Noodling for opals in Lightning Ridge


IT’S off to see the natural wonder of Opals, we go. In Lightning Ridge, that is, which is about a nine hour direct drive after collecting your Sydney campervan rental if you don’t plan on having any stops.

Lightning Ridge is one of those quirky, bizarre and often downright weird places. But it’s a place you just have to visit in this lifetime, especially for a family holiday. The kids can enjoy noodling – a bizarre name for digging for Opals – above or below ground. Many people have come to Lightning Ridge and struck gold! Or perhaps I should say Opals, anyway. Black Opals.

It’s a place so arid and sparsely planted that you often think, ‘Why on earth would anyone live out here?’ But it’s exactly that very fact that attracts so many people each year. It’s an odd place, with living conditions you will only ever find the same in Coober Pedy. Mounds of dirt provide the landscape, where miners of times past have dug and dug … and dug.

Mitchell, our nephew (pictured), spent nearly four hours ‘noodling’ near the local information centre. He was not going home empty handed! So, in the end I went down the street and brought him an opal. A much quicker, easier and cleaner way of getting yourself an Opal! Funnily enough though, many tourists do actually find good size opals just noodling in and around town.

Have you ever seen a house made entirely out of glass bottles? Neither had we, but Lightning Ridge just keeps on surprising us. The locals are the most hospitable you will ever meet. Nothing is ever too much trouble and they will bend over backwards to make your stay enjoyable. My only tip is to make sure you book in early, as Lightning Ridge is popular and therefore busy all year round. One big bonus is that the roads leading into and out of Lightning are all really good. There used to be a rumour on the road that getting to Lightning was always difficult but we found the roads really good and easy.

The Great Australian Doorstep, series 3, airs on Channel 7Two in Australia. Visit


Great drives – Mighty Murray River country in Mildura

By Victoria /

AFTER leaving the quaint little village of Rainbow we head north to the stunning Sunraysia region on the banks of the mighty Murray River to Mildura. It’s a different route than normal, as most will head to Victoria’s capital city first to collect their Melbourne Campervan Rental

Mildura is a happening place and I personally believe it’s really understated. There is so much to do and it’s all really close: winery tours and wine tasting, citrus farm visits, Murray River cruises, great restaurants or even the magnificent Perry Sand Hills. Everything is close by and easily accessible.

We stayed at the All Seasons Holiday Park, which is straight across the road from a good shopping centre, so if campervanners have no need to worry about transport with the bus stop right at your door. The two main highlights of Mildura would have to be the houseboat we had for three days – it was out of this world and opens up an entirely different perspective and type of holiday.

The Perry Sand Hills are just 30 minutes out of town and it really seems like they shouldn’t be there. The landscape leading up to them is totally different to what you would expect and they look really out of place. If you love photography, then the Perry Sand Hills are definitely for you. Go late afternoon and wait until sunset for some awesome photo opportunities. Why they are there, or how they came to be, is anyone’s guess but they are definitely worth checking out.

At night, we recommend an evening at the Enjoy Wine Restaurant, a place where they only use locally grown produce for their entire menu … including the wine. To kill two birds with one stone, you can do wine tasting all the while you are enjoying a beautiful meal. The only downside for us? A massive dust storm that rolled into town as we started our drive to Renmark. It was worse than fog!

The Great Australian Doorstep, visit


The start of a Rainbow


After leaving behind a truly awesome week in The Grampians we headed two hours north to a funky little country town called Rainbow – and, no, there weren’t any rainbows in the sky, much to our youngest son Boston’s disappointment. However, there is a big town mural of a painted rainbow! It actually got its name from a colourful patch of wildflowers that grow on the surrounding hills.

But all the same, it is a bright and cherry little town to say the least and they make the best pies this side of Africa. The local bakery in town offers a rang of delicious goodies and we nearly ate them out of house and home! Without doubt they have the best pies ever.

