Roberts’ portraits the ‘selfies’ of their day

With her huge blue eyes, plump rose-kissed cheeks and a tumble of
golden curls spilling over her fashionable fox-fur trimmed coat, Lily
Stirling is the perfect face of a beautiful new nation.

Born in Melbourne’s Lonsdale Street, Lily was about six years
old when her father, a physician friend of prominent Australian artist
Tom Roberts, commissioned her portrait in 1890. Roberts wrote cheeky
ditties of painting children, “… I’ve painted kids in every pose,
A’kissing their mammie or smelling a rose …”

Many of Roberts’ finest portraits are showcased at the blockbuster Tom Roberts exhibition at the National Gallery of Australia, on until March 28 in Canberra.

To read more about artist Tom Roberts’ portraits, click here.  

This feature by Belinda Jackson was published in the Sydney Morning Herald.

Tom Roberts’ cigar box lids a touchstone of Australian impressionism

I recently wrote a couple of pieces on one of Australia’s leading artists, Tom Roberts, and was surprised to find the lengths that he travelled in Australia during his career, from the 1870s till his death in 1931. Not only did he criss-cross from his birthplace in England to his eventual homeland in Australia, but he also went bush, painting up in the Torres Strait, in outback NSW and in the far south of Tasmania.

One of the pioneers of Australia’s plein-air landscape paintings, he would set off on the weekends with fellow artists to the ends of Melbourne’s rail, to camp at Box Hill and Mentone for a few days’ painting. There are more shopping malls and beach boxes at these mid-city suburbs today, so we should be thankful he documented the times when European settlers were still eking out a home amongst the scrublands.

“Think of artist Tom Roberts and you’ll probably recall grand works: his muscular Shearing the Rams, painted in 1890, is more than six feet long (183 centimetres). The Big Picture, commemorating the opening of Parliament, is a “17-foot Frankenstein”.

However, Roberts’ small paintings, known as 9 by 5s, cemented
his position as one of the nation’s eminent artists and along the way
created a new school – Australian impressionism.”

Click here here to read the full story (and to see pictures!)

Tom Roberts is on at the National Gallery of Australia until March 28.
nga.gov.au/Roberts. Tickets are on sale through Ticketek


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. 

Top 10 destinations to visit in Australia in 2015

If you can’t survive the festive season without a list to hand, here’s another one, this time for 10 planning ideas for your 2015 travels.  
 
InterContinental Hotel Double Bay, Sydney

1. Explore wild Australia in Arnhem Land, Northern Territory

Wildly remote and deeply mysterious, Arnhem Land is in the
far north-east of the Northern Territory, fringed by the Timor Sea and
Kakadu National Park. Tourists can now join a working cargo ship
and sail with their car on a cruise-drive journey from Darwin to
Nhulunbuy via Maningrida and Galiwinku on Elcho Island. Get off the
beaten track and into the beating heart of traditional Aboriginal
Australia with a new seven-day cultural tour
through the sparsely populated Cobourg Peninsula. Track sea turtles in
East Arnhem Land at the annual turtle camp on Maabayj (West) Island
(phone: +61 400 419 238) or shake it every August at the Garma Indigenous cultural festival.
Western Arnhem Land’s hot spot is Gunbalanya (Oenpelli), which lures
international collectors to its newly refurbished Injalak Art and Craft
Centre. Watch artists painting and weaving their beautiful artworks,
then climb Injalak Hill to discover breathtaking galleries of rock art.
The best time to travel is May to October.

2. Play picturesque golf and feast on freshness when you visit Tasmania’s King Island

Perched precariously in the wild waters of the Bass Strait, little King Island is
a reminder of the landbridge that once connected the Australian
mainland and our most southerly state, Tasmania. All eyes are on the new
Cape Wickham golf course,
opening March 1, 2015, on Tasmania’s north coast. Designed by US
architect Mike DeVries, Cape Wickham’s course hugs the coastline, with
surfers and a lighthouse overlooking play. King Island’s foodie
reputation far outweighs it size: it may be just 65km long and whipped
by the Roaring Forties trade winds, but its creamy bries, blue veins and
rich cheddars have a soft place in most Australians’ hearts. Order a
King Island hamper before you arrive, stocked with local crayfish and
the world’s most pure rainwater, King Island Cloud Juice. Explore its
walking trails and shipwreck history. Fly in from Tasmania or Melbourne.

