Episode 4 - Road Trips

Best road trips in Queensland revealed.

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Show notes

Everyone loves a good road trip, especially around Queensland. We reveal the best road trip destinations, tips for travelling long distance with kids and pets, classic pitfalls and ideas for planning the perfect getaway. This podcast will help make your next journey safer, easier and more enjoyable.


  • Steve Spalding, RACQ Head of Technical and Safety Policy
  • Deb Eccleston, Editor of The Road Ahead and RACQ Living
  • Glenn Toms, RACQ Chief Executive Officer Assistance
  • Matt Bron, Destination Director of Outback and Country Queensland, Tourism Events Queensland


You're listening to RACQ Living.

Anthony Frangi: Hello, and welcome to the RACQ Living podcast. I'm Anthony Frangi. Everyone loves a good road trip, especially when it includes Queensland, from our famous beaches to the splendour of the outback. Before planning your next trip, there are a few things you should know to help make your journey safer, easier and more enjoyable, and that's the topic of today's podcast.

Anthony Frangi: Joining our panel is Glenn Toms, Chief Executive Officer for RACQ Assistance, Matt Bron, Destination Director, Outback and Country Queensland, with Tourism and Events Queensland, Deb Eccleston, Editor of The Road Ahead and RACQ Living, and Steven Spalding, RACQ Head of Technical and Safety Policy. Welcome, everyone.

Glenn Toms: Thank you.

Deb Eccleston: Thank you.

Matt Bron: Thank you.

Anthony Frangi: Matt, in your position with Tourism Events Queensland, you must see a lot of Queensland each year.

Matt Bron: Yeah, I really do.

Anthony Frangi: Is there a favourite part of Queensland for you that you love to return to each year?

Matt Bron: I've got one on the coast and one out bush, I suppose you could call it. On the coast, I cannot go past the town of 1770 up there, just outside of Gladstone. That's my little sneak away spot. And then out west, I do love a good campsite and a campfire, so I think on the banks of Cooper Creek near Windorah is a beautiful location to pull up, as well.

Anthony Frangi: Glenn, how often do you get out and about?

Glenn Toms: I guess, like Matt, I travel Queensland regularly. We live, I think, in the most beautiful state in Australia, because it is so diverse. You've got the glitz and glamor of the Gold Coast, and you've got just the absolutely sheer beautiful of far north Queensland and the rainforest. Then you've got the outback, as well, too, as it's referred to, but just those expansive areas that are just beautiful in their own right.

Deb Eccleston: I prefer the country hinterland sort of areas and we went out to Goomburra, which is beautiful, just so simple, so serene. Having kids and a surf loving husband, often it's the beach holiday that we end up having, so therefore I have to admit, Agnes Water and 1770 is on our wish list. I haven't been there yet, so that's certainly a spot where we want to go.

Anthony Frangi: Yeah, there are so many special places out there, and I think we are spoiled for choice here in Queensland. Matt, in terms of planning for road trips, and that's the purpose of our podcast today, how much planning do you put into a road trip and what advice can you give to others?

Matt Bron: It's probably, from traveling a lot of late, I'm probably putting less and less in now that I've got more experience, but I think the main thing I always do is I always pull out a full-size map of the state or where I'm traveling, because I can't handle it on the little computer screens. I need that map and I need a highlighter. The first thing I do is try to plan a loop or a trip that doesn't go over the same ground twice. I love a little bit of dirt, so I look for unsealed tracks, if I can find them. And obviously, a little bit of research into connectivity for your telephone and how much water you're going to need. If I'm going really far, I'll look at hiring a sat-phone, and basically get myself prepared per destination.

Glenn Toms: Oftentimes, the old ways, Matt, is exactly right. A map is really, really handy to have in your car, because it's always there. And it really does ... it gives you a physical reference point, so if you're out of power, out of connectivity, it works. I think that's a really good suggestion.

Matt Bron: Mine's very ratty, though, at the moment. I might have to invest in a new one.

Deb Eccleston: And I think one can't underestimate the importance of knowing how to read a map. When you have one, having fallen into that trap of plotting and planning and thinking ahead everything, done properly-

Matt Bron: You're not a map turn upside downerer, are you?

