Category Archives: Holidays

How to get to Wilsons Promontory from Melbourne

Wilsons Promontory

Wilsons Promontory is a peninsula at the southernmost tip of of Victoria that is surrounded by water on three sides and extends into Bass Strait.

The Wilsons Promontory National Park covers around 50,000 hectares of this peninsula, consisting of stunning granite mountain peaks, beautiful beaches, lakes, forests and gullies.  It is home to a large population of wildlife including kangaroos, emus, echidnas, wombats and birdlife.

Within the national park is the small town of Tidal River which has a visitor centre, general store and cafe.

In order to get to Wilsons Promontory, there are a number of transport options available.

By car

One of the best ways of getting to Wilsons Promontory is to drive, so you have the flexibility of stopping at a number of interesting spots along the way.

The driving distance from Melbourne’s CBD to the Wilsons Promontory town of Tidal River is just over 220 kilometres.

Follow the Monash Freeway (M1) away from the city.  In order to get to the South Gippsland Highway, you can either take the South Gippsland Freeway (M420) exit, the Clyde Road (C407) exit, the Cardinia Road exit or the Koo Wee Rup Road (C422) exit.  All of those roads will eventually meet the South Gippsland Highway (M420) where you will need to turn left.  Follow the highway past the turn-off for Lang Lang until you reach the exit labelled Korumburra, Leongatha and Wilsons Promontory.  You will need to take this exit to remain on the South Gippsland Highway (A440), otherwise you will find yourself on the Bass Highway heading towards Phillip Island and Wonthaggi.

Stay on the South Gippsland Highway as you pass through the towns of Korumburra, Leongatha and Meeniyan.  On the outskirts of Meeniyan, turn right onto Meeniyan-Promontory Road (C444) and follow this to Fish Creek where you will need to make a right turn in order to stay on the Meeniyan-Promontory Road (C444).  This road passes through Yanakie, which is located 6 kilometres from the entrance to Wilsons Promontory National Park.  Once inside the park, it is a further 25 minutes drive to Tidal River.

The entire journey normally takes around 2 hours and 50 minutes if driving non-stop, although it is recommended to take at least a short break due to the duration of the trip.

Driving directions from Melbourne to Wilsons Promontory

By public transport

The first step is to catch a bus to Fish Creek.  There is a V/Line bus service which runs between Southern Cross Station in Melbourne and Yarram, stopping at Fish Creek in front of the Fish Creek Hotel and BP service station.  This bus service runs 7 days a week, with extra services on weekdays.  See the V/Line bus timetable to Yarram via Fish Creek.

Once in Fish Creek, a taxi will be required for the final 55 kilometres of the journey to Tidal River as there are no public bus services to Wilsons Promontory.  South Gippsland Regional Taxis are based in Leongatha and cover the area to Wilsons Promontory.  Book a taxi in advance, to ensure you have connecting transport from Fish Creek, by phoning (03) 5662 4242.

Join a tour

A hassle free way of getting to Wilsons Promontory and exploring its many natural attractions is by joining a guided tour that departs from Melbourne.

Bunyip Tours offer a full day excursion to Wilsons Promontory.  You are picked up from Melbourne early in the morning and return in the evening.  Your tour guide will take you on a number of activities which highlight the beauty of the area.  Enjoy bush walking, bird watching, wildlife spotting and even swimming if the weather and time permits.  See beautiful beaches, huge granite rock formations, eucalyptus forests and warm temperate rainforests.

Wilsons Promontory day tour from Melbourne

 

For those who want to see more of the area, Bunyip Tours also offer a 2 day Wilsons Promontory excursion which is combined with a day at Phillip Island.  See stunning surf beaches, the Koala Conservation Centre, The Nobbies and of course the famous nightly penguin parade.  Overnight accommodation on the island is provided, then the next morning you are driven to Wilsons Promontory to explore the highlights of the park on foot by joining the regular day tour.

2 day Wilsons Promontory & Phillip Island tour

Coming from Melbourne Airport?

If you are coming to Melbourne by air, see our guide to transport between Melbourne Airport and the city centre.  Once in Melbourne’s city centre, choose from the above options to get to Wilsons Promontory.

Staying overnight at Melbourne Airport

Melbourne Airport is Australia’s second busiest airport, transporting over 33 million passengers per year.  It is currently Victoria’s only international airport and is located at Tullamarine – 21 kilometres by road from Melbourne’s CBD.

A very convenient advantage of Melbourne Airport is that the international terminal (T2) and all of the domestic terminals (T1, T3 and T4) are located next to each other, so you can easily walk between them.

Do you depart on an early morning flight from Melbourne?  Do you fly into Melbourne late at night?  Or are you travelling a long distance to Melbourne Airport from regional Victoria or southern NSW and are after a good night sleep before your flight the next day?  Then staying overnight at Melbourne Airport may be just what you need.

Within the grounds of Melbourne Airport are 3 hotels which are within easy walking distance of the airport terminal buildings.  They are Parkroyal, Holiday Inn and Ibis Budget.  Staying at one of these hotels will ensure you are relaxed and make it to your flight on time, or provide a relaxing night’s sleep after disembarking from your flight.

