Category Archives: Travel

End of freeway destinations from Melbourne

Map of Victoria
Driving from Melbourne to the end of its freeways in regional Victoria

If you’re in Melbourne, you may decide that for a hassle-free and non-stop drive into regional Victoria for a day out or extended stay, you’d like to travel to the end of one of the city’s several freeways.  Let’s see where you can go.


M1 – MONASH FREEWAY / PRINCES FREEWAYto YARRAGON

Follow the Monash Freeway through Melbourne’s south-eastern suburbs, then eastwards from Berwick towards Gippsland where it changes its name to the Princes Freeway.  Exercise caution when driving along the section between Nar Nar Goon and Longwarry North – the freeway drops to a lower standard and includes several busy level road crossings, but you won’t have to stop at those.  Eastwards from Longwarry North, the freeway returns to a high standard again, and the speed limit rises to 110 km/h.

If you’re hungry along the way or need fuel, service centres with direct access to both sides of the freeway are located at Officer and Longwarry North.

Yarragon
Yarragon – a tourist village located 116 kilometres from Melbourne

The freeway ends at the charming town of Yarragon where you’ll stop at your first set of traffic lights since leaving Melbourne. This tourist village features an attractive strip of shops which overlook an extensive garden with manicured lawns, colourful flowers, a rotunda and lots of seating. Browse through antique and craft shops, drop into the Town & Country Gallery, or treat yourself to some refreshments or a meal at the local hotel or one of Yarragon’s cafes or restaurants. Yarragon is set against the backdrop of the Strzelecki Ranges, so you can take a scenic drive southwards from the town up into the hills.


M11 – PENINSULA LINK / MORNINGTON PENINSULA FREEWAYto ROSEBUD

Depending where you are in Melbourne, you can access Peninsula Link and the Mornington Peninsula Freeway by starting off on either the Monash or Eastern Freeways, then using EastLink (a toll road) to reach the start of Peninsula Link at Seaford.

The high-standard Peninsula Link and Mornington Peninsula Freeway heads inland through the rolling countryside of the Mornington Peninsula, squeezes between the towering peak of Arthurs Seat and the beach-side suburb of Dromana, then arrives at the Jetty Road roundabout in the residential area of Rosebud.  Head northwards along Jetty Road for just over one kilometre and you’ll reach the commercial centre of Rosebud, which is separated from the beach by a bushy foreshore.

Rosebud
The beachside town of Rosebud – 73 kilometres from Melbourne

Rosebud is one of the largest centres on the Mornington Peninsula, with an extensive array of shops fronting Point Nepean Road, the Rosebud Plaza Shopping Centre and several major supermarkets. One of Rosebud’s interesting features is the extensive foreshore reserve which acts as a thick buffer along the beach. This reserve is home to picnic areas, community facilities and designated camping areas in some of the bushy sections. Rosebud is excellent for swimming with the calm and shallow waters of the bay making it ideal for children and families. For surfers, the ocean beaches fronting Bass Strait on the other side of the Mornington Peninsula, such as Gunnamatta and St Andrews, are a short drive away.


M1 – WEST GATE FREEWAY / PRINCES FREEWAYto GEELONG

Head westwards along the West Gate Freeway, crossing the iconic West Gate Bridge which spans the Yarra River and surrounding industrial areas.  The road then becomes known as the Princes Freeway as it heads south-west towards Geelong.

Service centres are located on both sides of the freeway between Little River and Avalon Airport, providing a convenient location for topping up with fuel or grabbing a coffee to keep you going.

The Princes Freeway skirts around the edge of Geelong’s sprawling suburbs and reverts to standard highway conditions in Geelong’s outer south-western suburb of Waurn Ponds, with several freeway exits providing access to Victoria’s second largest city.

Geelong
Geelong – the city on the bay, 75 kilometres from Melbourne

The city centre of Geelong fronts the waters of Corio Bay where there is an attractive waterfront precinct, a sandy beach, safe swimming enclosure and plenty of boating activity. Attractions galore can be found within Geelong including the National Wool Museum, Geelong Performing Arts Centre, several galleries, botanic gardens and the beautiful parkland along the Barwon River. Shopaholics will be right at home in Geelong, with its extensive collection of retail stores on the streets of the city centre, plus a selection of undercover shopping centres. Further afield, Geelong is the gateway to the emerging Bellarine Peninsula and of course Victoria’s internationally famous coastal drive, the Great Ocean Road.