Deb Eccleston: Look, I don't want to go into details, but needless to say, distances that we thought were far shorter, weren't, and plans that we thought were simple, weren't.

Glenn Toms: But a map to me is all about planning, as well, too. Like if you've got a map and you know where you're going, it really is about planning, because some of the distances you travel are quite extensive, so it's really about identifying where the fuel points are to make sure that you don't run short of fuel.

Deb Eccleston: For me, it's all about survival, and I mean that as a parent traveling with kids, not so much the ... well, obviously, road safety is important, but when you have multiple people to cater for and consider on a trip, the planning cannot be done carefully enough. I'll be honest, I don't think I've got it right, to this point, and I've done a lot of road trips. Because as children-

Anthony Frangi: And why is that?

Deb Eccleston: Because children's ... they change, and so how you plan for a road trip with a baby or a toddler is very different to how you plan a road trip with teenagers, which is sort of the phase I'm embarking on now.

Glenn Toms: It's always the toilets, isn't it? I planned a trip where I said, "I'm going from point A to point B," and halfway through, my daughters want to stop to go to the toilet. I have to learn that.

Deb Eccleston: Exactly. And it's food, too.

Glenn Toms: That has to be part of the plan now.

Deb Eccleston: The food, you have to-

Matt Bron: I was going to say, toilets and food.

Deb Eccleston: Food, you know? And just boredom. Counteract the boredom, like as much as you say ... unfortunately, my children are prone to motion sickness, much like I am, so the DVDs in the car just don't work for us. So any road trip we plan, we really have to be realistic and sort of four hours is the maximum with a two hour break in between, which is what they suggest anyway, in terms of road safety, which works out well, but we need that rest break for a multitude of reasons on top of that.

Matt Bron: I'll have to teach you about car cricket, Deb. I'll teach you that game.

Deb Eccleston: Car cricket?

Anthony Frangi: How does it work?

Matt Bron: Car cricket's a great one for the kids. Each colour car has a different amount of runs scored. So if it's a red car, you get six. If it's a truck, you're out. Basically, go round the car and see who gets the most points.

Deb Eccleston: That's fantastic. I'll take any alternative to I Spy. I Spy on a two hour road trip, just like, "Oh, seriously? No more. Stop."

Anthony Frangi: When we pack our car, the things that we should be taking into account that we might forget because it's not on the list, or we haven't done it for a long time so therefore we forget about certain essentials?

Matt Bron: I have the first aid kit in the glovebox, just a little car kit. I think the main thing I always do on a longer trip is I check my spare tire pressure, because you often don't touch your spare. I always look at the oil. Dad always said, "make sure you put it on a flat level location and do it in the morning while the oil's cold." Then basically, I just try to control less in the boot, with regards to bringing the entire kitchen sink and all the kids' toys, and try to make as much fun out of the location we're going. We don't have the iPads in the car, either. I've sort of tried to-

Anthony Frangi: Because you're too busy playing cricket, aren't you?

Matt Bron: Too busy playing cricket. Too busy coming up with ideas to keep the trip exciting, the way it used to be. Maybe I'm a bit old school.

Glenn Toms: Matt mentioned before about having a little bit of water in the car. If for whatever reason you're on the side of the road, you need to stay hydrated and that's really important. But also, making sure that you don't have ... and I know it's an old adage ... but not having heavy objects in the car. Every circumstance, you're not expecting to have an accident. If you do, then those sort of loose objects can really harm and kill people inside the vehicles.

Matt Bron: Really be a missile, couldn't it, if you think about it?

Glenn Toms: They can, yeah. Something very small can cause serious damage.

Deb Eccleston: And it's not even in an accident situation.

Glenn Toms: Just heavy braking.

Deb Eccleston: Yeah, heavy braking. In any situation, if you've got something stacked up behind you and it comes down, you don't ... I underestimated how easily that can happen. You need to make sure that ... we always put a lot in the cargo barriers.

Matt Bron: Cargo barrier.

Glenn Toms: Yeah, your cargo barrier, but most people don't, so if you don't have a cargo barrier, just making sure you're wise in terms of the way you pack. If you're packing in a station wagon, pack low, pack underneath and make sure that it's covered and secured. You can get a cargo net just to put over the top that actually straps down to the floor. That's sufficient. That'll stop it becoming a missile. You don't want to become the Griswolds.