Parkroyal Melbourne Airport – from $235

Parkroyal Melbourne Airport

Parkroyal is the perfect hotel to stay at if you want to be just a few steps from the airport terminal. It sits above the large multi-level short term car park and is directly linked to the terminal buildings via two pedestrian sky bridges.

  • 100 metres from the international terminal building
  • 276 guest rooms
  • Standard, superior, deluxe and family rooms
  • Restaurant – open daily for breakfast and dinner, weekdays for lunch
  • Cafe – open daily for coffee and light meals
  • Bar – open daily for drinks, bar meals and snacks
  • Room service food and refreshments
  • Fully equipped gymnasium
  • 12 metre indoor lap pool, heated spa, sauna and steam room
  • Business centre
  • Valet parking or self-parking at discount rates

Phone: (03) 8347 2000
Website: www.parkroyalhotels.com

BOOK NOW - Parkroyal

 

Holiday Inn Melbourne Airport – from $195Holiday Inn Melbourne Airport

This hotel was Melbourne Airport’s first on-site accommodation option, originally known as Travelodge Tullamarine when it first opened back in 1970.  Now called Holiday Inn, it is located just opposite the multi-level long term car park, and is between 300 to 500 metres walk from the airport buildings, depending on the specific terminal.

  • 4 star rated property
  • 207 guest rooms
  • Superior rooms, executive rooms and spacious luxury suites
  • Day use rooms (up to 6 hours) from $99 (book by phone only)
  • All rooms are soundproofed from airport noise
  • Restaurant – open daily for breakfast, lunch and dinner
  • Bar – open daily for drinks and coffee
  • Room service food and refreshments
  • Kids stay and eat free (conditions apply)
  • Fitness centre with gymnasium
  • Outdoor pool
  • Business centre
  • Complimentary 24 hour shuttle service to the terminals
  • Park, Stay and Go packages available, providing free airport parking
  • Complimentary 24 hour shuttle service to the terminals

Phone: (03) 9933 5111
Website: www.holidayinnmelbourneairport.com.au

BOOK NOW - Holiday Inn

 

Ibis Budget Melbourne Airport – from $129Ibis Budget Melbourne Airport

Ibis Budget offers excellent value accommodation for those who simply want somewhere cosy to sleep at an affordable price.  It is located just across the road from a BP service station and McDonalds.  The airport buildings are between 300 and 700 metres walk away, depending on the specific terminal.

  • 73 guest rooms
  • Rooms have either a queen bed, or 2 single beds and an overhead bunk
  • Private ensuite (small)
  • All rooms are soundproofed
  • Complimentary all you can eat buffet breakfast served daily
  • 24 hour check-in either via front desk (limited hours) or self-serve kiosk
  • Private on-site outdoor parking

Phone: (03) 8336 1811
Website: www.accorhotels.com

BOOK NOW - Ibis Budget

 

Travel options from Adelaide to The Grampians

Grampians National Park
Grampians National Park

The Grampians is one of the most popular natural attractions in Victoria. Located between Adelaide and Melbourne, it consists of a vast national park that surrounds a series of rugged mountain ranges. Explore the many walking tracks including the Grampians Peak Trail, enjoy panoramic views from several lookouts, and visit beautiful lakes and waterfalls. You will be sure to encounter Australian wildlife, native wildflowers and discover ancient Aboriginal sites which are shrouded in mystery.

Right in the centre of the Grampians National Park is the tourist village of Halls Gap. This holiday town includes shops, restaurants and a large number of accommodation properties including caravan parks, apartments, chalets, cottages and motels.

In a direct straight line, the distance from Adelaide to Halls Gap is about 430 kilometres. There are several ways to get to The Grampians from Adelaide.

By car

The journey from Adelaide’s CBD to Halls Gap is around 500 kilometres.

Head south-east along the South Eastern Freeway (M1). This road becomes the Princes Highway (A1) after passing to the south of Murray Bridge and crossing the Murray River.  At Tailem Bend, which is almost 100 kilometres from Adelaide, continue driving straight and then this road becomes the Dukes Highway (A8). Follow the Dukes Highway for around 190 kilometres, passing through Keith and Bordertown, until reaching the state border between South Australia and Victoria. At this point advance your clocks by 30 minutes due to crossing a timezone.

Once into Victoria, the highway is called the Western Highway (A8). Follow the Western Highway through Kaniva, Nhill, Dimboola and Horsham.

The quickest way from Horsham is to follow the Western Highway (A8) for about 45 kilometres and turn right into Mt Drummond Road, left into Ledcourt Road, right into Greenhole Road, right into Fyans Creek Road and right into Grampians Road (C216) which then leads directly to Halls Gap.  While involving a number of turns through sealed local roads, it avoids crossing major mountain ranges into the national park.

