As a road-tripping family who have traversed the countryside many times over, we know what to expect when we take to the road, or so we think. “Have we got everything?” I ask myself, second guessing. The van is packed, the list has been double checked, the kids are wrangled, and we’re ready to roll. The hum of the road is beckoning. This time however, we’ll roll differently, and the familiar hum will be somewhat unfamiliar. Usually we’re rattling around dusty trails in our old orange 1975 VW Kombi, but today we’re taking to the road in the new Volkswagen California. With a shiny, bronzed exterior, it’s a head-turner of the modern kind, and it goes without saying we’re in for a real treat. It’s hard to know who is more excited here, the kids or the adults.
We’re headed on a trip to the Barrington Coast, a stunning region on the NSW mid-north coast. The Volkswagen Surfmasters is being held at Boomerang Beach, a well known local surf break, and spectacular backdrop for the event.
Packing for a family road trip in the California is remarkably hassle free. The rear cargo area yields ample storage for the paraphenalia of camping and adventure gear we cart around, with plenty of space left for a few mod cons like a portable fridge and gas cooker. The mattress is neatly stowed thanks to the clever design of the movable bed base. Nothing is off limits, the brilliant addition of roof racks to the openable poptop roof, means we can bring all the toys, including a surfboard for each of us. As a surfing family, this feature scores big points, and with that, a good time is guaranteed.
The drive north from Sydney is around 4-5 hours, an easy run, made all the more effortless with the comforts of the California. After prodding and poking at all the buttons, a novelty that’s lacking in our regular mode of transport, our two daughters are sprawled out asleep in the back seat, lapping up the extra space between them. All this without a whisper of arguing over who crossed the imaginary middle line! It seems the conveniences of a little luxury are a pleasure for all.
On arrival at the Barrington Coast, we are welcomed with clear skies and sunshine, as the playful waves are rolling in. Checking in at Boomerang Beach to the Volkswagen Surfmasters event, the vibe is high, bustling with amped up surfers and spectators all keen for some good competition. It’s fair to say the bronzed California turns more than a few heads among the surfing community, with many curious and inquisitive onlookers peering on with envy.
A short drive north of Boomerang Beach is Tiona Holiday Park, a secluded paradise bordered by the sheltered waters of Wallis Lake on one side and the pristine shores of Seven Mile Beach on the other. Keen to get a taste of camplife in the California, we find a patch nestled among the palm trees to set up camp.
The ultimate adventuremobile, the California is geared for an effortless campout. As any camper would know, a good set up, and a good night sleep, starts with good foundations. There’s no need to bring out the trusty spirit level here though, we guide ourselves to level ground with the inbuilt vehicle levelling feature. This is high tech stuff like we’ve never experienced in our vintage kombi! Then, with just the flick of a switch (or should I say, touch of a screen), the automatic pop top roof goes up, and just like that we have our two story home on wheels. The top bunk is a teenagers dream camp hideaway. With panoramic windows and all the space needed to stow away from mum and dad, our girls quickly scramble up top and set up their camp.
Gone are the days of pitching a canvas annex for some shade, the California has an awning neatly fixed to the roof which folds out with ease. With that done, all we need is to put our feet up and recline in a comfy chair, although this time chairs weren’t on our packing list. A noteworthy feature of the California is the table and two chairs that are cleverly built into the door linings. We take them out, set them down, and kick back into relax mode. This is one of our favourite features, and takes a spontaneous road trip picnic to another level.
With nothing left to do, and the late afternoon sun casting a glow, it’s our que to stoke the fire, put the billy on, pour ourselves a cuppa, and settle in for the evening. There’s a crisp chill in the air, so we take the opportunity to press another button and test the California’s diesel heater. Barely noticeable, it quietly fills the cabin with heated air at just the right temperature for a comfortable night. Retiring at the end of the day to the cosy warm confines of the California is up there with toasted marshmallows on a stick.
One word comes to mind in summing up our experience road-tripping and camping with the California… impressive! This vehicle ticks the boxes, it’s an absolute pleasure to drive, makes a camping road trip effortless, and has the all important head-turning factor… much the same as our old girl, albeit with the added bells and whistles. No doubt when we’re next rattling around dusty trails in our beloved clunky old kombi we’ll be reminiscing of the luxuries, high tech features, and ease of its modern day counterpart. With all the family smiling for miles, it gets our approval, and with that we’re very happy campers.