Famous Flyer: Dawn Fraser

Water and her family inspire Olympic legend Dawn Fraser.

WHICH WAS YOUR BEST HOLIDAY?

Sun Peaks in British Columbia, Canada, with my daughter and grandson,
then aged 3. He was being taught to ski by my friend, world champion
Nancy Greene, and we stayed in a self-sufficient apartment in her lodge,
which is great when you’re travelling with kids (see cahiltylodge.com).

WHAT IS THE BEST HOTEL YOU’VE STAYED IN?

The Emirates Palace is owned by the sheikh of Abu Dhabi. It’s just
unbelievable, with its gold shower taps and toilets. I played golf on
their courses and drove a new Mercedes car on their F1 racetrack. I
reached 190 miles per hour, but you’re driving a safe car, heavens
above! The other hotel is the Dorchester in London. We loved being
spoilt and that’s just what they do. And they don’t mind having children
in their dining room.

British Columbia

WHAT DO YOU ALWAYS TAKE WITH YOU?

My bathers – well, I’m a swimmer. I always have my training bathers and a two-piece, to get a sun tan. Oh, and my passport.

WHAT IS THE BIGGEST PACKING MISTAKE YOU’VE MADE?

Taking too many clothes. You can always use the washing machine in
the hotel or have the laundry done, if it’s reasonable. In the early
days, I always did my own laundry, as I liked to have clean bathers and
towels. I have packed beach towels in my luggage, which of course you
don’t need in hotels.

YOUR BEST PIECE OF TRAVEL ADVICE?

Always check your hotel and air bookings. There’s nothing worse than
turning up to the hotel and finding you don’t have a booking, not that
it’s ever happened to me. I always have my bookings printed and in my
little hand.

AND YOUR WORST EXPERIENCE ON HOLIDAY?

I slipped in the bath in a hotel in Monte Carlo and broke four ribs.
We were staying right beside the racing-car circuit and the noise coming
into my room was horrific, on top of the pain.

WHAT DO YOU NEED FOR A PERFECT HOLIDAY?

Good weather and happiness. I usually take my daughter and my
grandson, now 11, with me. Recently, we were in LA and stayed at the
Lego Hotel for five days, building Lego, and spent four days at
Disneyland Anaheim in California. I never knew my grandparents, and I
said I’d always try to be the best grandparent I could, so he’s always
with me.

WHERE DO YOU WANT TO GO NEXT?

I’ve been pretty much everywhere, but on my bucket list is an
Antarctic cruise. I read about it every week in the papers. I believe
the colours of the water are incredible, and of course, water is my
passion.

Dawn Fraser is an ambassador for NRMA’s Living Well Navigator, livingwellnavigator.com.

This feature by Belinda Jackson appeared in the Sun-Herald’s Traveller section.