Alternatively, for a more scenic route, turn right off the Western Highway about 15 kilometres out of Horsham onto Northern Grampians Road (C222).  From here, it will be a 57 kilometre to the centre of Halls Gap via Wartook and Zumsteins.  This road is also known as Mt Victoria Road once you get inside the Grampians National Park.  Before reaching Halls Gap, take a short detour to the famous MacKenzie Falls, Wartook Reservoir and the scenic Reed Lookout.

The entire journey will usually take around 5 hours and 15 minutes if you drive non-stop, however allow at least an extra 15 minutes if you choose the more scenic route via Wartook.  Given the length of this journey, it is recommended that you do not drive for more than 2 hours continuously without taking a break.

Driving directions from Adelaide to The Grampians

By public transport

Getting to Halls Gap from Adelaide using public transport requires the use of a train and a bus service.

Catch The Overland train from Adelaide’s railway station to Stawell in Victoria. This will take about 6 and a half hours.  Currently, this train only runs Monday and Friday, arriving at Stawell at 2:54pm. See the timetable for the Adelaide to Melbourne train.

From Stawell railway station to Halls Gap, there are two bus services.

The V/Line bus to Halls Gap operates Monday to Friday, however it departs from Stawell in the middle of the day, between 12:20 and 12:50, depending on the actual day.  Unless you are planning to stay overnight in Stawell (which you can, it’s a lovely town and there are a number of accommodation options in Stawell), then this bus service is not suitable.

In order to do the journey from Adelaide to Halls Gap in one day, you will need to catch Sandlant’s Halls Gap bus which departs weekdays at 7:15am and 3:55pm.  The only choice is to take the 3:55pm service, which means you will need to wait for an hour in Stawell after arriving by train.  Once on the bus, it will have you arriving in the Halls Gap town centre within about 20 minutes. See the timetable for the bus to Halls Gap.

By public transport and hire car

Having your own vehicle in the Grampians will make it a lot easier to get to the many attractions in the national park and surrounding areas, however the drive from Adelaide can be a long one.

Another option is to catch The Overland train from Adelaide to Horsham (see the timetable for the Adelaide to Melbourne train) and then hire a car in Horsham for the 55 to 70 minute drive to Halls Gap.

Car hire from Horsham

 

How to get to the Great Ocean Road from Melbourne

Great Ocean RoadThe Great Ocean Road is one of Australia’s most iconic coastal drives. It covers around 240 kilometres between Torquay in the east and the outskirts of Warrnambool in the west.

The journey along the Great Ocean Road passes through several coastal holiday towns and showcases the natural beauty of this part of Victoria including rugged coastlines and rock formations, the famous 12 Apostles, beautiful beaches, lush rainforests, mountain scenery and native flora and fauna.

If you are in Melbourne, there are several ways to reach the start of the Great Ocean Road at Torquay.

By car

Torquay, which marks the official start of the Great Ocean Road, is around 100 kilometres from Melbourne by road.

Head west along the West Gate Freeway (M1), across the West Gate Bridge, and then this road becomes the Princes Freeway (M1) as it skirts around Werribee and the large city of Geelong.

Take the Anglesea Road (C134) exit off the freeway and follow this road for around 14 kilometres until you reach the Great Ocean Road (B100). Turn left if you want to head into Torquay (5 kilometres away) or turn right to skip Torquay and head along the rest of the Great Ocean Road towards Anglesea.

Driving a vehicle is one of the best ways to see the Great Ocean Road. You can stop at various towns you pass through, view the many lookouts on the side of the road, and take a few popular detours along the way, such as the Cape Otway Lighthouse, the Otway Fly tree top walk and a number of waterfalls.

It is quite common to break the journey along the Great Ocean Road into several days, so as to get the most out of this scenic driving adventure. You can stay overnight at popular locations including Lorne, Apollo Bay and Port Campbell.

Driving directions from Melbourne to the start of the Great Ocean Road

 

If you don’t have your own car, consider hiring a vehicle to get the most out of your Great Ocean Road visit.

Car hire - search for the best rates

 

By public transport

Getting to the Great Ocean Road by public transport involves a train journey followed by a bus trip.

Catch a V/Line train from Southern Cross Station in Melbourne to Geelong. This journey will take approximately one hour. See the train timetable to Geelong.

From Geelong Station, there are a number of bus services you can catch, depending on exactly where on the Great Ocean Road you want to travel to.  From Geelong to Torquay, it will take approximately 40 minutes.

  • McHarry’s No.50 bus – Geelong to Torquay and Jan Juc
  • McHarry’s No.51 bus – Geelong to Torquay and Jan Juc
  • McHarry’s Apollo Bay bus – Geelong to Torquay, Anglesea, Aireys Inlet, Lorne, Wye River and Apollo Bay
  • V/Line Warrnambool bus – Geelong to Torquay, Anglesea, Aireys Inlet, Lorne, Wye River, Apollo Bay, Lavers Hill, Port Campbell and Warrnambool.

Join a tour

A number of guided tours of the Great Ocean Road depart from Melbourne. Sit back and relax and you are driven to the start of the Great Ocean Road and then along this scenic iconic route, stopping off at a number of popular attractions along the way.