3. Sample country kitchen delights on the Great Ocean Road hinterland in Victoria

Hungry? Go west, intrepid traveller, 135km from Melbourne to
Birregurra, population 700. It’s home to the new three-hatted restaurant
Brae, the pride of chef
and restauranteur Dan Hunter, who put another Victorian country town,
Dunkeld, on the map for his fare at the Royal Mail Hotel. Brae is a
30-acre property with olive groves and an organic kitchen garden. Diners
are served quality, sustainable food, showcasing the region’s
exceptional produce, from organic milk to hand-fed ducks, wallaby
tartare and stand-out shiitake. In 2016, Hunter plans to open just six
rooms to guests for an all-immersive stay in this secluded, rich corner
of Victoria that leads down to the Great Ocean Road. While you’re in the
hinterland, check out Timboon Provedore, Birregurra Provedore,
G.O.R.G.E. Chocolates, and Otway Estate brewery and cidery on the Otway Harvest Trail, then roll on to the Great Ocean Road’s 12 Apostles Gourmet Trail.

4. Immerse yourself in hipster cool among Adelaide’s restored laneways

Once upon a time, Adelaide City’s best wine cellar was a
lonely creature amidst the romantic architecture. Now, East End Cellars
has many new friends, with the reinvention of Vardon Ave and Ebenezer
Place as the top spot for a shot of espresso, a wine fix or whatever
fancy cocktail you plan to concoct. Cruise the leafy laneways for
locally designed, ethically sourced jewellery at Studio Eco, get your
sweatshop-free fashion at Nature’s Threads, artistic homewares from
Council of Objects or a restored fixie pushbike at Treadly. You wanna
eat? They’ll dish up chai and Afghan dumplings, Belgian mussels and
beer, tea and vegie pita, or simply hardcore coffee. That’s not to say
that East End Cellars themselves have been sitting still. Their
sophisticated Mother Vine wine bar is the newest on kid on two blocks
that wrap up the best of Adelaide’s food and wine into one tidy package (www.rundlestreet.com.au).

5. Stay in style at the national capital in Canberra

With a wave of sleek newcomers to Canberra’s hotel scene this
year, the question is not “Why should I go?” but “Where should I lay my
head while I’m there?” The city’s arts and culture precinct, NewActon,
is the home of two of the headliners: the chic Hotel Hotel, with a unique design inspired by the Aussie holiday shack, and slick QT Hotel, with sunny rooms and an antique-meets-chic barber shop for the well-groomed man. An old classic gets dressed with edgy art at Peppers Gallery Hotel and everyone’s waiting for the luxury hotel in theNational Zoo and Aquarium, where only a glass wall separates you from a snoozing white lion. Keep an eye out for five-star The Avenue Hotel in the city’s CBD and the remake of the heritage-listed Hotel Kurrajong Bartonin the Parliamentary Triangle, both slated for December. Business hotels in the pipeline include the four-star Little National in Barton and Vibe Canberra Airport, a hop-skip to the ACT’s new terminal.

6. Relax in Hayman Island’s luxurious seaside surrounds

The jewel of Australia’s east coast, the Great Barrier Reef, now has a new gem with the opening of One&Only Hayman Island
in July 2014. With an AUD$80 million price tag on the island’s
makeover, the result is the perfect blend of whales, wallabies and the
luxury of a private island resort. Expect toothpaste-bright beaches,
warm turquoise seas and swaying palm trees married with flowing white
curtains and come-hither daybeds. Make your home a beach villa, with its
absolute beachfront and private plunge pool, or check into the
two-bedroom Diane von Furstenberg penthouse and ask the butler to
arrange an Ocean Dreaming massage literally in the water. The journey is
half the adventure: to get to the resort, you’ll travel past
Queensland’s most beautiful beach, the 7km-strip of Whitehaven Beach, on
Whitsunday Island. Chopper over it, sail up to it, picnic on it: can
you imagine how many diamond rings have been offered here?

