May 23, 2019

Ultimate Driving Tours on pole for Monaco

An Australian-based luxury tour company has grabbed pole position in Monaco – a sold-out crowd for its most popular event, a visit to this weekend's iconic Formula One race.

Clients of Ultimate Driving Tours were able to choose to enjoy their F1 Grand Prix spectator duties as a stand-alone experience (May 23-26), or combine their stay in the beautiful principality with a four-day European Supercar Tour through France, Switzerland and Italy, before or after the event.

Ultimate Driving Tours first offered a driving tour including the Monaco F1 event back in 2012. This year, a total of 48 drivers have booked out the two tours, with another 50 people opting to join them just for the race weekend. All will enjoy the race from a privately chartered superyacht moored in a prime location in Port Hercules, beside the track.

This is a capacity crowd for this tour combination, one of the most popular of Ultimate Driving Tours' range of more than 10 tours, which take clients to destinations in Australia, Europe, America and the UK. All tours allow clients to drive a selection of the world's best cars.

For this month's tours, participants have also chosen from a list of popular optional extras – adding on an evening with Australian F1 star Mark Webber and/or driving a real F1 car on a closed circuit.

"We were sold out for the Grand Prix six months ago," says Ultimate Driving Tours CEO, Anthony Moss. "It's so popular that next year's Grand Prix is filling fast, with only limited spots available, while on current indications, the related driving tours either side of the 2020 Monaco Grand Prix will be sold out next month."

Mr Moss says many of his clients describe visiting the Monaco Grand Prix as a 'bucket list' item. Adding a driving tour either side is the cream on top.

"They say they are surprised by what incredible value they get for the price. Four days driving the world's best cars on the world's best driving roads and staying in amazing hotels paired with excellent food and wine.

"People want to reward themselves for their efforts in their life. We see parents that have children who have graduated or moved out of home, businessmen and women who have sold companies and others who just have a passion for cars."

Clients can certainly indulge that passion to excess with Ultimate Driving Tours. Thanks to the company's special partner arrangements, they can get behind the wheel of vehicles such as Ferraris (458 Spider and 488 GTB) and Lamborghinis (Huracan and Aventador), as well as the Porsche 911 GT3 and GTS, the Aston Martin DB11 and the McLaren 720S.

Until this year, the iconic Monaco Grand Prix was the only F1 event on Ultimate Driving Tours' calendar, but the company is now offering a package to the Italian Grand Prix(September 6-8), which is already nearly 80 per cent sold out.

Clients wanting to book a driving package with Ultimate Driving Tours can combine it with any other plans in Europe. The tours are created as exclusive end-to-end luxury travel experiences with every detail arranged by the company's team of European specialists who can recommend many other things to do and see, and do the bookings too.

Ultimate Driving Tours was born from a passion for all things motor-related, and an appreciation for the finer things in life. The company specialises in exclusive and unforgettable supercar driving tours, motorsport packages and track events, as part of a luxury travel experience.

More information is available on the website:  www.ultimatedrivingtours.com

May 19, 2019

Relive Riverboat History on the Murray River aboard a paddle wheeler

Words: Roderick Eime

Australia’s riverboat history is a colourful one. What began as a challenge between two entrepreneurial merchants in the infant colonies, turned into a thriving industry for over half a century.

19th-century paddlesteamer 'Queen' loading cargo (Port Adelaide Railway Museum)

Spurred on by a prize of 4000 pounds offered in 1851 by the governor of South Australia, Sir Henry Fox Young, William Randell and Francis Cadell started the romantic and hectic era of paddlesteamers along the Murray River with their own modest vessels. Within a few years, around 250 vessels were plying the river, carrying general goods, wheat, wine and other produce to market.

But the river, like any other, was fickle and prone to periods of high and low water. Boats were often stranded for weeks on end with perishable cargo on their decks, and before a series of planned locks could be completed, the river trade was overtaken by road and rail. Many boats were abandoned where they lay, left to rot in the mud.

Even though the river trade may have almost died out, the tourist demand kept the big paddlewheelers afloat. Taking a few days for a leisurely cruise along the Murray River has been a tradition for the best part of a century - with comfort and refinement gradually increasing to its peak with the PS Murray Princess, the largest and grandest vessel yet.

For example, two of the busiest ports from the heady days of 19th Century paddlesteamers, Mannum (SA) and Echuca (VIC), keep the tradition alive with both restored and replica vessels taking part in regular re-enactments’ and tourist cruises. Here is a quick summary of the ways and where’s you can relive the glory days of Murray River paddle steamers.

