The Gold Coast – the sun is still shining and the roads are clear

By Australia / Gold Coast / Queensland /

Despite the devastation of recent flooding and cyclones in Queensland, the sunshine state is still, and always will be, one of the country’s best destinations for a road trip whether it’s by rental car in Brisbane or a Brisbane campervan rental and you can rest assured the pathways are clear in the bottom half of the state which is brimming with magical experiences and, as Queensland Tourism’s Shelley Winkel faithfully points out, “is incredibly resilient”.

None more so than the beautiful Gold Coast region. After grabbing your hire car or campervan rental in Brisbane, head for a one-hour southerly spin on the Pacific Motorway and you’ll be drenched in the sunshine and soft sands of the Gold Coast before you know it. Whether it be luxurious venues like the Sheraton Mirage Resort or a more family friendly holiday park such as Main Beach Tourist Park, there’s a world of options for accommodation.

Then, of course, there’s no shortage of theme parks for the more adventurous or amazing resort-themed shopping villages and well known restaurants in the heart of the Gold Coast. For others, it’s simply a chance to park your vehicle and head for the beach!

Late night shopping is a winner along Orchid and Elkhorn Avenues where names like Louis Vuitton, Salvatore Ferragamo and Prada lure shoppers from far and wide – this shopping strip is usually open until about 9pm-10pm each night. Also check out the Carara Markets each weekend.

One can’t scoot around the part of the world without experiencing the thrills and spills of all the “worlds”, the ultimate parks on the Gold Coast where as one journalist recently described it as being a place where “adrenalin junkies unite as one and families throw diets, caution and the real world out the window”. Now that can only mean maximum fun! Highlights include Sea World (Main Beach), Warner Bros Movieworld and Wet N Wild (Oxenford), and Dreamworld and Whitewater World (Coomera).

For the latest flood news and cyclone updates visit the Queensland Government’s official Queensland floods webpage: http://www.qld.gov.au/floods/ or visit the Bureau of Meteorology: http://www.bom.gov.au/ to check weather forecasts for your holiday destination.



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.



Five top Aussie festivals around Australia


From country music events to spectacular Outback festivals, or food and wine extravaganzas to riverboats and jazz, there’s something worth driving to just about anywhere in Australia all-year round. Here are five diverse festivals worth packing your bags for and hitting the road in a drivenow campervan for a unique Australian cultural experience.

1. Riverboats, Jazz, Food & Wine Weekend – Echuca, Victoria.

Pick up your DriveNow Melbourne Rental Car and a leisurely three-hour drive along the Hume Freeway and Northern Highway will take you to the riverbanks of beautiful Echuca where this annual event creates a buzz in February every year. The region’s finest food and wine is on show, jazz musos from far and wide strut their stuff and the paddlesteamers from yesteryear chug along the mighty Murray. It’s a treat for the eyes, ears and tastebuds!

2. Tamworth Country Music Festival – Tamworth, NSW.

This one’s popular for lovers of Country music and is held every year in January. It’s a five or six hour journey predominantly spent on the Pacific and New England Highways from Sydney, but upon reaching the final destination you’ll be re-energised by the festival spirit. Country artists including Troy Cassar Daley, Felicity Urquhart, and hundreds more from all walks of life and ages, amateur or professional. It’s all about great food, friends, tents, caravans and super music over 10 days.

3. The Targa Tasmania.

One for car lovers, this amazing international event has been running since 1992 and basically is a tarmac rally with competitive stages on closed roads for some of the best touring, sports and GT cars from throughout the world – a calvacade of motoring history that is sure to delight as you discover the spoils of the Apple Isle.

4.  World’s Greatest Pub Crawl, Maryborough, Queensland.

This four hour journey along the Bruce Highway from Brisbane will get you to Maryborough, but that’s where you’ll have to pop the keys away for a few days as the “world’s greatest pub crawl” whets your appetite for a good time. More than 3000 pub crawlers hit the streets in a bid to knock off the Guinness World Record for the most pub crawlers in one spot each year. Loads of fun … but don’t forget to pack the panadol and sleep well before the long trip back!

5. The Meeka Outback Festival, Meekatharra, Western Australia. Last but not least, this marathon nine hour drive from Perth along the Great Northern Highway will take you to this entertaining festival held every Queen’s Birthday Weekend in June. Enjoy the region’s unique culture as the festival ignites with fireworks, stalls and kids rides on the main oval on the Friday night. Then the colourful floats hit the town on the Saturday before the afternoon races encourage punters to have a tipple and a bet, before you enjoy watching and listening to bands perform under the desert stars.



Australian music festivals well worth the drive


EVERYONE loves a music festival, whether you love blues, country, jazz, pop or rock. So snap up a campervan rental deal with DriveNow, hit the highway and prepare to dance, sing, eat and drink ’til your heart’s content. While there are loads of big ones such as the Big Day Out, Good Vibrations and V Festival that do the rounds countrywide, don’t forget the smaller ones that might just offer something a little more intimate and also give you the chance to look around. Try these for size …

1) Riverboats Jazz Food and Wine Festival. Every July this one attracts jazz and wine lovers in their droves from all corners of the country, so head down the Hume Highway in your campervan or hire car to this historic river port township set on the banks of the mighty Murray River for some smooth jazz, great food and wonderful nearby attractions. It all happens in late February.