7. Go beyond the beach in Sydney’s eastern suburbs

Double Bay and Bondi are the beach stars of Sydney’s iconic
east, and both have been blessed with fresh wave of new openings. All
the talk in this part of town is about the new InterContinental Hotel
in Sydney’s upmarket Double Bay. Opening November, expect super-modern
luxury, grill restaurants, rooftop pools, gin bars and even a kosher
kitchen. The hotel has inspired a wash of new restaurants around it,
including a second Sydney Sake, Fish Face by hot young chef Josh Niland and nightclub Casablanca.
It’s worth remembering rival Bondi Beach is only 10 minutes by taxi, so
pop over and be seen in The Hub on Hall Street, home to Mr Moustache, China Diner and A Tavola. Maurice Terzini, of Bondi Icebergs fame, has just set up shop in Da Orazio Pizza + Porchetta and Sydney’s best breakfast has also moved to Bondi, with the opening of bills Bondi from one of Sydney’s most well-known chefs Bill Granger. Make like a local and order the ricotta hotcakes.

8. Eat your way across the world without leaving Brisbane’s markets

Brisbane lights up each weekend with the new Eat Street Markets
on Hamilton Wharf. Strewn with shipping containers, you can mix it up
with the locals and eat around the world, from Mexico to New York via
Singapore and, of course taste the best of Australia. Snack on
old-school Vietnamese dumplings at Dakbla or French crepes with Miss
Claude, or put a Brissy spin on an old classic with crumbed tiger prawns
and chips at Phunky Dory. Finish off with a cocktail or craft beer and a
light browse – churros in hand – through the shops selling quirky
clothing, candles, antiques and books. The best way to reach Hamilton
Wharf is down the Brisbane River. Take a CityCat river ferry to Brett’s
Wharf and it’s a leisurely 10-minute stroll to Hamilton Wharf. The
markets run every Friday and Saturday night from 4-10pm

9. Raise a glass to Italian cuisine in Victoria’s King Valley

Tucked away high in the foothills of the Victorian Alps is a
busy little community doing its own beautiful thing: smoking meats,
making cheeses, pressing wine. The King Valley
is a little slice of Italy in a quiet pocket of Australia. And when
living la dolce vita, the only drink to drink is the Italian take on
sparkling white wine, heavenly prosecco. How do you find this Australian
Arcadia? Why, follow the Prosecco Road, a food and wine trail that visits the valley’s best vineyards, restaurants, cafés and providores – with a spot of bocce
(Italian lawn bowls) thrown in for good measure. Stay the night in a
local B&B and prepare for a car boot that clinks all the way home,
thanks to your newly found love of precious prosecco. The King Valley is
about three hours’ drive north of Melbourne.

10. Hunt for exotic truffles in unlikely Manjimup, Western Australia

Achingly expensive, hard to attain and an acquired taste:
what’s not to love about truffles? The rich, earthy fungus has
traditionally been hunted in Europe’s ancient forests, but chefs’ eyes
are turning from the Old World to the New, looking to Western Australia,
now Australia’s largest producer of French black truffles. Unearthed in
truffle orchards of English oak and hazel trees with specially trained
dogs, you can take the hounds out for a winter morning’s truffle hunting
around Manjimup and Southern Forest Region, about 300km south of Perth.
Hungry hunters, stop for a truffle-infused lunch and be sure to pack a
shopping bag to haul home your truffle-infused treasures, from
chocolates, to oils and salts. WA’s fresh truffle season runs from June
to September, and out-of-season simulated hunts are available. Tour
operators include Go in Style Luxury Transport and The Truffle & Wine Co.

This feature by Belinda Jackson was published by Tourism Australia.

