One morning, two icons: touring the Top End, Australia

It’s a strange think to talk of lack of time when time is all we’ve got at the moment as we while away our time in self isolate.

Yet time is always precious: I wrote this short piece about a new air tour of two of the Northern Territory’s most popular national parks – Litchfield and Kakadu, just before this COVID-19 virus took hold of our country.

The little local airline – NT Air – says the best time to visit this part of the Top End is now, just after the Wet, when the territory is deluged by monsoonal rain, and everything is green and glowing.

The Wet will come again, this virus will pass. Those benefiting are not just shareholders in gold, supermarkets, toilet paper manufacturers and face mask factories. Nature, too, is benifiting from our global lockdown: she will heal as we stay away from our most loved destinations, including our national parks.

So put this trip on your inspiration list, to fly via light aircraft between the so-called Lost City rock formation in Litchfield to the billabongs and dramatic escarpments of Kakadu.

Click here to read the full story, published in the Traveller section of the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age newspapers.

 

Industrial Revolution on the Mornington Peninsula, Victoria, Australia

Jimmy Rum's

In this age of uncertainty, we’re staying local, so here’s another story from my heartland, the Mornington Peninsula.

As I noted in the story, we go to the peninsula for the sandy beaches, for the restaurants and wineries, for the feeling that industry and grind is behind us. So it might seem a little odd to be recommending an industrial estate as THE place to visit, but stay with me here!

There are so many great things in this little snarl of streets: between heavy machinery workshops you’ll find a gluten-free brewery, behind a storage centre, a vegan dairy. And the best little rum bar I’ve been to. Good on you, Jimmy Rum.

To read more about what I’m dubbing the new Industrial Revolution, click here for the story that ran in the Traveller section of the Sydney Morning Herald, and The Age newspapers.

 

Growing up with the Mornington Peninsula

Beach boxes, Mornington

There’s a photo that’s always in my kitchen, faded by sun and decades. It’s of my dad – long gone now – sitting on the chairlift that climbs to Arthur’s Seat, a beauty spot with views over the Mornington Peninsula.

You can still catch a chairlift up Arthur’s Seat, only now it’s a far safer carrier in a more precarious world. The new Eagle gondolas still skim the top of the eucalypts. You can still spy kangaroos, and hear the birds calling to each other in the state forest below. I always wanted to live in one of the houses hidden among the trees, but I was never homeless on the peninsula. My young mum took me on my first holiday here, at our family’s beach house on Safety Beach.

I still go to Safety Beach, and when I can’t, I miss it. But everyone goes there now. They’re chasing hatted chefs, renowned winemakers, that little artisan bakery… I guess I can’t blame them. The peninsula of my youth has grown up, as have I.

You can read my full story, which was published in the Sydney Morning Herald’s Good Weekend, here.

Vintage train returns to the rails, from Melbourne to Sydney

Spirit of Progress train

Slow travel, nostalgia travel, train travel – Australia’s oldest working train  ticks all the boxes when it comes to travel trends.

The old train will bring a slow-travel mentality to what has become a commuter run, when the newly commissioned Spirit of Progress makes her first journey in 33 years between Melbourne and Sydney in March.

Powered by restored diesel locomotives built in 1957 and 1971, the 83-year-old train has enjoyed a six-figure restoration by the Seymour Railway Heritage Centre and Lachlan Valley Railway, in partnership with rail-cruise specialist Cruise Express.

Click here to read the story, which was published in the Sydney Morning Herald, The Age and online at traveller.com.au

 

Travelling with a clear, green conscience

Brett Tollman, Treadright Foundation

There’s been a lot of talk in the tourism sphere about how to travel with a clean environmental conscious – from flight shaming to exploitation. Should we all just stay home?

Recently, I chatted with Brett Tollman, head of the Treadright Foundation, about how to limit your environmental footprint.

We all have a footprint when we travel,” he says. “The important thing is how to make it the lightest, most beneficial footprint you can.”

Read our interview, with his five great tips on staying green while travelling, for the Traveller section of the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age newspapers.

Healthy hiking holidays: from Patagonia to Tasmania and Spain’s classic Camino

Hiking in Patagonia, Chile

Last month, I found myself hiking along a section of Chilean Patagonia’s most famous walking route, the W.

The route curls around the Paine Massif, a majestic family of jagged peaks, whose tops were shrouded in cloud and cloaked in snow. Condors hunted between their teeth, and the air jolted to the sound of avalanches, hundreds of meters above me.

