The 16 must-see new architecture projects for 2016

An artist’s impression of WTC transportation hub, US

In what’s becoming an annual story for the Sydney Morning Herald, here’s my round-up of next year’s great architectural openings. Thanks, as ever, to Sydney architect and founder of Sydney Architecture Walks, Eoghan Lewis. 

Who doesn’t love an architectural icon? While rising prices and
global uncertainty have slowed many building projects around the world –
the ambitious Grand Egyptian Museum is once again on ice – eyes are
open for key cultural offerings in Hamburg, New York and London.

Sure,
the skyscraper industry isn’t going out of business any time soon –
just take a look at the new Trump Towers going up in Vancouver, while
skinny is inny as New York discusses the rash of slim skyscrapers
overshadowing Central Park and the first super-tall skyscraper has been
approved for Warsaw. However, take your head out of the clouds to see
what’s trending in the world of architecture.

“Analogue seems to
be coming back … less slick, less same-same,” says Sydney architect and
architecture walking guide Eoghan Lewis. “Authenticity is trending, and
there is a new focus on refinement and simplicity.” (see www.sydneyarchitecture.org)

Click here to see what we’ve named the top 16 architectural openings in 2016. 

(This feature by Belinda Jackson was first published in the Sydney Morning Herald/The Age newpapers.) 

Myanmar, floating whiskey bars and Australia’s cutest animal, officially: Takeoff travel news

TRENDS: Discover secrets of Myanmar

Myanmar has set our travel radars
afire since Lonely Planet named it in its top 10 must-visit destinations
back in 2012, when Australia lifted its sanctions against the country.
Now, Trafalgar becomes the first of the larger group tour companies
offering coach tours to enter the market in 2016. Its new 11-day Secrets of Myanmar tour traverses the well regarded sights of Yangon,

Inle Lake and Bagan and goes off
track to include a cooking class and local markets, visiting some of
Myanmar’s ethnic minorities, the Pa-O, Danu and Intha people. Before Trafalgar’s entry, the tourism market

had been dominated by smaller group
operators including Peregrine, which has been running tours since 2002,
World Expeditions and budget-minded Intrepid Travel. Travel pundits say
Myanmar’s infrastructure is still weak, with poor roads, a lack of ATMs
and poor communications (ie shaky Wi-Fi), though the big hotel groups
are moving in. 

Accor plans to open four new hotels in a country regarded as one of south-east Asia’s most mysterious and most beautiful.
Trafalgar’s 11-day Secrets of
Myanmar guided holiday costs from $4875, excluding airfares, with
departures between January 27 and December 7, 2016. Phone 1300 797 010,
see trafalgar.com.  
 

EXPLORE: Go with the flow

Fossick for gold, unearth a thunder
egg from an ancient lava flow or spot the rare Gouldian finch on a new
self-drive route in Far North Queensland. The new Lava Tubes, Gems and
Gorges Trail is an offshoot of the Savannah Way, which links Cairns and
Broome in an epic 3700-kilometre drive across three states and five
World Heritage sites. The new trail is a 300-kilometre circuit from
Minnamoolka to Conjuboy, inland from Queensland’s Mission Beach. En
route, take a river cruise down Cobbold Gorge, hunt for topaz at
O’Briens Creek and walk down the world’s longest lava tubes – caves
created by lava flows – at Undara Volcanic National Park. Thirsty work?
Pull in to Australia’s smallest bar at Lynd Junction to recoup. Also
check out the nearby Kirrama Range Road, which was mapped late last
year. Find the trails at visitor information centres or see
drivenorthqueensland.com.au.
 

DRINKS: Dram roll

 If you thought whisky and cruising
were uneasy bedfellows, think again as you order up at Magnums, the
first whisky bar on the Princess Cruises line. Staff at the new bar, on
board the locally based Dawn Princess, will lead you through 63 fine
whiskies, from Tasmania to Japan to the US and Scotland. You’ll find
single malts from New Zealand, American bourbons and even a Melbourne
offering. Try a nip or order the flight of the day, featuring three
different whiskies. The cruise line says the spirit is hot, and
recommends a dram after dinner or on a laidback sea day. Cruises on the
Dawn Princess include the 13-night round trip from Sydney

to New Caledonia and Vanuatu from $1399 a person, twin share, departing January 16, 2015. Phone 132 488, see princess.com

Silver fox Roy Billing.

TOUR: NZ fox trot for boomers

On your marks boomers. Your
adventure trip to New Zealand awaits. The new Silver Foxes and Foxettes
tour is aimed at baby boomers who want to live for the moment and
#saysorrylater. Check out the social media campaign, which encourages
you to SKI (Spend the Kids’ Inheritance). The ringleader of the new AAT Kings tour is actor Roy Billing (pictured), a proud Kiwi, Underbelly

and Jack Irish star and 2015
recipient of the Medal of the Order of Australia. Billing helps mix New
Zealand’s heady beauty and fine tables with a dash of jet boating or
heli-wine tasting. The 10-day tours start in Billing’s hometown,
Auckland, then on to Rotorua for a hangi feast before

heading to the South Island’s
Christchurch, Franz Josef Glacier and Queenstown. Tours depart from
September 13, 2015 to May 22, 2016 and cost from $3795 a person, twin
share. Phone 131 415, see
helloworld.com.au/instore/silverfox.
 

