Ask Lonely Planet: Road-trip 101: Take pen to map

2 comments
Motorhomers could spend years exploring the red continent - but five or six weeks allows for a decent taster. Photo / Tourism NT
Motorhomers could spend years exploring the red continent - but five or six weeks allows for a decent taster. Photo / Tourism NT

My partner and I are planning a five- to six-week trip through Australia in a rental motorhome. Could you recommend the best route for us? We really enjoy tramping and kayaking and would like to get off the beaten track as much as we can.

- Anna

Lonely Planet's Sarah Bennett & Lee Slater write:

Obviously you could spend years exploring the red continent, but five to six weeks will be ample for getting off the beaten track. In theory, with the smallest of power-naps, you could drive from Sydney to Perth (around 4000km) in a few days. To enjoy it, however, you'll need a lot longer. As regular campervan travellers, we try to limit our driving to around 200km a day if at all possible.

In terms of trip planning, Lonely Planet's new Australia guidebook (due out in November) has distance calculations and an array of suggested itineraries which join the dots between major attractions and activities.

Some campervan companies such as Maui also have suggested driving routes with tips on what to see along the way. When we embark on planning a big road trip, we always start with a large map and a marker pen.

There are great tramping opportunities in all of Australia's six states and two territories, but Victoria probably has the largest concentration, with 39 national parks, 30 state parks and three wilderness parks. Highlights include the spectacular alpine scenery and spring wildflowers of the High Country. If coastal walks are more your thing, Wilsons Promontory National Park is also worth a visit.

You're not short of kayaking options in Australia, either. Top river spots include Barrington Tops National Park (NSW) and the Murray River (SA), while sea kayaking is big at Byron Bay (NSW), around Tasmania's D'Entrecasteaux Channel and at Mission Beach (QLD), to name but a few.

Thanks for your letter, which raises the age-old question: do you see more if you travel faster, or slower? As regular road-trippers, we much prefer the go-slow.

Bags of leeway

Assume you are planning to see Europe by bus/rail after flying to the continent and are carrying your airline-allowed limit in baggage weight in one large bag and one carry-on bag.

But is there a limit on the size or number of articles one can bring on board a bus or train? Are there special areas to stow the bags, either in the passenger area or in a separate area, as the airlines do? Is there a charge for baggage? Do you need extra time for the baggage to go through a security check before boarding? No one seems to deal with the baggage issue in their travel articles.

- Vernon Pribble

The good news is that baggage-handling on most European trains and coaches is simple these days. Unless you're travelling on the Orient Express, checking in - person or luggage - is a thing of the past. You lug your own luggage on and look after it yourself.

There is generally no weight limit for luggage on trains, so you'll be limited only by how much you can personally haul. If you're carrying unusually large items, such as a bicycle or skis, it's advisable to contact the train company in advance to make sure it can accommodate them.

Most trains have overhead storage for smaller bags, while larger items can be stored on racks usually found at the end of the carriage. Some lines have separate luggage compartments, but these are the exception. Security is generally not a problem on European trains, but it pays to keep an eye on your luggage, especially when stopping at stations.

If you're going to snooze, attach yourself to your property or ask a fellow traveller to keep an eye on it for you. For night trips, consider couchette compartments, available on many major routes. They usually sleep four and offer increased security and some level of privacy.

There's less space on coaches and buses and therefore more restrictions. European coach companies generally allow around two pieces of up to 20kg each, plus one piece of hand luggage. Anything over that and you're likely to pay an excess, but not one as severe as you'd expect from most airlines.

Keep on track by checking out Lonely Planet's Thorn Tree forum or the train-spotter's bible, the Man in Seat 61. On the buses in Europe, eurolines.com is a good resource, as is eurocheapo.com.

- NZ Herald

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