Ferry trip to northern Tasmania: The spirit of Tasmania

The Nut at Stanley, Tasmania
The
little french bulldog rolls its great eyes, a young german shepherd starts to
howl, the ship shakes free of its moorings, and we’re off.  If you thought
you had to get to the Mediterranean to go sailing, you’ve forgotten about our
own modest sea crossing, from Melbourne to Tasmania. 
Sure, you
can fly to Tassie – it’s just two hours from Sydney and but an hour from
Melbourne to Launceston. But the luxury of time and the convenience of driving
your own car obviously appeals to many, for tonight’s sailing on the Spirit of
Tasmania is a busy one. There holidaymakers with their fur families (hence all
the hounds in the hold), caravanners with kids’ car seats and those who, like
us, have a few empty eskies  waiting to be filled with Tassie’s spectacular
produce.
We set
sail on the Spirit just in time for dinner, and already the message is clear:
you’ll never starve on this island. The ship’s yet to clear Melbourne’s Port
Phillip Bay and already our dining table in the ship’s Leatherwood restaurant
is laden with smoked quail, brandied chicken pate, ocean trout all from the
island state – and that’s just entrees. The exploration of Tasmania’s 60-plus
vineyards also starts here, with a handy list of cellar doors and wines
including Ghost Rock’s hard-to-get, sparkling wine, the Catherine, and a cheery
MacForbes Riesling, both from northern Tasmania. 
Our gang
of three shares a four-berth cabin: it’s compact and comfortable with two sets
of bunk beds, and the ship rocks gently across the Bass Strait to arrive in
Devonport just on sunrise. The information booth hands out leaflets on the best
breakfast cafes open at this ungodly hour, and the recommendation is for
Anvers’ Chocolate Factory, in nearby LaTrobe (anvers-chocolate.com.au).
Bingo.
The plan
is to drive from east to west along the north coast in just a few days, seeking
out its hamlets and beauty spots, avoiding the (relatively) big smoke of
Launceston, the Bass Strait keeping us company all the way. 
I have
already drawn up a shopping list for our three-day getaway, and it’s
embarrassingly food-oriented: raspberry jam from Christmas Hills in Elizabeth
Town (raspberryfarmcafe.com),
Hellyers’ single malt whiskey in Burnie (hellyersroaddistillery.com.au),
Tasmanian wagyu pies in Devonport (wagyupiecompany.com). There are scallop pies to
be devoured, wine and cider to be drunk, berry ice-cream to be licked. Lucky
I’m also sailing home: the airlines surely would charge me excess baggage on
the return journey.
A word on
driving in Tassie:  a hundred kilometres will not take an hour: there be
many corners, there be wild animals on the road, there be the cutest little
beach just right for paddling, a pick-your-own berry farm or a glorious vista
begging to jump onto your Instagram feed. 
Scallops at Lost Farm

On the
drive east of Devonport, our journey comes to a screeching halt at a crossroad
on the B82, amid  a cluster of Australia’s top sparkling producers,
including Jansz and Piper’s Brook, and we celebrate our find with a glass of
bubbles. 

Further
along, at Bridport, the diversion is a sweet little local bakery followed by a
walk through the rolling sand dunes that stretch out in front of our room for
the night at Barnbougle Dunes, whose  golf course, The Dunes, is rated
11th in the world. We snicker at road signs warning of kangaroos and golfers, and
play “what’s that funny name”  when passing Squeaking Point and
The Dazzler Range.
Driving
west of Devonport, the diversions are many and fabulous, such as the hamlet of
Turners Beach, notable for its kid-friendly beach and the welcoming La Mar
cafe, which packs together a dinner for our night’s stay in the self-catering
The Winged House. 
Further
on, at Penguin, we stop to admire a giant (concrete) penguin, penguins painted
on shop walls and the town’s rubbish bins garnished with penguin sculptures.
The actual penguins are absent, although a smiling woman at Cocoon, one of
Penguin’s brace of remarkable homewares shops, tells me she spent the morning
watching a baby whale frolic in the warm coastal waters with its mum. It’s
lunchtime so the  order is for a couple of scallop pies from the town’s
bakery and, like every other time I’ve eaten them, I’m surprised all over again
that the fat scallops are baked in a curry sauce so thick it’s almost rigid.
Not Thai or Indian or some exotic curry, but more like a super-yellow,
English-love-it Keen’s-curry-powder curry, and I just can’t help but feel a
little sad.
La Mar cafe at Turners Beach
With a
population of 20,000, it feels like we’ve hit the big smoke at Burnie, which
has more than its fair share of great finds, including the best little drive-in
boozer in the north, with rare and wonderful ciders galore, set beside the
recently renovated Ikon Hotel, with great family-sized apartments. But if you
had to make but one stop along this coast road, make it Burnie’s Maker’s
Workshop. 
The town
is packed with art deco architecture thanks to a cash injection via the
Australian Pulp and Paper Mill in 1938, yet the Makers’ Workshop is a
super-modern construct of glass and steel, built in 2009 on the waterfront. At
any time, up to five “makers” will be creating anything from
jewellery to baskets, paintings to glassware and I strike up a conversation
with a peg dolly maker and a felt maker. 
The glass-fronted cafe lets you watch
the working waterfront from a cosy perch. The tourist information centre is
comprehensive and its gift shop, selling Tasmania’s artisan wares, really is
worth saving your pennies for. While the paper mill has since closed, they’re
still making paper here – but this time, it’s from wombat poo or apple pulp and
visitors can turn their hand to making it on the frequent paper-making tours.
But  it’s not all scones and cappuccinos. There’s also a monstrous, yellow
Elphinstone underground loader in the foyer, a reminder that Burnie is also the
home to a Caterpillar factory and the former mechanic and the state’s richest
man, Dean Elphinstone. 
The Winged House, Table Cape

