Planning a holiday from your dream destination

The Surfers' Paradise sign that gives way to the beach.

Surfers’ Paradise seemed to be an Aussie equivalent of the Costa Del Sol when we visited.

What do you buy the person who has everything is often cited as the classic conundrum, but we’ve recently chanced upon a new one: where do you go on holiday when you’ve just emigrated to your dream destination?

It’s a tricky one made more complex by the age of our children. At 12 and nine respectively, we are aware that we may only have three of four more years of family holidays where both maxi and mini-CBRbound still want to come with us, so we want to make them count.

At the same time, as Brits a long way from home, we also want to make sure that we take regular trips back to see the people we love and miss, acknowledging that annual leave allowances and personal finances will mean these trips are often at the expense of a resort-type holiday.

Nevertheless, the question persists, where do Aussies go to get away from everyday Aussie life?

Many of the names thrown at us are still just words – Noosa, Broome, Wallaga Lake – and we feel a little confounded by our own desire to make our last few family breaks really special.

In Europe, we knew the lie of the land. If you wanted something cheap and warm, you’d go to Spain or Greece. Something less commercial with perhaps a little more cuisine and culture? France or Italy. Theme parks and the chance to eat and shop to your heart’s content? A package trip to Orlando.

Bugs Bunny at Movie World in Queensland.

Bugs Bunny at Movie World in Queensland.

The Aussie equivalents of all of these are still relatively unknown to us. I think the theme park option is probably covered by the Gold Coast, but as for the rest, we still find ourselves at something of a loss.

I know Bali and Fiji are popular destinations for Aussies, and perhaps even Singapore and Thailand. I’m less sure about whether a trip across the Tasman to New Zealand offers much that can’t be had here, and even vaguer on a good route for a week long road trip. A suggestion of camping is likely to get me the frosty treatment from Mrs CBRbound who loves a bit of comfort when she takes a break from work. Fair enough.

The Gold Coast skyline seen from the beach at Surfers Paradise.

Gold Coast was fun but we would like to try somewhere different this time, and perhaps a little tamer.

One day I’d love to do the Indian-Pacific, cross-continental train trip, but maybe not with the kids. And I’d love to explore Tasmania one day too – mostly for its spectacular scenery and great food and wine options, but again, I’m not sure the kids would get such a kick out of that.

What I’m looking for is a holiday base that offers the option of a day by the pool or beach, splashing about with the kids, while also the option of interesting and fun day trips, the occasional nice restaurant (or just fish and chips from the wrapper if that’s how we feel). If there’s a nice pub in town too, so much the better.

Do any CBRbound readers have any tips or suggestions for our first proper holiday here? I’m sure anything we do will turn out to be fun but, as I say, we really want these last few holidays to count, and our lack of local knowledge is making a tricky decision seem near impossible.

18 thoughts on “Planning a holiday from your dream destination

  1. I think you have nailed the options fairly well – although I am sure each and every one of us has a special favourite place or two.

    The Gold Coast – Surfer’s Paradise is ideal for kids the age of yours. Fantastic theme parks with endless rides and fun to be had. Beaches galore, plenty of eating out options, and I’m sure a few pubs. There is also a hinterland of natural wonders if you want to leave the kids behind for a day trip.

    Many people do trip to the South Pacific islands (Fiji, Noumea, Vanuatu) as these can be less costly than trips to our own tropical destinations, like Broome and Cairns – although I would recommend those. There are an abundance of cheap tropical holidays in Asia – from coastal resort types through to city type holidays in Hong Kong, Singapore, or even mainland China.

    Haven’t been to NZ, but assume it would be similar (the South Island anyway) to Tasmania, which is a must-see, but you might be right to leave the kids behind.

    I guess you’ve done the nearby treks to the south coast and the snow, and even to Sydney for weekends – which is terrific if you can stay somewhere with a harbour view and centrally located.

    I guess all this means is that the options are boundless and wherever you choose, you are bound to have a great deal of fun – for isn’t it the company more than the destination that makes the holiday worthwhile?

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    • Thanks Robert. Yes, we’ve done the stuff within easy reach (and anyway would probably save them for days and weekends away, rather than family holidays, which give us the time to go further afield). We have also been to Cairns and Gold Coast, but never to Broome. The South Pacific is entirely new to us as a region and we know very little about it. I think we’ll take a closer look at Broome to begin with, to see what that has to offer. It’s a pretty nice problem to have, but I also know that unless we get onto it quickly, the holiday season will be upon us with no concrete plans in the diary. Thanks for taking the time to comment, I’ll let you know what we decide.

