Get off the Beaten Path Down Under (Literally)

by Dr. Jessie Voigts /
Dr. Jessie Voigts's picture
Oct 08, 2013 / 0 comments

Do people take road trips any more? I’m not talking about the road trip to the next state, or up north for camping. I’m talking epic. The kind where you go, and explore, and be, and breathe in the misty morning rays at dawn, and marvel at the dark skies peppered with diamonds, at night. And where better to take an epic road trip than down under? Here are a few suggestions for getting off the beaten path in Australia and New Zealand.


Let’s start in Sydney. Source your supplies! You can find an easy way to combine camping and driving (no tent rental necessary, dishes and gear often included). Know the rules of the road – and especially in Australia, have a flashlight and extra batteries, cell phone or SAT phone, GPS, and plenty of food and water. While we won’t be venturing into the outback, you know the motto – always be prepared!


We’ll venture into two places in Australia, off the beaten path – exploring cities/areas that most people skip right over. The first is Glenworth Valley. It’s a short drive north of Sydney, on the M1. What awaits you? A valley like no other, and so close to urban areas it’s like a secret retreat. And what, you may ask, will we be doing in Glenworth Valley? Just about anything outdoors, actually. We’re headed to Glenworth Valley Outdoor Adventures. It’s nestled among thousands of acres of National Park, and roams over 3000 acres. You can go horseback riding, quad biking, kayaking, abseiling, laser tag, and more. But you can also just meander, swim in the natural rock pools of Popran Creek, and see wallabies, kookaburras, and more. Or, just relax in the fields or forests, reading a book or exploring the creek, building fairy houses. It’s a place to relax, or have an adventure – or both.


Red Necked Wallaby with young. Photo courtesy of Glen Fergus, Wikimedia Commons

Red Necked Wallaby with young. Photo courtesy of Glen Fergus, Wikimedia Commons


Next on your Epic Road Trip is Newcastle, a university town that is both lively and has the feel of a small coastal town. Now, depending on your interests, head to the Hunter Valley for wine, wine, and more wine. You can discover wine trails, explore boutique wineries, and revel in the countryside. If you’re not into wine, check out the Hunter Valley Zoo. Nearer to Newcastle, you’ll find, of course, water activities and beaches galore. Go dolphin watching at Fly Point. At Nobby’s Beach, take a walk along the breakwall, head toward the lighthouse, or swim. At Dudley Beach, part of Glenrock State Park, walk, surf, fish, check out the marine life, or swim (especially in the pools, at low tide). Just north of Newcastle is Stockton Sand Dunes. You can sandboard, or traverse the dunes with a tour, on camel, horse, on foot, or by renting a 4WD. Perhaps most surprising is the shipwreck at the beach, There have been many shipwrecks over the years, the most recognizable is the MV Sygna (above the tide) and the Uralla (which can be seen at low tide).


Stockton Beach - shipwreck of MV Sygna. Photo courtesy AussieLegend

Shipwreck of MV Sygna at Stockton Beach. Photo in the public domain, by AussieLegend


Next, hop over to Auckland, New Zealand. While New Zealand is incredibly beautiful and you could spend a lifetime exploring it, what I’d focus on is, of course Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. Filmed in New Zealand, these books and films are, of course, classics, worth reading (and seeing) again and again. Before you head out, find a rental in Auckland, and get prepared for a literary journey like no other. I recommend having a copy of The Hobbit (and all LOTR books, if you have room in your luggage) for each person in your family – because you’ll each want to read it at night, or on the road, or in the early morning hours, still dreaming of Rivendell.


For your planned route, there is an excellent 14 day self-drive itinerary at First Light Travel. But I think anywhere you go in New Zealand, you’ll find inspiration and beauty. Be sure to stop at Hobbiton, where you can take movie set tours, learn about Hobbiton, and explore The Shire. Can’t get more off the beaten path than that.


From inside a Hobbit hole. Photo courtesy of flickr creative commons Rob & Jules

From inside a Hobbit hole. Photo courtesy of flickr creative commons Rob & Jules