It all taps into the recent story I wrote for Prevention magazine, a women’s health publication, about five great hiking holidays. In it, I included the W, but also Tasmania’s new Three Capes Walk and the Larapinta Trail in Australia’s Northern Territory, as well as the Kumano Kodo in Japan and the Spanish classic ultra-long walk, the Camino de Santiago.

Why do we walk? To get fit? To slow down? To go on pilgrimage?

The benefits include better health and spending time in nature, while some walks, like the Kumano Kodo and the Camino, were very deliberately designed to create time to clear your head and sift and sort through the bigger problems in life,  says Di Westaway, founder of Wild Women On Top.

“Finishing a trek that takes you outside your comfort zone is a confidence-building exercise. It might be really arduous at high altitude, with plenty of “OMG, what was I thinking?” moments, but that exhilaration and achievement afterwards is a huge personal lift,” Diane adds.

You can read the story online, or you can just pull your hiking boots on now…

Rise of the regions: new hotels in rural Australia

Rural retreat hunters are spoilt with a swag of stylish new properties away from the bright lights.

We take a look at Kimo Estate in rural NSW and Mt Mulligan Lodge in far north Queensland, where back roads are back, and slow travel establishes as one of today’s key travel trends in a world that never hits the off button.

With plenty of sparse spaces across the country, Australia’s regions have responded to the demand for dalliance – click here to read on for the Rise of the Regions, first published in Essentials Magazine.

How to respect the Reef

Great Barrier Reef, Australia

Recently, I was up on Heron and Hamilton Islands on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, which is constantly in the news for being beautiful, but also for dying.

In my regular series in the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age’s Traveller section, I chat with experts about travellers’ conundrums, and this trip sparked a column on how to respect the Reef.

The expert is Andy Ridley, creator of the global Earth Hour movement (which asks individuals and businesses to switch off their lights – in the house, in skyscrapers, on the streets – for just one hour). His newest project is Citizens of the Great Barrier Reef,  a network of individuals, organisations and businesses working to conserve the Great Barrier Reef and reefs around the world.

His steps to respecting the reef include:
  • carbon-offsetting your flights
  • using reef-friendly sunscreen
  • visiting the Reef responsibly – using eco-accredited tour companies, not touching coral
  • and promoting the reef: if you see damage, report it. If you find beauty, tell the world.

To read the full article, click here

To become a Citizen, sign up at citizensgbr.org

Perfect pitch at Port Fairy’s Drift House

Drift House, Port Fairy, Victoria

A long weekend on Victoria’s Great Ocean Drive – it’s the stuff of nightmares.

One of Australia’s most popular sightseeing drives, the drawcards are the 12 Apostles (but we all know that there are heaps less – or more? – of these famed sea stacks. I managed to evade the crowds and find my own piece of peace by continuing an hour past the tourist hubs to the prettiest town around, Port Fairy.

The destination? Drift House, which is almost more famous overseas than here in Australia for its four perfect suites, and perfectly pitched service from its owners, Colleen Guiney and John Watkinson.

Now, the Edwardian cottage next door has been transformed to add two new, equally fresh suites to the best address in town. Read my short story, which appeared in my weekly column in the Sunday Age and Sun-Herald newspapers, and online at Traveller.

Chasing auroras in Tasmania

Hunting the Light

A couple of years ago, I found myself standing on the top deck of a Norwegian coastal liner, the Hurtigruten. The night was pitch black, it was way below zero degrees, and we stared at the sky, our necks cricked in the cold as we attempted to capture the Northern Lights.

Then, another Australian reemerged from the warm cabins below to show us a magnificent photo of the aurora phenomenon. Where’s this? we all asked. It’s in Tasmania, he said. The Australians in the group noted it was a good 15 degrees warmer and 23 hours closer to home. So on my list for this year is to see our own Aurora Australis, the Southern Lights.

I got in touch with one of Tassie’s best-known aurora chasers, Margaret Sonnemann, founder of the Aurora Australis Tasmania Facebook group and author of The Aurora Chaser’s Handbook for her tips.

Happily, she says, you can see the Aurora Australis all year round in Tasmania, one of the landmasses closest to the South Magnetic Pole, which is where aurorae originate from. She shares camera tips as well as her favourite viewing points.

Click here to read the full story, which was published in the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age‘s Traveller website.