GEAR: Stop the noise

So your carry-on bag already bulges
with laptop, camera, work gear or perhaps the accoutrements required by a
junior traveller by your side. Who has room for big headphones?
Fortunately, sound masters Bose have the answer, with their QC20 in-ear
headphones. Fully charged, these little babies offer 16 hours of noise
cancellation, and act as regular earphones even when uncharged.
The incredibly effective “noise
cancelling” mode will block out even your neighbour’s droning, while
“aware” lets you pick up traffic noise (handy when you’re on the move)
without having to corkscrew them tightly into your ears. They also
feature an inline mike and volume control. First released in 2013, the
new models come in black or white, tailored for iPhones/iPads/iPods,
Samsung Galaxy or Android devices. Includes a tidy zipup bag and earbuds in three sizes. Quiet Comfort 20 acoustic noise-cancelling headphones cost $399. See
bose.com.au.  
 

KIDS: Wild life

Australia’s cutest animal, Archer the koala.

July birthday kids will gain free
entry to Featherdale Wildlife Park, in western Sydney, which also
celebrates its birthday this month. The park is home to Archer the
Koala, officially the cutest animal in Australia, thanks to a recent
poll. Archer, who was hand-raised by

Featherdale staff, beat competition
from around Australia including gang-gang cockatoos and quokkas, and
details his life on his Facebook page @ArcherTheKoala. Featherdale includes a petting zoo
with baby lambs, goats and pigs, as well as Australia’s own baby
bilbies, wallabies, dingoes and wombats, while the fearless can sidle up
to snakes or tangle with a Tassie devil.

  
Open 9am to 5pm daily, 217 Kildare
Road, Doonside. Adults $29.50, children (3-15 years) $16, families from
$56 (1 adult, 2 kids). Phone (02) 9622 1644, see featherdale.com.au/birthday

 The Takeoff travel news column by Belinda Jackson is published every Sunday in Sydney’s Sun-Herald newspaper’s Traveller section.   

Of Uluru, porridge and babes in paradise: Takeoff travel news

FOOD

The butler does
it
Lick the plates clean and eat your porridge: that’s the order when
you visit Scotland during its year-long celebration of the land and larder.
Merry May is Whisky Month, with the Isle of Harris’s first distillery opening
in Tarbert (see harrissdistillery.com), follow a seafood trail down the west
coast and discover Britain’s most remote mainland pub, The Old Forge, in
Knoydart (see theoldforge.co.uk).  Or
call on Jack Black, Scotland’s first picnic butler, dishing up the best
of Scottish fare with Forest Holidays in Ardgartan in Argyll, and Strathyre in
Perthshire. Jack lifts the
lid on your hamper to uncover Scottish smoked salmon, Arran oat cakes and the
tea cake with a cult following, Tunnocks. Drink pure Scottish springwater, the
lurid orange Irn Br soft drink or a glass of sparkling: picnics can be tailored
for couples or families. He can even help you go foraging, light fires
and survive outdoors (insider tip: you definitely won’t go hungry). See visitscotland.org, forestholidays.co.uk.
HOTEL
Uluru shines with indigenous design
Temperatures are dropping in the our central deserts as
peak tourist season approaches at Uluru. The self-contained Emu Walk Apartments greet the season with a
complete refurbishment embracing indigenous designs and artwork by local artist
Raymond Walters Japanangka. There are 40 one-bedroom and 23 two-bedroom
apartments, each with a separate kitchen and a laundry, set beside the resort
hub.  The refurbishment is part of Ayres
Rock Resort’s facilities upgrade which includes the five-star Sails in the Desert
hotel and a new reception. Travellers Uluru-bound
this week will be in time for the Tjungu Festival, with Australian indigenous fashion,
film, art and food on display, as well as an Indigenous Anzacs at War exhibition,
April 23-26. Upcoming events at Ayres Rock Resort include the Uluru Camel
Cup
in May, Australian Outback Marathon in July and the Uluru Astronomy weekend in August. Phone
1300 034 044, see ayersrockresort.com.au/emu.
MOVIES
Halls of fame
If you fancy frocking up for a right royal frolicking,
chances are you’re already glued to the BBC’s latest period drama, Wolf Hall by English author Hilary Mantel.
The series was filmed in the Welsh and English countryside, including in the
village of Lacock, in Wiltshire, south-west England, which has also starred in Pride & Prejudice and Harry
Potter
.  Explore Lacock on
Trafalgar’s six-day Best of Devon and Cornwall tour. Other highlights include
ancient Stonehenge, refined Bath, Buckfast Abbey in Devon and Tintagel
Castle, said to be the birthplace of King Arthur. It also takes in Salisbury
Cathedral, which this year celebrates 800 years since King John signed the
Magna Carta in 1215. Trips depart between April and October 2015 and cost
from $1363 a person. Phone 1300 663 043, see trafalgar.com.
KIDS
Minors in the
Maldives
Pitched as the world’s ultimate honeymoon destination, there is
still a place for the results of that honeymoon in the Maldives. Children are
welcome at Centara Grand Island Resort & Spa, which has twice been voted
the country’s most family-friendly resort. Two children can stay and eat free and
also get free return flights via seaplane between the international airport at
Male and the resort when you book a ‘summer family offer’. Stay in a beach
suite or, if booking a one-bed pool villa, you’ll be upgraded to a two-bed
villa, and enjoy free activities such as swimming with whale sharks,
snorkelling, island tours and sunset cruises. The resort also has a kid’s club
and teen zone, free of charge, for a five-star family holiday. The offer must
be booked through travel agents between April 20-October 31. Costs from $6076,
2 adults and 2 children under 12 years, five nights. See centarahotelsresorts.com.
TECH
Slide night lives
on
Those mourning the demise of travel slide nights will
welcome this slide display case, which lends new life to your favourite photos.
Devised by New Zealand homewares designer Catherine David, the meter-long case cradles
and backlights slides for easy appreciation (and less fingerprints). Hung
horizontally or vertically, it can hold up to 21 of your favourite
memories.  David has reworked the light
to run on low-energy LED bulbs, so your slides will now shine sustainably. Costs
NZ$350. See catherinedaviddesigns.com.