South Australia

Mannum, founded by William Randell around 1850 expressly to service his paddle boat empire, is still the home of the famous 110-year-old PS Marion. This delightful historic vessel still operates cruises.

The century-old PS Marion

For information, see www.psmarion.com or telephone +61 8 8563 2720 or +61 407 937 487

Also based at Mannum is the impressive sternwheeler, PS Murray Princess, the biggest paddlewheeler ever to operate on the Murray and claimed to be the second largest in the southern hemisphere. Carrying 120 passengers at a leisurely 6 knots, the PS Murray Princess operates 3-, 4- and 7-night itineraries between Mannum and Blanchetown, depending on river levels. Excursions include wine tasting, history and museums, a sheep station and Aboriginal heritage.

For information, see https://www.murrayprincess.com.au/ www.captaincook.com.au or telephone +61 2 9206 1100

PS Murray Princess,  the largest paddlewheeler ever to operate on the Murray River and the largest paddlewheeler in the Southern Hemisphere (SeaLink) 

Murray Bridge in South Australia is another historic river port where you can take a short day cruise aboard the modern Captain Proud or a 2- or 5-night cruise aboard the 1982-built, 40-passenger Murray Expedition (formerly MV Proud Mary)

See www.rivermurraycruises.com.au or www.captainproud.com.au

The Riverina port town of Renmark is known as the oldest irrigated township in Australia and was also a major player in the river trade. Today the paddlesteamer, PS Industry (1910) calls Renmark home.

See https://www.facebook.com/PSIndustry.Renmark/

At the mouth of the great river is the town of Goolwa, home port to the century-old PS Oscar W. Formerly work barge C24, Oscar W was restored as a paddlewheeler and after a colourful career on the Murray it now serves exclusively as a day-cruiser. Goolwa offers a double treat for history buffs because it is also the terminus for the ‘Cockle Train’, a steam locomotive operating between the wharf and Victor Harbour.

See http://www.oscar-w.info/cruises.html and www.steamranger.org.au


The twin towns of Echuca Moama boast the largest fleet of paddlewheelers in the world including the oldest wooden-hulled paddleboat, the 1866-built PS Adelaide and the TV star, PS Pevensey (1910). Other vessels have included PS Alexander Arbuthnot (1923), PS Emmylou (1980 replica with a 1906 engine), PS Hero (1874) PS Canberra (1912) and PS Pride of the Murray (1924).

Port of Echuca (VisitNSW)

While one or more of these vessels may be under maintenance or restoration by their volunteer staff, there will be still a choice of several vessels on which to cruise. A good time to visit Echuca Moama is during one of their annual festivals like the Celtic Festival (March), Winter Blues (July) or the American Iron Heritage Truck Display (September).

For a full listing of events, activities and cruises, see www.echucamoama.com


Trivia: In 1984, a 6-part television miniseries, All the Rivers Run, based on a historical novel by the Australian author, Nancy Cato, was filmed in and around Echuca. It starred veteran Australian actors John Waters, Sigrid Thornton, Charles ‘Bud’ Tingwell and Gus Mercurio. The starring vessel was the century-old PS Pevensey renamed ‘Philadelphia’ for the series.

Mildura is one of the largest cities on the Murray River and today is a bustling rural centre with modern, sophisticated accommodation and dining. Paddlesteamers Melbourne (1912) and Rothbury (1881) operate regularly from the wharf with Melbourne departing twice each day as it has done continuously for the past 40 years. The Mildura fleet also includes the modern replica Mundoo.

For further information on the Mildura fleet, see www.paddlesteamers.com.au

Swan Hill Pioneer Settlement is a recreated 19th century river township that includes the genuine historic river vessel, PS Pyap (1896) as part of its activities.

See www.pioneersettlement.com.au

New South Wales
As the Murray River forms the border between New South Wales and Victoria, it was natural that the northern state (or colony as it was before 1900) be part of the busy river trade. The town of Wentworth is the home port for the PS Ruby (1907) after it was presented to the community following restoration in 1996. One of the last remaining vessels purpose-built for passengers, Ruby is operated by volunteers on a cruise schedule based on demand and does not have onboard overnight facilities.

PS Ruby (Visit NSW)

See http://www.murrayriver.com.au/ps-ruby-wentworth-inc-1241/ for scheduled cruises

The many surviving and restored Murray River paddlesteamers are operated and lovingly maintained by squads of volunteers, reflecting the great affection held for the vessels themselves and the history they represent. Cruise aboard one of these magnificent antique vessels and share in the romance of Australia’s greatest river.

For a summary of all cruising and activities along the Murray River, see www.murrayriver.com.au http://www.murrayriver.com.au/river-cruises/