Places in the heart: Kate Langbroek

Western Australia has
the best beaches in the world, says Melbourne radio’s Kate Langbroek. And
although the waters of Bass Strait may get nippy, you never regret a swim.
I stayed at Cape Paterson, in south Gippsland, with
(former radio co-presenter and comedian) Dave O’Neill about 12 years ago. His
dad bought the block of land there for $700 in the ‘70s. They all called it
Cape Dump. I’ve been obsessed with the area ever since.
In Cape Paterson I was like a supermodel as all the hard
bodies flock to the inner-city beaches: St Kilda is wall-to-wall people waiting
to be noticed.
My husband, Peter, and I now have a holiday home at south
Gippsland’s Walkerville. The north is the dead-end fisherman’s beach. The south
has the better beach.
Even though it’s cold, we swim every day. You never regret a
swim. And as a woman, I swim because I never want to become one of those
mothers that are just sitting on the beach, watching everyone else having fun
in the water. In Australia, we’re so cloaked in body shame, swathed in our
kaftans: it’s so easy to drift into that when you’ve got kids.
Walkerville beach.

You could do what my mother-in-law and her sister did: with
seven children between them, they’d dig a big hole, bury all the children and
go for a swim. When they saw the first one climb out, they knew they had to
come out of the water. In the ’70s, you had to be resourceful.

We spent two weeks in the Kimberley recently and buried all
our kids on the beach in Broome. Individually, not in a giant pit.
Western Australia has the best beaches in the world: the
Kimberley’s are the most stunning I’ve ever seen. Every time we stopped, the
beach was exquisite. We drove down to Eco Beach, south of Broome, and there was
not a footprint on it.
But while the Kimberley has the best beaches, I’ll choose
Walkerville for its life and wild rugged beauty, with fishing boats and whales
outside your window as they go into Waratah Bay to rest with their babies.
Alison Lester wrote the children’s book Magic
about Walkerville, but it’s still a secret beach. The local fishermen
will hate me for talking about it.
I’m from Queensland and have lived on the Gold Coast, in
Brisbane and in Papua New Guinea. Mum and dad would take us to the Spit on the Gold
Coast, where we learned to swim, which was really odd as the Spit is that
finger of land near where SeaWorld is, with crashing waves and wild surf. Dad
couldn’t swim well, and mum didn’t swim at all. I remember me and my brother
being out of our depth many, many times.
Mum and Dad would book a flat (calling it an apartment was
gilding the lily) on the Gold Coast for two weeks. We swam at Burleigh Heads, Tallebudgera
and Kirra Beach.
Inexplicably, Peter and I decided to go on a road trip
when our first son, Lewis, was six weeks old. We drove 4000km and on the way
back, we stopped at Bondi because even though he’s Australian, Peter had never
been to Bondi. We wheeled Lewis onto the sand in his pram and were so dying to
get into the water, we left him with another family on the beach and asked them
to wave when he woke up: we invoked the community of the beach.
You remember those swims because they’re a stolen, precious
Peter loves Wilson’s Promontory, which is just beside
Walkerville. He talks about it all the time, as many Melbournians do. He’s
really into nature, so he takes the kids for walks and is teaching them to body
surf. I’m hopeless at it.
We do what people have been doing on the beach for 1000 years:
scoop sand into meaningless piles, find bits of shells and sharks’ heads and
poke them with sticks and talk about the schtunk
of it. It’s ageless. 
Kate Langbroek co-hosts the Hughesy & Kate Breakfast
Show on Nova 100.
Interview by Belinda Jackson. Published in Good Weekend magazine.

Living London style, Bali’s newest digs and sweet Manila: travel deals September 22, 2013

It’s time to up sticks, quick-sticks, to London, and surely one of the loveliest rooms is the reception at The Levin, my favourite photo of the week.

Otherwise, go tropical with a getaway in mad Manila – home of the shoe – check out a new resort in Bali or disappear just over the hills to the Blue Mountains and one of Australia’s most luxurious addresses, Wolgan Valley.