The entire trip from Melbourne and back, usually going as far as the  12 Apostles, Loch Ard Gorge or Port Campbell, can be covered over one long day.

As well as day tours to the Great Ocean Road, a number of organised activities are available, including surf lessons, sky diving, kayaking, snorkelling and scenic helicopter flights.

Great Ocean Road tours & activities

Coming from Melbourne Airport?

If you are coming to Melbourne by air, see our guide to transport between Melbourne Airport and the city centre.  Once in Melbourne’s city centre, choose from the above options to get to the Great Ocean Road.

How to get to The Grampians from Melbourne

Grampians National Park
The Pinnacle Lookout

The Grampians is one of Victoria’s most popular natural attractions. Located north-west of Melbourne, it encompasses a huge national park which surrounds a series of mountain ranges. Visitors can explore many walking tracks including the Grampians Peak Trail, enjoy panoramic views from lookouts, and visit several lakes and waterfalls. It is a great place to encounter Australian wildlife, native wildflowers and discover historic Aboriginal sites.

At the heart of The Grampians is the tourist village of Halls Gap. Visitors will find shopping facilities, restaurants and a large concentration of accommodation options including caravan parks, holiday units, cottages and motels.

The distance, in a direct straight line, from Melbourne to Halls Gap is about 230 kilometres. There are a number of ways to get to The Grampians from Melbourne.

By car

The journey from Melbourne’s CBD to Halls Gap is just over 250 kilometres.

Head west along the West Gate Freeway (M1), across the West Gate Bridge, and take the Western Ring Road (M80) exit which is about 6 kilometres after the bridge. After travelling on the Western Ring Road for 4 kilometres, take the Western Freeway (M8) exit. Keep following this freeway which will skirt around Bacchus Marsh and the city of Ballarat. The Western Freeway will become the Western Highway (A8), and the first town you will pass through the centre of will be Beaufort. Drive a further 44 kilometres until you reach the larger town of Ararat. Turn off the highway and onto Ararat – Halls Gap Road (C222), following this road to a T-junction just on the northern outskirts of Halls Gap. Turn left into Grampians Road (C216) and after a few short minutes, you will arrive within the centre of Halls Gap.

The entire journey will usually take around 2 hours and 45 minutes if you drive continuously. However it is recommended that you do not drive for more than 2 hours straight without taking a break.

Driving directions from Melbourne to The Grampians

By public transport

Getting to Halls Gap from Melbourne using public transport requires the use of both train and bus services, however there are a couple of main options. Which one you choose may depend on how the timetables fit in with your personal travel plans.

Option 1 – one train journey and two bus journeys

Catch a V/Line train from Melbourne’s Southern Cross Station to Ballarat Station. This will take about 90 minutes, however some peak express services will complete the journey in a quicker time.

Once in Ballarat, switch to a V/Line bus which goes to Ararat and Stawell. This section of the journey will take about 90 minutes.

From Stawell, catch the Halls Gap bus which will have you arrive in the Halls Gap town centre within about 35 minutes.

See the V/Line timetable which covers this entire travel option.

Option 2 – one train journey and one bus journey

Catch a V/Line train from Melbourne’s Southern Cross Station to Ararat Station. This will take between 2 hours and 10 minutes and 2 hours and 30 minutes depending on the time of day. See the timetable for the train to Ararat.

Once you arrive in Ararat, catch the Warrnambool bus and get off 50 minutes later at Halls Gap.  See the timetable for the bus to Halls Gap.

Join a tour

Take the easy option when heading to The Grampians and join one of the several guided day tours that depart from Melbourne. You won’t have to worry about how to get there or finding your way around when you arrive.  You will also have an experienced guide that will be able to transport you directly to the many attractions of The Grampians, with some interesting stops along the way.

Day tours of The Grampians can include guided walks to waterfalls, lakes and scenic lookouts. Experience close encounters with native wildlife, discover a rich variety of plant life and learn about the history and Aboriginal culture of the area.

Small group Grampians day tour from Melbourne

 

Full day Grampians tour from Melbourne

Coming from Melbourne Airport?

If you are coming to Melbourne by air, see our guide to transport between Melbourne Airport and the city centre.  Once in Melbourne’s city centre, choose from the above options to get to The Grampians.

Caravans and motorhomes in Victoria

CaravansSome travellers seek holidays where they can truly charter their own destiny and who want to take their accommodation with them as they travel around Victoria. Caravans, campervans and motorhomes are an ideal option for this purpose.

Caravans

A caravan is a mobile home on a trailer, towed behind a vehicle. It is equipped with bedding and cooking facilities and many also feature a shower and toilet.

When travelling in Victoria with a caravan, you can stay overnight at designated camping areas with basic facilities, or pull into one of the state’s hundreds of caravan or tourist parks. These parks vary widely in their facilities, but all provide, as a bare minimum, electric power connections, communal cooking and bathroom facilities. Some provide ensuite sites where your van is parked beside a private bathroom reserved for your use only.

