It is hard to know who was more excited about the Ford Everest sitting outside with a ginormous (as my eldest son called it) campervan hitched to the back.
As the boys gazed out the window, I managed a quick wave before being immediately set upon by the neighbour.
He too was in awe of the shimmering blue 4WD I had just pulled up in. He hastily walked over and took a quick photo of the car. I was both confused and bemused for a moment. Soon enough some words came my way.
“That’s a beautiful colour. I’ve just ordered one for my wife in black but maybe I could convince her to change to this one.”
It seemed clear, the Ford Everest is popular.
I engaged in some small talk, agreed that it was indeed a striking colour, as I hurriedly backed away towards the front door with two kids eagerly trying their best to dive out of it. The kids were pumped for their first camping trip, and what better destination that Barrington Tops, 4 hours north of Sydney.
On the road
The new Ford Everest is as comfortable a car as you will ever drive. This model, the Sport fitted with the V6 diesel engine is a dream.
Both smooth and powerful, just as a car should be. We loaded up, using some space in the back as well as the camper trailer on the back. The trailer was an Ezytrail Parkes 15 off roader coming in at close to 3 tonnes.
The towing capacity of the Everest is 3500 kilograms braked. Our GCM was 6250 kilograms. With the car coming in at 2454 kilograms, a couple hundred kilograms of luggage factored in but probably over-stated and the trailer at 2,967 kilograms, we were inside the limit quite comfortably.
That said, you could certainly feel the weight on the back but underway and even pulling away from the gutter and the engine did not miss a beat. Nor did it ever feel like it was a struggle to get moving.
As we exited the hustle and bustle of the suburbs, winding our way to the Pacific highway, where we were eventually able to settle into a smooth 100 kilometres per hour. It was at this point that the scenery gave way to cries of “there’s no TV Dad.”
A common complaint when you step away from the lounge room with a three and two-year old. Luckily the trucks whizzing by kept all but one child happy for the rest of the drive.
For the other, we turned up the excellent 10 speaker stereo.
The control interface sits on the impressive 12-inch infotainment display which delivers significant superiority over other vehicles we have used to ferry our children around. The sound was impeccable throughout the cabin to drown out his incessant noise. Despite this being the best any children’s group have ever sounded, there is only so much Wiggles two parents can take.
One of the best advancements for towing is having a vehicle with a towing function, and we used it a lot. There was also an electronic brake controller fitted to the dashboard which is much more integrated than any aftermarket options.
It is intuitive to use and allows you to dial up brake pressure depending on your load. We dialled this up to level 5 after to ensure we stopped in a short yet safe distance.
The towing function, Tow/haul drive mode is a preset that maps the ECU for towing and allows you to input your trailer dimensions and weight using the app or onboard infotainment display. On our first drive, we didn’t use it, only turning it on later and inputting out trailer specifications. Mapping the vehicle for towing is more efficient and something I would do every time now.
What is also impressive for towing is the onboard trailer sway control which works regardless of having tow/haul mode on or off.
The trailer we had was set up for a much higher vehicle and the standard tow hitch on the Ford Everest meant that having the ball in the normal position the trailer tongue was too low, and by flipping the hitch, it was too high.
That made for a difficult trip until I could change the hitch itself for my own one that had the trailer sitting flat which I grabbed from home and installed after arriving at our destination.
Having not quite got the set up right set up meant that we were limited to 100 kilometres per hour on the freeway. Given the windy conditions on the drive up to Barrington Tops, we did experience some trailer sway.
The Everest recognised this quite quickly and trailer sway control came on to control the trailer by applying braking to individual wheels plus reducing power to the vehicle until the camper trailer was back under control.
I saw the message pop up twice on the way to the Barrington Tops. Once we had adjusted our tow height, I did not get it at all on the way back with the better towing angle and less windy conditions on our return.
Once we had the perfect angle with the trailer sitting flat, we were able to stretch the Everest out to the prescribed limit of 110 kilometres per hour on the freeway and it was incredibly smooth.
You can certainly feel the weight on the back, particularly after a dip, yet the engine and drivetrain feel capable of so much more.
It really was a smooth driving experience no matter what road type we were on.
Over the course of the trip, we used an average of 18.5 litres per 100 kilometres. Not too bad considering the campervan on the back and the effortless and smooth power available from the 3.0 litre V6 engine under the bonnet.
Barrington Tops is in New South Wales, a shortish 4-hour commute from Sydney. It feels like double that with a grumpy kid in the back.
It is a four-wheel driving Mecca and amazing natural area that covers everything from rugged terrains to breathtaking landscapes. The area covers Barrington Tops National Park and a World Heritage Area. It is an untouched wilderness.
For anyone keen on hiking or simply bushwalking, large Gondwana Rainforests, dating back millions of years are the mainstay of any visit. These sheer amount of flora and fauna, some of which are found nowhere else on Earth, is astounding. On any walk you can find towering trees, delicate orchids, and plenty of animals along with them.
It is cold up here during winter and our little ones were well and truly rugged up. Pants and parkas are crucial as is a campfire if your location allows it. At an elevation of over 1500 meters, snow sometimes falls up here.
The other highlights are the rivers and waterfalls dotted throughout the park. Again, the water is cold so unless you are ice bath ready, perhaps stay out of the water in winter. There are plenty of rafting opportunities for the brave.
