Gem of the Sapphire coast – Merimbula, a dreamy coastal road trip for campervanners

By Australia / New South Wales / Sydney /

MERIMBULA, a South-Eastern NSW hotspot known as the “gem of the Sapphire coast”, is a coastal midway point for Melbourne and Sydney, a one-hour flight from either direction but a seven-hour coastal road trip (minus the stops) along the Hume Highway that lures campers, caravanners and cabin hunters from far and wide.

For those wanting to kick out the trip a few days and stop off at some great spots along the way, there’s plenty to see and do. For road-trippers who grab a Melbourne campervan rental, some key moments for us included Paynesville, Lakes Entrance, Cann River, Eden and Pambula, while northerners hiring a campervan in Sydney the highlights along the way southern route include Wollongong, Sanctuary Point, Bateman’s Bay and Bermagui.

For us, a stay at Merimbula Beach NRMA Holiday Park, one of Big4’s major players in Australia, proved to be the utlimate holiday park experience from more than a dozen we stayed at during a six-week road trip up and down the east coast of Australia. This venue offers the complete package for campervanners wanting to stop off somewhere for at least three days  – there are stacks of family activities and superb facilities, it has a prime location on a peninsula, and accommodation that caters for all types.

It boast a an excellent variety of accommodation options from beachside luxury villas to well maintained camp sites, it’s extremely clean and whether you’re a vanner, camper, big family, young couple or flying solo, there’s something for everyone. The park’s Cheeky Mango cafe is first class. It’s a place to grab a great espresso coffee, supplies and enjoy scrumptious meals. Owner Andy O’Donnell doubles up as the resident entertainer, too, providing a sensational Sunday Session afternoon of entertainment poolside, as you feast on some of the tasty menu dishes including Rare Thai Beef Salad, Terriyaki Chicken Skewers, Mediterranean Plates, Crab Ravioli and much more. There are awesome children’s activities at Kidz Korner (crafty, sporty, adventurous and pizza and paddle pop movie nights), two resort pools, giant jumping pillow, games room, go-kart and bike hire, tennis courts and beach volleyball court. Stroll down the hill for beaut beach walks or head for the rocks to watch the local surfers hang 10 from about 50 metres away.

Nearby, the attractions are endless, from Magic Mountain theme park for a ripper toboggan ride, freaky rollercoaster, dinosaur park and waterslides. The Wharf Restaurant and Aquarium is a treat as you get the best seats in the house for some fish feeding activity, then there’s fishing, swimming, boat tours and a range of restaurants and shopping in town, whale watching, Oaklands shops and animal farm including pony rides, and a list of quaint little towns nearby worth visiting.

During our stay, we were lucky enough to catch some migrating Humpback whales putting on a spectacular show of breaching and tail slapping 100m from the resort’s sweeping clifftop views.

This one’s a road trip you won’t forget and a holiday park where you’ll want to stay forever.




Say g’day to the Don – a road trip to the Southern Highlands

By Australia / New South Wales / Sydney /

ONE can’t indulge in a picturesque road trip after picking up a rental car in Sydney and heading to the Southern Highlands without popping in to say hello to “the Don”, the greatest cricketer the world has ever seen.

Of course, to the uninitiated, we’re talking about the great Don Bradman, “the boy from Bowral”, who blasted world bowling attacks for thousands of runs around cricket grounds worldwide. No-one has come close to conquering his unsurpassable Test cricket batting average of 99. Unfortunately, the cricket legend left us almost a decade ago but his memory lives on at the Bradman Museum in Bowral, a place which has evolved into the International Cricket Hall of Fame.

The journey to this regional highlight south of Sydney isn’t a long one, only a one and a half hour to two hour leisurely trip as you exit Sydney via the M5 and end up on the Hume Highway. The drive itself really starts to become pretty the closer you wind your way up to the Southern Highlands and pass through some quaint hamlets and enjoy the views. Nearby are wonderful
little tourist towns including beautiful Berrima, Mossvale, Hanging Rock and inland delights like Fitzroy Falls, a natural beauty where you can get away from it all.

The Bradman Museum can be found in Glebe St, Bowral, and you are greeted by an impeccably presented first class cricket oval, complete with white picket fence, scoreboard, sightscreen and small seating area for spectactors in what can only be described as “marvellous”, as  another cricket great and veteran commentator Richie Benaud would say.

Bowral is where the young Bradman played during his early years, developing his silky skills before becoming the best batsman the world has ever seen. As the Bradman Foundation tells us, “One of his final wishes was for his ashes to be returned to his boyhood town. In a private ceremony in 2001, the Bradman family scattered Sir Donald’s and Lady Bradman’s ashes in the Bradman Oval precinct. The nearby garden that bears their name is filled with the Sir Donald Bradman Rose.”

Make your way to the museum’s courtyard and check out ‘A Final Salute’, the life-sized bronze statue of “The Don”, beautiful monument dedicated to his memory. Inside the museum you can explore a diverse display of significant historical records, cricket gear, baggy greens, photos, mementos, DVD shorts and a souvenir shop. It’s a trip every cricket lover must take.



The Hunter Valley’s best kept secret – a beaut road trip from Sydney to a garden wonderland

By Australia / New South Wales / Sydney /

THE last time my husband and I were in the Newcastle/Hunter Valley region we were heading southbound and on a watertight timeframe so we didn’t have the opportunity to take a detour via Pokolbin and check out one of Australia’s best kept secrets – the Hunter Valley Gardens.

So on a recent trip to New South Wales we decided to grab a hire car in Sydney and head north on the M1 for an one-day road trip and then scoot inland after Cooranbong, taking in some off-the-beaten-track townships like Killingworth, Seahampton and Greta before arriving at spectacular Hunter Valley Gardens.

Smack in the middle of winery country, this day trip was reserved wholly for the gardens; we’d done the winery tour thing pre-kids but this was a trip with little people in mind.

The gardens themselves are beautiful. Situated on 16 hectares, they are thoughtfully themed and meticulously maintained. The moment you walk through the gates, there’s an immediate magical feel to the place. The gardens are manicured according to each theme – the Oriental Garden, the Rose Garden and the Formal Garden and so on. Then you stumble across the Children’s Storybook Garden. And if ever you’re hoping to meet your inner child again, taking a stroll through this place is a must! Among the beautiful surrounds you will encounter all the old favourite larger-than-life fairytale characters including the Mad Hatter and Alice in Wonderland, Humpty Dumpty and all the king’s men, Jack and Jill and several more.

When you’re finished with exploring the gardens, the Hunter Valley Gardens Village has plenty to offer by way of cafes, boutique speciality shops, restaurants and one of the ost beautiful chapels you are likely to see.

One big tip:  No doubt you will work up a hearty appetite after you’ve wandered through the 60 acres of winding paths through the gorgeous gardens so make sure you stop off at the Taste Of The Country cafe and shop in the village. The food, service and arts and crafts are all first rate. The Real Hot Chocolate – a big mug of hot milk in which you dip a stick containing a large chunk of melting chocolate on the end. What an experience!



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.


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).


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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.



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.