Many caravan parks have developed into fully-appointed resorts set within landscaped grounds that also offer luxury cabin accommodation, a huge range of family-friendly recreational facilities and onsite activities for guests.

Locate caravan parks in Victoria by going to accommodation search and selecting caravan park in the preferred accommodation style box.

Campervans and motorhomes

Campervans and motorhomes are vehicles which provide transport and accommodation all in one.

A motorhome is typically built on a truck or bus chassis and provides fully self-contained and reasonably spacious accommodation including kitchen and bathroom facilities. A campervan is generally a smaller vehicle in the style of a van, a bit tighter on space, which is fitted out with basic living facilities.

Motorhome and campervan rentals range from budget to luxury and can sleep between 2 and 6 people. Motorhomes usually do not require anchor to a caravan park-type facility because they are fully self-contained, whereas some of the smaller campervans are more suited to the traveller who expects to end each day in a caravan or camping ground spot where they will find toilet and shower amenities that are not contained within their campervan sleeper.

Some campervan and motorhome hire companies which have depots in Victoria are:

If you’re thinking about planning a campervan holiday, have a read of 101 Campervan Tips.

Accommodation in Victoria for disabled or mobility impaired travellers

DisabledIf you or your family have mobility impairments, there are a number of accommodation options throughout Victoria that may suit your needs.

Hotels and motels are often able to cater for disabled and wheelchair-bound visitors thanks to their modern layout, lifts and the use of ramps instead of stairs.  A growing number of larger hotels, motels and apartments will have certain rooms designed to accommodate those who may need extra space or aids.

One of the biggest issues for those seeking suitable accommodation is the huge variability in what is classified as “disabled access”, “wheelchair accessible”, or other similar terms. As such, it is always advisable to contact these establishments prior to making a booking to ensure that the facilities are suitable for your level of mobility and requirements.

When enquiring about room suitability, you may want to ask about:

  • Doorway widths – both internal and external
  • How easy doors are to open
  • The height of door handles and light switches
  • The height of the bed – some may be too high
  • Whether there is enough space on the side of the bed to permit you to easily get into it
  • Easy to reach hanging space in closets
  • Hand rails in the bathroom
  • Shower chairs and raised toilet seats

As well as enquiring about the suitability of the room you plan to stay in, you may also need to ask further questions about the property as a whole.  For example:

  • Is there suitable parking close by or designated disabled parking spots in a convenient location?
  • Can you access the reception area easily?
  • Are there automatic opening doors at the entrance and throughout the property?  This may be an issue for those who are travelling alone and don’t have someone on hand to help them with heavy or large doors.
  • Is there elevator access to all public areas in multi-storey properties?  You may be able to easily get to your room, but you may not be able to easily get to some of the facilities if access is poor.

To find accommodation in Victoria which offers facilities for those with disabilities, go to accommodation search page on the Travel Victoria website and in the facilities section select disabled access along with other requirements you may have. This will list all establishments which can cater, to some extent, for guests with mobility impairments.  Don’t forget that when enquiring or booking your accommodation, it is important to make mention of your specific access requirements to ensure the establishment is able to meet your needs.

 

Car hire in Melbourne and Victoria

Car hireVictoria is a diverse state with a multitude of attractions in both Melbourne and the state’s regional areas. When it comes to getting around, public transport isn’t always able to take you everywhere, and it may not always be convenient.  So if you come to Victoria without your own vehicle, hiring a car is a good option to get the most out of your visit.


Arriving by air

Most people coming to Victoria by air will land at Melbourne Airport which is located around 20 kilometres north-west of the city. This is Victoria’s only international airport and a major hub for domestic flights.

The major international hire car companies of Avis, Budget, Europcar, Hertz and Thrifty all have booking desks inside the airport terminal buildings, along with Australia’s own Redspot.

Compare car hire at Melbourne Airport

 

Car hire depots are also located at several smaller regional airports in Victoria:


Arriving by boat

If you are coming to Melbourne by sea, you will dock at Station Pier in Port Melbourne. Most arrivals will be aboard the Spirit of Tasmania which is a passenger and car ferry that runs services to and from Tasmania on almost every day of the year and sometimes twice a day during peak season.

While there are no car hire depots located at Port Melbourne, cars can be hired from depots nearby which are easily reached either by taxi or public transport.

Car hire near Port Melbourne

 


Arriving by train

There are two interstate passenger train lines that enter Victoria and extend to Melbourne. The Overland service runs between Adelaide and Melbourne while the XPT runs between Sydney and Melbourne. All these trains terminate at Southern Cross Station in Melbourne.

Car hire depots for Avis, Budget and Europcar are located at Southern Cross Station, while depots for other car hire companies are located very close by, either walking distance or a short tram or taxi ride away.

Car hire near Southern Cross Station

 


Getting the best deal

Most people don’t have too much loyalty to car hire brands, so whoever offers the best deal which matches the renter’s requirements will usually get the deal.