Table
Cape is best known for its tulip farm, but it’s out of season, and no vivid
strips of flowers to be seen. From our architecturally intriguing  home
for the night, The Winged House, the coastline disappears into the mists, first
mapped by Matthew Flinders with his surgeon friend, George Bass, in 1798. To
the west is The Nut at Stanley and further on, Robbins Island and Cape Grim,
said to have the world’s most pure air. It’s a delight to learn that the IGA
supermarket at nearby Wynyard  does what a franchise is supposed to do,
and stocks local scallops, whole Tassie salmon fillets and the famed beef from
Cape Grim.

It’s
 invigorating here on this headland, with the Roaring Forties living up to
its name. So after photographing the coastline from the island’s last working
lighthouse, we push on to Boat Harbour, which a Tassie friend tips as a
must-visit. She’s not wrong. The tiny harbour has a sunny cafe-cum-surf
life-saving club, set on a sandy beach that curves sweetly into the headland,
every one of the village’s beach shacks has commanding water views. It’s the
same story at nearby Sisters Beach, where sea-changers and retirees are
providing brisk business for the local tradies and real estate agents. 
Despite
its location on the north-west edge of Tasmania, little Stanley is terribly
chic. Sure you can hike or catch the chairlift to the top of The Nut, a rough
volcanic bluff  but it also sports a genuinely boutique hotel, @ VDL
Stanley,  upmarket fish-and-chipperies, more fabulous homewares shops and
cafes with a dash of city slickery. 
Next time,
I’m going to juggle my days better to hit the Sunday markets at Penguin and
pretty Ulverstone, I’m going back to funny little Tomahawk to pitch my tent
once again, and I’m going to finally hike in the Tarkine wilderness.
  
On the
way home, a vivid super-moon lights the ship’s decks and I score an upgrade to
a vast deluxe cabin with a double bed, right at the very front of the ship.
Instead of portholes, there are panoramic windows, just the spot to sit and
write that list for the return journey. 
TRIP
NOTES
MORE
INFORMATION
See discovertasmania.com.au.
The
Spirit of Tasmania sails from Melbourne into Devonport. Children travel free
between March 6 and September 13, book by February 28. Costs from $96 adults in
an ocean recliner, or from $258 for two adults and two children in a four-berth
cabin, one-way. See spiritoftasmania.com.au. Virgin Australia (virginaustralia.com),
Jetstar (jetstar.com)
and Qantas (qantas.com.au)
fly from Sydney and Melbourne to Launceston. Rex Airlines flies Melbourne to
Burnie (rex.com.au
STAYING
THERE
Barnbougle
Dunes in Bridport costs from $190 a night. Phone (03) 6356 0094, see barnbougledunes.com.au.
The Winged House at Table Cape costs from $360 a night,  Table Cape. See thewingedhouse.com.au.
Ikon Hotel, Burnie  costs from $170 a night. Phone (03) 6432 4566, see ikonhotel.com.au.
EATING
THERE
Create
your own foodie drive across northern Tasmania, see cradletocoasttastingtrail.com.au
or  the food review app, see tasmanianfoodguide.com.au.
WHILE
YOU’RE THERE
Makers
Workshop, Burnie, makersworkshop.com.au is a must-see. 
FIVE MORE
GREAT TASSIE DRIVES
East
Coast
Hobart to
St Helens.
Explore
some of the island’s  best national parks, including Bay of Fires and
Maria Island. Distance: 295km.
Convict
Trail:
Hobart to
Port Arthur via Richmond. Discover our picturesque, yet brutal colonial
history. Distance: 205km.
Cradle
Country:

Devonport to Cradle Mountain. Balance farmgate snacking and shopping with
world-class hiking. Distance: 226km.
Due
South:
Hobart
to Cockle Creek. Camp at Cockle Creek and take a short walk to South East Cape,
the most southerly point on the island. Distance: 148km.
Wild
West:
Burnie
to Strahan. Drive through Australia’s largest rainforest, the Tarkine
wilderness, via Waratah to the remote west coast. Distance: 180km.


The
writer was a guest of the Spirit of Tasmania, Barnbougle Dunes and the Winged
House.  
This feature by Belinda Jackson was published in the Sun-Herald’s Traveller section.

Luxe lodges, tennis scores and the magnificent Magna Carta: Takeoff travel news

Havana, Cuba, one of the New7Wonders Cities

A special congratulations to Australia’s Nick Kyrgios, who made it through to the Australian Open quarter finals last night! Read more about what he’s up to, below.

NEWS: Seven new wonders

Vigan, Doha, Havana: how many of the New7Wonders Cities
have you visited – or could hit on the world map? The New7Wonders project let
people vote on modern day wonders, from cities to natural features, to
determine our modern-day Pyramids.

The final list of top seven cities is Beirut
(Lebanon), Doha (Qatar), Durban (South Africa), Havana (Cuba), Kuala Lumpur
(Malaysia), La Paz (Bolivia) and Vigan (Philippines).

“La Paz in Bolivia is the
highest capital city in the world (and) the city’s buildings cling to the sides
of the canyon and spill spectacularly downwards while Durban, South Africa’s
third largest city, has really come alive since its World Cup makeover in
2010,” says says Fiona Hunt, managing director of Adventure World. “Cuba, stuck
in a colourful, colonial time-wrap, is a truly fascinating and incomparable
city,” she adds. “The list demonstrates how people are seeking out unique,
off-the-beaten track and largely untapped destinations.” See new7wonders.com, adventureworld.com.au.

KIDS: How to make lunchtimes cooler

Whether your kids are braving the frigid temps of the Antarctic
or the sultry climes of an African safari, these cute meal and lunch sets are
great comfort for those who like to travel with familiar friends. Armed with
your polar bear, team the melamine table setting (cup, bowl, plate and cutlery)
with the Lunchie, an insulated bag that keeps food just right – warm or cold –
with a water bottle on the side.

Made by New York based Skip Hop for kids on
the move, there are a range of animals from bugs to zebras, some with matching
backpacks.The Skip Hop Lunchie costs from $24.95, and Mealtime gift set costs from
$39.95, from David Jones. See davidjones.com.au.

TECH: Mapping the Magna Carta
This year is the 800th anniversary of King
John’s sealing of the Magna Carta, a peace treaty, statement of liberties and
the creation of the rule of law. Follow the story across England, from Salisbury
Cathedral to London’s British Library, Runnymede in Surrey and Lincoln Castle,
William the Conquerer’s stronghold where the Great Charter was signed.

Six new
self-guided trails create two- and three-day itineraries through English towns
and cities, tracing the document’s history and visiting the four original Magna
Cartas. See magnacartatrails.com,
visitengland.com.