This area is home to the Worimi and Gringai people who have nurtured a deep connection with this land for generations, leaving their mark on its history and spirituality.
The nearest major town is Gloucester where you can grab your supplies from the well-stocked supermarket. From there, you will need to bring everything with you as there isn’t much in the way of convenience in the Tops themselves
Exploring the area
For the family, the Barrington Tops and its surrounding areas provide a wealth of opportunities to get back to nature. It is the perfect place for nature enthusiasts, adventure seekers, or those looking for their first family camping experience.
The hiking and bushwalking for our kids (despite the cries of I’m tired) was a highlight. Watching them interact with nature was amazing. From hugging trees to telling us how tall the trees were, to spotting birds, they were in awe. Worth the effort.
A couple of the shorter tracks were the best for us including the Gloucester River track. Having small kids does impinge on your hiking so longer tracks like the Carey’s Peak walking track, 14kms, were out of the question.
On the way, we crossed rivers and streams and waterfalls, all of which looked very frosty.
The children delighted themselves throwing stones into the water and poking it with sticks. How no one fell in is a mystery to me. We eagerly looked out for a platypus but were unlucky on that front.
The Everest is tailor made for the adventurous with a host of driving features that make off roading, even for a pure beginner, almost laughably easy. We deployed the mud/ruts setting which adjusts the engine outputs including throttle, transmission, braking and stability control to suit the prevailing conditions.
The onboard computer manages traction brilliantly, minimising wheel spin. There was no need for the computer controlled rear diff lock either.
Downhill runs were simple with a surprisingly quiet hill descent control helping me concentrate on steering without fussing over brake application.
Even beyond the on-demand settings, any family considering this for their first off road vehicle can also sink their teeth into displays that show pitch and roll and steering angle.
Despite the distraction of frequent squeals of laughter and delight coming from the rear of the cabin, the front camera, available while off roading, and predictive track positioning graphic kept me exactly where I needed to be on any track we tackled. I did not even reach for low range.
The history of the area is truly amazing. There are captivating heritage sites such as the Copeland Historic Gold Mine and the Gloucester Museum which offer insightful looks into both indigenous history and the early days of European settlement.
It is interesting to see the evolution of the area over time and through the 1850s as the cedar cutter moved into the area. Some say Captain Thunderbolt (Fred Ward) hid out here in the 1860s.
One of my favourite ways to unwind is with a fishing rod and for keen anglers, the pristine rivers and streams of Barrington Tops create an ideal setting for trout fishing. Rainbow and brown trout are available with flies or lures being the best bet.
And then of course there is the off roading. Perfect for a vehicle like the Everest. The tracks can be difficult after rain but can lead to absolute gems such as Careys Peak lookout, which offers commanding views across the landscape.
I suggest taking the trailer off for this.
Places to stay
Barrington Tops offers a variety of camping spots, with a varying of facilities.
Having two small children, we opted for the safety of a privately owned camping area down off the plateau itself. Here we were afforded some luxuries such as a clean flushing toilet, hot water, and plenty of room for the kids to ride their bikes.
Parking a trailer can often be the undoing of even the strongest relationships, but not so for us and the Ford Everest. Manoeuvring the sizable trailer, with no reverse camera on the back of the trailer itself, couldn’t have been easier thanks to Everest’s impressive 360-degree view cameras.
With peace and quiet courtesy of the kids and mum watching on, I was able to back into prime position taking in the best angle of the view and getting the trailer absolutely level for the night.
The car is easy to place where you need but newcomers and part timers will appreciate this feature with its added guidelines.
Called The Steps, the camping spot sat adjacent to a small river with a short walk to the amenities block. The office organised and delivered firewood to the site ready for our arrival. It wasn’t a lot of timber but was enough to keep us happy for an evening. The standard delivery is not enough for multiple days. We roasted marshmallows by night which both kids ate with delight.
If you forget to bring the firewood, or lanterns, fear not. The Everest features zone lighting which we discovered later in the night.
It allows you to illuminate areas around the perimeter of the vehicle, via the centre screen or FordPass phone app. A handy feature that also allows you to start the car remotely. Helpful on a hot day, or cold morning for that matter.
Beyond the private experience, there are plenty of options for older kids and adults alike.
One of the most popular options is the Polblue Camping Area. It is nestled in a picturesque alpine area with a stunning backdrop of snow gums and meadows.
It is an excellent starting point for nearby hiking trails and has basic facilities such as toilets and picnic tables.
Gummi Falls Campground is a hidden gem tucked away in a serene woodland setting. It is close to Gummi Falls and a short walk to Jerusalem Creek Falls.
For those chasing remote experience, try Horse Swamp Campground, and if you want the water close by Little Murray Campground is situated by the picturesque Williams River. The perfect spot for fishing and relaxation.
The ability to reach places like this is a godsend in todays fast paced world. Life slows down while camping and teaching the kids how to start campfires, enjoy nature and relax without screens is necessary these days.
For anyone looking to join the ever-growing numbers of travellers traversing Australia right now, my family can assure you will be completely comfortable and safe on the road in a Ford Everest.
It is an excellent tow vehicle with the cabin comfort to make every drive a joyful experience, and the 4WD tech makes everybody an expert.