Australia in a Campervan – Our List of the Country’s Best Beaches

When people think of Australia, a number of things come immediately to mind: the immensity of the country (7.6 million square kilometres) kangaroos and koalas, breathtaking natural landscapes, the Great Barrier Reef, Uluru, and … beaches!

Yes, indeed, in Australia you will find some of the world’s most beautiful beaches. Bordered by the Indian, Pacific and Southern Oceans and the Arafura Sea (stretching across 700,000 km2 bordering Indonesian islands and North Australian reefs), as well as the Timor and Tasman Seas, the coastline of Australia offers 37,000 km of coast boasting many spectacular beaches.

Here is our list of Australia’s Top Ten beaches:

  • Whitehaven Beach, Whitsundays Islands, QLD: Located on the largest island in the archipelago, Whitehaven Beach is famous for having the purest sand in the world and is widely considered the world’s most beautiful beach. Along its 7km you’ll find blinding white sand composed of 98% silica (which is, incidentally, used to make the lens of the Hubble telescope), lapped by crystal clear waters.

Whitehaven Beach

  • Bondi Beach, Sydney, NSW:  A landmark for surfers, backpackers, tourists and swimmers, Bondi Beach is located just seven kilometres east of Sydney’s CBD and is emblematic for Sydney. This beach, one kilometre in length, is also famous for The Bondi Surf Bathers’ Life Saving Club, the world’s oldest lifesaving club which was founded in 1907 and is the subject and setting for a popular reality TV series.
  • The Pass, Byron Bay, NSW: a special atmosphere surrounds Byron Bay, making this place magical and a little mystical as well as attracting an alternative culture and some of Australia’s most rich and famous people. Famous as a renowned surf spot, Byron is much more. It’s also an excellent place to observe whales between June and November, or walk along the path to Cape Byron which as the most easterly point in Australia, allows you to be the first to see the sunrise on the whole continent. Take a wander through the lush coastal forest nearby or simply enjoy the somewhat different life in this town with its laid-back feel and interesting restaurants and cafes. You’ll definitely come back home feeling refreshed.

Byron Bay

  • Noosa, Sunshine Coast, QLD: the tropical paradise of Noosa has a lot to offer as a relaxing and beautiful place to spend time. In a nutshell, Noosa is a glamourous international seaside resort, with pristine beaches, luxury shops, the famous Noosa National Park and a lush hinterland region with attractions such as the ever-popular Eumundi Markets. Located about 90 minutes by car from Brisbane, it’s popular as a weekend gateway destination.
  • Cable Beach, Broom-WA: 22 kilometres of immaculate white sand bordered by the deep blue sea of the Indian Ocean makes Broome a romantic destination. Sunset on Cable Beach is a spectacular sight. One of the most well-known activities in the region is a camel ride along the beach. Between March and October you can admire the “Staircase to the Moon”, a natural phenomenon caused by the rising full moon shining on Roebuck Bay at low tide to create a stunning optical illusion that is reminiscent of an escalator going to the moon.

Cable Beach

  • Hyams Beach, Jervis Bay, NSW: The walk between Greenfield and Hyams Beach is a truly special experience. Hyams Beach has been officially recognised by The Guinness Book of Records as the world whitest beach. It’s unquestionably the most famous beach in the Jervis Bay region, that because of its rich marine life and unspoilt nature is popular with divers and snorkelers as well as fishermen, and also makes it the perfect place to spend quality time with your family.
  • Bells Beach, Torquay, VIC: Located along the picturesque Great Ocean Road, stop at Torquay to breathe the pure air of Bells Beach, the emblematic beach immortalised in the movie Point Break and the cult documentary The Endless Summer. Each year, it’s also home to the world’s longest-running surfing competition – The Rip Curl Pro Surf & Music Festival. Some of the best waves, or breaks, in the world are to be found here and it’s well known among the surfing fraternity as one of the world’s top surfing destinations.

