Feature: Travel destinations

By: Paul Tuzson, Photography by: Paul Tuzson/Scott Murray/Street Machine

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Our expert guide to touring Australia in your classic ride

Feature: Travel destinations
Travel destinations

 

Travel destinations by car

Australia is full of international travellers from interesting and stunningly beautiful countries. But if you ask them why they’ve chosen to holiday in Australia, one of the most common answers is ‘space’ – the sweeping horizons that we often take for granted.

One of the best ways to appreciate this vast island and its endless blue sky is by the time-honoured means of a road trip. The huge span of Australia has made it a very car-friendly place. Almost every town has a motel with parking right outside your room, essential when driving a valuable classic. More sizeable towns have heaps of motels to choose from and prices can be pretty reasonable.

Now, it is fair to say that cheap airfares have reduced the savings of a road trip. But horrendous queues, followed by being crammed into a fragile aluminium tube with a flatulent rabble, have ripped the romanticism right out of air travel. Conversely, sliding onto a coil-sprung seat, grabbing a thin steering wheel and rolling out of the driveway in a well-prepared classic car has regained its charm. And if your kid farts you can simply wind down the windows.

WHAT DO YOU WANT?

Like most Australians, we’ve been on our fair share of road trips. Even so, we thought we’d consult an expert in the person of Dave Ryan, founding owner of Rare Spares. He’s planned that many road trips it’s not funny, but it has been fun. Obviously, he’s extremely well connected with owners of classic and unique cars. "I’ve noticed that increasing numbers of people these days are actually wanting to use their cars rather than just coddling them. People are after a bit of adventure."

Road trips don’t have to be complicated affairs. A long weekend, or even just an ordinary one can provide a stimulating break from the mundane. Dave suggests that a quick ring around can have a few people in cars for a day trip out to a local winery. It’s quick, easy and there’s no real planning. You could even include another destination and still be home by Sunday afternoon. But a bit more effort can enhance your road trip experience further.

AN EXAMPLE

Dave recounted a four-day run he put together some years back. "We started in Hurstbridge, went through Marysville and then back down through Warburton and on to Lang Lang. We did a lap on the Holden proving ground and then finished at Phillip Island that night." He further explained that after visiting the Motor Racing Museum next day, they wound their way eastward through the picturesque southern hills and finished at Metung, ending the day with dinner and a cruise on the lakes that evening.

Next day they continued east to Lakes Entrance and then up to Buchan Caves. Crossing the Great Dividing Range, they took in Bright on the way to Myrtleford and went on to Winton, where they did a couple of laps of the renowned race circuit. They finished at Rutherglen that night with dinner at the All Saints Estate winery.

"We took about 20 cars on that run and had a ball," says Dave.

WHAT’S THE POINT?

Apart from the fact that this run passes through some superb countryside, we’ve detailed it because it combines a couple of important elements for a memorable road trip. First, the roads were chosen because they were mildly challenging and most of the cars participating had pretty stout performance. You should enjoy the driving on a road trip. Second, there were regular points of interest and activities along the way to punctuate the driving.

PLAN AHEAD

The run described above did take some  preparation but hits all the marks. These days, planning a road trip is easy. Google Maps and your smartphone are quick tools, but when reception and batteries fail, old-school maps are still the best. Stay off the boring freeways, aim for somewhere and give yourself plenty of time. By the same token, pick the right time: don’t set off into rural areas at dusk or Skippy will find you. If roadkill’s a high probability, stick a set of roo-shooers on the car: they create a high-pitch whistle that keeps most furies at bay. Also, most auto retailers stock walkie talkies now, so chatting to your entourage can be done safely. While you’re at it, add water-proof matches and a torch.

You can customise your route as above but there are some ready-made pilgrimages we should all try sometime. Crossing the Nullarbor is one of them. Not all of us have done it but we can get a pretty good idea of what to expect from Google Maps. The same thing goes for that other classic route from Adelaide up to Darwin via Alice Springs, with a side trip to Uluru. These routes are solid outback experiences but along well-travelled routes.

If you think an intense outback experience might be your thing take a look deeper into Western Australia. The entire state is crossed with sealed roads through the desert. However, if you’re going to drive through these regions your car really needs to be up to the task. That’s true anywhere but in the deep outback you could be in serious trouble if you break down, even on a sealed road.

