Category Archives: Travel

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>