Going, going, gone: last-minute summer holiday ideas

Still stuck for a trip this summer? Let us tell you where to
go with these last-second holiday ideas compiled by Belinda Jackson.

Throw the schedule out the window and cut loose. There’s
still time to plan and book a holiday this summer. Really. What about a
fancy weekend on the Gold Coast, or a touch of luxury in Bali?
Auckland’s sparkling harbour is calling or go on the hunt for powder in
the Japanese alps. Adelaide’s festival scene is about to kick off and
there are bargains to be had in the South Pacific’s off-season.

Cheer
up, slackers, the early bird doesn’t always catch the worm, but you’d
better get your skates, fins or walking boots on, quick smart.

GOLD COAST HINTERLAND
Gwinganna Lifestyle Retreat, Tallebudgera Valley

The deal Who doesn’t dream about getting away from it all?
Organic, low-tech, wellness, but with a hefty dose of gorgeousness.
Internationally recognised for its luxury spa offering, five-star a
weekend escape at Gwinganna includes all-organic meals, and activities –
think bosu balance training, indoor cycling, hiking or creative dance –
and a massage in its 33-room Spa Sanctuary. Save 15 per cent on
selected weekends from January 17 to March 30.

How much From $948 a person, twin share in an Orchards Suite.

Getting there Tiger Airways, Jetstar and Virgin Australia fly Sydney-Gold Coast.

More details 1800 219 272, gwinganna.com.

CANBERRA

Five hotels including Novotel Canberra and Ibis Budget Canberra

The deal The National Gallery of Australia’s blockbuster
exhibit Gold and the Incas: Lost Worlds of Peru is now showing. Book a
Cultural Getaway package at one of Accor’s five hotels, with breakfast
and two adults untimed tickets thrown in, until April 21.

How much from $119 a night at Ibis Budget Canberra, from $165 at Mercure Canberra and from $195 a night at Novotel Canberra.

Getting there It takes less than three hours to drive from Sydney to Canberra.

More details 1300 656 565, accorhotels.com/canberra-art.

VICTORIAN ALPS

Dinner Plain village

The deal Summer in the Australian Alps is free from the
madness of ski season, which means plenty of seats in Bright’s shining
restaurants and cooking schools and discounted accommodation. Stay
three, pay for two, nights in a self-contained apartment. They’ll throw
in local wine and cheese and a 90-minute horse ride with Dinner Plain
Trail Rides.

How much From $235 a person, twin share. Save $70 until April 30.

Getting there Qantas, Virgin Australia and Rex fly Sydney-Albury (1½ hours). Dinner Plain is two hours’ drive into the mountains.

More details (03) 5159 6556, skiholidays.com.au.

THAILAND

Radisson Blu Plaza Resort, Phuket Panwa Beach

The deal Phuket is so hot right now, with sleek properties
giving it an injection of fab, including oceanfront beauties.. Some
things stay the same: there’s still the great beaches, fun shopping,
bars and fabulous Thai cuisine to soak up. Save 20 per cent on two-night
stays on Radisson’s Asia Pacific hotels, including Sydney for a little
stay, until December 30 when booked by February 21.

How much From $244 for two nights.

Getting there Jetstar flies Sydney to Phuket.

More details 1800 333 333, radissonblu.com.

CAMBODIA, VIETNAM AND THAILAND

From Ho Chi Minh City to Bangkok, via Phnom Penh, Siem Reap and Battambang

River life, Cambodia

The deal The nine-day adventure takes in the glory of Angkor
Wat’s temples and Battambang, where French Colonial and Khmer
architecture mix, not to mention racy Ho Chi Minh City and Bangkok’s
great shopping. Trips depart January 19, 22 and 29, 2014. Book by
January 12.

How much from $791 a person (was $1055)

Getting there Vietnam Airlines flies direct Sydney-Ho Chi Minh City.

More details 1300 018 871, intrepidtravel.com/tkse.

