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Driving holidays – Echuca (Victoria)

By Victoria /

This one may not necessarily be the prettiest drives from Melbourne, but it’s certainly the fastest way to reach the magic that awaits on the mighty Murray River. Echuca, about 200km north of Melbourne on the Victoria and NSW border, was once the biggest inland port in Australia and has retained much of that old world charm in the heart of town while also offering a cosmopolitan way of life too. In a nutshell there’s the historic port to explore, great restaurants and pubs, big clubs over the border in Moama, a wealth of river activities including fishing, skiing, swimming, Paddlesteamer cruises and much more. […]

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Driving holidays – Phillip Island (Victoria)

By Victoria /

Many visitors to Victoria think of the Great Ocean Road as the state’s ultimate driving holiday, but a 150km drive south-east from Melbourne to Phillip Island clearly can’t be underestimated. It’s a great drive leading to a fabulous holiday hotspot with a plethora of things to do.

A few months back we loaded up our six-berth Britz camper, hit the Monash Freeway, turned into the South Gippsland Freeway and then onto the Bass Highway and finally made our way to the island via Phillip Island Rd. Normally the trip would take roughly a couple of hours, take your time and you might find a few surprises along the way – including full scale replicas of meteorites that landed in the Cranbourne area in 1860 and Panny’s Amazing World of Chocolate where you can almost taste the Dame Edna portrait made of 12,000 chocolate pieces!

Pleasure island

Once on the island, don’t let it’s size fool you as there’s loads to do. In fact, the very fact it’s a small island only means everything is a mere five or 10 minute drive away … if not less. Setting up camp at Cowes Caravan Park meant we were right in the heart of the action being close to the main shopping precinct and planting our mobile holiday home right on the foreshore of the north side of the island. It’s within minutes to cafes, shops, the jetty. The activity highlights for us included the world famous Penguin Parade at night, a cruise to Seal Rocks with Wildlife Cruises and a 10 minute drive to Amaze N Things, an award winning venue boasting a giant wooden maze, mini golf and some excellent activities inside.

For driving adventure it’s a 7 out of 10.

For holiday activities it’s also an 8 out of 10.

10 words: Sun, beach, fish’n’chips, relaxed, convenience, family, marine life, chilly.


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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.


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Driving Holidays – Cairns (Qld)

By Australia / Cairns / Queensland /

The old adage “it’s a big country” certainly rings true in Far North Queensland, where distances between sights are great and the only way to experience them is by road. But that’s what makes the region north of Cairns such a great place for a driving holiday, with the open highway a journey of discovery and wonder.

When you’re deciding on a vehicle, keep in mind that the further from the Big Smoke you get, the rougher the roads – you may require a four-wheel drive if you are venturing north of the Daintree or up into Cape York.

The journey

After settling on Toyota Camry from Budget at Cairns Airport we began our trip north to Port Douglas on the Captain Cook Highway. This 68 kilometre stretch of road must be one of the most scenic drives in Australia, winding its way through Cairns’ beautiful northern beaches, with great vantage points at Rex’s Lookout and Yule Point back down the coast.

A couple of detours kept the whole clan happy – a visit to Hartley’s Creek Crocodile Farm had the kids awestruck at their first sight of massive saltwater crocs; while I was relished a coffee break at Palm Cove, an exclusive resort destination 25 minutes from Cairns.

Port Douglas is a great place to base yourself if you are exploring the north, with plenty of accommodation and a great central location. Stylish and sophisticated, Port Douglas glistens like a modern oasis, its al fresco restaurants and cafes beckoning travellers to stay and linger.

A rainforest to remember

But we had World Heritage listed rainforest on our mind, and once we’d settled into our accommodation, we hit the road again for the Daintree National Park.