Go later: London
Stay in the heart of Knightsbridge, near Harrods and Harvey
Nicks, and get airport transfers and afternoon tea, worth $350, at the boutique
Levin Hotel. Its three-night Dollar Package costs from $1590 until end May
2014. +44 20 7589 6286,

Go now: Bali
The new U Paasha resort in Seminyak is offering two free
nights, breakfast, transfers and either wellness or watersports activities when
you stay eight nights in a suite, until December 20. From $590 a person. 1800
883 887,

Go sooner: NSW

Save $500 a couple on a Spring Indulgence at the five-star
Emirates Wolgan Valley Resort & Spa in the Blue Mountains. Includes
a regional picnic hamper and all meals and drinks, and midweek stays also get
$100 spa credit. Until December 19. From $1450 a person, two nights. (02) 9290 9733,
Kids: sweet deal in Manila
Divert the kids with a Filipino cooking school at the
Peninsula Manila while you soak up the city’s fabulous shopping. Kids can whip
up the classic dessert halo-halo or tackle a taka, a papier-mâché
masterpiece. Small guests also eat free and stay half-price in an adjoining
room until December 31, from $393 for two connecting rooms. 1800 116 888,
Source: Belinda Jackson, Sun-Herald newspaper

Flying north for sultry sun in Queensland or Cambodia: travel deals September 15, 2013

Rumba Beach Resort, Caloundra, Qld

Who doesn’t love a sun lounger? Now we can stop moaning about the cold, our ire turns to the rain. Time for us to fly north to Queensland, don’t you think? Or Cambodia or Uluru: it’s nice and warm there, too. A word for snow lovers: time to check out earlybird deals for the US, in this week’s Australian and international travel deals.

Go now: Queensland
Hit the beach with a four-night spring deal in Caloundra,
on the Sunshine Coast. Rumba Beach Resort will throw in fish & chips for a
beach picnic, a bottle of wine, bicycle hire and a dining discount card. From
$796 a couple until November 30. (07) 5492
Go sooner:
Save up to 15 percent on a luxury 19-day tour of Laos,
Vietnam and Cambodia, from Vientiane to Cambodia’s dramatic Angkor Wat. Book by
November 13 for travel until November 15. From $4450 a person, twin share. 1300 836 764,
Monks at Angkor Wat, Cambodia

Go later: USA

Ski in California and Nevada for seven nights, pay
for only six. Heavenly resort at South Lake Tahoe costs from $905, including
3-star digs and a six-day ski pass. Book by November 1 for travel January 1-March
29, 2014. 1300 939 414,
Show the kids Australia’s heartland with a journey to
Uluru. The family package at Desert Gardens Hotel includes free indigenous
activities such as spear throwing and gentler art classes and bush tucker
yarns. Save 20 percent off and kids under 12 stay free when booked by November
30 for travel September 30, 2013-March 31, 2014. From $714, three nights for
two adults and two kids. 1300
134 044,
Source: Belinda Jackson, Sun-Herald newspaper

Junior suites: best kids’ hotel rooms

The Plaza, NY, USA

From fire
trucks to cats, hotel rooms appeal to the senses of youngsters by ditching the
boring beige and daring to dream.
by pirates and knights or wading in a sea of frothy pink: waking up in the
stomach of a Nintendo game may be your idea of hell … or heaven.
Kids may
not be holding the purse strings, but canny hotels know that thinking small can
make a big difference.
While interconnecting rooms are a given, you’ll now
find alcoves stacked with bunks and stuffed with toys and books that remodel
the room from red-eye traveller to pint-sized revellers.
Here are six of the best.
The Fire Station Inn, Adelaide.

Adelaide, South Australia
Got a wannabe firefighter on your hands? Book a
night’s stay at the Fire Station Inn, Adelaide’s first fire station built in
1866, now a boutique hotel in swish North Adelaide. There’s a fully restored
1942 fire truck at the end of the queen-size bed, a fireman’s pole, lights and
costumes for dress-ups. The room has a king bed and a double sofa bed. Costs
from $275 a double plus $45 for children over two years.
California, United States
Lego-mad kids can choose to be a pirate,
adventurer, or perhaps a knight at the new 250-room Legoland hotel in Carlsbad,
California. The hotel is made up of millions of Lego bricks and guests get
early entry to Legoland’s rides and attractions. The best thing is you don’t
have to pick up all the Lego pieces. Rooms comprise a queen bed and a separate
sleeping area for up to three kids. Kids stay and play free when booked by
September 30 for stays until November 21. From $179.
Jeju Island, South Korea
She’s super kawaii (cute) and pink to the
gills: Hello Kitty hits new highs in the five-star Lotte Hotel on Jeju Island.
Off South Korea’s southern coastline, Jeju is the country’s party island thanks
to its beaches and warm summers. Being Korean, the activities include sauna,
karaoke and hunting, but if your focus is a white kitty cat with a pink flower
in her hair, who appears on the duvets, the carpets and the walls, maybe that’s
not quite your game. Suites from $726.
Wanderlust, Singapore


Little India, Singapore
Step out of the madness of Little India and into a
madness of a different kind at Wanderlust, a super-cool Design Hotel whose two
fabulous space rooms feature a red space rocket and a few friendly aliens. The
kitchenette and bathroom are downstairs, then climb up to the loft bed and
watch the stars as you orbit into sleep. Costs from $298 a double, includes
breakfast and Wi-Fi. Extra beds from $85.