Bells Beach

  • Surfers Point, Margaret River, WA: Margaret River is a paradise for food and nature lovers. The region produces less than 1% of Australia’s wine, but more than 15% is Grand Cru quality. Evans & Tate, Fermoy Estate, Flinders Bay and Flying Fish Cove are some of the first class vineyards in the region. It’s also a natural paradise surrounded by caves, white sand beaches, hiking paths and world-class surfing points. Catching waves in “Marg” is the goal of surfers the world over. So come and experience the ultimate surfing safari in this region!
  • Cape Range, Turquoise Bay, WA: Turquoise Bay in the Cape Range National Park, close to the beautiful Ningaloo barrier reef has one of the most beautiful, perfect beaches in Western Australia. The most popular activity is snorkelling. With its white sand and crystal clear waters, you are sure to see plenty of colourful fish and coral. Some inhabitants of the reef are parrotfish, scissortail sergeants, spangled emperor, blue damselfish, moon wrasse, butterfly fish, reef sharks and green sea turtles.
  • Wineglass Bay, TAS: Wineglass Bay in the Freycinet peninsula in Tasmania is part of one of the most beautiful regions in the country. It’s an ideal place for fishing, sailing, hiking in the outdoors, kayaking, climbing or relaxing. You can also spot wildlife such as as White-bellied Sea Eagles, quolls, wallabies, wombats and Tasmanian Devils.

Wineglass Bay

So now it’s up to you to hit the road in your motorhome to discover some of these stunning places, and make your own list! When you do, please leave your comments below.

A Road Trip to Some of Rock n’Roll’s Most Famous Destinations

We’ve put together a list of places that inspired, or were home to some of the most significant figures in Rock n’Roll and for this reason, still attract lots of fans. Let’s take a look at some of the most important ones and maybe inspire a road trip across the USA in a motorhome.

1.       Nico and New York

Chelsea Girl, 1967

“Here’s Room 506 …” The opening lyrics of the song performed by Andy Warhol’s muse Nico, the model, singer and actress famous in the 1960s and 1970s, refer to the famous Chelsea Hotel. Based on Lou Reed’s lyrics, Nico’s melancholy voice sings about the odd collection of characters occupying the corridors of this place, that were a passing parade of the New York underground. For her first solo album Chelsea Girl, the former German model Nico had members of the now famous Velvet Underground as her backing band. It also included songs by Bob Dylan (I’ll keep it with mine) and the newcomer Jackson Browne, whose song These Days is now a classic. Simultaneously with her singing career, this sixties icon became the muse of the French filmmaker Philippe Garrel and appeared in several experimental movies – one of them Frederico Fellini’s classic La Dolce Vita.1 - The Chelsea Hotel

222 West on 23rd St, Manhattan: the address well known to the pop planet and artistic elite of the 60’s and 70’s. The Chelsea Hotel, a brick building built in 1883, housed within its psychedelic walls at various times legends like Janis Joplin, Jimmy Hendrix, Jim Morrison, Leonard Cohen, Joni Mitchell (who immortalised the hotel in the form of her song “Chelsea Morning” after which one president’s daughter  ̶  Chelsea Clinton  ̶   was named) and also the film director Milos Forman. The manager of the hotel offered free meals and accommodation to his poorest customers. Run down now, the Chelsea Hotel is awaiting renovations. Its manager is not ready to throw in the towel just yet though.

However, do visit this monument to Rock ‘n Roll history before it’s too late.

2.       The Eagles and Los Angeles

Hotel California, 1976

Los Angeles has always been the “Promised Land” for hopeful new artists. Palm trees, beaches and girls wearing bikinis: is this the perfect place to find inspiration? Well, maybe things changed after several years of hard living in the depraved music scene of LA of the 1970s and 1980s, after partying and drug addiction had taken their toll. This is the background of the cult song by the Eagles whose lyrics have been interpreted in different ways – many see either a rehab centre for rock stars or a satanic hideout. Band member Don Felder made reference when talking about his song to its being a parable about the dark side of the American Dream. Despite it being much longer than is usually acceptable for hit songs, at 6 minutes 30 seconds, Hotel California with its unforgettable guitar solo has had huge success with millions of copies sold worldwide and is considered a classic.

2 - Hotel California

The lyrics referring to the Hotel California being reached by “a dark desert highway” have symbolic significance, even though Beverly Hills does come very close to this description.

Head in the direction of Miami Beach via the Pacific Coast Highway at sunset in your RV with the song playing at full blast to really feel the atmosphere!

3.       Elvis Presley and Memphis, Tennessee

Don’t be Cruel, 1956

Who doesn’t have a smile on their face when listening to Elvis? The suggestive dance moves of The King (of Rock n Roll), combined with the blues and country tone and rhythm of his songs plunged the puritan America of the fifties into a mystical rapture with the hip movements to match that so shocked the establishment and parents alike. It was in 1956 that the USA made the breakthrough move into its musical history thanks to Elvis with memorable songs like Don’t Be Cruel written by Otis Blackwell. In December of that same year, Elvis ran into Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis and Johnny Cash at Sun Records studios in Memphis.

