26 Mar Araluen NSW Trip Blog
ARALUEN CREEK, NSW
A peaceful quirky campsite set between the bottom of a mountain pass and a gentle stream. Once a through road to Moruya, the road is now permanently blocked, making it a quiet, peaceful and relaxing setting.
Location: Majors Creek Road, Braidwood 24km south of Braidwood
3km north of Araluen hotel
Words by: Sharyn Howell
Photography by: Sharyn Howell
Difficulty – Easy – good beginner destination
Gear Required – Car, van and food
Track Inclusions/ Features (Descriptive) – Windy and steep at times,
Points of Interest – Araleun Pub, The Old Cheese Factory and Reidsdale
How to Get There – Approx two hours from Canberra
Best Time to Go – All year round
First holiday in our Iridium 13s! First caravanning holiday!
First free camp holiday!
And here we go!
We received our Iridium 13s a few days before Covid lockdown in Canberra. Not yet registered little did we know that it would be three months before government offices would reopen and we could plan our first escape with a registered van.
For newbies, like us, the trick was finding somewhere enough distance away so we felt like we had towed and conquered but not too far from home – just in case.
We wanted a destination remote enough to try out the vans features, especially the off-grid battery system, but not too far from help if we needed it – just in case.
And we found just the place – Araluen Creek. Just 1 hour and 33 minutes, 68km from Canberra, and it offered everything we wanted for our first adventure.
Busy during lockdown, we attached a toilet roll holder and shelf in the ensuite, purchased packing cubes as make-shift draws for our clothes cupboard, and velcroed containers under the sink cupboard to store food.
A 9kg gas bottle was clamped on the front of the van with a bit of rubber around the rim eliminating any potential rattles. Instruction manuals for all the appliances in hand, we set off early Wednesday, 22 December, 2021.
We felt comfortable travelling the familiar Monaro Highway from Canberra sitting on 80km. As we entered Queanbeyan and our first sets of traffic lights, made us nervous as we got the feel of the van. In hindsight, nothing to be nervous about, the van, car and ourselves handled the traffic just fine.
Toward Bungedore along the Kings Highway, the traffic thinned out and the speed limit increased to 100km – too fast for us. We felt 90km was our comfort zone and there were plenty of places for those in a hurry to pass.
After leaving Bungendore, the road opens up and the sky becomes ten times bigger, the fields just roll-on forever and you feel like you’re starting your holiday.
About 26km down the road we hit the town of Braidwood. It’s a busy town, basically because it’s the last major township before you hit the Coast (if that’s the way you’re heading). The playground is well know to families, as is the famous Tucker’s Bakery. Many other independent shops along the main street are making a name for themselves – the bee keepers and car model shops are interesting. But not for us this trip!
Unsure where to park the van in the shopping district we decide to press on. And the end of the main street we leave most of the traffic behind continuing straight across the major intersection, and following signs to Araluen.
We set the GPS in the Prado to Araluen Pub. It’s not our destination but the GPS has trouble finding Araluen River Campsite and wants to send us backwards. We know from our Camp book that our destination is 3km north of Araleun Pub. So logically, we put Araluen Pub into the GPS and decide we will stop when we are 3km away from the Pub. What could go wrong?
The road is sealed and in good condition as it begins to randomly twist and we cross a few single lane bridges. The landscape becomes more rugged and granite boulders jut out of the ground in the middle of the pastures.
In the middle of nowhere a sign for ‘The Old Cheese Factory’, Reidsdale, sits quietly on the side of the road. The quaintness of the sign has us interested and we plan to visit the next day. A quick search on google and we are hooked. Not only does it offer locally made cheeses but they also have a cider distillery, chutneys and jams for sale. Just our kind of place. Sadly, events the next day prevent us from going but it is definitely on our radar to visit in the future.
As we are getting closer, “Steep Decent” and “Winding Road”signs with advice for trucks to use “Manual Breaks” appear. We decrease our speed and ease ourselves into the corners. The break controller is set on manual and we have it on “2”. It’s not long before we realise this is too low and adjust it to “5”. Much better the break smell reduces and it’s an easier ride.
After about 5km on the steep, windy decent with a few hairpin corners we immediately come to a ’T’ intersection and our GPS reads 3km to Araluen Pub. There are signs everywhere at this intersection: straight to the Pub, right to Captains Flat (48km) and a Majors Creek sign stating the ‘road is not suitable for heavy vehicles and trailers’.
