Steer self-drive clients towards Australia and New Zealand’s most rewarding routes, says Katie McGonagle
Everyone likes a little independence, and no holiday offers more freedom and flexibility than a fly-drive.
Whether it’s Australia’s wide, open spaces or New Zealand’s scenic coastal roads, these destinations are home to some of the most enjoyable driving holidays in the world, and best of all for us Brits, they drive on the left.
But with so many clients falling foul of pitfalls such as taking on unrealistic driving distances, or failing to schedule in enough time at key stops, it’s vital to know the most popular routes so you can keep them on track.
All prices include standard car hire, but could be turned into motorhome holidays for clients who want total freedom, or twinned with other routes for a longer self-drive itinerary.
1 SOUTH ISLAND, NEW ZEALAND
In a nutshell: Green goddess
Tell me more: What the South Island lacks in population, it more than makes up for in sheer, unadulterated beauty.
This land of rolling green valleys, glassy lakes, vast forests and snow-capped peaks is crying out to be explored at your own pace – provided drivers can keep their eyes on its windy roads without being distracted by incredible views around every corner.Most itineraries are circular from Christchurch, with time-pressed travellers making a beeline for Queenstown via the TranzAlpine train to Greymouth, where they pick up a hire car and drive down the coast, or via Mount Cook to the adventure capital and then back up the west coast.
If there’s time to explore the east, Scottish-style Dunedin and the breathtaking Catlins offer a totally different feel. Of course, Queenstown’s surroundings are stunning in themselves, and a Milford Sound cruise and visit to the Fox or Franz Josef Glaciers are practically compulsory.
Book it: Thomas Cook Signature’s eight-day Southern Glacier self-drive takes in Christchurch, Queenstown, the west coast and Greymouth, plus the TranzAlpine train back to Christchurch. Land-only from £933 including a Milford Sound cruise.
0844 871 6640
2 COASTAL QUEENSLAND
In a nutshell: Life’s a beach
Tell me more: They don’t call Queensland the ‘Sunshine State’ for nothing – this region soaks up an average 263 days’ sunshine each year – and with one beautiful beach after another all the way along this vast coastline, this route is the answer for clients who like a bit of sun and sand with their sense of adventure.
Brisbane makes a good starting point; its manageable size, fascinating convict history and nearby koala sanctuary are an enjoyable introduction to Australia. Heading north, popular stops include Noosa, Fraser Island (pictured below) – the largest sand island in the world, so a 4×4 is essential – surf spot Agnes Water, and Rockhampton, where several local ranches offer farm stays. Airlie Beach, gateway to the breathtaking Whitsunday Islands, comes next, and most travellers continue through Townsville towards Cairns for Great Barrier Reef-related activities.
Book it: Austravel has an eight-night Queensland Classic self-drive from £1,495, travelling from Brisbane to Cairns, with return Cathay Pacific flights from London Heathrow, departing in May.
0800 988 4834
3 GREAT OCEAN ROAD, VICTORIA
In a nutshell: Rugged coastline
Tell me more: This iconic Australian road requires no introduction – its scenic beauty speaks for itself. Running around 230 miles from Geelong, near Melbourne, to Portland on the border with South Australia, it makes an ideal extension to a Melbourne holiday or a bridge between twin-centre breaks in the neighbouring states.
Surfers should save a night for Torquay, where Bells Beach attracts impressive wave action and look out for kangaroos in the grasslands at sunrise. There’s plenty of accommodation in pretty seaside towns Lorne and Apollo Bay, and an interesting historical stop at Australia’s oldest surviving lighthouse in Cape Otway, but the real highlight is famed rock formation the 12 Apostles. Don’t bother trying to count them, only seven are visible from any single point, but look out for beauty spot the Loch Ard Gorge nearby.
Book it: Travel 2’s five-day Great Ocean Road self-drive starts in Melbourne, includes four nights’ accommodation, and carries on through wine region Barossa Valley in South Australia, with open-jaw flights from London to Melbourne, returning from Adelaide. Prices start at £1,159 in June.
0800 022 4182
4 SOUTHWEST AUSTRALIA
In a nutshell: Wine, whales and Wave Rock
Tell me more: Fly-drives to Perth go one of two ways: north for The Pinnacles, rugged gorges of Kalbarri, and Monkey Mia Dolphin Resort, or south for windswept beaches, wine, and whale-watching. The latter involves shorter distances, but its stop-offs demand more time to soak up the atmosphere.
One place worth at least two nights is Margaret River, famed for its wineries, boutique breweries and some seriously gourmet cuisine – whether your clients’ weakness is cheese or chocolate, they won’t be able to resist the array of local produce here.Moving on, coastal Albany is the oldest settlement in Western Australia. Visit its former jail, before embarking on a harbour cruise or whale-watching trip. For those venturing inland, the unusual Wave Rock at Hyden is a fun photo stop, as millions of years of erosion have formed a 14-metre-high rock in the shape of a huge wave ready to crash down.
Book it: Anzcro has an 11-day Western Australia & Beyond itinerary, with a circular self-drive from Perth, then the Indian Pacific train to Sydney, costing £2,411 based on a March 1 departure, with Qantas Airways flights to Perth returning from Sydney.
5 NORTH ISLAND, NEW ZEALAND
In a nutshell: Northern belle
Tell me more: Home to about a third of the population, Auckland is livelier than anywhere else in New Zealand. Before embarking on a tour, spend a few nights exploring its museums, art galleries, taking a harbour cruise or a trip up the Sky Tower (or for the brave at heart, base-jumping off it).
Time-rich drivers can take a detour to the Bay of Islands – extra hours behind the wheel will be repaid by dazzling coastal views – but those on a schedule can head south for Rotorua by way of the Waitomo Caves to see an underground grotto illuminated by tiny glowworms.
Rotorua’s bubbling mud pools have an other-worldly feel – stop off in Taupo for even more geothermal activity – but passing by beautiful vineyards in Hawke’s Bay en route to Napier will soon bring visitors back to Planet Earth. Last but not least, bookend the trip with another city, the capital Wellington, where the captivating Te Papa museum will devour at least a day.
Book it: 1st Class Holidays’ seven-day Northern Circle goes from Auckland to Wellington via Rotorua and Napier, from £676 land-only May-September. Include return Air New Zealand flights from Heathrow and an internal flight back to Auckland and it costs from £1,950.
0845 644 3939
This is a community-moderated forum.
All post are the individual views of the respective commenter and are not the expressed views of Travel Weekly.
By posting your comments you agree to accept our Terms & Conditions.