We’ve never been big on road trips. Usually trips of two hours or more were just hard work, so the thought of a Great Ocean Road Trip with the family had me second-guessing how it would go.
We’re much more of the ‘jump on a plane interstate for a few days, soak it up and fly back’ kind of family. Which of course is all well and good when your kids are young enough to pop them on your lap and avoid the ticket cost.
Now the kids are a little older, 3 and 5 (going on 10 and 15) and actually out of the baby/toddler zone, holidays are changing and so is our approach.
After our Deputy Editor Tania returned from her hundredth Adelaide to Melbourne trip with her boys in tow and raved about the experience, I was intrigued. How could that be? Nine hours with two kids in the back and they loved it?! You must document this miracle Tania! And so she did. How to Rock the Road Trip was born and boy oh boy was it a timely godsend!
We’d been in talks with Mitsubishi about an opportunity to review their 2016 Mitsubishi Outlander when it launched this month and being an SUV driver already, I thought this could be a great first-time opportunity to grab the kids, pick up a shiny new car and Rock our first Great Ocean Road Trip along the Great Ocean Road from Melbourne to Adelaide. I mean, what could go wrong? SERIOUSLY?!
So that was that.
The Jennings’ first-ever Great Ocean Road Trip was on and the kids couldn’t be more excited! Perfectly timed to coincide with the ANZAC Weekend meant hubby was able to get a few extra days off beforehand and we planned our four days on the road.
We flew to Melbourne Thursday morning on the red-eye (cheap flights plus you don’t waste the day travelling) and in no time at all were checking in to the Grand Mercure Hotel on Swanston Street. Nice and central location and really welcoming with families. We had stayed here before and loved it but this was the first time with kids and it was brilliant! It only cost us $200 for a room with two queen beds and a buffet breakfast for all four of us! It was a great deal and everyone was amazing.
We’d promised the boys a visit to toy store heaven AKA the Myer Toy Emporium in Myer Bourke Street. This place has to be seen to be believed! Nanna had given the boys $20 each at Easter which they saved especially for their visit so they could buy themselves something new for the trip. Needless to say they were gobsmacked like I was and spoilt for choice, even with their $20 budget!
It had been a long day and the boys were tired so we headed to Southbank for a cheap and cheerful dinner. As you can see, they were hungry too! Here’s Alex polishing off his spaghetti so quickly that there was no time for table manners!!
Then it was Friday morning and time to pick up our shiny new Mitsubishi Outlander Exceed! Woo hoo! The boys were pretty excited. Not only were we picking up a new car for a driving holiday along the beach BUT they were also getting two brand new, fancy bright Infa Caprice Car seats and we were off!
Don’t forget the footy!
Our first stop on the highway was Geelong and, although hubby is a one-eyed Crows man, a stop outside Kardinia Park was on the cards (secretly we know he was hoping to catch a glimpse of one of the Geelong players). A quick selfie was in order before moving on to grab some shopping for our trip. Now in Adelaide we don’t have ALDI Supermarkets (yet!) but we have reviewed plenty of ALDI products so a stop to ALDI was a no-brainer to check out the range and try some more!
And then we were on the road! A little bit later than what we had planned (it was 2pm by then) but who cares? We’re on holidays and loving the freedom to stop and start that road tripping brings!
Eyes in the back of your head
I love the sense of adventure that getting behind the wheel gives, especially on unfamiliar roads leading to a mysterious destination. One thing for sure that stood out from the minute I got behind the wheel though was that the Outlander was both solid and really responsive (and quite surprisingly quite intuitive) on the road. Now I’m not going to go on and on about the car right now. I’ll save that for our upcoming review because I’ve still got more I’d like to do with her before we share our final thoughts. However there were a few really impressive features from the onset that I think are important to share that made our trip OH-SO much easier and safer.