M8 – WESTERN FREEWAYto BALLARAT

Access to the start of the Western Freeway is via the West Gate Freeway (M1) and/or the Western Ring Road (M80).  The high-standard roadway heads through Melbourne’s western suburbs on its journey westwards. Take care when driving on the section between Rockbank and Melton as there are several local roads which have direct level crossing junctions with the freeway. You’ll travel through the scenic valleys and farmland surrounding Bacchus Marsh, then on the eastern outskirts of Ballarat, the freeway standard drops again at Warrenheip with several local road crossings near a group of service stations.

The Western Freeway skirts around to the north of Ballarat, and there are several freeway exists which lead into the city centre and suburbs. The freeway ends to the west of Ballarat and becomes the Western Highway.

Ballarat
Ballarat, the city of gold, 113 kilometres from Melbourne

Ballarat is a city of grand architecture and many attractions due to its rich gold mining heritage back in those “gold rush” days of the 1850s. Re-live those days by visiting Sovereign Hill – a recreated gold township with activities for everyone of all ages. Visit the Museum of Australian Democracy at Eureka which commemorates the miners’ rebellion which is regarded as the birth of democracy is Australia. Other attractions include the Ballarat Aviation Museum, Bird World, the Ballarat Wildlife Park, Kryal Castle and Her Majesty’s – one of Australia’s historic theatres. There’s plenty of shopping in Ballarat, and if you want some time out, head to the beautiful botanic gardens and the parkland which surrounds Lake Wendouree.


M79 – CALDER FREEWAYto BENDIGO

The Calder Freeway commences in Melbourne’s northern suburb of Essendon, and drivers can enter it either via the CityLink section of the Tullamarine Freeway (a toll road) or the Western Ring Road (M80).  As the freeway reaches Melbourne’s outskirts, take care around the Calder Park area as there are several level road crossings which intersect the freeway.

The Calder Freeway heads north-west from Melbourne and crosses the Great Dividing Range at Macedon.  It doesn’t quite make it to Bendigo, dropping down to highway standard north of Harcourt, however it’s still a non-stop journey along the Calder Highway through the Greater Bendigo National Park and to Bendigo’s far southern suburb of Kangaroo Flat where you’ll stop at your first traffic light since Melbourne.

Bendigo
Bendigo, the jewel in Victoria’s crown – 148 kilometres from Melbourne

Bendigo, like Ballarat, is a city of grand architecture and wealth thanks to its rich gold mining history.  Bendigo and its suburbs are ringed on most sides by bushland, creating the impression of a city within a forest.  Within this city you can go underground into a real mine at the Central Deborah Gold Mine, take a trip through the city on its famous “talking tram”, get hands-on at the Discovery & Technology Centre and connect with the heritage of Bendigo’s Chinese people at the Golden Dragon Museum. Beautiful gardens are a feature of Bendigo and highlights including Rosalind Park with its lookout tower, Lake Weeroona and the White Hills Botanical Gardens.


M39 – GOULBURN VALLEY FREEWAYto SHEPPARTON

The Goulburn Valley Freeway starts 100 kilometres north of Melbourne, just outside of Seymour. Access from Melbourne is via the CityLink section of the Tullamarine Freeway (a toll road) and/or the Western Ring Road (M80), then head north along the Hume Freeway (M31) until you reach the exit to the Goulburn Valley Freeway.

The Goulburn Valley Freeway continues its journey northwards, roughly following the Goulburn River and drops down to highway standard on the southern outskirts of Shepparton as it makes its way into the city centre.

Shepparton
Shepparton, in the heart of Victoria’s prime fruit-growing district – 176 kilometres from Melbourne.

Shepparton is located within one of Victoria’s richest fruit-growing districts and is home to SPC Ardmona which has a factory direct sales outlet which is open to the public.  Shepparton has a strong cultural background and the city is home to museums, galleries and festivals.  There’s an extensive shopping precinct in Shepparton with its heart being the Maude Street Mall. If you’ve got kids, take them to Kids Town – one of Australia’s best community playgrounds. Natural attractions in Shepparton include Victoria Park Lake, on the highway just south of the city centre, the Goulburn River and the reserves and forests which line this iconic waterway.