2) Byron Bay Blues and Roots Festival. Any time of the year is a good time of the year to visit this beautiful coastal hotspot. Enjoy the best of both worlds whether it be the beach or the hinterland. This world renowned music festival attracts some of the biggest artists in the world. Held over five days every Easter, visit www.bluesfest.com.au

3) Chill Island. Head south from Melbourne and find a patch on charming Phillip Island, home of Australia’s best known penguins and the Phillip Island motorsport circuit. Every January it comes alive to the sounds of easygoing, chilled music including artists covering such genres as folk, reggae, blues and pop.

4) Womadelaide. This one stands for World of Music Arts and Dance and simply must be experienced if you’re ever cruising around South Australia. Thousands “bliss out” as they enjoy the sounds of the planet, street theatre, exhibitions and great food. Visit www.womadelaide.com.au

5) Tamworth Country Music Festival. No Aussie list of music festivals can be without this mighty country music fest when the greats of country music, and promising up and comers of all ages, hit the town for a fun time. Celebrations continue for 10 days every year from mid-January. Visit www.tamworthcountrymusic.com.au



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.



Girls weekend – Margaret River (WA)

By Australia / Western Australia /

For those looking for a short getaway, this five-day experience has to be experienced first hand to be believed. After some to-ing and fro-ing between several destinations for our escape from the daily grind, Margaret River ticked all the boxes: beautiful scenery, some premier Australian wineries and great food for five long-standing friends to catch up, recharge and reconnect. […]

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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.


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Driving holidays – north east coast (Tasmania)

By Australia / Tasmania /


The brochure promised pristine beaches, wide open skies and the dream of forgetting civilization for four days – an ideal getaway for two busy mums. In reality, the Bay of Fires Walk in Tasmania ticked all those boxes and more: no meal preparation for four days while exploring one of Tasmania’s remote coastlines, kayaking along beautiful Anson’s River and enjoying gourmet food soon proved why this is one of the world’s most popular holidays.

For us, this was a chance to experience the best of both worlds. Firstly, a beautiful drive in one of Australia’s best states for breathtaking views for a couple of days, and, secondly, to experience one of the world’s great walks.

Our week started the moment we landed at Launceston airport. After a swift collection of cases sans little folk, we hopped in our Hyundai Getz thanks to DriveNow with Avis offering the best deal this time around.

Some great short drives

As a precursor to our walking adventure, we decided to spend a couple of days relaxing at historic Ashton Gate with a couple of short drives out of Launceston for some R&R before our hard work by foot. An easy drive south of Launceston led us into the heart of the northern Midlands where the first settlers built their country residences and nurtured wonderful plants, hedges and farmed the land. Next day another short drive took us to Devil’s Heaven Wildlife Park home to native and exotic animals including, Tassie Devils, wombats, eagles, alpacas, roos and emus.

A walk to remember

Day 1 of the Bay of Fires Walk was part preparation of our gear and backpacks and then travelling by mini bus to our starting point at Stumpy’s Bay. The adventure started off with a relatively easy four hour walk along Cod Bay and around the coves off George’s Rocks to the Forester Beach camp for the first night’s accommodation in twin share floored tents. The camp was clean, well organized and environmentally sound: clever Australian made-composting toilets by Clivus Multrum, rainwater tanks and carrying out any rubbish means minimal impact on local ecosystems. Day 2 started early and was the hiking highlight of the trip – with a mix of rocky headlands, ridge lines and sand dunes the day’s sightseeing was diverse and a joy. After seven hours we arrived at the Bay of Fires Lodge. The warm shower on arrival was heavenly and the three course meal prepared by our guides was welcomed with open arms… and mighty apetites! Day 3 started with a sumptuous hot breakfast before hiking out to a collection point for a day of kayaking along Anson’s River. The day was capped off with a leisurely walk back to the lodge from the South along Abbotsbury Peninsula before enjoying another beautiful meal at the lodge. Day 4 commenced with a gentle walk away from the Lodge through a gorgeous forest of Peppermint Eucalypts before enjoying our last picnic lunch before returning to Launceston.

Returning to civilization

After unpacking at the Bay of Fires Walk base at Quamby Estate and sharing a bottle of bubbly with our guides and the rest of our group, we hopped back on the mini bus to return to Launceston and this time put ourselves up at Kurrajong House. Hosts Julie and Graeme showed us to our room and suggested some local eateries – well aware that we may be seeking some basic fare after our gastronomical adventure.

The choice for eateries in Launceston on a Monday night surprised us. After a bit of a scout around we settled on Toro’s on York – a Spanish restaurant with a beaut offering from tapas to light entrees and more substantial mains. After a good graze and few sangrias we hiked back up York Street to Kurrajong for our last night in Tassie. After returning our DriveNow hire car back to Avis at the airport, we hopped on our on-time Virgin Blue flight and were greeted at Tullamarine by two happy husbands and the young ones.

In short, this escape is ideal for busy people. 10 out of 10. Just beautiful.



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.