Park in profile – Marion Holiday Park, SA

By Adelaide / Australia / South Australia /

Where: 323 Sturt Road, Bedford Park, SA

Website: http://marion-holiday-park.sa.big4.com.au

10 words or less: Splish-splash, snazzy,  family friendly, state-of-the-art, intimate.

The lowdown: Either grab yourself an Adelaide campervan rental or Adelaide car hire and make the 12km journey to Bedford Park. As easy as that!

With brand new state-of-the-art aquatic playgrounds, the water park at BIG4 Marion Holiday Park is the largest slide activity centre in the Southern Hemisphere and the tallest in the world built by the company Water Play, with one of the slides more than three metres high. Why wouldn’t you want to stay at this park when holidaying in South Australia?!

The new water park, located just 12km out of Adelaide, boasts three slides, a huge dump bucket and water cannons. Suitable for all ages, the water park has ground sprays for younger children and is a zero-depth complex, offering parents peace of mind. The new water park complements the park’s existing family-friendly facilities including a 45 metre outdoor lagoon swimming pool, indoor heated swimming pool, toddler pool, jumping pillow and indoor tennis court.

Marion Holiday Park has a relaxing country feel in a city location. Nestled amongst 200 year old red river gum trees, Sturt Creek & Wetlands, it’s a beautiful boutique BIG4 Holiday Park with excellent service and facilities.

When you can prize the kids away from the park, be sure to hit the road and explore all Adelaide and surrounds has to offer, including the nearby Adelaide Hills, Barossa Valley, Adelaide Zoo and fascinating museums and galleries.


Take a day trip to Melbourne’s east

By Melbourne / Victoria /

VISITORS to Victoria’s capital looking for a weekend day-trip may not know the Yarra Valley is a prime location and only an hour from the CBD in your car rental. They also should know the Maroondah Highway is the most logical route. But, what they might not know is that for a few minutes extra, a whole new world of stunning views and attractions await.

Head out through Templestowe and Eltham and drive through the picturesque valleys of Kangaroo Ground, taking the Yarra Glen turn off  – just past the general store.  Watch out for Watson’s Creek Cafe and Antiques, a favourite haunt of locals and tourists for years. It’s the perfect stop for morning tea. Wander through the antiques and down the back stairs to a native bush haven where you can have a cuppa with the magpies and kookaburras. Back on the road and a little off the beaten track is Sugarloaf Reservoir, full and beautiful after a good season of rain. Go for a walk or drive the circuit, reminding yourself to go back for a barbecue one day.

Eight minutes’ drive and all at once, the elbow bends of bush road open up and a breath-taking vista of the Yarra Valley materialises. Kilometres of farmland, vineyards and – on a clear morning – colourful hot-air balloons, lay before you, the Dandenong Ranges resting quietly in the background.

Appreciate the village-type atmosphere of the Yarra Glen township, then move on to Healesville where you can stop for a leisurely lunch at TarraWarra Estate and then view the magnificent  Australian  modern art collection at the TarraWarra Museum of Art – the building itself  a spectacular feat of architecture.

But don’t settle in just yet, start your journey home by calling in at the Yarra Glen pub and wile away a couple of hours listening to live music.

Take your time driving home, making sure to call in at some lookout points.  Then stop for dinner on the porch (later dinner in the restaurant) at Wellers and catch a last glimpse of the Dandenongs as the sun goes down on a perfect day.




The Gold Coast – the sun is still shining and the roads are clear

By Australia / Gold Coast / Queensland /

Despite the devastation of recent flooding and cyclones in Queensland, the sunshine state is still, and always will be, one of the country’s best destinations for a road trip whether it’s by rental car in Brisbane or a Brisbane campervan rental and you can rest assured the pathways are clear in the bottom half of the state which is brimming with magical experiences and, as Queensland Tourism’s Shelley Winkel faithfully points out, “is incredibly resilient”.