There isn’t a lot to see and do, but there is a wonderful local icon called Yurunga Homestead. This is an ancient homestead more than 110 years old and which has been amazingly restored. The owners’ belongings and family photographs still hold pride of place on the walls. It’s a little bit spooky, but I think that’s only because you have them all watching you as you waltz around their mansion. To visit the homestead you only need make a gold coin donation, so please give generously as they are doing a terrific job in keeping this place looking as great as it does.

Rainbow is also famously known for the town murals, which you can view while walking around at your own pace. Some of them took many months to complete by a local painter who did them all by hand and hard work. The murals depict early life in the area and illustrate what made Rainbow the town she is today. It’s definitely a place to stop at overnight for. The Rainbow caravan park is owned and run by the town, but it’s only small so you need to book. It’s also the only park we have ever come across that has a good old-fashioned “honesty box”. The prices for the sites are displayed and it’s up to you to be honest and pay. What a breath of fresh air!



The Grampians in Victoria – what a place!

By Melbourne / Victoria /

What a place! The Grampians
which are really easy to reach from Melbourne, are absolutely out of this world!

In what is a leisurely three hour drive along the Western Freeway in our Melbourne Campervan Rental, this place is really worth the effort. We stayed at the Parkgate Resort and all of us agreed it’s heavenly. The minute you arrive there is a great sense of tranquility. It’s really quiet, yet there’s also so much to do! If it’s a relaxing break you desire then The Grampians is the place to go and the caravan park is second to none with superb facilities including a heated pool and spa.

And it gets even better. For activities, most walks in the The Grampians are easy and have wheelchair and pram access. There are, of course, more strenuous options right up to what they class as
the “Experienced” level. However, we did the most basic and the views were simply magical. The hardest walk we took on was down to the bottom of MacKenzie Falls. It’s steps all the way, but if our son Boston can do it at three years of age, then anyone can. It’s a little more difficult coming up than going down, but it’s highly recommended, especially for the great café they have up the top after you “cross the finish line”. Nothing is too far away, either, and the drive out to these spots is an experience in itself. You can sit up on top of these landmarks for hours on end just taking in the amazing landscape.

Then it was back into Hall’s Gap for a nice glass of red while you sit next to the camp fire and tell everyone about your day of adventure. I’d definitely recommend you stay a week. You can not expect to see it all and experience everything in a day or two. And the local Cultural Centre will really stock you up on all the much needed information about the area, too. Don’t delay, get out to the Grampians today!

The Great Australian Doorstep, visit Victoria


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Great driving holidays – Broome


BROOME is perfectly positioned on the Indian Ocean with some of the most pristine waters we have ever seen. To get there by campervan from either Perth or Darwin is going to take about a day from either direction.

It really is where the Outback meets the ocean, with the red desert dirt continuing until it meets the white sands. This place is definitely up there on the list of things that must be done again.

This place has a great surf break, excellent estuary fishing and boating, fantastic walkways and – believe it or not – even a genuine dinosaur footprint. That’s right, take a drive or bush walk down to the lookout and wade out at low tide and see an actual dinosaur footprint! Unfortunately, when we were there, they were experiencing king tides and the tide was never low enough for us to see it for ourselves, but the lookout from the rocky headland was just magical all the same.

Broome is home to some of Australia’s best pearls. The shops there stock world famous pearls with a couple camping next to us coming all the way from Poland just to buy pearls direct from the pearl farmers in Broome. There used to be a huge Chinese settlement who ventured out from China to take their luck on pearls. And today you will find some great Chinese food available in the area. There are some fantastic restaurants and coffee shops dotted around town and along the beach.

If it’s rest and relaxation you are after, then this is definitely the spot to stay for a while. After nine weeks in the Outback this was certainly what the doctor ordered, and especially since the caravan park we stayed at is a 5 star resort! Our kids spent the entire day in the pool and hardly left the caravan park for the whole two weeks.

Unfortunately if you are travelling with pets, the town resorts & caravan park will not allow them in. However there is a free stay about 35km out of town that will take pets.


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Great driving holidays – Australia’s world famous Ayers Rock

By Australia / Northern Territory /

LADIES and gentlemen, allow me to introduce the one, the only … Ayers Rock.