NEWS

Abu Dhabi pitches for halal holidaymakers
With shopping, eating, women-only and adventure tourism
well and truly catered for, Muslim holidaymakers are now in the spotlight as
Abu Dhabi launches its new halal holidays aimed at Australian Muslim tourists.
The emirate has launched 18 new self-guided holidays for thrill-seekers,
families, chilling out or catching culture, adhering to the principles of the
Islamic faith. Highlights might include ladies-only visit to Yas Waterworld,
family fun at the Formula 1 Yas Marina Circuit, a visit to the ancient city of
El Ain or tour through the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque (above), which can accommodate
40,000 worshippers and has the world’s largest Persian carpet. It’s estimated
the global market for halal tourism is worth around US$140m and rising 6
percent annually, and around 2 percent of Australians have a Muslim background.
See visitabudhabi.ae.

The Takeoff travel news column by Belinda Jackson is published each Sunday in Sydney’s Sun-Herald Traveller section. 

Snaptastic in Kakadu, Cape York hooked up and Queenstown communes: Takeoff travel news

TECH
Snap to it!
Ditch the hard drive of photos you’ll never look at and
go retro with Fujifilm’s Instax Mini 8 cameras, for instant gratification from instant
photos. The camera runs on two AA batteries and pops out instant pics at a wallet-friendly
62x46mm. Accept its limitations – no zoom, no macro mode and, incredibly, you
have to look through a viewfinder – it’s ideal for cute wedding snaps or of you
’n’ your bestie, and has a cult following that includes Katy Perry and Taylor
Swift.  Available in seven colours
including the new raspberry and grape, the camera come with a 10-pack of film,
and additional packs costs $15-20. Yes, it does come in macho black. The grape-coloured
camera is exclusive to Target, all other colours available in Ted’s Camera
Stores, Harvey Norman, Big W, Officeworks and Kmart, $99. See fujifilm.com.au.

AIRLINE

Cape York
Cape York once again is linked by air with Cairns following
the launch of new flights to the regional hub of Bamaga, population 1000. The
weekday flights are operated by Regional Express, running a Saab 340 to the Northern
Peninsula Area airport, 35km from the tip of Cape York. The flights will appeal
to time-poor travellers aiming for the northernmost point of mainland
Australia, choosing a two-hour flight over a two-day, 850km drive. The Cape is a
tourist hot spot in the dry winter months and renowned for its spectacular
fishing. The newly refurbished Cape York
Peninsula Lodge
(formerly the Bamaga Resort) has 44 suites, rooms
and eco-tents and is part-owned by ATSI communities, so all profits go directly
back to local schools, health programs and its hospitality training program
(from $309 a night, B&B, see cypeninsulalodge.com.au). Hire a 4WD in Bamaga, Weipa and
Lockhart, or ferry through the Torres Strait Islands and back to Cairns from
nearby Seisia, (phone 1800 424 422, see seaswift.com.au).
One-way flights from Cairns to Bamaga cost from $248. Phone 131 713, see
rex.com.au.
Photo: Paul Arnold
PHOTOGRAPHY

Shoot to thrill

Smile at a crocodile: it’s a snap with professional photographer
and bushman Paul Arnold, who is running new photography tours in Kakadu during
the dry season until November. Arnold will lead groups of seven out onto Yellow
Water Billabong for a two-hour cruise to spot crocs, learn to frame Kakadu’s
dramatic landscapes and capture its teeming birdlife ($250 a person).
Otherwise, join a two-hour walk to the billabong from Cooinda Lodge
Kakadu ($50)
or take a two-hour course that helps get your DSLR camera off auto mode ($110).
Arnold will also be holding photo nights, sharing tips and his secret locations,
at the lodge (one hour, $30). “I’ve spent the last 20 years exploring
Australia’s unique countryside, and that is where my interest in photography
began,” he says.  See paularnold.com.au or kakadutourism.com. Stays at the indigenous
owned Gagudju
Lodge Cooinda
cost from $179 a night or $41 for a campsite. See gagudju-dreaming.com. 

GEAR
Glam metallic

You can be sure that’s your luggage, shimmying down the carousel.
Amongst a sea of black, the new Altitude range from Australian luggage brand
Paklite is hard to miss, with its glossy copper or gun-metal metallic finish.
Made from lightweight polycarbonate composite, the range comes in
three sizes, large (weighs 4.2kg, packs 115l), medium (weighs 3.5kg, packs 85l)
and the cabin bag, which has a quick-access front pocket and padded laptop
compartment (weighs 2.8kg, packs 40l). All include heavy-duty handles, TSA
locks and combinations and four wheels, and the two larger bags expand generously
to accommodate in your shopping finds. Phone 1300 303 021, see
paklite.com.au.

