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Port Douglas, Queensland
Winter? What winter? Up north, winter is just a slightly cooler version of summer and there’s nothing not to like about that. When Melbourne is 14 degrees, Port Douglas can be counted on for mid-20s and when you come from a southern winter that is spelt PARADISE! Even in winter the ocean temperature is still 23 degrees and in June, July and August you are out of the stinger season. Better yet, it’s still warm enough to eat fantastic seafood and Asian fusion food, and take in all the things that far north Queensland does best.
Port Douglas is a great destination by road because there are plenty of beautiful places to stop for the night all the way from Brisbane, and when you have everything you need in your camper there’s no need to hurry.
Driving there: Port Douglas is 68km or just over 1 hour's drive north of Cairns. Or if you prefer the scenic route Port Douglas is about 1,747km or about 20 hours' drive north of Brisbane via the Bruce Highway. This is one of Australia’s most scenic coastal drives with any number of places to stop and camp or just look, swim, do and explore.
Dove Lake, Tasmania
The wooden shingle clad boatshed at the side of Dove Lake is an absolutely iconic Australian image, yet is seen most often in summer. Snow bound in winter, the whole area takes on a special magic and you will feel like you are in North America. The walk around the lake is about 6km and is utterly beautiful, but if there is snow you should allow 2–2.5 hours to complete it.
Naturally you need to bring some warm waterproof boots such as quality hiking boots and a suitable jacket, hat and gloves. All that exercise will set you up for a retreat back to your comfy camper for a hot cuppa and a Tim Tam or two before you drive on.
Driving there: You can put your camper on the Spirit of Tasmania, sleep the night and be in Devonport the next morning. It’s romantic, a lot of fun, and the beauty of this is that once you get there you don’t need to pay hotel bills. Dove Lake is in the Cradle Mountain–Lake St Clair National Park, about 1 hour 30 min drive from Devonport. There are some lovely spots to stop on the way. Make sure you stop for a pie in Sheffield and buy something in the historic Slaters Country Store, which sells a fantastic range of menswear and will make you feel you have stepped into a scene from Fargo or Twin Peaks.
The Prairie Hotel, South Australia
The Prairie Hotel was licenced in 1876 and despite being in the far outback of South Australia, it’s on Gourmet Traveller's list of top 100 destinations. When you get there you’ll understand why. The scenery looking out over the distant Flinders Ranges is stunning and the food likewise. In winter, the days are crystal clear and warm but not oppressively hot. The nights are cold and can even get below freezing on occasions but we love that contrast and there’s something refreshing and lovely about getting all snug in your camper. Driving there is part of the attraction and there are many options to stop along the way when you see this slice of real Australia.
Driving there: The Prairie Hotel is on the corner of High Street and West Terrace, Parachilna, 90km north of Hawker. You can get there on The Outback Way Route B83. Parachilna is 195km north or about 2 hours 10 min driving time from Port Augusta. From Adelaide to Port Augusta is 305km or about 3 hours 30 min drive. The hotel has four powered camping sites and other unpowered spots.
Albany, Western Australia
A trip down south from Perth is a great winter road trip. Take in the Margaret River wineries or go down to historic Bridgetown on the way. Once you arrive, there is a lot to do around Albany. See the Desert Mounted Corps Memorial, watch a 30 tonne humpback whale breaching or walk on Little Beach in the Two Peoples Bay Nature Reserve, surely one of the most stunning beaches you will see anywhere.
Driving there: Perth to Margaret River via Busselton is 270km or about 3 hours drive but there are plenty of nice stops. From Margaret River to Albany you can stop off at Nannup, Pemberton, Walpole or Denmark for local heritage, culture and delicious food.
Peninsula Hot Springs, Victoria
When the weather is cold, getting warm is always a good strategy.
True as that is, the Peninsula Hot Springs go beyond just warm. That’s because when you’re out in the cold yet deliciously warm, you get to gloat about how warm you are and how clever you were to choose this destination. The mineral springs are laid out so you can wander along sign posted paths to all the different spa experiences. Not that there’s far to walk, mind you, as it is only 25 to 50 metres from one hot spot to the next. Each spa spot is different in style and signposted with its temperature so you can find one that suits.
After all this you’ll come out so happy and relaxed that you’ll feel like having lunch in the restaurant and will then appreciate having your very own home on wheels at hand for a lie down, while other people are stuck with well… merely a normal car.
Driving there: The Peninsula Hot Springs are at 30 Springs Lane, Fingal down on the Mornington Peninsula, about 1 hour 15 min drive from Melbourne.