After picking up a Drivenow Campervan Rental in Alice Springs, it’s about a four or five hour drive to Ayers Rock, otherwise known as Uluru, mainly via the Stuart Highway and then Lasseter Highway. Otherwise, if you are coming from Cooper Pedy, it’s about a six-hour drive.

Upon arrival at Ayers Rock you will quickly realise this is the most majestic, utterly enchanting place on the planet. Coming from “the Alice”, it’s all bitumen the whole way and really is a great drive. In your campervan go off-road and take a long cut via Kings Canyon, but if you tow a van, then remember it’s best to stick to the road.

Camels are in abundance after the Stuart Highway turn-off. Herds of these awkward looking ships of the desert sprawled along the sides of the roads along with wild cattle.

Once you enter the township of Yulara there’s an immediate feeling of “The Rock’s” presence. It truly is magical. There she stands in all her glory, so imposing yet so tranquil. I would highly recommend viewings at both sunrise and sunset – they are so different and not to be missed! Make sure you get out there at least an hour before sun up or sun down and choose a great spot, settle in, take a deep breath and prepare to be mesmerised by nature at its best. Keep in mind this sunrise experience includes dingoes freely roaming around near your car, trying their luck at any scraps you might have. It’s the Australian Outback in all its glory and, trust me, you will not want to leave.

There is just something unexplainable about Ayers Rock. Please respect the local Aboriginal heritage. They don’t like you to walk on Ayers Rock, so don’t. It’s theirs and we should all feel lucky that we are even allowed to get that close to it. We stayed at the Ayers Rock Caravan Park, with a fabulous view straight behind our van! Just be careful of the dingoes and wild dogs at night, as they love to fossick around in your rubbish.

The Great Australian Doorstep – visit


Great drives – Melbourne to Sydney (Tumut, a place to sweep you off your feet!)

By Australia / Melbourne / New South Wales / Sydney / Victoria /

MANY Aussies have done the famous trek from Melbourne to Sydney along the Hume Highway, but make sure you take the time to stop in a little town called Tumut.

Once grabbing a campervan rental in Melbourne head north and you will arrive at this amazing little destination after about six or seven hours later. Tumut is just before Goulburn, and is only a 25-minute drive from the highway – you won’t be disappointed! This is where you will find Australia’s only remaining original broom factory that makes good old-fashioned straw brooms. Prices start at just $10 each and have an impressive 10-year guarantee! There’s some serious sweeping to be had in these brooms, so you can’t really go wrong. Furthermore, these brooms are an absolute must for your campervan, caravan or motorhome, as they get into all the nooks and crannies. No matter what it is you are sweeping up, nothing beats a straw broom! And while at the factory you can actually watch them make one while you wait. It’s extraordinary to see them do it. All is original machinery and the process is relatively quick, too! They are a great bunch of guys who work there and they’re more than happy to let you watch them strut their stuff.

Also in Tumut, make sure you catch up on some Aboriginal heritage and culture. Pay a visit to the Tourist Info Centre (straight across the road from the Broom Factory) and ask for Shane. He is the area’s Aboriginal Culture Specialist and will give you an insight to the local Aboriginal history – it’s fascinating, and is a look at Aboriginal history like you have never seen before.

So when you’re next heading north or south along the Hume Highway, which can be otherwise quite boring, make sure Tumut is a must-visit destination on your itinerary. It’s an easy drive from the highway and quite picturesque, too, especially if you lob there in Autumn when the colours are amazing. It’s a great little town with all services, including a Maccas which will thrill the kids … and some grown-ups!

Tumut is certainly one of the best “hidden treasures” we have found in all our travels.


The Great Australian Doorstep screens on Channel 7TWO in Australia. Visit for more information about Spida and his family’s travels throughout Australia.


Great driving holidays – Melbourne to Nagambie (Victoria)

By Australia / Melbourne / Victoria /

WE decided to try out somewhere close to Melbourne, our hometown, but somewhere where it felt like we were on holiday.

