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Off the Beaten Track


Houseboating on the Murray RiverIf you are looking for a holiday where there is no rushing around, plenty of time to enjoy the scenery and, in some cases, no particular place to go, here are some ideas.

There's plenty of time to relax but plenty to keep the kids busy when you hire a houseboat. This is holiday heaven, an opportunity to slow down and, literally, go with the flow. You can find houseboats on most major rivers, but the most popular area is the Murray River.

Houseboating on the Murray is river cruising in style. It's cruising in comfort with all the mod-cons you need to keep the family happy. The houseboats range from budget to luxury, and all have a lounge room, dining area, separate bedrooms, a fully equipped kitchen, bathroom and toilet, heating and cooling, television, video, CD player, outdoor furniture and barbecue.

The vessels can cater for between two and 12 people in style, and you will be very pleasantly surprised when you step on board. You don't even need a special licence, just some quick tuition from the operator before you depart the dock.

There are many places where you can start your houseboat adventure, with the major centres being Murray Bridge, Mannum, Swan Reach, Morgan and Waikerie. The choice of where you go is up to you. Pull up near a riverbank and spend the day exploring, fishing, swimming or venturing into a town. Cruise up river and admire the beautiful bush scenery or the spectacular cliff faces and sweeping bends. Do what you want, when you want, with no pressure to be anywhere, anytime.

Gypsy Caravans in IrelandGypsy wagons in Ireland

Life is also slow and relaxed when you venture off to Ireland for a holiday in a horse-drawn gypsy caravan. The kids would certainly love that for 'Show and Tell'! Clatter down country lanes in a colourful wagon, pulled by a docile Irish Draught Horse, with the stunning green Irish hills as your backdrop and centuries-old Irish villages as your destination.

There are a number of gypsy caravan operators in Ireland, and one of the best is Kilvahan Horse Drawn Caravans, located in County Laois. They have 17 new wagons well fitted out, and they are perfect for families as they have two fold-down double beds and one bunk suitable for a child.

It matters naught that you don't know one end of a horse from the other, as you will be given a morning training session to teach you all the important bits. There are a number of routes you can do, and the kind folk at Kilvahan give you some ideas as to where to stop for the night - it could be a field next to an historic pub or a green meadow next to a farmhouse.

This is a magnificent way to explore the real Ireland, with time to meet the locals, explore the villages and drink in the scenery that would normally be whizzing past if you travelled by car. And if your children like horses, it's nirvana!

On ya bike!

For something a little more active, consider a cycling holiday. Bicycle Victoria organises a number of holidays on wheels, and is Australia's largest cycling organisation. Its next cycling event is the 21st Great Victorian Bike Ride on from 27 November to 5 December 2004, which will go from Mt Hotham to Mornington Beach on the outskirts of Melbourne. The Great Tasmanian Ride is on from 9-16 January 2004 and the Great New Zealand bike ride from 7-19 February 2004, from Lake Tekapo to Greymouth, via Queenstown. Their rides attract people from ten to over 70 years of age, with about 600 school-aged children venturing out on the 2003 ride. On one ride, there were three generations from the one family!

Kayaking with Cutting Edge AdventuresIt's so easy to join in. The rides are meant to be holidays, with a different course each year. There is someone to carry your luggage and cook your meals, a mini bus to pick you up if you're too tired to keep going, and the social atmosphere of the mobile cycling tent-village will see you and your kids make many friends. Then there's the fresh air and exercise that can only be good for everyone.

Paddling in paradise

Kayaking is another great way to do something in the great outdoors, and the place to do it is in Vanuatu with Cutting Edge Adventures. They offer a range of adventures ranging in length from two to 28 days, visiting tropical lagoons, deserted islands, and local communities. These trips do suit families, with one Victorian family recommending at least a four-day trip to allow everyone to get into the swing of things.


Houseboats on the Murray

Houseboat Hirers Association
08 8395 0999

South Australian Tourism Commission

Horse-Drawn Gypsy Caravans
Kilvahan Horse Drawn Caravans

Bicycle Victoria
"Great" Ride
1800 616 600

Kayaking with Cutting Edge Adventures
Derek French, the operator

tel: 02 9668 9024

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