Firstly, we put her on cruise control not long after getting onto the highway, cruising along at 100km/h. Nothing unusual there. Until the car AUTOMATICALLY SLOWED DOWN to 80km/h as we neared a section of roadworks! Say what!? I thought we’d broken the car. In the motoring fraternity, they call it Adaptive Cruise Control, but I just call it clever and intuitive. No chance of speeding through roadworks and risking lives in this beauty! Big tick Miss Outlander!
Oh and get this. If, while travelling the car in front of you brakes suddenly or slows down and you’re NOT braking, the dash will flash and beep at you and then if you don’t brake, it WILL APPLY THE BRAKES to avoid collision or reduce impact. That kind of intelligence is mind-blowing. The proper term is Forward Collision Mitigation or just awesome.
“Can I drive yet? Can I drive yet?” Gosh, he’s almost as bad as the kids! After a few hours of
patiently watching me behind the wheel it was hubby’s turn. Share your driving is the first step in safe long-distance driving, right? Plus I got to enjoy being a passenger and play photographer! The weather was pretty average (thanks Melbourne) but we still managed a few stops for photos along the way.
Ready for all weather
Once we got past Lorne the road takes a turn in towards rainforest and a little cross-country. It was a lovely and welcome change, however with that came dusk. Within the space of about an hour, we went from daylight to dusk, with fog, rain and then the most spectacular lightning with a thunder storm in the mix. The fog lights made a big difference at a really difficult time of the day for visibility. The Outlander features these cool looking LED Daytime Running Headlamps which gave you that sense of safety and ‘being seen’ on the road, especially helpful for long-distance driving and when the dusk and fog hit. The LED headlights seemed to have much whiter and more focussed beams of light than conventional headlights. So what could have been a really dangerous experience was actually really safe and, though not quite enjoyable, far more comfortable?
Our first night’s stay was at the Great Ocean Road Tourist Park at Peterborough which is just 10 minutes or so from Port Campbell. This 2 bedroom family cabin cost us $165 for the night which slept 6 and was quite modern and very clean. It’s across the road from the beach and had heaps of extra facilities as you’d expect in a tourist park. We had planned to get there much earlier than we arrived to see the 12 Apostles before sunset but instead, we headed straight to our accommodation, grabbed some dinner and the boys hit the sack. There’s something really exciting about young kids and caravan parks! The rooms had bunk beds and though I didn’t allow them to sleep on the top bunk for safety reasons, there was no reason why they couldn’t make it a cubby house with the spare blanket! OMG they were in heaven – you can’t beat that kind of innocent fun!
Given we arrived so late to such dreary weather, I got up early and headed to the 12 Apostles for sunrise. It was quite drizzly but I braved the ‘lovely weather’ to get some shots (without kids and hubby in tow) and so thankful I did. It was a beautiful experience being there on my own, thinking about all those attending Dawn ANZAC Services around the country and a great moment to reflect and take in the beautiful world around me.
Thank goodness I made it out there to see these natural wonders because by the time I’d headed back to checkout with Jason and boys, the weather had really started to turn for the worse! It was raining HARD but we were keen to brave the elements and head back to Port Campbell. Of course, we hadn’t packed an umbrella (or any wet gear – lesson learned!) so we grabbed a couple of cheap ponchos at the kiosk and headed out to the 12 Apostles lookout. Let’s just say Master 3 was not impressed, Master 5 complained about his poncho and I got SOAKED trying to keep them both dry! We made it out there (it’s only a few minute’s walk) but by then it was POURING! Still, I tried to pull out my phone to take a quick “we were here” selfie (#committed) but it got drenched so I reluctantly chalked it up to those memories that just need to stay in your mind.
The rest of the day was a pretty much ‘stay inside the car’ kinda day as we dried out (thank goodness for the heated seats) and warmed back up. This was when we whipped out our first
ammunition activity we’d brought. The trusty AFL Footy Character collection and played I-Spy with the winner each time getting a little character for their album. This kept them pretty amused until we reached Warrnambool and stopped for lunch. It was ANZAC day so most places were shut, which left us Hungry Jacks or the Roadside Takeaway. Would it surprise you to hear that the kids won that one hands down?