New York
The Fifth-Avenue home for stylish little girls is
the Eloise suite at the Plaza Hotel, dreamed up by fashion designer Betsey
Johnson. As they say: “Think pink and lots of it”. Saucy Eloise, the
heroine by Kay Thompson, who lived at the hotel, was modelled on Thompson’s
goddaughter, Liza Minnelli. The two-bedroom suite is a swirl of zebra print,
sparkly pink and neon lights. The Eloise ambassador will escort guests to the
suite, get their autograph and take a portrait, before presenting you with a
monogrammed Eloise bathrobe and a $100 gift card to the Eloise shop. From $1395
plus taxes.

Canberra’s top hotel is currently the swish East
Hotel. Its Kids Cubby connects with the East Apartment for a chic, two-bedroom
option. The cubby has bunks, kids’ furniture, a little dining table and an Xbox
360 as well as other games. Book their Questacon package and get admission for
two adults and two kids into Questacon (the National Science and Technology
Centre), as well as a free in-room movie and popcorn, parking and a half bottle
of wine. From $380 (room only), $410 (Questacon pack).
Legoland, California

Set by Kamala beach and a favourite with families,
the hotel can redesign the kids’ room, with age-relevant toys, food and games
for kids two to 17 years. From $154, two-bedroom suite, until November 1.

Sleep in a pick-up truck, stylishly, in truck theme
room. There’s a queen bed in the back, a futon in the cab and fire-engine
toddler bunks. The igloo room has an icy-cool fitout. From $368.
The largest Sheraton in the world’s two-bed,
two-bathroom suite has a kids’ room with craft tables, games, a Wii and bunk
beds. From $299.
For girls, as well as the girlish at heart, The
Barbie Suite is a very grown-up affair that sleeps six, and parties for 40.
From $3000.
Sleep in a yurt, a tipi or a gypsy wagon at this
property in the Sierra Nevada. €35 ($51) a person, €25 children three to 16
Source: Belinda Jackson,
Sun-Herald newspaper

The big six: west Bhutan lodgings

The richly decorated Zhiwa Ling Resort, Paro
Photo:Belinda Jackson

Looking for digs in western Bhutan? Here’s six of the best, from farmhouse to five star.

Note that the
government of Bhutan requires Australians and other foreign visitors to pay a
daily tourist tariff which varies on the group size, and covers meals and
3-star accommodation. Pay extra for luxury hotels. The tariff, based on two
people travelling, costs $US277 a person a night, through Bhutan & Beyond,

The country’s first Bhutanese-owned five-star hotel is built
in the traditional style from local stone. It’s a wildly colourful showcase of
Bhutanese artwork, spectacular knotted rugs and handmade furnishings. The views
from its 45 suites are of blue pine forests and layers of mountain ranges. It’s
located near the trek to the iconic Taktsang (Tiger’s Nest) Monastery, and a
lookout to the sacred Jomohari mountain. From US$184 a person a night plus
the daily tariff of US$277 a person, including all meals. See
Walk across a chain-metal bridge over a glacial river and
you’ll come to a traditional Bhutanese farmhouse that is the centrepiece of
Amankora’s eight-room luxury lodge. The rooms are classic Kerry Hill designs:
warm timbers, hero baths and big picture windows overlooking the orchards and
rice terraces of Bhutan’s royal family. This is the smallest of Aman’s five
Bhutanese lodges, 10 minutes from the Punakha Dzong, one of the country’s most
photogenic fort-monasteries. From US$900 ($1006) a person a night, plus the
daily tariff of US$277, including all meals, beverages and laundry. See