What about the Hume Freeway (M31), you may ask? This freeway-standard roadway continues non-stop from Melbourne’s northern suburbs and across the Murray River into the neighbouring state of New South Wales, thus there is no end point for this freeway in Victoria. When the Holbrook bypass opens later in 2013, you’ll be able to drive from Melbourne to Sydney without stopping, although you should stop regularly for rest breaks of course.

Off the beaten path in Melbourne & Victoria

Melbourne and Victoria offer a wondrous number of destinations ripe for exploration and enjoyment. While the city of Melbourne holds many different popular attractions, research the possibilities of going off the beaten path. Journey through the countryside and visit unique locations and experience once-in-a lifetime adventures.

THE GREAT OCEAN ROAD

Great Ocean Road
The 12 Apostles rock formation on the stunning Great Ocean Road

Considered one of the most scenic areas in southern Australia, the Great Ocean Road lies south-west of Melbourne along the coast. Driving on the road, visitors see an array of unusual rock formations jutting out of the shoreline or out of the water. One of those not be missed are the famous Twelve Apostles – although due to wave erosion, there are only 8 of these limestone stacks left standing. The area has sandy beaches and camp sites where holiday makers enjoy canoeing and kayaking or just exploring and photographing the landscape. Venture to the Great Otway National Park and hike through gorges while witnessing cascading waterfalls and encounter a series of caves. The park also serves as home to a myriad of wildlife including kangaroos and koalas.

Great Ocean Road tours & activities

HANGING ROCK

Hanging Rock
The view from Morgan’s Lookout near the summit of Hanging Rock

The Hanging Rock Recreation Reserve lies in the middle of the Macedon Ranges, east of Woodend. This unique rock formation rises 718 meters above sea level and features a massive boulder suspended between other massive structures. A pathway leads into the expansive cavern beneath the hanging rock. The location remains a favourite destination for climbing and gaining a bird’s eye view over the landscape. The park also has a forest, creek and picnic grounds along with an interpretation centre and cafe. While hiking around the park, guests often see eagles, koalas and kookaburras along with possums and wallabies. The local Hanging Rock Winery welcomes visitors to sample a number of locally produced wines while enjoying the view of the Macedon Ranges and lush green rolling hills.

HEALESVILLE SANCTUARY

Koala
A koala at the Healesville Sanctuary

Unlike conventional zoos, the Healesville Sanctuary strives to defeat species extinction through a number of breeding programs. Set in a rural bush setting on the outskirts of Healesville, the sanctuary features animals native to Australia that range from cassowaries to Tasmanian Devils. The park offers various live demonstrations and feedings throughout the day to the delight of guests. Watch the abilities of the birds of prey or cuddle a koala. The facility hospital also provides an opportunity for viewing the newest park residents.

TRAVELLING THROUGH VICTORIA

Rather than flying to Melbourne or another location in Victoria, staying in a hotel and relying on public transport or tours for seeing the sights, consider creating a holiday while driving a campervan. Having a personal vehicle provides greater freedom to leisurely come and go wherever desired. Enjoy the great outdoors and spectacular scenery while staying in and exploring the many national parks around the area. Save money and calories while indulging in a home-made BBQ in the fireplaces provided at the camp sites. Caravanning also offers privacy. Sleep in without awakening from the noise created by other hotel guests. Conversely, when staying in rural locations, families or groups of friends need not worry about disturbing other guests. Take a road adventure in a caravan and make lasting memories.

Campervan hire is a great way to explore Melbourne and Victoria. When thinking of campervan hire in Melbourne and Victoria, also take into consideration the state has quality camping parks with convenient facilities where people can rent a space for the night.

Campervan
Create the ideal holiday experience in Victoria by hiring a campervan

Travelling with your dog when on holidays

On holiday with your dog
Why not share your holiday with your dog instead of leaving them at home?

In the past, dog owners who wanted to go on holidays had little choice but to either leave their pet at home with someone, take their dog to a boarding kennel, or leave it at a friend’s house.

But did you know that many dogs enjoy holidays too, sometimes even more than their owners? So why not take your pet with you?

These days, accommodation providers have become very sensitive to the needs of those who wish to bring their pet with them.  Some have provided designated rooms or cottages where owners can stay inside with their dog, while others have ensured that their property is securely fenced areas to safely contain pets. Some accommodation managers may not let your pet come inside, but they may provide a kennel on the verandah for your pet to sleep in.

