Easter in Moruya Heads – April 2024

We’d always planned to take a few nights off camping over the easter break, but we’d not been able to book anything in. Fortunately, some friends of ours had their friends pull out of a booking at a caravan park in Moruya Heads, about 2.5hrs away from Canberra. It’s not our usual style, particularly given the pricing and how busy everything is at the coast over easter, but the offer to leave Canberra for 5 days was too hard to pass up.

60L drinks fridge

The week before we headed off we (I) had a few tasks to do for the campers electrical system. After fixing up the fridge power usage before the last trip, I had splurged on an extra battery to absolutely make sure that I would never have to worry about off-grid power again. I also found time to mount 2 x 200W solar panels directly on the roof of the camper using a method that will let me take them off to place around the campsite when extra power might be needed.

So with all that preparation done, and a lot of shopping and packing done by Rosie that week, we fully loaded up the camper and van and headed off on Thursday afternoon. Ollie got an early mark from school so we could leave a little earlier, something he was ecstatic about.

Every time we pass through Bungedore there is a rural supplies store that we all look forward to driving past just as you hit the 50kph area. The reason for this is they have a small patch of lawn in front of the store that is carefully maintained by a robot mower. The lawn looks great, but the mower itself seems to rogue a lot. Every time we pass the mower has either fallen off into the ditch and is beeping for help, or its beached itself on a rock or verge and is beeping to be rescued. I think one time we saw the mower trundling along maintaining the lawn and we literally cheered it on. This time the mower was nowhere to be seen, so it was probably in the shop in preparation for the long weekend.

Traffic was moderate as we travelled down the Kings Hwy, which is pretty good for this time of year. I’m guessing after 5pm the road would have been much busier as more people escaped Canberra after work. After Braidwood and heading up into the Clyde Mountain area, we began to see rain and mist. For anyone familiar with this road, this is not unusual, so it didn’t slow us down much. Once we were over the mountain it was a fairly straightforward run through Bateman’s and into Moruya. We did need to pullover in Mogo as Ollie was complaining of a ‘sore stomach’, but nothing eventuated, and we were able to get back on the road after 5 minutes.

As we entered Moruya Heads and slowed down to enter the caravan park, I could hear the trailer bearings squealing again. This wasn’t good news, as we’d just had them professionally serviced within the last 6 months. It’s embarrassing driving through a full caravan park with your camper sounding like a robot being stabbed behind you.

Rosie the wildlife photographer

We found our site, and a grumpy staff member was there to assist in guiding us in. Our friends were already there at their allocated campsite, trying to reverse a mid-sized caravan into a hilly patch of grass the size of a small hatchback. Our patch on the other hand was huge in comparison, with concrete slab in the middle designed for caravans. After explaining several times to the employee what we wanted to do, we swapped sites and our smaller camper ended up on the tiny patch, with the bigger caravan parked up on the site it should have been given in the first place.

Apparently there had been some changes to the site boundaries since the year before, with a lot of sites shrinking to fit more people into the park. All we can say is do not hire site 221 of BIG4 Moruya Heads Easts Dolphin Beach Holiday Park – the slope sucks, there’s a lamppost that makes manoeuvring difficult and it’s a tiny plot compared with other sites around it.

We made the best of our small site and parked the camper up as level as it could be. This required the jockey wheel to carefully balanced on a few blocks of wood while at full extension – not something that’s really recommended. For this extended stay, we opted to set up the full-sized awning to give us more shade. This turned out to be an excellent decision, given it was raining as we set up the camper!

Once set up and tucking into dinner and beers, our other friends arrived and began their setup on the remaining site. We’d all faced inwards with a clear spot in the middle to give a tiny modicum of privacy and to let the kids have an open grassy area to spread over.

That night, after the drizzle eased, we all had a few drinks and then went to bed. Unfortunately that night some arsehole decided it would be a good idea to steal our friends Esky they had setup in front of their camper. They lost all their ice, half of their booze and all of the kids drinks. It put a big dampener on the entire trip. I know for the rest of the trip I was much more conscious of what was set up and where when we were away from the site or sleeping. Park management weren’t able to help, not that there’s much they could have done. Our friends did go on a super-suspicious looking bike ride where he slowly peered into everyone’s campspots looking for the Esky at least, but nothing came up.