FOOD: Italy for the Epicurious
There is more to Italian cooking than just lasagne
(although that’s an extremely good start). Let your guide show you on this
15-day tour of Italy, from Rome to Venice, with Tuscany, Modena and Assisi also
on the itinerary. The Country Roads & Vineyards of Italy tour
includes tasting Brunello di Montalcino with its makers, watching
Parmigiano-Reggiano being produced and finding yourself in vinyeards of Soave,
as well as Insight’s Signature Dining experiences. Feed your cultural soul with
a private tour of the Vatican, a gondola ride in Venice and a stay in the
Tuscan Villa San Paolo in San Gimignano. Costs from $5389
a person, twin share and departs September 2, 2015. Phone 1300 301 672, see insightvacations.com.
AIRLINE: Kyrgios in full flight
Canberra teenager Nick Kyrgios is best known as the tennis
player who thumped world number one Rafael Nadal at Wimbledon last year. The
19-year-old, who has a Greek father and Malaysian mother, is now the newest
ambassador for Malaysia Airlines. “While I was born and brought up in
Australia, I’m really proud of my family culture and very close to my Malaysian
family,” he says, adding he has flown with the airline since he was a boy.

The
airline has 81 direct flights to Malaysia from Australia and New Zealand, and
onward to 60 destinations including London and Paris via its A380. Kyrgios is
currently ranked 50th in the world and kicks off his first full year of tennis
at the opening of the Australian Open, in Melbourne, tomorrow. The Nick Kyrgios Summer Spectacular
airline deals will start on January 21. See
ausopen.com, malaysiaairlines.com.


LODGES: Luxury with a green edge

Get ready for a dose of lodge
lust: the National Geographic Society has created a global collection of 24 boutique
hotels that are dedicated to sustainability and luxury, and includes three of Australia’s
most unique properties.

The lodges range from Bhutan to British Columbia, and
include Lizard Island on the Great Barrier Reef and two resorts owned by
Baillie Lodges, Southern
Ocean Lodge on Kangaroo Island and the tented camp Longitude 131°, which faces
Uluru. 

Southern Ocean Lodge, South Australia

The properties were rigorously vetted for their
sustainable tourism practices prior to inclusion. “These lodges demonstrate
that sustainability and a world-class guest experience can go hand-in-hand,” says
Lynn Cutter of National Geographic. Guests booking a stay at either Baillie
property through National
Geographic Unique Lodges of the World will have
exclusive experiences including private dinners and cooking classes using
indigenous ingredients. See nationalgeographiclodges.com.

Edited by Belinda Jackson, Takeoff is published in the Sun-Herald‘s Traveller section every Sunday. 

KNOW IT ALL: Five things to consider before you go to…Fiji

Dolphin Island, Fiji

A quick hitlist for those few Australians who haven’t tasted the delights of Fiji. I know you’re out there.


1. The roads are seriously slow. The maximum speed in Fiji is 80km/hour,
and 50km/hour through villages (of which there are many). Ignore Google, Nadi
to Suva, 190km, takes a full three hours.
And yes, Fiji now has speed cameras.
2. If staying in resorts, consider buying a meal package
(instead of just B&B) if your resort isn’t in a town. A la carte meals are
surprisingly expensive.
3. Stock up on mangos, pawpaw and other seasonal fruits from
the roadside stalls. They’re always super fresh, cheap and come with a friendly
chat.
4. Flight and hotel packages are usually far more
competitive than buying them separately. During school holidays, book super
early or just stay away – Fiji really is
that family friendly.
5. Get off the main island’s well-worn east coast. There are
333 islands in Fiji: find yours.

Edited by Belinda Jackson, Takeoff is published in the Sun-Herald‘s Traveller section every Sunday.

Alice eats England, camping kids, and learning to love London: Takeoff travel news

KIDS: Colourful cubby
Let your kids take their imagination on holiday beneath
this colorful range of teepees. Available in eight designs including Cowboys,
Montana and the multi-stripe, they are made from durable cotton canvas with a
window and tie-down door. The teepees are 155cm high and come with five metal
poles that are easy to assemble, even for the DIY-shy. Cost $99.95. See mocka.com.au.

