Great driving holidays – Mossman to Cooktown (Qld)

By Australia / Queensland /

THE drive from Mossman to Cooktown is brilliant. It isn’t an easy drive, but still it’s really worth the while. Make sure you stock up on everything before you head off and there are plenty of stops along the way including some great photo opportunities.

Cooktown is a place full of wonder and it certainly wasn’t what I expected, that’s for sure! Simply put – it is stunning and there is no other way to describe it. And the history you will see and learn is astounding. I knew so little before going there it was actually embarrassing.

For starters, the lookout will take your breath away and if you are an avid photographer, you will spend hours – even days – taking photos. The Mt Cook lookout is the first port of call to get your bearings and start your adventure of the area. From there we headed back into town to the James Cook Museum. This museum is housed in the old Nunnery, and is even haunted some will tell you! But the exhibits they have there are quite remarkable, especially given how remote Cooktown is. I would say it’s even better than most of the mainstream museums on the east coast!

We stayed at the Big4 Cooktown, and it is so good you won’t need to think about staying anywhere else. They even have a wash down bay for your vehicles, two swimming pools, tonnes of room, huge, lush green sites and the biggest and best camp kitchen ever.

The following day we took a tour – highly recommended – with Guurbi Tours. They will show you sacred Aboriginal sites and “birthing grounds”, which are like nothing you have ever seen. Cooktown itself has all the services for you to stock up including the ANZ bank. If you feel like a day trip, head back south about 90kms and take the turn off to The Lions Den. This is a remote pub and camping ground, but oozing so much hospitality and charm. They have new owners and the place really is a buzz. And if you like a quiet ale, you just have to go to the Top Pub in the main street of Cooktown at sunset – that view will never be beaten, especially with a cold lager in the hand!

The Great Australian Doorstep is coming to Channel 7Two in 2010! Stay tuned! Visit www.thegreataustraliandoorstep.com to purchase DVDs and find out more about the show.


Great driving holidays – Cairns to Mossman (Qld)

By Australia / Cairns / Queensland /

WHO ever would have thought that a place like Mossman was only a 90-minute drive north of Cairns.

Tucked away in the beautiful hinterland and on the base of the Daintree. Mossman hides one of the most spectacular and entertaining places that is simply unforgettable – The Karnak Playhouse, owned by world famous Diane Cilento! It is so enchanting, I could have stayed there forever. They do world class stage performances and when you throw the setting into the equation, it’s really something out of a story book.

After leaving the Playhouse, we took in the Mossman Gorge. Once again, somewhere you simply do not want to leave after experiencing it. The scenery is so untouched, which is awesome to see, and make sure you take your swimmers as the big swimming hole is fantastic! Best of all, you don’t have to be fit as you can go to the main viewing platform. It’s an easy 250m stroll with only a few stairs.

Once back at the Riverside Caravan Park, the kids wanted another swim and what better way to do it than in an Olympic-sized swimming pool right in the confines of the caravan park. Sure beats swimming with the crocodiles in the nearby river!

Mossman is very small but has all the amenities you will need. It sure has changed a lot in the past 10 years when Sheree was there last. She couldn’t believe it and all for the better too. The corner pub has great meals at affordable prices and you can watch the latest in all sports on their screens (should the caravanning and kids and wife be getting to you!)

The Great Australian Doorstep can be found on the How To Channel on Foxtel. Visit www.thegreataustraliandoorstep.com.au to purchase DVD copies of the TV series.

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Bellarine Peninsula – Point Lonsdale

By Victoria /

Looking to escape for a weekend or just a quick day trip out of Melbourne?
Perhaps a Summer break in Point Lonsdale …….

point-lonsdale-mapGetting there is easy. From Melbourne head over the West Gate Bridge down towards Geelong and follow the sign postings (B110) for the Bellarine Peninsula and Queenscliff. Travel time is around 90 minutes from the city. If you’ve collected a rental car from Melbourne Airport you’d be looking at roughly the same time via the Western Ring Road and if you arrive via Avalon Airport you’re half way there as the airport is just outside Geelong.

Point Lonsdale is relatively quiet when compared to more popular summer destinations around Melbourne such as Sorrento, Anglesea, Torquay or Lorne. There’s no pub, a scattering of rather busy coffee and breakfast cafes, an excellent IGA supermarket and don’t forget to check out Kelp, a great little Café restaurant for a bite or just a quick drink, all located across the road from the bayside beach making for a perfect family holiday environment. The Back beach offers great surf and at low tide the rock pools create hours of fun for all the kids.

On the first Sunday after Christmas the Rip View Swim Classic is swum. This 1.4km swim from Springs Beach to the Point Lonsdale Front Beach is one of the big three Open Water Swims along with the Lorne Pier to Pub and Portsea Swim Classic. A great day and one of the more gentle swims being conducted within the bay.

