our favourite spots to date with very private sheltered campsites set among native bush and lovely private tracks down to a deserted beach lapped by rainforest.



Day 3 – Smalleys Beach to Bloomsbury BP Station

Cook Up Bloomsbury

A very early start this morning as we had a 6km walk to see the famous kangaroos on the beach in Cape Hillsborough at sunrise.

We were up at 4am and, after a swift gulp of tea from the thermos, started the walk with our trusty headlamps! It took us little over an hour and we got to the designated beach just as the first light was creeping over the horizon.

As such, our early start was rewarded with some wonderful images of the famous kangaroos and wallabies against the breaking dawn.

After this, we walked back and enjoyed a lazy morning in the campground before packing the tent down and hitting the road again for a recommended free camp.


Day 4 – Bloomsbury BP Station to Airlie Beach

After a very windy and noisy night we made our way to the resort town of Airlie Beach in the Whitsundays. Airlie is the mainland launching point for many of the Whitsunday sailing trips and is a backpacker favourite.

Unlike most Australian towns, the one main street here is very small and all the pubs, bars, clubs, hostels, travel agencies and shops are crammed in on top of each other.

After being out in nature for so many nights, it felt pretty crazy and the lashing rain and muddy campground didn’t help! I did find an awesome yoga studio however that I was very happy about!


Day 5 – Airlie Beach

Palm tree Airlie

Another night of rain, accompanied by on and off heavy showers during the day and the forecast predicting the same for the coming few days, we decided that the “WETsundays” was a more appropriate name for the region!

But don’t be put off, after all, the Whitsundays is one the most spectacular regions in Australia and should be a must on everybody’s bucket list.

We did manage to fit a swim in at the Airlie Beach Lagoon and a few snaps when the sun briefly came out, before heading back to the hostel to make use of the charging stations and then for a lovely yoga class!


Day 6 – Airlie Beach to Guthalungra Rest Area

Dingo Beach Boat

Delightfully, we woke to great sunshine – the first we’d seen in days! Before the weather changed its mind again, we hastily packed up the tent and headed out for breakfast to celebrate G’s birthday at lovely little café in Cannonvale nearby – we had decided it was time to get out of Airlie despite not having even been to the Whitsunday Islands!

So thankful we did too, because instead we decided to go for the far cheaper option and check out Dingo Beach and the surrounding area.

Right at the end of a track, I didn’t know anything about this place, but it turned out to be a hidden gem – Whitsundays paradise without the crowds! Sweet!

Continuing round to Hydeaway Bay each and Cape Gloucester, paradise upped the anti and we found some even more stunning, hidden resorts that would have been ideal locations had we a bigger budget!

Think white sands, dotted with shells, turquoise waters and forested islands glistening out to sea!


Day 7 – Guthalungra to Bowen


After an interesting start to the day thanks to one of our fellow campers, we headed for the town of Bowen to start looking for work and enjoy the surprisingly stunning beaches the town has offer.

Bowen tends to have a bit of a woeful reputation, but we were bowled away by the continuing Whitsunday paradise views we found from the coastline.

By the time we set up a picnic breakfast at Horseshoe Bay it was time to work for a bit whilst taking in the beautiful views, before driving to Flagstaff Hill for a 360 degree view of the whole area at sunset.


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