MALAYSIA, MALACCA, IPOH AND PANGKOR ISLAND

The deal Named one of Lonely Planet’s top 10 must-visit
countries for 2014, a good starting point in Malaysia to explore is the
UNESCO-listed heart of Malacca, once a kingdom, then a Portuguese
colony. Save $200 on travel on this seven-day journey with private car
until March 31, 2015. The tour departs daily from Kuala Lumpur.

How much From $1260 a person, twin share.

Getting there Air Asia, Malaysia Airlines fly Sydney to Kuala Lumpur.

More details 1300 295 049, adventureworld.com.au.

HAWAII

Shoreline Hotel, Waikiki

The deal With a 64 kilogram luggage allowance (oh, hello!)
Hawaii’s famed shopping is yours for the taking home. Stay six nights at
the newly renovated Shoreline from January 17 to March 25 (with more
dates later in the year) and get more than $550 in bonuses. Book by
January 31. We suggest upgrading to an ocean view.

How much From $1690 a person, including airfares with Hawaiian Airlines.

Getting there Hawaiian Airlines, Jetstar, Virgin Australia and Qantas fly Sydney-Honolulu.

More details 1300 004 292, myhawaii.com.au.

BLUE MOUNTAINS

Emirates Wolgan Valley Resort & Spa

The deal Voted the best hotel in Australia in 2013 on
TripAdvisor, stay two nights in a Heritage Suite with a private pool,
all meals, some drinks and two activities a day, including horse riding
and save $390 a couple. They’ll also include pre-dinner cocktails and
canapes one night, and souvenir pool towels. Midweek guests get 25 per
cent off spa treatments, from January 6-March 31.

How much from $1680 a person for two nights (two-night minimum stay).

Getting there 2½ hours’ drive from Sydney.

More details (02) 9290 9733, wolganvalley.com.

NEW ZEALAND

Huka Lodge, Taupo

The deal The world’s biggest movers and shakers have
luxuriated in Huka Lodge, from Queen Elizabeth II (mover) to Bette
Midler (shaker), but the lodge loves families, too. It’s offering four
nights for the price of three in its suites or cottages, ideal for
multi-generational festivities, until August 31 (excluding Christmas
until January 5).

How much from $4125 a person, four nights, includes all meals, drinks, activities and transfers.

Getting there Air New Zealand, Jetstar,
Virgin Australia, Emirates, China Airlines, LAN Airlines and Qantas fly
Sydney-Auckland. Taupo is three hours’ drive from Auckland.

More details + 64 7378 579, hukalodge.co.nz.

Family getaways

BALI

Semara Seminyak, Bali, Indonesia

Semara Seminyak

The deal Petitenget is Seminyak’s coolest strip of
restaurants, bars and boutiques and Semara Seminyak is on the golden
strip between Ku De Ta and Potato Head Beach Club. Its spacious
executive suites are great for families, sleeping up to four, and gold
stars for the kids’ Cubby House throwing a New Year’s Eve party, so you
can kick up your heels. Save 70 per cent on stays until January 31.

How much From $134 plus 15 per cent a room, a night.

Getting there Virgin Australia, Garuda International and Jetstar fly direct to Denpasar.

More details +62 361 847 6661, semaraseminyak.com.

ADELAIDE

Adina Apartment Hotel Adelaide Treasury
The deal Adelaide goes off in summer, with the Tour Down
Under in January and the fabulous Adelaide Festival. Stay three nights
and save 15 per cent until February 28. They’ll give you a picnic
blanket, so stock up at the Central Markets and head to the Botanical
Gardens for a lazy lunch.

How much From $185 a night.

Getting there Jetstar, Qantas and Virgin Australia fly direct Sydney-Adelaide.

More details 1300 633 462, adinahotels.com.au.

Skiing at Hakuba, Japan

JAPAN

Wagaya Chalet, Hakuba, Nagano Prefecture

The deal Spring skiing in the Japanese Alps means
deliciously blue skies, no crowds and an average snow depth of 2.5
metres. This new three-bedroom chalet sleeps up to eight and is 500
metres to the lifts, with runs from beginner to Warren Miller. Save 40
per cent on this and other Hakuba accommodation in March: get seven
nights’ stay, five-day multi-resort lift pass, airport transfers and
breakfast.