So to the beaches, well to be honest you’re spoilt for choice in this. A handful include:

  • Point Lonsdale Nippers
      • Santa Casa (known locally as Nun’s Beach ) on the right as you drive into Queenscliff. Great for kids and never too crowded. For those with dogs the Point Lonsdale end of Nun’s caters for our 4 legged buddies. Each December-January Point Lonsdale Life Saving Club runs its annual Nippers program on Nun’s with some 300 children taking part in a condensed Program over 2 weeks culminating in a Beach Carnival usually held on the 2nd Saturday of January.


      • Ocean Grove, one of the growing coastal towns, has a very popular surf beach along with the big Supermarkets, banks and plenty of shopping available. Check out Tranquillity Fair held on first Saturday in the New Year in Ocean Grove Park.


      • RAAF’s Beach , on the left between Ocean Grove and Barwon Heads, offers wide open spaces at low tides whilst on the other side of the road the Barwon River Beach is popular with younger beach goers and when the tides out is a great play ground with the backdrop of the famous Barwon Heads Bridge (if you watched the Australian TV series Sea Change that is).


      • Some of the best surfing on this coast can be found at any number of different spots along 13th Beach on the road from Barwon Heads to Torquay (across the bridge and left at the pub).

    For a water break of a different kind don’t miss the Adventure Water Park (www.adventurepark.com.au) located on the Geelong road 5 minutes out of Wallington – this is fun for everyone – doors open at 10.00am and it pays to get there early, to grab a table, a spot in the shade and jump on the rides whilst the queues are short.
    queenscliff-steam-railway Queenscliff Steam Train on the Narrows

    Probably one of the better known Bellarine towns, Queenscliff is 5 minutes away. This Edwardian Holiday town with its wide roads and splendid hotels, boasts a great collection of Steam trains that run during weekends and holiday periods along to Drysdale or for those just looking for a quick experience to Laker’s Siding (30 mins). The Blues Train is also a great night out with Dinner and music for up to 200 passengers.

    For such a small town Queenscliff offers more than its fair share of museums with the Fort Queenscliff Tour and Museum, (03 5258 1488), Queenscliff Historical Museum (03 5258 2511), excellent Queenscliff Maritime Museum (03 5258 3440) and located between Queenscliff and Point Lonsdale on the “Narrows” is the Marine Discovery Centre – small but fun for the kids and the staff are great (03 5258 3344).

    Queenscliff is also home for the Pilots who guide ships in and out of the Bay in particular through the notoriously difficult 3km wide “Rip”. Watch for these Orange Pilot boats powering out to pick up and drop off Pilots onto the Ships. You can view the boats tied up in the Queenscliff marina.

    queenscliff-pierStretch your legs or pick up freshly cooked Fish and Chips and take a wander down the Jetty or around the new Marina where you may catch sight of the 3 giant Sting Rays that live there!

    So, where to stay?

    Late December – January is peak season with holiday-makers flocking in, filling up Holiday Parks sites and holiday rentals – renting a house during this period is not cheap, expect to fork out $1300+ per week for a 3 bedroom and you need to book ahead for both House and Holiday Park bookings.

    In Point Lonsdale itself there are 3 large Holiday Parks, Golightly, Royal Park Caravan Park and Big 4 Beacon Resort. Best bet is the latter which rather confusingly describes itself as being in Queenscliff when Point Lonsdale would be more apt. A sign of the increasing popularity of Holiday Parks is the new Big 4 Park on the Bellarine Highway (bellarine-holiday-park.vic.big4.com.au) 5 kms west of Point Lonsdale which opened its doors in late 2009. This offers Cabins, powered and unpowered sites, so those in Motorhome rentals or simply camping out are well catered for.

    There are several B & Bs including Roseneath Villa B&B ( www.roseneathvilla.com.au), Point Lonsdale Cottages and Point Lonsdale Guest House (www.pointlonsdaleguesthouse.com.au) a long stone’s throw from the lighthouse itself.

    Best time of year? Hard one to answer, Summer and Easter are always popular and plenty of fun, however in many ways the winter and other months are more attractive with a peaceful local feel. Depends slightly on your needs – for those with kids then December – January and any warm weekend will work well, if you’ve got under school aged children then February is for you – lower rates and far less busy.

    Heading home you have the option of the Queenscliff – Sorrento Ferry with the chance of seeing dolphins. Taking the Car is $60 and be warned the popularity of the Sorrento area on the other side means the drive back to Melbourne will take longer during the summer months. Alternatively head back up to Geelong or cut across and take the Portarlington road as an alternative, fewer traffic lights and better views.

    DriveNow Partner and sometime Blog Contributor