FOOD

Beyond the cellar
door
Enter a wonderland of wine when you visit Vasse Felix, the
founding wine estate of the Margaret River region and the newest member of Ultimate
Winery Experiences Australia (UWEA).       Vasse
Felix has launched two bespoke experiences, the Vasse Felix Original tour, $45,
which goes through the history of the label and winds up with a private
tasting, and the Vasse Felix Epicurean, $185, which adds a three-course meal
with matching wines. Experiences at other wineries in the group include being a
winemaker for a day, taking a helicopter flight over Tasmania’s wine-producing
Tamar Valley or tasting and interpreting MONA. See ultimatewineryexperiences.com.au.
Vasse Felix winery, Western Australia

HOTEL
Community in
Queenstown
Recently named the top tourist destination in the South Pacific by
the TripAdvisor community (bumping off Our Sydney), Queenstown hotel newcomer
Sherwood pitches itself as a creative hub for travellers. The eco-friendly hotel’s 78 rooms welcomes
all comers, from lakeview studios to budget-conscious double-bed bunks in
dorms. Tapping into the clean, green vibe, there’s a wholefoods restaurant
fuelled by its own biodynamic garden, a yoga studio, bikes and winter ski hire.
Sherwood is unashamedly Kiwi, stocking local craft beers in the mini-bar, woollen
blankets from the South Island, manuka honey and myrtle soaps and local
artists’ work on the walls. The hotel overlooks Lake Wakatipu and the
Remarkables Mountain Range, is five minutes’ drive to the city centre and 30
minutes to the Coronet Peak ski fields. Rooms range from NZ$165 for a standard
king to NZ$285 a night for the two-bedroom terraced loft, which sleeps two
adults and up to five kids.  See
sherwoodqueenstown.nz.
Sherwood, Queenstown

The Takeoff travel news column by Belinda Jackson is published every Sunday in Sydney’s Sun-Herald newspaper Traveller section.

Famous Flyer: Deborah Hutton

Hutton rates driving through Provence as her best holiday experience.

An African safari and the Maldives are on Deborah Hutton’s wish list.

WHICH WAS YOUR BEST HOLIDAY?
Renting
a car in Paris and driving to St Tropez over four days. I stayed at
little inns and ate at great restaurants through Provence, really
getting a feel for the country. It ended with the madness of St Tropez,
which is FUN in capital letters.

AND THE BEST HOTEL YOU’VE STAYED IN?
The
Soho in London – I love the position and it has the most divine suites –
and the tiny, tiny Eichardt’s Private Hotel in Queenstown. The
interiors are by Virginia Fisher, who does all the Huka Retreats. It’s
right in the centre of Queenstown with a great little bar downstairs.
You go in for five minutes and the next day, they’re like, “Hello
Deborah, that was a pinot, wasn’t it?’ They really get you.

WHAT DO YOU ALWAYS TAKE WITH YOU?
The
same as everyone else – my iPad, my earplugs, and eye mask. I do have a
little baby travel pillow I always squeeze into an air suction bag, so I
have the consistency of a good pillow.

WHAT DO YOU NEED FOR A PERFECT HOLIDAY?
There
has to be a great golf course – that’s generally what I look for first.
It’s also got to be warm, with a beach (though I can do pool), with
good friends and good restaurants.

WHAT’S YOUR BEST PIECE OF TRAVEL ADVICE?
I
always photocopy my passport and credit cards, and I always split my
credit cards up, leaving one in the hotel safe and one in my wallet.
It’s gotten me out of trouble before, when I had my bag stolen in Ibiza
(surprise, surprise!).

AND YOUR WORST EXPERIENCE ON HOLIDAY?
My
pals booked a “divine design hotel” in Koh Samui. The pool’s filtration
system was broken, and it was green. And there was no restaurant, you
ate in bures on the beach. And then the weather turned. No pool, rain
and sitting cross-legged on the beach, eating bad Thai? I booked a
flight back to Bangkok and checked into The Peninsula hotel.

WHAT IS THE BIGGEST PACKING MISTAKE YOU’VE MADE?
Leaving
it too late to pack, because I then pack too much. You just hate
yourself on long-haul trips every time you have to repack.

WHERE DO YOU WANT TO GO TO NEXT?
At
the top of my list is an African safari and the Maldives. I would stay
at one of the Evason resorts in the Maldives. They’re just heaven on a
stick. I see photos of the beautiful water and think, “That’s just me”.
And I want a cocktail and I want one with an umbrella. To me, that
screams “holiday!”

Deborah Hutton is an ambassador for NRMA’s Living Well Navigator, livingwellnavigator.com.au.

Interview by Belinda Jackson

This feature by Belinda Jackson was published in Sydney’s Sun-Herald newspaper’s Traveller section

Destination Christmas: Takeoff travel news

CHRISTMAS:Best-dressed
windows

See how the world does Christmas through the best
decorated windows throughout the festive season. Travel booker Cheapflights has
listed the 11 most beautiful windows around the world, including Myer in
Melbourne, which attracts more than 1.2 million noses pressed to the glass to
see this year’s 3D ‘Santa Clause and the Three Bears’ theme.

In London,
Selfridges goes back to the storytelling classics such as Pinocchio while the
2014 theme at New York icon Macy’s, which has been decorating its windows since
the 1870s, is ‘Santa’s Journey to the Stars’. Others on the best-dressed list
include topsy-turvy Galeries Lafayette in Paris and Smith & Caughey’s
pirate display  in Auckland. See cheapflights.com.au.

APP
Thinker’s pub crawl
Discover Sydney’s best waterfront pubs courtesy on a new
app written by intrepid tippler Rob Dunlop. “It’s a thinking man’s pub crawl by
ferry,” says Rob, who has personally tested all the watering holes. Thirst For
Sydney has five one-day itineraries that start and end at Circular Quay,
exploring the eastern waterfront, west of the bridge to Balmain and along the
North Shore. And it will also make you new friends, with a connect function
that lets you announce to other users that you’re in town and friendly, with a
private messaging system. There are 13 great drinking spots in the five
itineraries, and also a snapshot of the locale, including demographics and real
estate info (who doesn’t love to talk house prices?) Sydney is the bellwether
city, with more locations in the pipeline. Currently available for iOS only,
free. See thirstforsydney.com.