How much From $1200 a person, six adults sharing. Children’s discounts available.

Getting there Qantas, Japan Airlines fly
Sydney-Tokyo direct. Jetstar flies (via Gold Coast, Uluru). About four
hours bullet train and bus, Tokyo to Hakuba.

More details (02) 9905 6162, ski-resorts-japan.com.

GOLD COAST

Soul Surfers Paradise

The deal Soul shoots 77 storeys up and its luxe pool is
where all the chic families are soaking up the Queensland sun this
summer (when they’re not on the beach out front). Make time for its
two-hat restaurant, Seaduction by Steve Szabo, of Palazzo Versace fame.
Stay four nights, pay for three in a two-bedroom ocean view apartment
until March 31.

How much from $1437 for four nights.

Getting there Tiger Airways, Jetstar and Virgin Australia fly Sydney-Gold Coast.

More details 1800 737 444, peppers.com.au.

 

Soul Surfers Paradise, Gold Coast, Queensland.


VANUATU

Coconut Palms Resort, Port Vila

The deal A South Pacific getaway without busting the budget,
and only 3½ hours’ flight time. True, January is the wettest month,
but regardless of weather or budget, the waters are warm, the markets
are bustling and the islands are for hopping. Stay five nights, pay
four when booked by January 31, available until March 31. Includes
return airfares and breakfasts.

How much From $945 for five nights.

Getting there Air Vanuatu and Qantas fly Sydney-Port Vila direct and Virgin Australia (via Brisbane).

More details 1300 747 400, creativeholidays.com.

AUCKLAND

The Heritage Auckland

The deal Tap into Auckland’s Polynesian vibe, picnic at a
volcano’s feet and kick off your exploration of Middle-Earth as NZ goes
into Hobbit overdrive with the launch of The Hobbit: The Desolation of
Smaug this month. The art deco hotel offers a stay in a family deluxe
suite with free parking, breakfast for two adults and two kids, free
Wi-Fi and drinks until February 9.

How much From $NZ209 a room.

Getting there Air New Zealand, Jetstar, Virgin Australia, China Airlines, Emirates, LAN Airlines and Qantas fly Sydney-Auckland.

More details 1800 141 780, heritagehotels.co.nz.


This article by Belinda Jackson was first published in the Sun-Herald newspaper.

A tale of three cities: Colombo, Kandy & Galle

A wooden horse, salvaged from the ruins of a temple,
rears up in its new home, the chic Colombo boutique
hotel, Tintagel. Photo: Belinda Jackson

Colombo, Kandy, Galle: discover the triumvirate that encapsulate Sri Lanka’s essence of life. 

From modern capital to ancient seat of power and colonial maritime enclave, they form the classic touring route that crosses mountains, soaks up mystical tales and touches the ocean’s shores.

Click here to read more.

This photo essay was first published in Sundowner (Abercrombie & Kent magazine, November 2013)