If you’re travelling within Victoria with your dog and are looking for accommodation, take a look at the Dogs On Holidays website. You will find:

What is the most dog-friendly area of Victoria? Based on the number of accommodation listings on the Dogs On Holidays website, that region is Gippsland. Visitors to Gippsland simply love the pristine beaches – some are so secluded, you literally have them all to yourself. Then there’s the wide open spaces, mountains, forests and rivers – all things that most dogs will love when holidaying with their owners. That’s why there’s plenty of dog-friendly accommodation for both you and your pet when staying in Gippsland.

In which town or city in Victoria can you find the highest concentration of dog-friendly places to stay? Tallying up the accommodation listings on the Dogs On Holidays website reveals that Rye, on the Mornington Peninsula, is where you and your dog will be spoilt for choice. At Rye, there are beaches where dogs are permitted to run around leash-free year-round at certain times of the day, ensuring your dog can have plenty of fun and exercise during your beach holiday.

So with many accommodation providers now catering for pets, there’s now no excuse to leave your dog at home when you next have a on holiday!

On the beach with your dog
Dogs enjoy holidays too, so take your pet with you!

Will booking your accommodation directly with the property give you the best deal?

booking
Should you book your accommodation directly or via a third party?

When booking accommodation, you can either book directly with the property, or choose to go through a third-party booking service, such as Wotif, Expedia or Agoda.  So which gives you the best deal?  Let’s put this to the test with a real-life example.

Let’s consider the Bairnsdale Motel which is located at Bairnsdale, in eastern Victoria.  We are after a 3 night stay, checking in on Sunday 24th March and out on Wednesday 27th March, in their cheapest room.

  1. Direct booking. If you go to this motel’s website, you’ll discover their direct online booking system.  Nightly stays in their “superior queen” room are listed at $155, but they offer a 3 night rate of just $132 per night. Thus booking directly with the hotel will cost $396.00.
  2. Booking through Wotif.  This motel distributes their accommodation through Wotif, however you will not find any of their special 3 night deals, so we are forced to pay $155 per night for 3 nights. To make matters worse, Wotif charges a non-refundable $5.50 fee for each booking, thus booking through Wotif will cost $470.50.
  3. Booking through Agoda. The nightly rates are identical to Wotif, however because Agoda doesn’t charge a booking fee, the total cost will be $465.00.

So book directly with the motel for $396, go through Agoda and pay $69 extra for exactly the same room, or choose Wotif and pay even more – $74.50 or 18% extra.

But you can’t just look at the room rate only. What if, due to unforeseen circumstances, you need to change or cancel your booking?  How does each booking method deal with that?

  1. Direct booking. You deal with the motel directly and you can simply email or phone them to change or cancel your booking, subject to their change/cancellation policy.
  2. Booking through Wotif. A $25 administration charge applies to any booking change or cancellation. This is because you have to contact Wotif, who then have to deal with the motel to cancel or change your booking. Don’t forget the non-refundable $5.50 fee still applies even if you cancel your booking.  You will also still be bound by the motel’s own change/cancellation policy.
  3. Agoda.com don’t charge fees for changing or cancelling bookings, but if you do cancel, it can take up to 10 days for them to refund your money. Like with Wotif, you will also be bound by the motel’s own change/cancellation policy.

Booking directly with the accommodation provider means you avoid third-party booking fees and you get full access to all their room types and offers. If you need to change or cancel your booking, and you didn’t book directly, your request needs to go through multiple organisations, some of which charge hefty fees in addition to the restrictions imposed by the accommodation property itself.

A good technique for locating accommodation is to use websites like Wotif, Expedia or Agoda to see what’s available, and then when you are ready to book, simply book directly with your chosen accommodation provider, either their own online booking system or by phone. As well as getting the best rates, things are much simpler if you need to modify or cancel your booking.

Some tourism operators are not taking the internet seriously

cruise
Cost cutting by removing your tourism website is not the answer

Isn’t it frustrating when you see some tourism operators dismiss the value of an internet presence when most travellers are now using the web and social media to plan and book their trips?

Consider this recent example.  A cruise operator that takes passengers on wilderness cruises through a remote part of Gippsland surrounded by a rugged national park (we won’t name them here to protect their privacy) has had their details and website listed on many tourism websites including that of Parks Victoria. Recently, the cruise operator’s website went off-line, so we found their email address and alerted them to the fact.  The reply we got back (we’ve edited it for clarity) is below:

Unfortunately our web site has been discontinued –
not enough hits to justify the cost

What an unexpected reply!