Travel news: Takeoff September 28, 2014

The High Roller observation wheel, Las Vegas, USA

KIDS

What happens in
Vegas…
Can’t hold off till the kids hit 21 to visit Vegas? The
new Children’s Discovery Museum (US$12, discoverykidslv.org)
proves the desert casino town isn’t just an adult playground. The museum has a
desert-themed toddler zone, an eco city, art play and detective mysteries to
solve for primary school kids. Vegas does have non-gaming, non-smoking hotels
such as Vdara (vdara.com) and most have buffets and pools aplenty. Many hotels
also let kids under 12 stay free in their parents’ room. If your hotel is a
roller-coaster free zone, head to Caesar’s 167-meter High Roller observation wheel, which
opened in March. Family packs for Saturday
morning cost $56 (two adults, three children, caesars.com). For more
ideas, from feeding twin white tiger cubs at the Mirage to feeding sharks in Mandalay
Bay, see lasvegas.com.
HOTEL
Dial-a-room
Unlock your stay in Brisbane with your mobile phone at
the NEXT hotel, which opened this week on the Queen Street Mall. Using the
hotels’ NEXT App, you can check in, unlock your room, control air-conditioning, lights
and TV, even from outside. If that’s too prosaic, use it to call for cocktails.
Wi-Fi is free throughout the hotel and the app is available for iPhones and
Androids. Don’t have a smartphone? Each of the 304 rooms has a Samsung Galaxy S4
phone for use during your stay. Also, the free club lounge is open to guests
who arrive earlier than the 3pm check-in and includes an outdoor pool, 24-hour
gym, showers and sleep pods. Catch NEXT’s opening special, from $179 a room
(weekends) until January 21. Book direct and get a $25 food and beverage
voucher. Phone 1300 272 132, see nexthotels.com/brisbane.
The Charisma by Victorinox.

GEAR

Luggage to Love
Finally, ’s
a luggage designer realises women need to stash a lipgloss amongst
the laptops, smartphones and power pens. In stores this month, the new Victoria
Collection comes from Swiss luggage specialist Victorinox, better known as the
inventor of the ultimate travel tool, the Swiss Army knife. With names such as Aspire, Divine and Sage,
the 10 styles include tote bags, crossbody day bags, four-wheel laptop cases, a
sleek backpack and the Charisma, a carryall that whips you from work to
weekend. It packs a 15.6-inch laptop and a tablet and its micro-suede zip-up
pockets are equally ideal for sheltering sunglasses as a clutch of USB sticks
and cables. The Charisma costs $309, in orchid (pictured), sand and black. See victorinox.ch.

TECH
Cruise control
Find the boat of your dreams (or the boat of your budget)
on the GetMyBoat app, which links would-be sailors with private boat owners and
boat rental companies. The free app lists more than 17,000 boats in 90
countries, including Australia, with a heavy emphasis on the US. It enables
direct messaging between renters and owners to book a boat for an hour, a day,
a week or whatever’s your whimsy, from $20 to eye-blistering sums. All boats are
vetted for safety standards before they’re listed on the site and insurance is
available. Available for iPhones and Androids. See getmyboat.com.
Floriade, Canberra.

NEWS

Floriade frolic
Kids, pets and manicured flowerbeds are an unlikely grouping, but Canberra’s celebration of spring, Floriade, bravely mixes
dogs, wildlife and cubby houses with a million blooms. The third week of the
month-long festival welcomes wildlife warrior Bindi Irwin on October 4 and 5;
lets you take your hounds in on October 7; and unleashes the professionals –
your kids – on six architecturally designed cubby houses on October 12. The
cubbies will then be auctioned to raise funds for The Centenary Hospital for
Women and Children and the National Children’s Playground Project.
The final week of the extravaganza has an Outdoors and Adventure
theme, with sustainability workshops and DIY demos from The Living Room’s
handyman hero Barry Du Bois, on October 11 and 12. And former former Raiders captain Alan Tongue will run a Big Boot Camp, also on October 11. Visit
Floriade, in Commonwealth
Park, until October 12. Entry is free. Phone 1300 852 780, see floriadeaustralia.com.
Good Food month.

FOOD

A state of good
taste
Get out of town for good food during October in The Sydney Morning Herald Good Food
Month
 and The CanberraTimes Good Food Month, presented by Citi. While Sydney will be
awash with night noodle markets and celeb chefs including our own David
Thompson of Bangkok’s celebrated Nahm restaurant, key gigs in the Blue
Mountains include the 80km-radius dinner highlighting local producers, at the
Fairmont Resort in Leura and a cider sampler lunch at Megalong’s new Cider
Barn. There are farmers’ markets by the seaside in Kiama, a long lunch down
Bowral’s Bong Bong Street and the foodie gems of Wollongong on show at TAFE
Illawarra. In Canberra,  you can bar-hop
around Braddon on gin cocktails, go country at the regional table of Le Tres
Bon Restaurant in Bungendore or step even further afield to experience Taste
Riverina, from Wagga to Griffith. See
goodfoodmonth.com.