The new world order: Myanmar and Sri Lanka our must-do destinations

Stilt fishermen in Sri Lanka. Photo: Alamy
Myanmar and Sri Lanka top the list of must-do destinations,
industry experts agree. 
CHRIS ZEIHER
Lonely Planet
My pick for 2014 is Riga, the art nouveau jewel of the
Baltics. The Latvian capital is a twin to Prague, minus the fleets of tour
buses and crowds, and is the 2014 European Capital of Culture.Next year is all
about indulgence for me: I’ll be travelling to stunning Waiheke Island off
Auckland to celebrate my birthday.
DAVE BOYTE
Skyscanner.net
Brazil will be in the limelight, thanks to the football World
Cup. We’ve seen increased interest in Myanmar and Cambodia and Sri Lanka is a
rising star: visit the fort town of Galle. Mount Kinabalu (4095 metres) is the
highest mountain between the Himalayas and New Guinea: let’s see if I am up for
it.
SUJATA RAMAN AND GEOFFREY KENT
Abercrombie & Kent
Sri Lanka is still remarkably unspoiled, with ancient cities,
tea plantations and hill stations vying for attention alongside amazing
wildlife, temples and golden beaches, while Myanmar is a truly spiritual
destination. In 2014, you will be able to travel along the Ayeyarwady River on
the boutique river cruiser, Sanctuary Ananda, through stunning landscapes.
JAMES THORNTON
Intrepid Travel Group
Myanmar is Asia’s hottest new destination: get even further
off the beaten track and set sail around the 800 islands of the blissful Myeik
Archipelago. Sri Lanka is rising in popularity, and with all eyes on South
America for the World Cup, my tip is to escape the crowds in Colombia.
Outdoor dining in Istanbul. Photo: Getty Images
SALLY GODFREY
Homeaway Holiday Rentals
Internationally, Dubai, Istanbul, Phuket, Kyoto and Tel Aviv
are receiving strong booking inquiries for 2014, while domestic mainstays are
Gold Coast, Byron Bay and Sydney. Rising stars include Seminyak, Boracay and
Goa and the holiday rental market is becoming more popular in South-East Asia.
I will be hitting the slopes of Queenstown, sunning on a Bali beach and catching
some weekend respite on Phillip Island.
ROWENA FITZGERALD
Mr and Mrs Smith
Lanterns in Kyoto. Photo: Getty Images
People are looking for accommodation that offers an authentic
connection to the destination, such as smaller, locally owned boutique hotels
like Brody House in Budapest or Claska in Tokyo. We’re seeing a surge in
interest in Japan, prompted by its distinctive pop culture and increased
flights. I’m going to Costa Rica and Belize for their beautiful beaches,
incredible diving, and unspoilt rainforest. I hope to stay at six-suite hotel Kura.
RICHARD MOLE
Byroads Tours
Sri Lanka is safe, easy to get to and great value, has an
excellent range of accommodation and offers both beaches and culture. In many
respects, it’s the new Bali. Myanmar is another one on my list. It still lacks
beds, so prices are unreasonably high, but it’s seen as Asia’s last frontier.
Cuba is in the same category – go before it changes forever! My left-field
prediction is Iran. The new government is clearly trying to build bridges with
the West.
THE LEGGY LOVELIES
Luxecityguides.com
Why sprint madly through an overcrowded airport when you can
transfer leisurely and luxuriously via riverboat? We like Heritage Line’s
(heritage-line.com) vintage-inspired fleet for South-East Asian jaunts. For gastro-travel, Copenhagen, Lima, Bangkok and Tokyo are
emerging as envelope-pushing culinary destinations. Pack your elastic-waist slacks! There’s very good bang for
your buck. Quaint boutique hotels and delicious street foods keep it cheap,
cheery and culture-savvy. South America is booming but we also intend to escape the
crowds in Mongolia and Myanmar.
 

The delights of Noma in Copenhagen. Photo: NY Times
SIMON McGRATH
Accor Hotels
After slowing in 2012-13, Bali is becoming popular again for
Australians. Our top picks are Sydney for its great 2014 events line-up,
Tropical North Queensland for beach and adventure travel and Adelaide, just
named in Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2014 roundup, with a focus on culture
and the arts. With an increase in low-cost airlines flying into Adelaide and
Cairns, accessibility has never been easier. I’m heading to Terrigal, NSW,
close to home, for a great Australian beach holiday.

Compiled by Belinda Jackson for the Sydney Morning Herald/The Age newspapers

Six of the best: hotel openings in 2014

The Shard, London. Soon to be home to Britain’s first Shangri-La hotel.

It’s that time of year again, when the wrap-ups are wrapped, the forecasts are cast and we all enjoy a little panicking to get it all tied up neatly in time for a beach Christmas. I’m absurdly interested to see Hayman Island’s reincarnation, and, having just arrived back from London, have renewed a love affair with that city and all that’s glitzy and good in it.

