Great driving holidays – Ayr to Cairns (Qld)

By Australia / Cairns / Queensland /

BIDDING farewell to Ayr, we headed off for a leisurely four hour drive north to Cairns and I couldn’t wait! The Great Barrier Reef, the shopping, the Kuranda Railway, the Skyrail … so much to do.

We stayed at the Coconut Holiday Resort and this was a five star park in the truest sense. This is an ideal place to set up camp after a long drive in Queensland in your campervan or caravan. With everything from unpowered grassy sites right through to three bedroom condos, two enormous pool areas, the best children’s play activities you could think of and it even has its own restaurant where you can sink your teeth into the best fish and chips going around. Just ask Sheree, she had them almost every night! Must be a Kiwi thing.

The first day we spent out on the reef on the Quicksilver Reef Escape. Unfortunately the day wasn’t such a good one, so we could only go as far as Green Island as the visibility out on the reef wasn’t good, but Green Island certainly didn’t disappoint. We went on the glass bottom boats, the submarine and took a walk through the stunning rainforest, before finishing up with some snorkeling. A great day was had by all, and actually was all the better for none of us having any unwanted sunburn!

The next day we took in the Skyrail up the mountains and the Kuranda Railway back down. You really have to spend an entire full day doing this as there are so many great photo opportunities and some fantastic shopping up at the Kuranda Markets. You will never get a view anywhere else like you do from the Skyrail. Boston, our youngest, really loved the Kuranda Railway, he thought it was James and Percy towing us.

On our third day we took a drive up the gorgeous coast road up to Port Douglas. ‘Why don’t we live here’, I keep asking myself. I am definitely heading back up there to live one day. Every day really is beautiful one day and perfect the next. And the one highlight for all our kids was Muddies Water Park on the waterfront boardwalk in Cairns itself. Definitely something Boston will never forget, and a bonus for me – its all free!


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Great driving holidays – Mackay to Ayr (Qld)

By Australia / Queensland /

We decided to deviate from our intinerary, something we have become very good at! Although sometimes it is not planned at the time.

So after Mackay, we decided to stop in Ayr, a great little town 80km south of Townsville. It’s a good old country town, buzzing with busy farmers and tonnes of produce. There is still enough sugar cane to sink a battleship, but two things Ayr has that not a lot of these small country towns have are, one, it is right on the beach, and two, it has an enormous water supply in the Burdekin River and Dam which flow through the southern side of town. Water is never a problem around here, even though they have balmy summer days all year round.

Produce is grown by the hectare and therefore there is nothing better for a campervanner/caravanner than roadside stalls from which you can stock up on supplies. Just 10km south of Ayr is a little place, totally hidden away, called Ashworth’s Treasures of the Earth. It’s the biggest gem and fossil collection I have ever seen and to think it’s all the way up here, tucked away from prying eyes. But the strange thing is, prying eyes is what they do get – and by the bus load. People come from all around the world and while we were there, one German tourist said that he has been gem collecting his entire life, and this was the best one he had ever seen! Go Aussie, Aussie, Aussie!

The Ayr township has everything you could hope for and some great little restaurants too. That’s if you are getting sick of constant BBQs, of course. Alma Beach is just a 15km drive north and is an awesome beach. The tide goes out such a long way that you get to do drag racing on the firm sand of the beach. The kids ran up and down the beach for hours. It’s truly idyllic and, with not a lot of people around, you are pretty much left alone to enjoy it and soak it all up.

Next stop is Cairns and we can’t wait!

The Great Australian Doorstep – visit www.thegreataustraliandoorstep to purchase DVDs of the first two series.


Great driving holidays – Strathbogie Ranges (Victoria)

By Victoria /

On the run with bounties on their heads, Ned Kelly and his gang frustrated troopers for 16 months after robbing the Jerilderie bank by holing up in the ruggedly beautiful Strathbogie Ranges, a wonderful place to enjoy as a great driving holiday in Victoria. Today the ranges are just as breathtaking but modern-day adventurers can see the lot in just a few hours after a leisurely two-and-a-half hour tootle up the Hume Highway from Melbourne.

