Last year we ran one of our favourite competitions in Places We Go history; the chance to WIN the Ultimate Queensland Road Trip. The winner could design the trip themselves, using a Flight Centre voucher for flights and car rental, a BIG4 Holiday Parks voucher for accommodation and a gift card to spend at Anaconda stores to stock up on all the gear.
Toby-Lea Gooding from Victoria was our lucky winner, and having just returned from Queensland with her family, we caught up with her to find out all about winning the prize and what their experience was like on the road in Queensland!
Toby-Lea, you were the winner of our Ultimate Queensland Road Trip competition – how did it feel when you found out you had won?
I was so surprised and shocked to find out we had won the Queensland Road Trip. I remember sitting on the side of the road talking to Emma from Places We Go with tears streaming down my face! Then calling my husband to tell him the good news, that was pretty awesome.
Tell us a little bit about yourself and your family
There is me, my husband Adam and our two children; Neve who is 4 years old and Sullivan is almost 2 years old. Adam is a Physiotherapist and I am a Kindergarten Teacher.
We sold and moved into a new home at the beginning of this year and Adam and I had just said to each other that we probably won’t be able to afford a family holiday this year, we will just save and put what we have towards the new home. Not long after, we received the call saying we were the winners!!!!
You’ve now travelled on your Queensland adventure – can you tell us a bit about what you did and where you went?
Not long after we found out we had won, we went into our local Flight Centre and had a chat with a consultant who gave us some brochures to take home and look at for Queensland. Having 2 small children we knew we would be best staying at family friendly locations which had a balance of fun kids activities as well as things that Adam and I would also enjoy!
We decided to travel for three weeks and chose not to go during the school holidays as prices were much more expensive and busier. Adam and I had been to Cairns before and loved it and the surrounding area so we flew from Melbourne to Cairns for the start of the trip.
It was a warm 27 degrees on arrival, perfect! The first BIG4 we stayed at was the BIG4 Ingenia Holidays Cairns Coconut Resort and it was amazing!!! Our favourite BIG4 by far.
We stayed here for 7 nights, exploring the town, the lagoon, local markets and spent a day at Green Island (a must do if staying in Cairns).
After the 7 nights, we flew from Cairns to Brisbane. We then drove to the Gold Coast and stayed at the NRMA Treasure Island Holiday Resort. Our trip to Dreamworld was a highlight here as well as discovering numerous playgrounds and beaches. We also enjoyed some delicious meals from restaurants and cafes on the GC, we both love coffee so finding a great coffee shop was often the priority of the day! The GC was definitely the best place for shopping… we spent a full day at the Robina Town Centre which is full of great restaurants and shops.
After 5 nights on the GC we drove up the coast to the Sunshine Coast, staying 6 nights at the BIG4 Caloundra Waterfront Holiday Park. This BIG4 Holiday park was in such a beautiful spot, as the name suggests! Our cabin was right on the waterfront with secure access to and from the water for the guests. This holiday park was so welcoming, clean and inviting. When we arrived at our cabin, we were greeted with a delicious cheese and fruit platter and a bottle of wine, congratulating us on winning the holiday. So lovely! Whilst in Caloundra, we went to the Australia Zoo, drove to Noosa for the day, explored the local beaches and playgrounds (and coffee shops!)
After 3 weeks we reluctantly packed our bags and flew from the Sunshine Coast back to Melbourne.
What were the absolute highlights of the trip?
- Green Island trip (Cairns) especially the semi-submersible boats which take you out to explore the reef and see the sea life in action… amazing to do with children!
- Fig Tree Playground in Cairns
- Dreamworld… if you have children under 5 they will LOVE the ABC Kids world section of the park. Lots of fun (not too scary) rides, heaps of ABC Kids characters to have your photo with and family friendly facilities.
- Moffat Beach in Caloundra; awesome set up with a playground, large grassed area, walking paths, clean beach and cafes close by.
What are your best road trip tips?
- Plan ahead as much as you can… we got a huge whiteboard out when planning our trip and sat on our lounge room floor with a map of QLD and a texta and just played around with the itinerary for the 3 weeks. We factored in kids sleeps, full-day activities versus half-day plans, travel times, distance from our BIG4 etc
- With the children we always made sure we had ample snacks and water for them and tried to make the longest drives of the day coincide with their day sleeps. We are really lucky that our children love sleeping in the car.
- Look at the time of the year you are planning to travel, if it’s at the same time as school holidays you can expect an increase in prices for flights and accommodation.
What were the kids favourite memories?
Our 4-year-old daughter loved the splash park at the Cairns BIG4 and spent hours running between the pool and the splash park! Our almost 2-year-old son is really into animals so the Australia Zoo was a highlight for him.
We have made a book of all the photos from our holiday which the children have taken and shown their kinder and creche. They still talk about our trip to Queensland often and would love to go back again (as would I!).
How did you find Queensland as a road trip destination?
Great. With the children being quite young, we knew we had to be realistic about the holiday. They wouldn’t have coped if we were driving every day of the 3 weeks so we tried to plan a ‘balance’ of driving, exploring and planned tourist activities (as well as relaxing-at-the-pool days!).
The scenery in all areas of Queensland is so beautiful. Everything is green and lush and if you choose a good scenic route along the coast line, it makes the experience so enjoyable.
Any favourite BIG4 Holiday Parks, and why?
- BIG4 Ingenia Holidays Cairns Coconut Resort was the most family friendly accommodation we have ever stayed at! It was packed full of activities for the children to enjoy which meant you could spend days just exploring the resort! They have a large pool, massive splash park, mini-golf, toddler friendly indoor climbing area, outdoor cinema (this was awesome!), games room for older kids, bike hire, huge jumping pillows, playgrounds and much more!
- BIG4 Caloundra Waterfront Holiday Park. Although this didn’t have as many child friendly activities as the BIG4 in Cairns, it was such a well-kept and inviting holiday park for families. It has a heated outdoor pool, jumping pillows and a playground. The cabins were spacious and modern, and staff were really friendly. The location of this holiday park is great too, you can easily walk into the main area of the town and it is close to the beach.
Have you been on a road trip in Queensland? Tell us about your experience in the comments!