SHANGRI-LA,
ENGLAND

The first
Shangri-La hotel in Britain will have London’s best address, at the Shard,
Western Europe’s tallest building, designed by starchitect Renzo Piano. Set in
the London Bridge quarter, each of the 202 rooms come with butlers and
floor-to-ceiling views to St Paul’s Cathedral, Tower Bridge and the Tower of
London. Level 52 is the domain of Hong Kong’s darling architect Andre Fu (of
Upper House fame), where you’ll find Gong, London’s highest cocktail bar, and a
sky-high infinity pool. Word on the street is it’s to open summer 2014 but
there’s no official date from the hotel yet and prices are still to be
released. See shangri-la.com.
The much-anticipated Peninsula Paris.

PENINSULA
PARIS, FRANCE

It’s
taken more than four years of work but The Peninsula Paris has finally declared
it will open on August 1, 2014. Expect 200 rooms, a rooftop bar and underground
spa and hey, because this is Paris, a cigar lounge as well. The wraps are now
off the 100-year-old Beaux-Arts building in the fancy 16th arrondissment, with
views to the Arc de Triomphe, as befits the group’s first foray into Europe.
For your gastronomic pleasure there’s Cantonese being dished up inside, French
fare on the roof and a Chinese tea counter. Rates have not yet been released. See
peninsula.com.
SOFITEL
SHANGHAI JING’AN, CHINA
Shanghai’s
already fabulous hotel scene gets a new player when the city’s third Sofitel
opens just off the iconic shopping strip of Nanjing Road. In keeping with most
Chinese hotels, it’s big: we’re talking 503 rooms, with a cocktail bar at the
top of the 68-storey art deco-inspired building and French-meets-Chinese
cuisine being talked up. There’s already been a two-year delay in its launch
but the group is planning a grand opening of what will become the city’s new
flagship Sofitel in September 2014. See sofitel.com.
CROMLIX,
SCOTLAND
Fancy
angling for trout, stalking deer or wearing someone else’s tartan? Wimbledon
champ and local lad Andy Murray has taken over this classic country house and
opening is set for April 1, 2014 (yes, really). Built in 1874, Cromlix has just
15 rooms and suites, each named after a great Scot, and is close to Gleneagles,
which hosts next year’s Ryder Cup. You won’t starve: the kitchen is under the
deft hand of Albert Roux, responsible for Britain’s first three Michelin-star
restaurant. Cromlix is just outside Andy’s home town, Dunblane, and less than
80 kilometres from both Glasgow and Edinburgh. From £200 ($350) a night. See cromlix.com.
Hayman Island’s iconic pool shot.

ONE&ONLY
HAYMAN ISLAND, AUSTRALIA

It was the
talk of the town when it was announced that the uber-luxe hoteliers of
One&Only Resorts, who play in all the best addresses including the Bahamas,
Maldives and Dubai, are taking over the iconic Great Barrier Reef resort.
Thankfully, the pool wing will be carved into new all-suite accommodation
including private pool terraces; that much-photographed lagoon pool will be hit
with cabanas and daybeds and there’s also a new adults-only pool and chill-out
lounge. And forget foreign backpackers spinning up fishy tales, your guides to
the reef will be dive experts and marine biologists. The new Hayman opens April
2014 (actually, make that July 1, 2014: BJ), from $730 a night. See hayman.com.au.
SEA
SENTOSA ECHO BEACH, INDONESIA
It hasn’t
even opened yet and already this Balinese beachfront resort has won world’s
best apartment at London’s International Property Awards. Located just north of
Seminyak on Canggu’s legendary surf beach, the 68-apartment resort features
“living walls” or vertical gardens by French botanist-designer
Patrick Blanc, a lagoon for your front yard and views straight out onto the
Indian Ocean. If looks are anything to go on, its two beach restaurants,
complete with sand beneath your feet, are set to rival those of Ku De Ta and
Potato Head when the resort opens come July 2014. From $175 for a garden
studio. See seasentosa.com.
By Belinda Jackson. This article first featured in the Sydney Morning Herald/The Age Traveller