Believed to be the oldest rainforest in the world at around 135 million years old, there are plenty of ways to explore this diverse and beautiful eco-system. A one-hour river cruise on the Daintree River is the perfect introduction and a safe way of seeing crocs up close; take a self-guided walk with interpretive signage providing a feast of information; or visit the Daintree Discovery Centre for an overview of the region.

Adventure lovers can ride a horse on the beach at Cape Tribulation, or dive off the coast where the Barrier Reef meets the rainforest clad hills. But arguably the best way to see the rainforest is on a zipline tour – the new Jungle Surfing Canopy Tours will have you literally flying through the trees, an unbeatable natural high!



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 ( 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 (, 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 ( 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 ( 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.


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Driving Holidays – South Coast (NSW)

By Australia / New South Wales /

As a kid, I used to make frequent trips down the South Coast of NSW with my friend’s family. Two things are etched into my mind: the lame jokes of my friend’s father about cows with two legs shorter than the others (from standing on steep hills) and the horror of car sickness.

The old coast road from the southern suburbs of Sydney to Wollongong was a spectacular roller coaster, never failing to reduce my Maccas happy meal to a not-so-happy pile of goo on the side of the road. But it was all part of the holiday fun, the rising tide of nausea signalling the start of a great weekend away.

A “Grand” new drive

And so it was with this happy memory that I picked up my DriveNow Britz camper and headed south through the Royal National Park to Stanwell Tops, and the start of the new Grand Pacific Drive. This 140km coastal route has cut out many of the bends and hazards of the old road (no more “beware falling rocks” signs) while retaining the spectacular vistas of the Wollongong escarpment and the shimmering Pacific Ocean, making it one of the most enjoyable and scenic drives in Australia.

Emerging from the Royal National Park – the second oldest national park in the world – you hit Bald Hill, where hang-gliders hover like colourful eagles and the views stretch forever. The road then winds down to the new 665m Sea Cliff Bridge, an engineering wonder that swerves away from the precarious cliffs and hovers over the breakers.

Wollongong – the region’s big smoke

From here, the road meanders through the quaint coastal villages of Austinmer and Thirroul, ideal stops for a quick dip, a scour through the antique galleries or a cup of coffee before hitting the big smoke of Wollongong.

Our destination, however, was further south – Kiama, home of the famous Blowhole. The fabulous views, gorgeous beaches and lovely walks are just as beautiful as I remember, though the town is far more sophisticated these days with a stack of hotels, restaurants and art galleries adding to its appeal as a day trip for Sydneysiders.

Another attraction that has retained its charm is Jamberoo fun park. What started as a regional curiosity has, over the years, become a world-class theme park, with fantastic water slides, wave pools and the new high thrill Taipan ride drawing in the crowds.

Action-packed, adrenaline pumping fun – and all an easy drive from Sydney!


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Driving holidays – Lower Hunter Valley (NSW)

By Australia / New South Wales /

I have a dream of owning my own rural patch of heaven, 30-odd acres of paddocks and bushland where I can keep horses, run a few chooks and write the great Australian novel. And I know exactly where this Tree Change will take place – Wollombi.

This quaint little hamlet 140 kilometres north of Sydney in the Lower Hunter Valley is my secret weekend getaway. There’s nothing I love more than picking up a camper and heading up the F3 freeway, relaxation beckoning with every passing kilometre.

I’m not sure if it’s a psychological thing, but as soon as I turn off at the Calga exit at Peats Ridge, I visibly relax, drawing a deep breath and filling my lungs with the pure mountain air. It’s then a leisurely hour or so through picturesque countryside, lush horse studs and hobby farms flanked by dense eucalypt forest on rolling hillsides.

Wollombi rolls into sight like something from a Tom Roberts oil painting, a genteel slice of colonial history. Its main street is scattered with heritage-listed buildings, honeysuckle-strewn verandas sheltering antique galleries and coffee shops. St Michael’s church, built in 1840, is one of the oldest Catholic churches in Australia. Even the General Store has an irresistible olde worlde air.