It was really nice travelling though those country towns I frequented as a kid, road trips were a big part of my childhood memories.
My dad always had a boat and we’d take that to the various fishing hotspots and stay in the caravan parks in a caravan or cabin. It felt kinda sweet to be bringing my kids along the same type of trip (sans boat) and be creating the memories for them.
Quick stop for a photo opportunity at the SA/VIC border and a bit of a run around to burn off energy and stretch our legs and we were off to Mount Gambier. I haven’t been there for many years so felt like a real tourist in our own back yard! We went to the blue lake but it was horrid weather again so I was the only one who braved the rain for the mandatory selfie and back in the car to dry out and warm up!
We stayed overnight in Mount Gambier then headed off for Adelaide at about 8am. The drive from Mount Gambier to the city was quite easy – the sun was out (hurrah!) and the car drove effortlessly! We were really pleasantly surprised at how little petrol she’d used (about $55 to this point) and it was just really nice to be driving in something so quiet, spacious and really intuitive. The horrible weather had almost no negative effect on our trip as the drive was so smooth, comfortable and safe. It was really something else and we felt very spoilt.
Pretty soon we were in the great Coonawarra Wine country and the autumn leaves and vines were a sight to behold! What had started as a ‘pull over the kids need something’ moment soon turned into a ‘grab the camera, this is really beautiful!’ opportunity. No idea what vineyards they were but wow, it was stunning!
Before we knew it we were on the Princes Highway and well on our way home to Adelaide. What a crazy 4 days and what a way to soak up the splendour along our Great Ocean Road Trip. This is an almighty touring route and I can’t begin to imagine how incredible it would be with a week up your sleeve. Rather than passing through towns, you could stop and stay along the way! Next time (did I just say that?) we’re stopping at Apollo Bay and Lorne and Wye River was highly recommended too.
It’s hard to find fault with a trip travelled in such luxury and style and we were thrilled to be able to put the brand new Outlander through her paces. She really did live up to all the hype and I can see why now. What an intuitive vehicle – from the clever cruise control, to the rain-sensing wipers (that adjust the speed automatically depending on the level of rain – and trust me there was A LOT of that!) It’s a big 7-seater and the boot was huge which meant the kids had the back seat to themselves and the big cases and shopping stayed in the boot where they belong! Note to self: Must pack lighter next time – I am BAD at overpacking!)
Our final verdict?
Definitely a great family holiday and really great when the weather’s nice I’m sure!
It was a totally manageable mini-holiday. We broke up the trip into 2 hourly blocks and let the kids get out and stretch their legs. We always made time for a snack or lunch or even as simple as a toilet stop with a quick run around to burn off the
excess built up energy. These all went a long way towards helping the kids enjoy the road trip just as much as we did.
For the long drive-times we had multiple activities lined up to keep the kids amused on each leg of the journey – iPad, DVD Player, Footy Characters, Colouring In, eye-spy. My two always wanted the same thing at the same time but had no interest in it until the other did… ever heard that before?? But overall we managed to get through it unscathed and with plenty of laughs along the way.
And let’s not forget the wheels! For the short time that hubby ‘allowed’ me to drive it (which was pretty limited because he enjoyed it so much!) I was totally in love.
The Mitsubishi Outlander run rings around our current SUV and we were both really impressed at the new features, the superb handling and smooth, quiet ride. As a passenger it was really comfortable, spacious, big boot (tick) and the way she handled on the wet and windy road was second-to-none. The kids loved the ride too. Their ‘Monster Truck’ really ticked their boxes. I felt really safe and that’s ultimately one of the biggest deciders for us in choosing a car.
So thank you Great Ocean Road for such an incredible journey! We’ll definitely be back but next time for longer and to explore all the wonderful hidden gems along the way.