FOOD: Alice eats England

There’s something deliciously simplistic about this new food
tour with Masterchef 2012 contestant Alice Zaslavsky: eat Stilton in Stilton,
Bakewell tarts in Bakewell, eels in Ely. The tour goes back to the heart of
rural Britain’s great food traditions, and includes lunch in The Orchard
Restaurant at HRH Prince Charles’ Highgrove estate. Even London yields,
offering British produce at Borough Markets and a Bengali dinner in Brick Lane.
There’s also cider in Somerset, pie and mash in Walthamstow and Melton Mowbray’s
famed pork pies, in between visits to Stonehenge, 16th-century
coaching inns and a light shop at Fortnum & Mason department store. The
tour runs on September 4-11, 2015 and costs $3999 a person, twin share, including
seven nights in four-star hotels. Excludes flights. Phone 1300 836 764, see mastercheftravel.com.
SAILING: Island
hopping made easy
Greek island hopping just got a whole lot simpler with
the introduction of the new Attica Pass from Eurail. The pass allows two
international ferry trips between Greece and Italy and four sailings within
Greece – including Corfu, Santorini and Mykonos – on the Superafast, Blue Star
and Anek lines. All travel must be started within six months of its purchase
date, and be completed within one month. The new pass will be available through
Melbourne-based International Rail from January 1, 2015 and must be bought in
Australia beforehand. The Attica Pass costs from $195. Phone 1300 387 245, see internationalrail.com.au.

BOOK: Hidden London

Discover hidden London, from tiny cafes to unique boutiques
with London local Saskia Graville. Graville, who writes for Traveller, pounded the pavements to bring us the London Style Guide. Forget the city’s
big guns, she’ll send to you to the upcoming contemporary art scene in the East
End’s Bethnal Green, the foodie haunts of Bermondsey  and tiny antique dealers cum tea gardens in the
A-listers’ Primrose Hill. The hand-picked list is complemented with the
favourite finds of a list of London lights, including interior designers, chefs,
boutique hotel owners and even tattoo artists – albeit, those who have
collaborated with Damien Hirst. Available from January 1, 2015. RRP $39.99
(hardback), see murdochbooks.com.au.
GEAR: Smart
It’s
time to face the fact that your
luggage may actually be smarter than you. The Bluesmart carry-on suitcase is
Bluetooth enabled, allowing you to track its progress via an iOs or Android
app. If you and your beloved bag are separated, it will lock automatically and
send you updates of its location. It also contains a battery charger
that will charge your smartphone up to six times, has built-in scales in the handle to prevent costly
surprises on check-in as well as waterproof zippers, four wheels and a padded
laptop compartment at the front of the suitcase for the quick security grab. If it sounds too good to be true, the suitcase, which is
being developed via crowdsourced funding, can be pre-ordered now, with expected
delivery of August 2015. Available in Graphite Black only. Expect to pay around
$300. See bluesmart.com/indiegogo.

TOUR: Tigers and other treasures

Travellers looking ahead of the pack should have
Bangladesh in their sights, says Peregrine Adventures, which is taking tours to
the country for the first time in 2015. 
“Bangladesh is about to be discovered,”
states Peregrine’s Ryan Turner. Highlights include spotting Bengal tigers Sundarbans National Park, negotiating the
18 million-strong population of Dhaka and exploring the recently discovered
mosques in the archeological site of Bara Bazar. 

The 12-day tour will
have four departures in 2015 and costs from $3090 a person.  See peregrineadventures.com/india.

Edited by Belinda Jackson, Takeoff is published in the Sun-Herald‘s Traveller section every Sunday.

The ever-growing travel list: lodges to love in Peru, Tanzania, and Brando in French Polynesia

I’ve confessed already to being a list tragic, and now I have yet another new travel list, thanks to National Geographic
Their new Unique Lodges of
the World collection has 24 good reasons to get out of town and head for the wilderness. 
I stayed in Zhiwa Ling Hotel in Paro, at the foot of the Tiger’s Nest  monastery in Bhutan, and it’s absolutely charming, with the most spectacular views from its windows, as you can see. Minimalists would have a hard time in this hotel, which is decorated in wildly colourful Bhutanese motifs, and built in amongst the rooms is a temple made from 450-year-old timbers from the Gangtey Monastery, and its resident monk. It’s also the country’s sole 100 percent locally owned five-star hotel.  
It’s also pleasing to note that Australia is punching well above its weight, with three beautiful properties on board. 