FOOD
World diner
Eat the world at the best hotel restaurants on the planet
– that’s the boast of the new, free iPad app Great Global Chefs. The trusty
stomachs of luxe hotel booker group Mr &Mrs Smith have dined in 950 hotels
throughout the world in search of the top 20 tables in their collection.
They’ve even coaxed recipes from the kitchens, and profiled the stars behind
the hotplates. While heavily weighted toward the Euro diner, Australia is amply
represented by David Thompson of Nahm, in Bangkok’s Metropolitan by Como hotel,
and Alla Wolf-Tasker from Lake House, in Daylesford, Victoria, amongst others. See
greatglobalchefs.com/app.

KIDS

Sight for sore eyes
There’s money to be made in sunglasses design, so get
your kids in early with this children’s My Design sunglasses kit. The kit
contains a pair of Wayfarer sunnies in either black or white and removable
decal sticker sheets for kids to decorate their frames to their heart’s
content. The white pack comes with leopard spots and hearts, the black features
pirates and space symbols. Unlike toy plastic glasses, the eyewear actually
shields children’s eyes from harmful UV rays, and are compliant with Australian
standards. The Frankie Ray My
Design Sunglass Kit is best for kids
aged 3 to 12 years.  Costs $39.95. See babyography.net.au.

GEAR
Get pumped for camping
Make summer camping a breeze, literally, with Black Wolf’s
new blow-up family tent. The tent is inflated in seconds with a high-speed air
pump, with air poles replacing tangled (or forgotten) tent poles. The new Turbo
Air Plus sleeps eight, with a main room and separate bedroom to the rear and
weighs 21kg. The tent will be on the market mid-January, but can be pre-ordered
now through Black Wolf stockists. Costs $1199. See blackwolf.com.au.   

AIRLINE

Hop up to Honolulu
Named one of the top destinations for 2015, it’s just
become easier to reach Hawaii, with Jetstar’s new direct flights between
Honolulu and Brisbane starting tomorrow. Fares start from $479 one-way, without
checked-in luggage. The service will operate three times a week in peak season,
dropping down to two off-peak. The airline will fly an Airbus A330 featuring
both business and economy class. From December 20, Qantas also adds an additional
service from Sydney to Honolulu, to four times a week, rising to five flights
weekly in school holidays and other peak periods. The airline has also upgraded
its aircraft to A330s on all flights, with return fares from $1256. Last week, Hawaiian
Airlines introduced its new A330s on its Brisbane-Honolulu route, upgrading to
A330s, which include an ‘Extra Comfort’ class between business and economy. The
service runs four times weekly, with a 64kg baggage allowance. Flight time is
approximately nine to 10 hours, the direct flights contributing to steep
increase of Australian visitors in the past four years. See gohawaii.com/au, qantas.com, jetstar.com
and hawaiianairlines.com.au.
Edited by Belinda Jackson, Takeoff is published in the Sun-Herald‘s Traveller section every Sunday.

And the popular pick is? Poland. Takeoff: Travel news

Warsaw’s Rynek Starego Miasta (Old Town market square)

And the popular pick is? Poland.

Europe’s latest hot spot offers a stunning mix of history, architecture and natural attractions. Warsaw is emerging as a rising star on 2015 and 2016 travel
itineraries as Poland records a record high in tourist numbers. Key
sights in the former Eastern Bloc capital include the Old Town’s  market
square, Rynek Starego Miasta, rebuilt to its medieval design after its
destruction in World War II. The country is also famous for its
pilgrimage icon the Black Madonna of Częstochowa, Krakow’s historic town
square and Wawel Castle and birdwatching in its vast central marshes.
Eastern European specialist Beyond Travel has released its largest ever
selection of tours to Poland, including a new Polish Capitals tour from
Krakow to Warsaw. A four-night tour including accommodation, guides and
transport starts from $630 a person (excluding flights). Phone 1300 363 554, see  beyondtravel.com.au

GEAR: The good oilcloth

Your destination may not be exotic but your luggage certainly can be,
with this cheery Emerald Palms overnight bag. Made from oilcloth with a
white shoulder strap and handles, it measures 60 centimetres long by 28
centimetres high –  just big enough for a sneaky overnight escape from
the daily grind. The range also includes oilcloth bath bags, a lavender
eye pillow and Serengeti-inspired vanilla and peach soap, to complete
the picture. The MOZI overnight bag costs $79.95, phone (03) 9885 9789, see mozi.com.au.

WEBSITE: Give back

It’s said that when you travel, you should take nothing but
photographs and leave nothing but footprints. However, travelgiver.com
lets you also leave a donation to a non-government, community project in
one of 50 countries across the world. Log on to the website and choose
from more than 300 projects, ranging from schooling for Liberian refugee
children to hygiene lessons in Rwanda or spina bifida support in
Melbourne, then proceed with the booking through the travel provider.
Participants include Intrepid Travel, Etihad, Expedia, Lonely Planet and
Accor, who will automatically donate up to eight per cent of the
booking to your nominated community project. Travelgiver.com gives a
comprehensive outline of each project, as well as visiting details if
you’re travelling in that region. See TravelGiver.com.

BOOKS: Fowl play

The startling Mr Chicken visits his favourite city, London, in the
new book by author and illustrator Leigh Hobbs, also the creator of
Horrible Harriet. A regular visitor to London, the gigantic, yellow bird
always stays at the Savoy Hotel and rings the Queen before popping over
for morning tea (so she has time to do some extra baking). The inside
covers include a hand-drawn map of Mr Chicken’s route through London and
his checklist of things to see and do, which includes a full English
breakfast, a walk over Tower Bridge and a ride on a red double-decker
bus. A great planner for kids who are travelling to London, have been or
just want tea with the Queen. Mr Chicken Lands in London, hardcover, $24.99. Visit allenandunwin.com.