To save individually comparing rates between all the major car hire companies in Melbourne and Victoria, simply use the comparison tool below. Using your specified pick-up location and hire dates, it will display car hire availability from all the major providers.

Compare all car hire in Victoria

 


Should you pick up a hire car from the airport or elsewhere?

For those arriving by air, obviously the most convenient option is to pick up your hire vehicle at the airport. Car hire check-in desks are located within the terminal building, and the car you book is waiting for you at one of the closest car parks, usually just a few steps away.

Airports are regarded by most car hire companies as premium locations, so you will end up paying extra for the convenience of picking up your vehicle there.  If you want to save a bit of money, compare the cost of picking up your hire vehicle at the airport with a location that is either convenient to where you are staying or easily accessible by public transport.  Particularly for long rental periods, the savings can be quite substantial, even when you factor in the cost of transport between the airport to the depot.


Will others be driving your hire vehicle?

It is important to consider whether people other than yourself will be driving the rental vehicle. This may be relevant if you are planning a trip away with your partner, family, friends or business associates.

Some hire car companies allow you to nominate additional drivers at no cost, while others will charge extra fees.

Hire car company Fees for additional drivers Exemptions from fees
Avis None
Budget None.
Europcar $5.75 for each additional driver, capped at $28.75 for the whole rental period.
Hertz $5.50 for each additional driver, capped at $27.50 for the whole rental period. Immediate family members, employers or employees.
Redspot $5.50 for each additional driver, capped at $33.00 for the whole rental period. If the rate level you have selected is the “top dog” all inclusive rate.
Thrifty $5.50 for each additional driver, capped at $27.50 for the whole rental period. Corporate club and auto club members hiring vehicles pay no additional driver fees.

What sort of insurance should you take?

All cars you hire are insured against accidents. They also include roadside assistance for use in emergencies.

If your vehicle is involved in an accident, you will need to pay an insurance excess fee, which can be several thousands of dollars depending on the type of vehicle and if it was a single vehicle accident.

As well as accidents, any damage you cause to the vehicle that requires repairs, such as windscreen or tyre replacement, will also need to be paid for.

Hire car companies usually offer add-ons whereby you can pay an extra daily charge to reduce or completely eliminate the cost you would normally occur in the case of an accident or vehicle damage. These add-ons can inflate the daily hire charge by up to 50%, so it is important to consider some economical options if you wish to avoid paying out large sums of money in the event of an accident or damage to the vehicle.

If you only have the vehicle for a day or two, the simplest and cheapest way may simply be to accept the hire car company’s offer of paying more to eliminate excess charges.

If you are hiring a vehicle for more than a couple of days, a cheaper option is to take out independent travel insurance.  Most general travel insurance plans include hire car excess charges, although you will need to verify they will cover the full amount as they usually set a limit. In fact, you may already have travel insurance arranged for your trip, so why not take advantage of all its features, including coverage for hire car excess fees.


How to pay for toll roads

In Melbourne there are several toll roads which you may use during your travels. Fortunately you shouldn’t have to worry about paying those tolls as vehicles hired through most hire car companies are registered with toll road operators.  This ensures you will be automatically billed for toll road usage.  This billing process will differ between hire care companies.

For Avis, Budget, Europcar and Thrifty, as well as incurring the actual cost of using a toll road, there is also a $3.30 daily service fee which is charged only on the days you use a toll road.

Redspot simply add a $1.43 fee to every toll charge you accumulate.  For a single trip in a day this is good value, but it can end up getting expensive if you make multiple toll road trips within a day. Note that when booking a vehicle, if you select the “top dog” all inclusive rate, then all toll road usage is covered an no additional cost.

Hertz operate quite differently and offer unlimited toll road usage with a fixed daily charge of $14.30 which applies to every day of rental period whether you use toll roads or not.  Alternatively, you can opt for an arrangement whereby you pay an upfront $16.50 administration fee and then you are automatically billed only for usage. This is recommended for longer term hiring or when you don’t expect to use toll roads every day.


Fuel options

When picking up the vehicle, it will have a full tank of fuel. Three options are usually available when returning the vehicle.

  1. Pay for a whole tank of fuel. This mean the hire car company assumes you will return the vehicle with an empty tank, so you will be charged for a full refueling, no matter how much is left. In reality, it is impossible to return a vehicle with not one drop of fuel left in it, so this can be an expensive option, particularly if you have a significant amount of fuel left in the vehicle, although usually the cost charged for a whole tank of petrol will be very competitive.
  2. Pay a “fill up” charge.  You can return the vehicle with any amount of fuel left in the tank, and you will only be charged to fill it up. While this may seem an attractive option, the cost per litre and fill up charge will be much more than what it would cost for you to buy fuel yourself.
  3. Return the vehicle with a full tank.  This is the cheapest option if you have the time, and if a petrol station is located not too far away from the car hire depot. That way you only pay for exactly the quantity of fuel you use.

Are you guaranteed to get the car you booked?

