Grab a campervan rental and surf Australia’s east coast

By Australia / New South Wales / Sydney /

WHEN hitting the waves Down Under, finding a top surf town on an Australian road trip in your campervan rental serves up a magical mix: a great caravan park to plonk your camper for a few days, a beach boasting some of the best waves in the world, friendly natives, great food haunts and cool pubs where you can brag about that monster wipeout you survived over a couple of cold beers.
The east coast of Australia is lined with hundreds of the best surf locations and the best place to start your journey is after you’ve collected your Sydney campervan rental for a steal of a deal through DriveNow. Whether you head north or south, there’s a beach town with your name on it. Try these three for size:

The stunning views of Ulladulla’s Headland Tourist Park is your port of call, a three-hour cruise down the Princes Hwy/National Route 1 from Sydney and a town bursting with life as the gateway to the southern coast region of NSW. Hang 10: Mollymook Beach, beautiful sheltered spots at either end. The experienced surfers head to Golf Course Reef, or those who dare to head for Ulludulla Bommie to the south.

Port Stephens
About three hours in the other direction from Sydney and hugging the coastline you’ll bump into the tourist hub of Port Stephens, with Soldier’s Point Holiday Park a neat kind of place to set up camp. There are several surf spots, including Fingal Bay (the spit at the north end gets some decent waves) and Birubi Beach in Anna Bay.

Byron Bay
Byron Bay is a whopper nine-hour road trip on the National Route 1 from Sydney but well worth the effort if you’re after a cosmopolitan, happening little town with awesome beaches. Park your wheels at Clarke’s Beach Holiday Park – beachfront sites from only $55 – and is walking distance to world-famous beaches including Main Beach, The Pass and Wategos Beach. After you hit the waves, head into town for some great cheer and beer at one of Australia’s best pubs, the Byron Bay Beach Hotel. Great pub grub, too.



Drive from Melbourne to Portland to chase some ‘fin’ – Bluefin Tuna, that is

By Australia / Great Ocean Road / Melbourne / Victoria /

CRUISING around in your Melbourne car rental to Victoria’s hotpots can always be broken up with a bit of activity on the water whether it be a river, creek or the mighty ocean, so I recommend you pack your rods.

Let’s start with the Great Southern Ocean. Just saying the name sounds impressive enough but when considering the idea of tackling it and chasing Bluefin Tuna, I feel it is always worth going with someone who knows the ocean like the back of their hand. I will always recommend you take a professional charter especially in waters that are very unpredictable.

It was only the day before that, in the same region of these very same waters, they landed a 140kg tuna. Sounds too good to be true, doesn’t? But it was an extremely impressive catch. In the past two years as we have travelled Australia filming our TV show The Great Australian Doorstep, I have slowly tried to educate myself while tackling different ocean & fishing charters.

After heading to Portland, a 370km drive in your Melbourne car hire, otherwise about four and a half hours, we left right on dawn which ensured us time to cruise to somewhere around the vacinity of 22-odd nautical miles off shore, where I personally had no idea where on earth we were. We couldn’t see land, anyway, and I had no idea which way was north, south, east or even west.

We set five rods out the back with a few different lures and began to trawl. All the crew were on a very close lookout at all times explaining that if there were tuna birds hanging around then tuna was close by. As the birds begin to circle and dive bomb, there was a sense of excitement. I personally had no idea what might or could happen so my eyes were glued to those birds. Amazingly, you can actually see the Tuna jump out! The crew were on their toes and my heart started to beat a little quicker as we trawled around them and not through them.

I also learnt something else. Within five minutes there it was – the exhilaration of the wwwwwwwiiiizzzzzzzzzzzzzzz of the reel as the Tuna hooks on. You must keep it coming in, and if it wants to run let it run, but slowly try and keep it coming, follow it around the edges of the boat, and that shiny flicker just metres below the boat gets you even more excited. After lots intense concentration we finally land it on the boat some 15 minutes later, a beautiful Bluefin Tuna – around 12kg to be exact. A nice size and plenty to eat. It all happened with one big adrenaline rush for the perfect catch!

Portland is a seaside village built on the enormous deep sea fishing it has to offer. If you love fishing, then Portland must be on the top of your itinerary list during your next great Victorian drive!

The Great Australian Doorstep, www.greataustraliandoorstep.com


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.



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.



Boys’ Weekend – Byron Bay (NSW)

By Australia / New South Wales /

Kayaking with dolphins, having our “auras” photographed at Crystal Castle in the hinterland and laying a few bets on the gee-gees at a pub with ocean views wasn’t exactly the sort of blend I had in mind for a boys’ weekend, but hey, we were in Byron Bay and it was a case of doing as the Romans do … well, some of them, anyway.

Our weekend launched the moment we touched down on the Gold Coast at Coolangatta. We hooked ourselves up with a Toyota Aurion after snapping up the hottest deal at DriveNow with Hertz emerging the winner on this particular search mission. Three blokes with a thirst for adventure and a boozy weekend in mind headed south and the party was up and away.

Spirit of adventure

While exploring Byron Bay, hitting the beach, entertainment, eateries and nearby hinterland only a short drive away was the name of the game, reaching the destination is a leisurely one hour drive direct from Coolangatta along the Pacific Highway, but we detoured to a Crystal Castle (www.crystalcastle.com.au) set in the hinterland only 20 minutes or so in a westerly direction from Byron. Crystal Castle aura photo: Energised to the max!
This was an ideal way to hit all the right R&R buttons before playing hard in town – Crystal Castle is an enchanting place with mystical statues, an ancient labyrinth walk and amazing gardens. Then there’s the thousands of crystals, a cool cafe for lunch, books of wisdom to peruse, tarot card readings, and an opportunity to catch a snap of your aura and see what your energy fields are up to.

A place to party

Once in town, our destination of choice was the Oasis Resort and a tree-top house, only a stone’s throw from all the action in town. For food, don’t miss the O’Sushi Train for a fresh lunch, Belongil Beach Cafe for breakys or lunches (and amazing beach views!), and Balcony Bar and Restaurant in the city’s heart for a great evening meal. Other than that, The Beach Hotel (www.beachhotel.com.au), formerly owned by the legendary Aussie actor/comedian “Strop”, was our second home for food, betting on the TAB, great beers and superb entertainment – Sunday session is a must do, especially with its amazing Pacific Ocean waterfront views. Other cool nightspots include Liquid, Lalaland and Cheeky Monkey’s. If you find the time, visit Stone & Wood Brewery (www.stoneandwood.com.au) where three blokes share their love of beer, music and surf and are living the dream.

Paddle power

For boys’ weekend, I cannot recommend a better hangover cure or travel adventure experience as kayaking with the dolphins, turtles, stingrays and/or whales thanks to the gang at Cape Byron Kayaks (www.capebyronkayaks.com). Owner Alice and crew take you on an ocean safari for between 2 and 3 hours and it’s an exhilirating experience you can’t forget. We learnt a little history about Byron Bay, frolicked with the marine life, surfed a wave back to shore and shared a beer or 10 with Alice at the Beachy (hotel) for what was the highlight of the weekend.

For driving adventure it’s an 8 out of 10 in this part of the world.

For a boys weekend, it’s a 9.

10 words: Sun, sand, spiritual, relaxed, views, crowded, backpackers, hippies, chilled, adventure.