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Driving holidays – Sydney to Coffs Harbour (NSW)

By Australia / New South Wales / Sydney /

The great thing about cruising in a campervan to Coffs Harbour is that you can either do it from Brisbane or Sydney, therefore offering two very different journeys to enjoy. For us, we chose the Sydney option and while it would take about seven hours maximum with no stops, we spent five days negotiating the route along the Pacific Highway, a great option for some diverse stop-overs along the way.


First port of call was Newcastle after a leisurely two hour cruise. This city is one of extremes – a rougher element stemming from its early days as a shipping and commercial centre, with iron and steel mills built. While some parts of town are eyesores, the rest is beautiful, including some amazing beaches such as Stockton, Nobbies and Mereweather, while the Honeysuckle Boardwalk – an area that was a once derelict harbour area – now boasts funky restaurant-bars, a brewery and a great walk.


Second port of call the was Forster Beach Caravan Park, another two hour drive. (We find the two hour stints work best, especially if you have kids!). We caught an amazing sunset and also had the good fortune of witnessing some dolphins putting on a show after arriving. If you have time, take stroll along the Bicentennial Coastal Walk and providing your journey is around Spring you should be able to take in a whale watching cruise. Check out the Big Buzz Fun Park and car lovers will enjoy the car museum.

Coffs Harbour

Last but not least we arrived in Coffs Harbour, the highlight of our journey. This place has a to-die-for climate, sunny days most of the time (though locals told me it can get quite wet and sticky with high humidity). Though a little overrated, check out the Big Banana and slip behind this major tourist attraction for either a Harley ride or a big super slide adventure. While in Coffs there are loads of attractions but one that must be factored in is a visit to the Pet Porpoise Pool. Alone, it’s worth the drive in your campervan along the Pacific Highway from Sydney to Coffs Harbour. Dolphins, seals, whales, barbecue, gift shop, shady areas – this one has the lot for families.


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Driving holidays – Port Augusta to Adelaide (SA)

By Australia / South Australia /

From Port Augusta to Adelaide on the banks of the beautiful Spencer Gulf, it’s just gorgeous. It’s only a leisurely two-hour drive and all easy going, big open roads.

Port Augusta has some  unique attractions including the “spook hill” or Gravity Hill, near the Flinders Ranges where you face your car up this hill and put it in neutral and you somehow get pulled up the hill! It’s all true and is a fairdinkum optical illusion and very much worth the drive out there.

We enjoyed the the Champagne Cruise out onto the Spencer Gulf itself and went diving for the rare Razor fish (see picture). The water here has 7% more salt in it and you float really easily, but it makes it tougher to dive down for the Razor fish. This really is a place where the Outback meets the ocean and you won’t find a more photogenic place.

Port augusta outback centreAlso take in a visit to the Wadlata Outback Centre, another attraction that is second to none. Heaps of time and effort has been put in and you will easily spend three or four hours here.  We stayed in the Big 4 in Port Augusta and they have the best pool … especially after spending six long days on the Nullarbor.

After cruising down through Port Pirie (not much here, but still worth dropping into for morning tea) we reached Adelaide. Don’t fret about driving around the city with your rig as Adelaide is very easy to get around and navigate and its roads are really tow-friendly if you happen to have a caravan or vehicle attached to the back of your camper. Just be careful of the enormous hill when leaving Adelaide and be prepared for a long struggle!



Driving holiday – Sydney to Melbourne (NSW/Vic)

By Australia / Sydney /

I’ve always preferred to drive to Melbourne than fly – I just like my independence, the freedom of the road and the convenience once I get there.

The direct route down the Hume (highway) can be a little tedious, just as well I’m comfortable behind the wheel! A new touring route has officially opened, however – the Sydney to Melbourne Touring Route. It’s not a new road, just a new slant on familiar territory, opening tourists’ eyes to what’s special in the states of NSW and Victoria.

Keen to try out the multi-day ‘Mega Drive’, I arranged campervan hire through DriveNow, picking up my camper in Sydney. After meandering through Sydney’s southern suburbs, we diverted through the gorgeous Royal National Park, emerging at Stanwell Tops and the start of the spectacular Grand Pacific Drive. This new road skirts the spectacular Wollongong escarpment, with a bridge hovering above the pounding ocean and offering spectacular views down the coastline.

