Traversing The Long Open Road

Seventy Five Mile BeachBy Lee Mylne

Australians love a road trip. According to Tourism Research Australia’s National Visitor Survey, the domestic drive market, which accounts for 73% of all domestic overnight trips, increased seven percent to 58.1 million trips during the year ending September 2014.

This growth was particularly evident in Victoria where drive trips increased 12% to 14.9 million.

But Victoria’s iconic Great Ocean Road faces some stiff competition for clients planning a road trip, with a slew of new touring routes being heavily promoted by other states.

South Australia has launched five new self-drive touring routes aimed at encouraging more interstate and overseas visitors to visit its wine regions, scenic coastline, Murray River, outback and farmgate regions.
Launching the routes, South Australian Tourism Minister Leon Bignell said self-drive tourists were a major proportion of all visitors to the state, and the new routes would make exploring South Australia by car much easier.

“There were 4.2 million domestic overnight leisure trips made in South Australia for the year ending March 2015 and 81% used a private, rented, hire vehicle or a campervan as a means of transport. That’s 3.4 million leisure purpose driving trips made in our state,” he said.

“Self-drive holidays are one of the fastest growing tourism sectors and promoting these routes puts us in a great position to attract interstate and overseas visitors to SA.

“These touring routes make South Australia more accessible, and make planning a road trip easier as they highlight some of our must-do experiences in an easy-to-follow format.”

The five new routes are: Epicurean Way (McLaren Vale to Clare Valley via the Adelaide Hills and Barossa), Explorers Way (Adelaide to Darwin via the Flinders Ranges), Seafood Frontier (Adelaide to Eyre Peninsula via Yorke Peninsula), Mighty Murray Way (the Murray River from Renmark to the Mouth) and Southern Ocean Drive (Mt Gambier to Adelaide via Kangaroo Island).

The routes are being promoted on the South Australia Roadtrips website with downloadable maps, suggested itineraries, and an interactive map that provides detailed information about experiences available along each route.

In New South Wales, a new collaborative partnership between the Central Coast, Newcastle, Hunter Valley and Port Stephens – called Top Spots North – showcases self-drive holidays available within two-and-a-half hours’ drive from the Sydney CBD.

Top Spots North combines the experiences on offer in each region into self-drive itineraries for one, two, three or four-night stays. Four itineraries currently on offer include the Food and Wine Odyssey, the Culture and Heritage Experience, Get Back to Nature, and Non-Stop Adventures.

The new product brochure and sales tool is aimed primarily at repeat visitors from key international source markets – the UK, New Zealand, USA and Germany – all of which are traditionally self-drive travellers.

The numbers of repeat visitors from all markets, but in particular South East Asia, is increasing. According to Destination NSW’s Regional Snap Shot for the year ending December 2014, 84.4% of Central Coast and 86% of the Hunter Valley’s overnight domestic visitation were self-drivers.

In Queensland, the newest touring route on the block is Australia’s Great Beach Drive which traverses more than 100km of beach driving, taking in the coastline, scenery and wildlife along the Sunshine and Fraser coasts, and on Fraser Island.

Australia’s Nature Coast, which has been established by the Sunshine and Fraser Coast tourism organisations, has put together six drives in the region which can be tailored to meet the visitors’ specific interests and length of stay.

The new website, australiasnaturecoast.com, provides full details of self-drive 4WD options in addition to guided tours across the region.

The Great Beach Drive starts in Noosa where travellers can complement the sophisticated lifestyle of the beachside village with a kayak, canoe or cruise of the Noosa Everglades.

Next is the 4WD “beach highway” to Rainbow Beach, along which travellers can  see whales, dolphins, birds of prey, kangaroos and monitor lizards.

Turning south, the route takes in Tin Can Bay where the Barnacles Dolphin Centre offers a chance to interact with wild Indo-Pacific Humpback dolphins.

While subject to tidal and weather conditions, the Great Beach Drive is suitable for most experienced off-road drivers and the route can be covered in anything from a long weekend to a full week.

Sunshine Coast Destination Ltd CEO, Simon Ambrose, expects the drive to appeal  to both international and domestic travellers.

“Not only is this a very exciting product to promote Australia’s Nature Coast; it is launched at a time when petrol prices have come down dramatically, making it a very affordable way of discovering the best of Australia’s coastline,” he said.

Fraser Coast Opportunities general manager David Spear said the combination of easy accessibility and the rich diversity of the destination made the Great Beach Drive one of the most exciting international and domestic products released in Australia  this year.

“We will build on the international renown of Fraser Island by offering a new structured product that provides a very compelling structured itinerary that will allow visitors to discover the attractions of the Fraser Coast and surrounding region,” Spear said.

“The range of itineraries provides flexibility, allowing everything from long-weekends to those who want to explore the region in far greater depth.”

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