On arrival in Melbs on the cold and drizzly day before the big game, we zipped to our luxe-AF hotel stay at United Places to unload our bags before heading to the AFL Grand Final Parade in the all-new Toyota Corolla. Its advanced Head-Up Display, premium JBL audio system and comfy, heated seats made the inevitable traffic jams more brilliant than unbearable, and major props to its game-changing safety technology for getting us there in one blissed-out piece. While my team sadly missed out on the final (next year, Brissie) it was incredible to witness the, ahem, passion of the West Coast and Collingwood fans as they cheered (and jeered) in the pouring rain.
After a mouth-watering meal at Botanical and good night's sleep, it was time to don our colours (luckily I backed the eventual winners) and make our way to the stadium. Not only did I get to experience the bucket list essential of a Grand Final at the MCG, we also got to lead the Legends Lap of Honour in the Toyota Corolla, on the dang field. A serious pinch me moment. And from now on, I'll be adding every possible sporting event to my holiday itinerary.
The off-road adventure, Yarra Valley
I’ll be honest, my version of winding down on the weekend involves more mud masks than mud puddles. So, when I was tasked with going off-road and out of wifi (gasp!) for two days of adventuring in the new Holden Colorado, I was daunted. Not just by the lack of Netflix, more because I had never gone 4WD-ing by myself before. But as soon as I touched down in Melbourne and hit the road to the Yarra Valley, the drive came as naturally as watching back-to-back episodes of Friends. After a quick refuel at Napoleone Brewery and Ciderhouse (I stuck to water), it was on to Toolangi State Forest for some off-roading. The on-and-off downpour and rough terrain made for some sweaty palms but the ute’s tech – such as switch-on-the-fly 4WD, Limited Slip Differential for improved traction and hectic Hill Descent Control capability – made it feel like I was driving a cloud. Lane Departure Warning and Forward Collision Alert also ensured my passengers and I would make it home in one piece, despite my rookie abilities. Next up, it was a breathtaking cruise through the Black Spur – arguably one of Australia’s best drives – to our overnight digs in Marysville. This town of about 400 people was devastated by the Black Saturday bushfire in 2009, but has rebuilt and become a go-to for skiing, biking and hiking weekend warriors. Day two and we were off to Buxton Mountain Bike Park to try out a different set of wheels. Although I was a little apprehensive to swap my heated seat for a significantly less-padded one, I was soon hitting the humps with enthusiasm. One sweaty, muddy and bloody (yep, there were stacks) hour later, the glutes were burning but I couldn’t wipe that big ol’ grin off my face (#endorphins). Getting out and about (and out of my comfort zone) is now firmly at the top of my weekend to-do list.
The glamping weekend, Jervis Bay
By WH Deputy Editor Lizza Gebilagin
For years, I’d been trying to get my husband to go camping, but he could never get past the idea of going without a bed or a working toilet. And even though I told him that shitting in the bush wasn’t the most horrendous thing in the world, as long as you found a spot with decent foliage, he wasn’t convinced. It took the promise of a king-sized bed, swathed in fancy linen, inside a safari tent with a wooden deck and private ensuite at Paperbark Camp for him to finally say yes. Yeah, I married a princess.
So, in the spirit of glamping it up, we drove to Paperbark in Jervis Bay from Sydney in a top grade Mazda CX-5, the Akera AWD. Because if you have to spend three hours in a car, you may as well do it in style with a black leather interior, an impressive Bose sound system and more than enough room for all your traditional camping gear (if it were actually that kind of trip). But as soon as we arrived at Paperbark, I knew all future dreams of taking my husband on a proper camping trip had died. Our bed was five-star-hotel nice and the shower and tub in the open-air ensuite were steaming hot. After settling in, we had a three-course dinner under the stars, catered by the much-raved about onsite restaurant, The Gunyah. Then it was marshmallows by the campfire with wine and whisky from the outdoor bar. When we returned to our tent, the solar-powered lights had stopped working. With no-one around to fix the power, we navigated the pitch-black tent with an LED lantern. It was the closest we got to a legit camping experience. The next morning, we skipped the 6am yoga session on the beach (how could we resist a sleep-in when the bed was that comfy?) and had a lazy brekkie at The Gunyah before checking out. And you know what? I really liked not having to pack away a tent. It was so easy! On the way home, we made the most of the Mazda with a detour to the seaside town of Huskisson. I’m now a converted camper: once you go glamp, you’ll never go back.
Beachlovers' break, Byron Bay
By marketing manager Mel Wayne
When we touched down at Ballina airport, I was so excited to get on the road. I plugged in the Apple CarPlay on my Jeep Compass Trailhawk, and we were off to Evans Head with the sunroof open and the tunes pumping. First, we drove on the beach to test out the SUV’s durability, then set off into the wilderness to assess its offroad capabilities. A tad scary but the SUV handled the tough conditions (hills, rocks, water) well and I felt safe the whole time. We were lucky enough to stay at The Byron at Byron, dine at iconic South-East Asian restaurant Rick Shores and catch a surfing comp. Such a great getaway