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

Savour the flavour of Australia: Food experiences across Australia

Tasmania’s Red Feather
has been serving patrons since 1842.

Unleash your hunter-gatherer instinct with a do-it-yourself food
adventure in Australia.

So you think you can eat? Oh, much neglected blog, this is what I’ve been up to lately. This story was published by Tourism Australia, who is inviting the world to dinner with its newest campaign, Restaurant Australia

Design a wine in the famed Barossa Valley or
hook a big barramundi on a day’s fishing in the wild, remote north.
There are truffles to hunt in Canberra, mudcrabbing in Queensland,
coffees to pour in Melbourne and once you learn the indigenous
Australians’ secrets of finding bush tucker, you’ll never starve. If
you’re not sure how to put it all together, go with the pros and sign up
to a cooking school, where they’ll teach you the tricks of the trade to
create the perfect Aussie feast, with food and wine matching. Savour
the flavour of Australia.

Wine blending in South Australia

Step into the home of Australia’s most prestigious wine, Penfolds
Grange Shiraz. Think you can match it? Roll up the shirtsleeves and make
your own red wine blend using Grenache, Shiraz and Mourvedre grapes, a
great souvenir to take home with you. Tours run daily at Penfolds
historic Barossa Valley cellar door in Nuriootpa, one and a half hours’
drive north of Adelaide amidst rolling farmlands and vineyards. While
you’re there, be sure to taste Penfolds’ extensive range, from the famed
Grange to its everyday drinking range of reds and whites.

Barramundi fishing in Western Australia

High on the Western Australian coastline, the Kimberley Coastal Camp
is a tiny cluster of ecologically sustainable bures reached only by
helicopter or boat. Visitors are lured by ancient Aboriginal rock art,
birdwatching and the mighty barramundi – ‘barra’ if you’re talking to a
local. You can fish barra all year round up here, though they’re more
active in the warmer months of April and May, and again in August. The
camp’s experienced fishing guides will kit you out with quality
equipment and teach you the tricks of thinking like a barra to make the
catch.

Truffle Hunting in Australian Capital Territory

Rug up for a wintery morning in an oak forest on the outskirts of
Canberra, and you’ll be rewarded with the jewels of the kitchen:
truffles. Snuffle the truffle dog and owners Sherry and Gavin
McArdle-English will teach you how to hunt and handle French black
truffles that will make their way to market and be served in Australia’s
best restaurants. The hunt ends in the warm truffle shed with a
weight-guessing competition and truffle crème brulee. Truffle hunts run in winter, from June to August.

Mudcrabbing in Queensland

So you love crab? Learn to wrangle them on a two-and-a-half-hour
cruise down the Tweed River, about 10 minutes south of Queensland’s Gold
Coast. The daily tours
let you trap live crabs, hauling crab pots and tieing them up for a
great photo op. You can also hand-feed massive, ever-hungry pelicans and
throw a hopeful fishing line in the river. They’ll supply the gear, you
bring the luck.

Finding bush tucker in the Northern Territory

Go on safari
in one of the world’s great wildernesses to find turtles and snakes,
gather fruits and yams and celebrate with a bush feast around the
campfire. An open safari truck takes you through Kakadu National Park,
three hours’ drive from Darwin in the Northern Territory. Meet Kakadu’s
Aboriginal community, learn about their languages, bush lore and their
“dreamings” and witness birds massing at the Gindjala wetland. You’ll
finish at sunset with a cup of billy tea, hot damper (bread cooked in
the fire’s embers) and the results of your day’s hunting and gathering.

Game fishing in New South Wales

Get your Hemingway on and chase the big fish of the deep blue sea in
the rich waters off the south coast of New South Wales. There’s mighty
marlin to lure as well as yellow fin, albacore and striped tuna. You may
spot some powerful broadbill swordfish and sharks, and while they’re
not for anglers, majestic Humpback whales use this corridor on their
annual journey to and from Antarctica. Keep your eyes open for seals,
sea eagles and penguins, too. Freedom Charters
supply all equipment and you can catch and release, or capture your
haul. Eden’s thrilling game fishing season runs from November till
July.

