The road to fun and friendship drives a girls’ weekend away

By Australia / Cairns / Melbourne / New South Wales / Perth / Queensland / Sydney / Victoria / Western Australia /

A weekend away with the girls is a great way to take some time out to recharge the batteries. Whether you want to get away from the kids for a while, have some fun with your bridesmaids before the big day, or catch up with old school friends you haven’t seen in ages, there are some fabulous packages around that are designed to spoil you rotten.

When it comes to choosing a Australian hire car, find a vehicle that is roomy and comfortable enough for several adults. You might even decide to stay in a holiday park, so a campervan may be the way to go.

So if girls just want to have fun, where do they go?

In your Melbourne car rental head for Daylesford. This beautiful town in Spa Country in Victoria has an excellent reputation for accommodation, restaurants and relaxing spa treatments. It’s a 110km (one and a half hour) drive from Melbourne taking the Western Freeway (M8) and getting off at the Daylesford exit at Ballan. On the way home you could take the Calder Freeway and explore Hanging Rock and Mt Macedon along the way. Park the car, have a relaxing walk around Lake Daylesford and then make your way to the Lake House, where you can enjoy a one night indulgence retreat package for up to four people, which includes wining and dining with your own personal butler services and magnificent spa treatments.

Margaret River, WA is 267km (just over 3 hours drive in your Western Australia car rental) south of Perth – State Route 2 and Bussell Hwy/State Route 10. You will find Yelverton Brook Luxury spa eco-chalets nestled in the area’s wine region. The “Girls Only Pamper Retreat” for four includes two nights in a two bedroom chalet, a large private “spa under the stars”, gourmet food, spa treatments and a five-star stretch limo winery tour.

In NSW, for a beautiful coastal drive and unique experience, Paperbark Camp in Jervis Bay (197.5 km, almost three hours from Sydney – Princes Hwy/National Route 1) is on the banks of the Currambene Creek, ideal for those who love being close to nature, but appreciate life’s little luxuries – accommodation is a safari style tent and freshly prepared food is provided.

For those up North, picking up a Cairns campervan rental and taking the short, half-hour drive to Kuranda Rainforest Accomodation Park, would allow you to set up camp in an ancient rainforest, be a 20-minute walk away from the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway and the famous Kuranda Scenic Railway, and get in some shopping at the renowned market precinct.


Broome to Cape Leveque

By Australia / Broome / Darwin / Northern Territory / Perth / Western Australia /

A HOLIDAY in Broome and the far north coast of Western Australia requires more commitment than any other destination in Australia. This sunny, sparkling city is more akin to an island resort than a bustling hub – totally isolated, surrounded by wilderness, and possessing that chilled ‘manana’ attitude that pervades the South Pacific.

Getting here is not only a chore, but it’s expensive. You either have to take the long haul up the coast from Perth – ideal if you want to take your time and have the luxury of a campervan rental campervan rental in Western Australia – or trek across the Gibb River Road from Darwin via Kununurra: once again, the perfect adventure for 4WDrivers with plenty of time on their hands.

But what if you only have a week of precious vacation, yet still want to see something beyond the town itself? While Broome is a pleasant distraction for two or three days, once you’ve thawed out on stunning Cable Beach, watched the sunset, taken an obligatory camel ride and visited several pearl farms, there’s not a great deal more to do than relax by your resort pool. Not a bad thing in itself, but not everyone’s cup of tea.

Instead, head north to the Dampier Peninsula and Cape Leveque, an amazing destination for people dreaming of that true Robinson Crusoe experience in one of the most beautiful places in the world. Two hundred kilometres north of Broome, access is via Aboriginal land on a largely unsealed (and corrugated) road –a 4WD is necessary, with correct insurances in place. En route there are some fascinating stop-offs, such as the church at Beagle Bay, decorated with mother-of-pearl shell.

Another well-known Aboriginal community is Lombadina, the first on the peninsula to promote tourism. The beach here is mind-blowingly beautiful, and you can join indigenous tours including mud-crabbing and traditional fishing.

While there is simple accommodation available here, most people choose to stay at Kooljaman Resort at Cape Leveque, a wilderness retreat with a range of accommodation to suit every budget. All profits from the resort go back into the two Aboriginal communities that run it, with conservation projects ensuring the environment stays pristine.

Kooljaman has found that nice balance between luxury and wilderness. For those who like their creature comforts, there are stunning safari tents built on hillside decks, all with en suite bathrooms and kitchenettes. At the other end of the scale are thatched beach shelters – as basic as it comes, but unbeatable for views, fresh air and access to the ocean. There’s a store to stock up on supplies, while a new restaurant is the ideal place to watch the legendary Kimberley sunset.