So after a bit of research we chose Nagambie. This small town is only 90 minutes north of Melbourne, a great little place with all the services you need and a great little Victorian road trip. It has a great pub and an incredibly good bakery. In fact, people head from Melbourne to Nagambie for one reason – just to go to this bakery! There is nothing better than a loaf of extra-fresh bread.

We stayed at Nagambie Lakes Leisure Park. It’s an accommodation venue out of this world. It’s also funny because the park is almost bigger than the town. And to be perfectly honest, you needn’t leave the park either; aside from going to the bakery, that is.
This park has absolutely everything. It’s all new, luxurious and surrounded 360 degrees by water with the river on one side and the lake on the other. The park also has its own boat ramp, swimming pool, tennis courts, basketball, two playgrounds, jumping pillow … the list is endless.

Just around the corner from Nagambie Lakes Leisure Park is beautiful Chateau Tahbilk winery and what a day we had there. Did you know that the cellar they use is more than 100 years old, still original and still working to capacity? Damn fine wine is produced and we bought about three dozen bottles. It’s actually worth pointing out that, at the moment, all wine is really cheap so you can guarantee yourself some awesome cellar door specials.

There isn’t much more to do around Nagambie, but relax, there doesn’t need to be! So if it’s relaxation you want, Nagambie is the place for you.

The Great Australian Doorstep screens on Channel 7TWO in Australia


Great driving holidays – Melbourne to Warrnambool (Victoria)

By Melbourne / Victoria /

IF you are looking for a great weekend away from Melbourne in your caravan or campervan, then Warrnambool is the place. There are always some great Melbourne campervan deals on the go.

Only a four hour drive from Melbourne, it’s easy driving with plenty to see along the way. There is great coffee in Colac and plenty of rest areas to stop off for a bit of driver reviver – pull over for a snooze if you’re a tad tired.

Once you get to Warrnambool, make sure you stay down on Lake Pertobe.

We stayed at Discovery Holiday Park, which has a fantastic location as you can walk to absolutely everything. The kids, especially, will love the Lake Pertobe playground. But you can’t really call it a playground as it’s more like 30 playgrounds all in one! It is easy to kill a day here and, besides, it will ensure the kids sleep very, very well that night after all that running around and activity.

The Whale nursery is also a great spot. Unfortunately on the day we rolled up there weren’t any whales, but this is the place where they come to give birth and at certain times of year it can be really busy in those waters. Would certainly make for some awesome photos. And if it’s deep sea fishing you are after, then this is definitely the place to be. Proline Charters will take you out chasing Blue-Fin Tuna! This was one of the most exciting things I have ever done! The sudden whizzzzz of the line when the lure takes off makes for a massive adrenalin rush. Then it’s all about the battle to haul the fish in. All in all, a great day, with a good lunch and a few beers while cruising about 22 nautical miles off Warrnambool.

While the boys are fishing, Mum can take the kids to the Flagstaff Hill Shipwreck Museum. This super venue depicts early life back in the 1800s when Warrnambool was one of Australia’s busiest ports. There’s plenty of room to run around, pack a picnic and take in the atmosphere of a life from more than a 100 years ago.

Catch The Great Australian Doorstep on Channel 7TWO


Great driving holidays – DriveNow is king of the road for campervan hire


WE took advantage of the great deals offered through this super website for last minute campervan hire and did a test drive.

After an easy online booking process, and super deal thanks to the DriveNow gang, we and took one of Maui’s Jayco Conquest campervans for a spin to Adelaide. Peter and I have come to the conclusion offers the best way to test drive a motorhome (or campervan) without going all out and buying one up front. You know what? it’s actually better than hiring a car and staying in motels and I will even go a stretch further to say it’s tonnes better!

In the Maui you can cruise along and stop wherever you want, thanks to the fact the vehicle comes complete with full bathroom, so there’s no need to be hang on until you get to the next town! It’s such a breeze and so much more comfortable.

One afternoon, after a late night, I decided I needed a nap in the afternoon, so we pulled off just before Bordertown in South Australia and took a nap in the rest area. And a comfy one at that! All snuggled up in bed. You really can’t beat that.