GOLF:Tee tour

Tee off on Hawaii’s top six golf courses on a new nine-day golfing
tour of Hawaii, curated by dedicated golf tour company Teed Up. You’ll
play the Royal Hawaiian, Ted Robinson’s Ko Olina and also Kapalua
Plantation course, consistently named Hawaii’s best course with ocean
views at each hole. The tour includes four games of golf on Maui, two on
Oahu, shared motorised carts and inter-island flights as well as eight
nights’ accommodation and competition prizes at the end of the tour. Led
by PGA professional Michael Mosher, the 2015 Hawaii Golf tour departs
August 25, 2015 and costs US$5848 a person, twin share. Call (02) 8458 9000, visit teedupgolftours.com.

KIDS: Hold the crackling

Want to hear four incredibly effective words? “Peppa Pig wears
sunscreen.” The ubiquitous pig could sell ice to eskimos, and now Peppa
has collaborated with the Cancer Council to encourage pre-school and
primary school-aged kids to slap on sunscreen specifically for sensitive
skin. Yes, it’s coercion, but it’s a whole lot nicer than telling your
sunscreen-hating toddler they’ll have to cut off bits of their nose when
they hit 40. The range, which has no fragrance and no colour, includes
Kids SPF 50+ 50ml ezi clip, $9.95, Kids SPF 50+ 75ml roll on, $10.95 and
Kids SPF 50+ 200ml finger spray, $14.95 from Coles supermarkets. Visit
skinhealth.com.au.

AIRLINE: Points to share

Singapore Air and Virgin Australia have linked their frequent flyer
programs, in a first for airline loyalty programs. From November,
KrisFlyer and Velocity Frequent Flyer members can convert their miles
and points between either airline to book flights, upgrade seats and buy
non-flight merchandise. The arrangement also allows Velocity members to
book on Singapore Air’s regional carrier, Silkair, visit
singaporeair.com and virginaustralia.com. Singapore Air will also begin
codesharing with Air New Zealand from January 6, 2015, with new direct
flights between Singapore and New Zealand to create a 30 percent
increase in traffic between the two countries. Codeshare flights are now
open for bookings, visit airnewzealand.com.

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

Travel deals: New Zealand

Matakauri Lodge, New Zealand
GO NOW

NEW ZEALAND
Live well at the prestigious Matakauri Lodge, near
Queenstown, and get the third night free on stays until July 31. Get
cosy in a deluxe suite, with gourmet dinner and all lodge facilities,
not to mention the views. From $1895 a person, three nights, twin share.
matakaurilodge.com.


WESTERN AUSTRALIA
Stay three nights, pay for two at the dictionary definition
of “glamping”, Sal Salis Ningaloo Reef’s beachside eco-tents. Save $750 a
person on stays July 20-31, when the whale sharks are in town. Includes
meals and wilderness trips. From $1500 a person, twin share. 1300 790
561, wildbushluxury.com.

Trilogy Surfers Paradise, Queensland, Australia

GO SOON
QUEENSLAND
Stay three nights, pay for two, saving $255 at the four-star
Trilogy Surfers Paradise. Deposit only $5 and pay the balance 28 days
before check-in. Stays in a self-catering, one-bed apartment cost from
$510, three nights, until October 19. 1800 359 769, lowcostholidays.com.au.
USA
Go after-hours into MOMA, backstage on Broadway or see the
Yankees on a six-night custom tour of New York. Book by June 30, get a
$215 voucher at 5th Avenue’s Elizabeth Arden Red Door Spa. Departs May
22 and August 28, 2015. From $4320 a person. (03) 9029 1193, see insiderexperience.com.

GO LATER
FINLAND
Save 5 per cent on 20 winter small-group journeys, including
the five-day family tour of Finnish Lapland to meet Santa, take a
reindeer sleigh ride and go ice-fishing. Book by June 30, travel
December 23. Save $160, from $3197 a person, quote BRTWEB5%. 1300 100
410, backroadstouring.com.au.
TASMANIA
Take a luxe three-day walk on historic Maria Island and save
$100 when you book and pay by June 30, for travel until April 2015.
Expect your bags to be carried, tents erected and wine poured for you.
Low season (September 20-October 30) from $999 a person. (02) 9913 8939,
lifesanadventure.com.au.

TALKING TURKEY
Feed your stomach and your soul on a gastronomic and
historic cruise through Turkey. Group size ranges from eight to 18
sailing a wooden gulet along the Carian coast visiting ancient sites,
foraging for wild food and hitting the markets. Learn to cook Turkish
in a family home and eat in traditional restaurants. Departs September
20, 2014 and May 23, 2015. From $3875 a person. petersommer.com.

KIDS
GO WILD IN MELBOURNE
Take the kids to see the wildlife in Melbourne this winter.
Ibis Melbourne has family-friendly deals for DreamWorks Animation: The
Exhibition in Federation Square and the Melbourne Zoo. The DreamWorks
offer includes accommodation, breakfast and two adult tickets to the
exhibition (kids 4-15 years, $10). From $183 a night, until October 5;
1300 656 565, accorhotels.com/melbexhibition.
The zoo offer includes accommodation, breakfast and two adult tickets
to the zoo. From $129 a night, until September 25; phone (03) 9666 0066,
see ibis.com.

This travel deals column by Belinda Jackson is published in Sydney’s Sun-Herald newspaper every Sunday.  

Boasters with the mostest: ultimate travel experiences

The world’s highest bar, Ozone, in the Ritz Carlton Hong Kong

 Biggest, highest, most blindingly expensive. Belinda Jackson
rounds up the ultimate travel experiences, from super-luxe to just plain
boastful. 

