On the road Down Under: A trip from Sydney toward Melbourne

By Andrew Vadas, Contributor

SYDNEY, Australia -- Remember the good old days? Those days when you would jump in the car with a bunch of guys, load up with goodies and head off down the road? Well folks, it's time for a road trip with a difference - we're going to throw the clubs in the back, and head south from Sydney.

Over the next few weeks, we'll travel down through Sydney's Royal National Park, along the F6 or Southern Freeway, and head toward Melbourne. On the way, we'll play some great golf, consume some great food and wine, and view some of the most spectacular scenery in Australia.

So what are we waiting for? Let's hit the road!

The journey begins

As we leave Sydney, we pass the Royal National Park, which offers pristine health, rain forest and coastal habitats to explore. Dotted along the way are tiny shack settlements, many only accessible on foot or by sea. Numerous vantage points afford sweeping views of the majestic coastline and its rocky cliffs. For those who enjoy even closer contact with nature, a selection of walking tracks along spectacularly scenic routes reveal secluded waterfalls, lush rainforest and an abundance of native flora and fauna. Two prime examples are the Wodi-Wodi and Forest Walks tracks.

Wollongong's coastline is famous worldwide and has been a major drawing card for tourists since the 1890s. The region's many lookouts provide breathtaking views both north and south. It's all here - rugged cliffs playing fortress to the sea, sheltered bays, azure blue waters and infinite stretches of golden sandy beaches.

Our first port of call is the Russell Vale Golf Course, which is one of the most panoramic and scenic golf courses on the South Coast, with views from Wollongong Harbour right up to Austinmer.

A quick bite to eat at Desperado's Cantina in nearby Corrimal, and we are on our way.

After driving, eating and taking in some great scenery, we are ready for the serious business of golf. And what better place to start than the Illawarra's newest first class sporting facility; Calderwood Valley Golf Course. Modeled on the executive style American courses, it has something for every golfer. The challenging, par-70 has 18 unique holes, each with special features, combining clear creeks, and stunning scenery. The breathtaking surrounds feature the rugged Illawarra escarpment as a backdrop.

The course is open to the public, visitors, or social clubs from dawn till dark every day of the year. Bookings are required for the weekends, and recommended for Fridays.

And after struggling through a hard day's golf, we book in to the Yallah House B&B, a unique & historic turn of the century house which recently was renovated. We have dinner at the adjacent Yallah Woolshed, Australia's premier country and bush music venue and restaurant, where you can experience the character and rustic charm of an original historic wool store.

Day 2 brings a renewed vigor for further exploration of this amazing region. We travel past Lake Illawarra, back toward the ocean, until we reach Port Kembla Golf Club.

One of the highest rating courses on the South Coast by Australian Golf Digest, Port Kembla Golf Course is an 18-hole championship, par-72 course that has hosted many professional tournaments as well as the NSW Champion of Champions.

The course is a challenging blend of tree-lined fairways and strategic water carries, which are sure to excite any golfer. Warm up on the driving range or practice chipping and putting on the practice green or use the practice bunkers. You can even fine-tune your swing with a lesson from the resident professional.

The area also has a diverse range of activities from water sports to bush walking. There is plenty of accommodation nearby from luxury hotels to budget stays. Some of these include:

The Fairways Resort Stroll from your room onto the golf course. The resort has excellent priced accommodation. Facilities include air conditioning, swimming pool, tennis court and executive spa suites.

The Oasis resort Situated on the foreshores of Lake Illawarra, a five-minute drive to the golf course. The resort has a combination of cabin and motel style accommodations at reasonable prices. Facilities include a pool, sauna, spa, room service and restaurant and is within walking distance to the beach.

Warilla Bowling and Recreation Club Cabin style, budget accommodation, with air conditioning, swimming area, restaurants, gymnasium, tennis, cycleway, children's area. Only 15 minutes south of the golf course.

The Novotel Northbeach Stay in absolute luxury, situated on North Wollongong Beach, only 15 minutes from the golf course. A shuttle bus can transport you to and from the golf course. Facilities include beautiful rooms, restaurants, bars, nightclub, tennis pool, spa and sauna.

And for a truly memorable dining experience, don't forget a visit to Jindars Bush Tucker Restaurant, which features native herbs & berries to create tantalizing seafood and native game dishes. Kangaroo, emu and crocodile dishes are a specialty.

Day 3 sees us travel down the Princes Highway toward Nowra, capital of the thriving Shoalhaven district, just 95 miles south of Sydney and 120 miles north of the nation's capital, Canberra.

The Shoalhaven is one of the state's most popular holiday destinations, and Nowra is conveniently located near outstanding surf beaches. The area features the magnificent stretches of Jervis Bay with it's unlimited water sport and fishing opportunities, as well the adjacent and historic towns of Berry and Kangaroo Valley, where craft and antique shops abound in an old-world atmosphere.

And while we are here, it seems only natural that we should look in on the Nowra Golf Club, which is an exciting 18-hole layout contained in a picturesque setting bounded on one side by the Shoalhaven River and the other by a spectacular escarpment. The par-68 course presents golfers of all abilities with a wonderful challenge - quite apart from some of the best scenery in the Shoalhaven district. A feature of the lush and well-manicured course is the use of several elevated tees, which are cut from the escarpment itself.

Our hosts for the evening are the great people at the Nowra Motor Inn. Dinner at the Captain's Table Restaurant, followed by drinks at Jeremy's Bar, where we recap tales of our golfing exploits (some of them were actually true), and it's time to rest.

We have a long journey ahead.

Next instalment: We travel down the coast of New South Wales, through Ulladulla, Bateman's Bay, Narooma and Bega, till we reach the Victorian border.

Andrew VadasAndrew Vadas, Contributor

Andrew Vadas has formal qualifications in Business, Journalism and Sports Training and Psychology. He holds a Bachelor of Business degree, a Diploma of Journalism and holds various certificates in sports training and psychology.

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