Freddie Flintoff and Rob Penn go east in Oz

The driving buddies have swapped their chip van for a barbecue mobile and headed Down Under

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Last February, Freddie Flintoff and Rob Penn embarked on their third road trip: the East Coast of Australia, from Melbourne to Cairns, in a customised van with a barbecue in the back. “We thought we’d teach the Aussies a thing or two about cooking barbecues, which backfired pretty spectacularly,” chuckles Penn.

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Their cooking wasn’t the only thing to backfire; the van turned out not to be the nippiest or most reliable of vehicles. Fortunately, there were plenty of excuses to park up and stretch their legs. “It’s an amazing piece of coastline. As soon as you leave the populated stretches, you’re in the wilds. You can camp on a deserted headland night after night.”

As for the East Coast’s cities, Penn was impressed by how cosmopolitan Cairns and Brisbane have become. “Brisbane used to be pretty dull, but now it’s culturally vibrant and the food is fantastic, as it is all the way across the country.”

Sydney and Melbourne are still battling it out for the title of Australia’s coolest city. “There’s an intense rivalry. Melbourne has much more classical architecture, different sporting enthusiasms. The people in Melbourne would have you believe that their food and coffee are significantly better than anywhere else in the country. When I was first there 17 years ago, unquestionably the coffee and food were better in Melbourne. They had a coffee society long before we had it here in Britain. Sydney is catching up, but they’re very distinctive cities with quite different cultures.”

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Jasper coffee store in Fitzroy, one of Melbourne’s hip suburbs

Melbourne’s Achilles’ heel is the weather. “And the people in Melbourne get upset if you say you prefer the weather in Sydney! Properly upset.” But the cooler temperatures provide relief at the height of the Aussie summer, when much of the country is hot and sticky, whereas Melbourne is at its best. “It’s lovely, 20–25˚C, with a breeze off the sea.” claire webb

Melbourne musts

Catch a match: “They’re sport-mad in Melbourne” says Rob Penn, “and it’s easy to get tickets for the cricket or Aussie Rules Football.”

Cycle to the beach: “The city is very flat so great for cycling. On Saturdays and Sundays, people head to Beach Road, stopping off at cafes or one of the big sandy beaches for a swim.”

Drink up: “They’ve made an art of the rooftop bar. You’ll find them on top of rundown three-storey buildings and they’ve got a laidback vibe and a lovely breeze.”

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The 12 Apostles

Go on a road trip: “If you’ve got two days, drive along the Great Ocean Road. A highlight is the 12 Apostles, a series of rock stacks that will make your jaw hit the floor.”

Freddie Down Under is on Sundays, Sky 1, 8pm


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