The next day was fairly standard caravan park stuff – help friends set up more, send the kids to the playground and bouncing pillow, a bit of day drinking and then off to the beach after lunch. The beach near the caravan park is quite close, but all side gate access was closed off when we were there so you’re forced to walk around on the road to the front entrance to get out to the beach. Another irritation for the BIG4.

The beach itself is quite big, though there are no safe-to-swim flags near the caravan park. On the day we went their the surf was quite rough, with some occasional big waves and waves coming in at slightly different angles. If you are looking to go to the South Head beach around here, we’d recommend going in on the north side near the surf club – much nicer conditions.

The kids all had fun and the water was warm enough for a decent swim. I managed to find a pipi while standing in the surf, and the kids then spent a good 30 minutes digging in the sand trying to find more. A few of them got taken back to the campgrounds to ‘see what’s on the inside’ (using a hammer).

Rosie got very sunburnt at the beach.

Tiny site 221

After the swim, Ollie got a lemonade (best day eva!), and then we all traipsed to the family bathroom to rinse off the sand and salt. The shower head was about a meter off the ground, leading to a very awkward shower for myself and Rosie on our knees.

That afternoon we trialled the new pizza stone for our cheap and cheerful little travel BBQ. It worked surprisingly well, providing a very crispy base for some quite tasty pizzas. I think we’ll need to experiment with a few different types of bases, but I’m really happy with the results so far.

A major benefit of this caravan park is the ability to have fires. Not all parks allow this and they’re much worse because of it. With this BIG4 you order a firepit and wood at the front desk and a little tractor will drop them off within a half hour. $20 for 15kg of wood isn’t a great price, but you can bring your own wood and the use of firepits prevents burnt metal and other ash remnants from being trod on.

Hired fire pit

The next day (Saturday) saw a few sore heads. After breakfast I set out to find and fix the source of the squeaking bearings we heard on the way in. I’d noticed the drivers side wheel was doing a bit of clunking when given a bit of a kick or wobble test, so I started with that one.

The crown nut was fairly loose and a lot of grease had leaked out, but I couldn’t feel any damage to the bearings or races so I just regreased everything, cleaned up any dirty grease and reassembled. It must have made a difference as there was no squeaking on the way home and there was much less heat in the axle on that side after travelling.

Our little setup (minus one esky)

Ollie and I went into Moruya around noon to give Rosie a break and to check out some of the shops. Ollie ended up with a few small toys, the van got some petrol and we found out why Mitre 10 can’t compete with Bunnings (they’re never open).

Rosie was very upset that the boys went into town without her

We all went to the caravan park pool that afternoon. It was pretty busy, but not too crowded. Ollie brought his now famous crocodile blowup toy.

At least they’re outside?…

Later that afternoon Rosie offered to make expresso martinis for the group, making use of the ice-making machine and the coffee machine that she had brought along for this particular trip. Very decadent, but it made for excellent cocktails.

Not much to say about the rest of this day, except the kids went to bed early so the Easter bunny could rock up overnight.

Movie night

Ollie woke up and immediately forgot it was Easter. He didn’t notice the giant egg and rabbit-shaped basket on the camper benchtop. Once that was sorted, he joined the rest of the kids outside looking for some baby chicks that had been scattered around. There was some chalky evidence of the Easter bunny being in the area as well. Later that morning there was an easter egg hunt around the campsite and the kids managed to put their baskets to good use checking around the campers for any hidden eggs, toys and assorted chocolates.


Later that day, after some breaky and hangover cures, the kids managed to ride or get carted around on some pedal karts across the caravan park.

These clunky old karts had been burning around all weekend, with teenagers taking them despite not having any bookings. The kids had a great time, although Brody had to be taught that when he pulls up on the handbrake it tends to spear the kart off into the side of the road.

We all went back to the pool after that, taking both crocodiles and a lobster so that no one missed out on a blowup toy. Unfortunately there was a rude little kid, older than Ollie, that kept trying to steal the toys of the other kids. No parent in sight. We had fun though, and just put the toys away to stop any fights or tears.