None more so than the beautiful Gold Coast region. After grabbing your hire car or campervan rental in Brisbane, head for a one-hour southerly spin on the Pacific Motorway and you’ll be drenched in the sunshine and soft sands of the Gold Coast before you know it. Whether it be luxurious venues like the Sheraton Mirage Resort or a more family friendly holiday park such as Main Beach Tourist Park, there’s a world of options for accommodation.

Then, of course, there’s no shortage of theme parks for the more adventurous or amazing resort-themed shopping villages and well known restaurants in the heart of the Gold Coast. For others, it’s simply a chance to park your vehicle and head for the beach!

Late night shopping is a winner along Orchid and Elkhorn Avenues where names like Louis Vuitton, Salvatore Ferragamo and Prada lure shoppers from far and wide – this shopping strip is usually open until about 9pm-10pm each night. Also check out the Carara Markets each weekend.

One can’t scoot around the part of the world without experiencing the thrills and spills of all the “worlds”, the ultimate parks on the Gold Coast where as one journalist recently described it as being a place where “adrenalin junkies unite as one and families throw diets, caution and the real world out the window”. Now that can only mean maximum fun! Highlights include Sea World (Main Beach), Warner Bros Movieworld and Wet N Wild (Oxenford), and Dreamworld and Whitewater World (Coomera).

For the latest flood news and cyclone updates visit the Queensland Government’s official Queensland floods webpage: http://www.qld.gov.au/floods/ or visit the Bureau of Meteorology: http://www.bom.gov.au/ to check weather forecasts for your holiday destination.



Romantic drives … Coffs Harbour to Crystal Castle, Byron Bay

By Australia / New South Wales /

While Coffs Harbour and surrounds offer some wonderful sites, attractions and lovely beaches, take the time to head up the Pacific Highway for a coast-hugging journey of four hours or so to one of the most peaceful places in Australia – Crystal Castle in Mullumbimby.

Though the trip is easy on the eyes, it’s the final destination that truly treats all the senses. This beautiful place in the Byron hinterland is ideal to enrich your own spirit and that of your partner’s, so make sure you plan to spend a good day there. In a nutshell, simply get on Park Beach Rd on the way out of Coffs and pick up the Pacific and head north.

While a direct route with no stops will get you there in about 3 and a half hours, for road-tripping romantics it might pay to set up a seven-day campervanning itinerary that takes in a few stopovers along the way, such as Grafton, Yamba, Lennox Head and Byron Bay. For us on this trip however, we picked up a Rental Car in Coffs Harbour from DriveNow and headed north.

Certainly stay a night or two in gorgeous Byron Bay and we suggest getting up bright and early one morning, head into town and load up on some energy with a scrumptious breakfast at funky cafe, Twisted Sister. The juice, the coffee, the eggs, the everything about this little eatery is A+. From here, it’s time for an enchanting visit at Crystal Castle, about half an hour from Byron and nestled in the hinterland.

Crystal Castle has a breathtaking landscape like no other in Australia, with an ancient labyrinth walk amidst mystical statues, giant crystals, gardens and refreshing rainforest. In the Castle itself there are tons of exquisite crystals and jewellery, books, aura photos, tarot readings, and a Lotus Cafe with an excellent laid-back menu. It really is a peaceful part of the world to recharge your batteries, go for a romantic stroll and simply “be”.



Five top Aussie festivals around Australia


From country music events to spectacular Outback festivals, or food and wine extravaganzas to riverboats and jazz, there’s something worth driving to just about anywhere in Australia all-year round. Here are five diverse festivals worth packing your bags for and hitting the road in a drivenow campervan for a unique Australian cultural experience.

1. Riverboats, Jazz, Food & Wine Weekend – Echuca, Victoria.

Pick up your DriveNow Melbourne Rental Car and a leisurely three-hour drive along the Hume Freeway and Northern Highway will take you to the riverbanks of beautiful Echuca where this annual event creates a buzz in February every year. The region’s finest food and wine is on show, jazz musos from far and wide strut their stuff and the paddlesteamers from yesteryear chug along the mighty Murray. It’s a treat for the eyes, ears and tastebuds!