Deb Eccleston: We actually have a roof cage, as well. They're like-

Matt Bron: That's a good idea.

Deb Eccleston: Because we realised how much we were having to put in the back of the car and I wasn't comfortable with that, so we invested in the roof racks and roof cage, and therefore, you can put those bigger items up the top there and you know they're safely tied down.

Matt Bron: I've failed in the past then. I remember a time where I had to literally rip open nappy boxes to be able to get loose nappies into the last little bit of space left in the car.

Glenn Toms: We've all done that.

Deb Eccleston: Been there, done that.

Glenn Toms: It's even more important when you've got a caravan, because if you've got a car, you've got limited space to put stuff in so it almost forces you to be diligent in terms of what you take. But I've done a lot of caravanning, ever since my kids were babies. In fact, when my first daughter was born, three days after leaving hospital, we had a camper trailer and we went to Goomburra at the top of Cunningham’s Gap in the middle of winter. We camped there, and it was great. It was really, really enjoyable.

Deb Eccleston: Did your wife think it was great, too?

Glenn Toms: Yeah, she did, I think. Yeah, she did. I guess she did. She didn't complain and we enjoyed it. It was a nice couple of days away.

Deb Eccleston: It is a beautiful spot.

Glenn Toms: Yeah. But if you've got a camper trailer or certainly if you've got a caravan, you've got this huge temptation to fill it full of stuff because you've got a lot more space to put gear in.

Anthony Frangi: Do you think most people who are caravanning today, they're pretty responsible because they're part of a wonderful club or organisation such as the RACQ-

Glenn Toms: We sold our caravan last year and we went through, as any caravanner does, the time when you have to clean everything out of the van because someone else is taking it, like almost cleaning out your home. We thought we were quite wise and diligent and not over-packing the caravan, and literally, we had an entire driveway full of pots and pans and sheets, because there's so many cupboards and spaces in there that you don't realise how much weight's onboard.

Glenn Toms: I know Caravanning and Camping Queensland with the RACQ run times where you can weigh your caravans. And that's, getting back to safety, you don't know how much weight is in the caravan unless you actually put it on a set of scales. You can take your van to a public weighbridge and get it weighed, and I think you'll be surprised. Something that you think might weigh a couple of tons, will all of a sudden weigh three tons. That's a major safety issue if you've got to pull it up in an emergency. It's also weight, in terms of the caravan swaying from side to side. They're the hidden things you can't see.

Matt Bron: I saw a little video the other day, a little baby car on a fake turnstile, like a ... and they were shifting the weight from the front of the tow-ball area to the back, and then flicking the trailer and showing you what happens with all the weight at the back. It was really visually evident that the way you pack with that much is really critical.

Glenn Toms: Yeah, the trailer will take control of the car, that's correct, if you weight too much at the back.

Anthony Frangi: Steve, on the subject of caravanning from a technical and safety point of view, do you think most people are doing the right thing on the road?

Steve Spalding: I think most caravanners do try to do the right thing. There is a lot to consider. As Glenn said, you have a lot of weight considerations. It's not just about the weight of the van. It's all the stuff that goes in it. Importantly, it's how it's loaded, and again, Glenn illustrated, you have all this stuff, these personal possessions. So it's about the weight of the van, it's about the tow bar load and it's also about the towing capacity of the vehicle, because when you put the van on the back of the vehicle, you then have to consider all of the stuff that you carry in the towing vehicle as well, and that combined weight certainly adds up.

Glenn Toms: I've had everything. I've had small box trailer style camper trailers, I've had roof tents, I've had wind up camper trailers, I've had single axle on duel axle caravans. I've had them all, and I've got to say, they were the happiest times I've had as a family with my kids. The difference between the two is the caravan's physically bigger and therefore you can hide so much more stuff in there in the cupboards you don't even know is there. It's just like when you clean out your home when you're moving. You don't realise how much stuff you've got inside.
Anthony Frangi: I've towed a camper trailer, not a caravan, and I find that when you're towing something, you get tired a lot quicker. Would that be true? Has anyone ... Is that just a myth or do you think because you've got more responsibility, you feel you have more responsibility on the road?