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  2. Hi Mark, without knowing the time of year you wish to travel, or what sort of budget you’re working on, these are a few places we’ve either been to with our kids or wouldn’t hesitate to go back to with kids:
    Lord Howe Island (absolutely spectacular scenery, with beaches, bike riding, walks etc), the Whitsunday Islands, the Sunshine Coast (would pick this any day over the Gold Coast), New Zealand (not at all like Australia and another truly magical place to visit, but best visited in summer, unless you plan on hitting the ski fields) – cheap flights at the moment too I believe! Coral Bay (and Ningaloo) up in Northern WA are also really beautiful and Perth well worth a visit if you haven’t been there… Just my thoughts anyway. 🙂

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    • Wow, thanks for all of that — almost all of those places are new to me. We went to NZ a few years ago but it was very much a touring holiday which, spectacular as it was, can be a bit wearing for the kids, so we’re keen on a single destination this time where we can relax without packing up the car every day. I’ll be googling all those places you mentioned later today though. Never having been to WA, that sounds especially tempting. Thanks so much.

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  3. Janet Wilson says:

    I can’t wait to take our kids on the ferry to Tasmania, it is more like Scotland or Wales than Australia and full of convict history, fairy penguins at Bicheno and Cradle Mountain/Dove Lake which are awesome. When our kids get older I want to take them to Alice Springs, Uluru and Kings Canyon, it will involve camping, which might not please her indoors, although there is a resort at Uluru. Later still, a trip from Broome to Darwin on the Gibb River Road is a must. I did this in my “youth” and it was one of the most inspiring holidays ever. The history through the Kimberley is amazing. There is a luxury resort at El Questro for Mrs CBR Bound, or she might like to stay put at the Cable Beach Resort (if you happen to win the lottery!) and then fly to Darwin to meet you at the other end.

    Failing that, Noosa for the beach and cafes, or Port Douglas for access to the reef.

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    • The adventure travel stuff sounds fantastic, but maybe when the kids are a little older. We promised them a break from hours on end in a car this year. But I can’t wait to do all that stuff when they are older (pre-kids, we had an amazing holiday in Peru, exploring all the Inca ruins and we’d love to go back one day — perhaps to Chile too — when the kids are excited rather than horrified by the idea). I do want to see Tassie, for all the reasons you say, and WA as I’ve never been. Noosa sounds worth a look for this time — we’ve been to the reef a few times in the past and will probably save a return visit for when we accompany overseas visitors (as it’s always high on their list). Thanks for all the inspiration though — now to go shopping for brochures.

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  4. My two penneth….

    We have a place at Merimbula on the South Coast (Sapphire Coast)….it’s here…www.coastresort.com.au – fits with your splash in the pool and day at the beach idea – just to illustrate the area, not to sell my apartment of course. There are places other than qld where you can have that experience. Merimbula is a fabulous little town which swells to three times its size (normally 9000 residents) at the absolute height of summer, but even then there’s more than enough room for everyone and the beach will never be full. You can explore down to Eden, which has a whaling history and inland to Tilba where they make cheese. The area is famous for oysters, is always a few degrees cooler than Canberra and just has a really nice relaxed vibe.

    It’s different from places like Batemans Bay, AKA Canberra by the Sea…where you might bump into your cubicle neighbour from your office….i.e. it’s really touristy and frankly quite boring.

    If on the other hand you do want to do a train thing and get a beachside break in as well, consider this one – an overnight train from Brisbane to Winton to check out the dinosaur stampede and experience outback QLD. The stampede site was found by a working property and the owner gradually turned his farming bsusiness into a dinosaur business. Apparently it’s fabulous too, although I am yet to book – I desperately want to take my son who lived dinosaurs for years. i don’t know which bit is more exciting, an overnight train trip (on which you can put your car), or seeing a dinosaurs stampede millions of years after it happened. And once you have done that trip you can reverse the trip and repair to a nice tropical beachside locale. Just look up QLD rail and go from there.

    Would be good to find out what you end up deciding. Just be warned….Canberran’s evacuate this lovely town like there’s a plague on! Book early if you are serious about going.