Sheree sat out under the awning with a book and a cup of coffee and took in the views for an hour or so while our son Boston and I slept. In that sense it’s an even safer option than hiring a car and choosing to stay in hotels/motels. The best aspect for me and Sheree, as parents, is the fact you have a fully operational bathroom. On two of the nights we were very late getting into our stop, so we had a dinner stop and showered Boston and got him ready for bed and he fell asleep in his car seat. When we arrived, we simply just popped him into his bed. So quick and so very easy!

The Maui motorhomes are really easy to drive, too. You only need a normal car licence and, honestly, they are incredibly user friendly. Don’t be put off by their size because when you are on the road, you don’t feel any different. The Maui campervans are easy to reverse as they have full reversing cameras so even first-timers will think its a breeze! Better still, they are automatic too.

I’ve decided we would not travel any other way, especially on long trips and travelling with the kids! So don’t do car and motel – do a campervan and give DriveNow a spin to experience it first before you buy!

The Great Australian Doorstep Series 3 is now on Channel 7TWO.


Great driving holidays – Normanton to Quamby (Queensland)

By Australia / Queensland /

LEAVING Normanton, we headed south to a teeny, weeny place called Quamby.

The roadtrip was surprisingly easy thanks to good roads and not a lot of road trains, thankfully on this particular day. There were plenty of cattle, though, so you still have to be careful. The cattle around these parts seem to have sound road skills. Believe it or not, I actually saw a herd of cows stop and wait and then cross the road, unlike the horses up around Cooktown who wait, then run out in front of you!

There is little warning that Quamby is approaching, so don’t blink or you will miss it. The town of Quamby – and, yes, it still is a registered town – has a population of only 5 (three of whom are the barmaids!) and just one property. However, many moons ago Quamby was a vibrant little village and one of the main Cobb & Co stations. Now it’s a great pub, with accommodation out the back – donga style. You can hook up your van to their power or use a donga.

It’s such a neat, quaint and interesting place that you do really have to stay a night. They have their own resident bull, Camel, who is a real character and they have their own Bundaberg Rum water tank sitting in all its pride and glory on the hill out the back. Yes, it’s all very Outback and very welcoming. The pub is big, with tons of room, so sit inside or sit outside, fire up the Barbecues and enjoy the best cooked breakfast you will find on the road. All the facilities are nice and clean and, of course, you will always get a nice cold beer, not to mention the mean roast dinner that’s on the menu! And the barmaids here are tourists and have some cracker stories to tell.

Situated just 120kms out of Cloncurry, it’s also worth noting that there’s no mobile phone reception unless you drive about 250m up the road and around the next corner.

You will not find Outback style or hospitality like you do at the Quamby Pub.

The Great Australian Doorstep – visit


Great driving holidays – Mt Surprise to Normanton (Qld)

By Australia / Queensland /


FROM Mt Surprise we head further west and back out almost to the coast to a quaint little place called Normanton. This is the home of the largest salt water crocodile ever officially recorded. And you better believe it!

The local publican still has the original photograph of it. This croc came out during a wicked flood and a local lad shot it, 14 times, with his .22 calibre rifle. It could swallow you whole in one gulp and you wouldn’t even touch the sides! No wonder all the farmers were missing a ton of cattle in these parts – sometimes a herd a day, apparently. Just behind the monument of this beast of a creature is the old original prison. Very spooky! It remains just as the last prisoners left it, very airy and the writing on the wall says it all.

When in Normanton you just have to go Croc spotting. No matter how scared you might be, this really must be one of the priorities on your schedule. They breed them big here, trust me, and you will not see crocs this big anywhere else in the world, I can guarantee! The Normanton River is also a famous fishing ground, just beware what lurks beneath.

And funnily enough, Normanton also is home to the historic Gulf Lander train, the original. You can take a day trip back to Georgetown, have a great morning or afternoon tea, and let yourself slip back into the days of old. It’s awesome how they have restored her, a true testament to their dedication in getting back into tip-top shape.

Book your camp sites early, too, as Normanton is often booked out. With it not having many close neighbouring towns, it’s a very popular spot to stop for people going north, south, east and west.