The full list of lodges is:
 

·      
Fogo Island Inn, Canada
·      
Grootbos Private Nature Reserve, South Africa
·      
Inkaterra Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel, Peru
·      
Kapari Natural Resort, Greece
·      
Kasbah du Toubkal, Morocco
·      
Lapa Rios Eco Lodge, Costa Rica
·      
Lizard Island, Australia
·      
Longitude 131°, Australia
·      
Mashpi Lodge, Ecuador
·      
Nimmo Bay Wilderness Resort, Canada
·      
Pacuare Lodge, Costa Rica
·      
Rosalie Bay Resort, Dominica
·      
Rubondo Island Camp, Tanzania
·      
Sabi Sabi Earth Lodge, South Africa
·      
Sayari Camp, Tanzania
·      
Southern Ocean Lodge, Australia
·      
Sukau Rainforest Lodge, Malaysian Borneo
·      
The Brando, French Polynesia
·      
The Ranch at Rock Creek, Montana, United
States
·      
Three Camel Lodge, Mongolia
·      
Tierra Atacama Hotel & Spa, Chile
·      
Tierra Patagonia Hotel & Spa, Chile
·      
Tswalu Kalahari, South Africa
·      
Zhiwa Ling Hotel, Bhutan

For more
information about National Geographic Unique Lodges of the World, visit www.nationalgeographiclodges.com.  

The 50 best travel finds of 2014 from around the globe

Miss Moneypenny’s, Noosa

Yeah, I know it’s already 8 January, but I’m still looking back… maybe it’s because Australia really hasn’t kicked back properly into work yet. Consensus is that next Monday is the day we all turn our brains on once again. I had many great discoveries last year, including the new COMO hotel in the Maldives, Maalifushi, a villa in Lombok and the newly scrubbed Tahrir square in Cairo, but  also a few fun finds locally, in Australia. Here’s my contribution to a recent round-up by the Sun-Herald‘s brace of writers on our best travel finds in 2014.

Miss Moneypenny, Noosa, Queensland

People
watching is a delight in Noosa, when the buff and the beautiful hit the
sidewalks. Take a ringside seat at Miss Moneypenny, one of the newest additions
to Hastings Street, and order up on the seafood share boards and an 80s cruise
ship drink, their signature pina coladas – we’re in the tropics, people! The
open-air bar-cafe-restaurant spills into the street, ideal for seafood Sundays
or Saturday’s late-night supper club.missmoneypennys.com

Jean-Paul Gaultier Exhibition, National Gallery of Victoria 

Playful, cheeky, self-deprecating: not the words usually associated with
fashion. Jean Paul Gaultier delights in smashing the mould; remember the
conical bra he strapped onto Madonna in 1990? Haute couture comes alive with
moving catwalks and interactive mannequins, the exhibition has already
travelled from San Fran to Stockholm. But in Melbourne, the only showing in the
Asia Pacific, Gaultier assures us, it’s almost perfect. Make a night of it with
the NGV’s fantastic Friday Nights program, with DJs and talks, includes
admission to the exhibition. Costs $22 adults/$10 children 5-15 years
(exhibition only), $28/$10 Friday Nights at Jean Paul Gaultier. Until February
8, 2015. ngv.vic.gov.au

Seahaven Resort, Noosa

A stalwart in Hastings St, Seahaven has enjoyed a $16 million refurbishment
and is unrecognisable from its former self. The resort eclipses the big names
for blockbuster location, bang on Noosa’s Main Beach. Accommodation ranges from
studio boltholes to two-storey penthouses, with fully kitted kitchens, rain
showers and laundries. Plan drinks on your balcony, overlooking the sea.
Seahaven’s three swimming pools and its beachfront barbecue.  It’s a
two-minute trot along the beach boardwalk for morning coffee or for dinner at
Noosa’s sensational restaurants. Sunrise yoga on the beach is de rigueur. seahavennoosa.com.au

This feature was published in Sydney’s Sun-Herald newspaper.