2. Tamworth Country Music Festival – Tamworth, NSW.

This one’s popular for lovers of Country music and is held every year in January. It’s a five or six hour journey predominantly spent on the Pacific and New England Highways from Sydney, but upon reaching the final destination you’ll be re-energised by the festival spirit. Country artists including Troy Cassar Daley, Felicity Urquhart, and hundreds more from all walks of life and ages, amateur or professional. It’s all about great food, friends, tents, caravans and super music over 10 days.

3. The Targa Tasmania.

One for car lovers, this amazing international event has been running since 1992 and basically is a tarmac rally with competitive stages on closed roads for some of the best touring, sports and GT cars from throughout the world – a calvacade of motoring history that is sure to delight as you discover the spoils of the Apple Isle.

4.  World’s Greatest Pub Crawl, Maryborough, Queensland.

This four hour journey along the Bruce Highway from Brisbane will get you to Maryborough, but that’s where you’ll have to pop the keys away for a few days as the “world’s greatest pub crawl” whets your appetite for a good time. More than 3000 pub crawlers hit the streets in a bid to knock off the Guinness World Record for the most pub crawlers in one spot each year. Loads of fun … but don’t forget to pack the panadol and sleep well before the long trip back!

5. The Meeka Outback Festival, Meekatharra, Western Australia. Last but not least, this marathon nine hour drive from Perth along the Great Northern Highway will take you to this entertaining festival held every Queen’s Birthday Weekend in June. Enjoy the region’s unique culture as the festival ignites with fireworks, stalls and kids rides on the main oval on the Friday night. Then the colourful floats hit the town on the Saturday before the afternoon races encourage punters to have a tipple and a bet, before you enjoy watching and listening to bands perform under the desert stars.



Romantic drives … Devonport to Cradle Mountain to Strahan in Tasmania

By Australia / Tasmania /

PUT simply, anywhere you drive in this delightful little state known as the Apple Isle has romance written all over it. Best to allow a good 10 days at least to appreciate a full dose of romantic journeys, but for a trip with a difference, an idea might be to grab a DriveNow campervan from Melbourne and let it float a little while as you wine and dine in preparation for a tantalising Tasmanian road trip. By float we mean the Spirit of Tasmania, a charming overnight ferry trip across the Tasman. The value here is remarkable and to take your Camper it only costs from around the $80 mark most seasons.

Upon reaching Devonport, we made the decision to head for the hills – straight to Cradle Mountain and the Discovery Holiday Park which boasts powered sites for campers, pop tops and caravans, set in earthy little bush alcoves. It really is a drive of no more than 2 hours (heading there direct), but once settled in it’s time to give your campervan a rest before some serious road-tripping around the state as you burn some energy yourself with  the most amazing walks in and around Cradle Mountain. Some of the highlights include walks through parts of Cradle Mountain National Park including Marion’s Lookout, Dove Lake, Cradle Circuit and portions of the Overland Track. Be sure to get a parks pass from Parks & Wildlife Service Tasmania (03 6233 2621). All these walks will work up a hearty appetite for fine wine and food back at the Lodge.

From here, the range of romantic drives is neverending, but one that we really enjoyed was from Cradle Mountain to Strahan in the north-west region via the mysterious Queenstown where groans and creaks of the mountain’s old mines might just prompt an extra cuddle or two for lovebirds!  The trip is winding and a little slow (but who’s racing when in this beautiful remote, isolated part of the world with stunning views everywhere you go?).

Strahan truly is a postcard perfect coastal hamlet in Tasmania. We lobbed at Strahan Holiday Park and set up camp for a few days to take our time exploring, walking and dining at some quaint little eateries and other establishments. A cruise on Macquarie Harbour is a must, as you pass through Hells Gates and head for Sarah Island to enjoy a tour. Then spend a little time up the Gordon River to Heritage Landing to check out a grove of ancient Huon pine.

Campervanning in Tasmania has never been so romantic – better still, you get enjoy some amazing views and wine and dine in class at the same time.