Making coffee in Victoria

Nobody drinks coffee like Melburnians drink, and its fabulous café
society just keeps evolving. If you love the bean and want to try this
at home, Sensory Lab‘s
45-minute one-on-one barista classes will have you frothing, tamping,
grinding and pouring like a pro. Start as a beginner, learning all the
skills to flatter with your latte, or caress with your capuccino. Take
it to the next level and get serious with milk texturing and making
those pretty little hearts and ferns on the top of the cup or go into
syphoning.

Cooking class in Tasmania

Roll up your sleeves and cook Tasmania’s top produce, much of it
sourced from the markets on the morning of your cooking class. The Red Feather
has been serving patrons since 1842, when it was built as a coaching
inn by convicts sent to “Van Diemen’s Land” from the United Kingdom. The
beautiful sandstone buildings are just south of Launceston, Australia’s
third oldest city. You’ll learn the secrets of perfect baking, smoking
and curing meats and whatever the markets offer that day. And the best
part? You get to eat the fabulous fruits of your labour (with a little
help from a chef, of course).

This story by Belinda Jackson was first published by Tourism Australia, who is inviting the world to dinner. 

To read more about Australia’s fantastic food culture, best restaurants, wineries and producers, visit the brand, spanking new Restaurant Australia website.

Get going: trek to Tibet

The new Shangri-La, Tibet

 From Tibet to Canberra, we’ve got it all covered this weekend for the best travel deals around. Obviously, the theme is to get high: in the Adelaide Hills, the Blue Mountains or Peru’s Machu Picchu.

GO NOW
TIBET
Make the trek to the hotel everyone is talking about, the new
Shangri-La Lhasa, at 3650 metres above sea level, which opens on April
17. Its opening offer includes breakfast and dinner, mini-bar and 3pm
checkout, until June 30. From $498 a night. 1800 222 448, shangri-la.com.

SOUTH AUSTRALIA
Check in to the five-star Mount Lofty House MGallery, overlooking
Adelaide, and get a bottle of wine and country breakfast included with
midweek bookings (Sunday-Thursday) until September 26. From $169 a
night. 1300 132 799, lastminute.com.au/deals.

GO SOON
NEW SOUTH WALES
Celebrate autumn in the Blue Mountains at the premier
Emirates Wolgan Valley Resort and Spa. Stay two nights midweek in a
suite with a private pool, all meals, two nature activities and $100 spa
credit, until June 30. From $1250 a person, two nights. (02) 9290 9733, wolganvalley.com.

MALAYSIA
Cook up a hot shopping trip in bargain-friendly Kuala Lumpur and stay
at the city’s newest hotel, Pullman Kuala Lumpur Bangsar, for $90 a
night. Book by May 31 for stays in the chic suburb until September 30. pullmanhotels.com.

GO LATER
SOUTH AMERICA
Spend 20 days discovering the icons of South America in 2015,
from Peru’s Machu Picchu to Rio de Janeiro’s Christ the Redeemer, and
your companion gets free flights from Australia. Book by September 30.
From $11,995 a person, twin share. 1300 723 642, scenictours.com.au.

VICTORIA
The Novotel St Kilda’s “wine and wind down” deal is back.
Book a non-bayview room from $209 a night and get six bottles of wine
worth $200. Includes car parking and breakfast. Until December 30. Quote
“wine and wind down”. (03) 9525 5522, novotelstkilda.com.au.

Tourwatch

Heli-safari on Fiji’s Sigatoka River

Hell-raising on a heli-safari

Fast and fabulous adrenaline-seekers have a new home in
southern Fiji. Take a 15-minute helicopter or 30-minute small plane
flight over tropical mountains and the Coral Coast then jet boat down
the river on a half-day Sigatoka River safari tour, visiting
traditional villages for a kava ceremony and lunch. Costs $365
(heli-jet boat combo), $535 (small plane-jet boat combo), see helitoursfiji.com.

Kids deal

Questacon, Canberra

Act up in the act

Discover a miniature village, experience an earthquake and
meet an elite athlete with the Canberra City YHA’s Family Fun
three-in-one package, which includes entry to Cockington Green,
Questacon and the Australian Institute of Sport. Save 15 per cent, from
$484 for two nights in a family en suite room until October 30, (02) 6248 9155, yha.com.au. YHA membership to more than 4000 hostels worldwide costs $32
adults, kids under 18 join free with a parent. Non-members pay 10 per
cent extra.