When looking at types of cars offered by the rental companies, they will tend to classify cars by their size, style, number of seats and luggage capacity by using terms such as “compact”, “intermediate”, “standard” or “full size”.  They usually provide an illustration of an example car that fits that size.

It is important to note the clause that says “or similar”. Car hire depots usually have various models within each category, so depending on availability, you can’t be guaranteed to get exactly the model advertised.  If you do have a specific preference for a model or a vehicle colour, make the hire car company aware of that at the time of booking and they may be able to arrange it when you pick it up.

There are some vehicle models which you can be guaranteed to get when booking, but these are usually if you hire prestige or sports vehicles.

The Wotif grid is back

Wotif was established during 2000 in Australia as an online hotel booking service. It was bought by United States travel giant Expedia during late 2014.

Up until recently, what set Wotif apart from other online booking and comparison service was its grid or matrix of hotel prices and availability.  Many other competing services required a traveller to provide their exact check-in date and duration of stay before they were presented with a matching list of hotel availability options.  In striking contrast, Wotif simply presented an availability and pricing grid across all hotels so travellers could see at a glance their options. This particularly suited people who were flexible with their travel arrangements or who were hunting for the best deal.  See the example below.

Wotif availability grid

At the time, Wotif’s executive general manager underlined the difference between Wotif and other online booking services by these quotes in regards to its availability and pricing grid / matrix:

  • “It’s one of those things we know has a big fan base…and continues to provide an easy way to compare rates for price sensitive travellers who have flexibility about when they want to travel.”
  • “The grid layout is now also somewhat unique. On most sites, customers would have a hard time knowing if the next or previous day or week offered a better deal.”

In early 2015, Wotif changed their availability display style to match the theme of Expedia which meant travellers needed to specify specific dates and stay durations before they could search for availability. This caused the following issues:

  • If someone was wanting to find availability or the best rates for a weekend stay, but had flexibility about which weekend, it would require them to conduct a separate search for each weekend and write each one down to compare. With the Wotif availability grid, a traveller could see instantly the availability across a range of hotels, and simply flick the calendar forward to get to the next weekend
  • Someone with flexibility in regards to the duration of their stay would now need to conduct separate searches with different durations to see the availability and tariffs.  Whereas with Wotif’s former matrix, travellers could see, at a glance, whether they could change the length of their stay and which hotels could accommodate them.

Many people have some degree of flexibility when it comes to their travel plans, particularly if it is for leisure purposes, so having to go through a time consuming process of trying various combinations of check-in dates and stay durations can seem very cumbersome with Wotif’s new Expedia interface than simply casting one’s eye over a availability grid which covers a range of accommodation properties, dates and prices.

Like many others, we here at Travel Victoria missed the Wotif availability grid.  So we did something about it!

As an official Wotif affiliate partner, we had the opportunity to request access to the Wotif API through Expedia, which would allow us to extract availability and pricing from their live database without having to go through the web interface.  This meant we could build a customised table of availability across a range of hotels. Thus we were able to recreate a simplified version of the much loved Wotif matrix, as shown below for our St Kilda accommodation list:

St Kilda accommodation

We do have a few limitations:

  1. It is not a real-time availability matrix as it actually takes a few hours to build up the matrix of availability for the several hundred hotels in Victoria we have chosen to feature in the grid.  At the moment, it is automatically updated once a day, with this process concluding in the late afternoon.
  2. It only covers 3 months. People looking for accommodation more than 3 months into the future will still need to do a traditional (and cumbersome) search by date.
  3. It only shows availability for stays which have a minimum duration of 3 nights or less, as testing for longer minimum stays would slow down the database update significantly.
  4. It only shows the base or minimum rate for the cheapest room.  To get the rates for all room types and numbers of guests, people will still need to go through the regular Expedia style interface.  Wotif actually had a second level grid which would open up if you restricted your search to a specific hotel, thus showing all room types and rates.

So the Wotif grid is back, alive and well, although in a much simpler form,  now on the Travel Victoria website!

The 12 Days of Christmas in Victoria

With Christmas just around the corner, here is our version of the timeless carol “The Twelve Days of Christmas“.

On the 12th day of Christmas, Victoria gave to me…

…12 famous apostles

12 Apostles
12 Apostles, Great Ocean Road

The 12 Apostles are Victoria’s most famous coastal attraction consisting of towering limestone stacks near Port Campbell on the Great Ocean Road. However, they are the 12 Apostles in name only.  Just 8 remain standing today due to relentless wind and ocean erosion over the years.

…11 public holidays

Horse racing
Racing at the Melbourne Cup

There are 11 days of celebration in Victoria that are declared non-working days. Unique to Victoria is a public holiday to mark the running of Australia’s richest horse race, the Melbourne Cup, which is held on the first Tuesday of November. Due to the good weather that time of year, some people also take the Monday off work (sometimes illegitimately!) and turn the Melbourne Cup holiday into a mega 4 day long weekend.