Romantic drives … Coffs Harbour to Port Macquarie

By Australia / New South Wales /

THERE are some places in Australia where the weather has obviously been designed with romantics in mind – count this part of the world along the lower north coast of NSW as one such place where the sun always shines and where there are plenty of beaches to worship the rays or have a dip and ample charming little hamlets to explore.

A great place to park your camper is Emerald Beach Holiday Park, just 10 minutes up the road from the Big Banana (warning: the banana is overrated and will kill any notion of romance, so skip it – though there is a cool little puzzles shop attached for those with an interest, but better suited to couples with kids in tow). This Big4 venue set on a gorgeous beachfront with wildlife everywhere, great beach walks and fishing nearby. The accommodation options are diverse, from 5 star villas to budget cabins, and “convenient shady and peaceful unpowered, powered and ensuite sites for caravans, motor homes and camping”.

Whether it’s a morning or afternoon cruise, it doesn’t matter, as you wind your way down to beautiful Port Macquarie – about 2 and a half hours drive direct, but you will want to absorb some of the sights, walks and tastes along the way including nature trails and world heritage areas inland and along the coastline.

Make a stop in the coastal hotspots of Urunga and Mylestom where  you can avoid the crowds and  find some serious sunshine at Urunga’s gateway to a tidal lagoon and an array of beautiful beaches. This seaside hamlet is found at the join of the Bellinger and Kalang rivers, while beaches can be reached on an almost 1km long boardwalk across the Urunga lagoon. Don’t be surprised if a dolphin pops up to say hello.

Further along, Nambucca Heads is a sleepy seaside town with great views while you are encouraged to make a detour off the main road and head for South West Rocks for some spectacular sights at Smoky Cape Lighthouse (pictured), set on cliffs high above the ocean. Also spend a bit of time at Trial Bay Gaol and discover it’s amazing history. Scoot along for another 20 minutes and enjoy some beachcombing at Hat Head National Park before making the journey to the final destination, Port Macquarie.

If planning to stay overnight, our accommodation recommendation is Jacaranda Caravan Park, offering splendid powered sites on its six acre base of sub tropical setting. At night, either indulge in a river cruise or soak up the sparkling views across Hastings river as you wine and dine at Whalebone Wharf Seafood restaurant.



Romantic drives … Sydney to Wollongong

By Australia / New South Wales / Sydney /

THE Grand Pacific Drive departing from Sydney doesn’t take long to lose yourself in the chill factor as you leave the city behind and enter its southern fringe and into the sub-tropical lushness of the Royal National Park. It pays to stop off for a walk here and explore one of the oldest national parks in the world.

From here, it’s a leisurely drive  offering spectacular scenery, dramatic coastal cliffside views and sandstone heaths inland. Stop off at the Hindu Temple in Helensburgh or enjoy a spot of  horseriding at beautiful Otford to really fire up the romance-o-meter before jumping back in the camper to head to Stanwell Tops for some amazing views. Before long, you will reach the charming seaside suburb of  Thirroul – reportedly the Aboriginal word for “Valley of Cabbage Tree Palms”. Thirroul was a former coalmining hamlet boasts excellent surf beach at Sandon Point. It’s golden beachfront has a wonderful grassy area to enjoy a coffee from a local cafe or kick back with a picnic. This was the place that inspire writer DH Lawrence to pen his novel, Kangaroo.

It’s only a half hour cruise along the seaside drive from here to reach Wollongong, one of the most liveable regional cities south of Sydney. A magical place to park your campervan for a night or two is at Shellharbour Beachside Tourist Park. This park’s lovely beachfront location is only a short stroll away from Shellharbour Village and its restaurants, shops and cafes. At night, I highly recommend an evening spent at the Lagoon Restaurant to set the mood and enjoy a wonderful feast of fresh seafood right on the oceanfront.

Some of the nearby attractions worth exploring here include Blackbutt Reserve, Seacliff Bridge and the Illawarra Fly treetop walk (pictured).