And in the morning, you’re likely to have the whole beach to yourself. Not another footstep to be seen on the sand … pure bliss.



Perth to Broome Campervan Tale – Grey Power Touring

By Australia / Broome / Perth / Western Australia /

On the must do list was finding out what it was like to join the “grey army “that travels around the camping grounds of outback Western Australia and escapes the Melbourne winter.

In May 2010 We convinced friends to join us – 4 people, two vans and plenty of open road. As non-seasoned campers the starting point was the DriveNow website to look at options for Campervan Rental in Western Australia.

Being chardonnay travellers we settled on a Mauri motor home with on board kitchen shower and toilet facilities. The planned route over 30 days was Perth to Broome via the coast and inland to Tom Price and the Pilbara region.

The DriveNow website made arrangements easy but we arrived at the Maui office in Perth for check in with some trepidation. The efficient reassuring staff provided a DVD of the on board facilities and their operation -gas /taking on water /power/and the toilet discharge.

First task was to turn right out of the Maui site onto the 6 lane Great Eastern Highway. Fortunately a generous driver sensing a novice in charge of a van gave way and we were off on the great adventure! We headed to stock up with supplies at the supermarket – A parking spot nowhere near any other cars was definitely the way to go at this early stage!

On the highway driving the van was effortless with our initial destination Crevantes on the coast 250 km north of Perth and home to the world famous Pinnacles Desert of natural limestone structures.

The Crevantes camping ground set the scene for many days to follow- connect in power /fill up with water and then join in “happy hour ” which goes on for more than the hour.

Then onto Port Dennison and Horricks. Both small fishing villages with camping grounds near the water.

HMAS Sydney Memorial Geraldton WAThe first major town is Geraldton site of the memorial to HMS Sydney with an outstanding foreshore museum. Scenic flight over the Abrolhos islands a must do.

Next stop Kalbarri 500km from Perth . Another idyllic seaside town where the pelicans come in for their morning feed and a tour into the nearby Kalbarri National park with stunning gorges.

Highway driving is easy although our travelling companions made the fatal error of pulling off the road for sight seeing and promptly became bogged after recent rain. Fortunately the grey army are passing in vast numbers and are well equipped to tow you out . But the number of dead kangaroo,sheep and cattle is evidence of the perils of driving at dusk or night.

Camping sites are all well situated with excellent facilities .The professional campers arrive with all manner of extras -outdoor areas /satellite dishes /portable washing machines etc.

Now to Denham and the world famous Monkey Mia Resort in Shark Bay where dolphins play in the shallows and boat cruises take you to see dugongs (10% of worlds population), giant turtles and dolphins. Off shore is Dirk Hartog island a peaceful retreat.

After 8 days on the road the task of emptying the toilet canister came to the top of the list, but lo and behold the canister was stuck .The frightening thought of a hot sun and maturing effluent was contemplated, however fortunately a roadside mechanic came to our rescue and fixed the problem.

Coral Bay the next site is 1150km from Perth and looks like a set from those beach movies. You snorkel within the marine park with huge fish of all colours and coral reefs and come night-time the local pub is the centre of great nightime activity and a haven for backpackers.

A short distance on is Exmouth and the Cape Range National Park where we camped right on the beachCape Range National Park Exmouth WA without power and water. A real back to nature experience with more swimming in the Ningaloo Marine Park. At the right time of year you can see the world’s largest whale sharks, manta rays and passing whales .Catch fish for dinner. It’s not hard to see why many travellers end up camping here for weeks.

Leaving the coast a long days drive to Tom Price in the Pilbara and home to the huge Rio Tinto uranium mine .A tour of the mine is a must do  with a purpose built town an oasis in the desert.

Nearby more rough camping (as rough as it gets in a 4 star van ) in the Karijini National park with stunning views of gorges and shady swimming pools surrounded by huge red cliffs.

The red dust follows you everywhere. A trip with a 4 wheel drive operator into rough terrain is the way to go as the vehicle shudders itself to breaking point, however the views are genuinely breathtaking.

Back to civilization via Port Hedland (a place to pass through and not stop) and onto 80 mile beach 300 km south of Broome .A camping ground virtually on the beach where many grey army come for 6 months. What can only be described as monstrous beach (a cut lunch required form shore to sea ) produced a monstrous fish caught at dusk. A real lazy haven.

Then on route to Broome a roadtrain spays us with rocks and a cracked window Not bad enough to stop travelling and fortunately the insurance taken out with RACV covers the cost for a  modest premium.

Finally Broome. Great weather for the last 4 weeks becomes perfect. Nothing to do except ride camels on the beach, sip cold drinks at the beach bar of the renowned Cable Beach Resort and contemplate how the “grey army” have got it so right.

Colin C