3 - Sun Records

Blues, rock n’roll, country … Memphis was the place where the most important trends of American popular music of the twentieth century emerged.

Start your pilgrimage at 706 Union Avenue, the address of Sun Studio. It is here in 1951 that Rockett 88 was recorded, the very first rock song. Then head to Beale Street, the historical source of blues music. Finish with a visit to Graceland, the famous residence of Elvis, transformed nowadays into a museum.

4.       Nirvana and Seattle, Washington

Come As You Are, 1992

Written and created as an anthem to those who were “different” and marginalised because of it, the now-classic song by Nirvana Come as You Are was first a reference point for the Grunge Movement of the 90s and then an international hit, similar to the song Smells like Teen Spirit which was an instant hit with the release of Nirvana’s second album. With the distinctive tuning of his guitar and Kurt Cobain’s instantly recognisable voice, grunge music and the grunge movement which emerged as an evolution of punk and alternative rock, exploed from the underground scene of Seattle onto the music channel MTV, paving the way for other bands such Alice in Chains.

5 - Seattle_Music_Scene_Exhibit_3,_EMP_Museum

So what are you waiting for? Start planning your musical road trip!

USA in a Motorhome – How to Act Like a Local in New York

Even if it seems logical that it would be easy to find your niche in a city that welcomes foreigners on a daily basis, New York can be a merciless place for the uninitiated. Here are some tips on how to blend in as one of the natives in case you come here at the end or start of your USA trip in your RV.

1 - Toys'R'Us_store_in_Time_Square,_NYC_2005

 

 

 

 

 

 

NEW YORK: DO’s AND DON’T’s

Transport

–        Flag down a taxi but only if the central light on the roof is on. If only lateral lights are on, that means the vehicle is not in service

–        The most audacious won’t blindly obey the “walk” signs at crossroads and will cross on a “Don’t walk” when there aren’t any cars in sight

–        On the pavement, act as a car does in traffic – don’t stop suddenly, do follow the crowd  pace and do go to one side to look for your map or umbrella. Even though most New Yorkers respect others’ personal space, they’ll still bump into you if you’re in the way

–        In the underground, let people get out of the carriage first, then move out quickly and don’t let yourself be pushed around.

2 - NYC_subway_simplified_map

Tipping for service

In New York,  like in most American cities, tipping isn’t simply a polite reflex: it’s an obligation. In restaurants it’s appropriate to tip between 15 to 20% of the bill (most customers tip 20%). It’s the same for the taxi driver. In hotels a tip of $1 to 5 per day for the cleaner and $1 for the porter is very welcome.

3 - Nytimes_headquarters

News

In New-York like in most cities around the world, the online world is part of life. New Yorkers always want the latest great deals,  and they like sharing the last information on Facebook, Twitter or blogs. Here our selection of members of the NYC Twitter community with great tips that are worth checking out:

–        Michael Bloomberg (@mikebloomberg). New-York Mayor

–        Soraya Darabi (@sorayadarabi). Social Media expert and founder of www.foodspotting.com

–        Hyperallergic (@Hyperallergic). The favourite art blog of locals

–        Brian Braiker (@slarkpope). Inhabitant of Brooklyn and journalist for the Guardian

–        Colson Whitehead (@colsonwhitehead). Born in Manhattan, writer, former critic for the Village Voice and laureate of the McArthur

–        Paul Goldberger (@paulgoldberger). Winner of the Pulitzer award, architecture critic for the NewYorker (writer of the Sky Line section)

–        Tom Colicchio (@tomcolicchio). Charismatic chef and owner of the famous restaurants Craft

–        Sam Sifton (@samsifton). Editor-in-chief at the New York Times

–        Everything NYC (@EverythingNYC). For the latest news, things to see, to do and eat in Big Apple

EAT AND DRINK

Going out on the town

New Yorkers love to cultivate the motto of the “city that never sleeps” and contradict the old-fashioned principle that only the weekend is for going out. In New York, most agree that that going out on Fridays and Saturdays is for suburbanites. For a real New Yorker a party can happen any day of the week.

Book a table

A certain flexibility with regard to the hour of meals will increase your chances of getting a table in a top restaurant. Be prepared to have dinner at 8.30 pm.

The charms of lunch

If you’re itching to try a classy restaurant but don’t want any trouble with your banker make do with lunch when prices are lower and tables are available. You favourite chef possibly won’t be there to prepare a foie gras but you’ll have the opportunity soak up the atmosphere and taste 5-star meals.