Glenn Toms: Yeah, I'd agree with that. I certainly don't know the science behind it, but after doing hundreds of thousands of kilometres towing caravans, you are more aware of what's behind you because the van is wider than the motor vehicle and therefore, you tend to ... and correctly so ... you tend to check your mirrors more. Plus, they are longer and therefore you have to pay attention going round the corner. You have to take a wider berth. You need to consider more things when you're towing something. But in saying that, it's still a lot of fun and it's really, really enjoyable, which is why so many people do it nowadays. They're great holidays.

Deb Eccleston: Given that fatigue aspect ... Steve, I guess you'd be the person to answer this ... would you recommend more frequent breaks for those towing, whether it be a camper trailer or a caravan? Rather than the usual two hours, would you suggest longer?

Steve Spalding: I think it's very much an individual thing, but certainly two hours is the maximum. I think that's widely accepted now that regardless of the type of vehicle you're driving, you need to take regular breaks. Two hours is the maximum, with a minimum of 15 minutes stop time. Sometimes, it will require a longer period, but certainly if you're finding the journey's fatiguing, if you're finding towing the caravan is making it more stressful and more demanding, then certainly stop more times and stop for longer periods.

Matt Bron: A packet of Scotch Fingers is critical.

Steve Spalding: I think, and a good cup of tea or coffee.

Glenn Toms: It's probably more a Tim Tam episode that one, I would have thought. You've kind of got no excuse with a van, because when you pull over, you've got a lounge suite, you've got a toilet, you've got a kitchen on the back, so that's solved the toilet break issue once we had the caravan, because it was, open the door of the caravan and straight away you've got a toilet and you've got a nice lounge suite and a kitchen there, as well, too.

Anthony Frangi: Now, Steve, you recently did a trip to Emerald on your motorbike, and we've been sort of sharing stories about adventures. What was your adventure there, if any, I guess?

Steve Spalding: I can tell you, it was great. Yes, I rode from Brisbane up to Emerald to see my daughter that lives there and works there, and then up to Moranbah, which is about another 250 kilometres or so.

Anthony Frangi: What was the highlight for you of that trip?

Steve Spalding: I think, really, to some extent, it was riding and having that mindset of decluttering the mind. That solitude of riding, that enjoying the scenery, stopping to take occasional breaks, the odd photo, and just riding along in a very relaxed manner. It's really, really-

Glenn Toms: It is beautiful, isn't it. Yeah.

Steve Spalding: It is.

Matt Bron: Did you go to Carnarvon Gorge on the way?

Steve Spalding: No, I didn't, and I think that raises, really, another topic, and that is about managing your fuel stops. On a motorcycle, you have very limited range. In my case, my bike will go onto reserve at about 215 kilometres, and if anyone knows that section of road north of Injune up to Rolleston, there is only one fuel stop at Rolleston, which is about 175 kilometres. So if you haven't got the range, you can't detour for those other things.

Matt Bron: That's a good point.

Anthony Frangi: Steve, in some of the travels I've done, you go to small country towns that you ordinarily wouldn't go there to have a holiday. They don't have a theme park, they don't have anything that you think would be attractive to a tourist. I go there for work, for RACQ, and I have some great times in those towns. They have beautiful people. If you stay at the local pub or the local place, it's just a really, really beautiful experience.

Deb Eccleston: And even for families, I agree. Going out to those lesser known places where there really isn't as much to do as children would perceive it. "Oh, this is boring." It's not long before they see the true value in it. And the experiences, even though they're different, are still equally as cool as they might have been had you gone to a theme park or something like that. It's that different level of appreciation that I think as a family you get when you go on these road trips. As they say, it's the journey, not the destination. Sometimes, you have to remind yourself of that.

Glenn Toms: It is hard to put into words, because when you travel some of those distances, two or three hours between towns, the country just changes subtly. So you drive out of town and it kind of looks a bit boring, but then as you are driving it really starts to have a charm about it. I can't explain what it is, but it's a real charm. You see emus, you see kangaroos and you see cattle, and you subtly see the landscape changing around you. It's literally like a movie playing out in front of you as you're driving along.

