Busking and Vanlife in Australia, New South Wales

After spending a month or so in the North Island and the South Island of New Zealand, New South Wales in Australia was the next busking destination. Sydney was the first stop, after a direct flight from Christchurch airport.


After the first initial walk to see the sights of Sydney, such as Sydney Opera House and the Harbour Bridge, we went to check out what the busking might be like here. The first day, we busked in Pitt Street Mall, the main pedestrian shopping area. We were surprised that the spot was free. In Sydney, you need a permit to busk and we didn’t know this. We played for an hour and a half before we were stopped. As it happens, in Pitt Street Mall, busking is only allowed between certain times. That explained why no other buskers were there when we were!

The busking permit can be bought at the council offices. The permit that we got, allowed us to play for around a month in Sydney. It came in the form of a plastic card, with a photo of each of us (looking hilarious) stamped on top. The busking system here, splits the city into roughly 11 different zones. Some are good. Others are not, and obviously there is high competition for the best spots.

Our experience with busking in Sydney was varied. The best busk we did was hands down the first day we played. The people of Sydney seemed to always be in a rush to get somewhere. That meant that most of them definitely did not seem to have time to listen to two street performers, trying to play music on the side of a very busy road. Whether it was because we didn’t pick the best spots, I’m not sure, but we left Sydney earlier than we had planned.

Finding a Van In New South Wales

After our experiences in New Zealand, travelling by camper van we decided this was the way forward for us. This meant we began to look into the world of buying and selling camper vans. This is a pretty popular thing to do in Australia to travel by van for a few months. Then you sell the van on to somebody else at the end of your trip. Quite a lot of the vans rack up 100s of thousands of kilometers and you have to search though the lists to try and find one that you like.

After a lot of searching around we finally settled on Mitsubishi Express camper van, with 11 previous owners and 250,000 km on the clock. We picked up the van on Bondi Beach and drove it back through the middle of Sydney, which was terrifying!

After a week or so of Sydney life we decided to escape a bit and drove our new van up to the Blue Mountains for a night or two. The back of the van had been crammed with stuff that had accumulated over the many different people that had owned the van. The best finds included a snorkel and fins, a solar panel and food coolers.

Life on the Road

The first thing we did with the van, was some wild camping in the forests around the Blue Mountains. For our first few days of driving in the van we decided to stick to country roads with no traffic. This plan worked brilliantly until we came across our first car ferry. After being towed across the river on a raft by some rope we were on our way again.

We discovered a lot of the beaches had showers on them, which was a brilliant find. We also found the free electric BBQs that were at most parks or picnic spots. These are such a good idea!


We made the most of free camp spots all the way up the coast. At Newcastle there were a swarm a pelicans that we camped beside. We woke up to them eagerly waiting to be fed from the fish catch in the morning. The town of Newcastle looked quite large, so we attempted a small busk. We became the centre of attention of attention when a group of photography students came by. Without them attracting other people I don’t think we would have made much.


Byron Bay

We carried on up the East Coast, but the towns were quite small and not very busker friendly. Eventually we ended up at Byron Bay, to see what all the fuss was about. There was a nice, laid back vibe there and we were told if you spent more than a few days there you wouldn’t want to leave. We only spent an afternoon, so we didn’t quite get what they meant. The busking was terrible, but the beach was nice. It definitely felt like a good place to go to if you wanted to relax for a week. Or a month.

One of our favourite campsites was just above Byron Bay, where we were seconds from a sandy beach and had tea on the dunes. We were interrupted near the end though, by a six foot snake that had crawled out of the bushes, but we escaped unharmed!

After New South Wales the natural route for us to take was further up into Queensland. Our first destination was Brisbane and the Gold Coast.