This is the place! We turn right, and immediately pass another turn to the right. With no signs, we are unsure and continue a few meters up the road. Again, another right hand turn still with no sign but we can see a picnic table and multiple blue garbage bins.
Taking a gamble, we turn right and immediately know that we have arrived. AND there is not another soul around.
Driving in, the serenity of the campsite silently surrounds and calms you. Hugh trees reach to the sky and lush green grass is everywhere. So many campsites to choose from and most are flat with camp fires. A beautiful stream runs down the left side of the campsite and we choose a site that has a trail leading directly to the water.
No need to even up the van, it’s dead flat. We can’t believe there is no one else here!
For the first time ever, we nervously get to work setting up the van. I’m thinking it will take us 15 to 20 minutes for set-up but five minutes later all that is left to set up is connecting the gas from the kitchen to the van.
Setting up we naturally fall into two separate roles. One person unclipping and raising the roof, then folding out the ‘box’ for the king size bed. The other person, putting the stabilisers down, extending the automatic awning and pulling out the kitchen.
With everything set from camp chairs, kitchen table, drinks in the fridge and swimmers on, we begin to explore this little place of paradise.
The stream is running and feels fresh and clean. The depth comes up to my shins and just perfect to sit on the stream bed bottom, reading a book with a glass of bubbly perched on a nearby rock.
Later strolling around the campsite, we found many rock arts that the locals have placed around the grounds. In some cases, rocks had been stacked and placed to look like someone was walking toward you – extremely effective especially next morning with a little bit of mist around.
On the other side of the campsite we find the first turn off from the road. Walking along we discovered it is a driveway to a private farm and had we driven the van up it, we would have had to make a tight U-turn. We are grateful that we took the second turn off into the campsite.
After a dinner of steak and salad, cooked perfectly on our shiny new stove, we sit around the campfire that had lighted perfectly. While we weren’t really hungry, who can resist a charcoaled marshmallow.
That night about midnight the heavens opened up and it rained and rained. The next morning we checked for leaks and damage. Pleasantly surprised to find everything was water tight and the van had no issues, we then check the car.
Our new Prado had a very flat rear tyre. There was nothing to do but change it for the spare. While we know how to change a tyre it took us by surprise at how heavy the new tyres were and how much effort it took.
With more rain forecasted and the little stream starting to rise, we decided the best course of action is too pack up and head to Braidwood for a spare tyre. This season has been especially wet and we thought it a little risky to leave the van in the valley.
The car and van towed up the pass easily and the trip back to Braidwood was very pretty with stormy skies and the granite boulders catching the sunshine.
This time, forced to park the van in Braidwood, we found a nice large spot about a block back from the main street. Sadly, the tyre couldn’t be repaired and the only one available was not our choice in brand.
Given the weather we decide to head home and have another adventure another day. However the rain gods had other ideas. Leaving Braidwood, the road is closed before Bungendore – it could have been worse!
There was a campsite directly off the Kings Highway about 14km north of Braidwood on the Shoalhaven River, called Wari Wari. We had enough food and more than enough battery power in the Iridium 13s to spend another night.
The campsite was very pretty. Situated on the shores of a much larger river the rainwaters were yet to reach us and there was plenty of time to climb over the beautiful rocks and even have a quick swim.
As evening settle, the rain did arrive and cooking dinner under the awning of the Iridium we counted our lucky stars. So many people around us were sleeping in cars and tents – we were in luxury.
In the morning we were shocked to see how much the river had risen. Luckily the campsite is high up on the bank and there was no danger to us. We were glad to have our own ensuite as the toilets for this campsite were far on the other side and it would have been miserable walking across the mud to get to them.
News that the road had opened came through at about 9.30am and we quickly packed up. Even though this was our first weekend in the van, again we stuck to our own tasks and all was packed up in about 10 minutes. While many friends had warned us that hitching the car and van would be our biggest challenge, the McHitch cooperated very well and we had no issues.
As we pulled into home, we smiled at each other. We may not have travelled far but we did have a true adventure – AND we can’t wait for more to come.
Signature Camper Trailers
We would like to thank our great customers Sharyn and John for sharing this adventure with us, certainly looked like a great first outing!
Be sure to follow their adventures on their Youtube Channel