Sand-sational: Traveller writers divulge their favourite beaches

Sunset over Vomo Island, Fiji Photo: Getty Images.

Happy New Year, everyone!  The sun is hot, the beach is calling. While I’ve been unashamedly Instagramming sunsets from the beaches of my childhood, on the Mornington Peninsula (click here for a peek), I recently contributed my Pacific finds to a hitlist of the best strips of sand, from city-slick to rustic romance.

PERFECT PACIFIC ISLAND BEACH
Vomo Island, Mamanuca Islands, Fiji 
WHY I
LOVE IT
Maybe
it’s the memory of skimming the waves on a little Hobie Cat or maybe it’s the
“Say it, it will happen” attitude of the private island resort, but
the beach on Vomo Island holds a special place in my heart. Most of Fiji’s best
beaches are found in the Mamanuca Islands and further north, in the Yasawa
Islands group, north-west of Nadi. After all, this is where The Blue Lagoon, the
movie that started it all, was filmed in 1980. Roll out of your beachside bure
and it’s hello, tranquil turquoise water! And prepare for your heart to melt
when you see Vomo’s baby-turtle breeding program.
WHAT TO
DO
Be sun
smart and pack a rash vest. The snorkelling is excellent, but no-one likes
burnt backs and calves. And don’t spend all day in the water or in your
hammock. The sundowners at Vomo’s Rocks Sunset Bar are a must. The dry season
is from May to October, and the rainy season from November to April.  
DON’T
MISS
If tiny
Vomo still isn’t private enough for you (it has just 30 bures and villas), get
schmoozy on uninhabited Vomo Lailai (or Little Vomo), a few minutes away.
Here’s the recipe for a perfect day: a picnic hamper, bottle of something that
sparkles and favourite person. First in gets exclusive use of the island.
NEED TO
KNOW
Vomo
Island is about 90 minutes with South Sea Cruises from Denarau Marina, or go
the luxe option, with a 15-minute flight by helicopter. Bures cost from about
$1136 a night, full board. vomofiji.com.

FIVE MORE GREAT PACIFIC ISLAND BEACHES 

TAPUAETAI (ONE FOOT ISLAND), AITUTAKI, COOK ISLANDS It’s uninhabited,
yet one of the most touristy beaches in the Cook Islands, so you may see
another boat, and the (unstaffed) post office, which sends your postcards off
with a foot stamped on them.
CHAMPAGNE BEACH, VANUATU It doesn’t get all that attention by being
ugly. White sands, swaying palms and turquoise waters make it a living
postcard. Nearby Lonnoc Beach provides more of the same with fewer people.
LONG BEACH, KADAVU ISLAND, FIJI Sensibly named, this beach is on
Fiji’s fourth-largest and little explored island. The big lure is the Great
Astrolabe Reef, with its spectacular drop-offs, but snorkelling straight off
the beach is no hardship either.
MAROVO LAGOON, NEW GEORGIA ISLANDS, SOLOMON ISLANDS This one is on my
2015 hit list, because it’s the longest saltwater lagoon on the planet, it’s
heritage listed, it’s fringed by ancient volcanos and the rainforest stops
where the sand begins.
MONU ISLAND AND MONURIKI ISLAND, FIJI They are highlights of the
Mamanuca Islands. Deserted, sandy beaches lead down to wildly colourful coral
gardens and marine life, offering sensational snorkelling. Trivia hit: Cast
Away
, starring Tom Hanks, was filmed on Monuriki.

This feature was published in Sydney’s Sun-Herald newspaper. Click here to read the full story.