Boys weekend – Gold Coast (Queensland)

By Australia / Gold Coast / Queensland /

The sun, the surf, the sights … the cheese. Ah, it’s what boys’ weekends are made of. The Gold Coast, Australia’s answer to Las Vegas minus a squillion casinos and bright neon lights, but certainly ample gambling opportunities, bands, great pubs and clubs, sunshine and sand – and that’s not desert sand, but the soft, powdery kind plonked right at the feet of some of the most spectacular beaches in the world.

Oh yes, then there’s the bikini clad babes wandering around here, there and everywhere. And plenty of buff male torsos for the ideal eye candy for a girls’ weekend, mind you.

The journey

But down to business, boys’ weekend business, of course. Do something a little different and fly into Brisbane rather than Coolangatta, where we snapped up our DriveNow bargain basement Mitsubishi Lancer, and take your time looking around this sunny city before cruising down the Pacific Motorway for an hour or so. We had lunch at the superb Cha Cha Char Wine Bar & Grill in Brisbane, beaut river views and awesome venue to tear into a juicy char grilled steak. This recharged the batteries for an afternoon of surfing action on Main Beach on the Gold Coast. Then we checked into the mighty Crowne Plaza and set up base for the rest of the weekend which included a day at the races, and a big night at Jupiters Casino.

On the Sunday, a hangover couldn’t stop us from letting rip with some adrenalin-pumping fun at the Wet N Wild fun park – can’t avoid Surf Rider, Kamikaze and extreme Tornado for a real buzz and to set the real men apart from the boys. Take note: this kind of activity is the perfect hangover cure! It allowed us to fire up, head back into town for another tilt at the nightlife, this time minus Jupiters which would have continued to clean out our wallets, no doubt. This time we did the rounds in the heart of town in Surfers Paradise, namely Orchid Street after about 10pm. No shortage of great night spots, food and beautiful people.



Driving holidays – Echuca (Victoria)

By Victoria /

This one may not necessarily be the prettiest drives from Melbourne, but it’s certainly the fastest way to reach the magic that awaits on the mighty Murray River. Echuca, about 200km north of Melbourne on the Victoria and NSW border, was once the biggest inland port in Australia and has retained much of that old world charm in the heart of town while also offering a cosmopolitan way of life too. In a nutshell there’s the historic port to explore, great restaurants and pubs, big clubs over the border in Moama, a wealth of river activities including fishing, skiing, swimming, Paddlesteamer cruises and much more. […]

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Driving holidays – Phillip Island (Victoria)

By Victoria /

Many visitors to Victoria think of the Great Ocean Road as the state’s ultimate driving holiday, but a 150km drive south-east from Melbourne to Phillip Island clearly can’t be underestimated. It’s a great drive leading to a fabulous holiday hotspot with a plethora of things to do.

A few months back we loaded up our six-berth Britz camper, hit the Monash Freeway, turned into the South Gippsland Freeway and then onto the Bass Highway and finally made our way to the island via Phillip Island Rd. Normally the trip would take roughly a couple of hours, take your time and you might find a few surprises along the way – including full scale replicas of meteorites that landed in the Cranbourne area in 1860 and Panny’s Amazing World of Chocolate where you can almost taste the Dame Edna portrait made of 12,000 chocolate pieces!

Pleasure island

Once on the island, don’t let it’s size fool you as there’s loads to do. In fact, the very fact it’s a small island only means everything is a mere five or 10 minute drive away … if not less. Setting up camp at Cowes Caravan Park meant we were right in the heart of the action being close to the main shopping precinct and planting our mobile holiday home right on the foreshore of the north side of the island. It’s within minutes to cafes, shops, the jetty. The activity highlights for us included the world famous Penguin Parade at night, a cruise to Seal Rocks with Wildlife Cruises and a 10 minute drive to Amaze N Things, an award winning venue boasting a giant wooden maze, mini golf and some excellent activities inside.

For driving adventure it’s a 7 out of 10.

For holiday activities it’s also an 8 out of 10.

10 words: Sun, beach, fish’n’chips, relaxed, convenience, family, marine life, chilly.