…10 winter snowfields

Snowfields
Mt Buller snowfields

Victoria has 10 designated snowfields, all located in the east and north-east. They include large commercial resorts such as Falls Creek, Mount Buller, Mount Hotham and Mount Baw Baw. For sightseeing snow and tobogganing that is very close to Melbourne, head to Mount Donna Buang, just over 90 kilometres east of Melbourne via Warburton.

…9 big things

Murray cod
The giant Murray cod at Swan Hill

Australia is home to many novelty structures that are vastly over-sized monuments to something of local significance. 9 of Victoria’s most iconic big things include a cigar, earthworm, koala, fish, a statute of Ned Kelly, pheasant, potatoes with forks, wine bottle and wool bales.

…8 diverse islands

A number of Victoria’s islands are uninhabited or inaccessible, however there are 8 islands which the general public are permitted access to and can reach fairly easily. The most visited is Phillip Island – within easy reach of Melbourne and internationally recognised for its penguin parade and grand prix. Also in Western Port is the heritage farm of Churchill Island and French Island with its significant koala population. Raymond Island, accessible by car ferry from Paynesville, is renowned for its native wildlife, while Griffiths Island at Port Fairy is linked by a pedestrian causeway to the mainland and is home to a large colony of mutton birds. Snake Island is Victoria’s largest sand island, located off the coast of Port Welshpool, noted for great fishing on its beaches. Gabo Island, located off the coast of Mallacoota, is home to large colonies of sea birds and features a pink granite lighthouse. And the final island is Swan Island, located off the coast of Queenscliff. Visitors are welcome to play at the local golf course which boasts being an all weather course given it resides on an island made up of drifting sand.

…7 historic paddlesteamers

Emmylou paddlesteamer
P.S. Emmylou, Port of Echuca

Echuca, once Australia’s busiest inland port, is home to 7 paddlesteamers that operate from the historic Port of Echuca precinct on the Murray River. Enjoy a short day cruise, a dining experience, special occasion or overnight cruise on one of the paddlesteamers Adelaide, Alexander Arbuthnot, Canberra, Emmylou, Hero, Pevensey or Pride Of The Murray. The paddlsteamer Adelaide is the oldest wooden-hull paddlesteamer that is still operating anywhere in the world.

…6 wine zones

Wineries
Montalto Vineyard, Red Hill

Victorians love their wine, and the state is divided up into 6 flourishing cool and warm climate wine zones. There are hundreds of wineries ranging from boutique family-owned establishments to large scale operations that export world-wide. Many wineries provide a complete destination experience with their own cellar doors, sales of local produce, restaurants and beautiful gardens.

…5 enthralling zoos

Lion
Lion, Melbourne Zoo

Zoos Victoria manages 3 zoos in Melbourne and its surroundings – Melbourne Zoo,  Werribee Open Range Zoo and Healesville Sanctuary. There are two other zoos in Victoria which are well worth visiting. The Halls Gap Zoo, located in the scenic Grampians between Halls Gap and Pomonal, is home to over 160 species of animals, with a strong emphasis on native fauna. The Mansfield Zoo, located within picturesque parkland to the south of Mansfield, with particular emphasis on allowing visitors to feed many of the animals.

…4 mineral springs

Mineral spring
Sulphur spring, Mineral Springs Reserve

Victoria’s Macedon Ranges are home to Australia’s largest concentration of natural mineral springs, and one of the best places to see this is at Hepburn Springs. Head to the Mineral Springs Reserve where you will find the iconic Hepburn Bathhouse health complex, parkland and bush tracks. There are 4 mineral springs within the park that you can sample and fill up at – Locarno, Soda, Sulphur and Wyuna.

…3 gold mines

Gold mine
Central Deborah Gold Mine, Bendigo

Victoria’s gold rush period of the 1850s has left the state with a lasting legacy of history, wealth and prosperity. Get a taste for what life was like for miners in those days, as they toiled for riches without the equipment and technology of today, by visiting 3 of Victoria’s gold mines that are open for public underground tours. Descend 61 metres below the surface and walk in the foot steps of past miners at Central Deborah Gold Mine in Bendigo. Visit Sovereign Hill at Ballarat and take a fully guided tour in a mine tram for a unique themed underground experience. Or head to the quaint village of Walhalla, where time has stood still, and take a guided tour of the original workings of the Long Tunnel Extended Gold Mine.

…2 folklore legends

Ned Kelly
Ned Kelly statue, Glenrowan

There are 2 Australian folklore legends which Victoria is synonymous with. The Man from Snowy River, portrayed in Banjo Paterson’s poem, was written in 1890 and is believed to have been inspired by Corryong stockman Jack Riley. Ned Kelly, the infamous, daring and charismatic bushranger, who spent years defying the law, was eventually captured in the small town of Glenrowan where a large monument dedicated to him stands there today.

…and 1 award-winning city

Melbourne
Tram at Flinders Street Station, Melbourne

Melbourne was named by the Economist Intelligence Unit as the world’s most liveable city in 2014, scoring very well in areas of health, education, safety, stability and infrastructure. Visit Melbourne today and experience its multicultural heritage, great shopping, abundance of parks and iconic sporting events.