Matt Bron: If you can ever get someone local from the area to jump in with you for a few 100k or transit, their perception-

Glenn Toms: With their permission, of course.

Matt Bron: With their permission, yes. Their perception and what they can tell you of the landscape and the different ... it just takes it another notch yet again. It's kind of like having your own tour guide in your car. So if you've got any mates that live out there and you can get them on a stint, the conversation in the car just becomes really enjoyable.

Anthony Frangi: And it's not just the landscape. I think it's the light in the sky.

Matt Bron: Yeah, the sky.

Anthony Frangi: And how that changes from location to location from morning through until night. It is quite spectacular, too. I want to move on to talking about traveling with pets.

Deb Eccleston: I've only really done it once, and it turned out that the dog got car sick, as well, so that-

Anthony Frangi: A double whammy.

Deb Eccleston: ... that was unexpected.

Matt Bron: Nothing worse.

Deb Eccleston: I've sort of come to the decision that if it's not comfortable for the animal then don't take them along. Simply because you don't want them to be in a situation where they're stressed. But if your animal loves traveling, great, but not always so lucky.

Glenn Toms: I guess it depends upon why you're traveling, too, because I'm 51, so I look back over the last 20-odd years and the caravan and camping that I've done has all been with the family. It's been incredibly fun. It's just a great experience. And we have taken our dog. It's a small dog and it's great, because you take them away for the weekend, they can come camping with you. It is difficult, because you do have to manage toilet stops for them and water and food.

Glenn Toms: That's one way, but then I look at grey nomads, people who've retired, and they do take their pets with them and that does come with its difficulties because not everywhere accepts pets. Not all tourist parks do. Many do now, because there are so many, but then the majority of their time is at a location, so the actual time that they're in transit with the pet inside the vehicle is actually a really small time of their experience. I think for people retired and traveling, it's probably a bit easier than for a family going away.

Deb Eccleston: Definitely.

Matt Bron: We travel with our Labrador, Mavis. She comes with us everywhere, and it's a big part of the kids' life having Mavis with us. She sits at their feet and she's got her own little seatbelt and harness. We really enjoy it. I think the difficult part for the pets, as you get further out west as well, is there's a lot of wild dog problems in this country at the moment. And a lot of local areas are baiting to remove those dogs. That can be a real risk for family dog owners if they let them run ... think they're open in the wild out there and letting them have a run. So you have to be really mindful of the different areas you're in and the different jurisdictions and what they've got going on.

Anthony Frangi: There's also a lot of National Parks where you can't take pets. You might travel a long distance thinking you're going for a wonderful walk, and there's a big sign that says, "no pets allowed."

Deb Eccleston: And often, I've seen at holiday parks, while they are more accepting of animals, it's under the direction of them being on a lead at all times.

Matt Bron: Lots of rules.

Deb Eccleston: I actually don't know how you would manage that in terms as an animal owner, because how do you keep your dog ... I don't even know if that's a good experience for them to-

Anthony Frangi: It's much harder, it really is. The point you're raising, it is much harder if you carry your pet with you. There are rewards there, but there's a price to be paid.

Matt Bron: You have to admit sometimes, that your pet is just not well behaved and you probably shouldn't be taking it. We've had other animals like that, and they've had to go to the kennel because they're just too wild.

Anthony Frangi: Except for Mavis. Mavis has been very good.

Matt Bron: Mavis is beautiful. She's perfect.

Deb Eccleston: See, my Sam, we went to Goomburra with Sam because they accept pets, and I, rose-coloured glasses, thought this is fantastic seeing we just adopted him. All was going well until ... because you can have an open fire at Goomburra. It's beautiful, the hinterland green pool-

Matt Bron: It is lovely, yeah. It's beautiful.

Deb Eccleston: ... you have the open fire. And we discovered that ... Sam's a Border Collie, and it turned out, Sam is slightly obsessed with smoke. And so he would try and catch and chase the smoke, which is dangerous because you've got an open fire and he would just go ballistic. And so we had to actually tie him up the entire time so-

Glenn Toms: Lots of snakes out there, too.