Bhutan’s newest luxury lodge is perched above the
16th-century goempa (monastery) from which it takes its name. The Gangtey
valley spills out through the picture windows, a rich curve of farmland hemmed
in by the Himalayas. The 12-room lodge had its soft opening in June and is a
short walk to the important Gangtey monastery and its beautiful village. The
monastery holds a large tsechu (religious festival) each September/October. The
Gangtey Nature Trail (1½ hours) is an easy amble through spectacular
countryside. From US$273 a person a night, plus the daily tariff of US$277 a person,
including breakfast,
Potato farmers Nangay Pem and her husband Phob Gaytshey got
electricity only 18 months ago in their two-storey traditional farmhouse. There
are four guest bedrooms and an altar room upstairs, while the family lives on
the ground floor. Join the family for dinner in the kitchen, seated on the
floor around the bukhari (wood stove). The couple’s daughter, Sonam Wangmo,
speaks good English, but you don’t need a guide to translate how to play
archery or to watch Phob Gaytshey, a lay monk, performing his morning prayers.
 It’s polite to bring a small gift: perhaps kids’ books or a bag of
groceries. Included in the daily tariff of US$277 a person. 
Set off the main street of Thimphu, Bhutan’s capital, it
seems like everyone in town is staying at this well-run, three-star hotel. Snag
a corner room for warm sun and views up to the hills behind the city. There’s a
great little salon at the entrance, good for soothing pedicures using local
herbs, and a Thai restaurant is coming, thanks to an influx of Thai tourists.
Meals are buffet-style Bhutanese food and its Turkish spa soothes weary hikers’
bones. Nearby, Cousins restaurant specialises in excellent momos (steamed
dumplings). Included in the daily tariff of US$277 a person.  
With raked ceilings and more timber than a pine forest, this
three-star hotel serves good local food, including the classic red rice and ema
datse (sliced chili with white cheese). Set in front of its flashier sister,
Dewachen Hotel, it overlooks the valley which is a haven for endangered black
necked cranes, which winter here October to March. Out of season, the nearby
Crane Information Centre will get you up to speed on the revered birds, which
are celebrated with and a festival every November.  Included in the daily
tariff of US$277 a person.  
The writer was a guest of Bhutan & Beyond, 

Of giant mice and free feeds in Bali, Qld and California: travel deals September 8, 2013

Holiday Inn Resort Baruna Bali

Just because you’ve got kids in tow doesn’t mean getaways are goners. It may mean, however, you find yourself surrounded by giant mice or are lured by the promise of feeding the children for free. Here’s a taste of three kid-friendly faves in Bali, Disneyland and Queensland.

Visiting Disneyland Anaheim? Check in for three nights at
the Desert Palms Hotel & Suites in Orange County, only 1km away from the
action, and get the third night free. Includes breakfast and parking, until
September 13.
Hamilton Island, Queensland


Save up to 30 per cent on your stay at the Holiday Inn
Resort Baruna Bali, with breakfast, internet, a massage and access to its
departure lounge for late flights. Kids under 12 eat and stay free, too, until
December 31. From $127.25 a night. 1803 656 888,
If the kids are eating you out of house and home, book a
Palm bungalow on Hamilton Island for four nights, with use of catamarans,
snorkelling and windsurfing gear, and kids eat and stay free. From $679 a
person, twin share. 131 398,
Source: Belinda Jackson, Sun-Herald newspaper

Big wheels keep on turnin’ in Paris, Auckland and Ipswich: deals & kids’ gigs, September 1, 2013

The Workshop Rail Museum
in Ipswich, Qld

Right. Instead of leading with a lovely pool shot or something pleasingly ethnic (think old Indian man or a Vietnamese cyclist), I’m appealing to the trainspotters amongst you. Specifically, trainspotters in Ipswich. With kids. That’s Ipswich, Australia. I know you’re out there. If I lost you at trains, never fear, shack up in style on North Stradbroke Island or go five-star glam in Auckland or hit the moveable feast that is Paris, staying in your own apartment.

Build your own railway empire, get behind the wheel of
the big engine or just let off steam at the award-winning Workshop Rail Museum
in Ipswich, 40km from Brisbane. For more big, loud fun, take a ride on the
monthly Steam Train Sundays and roar through Brisbane’s main drag on a steam
train. Open daily. General entry costs $20 adults, $11.30 kids 3-15 years,
families $59,
four nights at the five-star Langham Auckland and save 20 per cent and get free
wifi until September 13. Score the ‘Linger Longer for Less’ offer at Langham
hotels including London and Sydney. Auckland costs from $149 a night. +64
(9) 379 5132,
The pool shot we had to have: North Stradbroke Island, Qld
Wrap up winter with three nights on family-friendly North
Stradbroke Island off Brisbane. Stay in a self-contained beach shack amongst
the dunes with return vehicle transfer, midday check-out, a meat tray for the
barbie and wi-fi until September 18. From $600, (07) 3415 0000,
Enjoy la vie simple
with family holidays in Paris: this kid-friendly two-bedroom apartment in the
Marais is ideal for discovering the city by foot. Sleeps four or five and
includes breakfast. Usually $415 a night, from $355 a night until 31 January,

Source: Belinda Jackson, Sun-Herald newspaper

How to choose the ideal holiday home

Peppers Bale Penthouse, with over 300sqm of Luxury, in its
Absolute Beach Front Penthouse.