Still, if it’s a manageable adventure you’re after, the West could be for you. Outback Queensland, New South Wales and South Australia can offer similar challenges along with the Northern Territory. These regions are rooted in the Australian psyche even though most of us have never been there. We should change that if we get a chance.

SOFT CORE

There’s no more car-friendly region in the country than the New South Wales and Queensland coasts. Most major towns feature a river with a dangerous bar crossing, a couple of pubs, motels and various restaurants. They’re all kind of the same yet each still has a particular feel and people naturally develop favourites. The whole east coast is road trip nirvana but wandering further inland, away from the national security blanket of the ocean, can be really worthwhile. Think Bathurst (NSW); Mount Kosciuszko (ACT); Mt Isa (QLD); Shepparton (VIC); Lake Eyre (SA); Kalgoorlie (WA) or Katherine (NT).

Personally speaking, the Northern Rivers region of NSW is a favourite place to head. The rich, green rolling hills extend far enough inland to provide fantastic day trips through places like Murwillumbah, Mullumbimby and up through Springbrook behind the Gold Coast.

In fact, the Nerang-Murwillumbah Road is a superb alternative route from northern NSW to the Gold Coast. These lush regions are about as opposite as you can get to the deserts. What’s more, they’re close to the tourist-oriented coast, so you can make use of the facilities there as a base from which to strike out each day.

I LIKE IT BOTH WAYS

Nominating a base and then exploring the region around it is a destination-oriented holiday. A road oriented trip focusses on the journey itself as the holiday, with lots of deviations to explore features along the way. The latter would be a good way to do, say, the Murray from Lake Hume down to its mouth at Lake Alexandrina in SA. It’s a worthwhile trip but parts of it could be a bit boring. Punctuating it with activities along the way is a good idea.

You could visit the Ettamogah Pub near Albury, explore the Port of Echuca, visit the pioneer settlement at Swan Hill and maybe take a ride on a paddle steamer at Mildura. If you’re from SA you could do it in reverse and continue up inland from Albury. This would actually steer you into a region thick with car shows and swap meets.

Alternatively, travelling from SA back to Melbourne along the Great Ocean Road is one of the nation’s iconic road trips. The coast is spectacular in places and it certainly is a driver’s road at various points. There are all sorts of interesting places to stop along the way including the well-known Freestone’s Roadhaven at Aireys Inlet with its American 60s-style diner and classic car garage. From Melbourne, Freestone’s is an easy day trip and worth doing as part of a trip further down the road to other towns on the coast like Lorne or Apollo Bay.

We could write a book about all the interesting places to take in on a road trip. The point is, the whole country is out there waiting to be experienced by anyone with a car. Google Maps is the key to it all. Wherever you choose to go and however you decide to arrange your trip, just do it.

KNOW YOUR CAR

Modern roads allow for higher speeds over greater distances than before. Is your vehicle suited to modern conditions? Really, old cars often aren't. Of course, most people who own them know this.

Be familiar with the running state of your car. Any problems will be made worse by extended driving.

How original is it? Will it handly winding back roads up and down steep hills during a blazing summer?:

Factory original cars could have some of the same old distance-driving problems we used to know and hate.

TOP TIPS:

Have a think about what you want your road trip to be. Plan ahead. Don't cram unrealistic distances into your trip if you can avoid it.

Make sure you're well equipped, particularly if you're going to be on more out-of-the-way roads.

Truck drivers can be a valuable source of information. Take a portable CB radio to contact them. These are also useful for communicating with other drivers whom you may be travelling with.

 

WHAT YOU'LL NEED:

- A car, preferably in good running order
- Maps, as a backup, but satnav is the better option
- A basic tool kit
- Spare parts (if required)
- Camera
- First aid kit
- A powerful torch/work light
- Water

TIP: It pays to make sure your bearings are in good shape on both your car and anything you're towing.

COST:

A road trip can cost as much as any holiday with accommodation and meals, or it can be the cheapest holiday you'll ever take. And then there's everything in between. It's really up to you.

TIME:

It's a big country. There are people, generally retired, who never stop driving. I once met a couple who were on their third trip around the country. They didn't plan to stop.

*****

Before you head off on your drive, visit www.turu.com.au and search accommodation options across Australia.

 

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