Deb Eccleston: Yes, so knowing your animal's behaviour is vital in making the decision of whether you take them with you.

Anthony Frangi: And I think at night, too, because there's different sounds, they can keep you awake all night. Not the sounds, the dog, because they're barking or they're responding.

Deb Eccleston: And not just you, but the other people at the campsite or holiday park, which-

Matt Bron: I had a horror story with our dogs, though.

Anthony Frangi: Oh, share.

Matt Bron: Just so everyone knows. They all stayed in the cabin tent with us. There were two of them at that time. So all of us in there, two kids, two adults, two dogs, all sleeping. The dogs picked up some kennel cough from a previous holiday and decided to get it that night. So for the entire 12 hours, we had dogs barking, or sounding like they're trying to cough up bones, in the tent. Vomit everywhere. It was a horrible, horrible trip, so the message is, choose your trips.

Deb Eccleston: Did you do the walk of shame the next morning?

Matt Bron: We had to pack up and leave early, because all the other campers would have heard it as well, for sure. Yep, yep.

Deb Eccleston: No one likes the walk of shame.

Anthony Frangi: All right, before we go, is there a place in Queensland, a location that possibly isn't clearly labelled on the map, that is worth going to? Matt, I'm going to start with you because you have been everywhere, man.

Matt Bron: I think one of the lesser known locations is just outside of Aramac on a little lake called Lake Dunn, which is, I guess, right in central west Queensland. You go north from Barcaldine and end at a little township, Aramac. Great little pub there with a TAB if you need to get the Saturday 10,000 or something. And then you head straight out to Lake Dunn, which is about another hour and a half. Wildlife all over that little road. Take it nice and steady. And then you get to this beautiful open lake that just you wouldn't expect exists, and locals have sort of set up little shacks that you can rent, if you're just in a car. They're very basic, but if you're in a caravan, as well, you can stay out there and enjoy a lake in the middle of the outback. So, Lake Dunn for me.

Steve Spalding: Rolleston, there's a small park and there is a coffee caravan there that's run by the locals. They do the best home-made cake and a good coffee, as well. So if you're on the road and you need a break, that would be my suggestion where to stop.

Glenn Toms: For me, it's an easy one. We did a trip out west and we stopped at a little place called Jimbour and went to Jimbour House. I didn't know that existed. It's this magnificent home on the top of a hill, almost you'd expect to see it somewhere in England, an estate in England. It has an airstrip and it's just the most magnificent English home. It's open to the public, and I took my family through there. The thing I loved about it is, we didn't go there for that, we just came upon it. And walked around, and they have beautiful vegetable gardens there. God bless my daughters, they didn't know vegetables came out of the ground. They thought they came out of a tin or a fridge. So they had a look at the vegetable ground and the gardener cut some vegetables for them, which they took. So that was a real experience that I know we all remembered, and that's the beauty of road travel.

Deb Eccleston: For me, I think it wasn't so much the road trip aspect, but more the destination, in this case. It's good old Kingaroy, out west, which there's a place there called the Kingaroy Observatory, which I had never been to until recently. Took my children there, and James, who is the astronomer out there, he's very quirky but he knows everything there is to know about space and the great beyond. On a clear night ... you were saying before, Anthony ... with the sky and everything being so different out in those regions, it was fascinating. It was absolutely fascinating. I didn't expect the experience that we had, and I highly recommend it. You could easily do it in a weekend. Just take the kids, make a booking and go. They'll have a science lesson, I guess. Is it science? I don't know, but it's-

Anthony Frangi: It's science, yeah.

Deb Eccleston: ... it's a science lesson that they really won't forget. My kids, they're all pre-teen or one's a teenager, and they still found it pretty cool, because you're looking through these enormous telescopes at the sky and seeing planets and everything. That's my recommendation.

Anthony Frangi: Steve Spalding, Deb Eccleston, Glenn Toms and Matt Bron, thank you for joining us on RACQ Living.

Matt Bron: Thank you.

Deb Eccleston: Pleasure.

Steve Spalding: Thank you.

Glenn Toms: Thank you.

Anthony Frangi: If you would like more information on any of the stories raised today, email us at roadahead@racq.com.au. I'm Anthony Frangi, join me next time for more RACQ Living.