LAND
Longest walking track

The Pacific Crest Trail runs 4264 kilometres from the US-Mexico
border to Canada through California, Oregon and Washington. Budget five
months to walk it entirely, or you can jump a pony, as the trail is also
open to equestrians. Yep, there are bears in there (pcta.org).

Longest train journey
The legendary Trans-Siberian generally wins this category,
with the 9289km journey from Moscow to Vladivostok via Lake Baikal
taking seven days. But as train guru the Man in Seat 61 points out (seat61.com),
the honour for the longest continual journey should go to the No. 53
Kharkiv (Ukraine)-Vladivostok route, about 9714km, another seven-day
epic.

The world’s highest train journey, on the Qinghai-Tibet railway

Highest train journey
More than 550km of the 1956km Qinghai-Tibet railway is laid
on permafrost. Every train has a doctor and enough oxygen for every
passenger, and the highest point is Tanggula Pass, at 5072m. It also
passes through the world’s highest and longest rail tunnels.

Highest bar

Drink in the views of Victoria Harbour at Ozone bar in the
Ritz-Carlton Hong Kong, Kowloon side. Set on level 118, it’s 468.8
metres above sea level (ritzcarlton.com).

Biggest building
Dubai’s Burj Khalifa is the world’s tallest building at 828
metres, with 124 levels. It also has the world’s fastest elevators and
highest restaurant (At.mosphere on level 122, 442m) (burjkhalifa.ae).

It holds the crown until 2018, when the 1000-metre Kingdom Tower in
Jeddah, in neighbouring Saudi Arabia, is complete. Another design by
Burj architect Adrian Smith, expect fewer nightclubs (kingdomtowerskyscraper.com).

Noma restaurant, Copenhagen

Best restaurant
Copenhagen’s Noma restaurant (noma.dk)
is back on top, bumping Spain’s El Celler de Can Roca off the perch as
the 2014 winner of the authoritative San Pellegrino 50 Best Restaurants (theworlds50best.com). Judges name the winter potato cooked in fermented barley as chef-owner Rene Redzepi’s standout dish.


Best ethical travel destination
The Bahamas has been named Ethical Traveler’s greenest
destination, taking into account its environmental protection, social
welfare and human rights.
Others in the top 10 include Chile, Latvia and Mauritius (ethicaltraveler.org).


Most expensive tours
With a spare million dollars, you can spot 18 endangered
species in 12 countries, with one-tenth going toward conservation
projects (naturalworldsafaris.com). Otherwise, $1.5 million will let couples visit all 962 UNESCO
World Heritage sites. Put aside two years. Its other tours include the
10 best photo spots, for $130,000 (includes cameras), and the 10 most
luxurious suites in 21 days for $359,000 (veryfirstto.com).


AIR
Biggest airport
The busiest airport by passenger numbers is
Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, US, handling 92
million travellers a year, but yet again, Dubai gets in on the act: on
completion in 2027, its $32-billion Al-Maktoum International airport
will be able to accommodate 160 million passengers a year (dwc.ae).

Best airport
Singapore’s Changi airport consistently rates one of the
world’s best, taking out first place in Skytrax 2014 World Airport
Awards, followed by Incheon (Seoul) and Munich airports.
Sydney Airport was ranked Australia’s best, at No. 21 (worldairportawards.com).

Best airline
Air New Zealand was named AirlineRatings.com’s 2014 airline
of the year, with Qantas the best economy airline, while Skytrax 2013
World Airline Awards rates Emirates as the world’s best, followed by
Qatar Airways and Singapore Airlines, with Qantas coming in at No. 10. (worldairlineawards.com).

Safest airline
Qantas holds the record as the world’s safest airline, with a
fatality-free record since 1951, says airlineratings.com, rivalled by
Air New Zealand, according to jacdec.de.

Most luxurious airline lounge
For those of us fortunate enough to get a look in, Lufthansa
first class lounges were named the world’s best first-class lounges
while Qatar Airways took the business class gong at Skytrax’ 2013 World
Airline Awards (worldairlineawards.com).

Longest flight
Like to watch movies? Qantas’ ultra long-haul flight from Sydney-Dallas is the longest flight by distance, at 13,804km (qantas.com.au).
Should Turkish Airlines enact its plans for an Istanbul-Sydney route,
it would take the crown for its 17-hour, 14,956km flight (turkishairlines.com).

Ultimate airline travel experience: A three-hour flight on
Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo will cost $260,000, taking you 100km
above the earth, travelling at three times the speed of sound. Includes three days’ space training (virgingalactic.com). For a more modest $128,300, you can fly around the world in 24 days on Four Seasons’ new Boeing 757 private jets (fourseasons.com/jet).

SEA

Allure of the Seas, a Royal Caribbean International ship

Biggest cruise ship
The godmother of Allure of the Seas, a Royal Caribbean International ship, is super-sized Shrek ogress Princess Fiona. At 362 metres long and more than 225,000 tonnes, it can take
6295 passengers. The liner has 24 elevators, the first Starbucks at sea
and Broadway hit Chicago on show.
Its position will be usurped by another RCI ship, as yet unnamed, in 2016 (royalcaribbean.com).

Largest superyacht
With two helipads and a missile defence system, you can hire
Eclipse, owned by Russian oligarch and Chelsea football club owner Roman
Abramovich, for $2 million a week, excluding running costs.
At 162.5 metres, it’s the world’s second-biggest private
yacht after UAE President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan’s new
180-metre yacht, Azzam, complete with armour-plated master suite.
The Azzam is not for hire.

Best beach
Brazil’s Sancho Bay on the remote island of Fernando de Noronha wins best beach, according to TripAdvisor.com.