I’m always blown away by the beauty of the south coast beaches, particularly where the emerald green countryside edges onto cliffs and beaches. Gerringong and Gerroa are particular favourites; and further south, I’m totally in love with the villages of Central Tilba and Tilba Tilba, famed for antiques, history and, of course, cheese!

As you edge towards the border, the beaches keep getting more and more enticing – Narooma, Merimbula and Pambula.

Eden, once centre of the whaling industry, is now a great place to spot these marine giants; and make sure you stop off at Ben Boyd pub for a real blast from the past.

Over the border, Lakes Entrance is a great place for boating, fishing and beachside recreation. After this, the drive heads inland, emerging onto the Great Alpine Road at Bairnsdale. As much enamoured with mountain scenery as we are with beaches, we deviated a little for the Alpine villages of Dinner Plain and Mt Hothambefore heading to Anglers Rest for a stop off at our favourite pub, the Blue Duck. Up the road from there is The Willows, a lovely rural property featuring historic cottages and brilliant horse riding through spectacular High Country scenery.

The touring route then scouts north again, reaching the mighty Murray River and the historic towns of Echuca-Moama. Here we jumped on board a paddlesteamer, reliving the romance of colonial days.

Then it was south again through Bendigo, where more gold was found between 1850 and 1900 than anywhere else in the world. This history is all showcased at a family favourite, Sovereign Hill, our final stop before hitting the road to Melbourne.

It may have taken a little longer than the usual 10-hour haul, but the drive gave us new appreciation of some of the most fantastic parts of two great eastern states.


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Driving holidays – Esperance to Port Augusta (WA)

By Australia / Western Australia /


The great vastness of the desert …The Nullarbor. What  a drive! We set off early in the morning thinking we would get a big day of driving in. Silly idea. The amount of wildlife playing on the road was bordering on being ridiculous. Certainly, this provided terrific photography opportunities, but not a particularly safe environment when towing a 4000kg road beast in their path.

The Nullabor is deceiving and almost every person we bumped into (not literally!) along the way, which wasn’t many mind you, had a great yarn about their journey. And make sure you experience the Nullarbor Roadhouse, which is a real treat. There is an old bike there that some silly dude rode on for the entire Nullarbor Plain back in the 1950s. There isn’t much there, however. In fact, there isn’t much anywhere along the plain. We were very lucky to run into not one but two herds of camels. They are such beautiful, mighty creatures.

One thing we had totally forgotten about was the Great Australian Bight. And, boy, what a sight that is. We sat in awe for almost two hours admiring how untouched and magnificent our southern coastlineesperance4 is. I never knew it was quite like that and I never knew that it ran for such a great distance. Be sure to call into every lookout along the way – there are five – as each one offers a totally different aspect.

The photo opportunities along the Nullarbor are absolutely magic. There is a stretch of road that is 114km
in a completely straight line. No joking, you could almost lock the steering and take a nap! The road is perfect and in great condition, but one thing you won’t see a lot of is people. We drove one day for almost seven hours and only passed three vehicles. Not sure if that’s because of the time of year – we actually did it in mid-January – or whether people are put off by the sheer length of it. But here’s some sound advice: don’t be put off! It’s a fantastic trip and we will most definitely do it again. Just remember to stock up on petrol and water every chance you get, because it’s a long way between drinks – for you and your car.


(catch Peter and family exploring Australia on the Great Australian Doorstep on Foxtel)


Driving holidays – Geraldton to Busselton (WA)

By Australia / Western Australia /

Well what a trip this one was! We were told by many avenues – one being a good map, the others by mouth – that our trip from Geraldton to Busselton would take approxiamately five hours … 9 1/2 hours later, we finally see the “Welcome to Busselton” sign! At first I thought it was a mirage.

Geraldton is a must-stop place. It’s under-rated from what you read about it as it really is a place with so much going on that you do really have to stop and stay a while. Built on the successful seafood industry, it’s a buzzing and vibrant place. And it’s refreshing to see the local council is pumping heaps of cash back into the community with the absolute best-ever kids play area right on the foreshore.  The HMAS Sydney tribute (below left) will take your breath away; absolutely stunning and quite humbling. If you’re up for a quiet ale try the Camel Bar – its has 175 different types of beer from throughout the world.

geraldton-hmas-sydney-tribute2The drive down the coast is easy, just don’t hit Perth at 4.30pm on a Friday long weekend like we did!  The south coast of Perth is magical, with its white sandy beaches and crystal clear water (see photo above).  When you reach Busselton and it’s enormous pier, make sure you take your lunch and maybe a sleeping bag too as it’s a 2km round trip! But a trip certainly worthwhile. There is tonnes for the kids to do and some great little restaurants for mum and dad. A really relaxing beachy place, everyone is happy and helpful and, to be honest, there’s nothing you will really be disappointed with. Just make sure you don’t go out in the bush where there are snakes aplenty!


