I was invited by Lume Magazine to contribute a photo essay on my journey through Tasmania in my VW Kombi, Etta. Lume Magazine is out NOW in Tassie, so grab yourself a copy – its free!
Cover image: Meredith Schofield
As the ship docks in Devonport all I can think is “please Etta, just start, we don’t want to be stranded on the Spirit of Tasmania waiting for a tow”. This isn’t an unusual thought to have when you drive a 1975 Volkswagen Kombi – especially on her maiden road-trip from Sydney. I turn the key and… ‘Br-Br-Brrooooommm’ she starts first go!
Owning a Kombi isn’t like owning any other type of vehicle. You have to be ready to solve any problem that arises (usually mechanical), and you have to be a social person – everyone has a Kombi story.
We were on our first trip to Tasmania for our friends wedding. It was a no-brainer that we would drive Etta and turn the trip into an epic camping adventure.
People told us we were crazy to consider camping in Etta in the middle of winter, but we knew it would be awesome – snow, fog, storms, and no crowds – a photographer’s dream, and our sub-zero sleeping bags definitely helped.
We drove to Hobart to rendezvous with friends for a few days on the Tasman Peninsula and Bruny Island before the wedding.
This south-east pocket of Tasmania is unbelievable with its lush green landscapes, stunning beaches, geological wonders, and a menagerie of local wildlife that had Etta proving her squeaky brakes worked, quite often! Pademelons have a knack for crossing the road right when you want to drive past – luckily we left the area with no casualties.
We took Etta down a few pot-holed dirt roads which was nerve-wracking, to say the least. But enduring our tense butt-cheeks, we were often rewarded with majestic waterfalls that made it all worthwhile.
Back in Hobart we ate our way around Salamanca, took in the hill top views from the botanic gardens and made it halfway up Mount Wellington in icy conditions. All around town we received waves, peace signs, honks, and a plethora of people coming up to tell us where they had seen us around!
The day before the wedding, Etta decided she didn’t want to indicate anymore. Sparks flew as she blew a fuse and the hazard switch came off in Sean’s hand. ‘Oh Etta… this is not the time…’ I started to panic, but that very moment a man appeared behind us who said “I saw you on Bruny Island – I thought you had stolen my Kombi because I have the exact same one!”. He told us there was a great mechanic just down the road. So off we went, sticking our hands out the window like it was the 1950s to let everyone know where we were turning. It’s always an adventure!
All fixed up (and in a better mood after some pampering at the car wash), Etta strutted her stuff at our friends wedding. We then put-put-putted up the east coast to Coles Bay and camped in the Freycinet National Park. The stars that night were bright and beautiful, distracting us so much that we didn’t notice the sneaky possum diving head-first into our cooking pot!
We ventured to Wineglass Bay then continued up the coast to the picturesque Friendly Beaches. The whole campsite was ours; just us and the Wallabies. We watched the beautiful sunset from our bed in the Kombi looking out at the ocean.
Cruising up the highway to the Bay of Fires, we were inspired by Tassie’s rugged beauty. Luminous red boulders burst from the ground, surrounded by clear turquoise water, and pure white sand. The landscape is unlike anything I have seen on the mainland.
Watching the sunset from the top of the Peron Dunes in St Helens was truly an amazing sight. The sky was swirls of orange and pink, the dunes were beaming in the evening light.
Kombis are the best vehicles to travel in. It’s like driving around in a giant fish tank with 360 degree views. Part of the charm of these amazing vehicles is that the journey is just as important as the destination. When you’re in Etta you’re never in a rush, your worries disappear and all that matters is the road, the view and what tunes you’re going to play. Every trip, no matter how long or short, is an adventure.
It was time to leave the east coast and make our way to the Cradle Mountain. Although the summit was covered in fog, we still enjoyed forest walks and spotting wombats while it lightly snowed. Magical.
In Eugenana we had what can only be described as a quintessential Tassie experience. We were invited to the Prickly Mo Winery cellar door opening night. We chilled in the renovated 70’s inspired sheep-shearing shed, drinking wine, eating copious amounts of cheese and listening to jazz while the owner’s dog did the rounds for pats and the locals piled in.
It was time to go back to Devonport to catch the ship back to the mainland. We were sad to go, as we’d barely scratched the surface of what Tasmania has to offer.
What struck us the most about Tassie was how around every corner there is a natural wonder or a beautiful view, you don’t have to travel far to see so many amazing things. It’s not like the mainland where one destination is so far from the next, everything is so accessible. And the people are nice, ridiculously nice – I think by the time we left we had met half the population!
Travelling around this beautiful state in our Kombi was like a dream, we can not wait to come back. . .
Top 5 tips for roadtripping in a Kombi:
1- Carry spare parts for everything, you will most likely break down at some point.
2- Ensure your hair is always looking great because people stare, wave and point.
3- Do you know how to clutch start?
4- Get as much of a run up as possible when encountering a hill.
5- Embrace the conversation and questions about your Kombi