Longest beach
Brazil wins again, with the 241km Praia do Cassino Beach. Gippsland’s Ninety-Mile Beach comes in fourth place. Whitest sand beach in the world: One for the home team,
according to the Guinness Book of Records, the whitest beach is Hyams
Beach in Jervis Bay, 2½ hours from Sydney.

Hyams Beach, Jervis Bay, NSW Australia

Best island
If money is your measure, you can rent the Caribbean’s
Calivigny Island in Grenada, for a cool $1.55 million a week. Sleeping
50 guests, it comes with a 173-metre yacht for your use (calivigny-island.com).More accessibly, the TripAdvisor community has voted Ambergris Caye, in Belize, its top island for the second year running (tripadvisor.com).

World’s highest pool
The Ritz-Carlton Hong Kong’s pool, is the world’s highest at 490 metres (ritzcarlton.com), towering over Marina Bay Sands’ dizzying infinity pool, 55 storeys, or 198 metres, above Singapore (marinabaysands.com).

World’s biggest pool
Running alongside the ocean, the lagoon pool at the San
Alfonso del Mar resort, in Valparaiso, Chile, is 1013 metres long,
earning its Guinness Book of Records entry. The 8 hectare, 250
million-litre saltwater pool is a pleasant 26 degrees and has a
100-metre waterslide (sanalfonso.cl).
Its sister lagoon, in the Egyptian resort city Sharm el-Sheikh,
reportedly covers 12 hectares and a Dubai project, under way, will cover
40 hectares.

The world’s largest pool, San Alfonsa del Mar, Chile

BEDS
Largest hotel
By room count, the three-star Izmailovo Hotel in Moscow,
Russia, with 7500 rooms, is largest. Most of the world’s mega-hotels,
with 4000-plus rooms, are in Las Vegas.

Most expensive hotel room
At $73,177 a night, the Royal Penthouse Suite at the Hotel
President Wilson is on the banks of Lake Geneva, with views of Mont
Blanc. There are 12 rooms, 12 bathrooms, a Steinway grand piano and yes,
it’s bulletproof. More modest rooms start at $483 (hotelpresidentwilson.com).

Tallest hotel
Six of the top 10 tallest hotels are in Dubai, including the tallest, the JW Marriott Marquis Dubai, which tops 355 metres (marriott.com). At 488 metres, the Ritz-Carlton Hong Kong is taller but is ruled out as the building is not solely a hotel.

Smallest hotel
Central Hotel, Copenhagen, 2.4m by 3m, including a minibar and photos of Ronnie Barker (the owner’s a fan), $360 a night. (centralhotelogcafe.dk).


This article by Belinda Jackson was published in the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age newspapers.

Get going: dreams can come true

Daydream Island

GO NOW

QUEENSLAND

Lie back on Daydream Island and save $180 on a four-night
stay until April 30. Includes return ferry transfers from the Great
Barrier Reef airport and water sports. Kids under 14 stay and eat free.
From $598 a person, twin share. Phone 1800 075 040, see daydreamisland.com.

BALI

Save up to 40 per cent on a Balinese holiday until March 31.
Staying in the three-star Centra Taum Seminyak, get breakfast, Wi-Fi and
a pool-view room on Seminyak’s hippest street, Petitenget. From $274 a
person, twin share, seven nights. Phone 1800 359 769, see lowcostholidays.com.au.

GO SOON

Ayers Rock Resort, NT

NORTHERN TERRITORY

Stay at the Ayers Rock Resort on April 24-27 and get free
entry to the inaugural Tjungu festival celebrating indigenous culture,
breakfast, airport transfers and kids under 15 stay and eat free. Quote
“Tjungu”. From $326 a person, twin share. Phone 1300 134 004, see ayersrockresort.com.au.

NEW ZEALAND

Book two nights at The Rees Hotel, Queenstown, on April
25-27, save 20 per cent and get tickets to the town’s first Blues &
Roots festival on April 26. Includes a jet boat ride down the Kawarau
River, breakfast and late checkout. From $866 a couple. Phone +64 3450 1100, see therees.co.nz.

Lake Crackenback
Resort & Spa, NSW Snowy Mountains

GO LATER

NEW SOUTH WALES

Sick of summer? Plan a winter escape at Lake Crackenback
Resort & Spa in the Snowy Mountains and save $226. Stay five nights
with breakfast daily, three dinners and ski hire and spa discounts, June
6 to October 6. From $1629, two adults, five nights. Phone 1800 020 524, see lakecrackenback.com.au.

VANUATU

Pay just $19 for kids under 9 to stay and eat free when you
book five nights in four-star accommodation in Vanuatu. Book by March 17
for stays April 26 to June 27, July 15 to September 21, October 8 to
December 19. Adults from $655, five nights. Phone 1300 301 711, see creativeholidays.com.au.

TOURWATCH
Top tastes

Discover the best of West Australian produce with a
seven-day Paddock to Plate tour through Margaret River and beyond.
Unearth truffles in Manjimup, take a chef’s masterclass in Denmark,
dine from a long table in a wheat paddock and shop at the Albany
Farmers’ Market. The tour departs June 24. From $4945 a person, twin
share. Phone 0429 385 642, see perthwatours.com.au.

KIDS

PLAY AT PARADISE

The Gold Coast’s Paradise Resort – voted Holidays with Kids’
2013 best family resort in Australia – teams up with Dreamworld and
WhiteWater World to offer a stay-and-play package. Stay five nights at
the resort, with its new ice-skating rink and waterpark, and get a
three-day family pass to the two theme parks, four hours of kids club
each day and discount vouchers, saving up to $640. Available until
December 24, 2014, from $995 a room, five nights. Phone 1800 074 111, see paradiseresort.com.au.