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    • You see, this is why I feel so hopeless at this at the moment, I’m going to have to go to Google Maps to even see where Merimbula, Eden and Tilba are, but I’m off to do that next. The Brisbane train trip is a fabulous tip though — We once took an overnight train from northern Germany to southern France, with the car on the motorail carriage behind, which was the best of all worlds; relaxing travel, an adventure in itself, and the promise of an exciting destination in the morning. The idea of doing the same to experience the outback without driving for days and days sounds wonderful. I take your point about getting onto this sooner rather than later though. I can already see that places and flights are beginning to fill up (not to mention the premium prices that January breaks seem to attract). Thanks for your kind advice, I’m off to look up the Sapphire Coast right now.

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  5. We just holidayed at Mermimbula from Canberra and really loved it. Wilsons Prom and phillip island in victoria are a bit further and provide interesting options.

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  6. So many places. I was going to suggest for a place near at hand, Merimbula because there is a lot of variety there. We used to stay at Mandeni (http://www.southcoastgetaway.com.au/South%20Coast/Mandeni%20Cabins/CVTNSCME048.htm ). Lovely cabins in the bush between Merimbula and Tathra but closer to Merimbula. Very comfortable but not glitzy. They have (had) tennis courts and a pool, there’s also some golf and mini golf. There are woking tracks and bike tracks. Wonderful birds and we always saw kangaroos on the golf course and around the cabins. You can do driving trips to Merimbula, Pambula and Eden, or up to Bermagui or the historical Tathra Wharf. Great for a week. But it has been quiet a few years since we were there.

    The central coast, say Port Macquarie is also great. A bit of a drive from here but Sea Acres Rainforest Reserve, the beaches, whale watching tours, Timbertown at Wauchope, or a drive up to Southwest Rocks and Trial Bay Gaol, pretty villages like Laurieton, and so on.

    When our kids were 16 and 13, we did the big drive to the Centre over the mid year school holidays. A long drive, and we didn’t camp. Accommodation, even the cheapest at Uluru (Yulara) and Watarrka (King’s Canyon), is pretty expensive but you have to stay there for see them properly. Accommodation is comparatively cheap in Alice from where you can “do” the MacDonnells (Simpson’s Gap, Stanley Chasm, Ormiston Gorge etc). On the way up you can do things like sleep underground at Coober Pedy. This is a wonderful trip for learning (feeling) just how big Australian really is.

    But, there are so many places worth visiting. Broome, or Darwin and Kakadu, or Port Douglas and Cairns to do the Reef are all well worth it. We did the Cairns-Port Douglas-Daintree with the kids (flying and hiring a car), but Broome, Darwin-Kakadu were post kids. Ran out of time really, given we’d spent some of their formative holiday years in the US!

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    • Wow, thanks for taking the time to make all these recommendations. We are determined to explore as much as we can of our new country and these sound like gems of ideas. Anything with tennis courts will be a winner with Maxi-CBRbound, anything with wine a winner with Mrs 🙂

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      • Sounds a bit like us! Which reminds me of the Beechworth area – great food and wines in the region, some good walks in the Beechworth Gorge area. I’m sure there are places with tennis courts! You can drive down the Hume and come back via Corryong and the mountains (but that can be slow).

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      • Hmmm. I’m wondering how much work I’m going to get done today with all these places to check out. My mind is wandering alarmingly now… long slow drives, followed by relaxing resorts and a glass of fruity wine. Nope, I’m mentally gone now.

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  7. I’m glad Merimbula is getting some votes. We love it there. It’s such a great place for kids, but has enough to keep adults amused. For Canberrans it’s strangely a bit undiscovered as most consider it maybe just a bit too far, what with Batemans Bay being about an hour closer. Mostly the crowd you find there are Victorians who have a similar drive time.

    If you do go, make sure you go to all the beaches, but especially Middle Beach – just beautiful and enough rockpools to investigate and climbing to be done. Also, try Bar Beach….great kiosk with out of this world food (for a tiny beach) and a great vibe.

    OK, I’ll stop now, (it’s been on my mind because finally we are able to get down there for school hols)!!

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    • Heh heh, I never thought of this as a poll, but you are right, Merimbula is getting a lot of love. This now reminds me of an article in The RiotACT which asked readers where the best pies could be found in and around the capital. That one actually got pretty heated. I think Braidwood Bakery won the consensus. Thanks for taking the time to comment and share your recommendation though, it’s truly appreciated.

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