(catch Peter and his family exploring Australia on the Great Australian Doorstep on Foxtel)

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Driving Holidays – Alice Springs to Tennant Creek (NT)

By Alice Springs / Australia / Northern Territory /

The journey

What a drive this was! A total of 531km in 47-degree heat and and the air-conditioning wasn’t working. Worse still, we had it quoted in Alice Springs to fix for a whopping $3100! Fortunately, we got it fixed for $434 in Broome.

While in Alice Springs, dinner at the Outlander Steak House is a must. They have 2kg steaks and I finished mine in 42 minutes, which was a mighty achievement. It is very funny watching people try to do it, so just make sure you eat dinner first as it can be quite off-putting.  The old Jail is home to the Women’s First Gallery, which highlights all women who were first in their field and makes for some very interesting reading. The old Jail is also haunted so go for a stroll through the cells if you dare. Keen hikers should take in Stanley Chasm, absolutely spectacular. A huge lizard ran in front of me and scared the life of me, but it was all worth it and there’s some great photo opportunities. There is so much to see and do in Alice that you could easily spend a few weeks here. A prayer for Peter Falconio along the way and then we stopped in at the Barrow Creek Hotel, where they are more than happy to talk about all the different scenarios surrounding his disappearance and, believe me, they seem to know a heck of a lot more than the media ever published about it. My wife Sheree was there for almost two hours! His disappearance site isn’t marked, as requested by his family, however people have left many tributes on the roadside nearby, which is 1.3km north of the pub.

Now don’t be fooled – the Devil’s Marbles (top right) aren’t in Tennant Creek; they are 126km south. You will spend hours here marveling about just how they have come to be.
Then driving into Tennant Creek is a thrill – the oasis in the desert – with its lush greenery and water in abundance. It’s quite amazing at how different it is to Alice. It was built on gold mining money and has great museums and the
Battery Hill. It’s definitely worth a few days here.


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Driving holidays – Hobart, Richmond, Port Arthur (Tasmania)

By Australia / Hobart / Tasmania /

Competition is running hot with the budget airlines in Australia, so keep a close eye on Jetstar, Virgin Blue and Tiger by signing up for their e-newsletters – there are hot deals being bandied around almost every week and you will generally find a beauty somewhere among them for Tasmanian destinations.

My wife and I snapped up return flights from Melbourne to Hobart for around the $150 mark – extraordinary value. Even better, we also discovered a ridiculously good rate with DriveNow for a 4 berth camper. From there it was a breeze. A quick one-hour flight to Hobart, we then grabbed our camper and hit the Tasman Highway, onto Richmond Rd and within half an hour we arrived at our favourite destination in Australia, the quaint village of Richmond and all its cobblestone, cottage and old world charm. This gorgeous township has some delightful treats: serene atmosphere around historic Richmond Bridge (pictured); go back in time at Grannie Rhodes’ Cottage; and explore Richmond Maze and Richmond Gaol.

After staying two lovely days and nights in Richmond we ventured south east along the Tasman and Arthur highways, glorious little drive mind you, to Port Arthur for an eerie-yet-fascinating day at the historic penal settlement exploring ruins, and later in the evening a spooky guided ghost tour. Chilling, thrilling stuff.

From there we headed back to Hobart for a bit of shopping and set up camp at Discovery Holiday Park, which we couldn’t recommend highly enough. Wonderful service, great location and plenty to see and do nearby.


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Driving holidays – Warrnambool (Victoria)

By Victoria /

It’s the stuff of legend. Some call it Australia’s Loch Ness. It’s the Mahogany Ship, the mystery vessel, maybe a Portuguese caravel or even a Chinese junk, claimed to lie buried beneath the dunes between Warrnambool and Port Fairy on Victoria’s notorious Shipwreck Coast.

Historians predict that if found it could rewrite the history of Australia’s discovery.

You might not find it, but walking the sands and following the clues is heaps of fun.

The journey

From Melbourne there are two choices, with either Warrnambool or Port Fairy, a little beyond, as your base.