Travel deals: Free Fiji

GO NOW

FIJI

Stay eight nights at the five-star Outrigger on the Lagoon
with return airfares, $600 resort credit, butler service, spa treatment
and kids stay and eat free, saving $2000. Book by February 28; travel
until March 31. Worth $2790, from $1990 a person. Phone 1300 003 454, see myfiji.com.au.
QUEENSLAND

Be one of the first to stay in the newly refurbished
apartments and suites of Seahaven Noosa, set between Hastings Street and
the beachfront. Save $25 a night, with 2pm checkout, on stays until
March 30. From $175 a night, studio. Phone (07) 5447 3422, see www.seahavennoosa.com.au.

GO SOON

FRANCE

Book a historic mansion in Marais, five minutes’ walk from
the Musee Picasso, and save $70 a night. The large guest suite of
Apartment 268 includes a private terrace and breakfast served by your
Parisian host. Costs from $272 a night, double, until March 30. See petiteparis.com.au.

ACT

Cosy up in a country cottage in Hall and pay half price until
July 31. Book two nights at the 4.5-star Gooromon Park Cottages and get
champagne and chocolates, breakfast and Wi-Fi. From $380, two nights,
quote “Elegance” or “Silhouette”. Phone 1300 88 7979, see wotif.com/hotelW212536.

GO LATER

CAMBODIA

Just 15 minutes from Angkor Wat’s temples, the new 30-room
Angkor Heritage Boutique hotel’s opening special cuts 35 per cent off
room rates until September 30. From $86 a night, includes breakfast,
Wi-Fi and airport transfers. Phone 855 63 966 660, see angkorheritagehotel.com.

WA/NT

Book a 19-day West Coast Discovery Tour from Darwin to Perth
by March 31 to get discounts and your friend flies free. Discover
Litchfield, Kakadu and Monkey Mia. Departs July 9, August 6 and 27. From
$7395 a person, twin share. Phone 1300 383 747, see evergreentours.com.

TOURWATCH: Top End angling
Snap up a fishy tale in the Top End as luxury lodge Bamurru
Plains transforms into a fishing lodge until April 28, with metre-long
barramundi up for grabs. Three hours from Darwin on the NT’s Mary River floodplains,
cast a line from Bamurru’s airboats with fishing guides. The
all-inclusive eco-camp has nine safari suites, operates on a
catch-and-release ethos and includes all meals, drinks and fishing
tours. From $2350 a person, twin share, three nights. Phone 1300 790 561. See wildbushfishing.com.

KIDS’ DEALS: In the zone

KERRY HOTELS/SHANGRI-LA, SHANGHAI, BEIJING

Kids run the show at the new Cool Zones and Adventure Zones
in 11 Asia-Pacific Shangri-La properties including Kerry Hotel, Beijing,
which has just completed a $6.5 million renovation. Its Adventure Zone
has three slides including the Demon Drop, net towers, ball pits, a
wading pool and village complete with dress-ups for toddlers, free for
kids four to 12 years. (Psst, parents! The hotel’s new wine bar opens
June 2014.) Deluxe rooms cost from $274 plus taxes; see shangri-la.com.

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

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.

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.
Accosted
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.

RED HOT
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. adelaideheritage.com.
DREAM BUILD
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. legoland.com.
EMPIRE OF THE CAT
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. lottehoteljeju.com.
Wanderlust, Singapore

OUT OF THIS WORLD

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. wanderlusthotel.com.

THINK PINK
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. theplazany.com.

CAPITAL KIDS
Canberra
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). easthotel.com.au.
FIVE MORE COOL KIDS’
ROOMS
SWISSOTEL, PHUKET, THAILAND
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. swissotel.com.

FANTASYLAND HOTEL, EDMONTON, CANADA
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. fantasylandhotel.com.
SHERATON MACAO HOTEL, MACAU
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. sheraton.com/macao.
THE PALMS, LAS VEGAS
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. thepalms.com.
NOMAD XPERIENCE, GRANADA, SPAIN
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
years. nomadx.es.
Source: Belinda Jackson,
Sun-Herald newspaper