4 - Brunch

Enthusiasm for brunch

A long queue, curt wait staff, a mimosa cocktail, two cups of coffee, an egg dish, brioche bread and friends with a hangover are the ingredients of the favourite culinary hobby of the New Yorkers. Brunch is an integral part of the social structure just as tea time is for the British. Even thought the word “Brunch” stems from the contraction of “breakfast” and “lunch”, this weekend meal (especially Sundays) is neither of them – it’s a unique event that goes from 11 am to 4pm.

What trip to the USA east coast would be complete without a few days in New York? Let us know how you go!

Campervan Rental Bonds, 5 things you need to know…

When will the bond I paid when I collected my campervan be reimbursed? This is definitely one of our frequently asked questions at Salamanda Travel.

Bond amounts payable on pickup of your campervan or motorhome vary. Some are debited from your credit card; some are “swipe only” which means the credit card is swiped and pre-authorisation given, but the amount is not actually debited. In this case, if the vehicle is returned intact the pre-authorisation is simply removed on the return of your camper, and will not show on your credit card statement.

Adventure-Camper-Lifestyle-Photo-9-706201344107-Print

The campervan supplier does debit your credit card with the bond amount in the case of Standard Liability and Liability Reduction Option 1 (read more about these options here), and also with Hippie Camper vehicles. The amount that is debited when you pick up your motorhome is returned to the same credit card within 15 working days after return of your hire vehicle, assuming all is well with the state of your campervan or motorhome when you return it.

If there is a delay, it may be from your own financial institution – some process the amounts faster than others.

Our major supplier, Apollo Motorhomes, is available for any questions regarding the refund of your bond amount after the vehicle has been returned. Their number within Australia is 1800 777 779 or worldwide on +800 3260 5466. Check their website for further contact info.

Adventure-Camper-Lifestyle-Photo-2-706201343432-Print

If your bond amount is not returned after 15 working days following the vehicle hire, please do contact the supplier in the first instance, as they are the ones who actually debited the money.

Of course at Salamanda Travel we are always here to answer your questions, so you can call us or send an email if in doubt about the return of your bond or any other question to do with your self-drive holiday.

We are currently available by phone Monday to Friday, 8:30am to 1:00am Australian Eastern standard time (AEST). Our toll free numbers are:

  • Australia            1800 995 446
  • New Zealand     0800 448 278
  • UK                      0800 028 7890
  • France               0800 917 640
  • Netherlands      0800 022 7231
  • Switzerland       0800 562 795
  • Germany           0800 189 9380
  • USA               (310) 929 5666

Route 66: A Two-Thousand-Mile Road Trip made for RVs

Route 66 is the world famous highway from Chicago to Los Angeles. This historical route was originally built for American residents wanting to live The American Dream in California. Route 66 is 2,295 miles (3,680km) from start to finish, crosses eight different states and two time zones. No wonder this route is on many bucket lists – what about yours? Maybe it’s time to cross that one off and take a motorhome along the famous Route 66?

Once the road was opened in 1926 at least one hundred thousand Americans took their chances and drove from the poor mid-west to the riches awaiting in California. For exactly that reason travellers today drive the route in the same direction starting in Chicago. The route takes you through Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California. Book your RV with Salamanda Travel and cruise your way through the USA at your own pace and in style!

Arizona

Here are some tips for must-sees along the trip, just to make sure you don’t miss anything while you’re there.

Make sure you start your trip with some photos of the ‘End Historic route 66’ sign at one end of Route 66 in Chicago. You’ll find the sign at the intersection of Jackson Boulevard and Michigan Avenue.

After the first couple of miles you’ll come along the Meramec Caverns in Missouri, the limestone caves, probably the oldest stop along Route 66, and absolutely worth a visit. The best way to explore these caves is by raft or with a canoe rental.

Midpoint Cafe in the mid-west is one of the best places to stop for a drink and typical American – Texas size – meals. You’ll probably meet some other like-minded travellers while you’re here. In Texas you also find the Cadillac Ranch where 10 graffitied Cadillacs are buried nose-down in the ground. This ranch is one of the few places where you can release your inner artiste and graffiti some art of your own.

A must-see during the last days of your trip is the Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona. Take in the magnificent views you will recognise from many a movie during sunrise or sunset, or hike through the amazing red rocks and see for yourself why this national park sees five million visitors every year.

Did a road trip on Route 66 yourself recently? We’d love to hear your thoughts and tips for other travellers!