Ned and his boys spent their time knocking up their famed armour for the final showdown at nearby Glenrowan, but I’d suggest some way more leisurely pursuits.  A good start is the wonderful little town of Euroa for hearty sustinence (good little nosheries abound) before heading for the spectacular granite-topped hills. Now a mix of general farming among wineries and horse studs, the Strathbogies definitely don’t challenge the Gold Coast in attractions. Theirs is a more natural beauty, pristine bush with maybe a koala and a kangaroo or two by the roadside – but it’s still exhilarating stuff.

From Euroa, take the Strathbogie Road on the north side of the Seven Creeks bridge in Euroa. This gets you up into the range and from here you can

wander, maybe eventually heading for Merton, and then the Maroondah Highway back to Melbourne.

To linger, consider the Sunnymeade B&B at Strathbogie It’s an excellent little set-up and on the site of what for mine is one of the best English-style gardens in Australia. As guests, you get to wander the garden for free, otherwise you’ll need to check the website for the open dates, generally in December.

For Ned, it was all downhill, to the hangman’s noose, after his Strathbogie soujourn. Luckier ones like us can go back time after time.


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Away with the Family out of School Holidays periods

By Australia / Port Douglas / Queensland /

My family and I recently went to Port Douglas to relax before the mayhem of the festive season.  Taking kids out of school for a family holiday is a hot topic at the moment.  But as our eldest child was in Prep this year we thought a week away (armed with her writing journal and a few reader books), would actually enhance her education.

Now most people think that Far North Queensland is not the place to be in late spring, but let me tell you – the weather was perfect, we had the place to ourselves and we enjoyed the low (out of school holiday) season prices!

We actually booked our travel arrangements 3 months earlier and got great deals on flights, accommodation and car hire.  Car hire was booked via with Thrifty.

We started our journey from home at 5.00am and set off to catch our Jetstar flight from Melbourne to Cairns.  Having bundled Zac and Tasha  asleep into the car Toni and I made it in plenty of time for the flight.  Jetstar then proceeded to delay the flight by an hour (reasons unknown) but made up the time on the flight.  When we arrived into Cairns, we headed for the Thrifty Car Rental counter to collect our car.   Not only was the car ready with baby seat as prebooked, we were upgraded to an Outlander!

Cairns Airport is under renovations and it was a long walk from the arrivals area to the baggage hall and then back to the Cairns Airport Parking area, where our car was ready to go.

We jumped into the car and headed north to Port Douglas.  The drive up is a beauty and even the kids were impressed.  Beaches on one side, rainforest and mountains on the other.

port-douglas-beachWe were at our accommodation, the Sheraton Mirage Resort, in about 60 minutes, unpacked our bags for the next 8 nights and hit the pool.

As mentioned earlier, the weather was perfect, low 30’s every day.  Some rain at night, but nothing that adversely effected the holiday.

Port Douglas is a great spot to relax, walk or run on the beach, dine (recommend Salsa for the adults and Mango Jam for the kids), swim (pools only at this time of year as it is  jellyfish “stinger” season), or do all the sight seeing activities the region has to offer.

We did all of that, but mainly relaxed by the pool and ate and drank!

The highlights of the activities were :

Great Barrier Reef cruise with Quick Silver –  it’s a bit special to see your 6 year old daughter snorkelling and discovering something that may be dead in 20 years.  Natahsa loved it and it was hard to get her out of the water at the end of the day.  We even made Zac put a mask on and put his head in, just so he can say he has done it. He loved the semi submersible trip that took you right up close to the reef and fish – something we should all see before it disappears.

Daintree rainforest Far North QueenslandWalking in the Daintree Rainforest was beautiful, as was cruising on the Daintree river looking for crocodiles that were happy to be hiding in the river and not making themselves easy to find.

Kuranda markets and the Skyrail, just out of Cairns is another sample of the rainforest and a great way to spend the afternoon.

Golf at the Mirage Resort was lots of fun.  I must say the course is not up to its former glory as they have been affected by the GFC and a drought since May this year.  I hope they are able to recover on both fronts as the layout and location is superb!

After 9 days, it was sad to leave Port Douglas and head back to Cairns airport.  We dropped the rental car off at Cairns Airport, with a key drop conveniently located between the car park and terminal, headed to our flight, which was on time, and checked into “Hotel Reality” – home.