Firstly, the cost of a .com.au domain name, plus simple web hosting with a reputable Australian provider, will set the cruise operator back around $70 per year. How can this tourism business justify removing their internet presence to save the tiny annual website operating cost of $70? You may wonder how many thousands of dollars they were instead spending on brochures to put on the shelf of the local visitor information centre or the big bucks they were splurging on colour newspaper ads.

Secondly, their statement that the number of hits didn’t justify the web presence is unqualified. How many hits did they want? Looking at the counter they used to have on their website, we estimate they got about 1,000 visitors (real people, not web robots) per year.  For a small operator in a remote area, that’s not too bad, particularly as there’s much potential for future growth if they start doing some more active promotion on the web.  All they needed was the right people to come across the website, and they could have had booked out cruises galore.

Let’s be really clear about this – an internet presence in the form of a website is one of the cheapest ways of giving your tourism business exposure in the travel market.  Once you have a website, people will have something concrete to reference on related websites. Here at Travel Victoria, we showcased their business on our tours and cruise pages, for free, giving them good exposure. Now we have nothing to link to, so their listing gets deleted as we have no authoritative source of information to present to our website visitors.  Same goes for social media.  People who want to discuss or share details of this amazing cruise through one of Victoria’s most pristine wilderness areas simply have nothing official to refer others to. People want to instantly see the cruise schedule, costs and photos of the journey so they can see if it is of interest to them.  The cruise operator’s website could also be used to inspire other people who wouldn’t normally do that sort of thing to actually experience it.

With the low cost of domain registration and website hosting, tourism businesses should consider an internet presence as being mandatory for their survival. The last thing they should be doing is wielding the cost-cutting axe to save a tiny $70 by killing off their website and effectively their entire internet presence.

The top 5 most under-rated places in Victoria that you should visit in 2013

Victoria is home to many famous sights and places.  However, for the moment, let’s put aside its hugely popular icons such as glitzy Melbourne city with its many attractions, Ballarat’s Sovereign Hill, The Great Ocean Road, The Grampians and Phillip Island’s penguin parade.  We reveal the top 5 most under-rated places in Victoria that you should try and visit in 2013.


No. 5 – Cape Woolamai

Cape Woolamai
Cape Woolamai, Phillip Island

The south-eastern tip of Phillip Island is usually bypassed by those in a hurry to see the penguin parade, watch motor sport events or visit the island’s main holiday town of Cowes. Cape Woolamai boasts some of Phillip Island’s best coastal scenery and is home to the island’s only surf lifesaving club. For walkers, there’s the Cape Woolamai Trail which extends along the cliff tops of untouched beaches. More>


No. 4 – Corryong

Corryong
Corryong, north-east Victoria

Located in Victoria’s remote north-eastern corner, Corryong is at the “pure end” of Australia’s longest river – the Murray. It’s surrounded by national parks and mountain ranges, with local stockman Jack Riley believed to have been the inspiration behind Banjo Paterson’s famous poem “The Man From Snowy River”. There’s even an  annual bush festival to celebrate this connection. More>


No. 3 – Blackwood

Blackwood
Blackwood, Macedon Ranges

This tiny village is nestled in the lush Macedon Ranges where the rest of the world just seems miles and miles away. Blackwood is home to some of the region’s many mineral springs and the fascinating Garden of St Erth. There’s also relics from the town’s former gold mining days. More>


No. 2 – Wandiligong

Wandiligong
Wandiligong, near Bright

Located just 6 kilometres from Bright – one of Victoria’s famous and popular alpine holiday destinations – the entire town of Wandiligong has been classified by the National Trust. Its attractions include an annual nut festival, Australia’s largest living hedge maze and old gold diggings. One of the best times of year to visit Wandiligong is during the autumn when its deciduous trees erupt into a blaze of colour. More>


No. 1 – Golden Beach

Golden Beach
Golden Beach, Gippsland

The isolation of this small community which fronts the pristine sands of the Ninety Mile Beach in Gippsland makes it the perfect destination for those who want to get away from it all. There’s no flash hotels or undercover shopping centres here, just your basic services and a range of self-contained holiday accommodation. The coastline around Golden Beach is also one of few areas in Victoria that offers free foreshore camping. You can even see the remains of a cargo ship which ran aground on the beach in 1879. More>