The inland route to Warrnambool, 269km or a 3.5-hour drive along the Princes Highway through Geelong, Colac and Camperdown, is the quickest, while your return can be via the spectacular Great Ocean Road, through Lorne and Apollo Bay, which takes a couple of hours longer.

Follow the clues

To get your bearings on the Mahogany Ship jigsaw, first visit Warrnambool’s Flagstaff Hill Maritime Museum to soak up the atmosphere.

Then head west from Warrnambool toward historic Port Fairy. A popular spot to investigate is Gormans Road, on the left just beyond the Tower Hill State Game Reserve (also worth a visit). Follow the road toward the coast and wander east among the dunes where many believes the ship lies.

Or, to take it all in, follow the 23km Mahogany Ship Walking Track between Port Fairy and Warrnambool. It passes all of the main sites where searches have been undertaken since the dark-timbered wreck supposedly disappeared beneath the shifting sands more than 150 years ago.

I did my sleuthing in a lightning two days but ideally four or five would be the go, particularly if you like to take all those side roads.

There’s plentiful motel accommodation (booking is advisable) in Warrnambool, although a local pub or a B&B in Warrnambool or Port Fairy can be more down-home-ish.

Who knows, you might solve the mystery. If not, you’ll enjoy one of Australia’s most fascinating pieces of coastline.

For a modern-day adventure it’s 8 out of 10 – plus there’s the lure of local wineries, world heritage sites and beaches.



Driving holidays – a perfect Port (NSW)

By Australia / New South Wales /

Ah, Port Macquarie – beautiful one day, blissful the next. It’s my favourite holiday destination, any time of year – winter chills disappear on its sunny beaches; while in summer cool sea breezes keep the heatwaves at bay.
For my daughter and I, a road trip to Port is always an adventure. After picking up a last minute deal on an Avis Hyundai rental from DriveNow’s last minute Sydney Car hire area we hit the Pacific Highway for the crawl out of Sydney – always the worst part of the trip. But once we were freewheeling north, it’s smooth driving for four and a half hours before we reach paradise – Port, that is!

There are a stack of affordable places to stay in town, but our choice this time was the Sundowner Breakwall Tourist Park, located right on the Hastings River fronting the boardwalks with its distinctive colourful rocks. Talk about a room (or in our case, site!) with a view – where else in the world can you get a millionaire waterfront setting like this on a budget?

After settling in, the beach beckoned – our stroll along the golden sands of Town Beach rewarded by the sight of couple of dolphins, their fins silhouetted against the setting sun.

Into the wild

Of course, that set the theme for our short break … wildlife. My daughter and I are both animal crackers, and there’s no better place to have close encounters with furry critters than at Port Macquarie. First stop the following morning was the Koala Hospital, a facility for koalas that have been attacked by dogs, run over by cars or suffer from Chlamydia or ‘wet-bottom syndrome’, a bacterial disease rampant in the koala community.

Located in one of the densest koala corridors in NSW, the hospital is run entirely by volunteers and relies on donations to carry out its essential work. You can even ‘adopt’ one of the little fellas, the donation of $40 a year going towards koala research.

While you can’t handle the koalas rehabilitating at the hospital, you can have a more touchy-feely animal encounter at Billabong Wildlife Park. On weekends and during school holidays, demonstrations by animal keepers are an entertaining way to learn about Australian natives such as quolls, wallabies and even snakes. We loved the kanga enclosure where you can see bald little joeys poking their heads out of mum’s pouch; and my daughter even got to hold a gorgeous white dingo pup, which thrilled her no end.

High in the saddle

Girl and the PonyWe both are into horses, so a ride in the beautiful hinterland was high on our agenda. Bellrowan Valley Horse Riding, about an hour’s drive from Port Macquarie, is the only riding outfitter in the area catering to both beginners and more experienced riders. The horses here are well cared for and obedient, and I was pleased to see they offer some solid tuition to everyone before hitting the trails.

We may be both experienced horse riders, but neither my daughter or I have ever ridden a camel! Port Macquarie Camel Safaris runs 20 minute camel rides on Lighthouse Beach (Port’s southernmost beach) – loads of fun, glorious scenery and informative as well.

From our elevated position on Sandy the camel’s back (which feels a lot like a woolly carpet), we could see for kilometres up the deserted beach, the white sand the perfect contrast to the cloudless blue sky. There was a soft breeze, the sound of breaking surf … and once again, our dolphin friends paid a visit.

Now if that’s not heaven, I don’t know what is.