The Best Way To Explore Tasmania Has To Be With A Volkswagen Camper Van
Story and Photography by Brook James
We’ve only had the van since November, so we have been trying to get out and about as much as possible, plus, being originally from New Zealand, we are trying to see as much of Australia as possible. I had to go to Tasmania for a few days to shoot an article, so jumped on the opportunity to take the van across on the ferry afterwards for a week. I also know another guy locally here in Melbourne who has a Volkswagen T3 Camper that he took to Tasmania recently, so I was vibing heaps on what he was showing me from over there.
The main appeal for the van for us was seeing all the dudes in the States in the Westys living the dream. I thought, “Why the hell can’t we have and do that here?” The first Volkswagen Westfalia vans we saw in real life were a couple of years ago lurking around Byron Bay, the local surfers were using them. I instantly fell in love with that ’80s boxy shape—it’s so simple.
For this trip, I think we clocked around 2,500-3,000 kms (~1,800 miles) in Tasmania and the van didn’t skip a beat. The trip was only a week but we managed to check out pretty much all of Tassie.
Started down the bottom, went more south. Up the east to the top, then crossed through the middle to the south west. Then finally up the West Coast heading north, and across to Devonport to jump on the ferry.
When we bought the van initially, we picked up the van in Adelaide after a one way flight from one of the nicest guys out, super genuine and helpful. I purchased it pretty much unseen, so we were going off photos and videos. He must have sent me at least 30 shots, plus a few videos of it starting from cold etc. Turns out it all checked out, as soon as he pulled up I fell in love with it and snapped it up. Then got to drive the 8 hour-ish drive back to Melbourne in it. There were no issues at all! The only thing it failed on for the RWC (which is like a safety check thing) is the front brake rotors and rear wheel cylinders, which I swapped out myself quickly.
The van had only done 44,000 kms when we got her, so she’s hardly been driven! I think we have almost done 10,000 kms in her since November. First major trip was a week or so after we got it, from Melbourne to Brisbane for Christmas, with my girlfriend Brittany’s family, a fun summer road trip for sure.
Now we camp in it all the time, we try our hardest to get away once a week on Brit’s days off, even just for a sneaky overnight trip out of the city somewhere, which is cool. It’s pretty chill and super easy now, every time we take her away, we find other little things that need to be added here and there to make camping easier (lighting, etc.) which is cool because I love tinkering and adding things to it. It’s never ending. Everything I add to it, though, I try to make sure it is as period correct as possible and looks original.
Camping with a van is a breeze, to be honest, you rock up to your spot, unhook the four latches, pop the roof, and you’re ready to go. We stayed at a campsite one night in Tassie and pulled up next to a family with three kids, all setting up tents. The husband looked at us and said, “nice and quick setup you have there”—made me laugh, but the poor guy spent the next hour or so pitching his tents and setting up camp for the next few days. Love how quick camper vans are to set up.
That said, people always assume we paid sweet nothing for it. They always say, “oh awesome van, seen your photos blah blah, you pick that up real cheap, did ya?” or they give me shit about having an old camper van. I always tell them the price we paid, and it shuts them up quickly, $10,000 AUD, which I think is still great value considering it’s very original in and out and has very low mileage.
If you want one of your own, take your time and figure out what you want from the van. Write a list of must haves, etc. That’s what we did. We hunted for a year to find this gem, which ticked almost every box we had. There are plenty of trashed, junk ones out there, so figure out a budget and try and buy the best van for your buck! Take it for a drive, and see if you fall in love with the van life. I highly recommend a pop-top, though: every time the roof is down (if it’s raining, for example) we ask ourselves how on earth people cook and use non-pop-top vans. I find myself bent in half trying to cook or do anything.
Unexpectedly, they are so much fun to drive, too. I love the rear engine and how you can walk through from the driver’s area through to the living space in the back. We went for the 2.1-litre engine, which pulls fine, considering. Climbs hills fine and sticks to the road on the corners. I like to drive all of my VWs pretty hard and aggressively, and love to push this thing around the bends, especially in Tasmania!
We both love the van and are super grateful to have her in our lives. Although we have not named her just yet (taking our time on that one, ha) we already consider the van to be a part of the family.