SINGAPORE TO DESARU AND MALACCA, MALAYSIA
Located just 100km east of Johor Bahru, Desaru is a popular but no-frills, beachside town that’s easy to get to. On the way, stop at the Ostrich Wonderland in Teluk Ramunia, Kota Tinggi. Here, the kids can learn about ostriches, feed them, watch their eggs hatch, and even go on an ostrich ride.
Afterwards, head to Desaru Fruit Farm (www.desarufruitfarm.com), which has over 100 tropical fruit species. The guided tour teaches you how to select the best fruits before sampling your favourites. Besides fruit trees, the farm features a petting zoo, a bee farm, and dirt-cart rides.
From there, drive westwards to Teluk Sengat Crocodile Farm, another big attraction for road-trippers. Here, you’ll find over 1,000 saltwater crocodiles, the oldest of which is 130 years old. You can take photos with the reptiles and learn interesting facts about them.
Another must-visit is Kota Tinggi Waterfalls, also known as Lombong Waterfalls – just north of Kota Tinggi town. The wading pools are shallow and safe for kids, but be careful around the more powerful cascades.
A visit to the Firefly Valley Leisure Park to the south of town is the perfect way to end the night – watch fireflies put on a spectacular light show as a boat takes you through the dark mangroves.
From Kota Tinggi, drive westwards to return to the highway that will take you directly to Malacca. This historic town is known for its food, but you should also check out its cultural attractions, like the Baba & Nyonya House Museum (http://babanyonyamuseum.com), which showcases rich Malaysian Peranakan culture, and Jonker Street, with its markets, street food, shophouses, and interesting architecture.
MELBOURNE TO SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA
Take the “heritage route” and get a taste of Australia’s rich history. From Melbourne, make your way to Bendigo, about 150km northwest, or just over two hours’ drive. Bendigo was a famous gold-mining town, but today it’s better known for its food and culture. Among its many family attractions are Bendigo Water World (www.bendigowaterworld.com.au), The Zone Family Entertainment Complex (www.thezone.com.au), and Bendigo Tramways (www.bendigotramways.com).
From Bendigo, head northeast to Yarrawonga-Mulwala, about a three-and-a-half-hours’ drive away. Pick fruits, sample artisan cheeses and more in this quaint town, which boasts numerous farms that are open to the public. From here, it’s a more-than-five-hour drive to Canberra. The Australian capital has a lot to offer besides cultural and political hotspots (think Parliament House and the National Gallery of Australia).
Other attractions worth stopping at include the National Zoo and Aquarium (www.nationalzoo.com.au), The Bird Walk (www.canberrawalkinaviary.com.au), a walk-in aviary, and Fun Factory. Located in Fyshwick, this indoor play centre features a jumping castle, a ball pit and climbing structures. The last leg of the drive will take you to Sydney, via the Federal Highway and the Western Highway. The ride should take about three and a half hours.
TOKYO TO NAGOYA, JAPAN
Depending on traffic, the journey from Tokyo to Nagoya takes almost 10 hours, via Osaka. But the country’s beautiful scenery more than makes up for any hassles you may experience along the way. The mountains, farms and fields, all give the drive that much-needed “wow” factor.
Once you arrive in Osaka, you’ll find plenty of things to do and places to visit, including Universal Studios Japan (www.usj.co.jp), with its newly-opened Wizarding World of Harry Potter attraction, and the massive Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan (www.kaiyukan.com), which has exhibits from the Pacific Ocean, Antarctica, the South American rainforests and the Tasman Sea.
Next to the aquarium is the Tempozan Ferris Wheel, which gives you spectacular views of Osaka Bay, Mount Ikoma and the Mount Rokko during the 17-minute ride. And don’t forget Osaka Castle (www.osakacastle.net), one of Japan’s most famous and historic structures.
In Nagoya, visit the Higashiyama Zoo and Botanical Gardens, which also boasts an amusement park, and the Nagoya City Science Museum (www.ncsm.city.nagoya.jp), which houses one of the world’s largest planetariums. Older children may like Nagashima Spaland, a large amusement park located just outside Nagoya. It’s in a resort that also has an outlet shopping mall, hot spring complex and botanical garden that the rest of the family will enjoy.
LONDON TO EDINBURGH, UNITED KINGDOM
You can easily do this drive over four days. The main challenge is getting out of London. Once you’re out of the city, it’s relatively smooth. First stop: Oxford, a historic town just a couple of hours’ drive from London. Here, you may want to visit Oxford Castle (www.oxfordcastleunlocked.co.uk), which brings the area’s history to life. The Bodleian Library (www.bodley.ox.ac.uk), too, is another historical treasure. One of the oldest libraries in Europe, it’s home to more than 11 million printed items.
Just 90 minutes from Oxford is Stratford-upon-Avon, Shakespeare’s childhood town. Check out the Royal Shakespeare Theatre (www.rsc.org.uk), where you can learn more about the Bard’s plays and his life. From here, journey north through Liverpool, and keep going till you arrive at the picturesque Lake District. There are many farms, mountains, valleys and lakes here, but the area is also home to the Beatrix Potter Gallery (nationaltrust.org.uk/beatrix-potter-gallery), which exhibits the author’s original drawings and watercolours, and the Ravenglass and Eskdale Railway ride, an authentic steam train that takes passengers on a 40-minute journey through the beautiful countryside.
Keep driving north until you reach the Scottish border. Along the way, you’ll pass Blencathra mountains, instantly recognisable with its ridges and peaks. Driving further north – it should take you a few hours – will take you to Edinburgh, the capital of Scotland. This vibrant city boasts countless historical attractions, such as Holyrood Palace (www.royalcollection.org.uk), the official residence of Queen Elizabeth II in Scotland, and Mary King’s Close (www.realmarykingsclose.com), which depicts life in Edinburgh between the 16th and 19th centuries.
This article was originally published in Simply Her February 2015.