Here’s a thought guaranteed to scare you: Christmas is coming. If you’re planning the great Australian holiday, here are a few tips when booking a holiday home that will set you ahead of the pack.

But don’t be shy: keep scrolling down and you’ll also find the winners of the 2013 Stayz best holiday rentals for lovers of pets, the great outdoors and each other.

peak times, such as Christmas, school holidays and the ski season,
houses can be booked out 12 months in advance. Otherwise, allow at least
three months.

Most properties
have midweek specials and some beach areas drop their prices in the
colder months or throw in an extra night free. Traditionally, May is the
slowest month.

Many owners
add special touches, particularly in their downtime, such as breakfast
baskets filled with home-made jams and eggs from their own hens, or a
bottle of local wine on arrival.

properties have two-night minimum stays on the weekends, and up to
seven-night minimum stays in the peak seasons. Staying two weeks usually
attracts a lower rate.

If you’re flying in, book your car at the same time, so you’re not left stranded on the ground.

Stay with the stars

Our top picks of the Stayz 2013 holiday rental winners.

Toraja Luxury, NSW
A luxury pad with 180-degree ocean panoramas just outside Byron Bay. Sleeps six.
Who goes there? Honeymooners and lovers (of each other and of luxury).
When to go All year round thanks to the swimming pool, open fireplace, outdoor lounges and gourmet kitchen.
Must-visit local attraction The sparkling beaches of Broken Head and Lennox Head.
Guest comment
“The pool area is a beautiful spot to while away the hours … the
verandah [and all of the windows in the house] look out over rolling
green pastures to the sea.”
Trip notes From $470 to $1100, minimum three nights,

Liptrap Loft, Vic
A rustic shack in Walkerville, south Gippsland. Sleeps six.
Who goes there? Bushies for privacy and a Japanese bathhouse.
When to go Summer for the beach, winter for the whales and their calves in Waratah Bay for R&R.
Must-visit local attraction Wilson’s Promontory, 30 minutes away, is a naturist’s delight.
Guest comment
“Eccentric in a beautiful way, the furniture is a delight.We will
return in winter to hunker down with the fire and listen to nature’s
Trip notes From $190 to $265 a night, minimum two nights,

The Evening Star, Vic
A polished two-bedroom cottage outside Bright, in the Victorian High Country. Sleeps four.
Who goes there? Mountain lovers, bike riders, kids over 10 years old.
When to go Autumn for the colour.
Must-visit local attraction Bright’s foodie scene and Hotham’s ski fields are 45 minutes away.
Guest comment “Deafening silence, crisp mountain air and amazing views from a gorgeous house where all the little touches have been added.”
Trip notes From $250 (weekdays) to $400 (weekends) a night, minimum two nights,

Riversdale Retreat, Vic
A super-slick eco-cottage at Chewton, near Castlemaine. Sleeps three.
Who goes there? Melbourne foodies. Shortlisted for the World Architecture Festival Awards 2009.
When to go Great for a cold-weather getaway.
Must-visit local attraction Daylesford and the restaurants and vintage shopping in Kyneton and Castlemaine.
Guest comment “It
felt a bit like a groovy city pad in the middle of the bush. Even
honoured by visits from kangaroos and red-bellied robins. Enjoyed
bushwalking and the marvellous Chewton market.”
Trip notes Costs $220 a double (Monday-Thursday), $265 (Friday-Sunday), minimum two nights,

Noosa Holiday House, Qld
A three-story house at Castaways Beach, near Noosa. Sleeps eight.
Who goes there? Pet-owning design lovers.
When to go A minute from the beach, summer is hugely popular.
Must-visit local attraction The restaurant strip at Sunshine Beach; Peregian Beach design markets.
Guest comment “With
the home being on three levels, we were able to have time to ourselves
and our children loved the free Wi-Fi. Dog loved the backyard … lots
of great bush, beach and rainforest walks.”
Trip notes From $550 to $900 a night, minimum five nights,
Stayz is a division of Fairfax Media.

Source: Belinda Jackson, Sun-Herald newspaper