The focal point of the town, however, is its pub. It’s impossible to miss – just look for the line of Harley Davidsons out the front! The Wollombi Tavern is the place for motorcycle enthusiasts to gather on the weekend, joining families and other daytrippers having a taste of Dr Jurd’s Jungle Juice.

The ingredients for this world-famous brew have been a closely guarded secret since its creation in the 1960s – but whatever is in this sweet liquor certainly keeps the punters coming back for more. Families, bikies and country folk wearing RM Williams all mix and mingle on the veranda of the Wollombi pub, the quintessential Aussie Sunday experience.

If you can drag yourself away from this oasis, there’s plenty more to see in the region – national parks, boutique wineries, craft and art galleries. Take a weekend to explore this hidden treasure and it’s guaranteed you’ll be back for more … or you will be planning your retirement here like I am!



Driving holidays – a perfect Port (NSW)

By Australia / New South Wales /

Ah, Port Macquarie – beautiful one day, blissful the next. It’s my favourite holiday destination, any time of year – winter chills disappear on its sunny beaches; while in summer cool sea breezes keep the heatwaves at bay.
For my daughter and I, a road trip to Port is always an adventure. After picking up a last minute deal on an Avis Hyundai rental from DriveNow’s last minute Sydney Car hire area we hit the Pacific Highway for the crawl out of Sydney – always the worst part of the trip. But once we were freewheeling north, it’s smooth driving for four and a half hours before we reach paradise – Port, that is!

There are a stack of affordable places to stay in town, but our choice this time was the Sundowner Breakwall Tourist Park, located right on the Hastings River fronting the boardwalks with its distinctive colourful rocks. Talk about a room (or in our case, site!) with a view – where else in the world can you get a millionaire waterfront setting like this on a budget?

After settling in, the beach beckoned – our stroll along the golden sands of Town Beach rewarded by the sight of couple of dolphins, their fins silhouetted against the setting sun.

Into the wild

Of course, that set the theme for our short break … wildlife. My daughter and I are both animal crackers, and there’s no better place to have close encounters with furry critters than at Port Macquarie. First stop the following morning was the Koala Hospital, a facility for koalas that have been attacked by dogs, run over by cars or suffer from Chlamydia or ‘wet-bottom syndrome’, a bacterial disease rampant in the koala community.

Located in one of the densest koala corridors in NSW, the hospital is run entirely by volunteers and relies on donations to carry out its essential work. You can even ‘adopt’ one of the little fellas, the donation of $40 a year going towards koala research.

While you can’t handle the koalas rehabilitating at the hospital, you can have a more touchy-feely animal encounter at Billabong Wildlife Park. On weekends and during school holidays, demonstrations by animal keepers are an entertaining way to learn about Australian natives such as quolls, wallabies and even snakes. We loved the kanga enclosure where you can see bald little joeys poking their heads out of mum’s pouch; and my daughter even got to hold a gorgeous white dingo pup, which thrilled her no end.

High in the saddle

Girl and the PonyWe both are into horses, so a ride in the beautiful hinterland was high on our agenda. Bellrowan Valley Horse Riding, about an hour’s drive from Port Macquarie, is the only riding outfitter in the area catering to both beginners and more experienced riders. The horses here are well cared for and obedient, and I was pleased to see they offer some solid tuition to everyone before hitting the trails.

We may be both experienced horse riders, but neither my daughter or I have ever ridden a camel! Port Macquarie Camel Safaris runs 20 minute camel rides on Lighthouse Beach (Port’s southernmost beach) – loads of fun, glorious scenery and informative as well.

From our elevated position on Sandy the camel’s back (which feels a lot like a woolly carpet), we could see for kilometres up the deserted beach, the white sand the perfect contrast to the cloudless blue sky. There was a soft breeze, the sound of breaking surf … and once again, our dolphin friends paid a visit.

Now if that’s not heaven, I don’t know what is.