That night was more of the same, dinner and drinks around the fire. We invited some people from an adjacent site to come over to toast some marshmallows. They did and had a ball – it was the two girls’ first time roasting anything over a fire, but they soon got the hang of it.

That night (Sunday) I was a bit crook with some food poisoning. Not sure the source, but a very unpleasant night for me. I was a little better the next morning, at least enough to help pack away and hitch up the camper. We got away around 10am trying to beat the majority of the returning to Canberra traffic.

We got to Braidwood without any incident, but couldn’t find a park near the main road suitable for trailers, so we headed on down the hill until we saw a small doughnut shop that was open near some parking. Ollie and I got a doughnut each, more as a break in driving than anything else.

On the way back down through to Bungendore we saw a thick plume of smoke ahead of us and slowed down. A car heading east had caught fire and was burning on the side of the road. It was the front of the car only at that stage, so I took a chance and nipped past as far away from it as possible. The heat coming through the van windows was intense.

On through Bungendore (no robot mower), then Queanbeyan and finally arriving home. It turns out I was still pretty sick, so ended up just parking the van and then immediately falling asleep. Fortunately my awesome wife packed everything away, cared for the child and still managed 6 loads of washing while I was out of it!

We had a great time with our friends on this trip, but I think all three families agreed that they have probably done enough of that particular caravan park for future trips. We might look at somewhere a bit different for next Easter. A big thanks to B&B and D&S for inviting us along 🙂

Boring technical stuff

To test the new battery system we only used battery power for the entire 4 nights, despite having access to 240V power at our site. After the 4 nights, as we were packing up on the Monday morning, with no solar input at all, we ended up with 20% battery remaining in the camper.

We weren’t gentle with the power usage either, charging everything whenever we needed it and having outside lights on all night after the Esky got taken. That’s around 90 hours on battery power only, which extrapolates out to around 4.5 – 5 days that the camper can last during heavy use on 30-degree days without any external charging.

I’m pretty happy with those figures – it’s not efficient, but at least I don’t have to worry about solar in shady campsites immediately. It works out to be about 45AH a day, most of that keeping the old 110L upright fridge running.

That shitty pole was too bright and right in the way

For this trip the van also got a workout, needing to power both an 18L centre console fridge and a larger 60L drinks fridge from its internal battery system. With the 200W solar panel that’s always connected on top of the van, the van ended up at around 85% power remaining at the end of the trip. The extra fridge was just for this trip though as we knew we’d always have 240v power if we needed it – we don’t typically take it when camping.

Typical shower in the toilet blocks

The camper now has 2 x 120AH LiFePO4 lithium batteries running in parallel for a total of 240 usable amp-hours. Both of the batteries are Adventure Kings from 4WD Supacentre, and both are working well together. Cost was $400 each, not much more than a good quality AGM.

The van battery is a single 200AH LiFePO4 lithium battery, also Kings brand. I got that one for $750, so the smaller batteries in parallel make better financial sense with the added benefit of redundancy if one fails.

Occasionally grumpy

The two solar panels on top of the camper are both 200W (ish) eBay semi-flexible panels, the same size and type I’ve had fixed to the van roof for a while now. They are mounted using 3M Dual-Lock reclosable fasteners; sort of like an industrial strength velcro. The panels are also made a bit more rigid for when they need to be taken off and used around a campsite with some heavy-duty garden mesh. So far the panels have held on while driving on 110km/h roads, as well as 5 days of being upside down with the camper opened. These panels will push about 20A into the batteries at full strength sun. Because I’ve got a separate solar charger though, I can push another 20A of alternator power into the batteries at the same time if the batteries need it. They usually don’t though, and for this trip on the way to Moruya we had only the solar keeping the batteries fully charged while driving down.

While I was able to fix the squeaking bearing this time, there’s probably an underlying issue that caused it to get distressed again so soon. I’ll look into it a bit more when I check the other wheel for any looseness. I definitely need to pack more rags and degreaser for upcoming trips though as it’s a filthy job. I also need a bigger shifter and a hammer – I thought my basic toolkit had these, but it turned out the castle nut is a little bigger than I thought.

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