Powderhounds ... it's going to be a great year for heli-skiing.
Powderhounds … it’s going to be a great year for
heli-skiing. Photo: Getty Images
Stay for free in chic Melbourne, send the kids out ‘roo spotting in rural Queensland or trek Bhutan: what’s not to love about holidays? 


In what has to be one of the sweetest deals in town, the Art Series hotel group (Blackman, Olsen and Cullen) is letting you roll the dice on what it calls “the overstay checkout”. Stay one night and the next day at 11am you can request a late checkout. If nobody’s booked to stay in your room, you get to stay another night, free. And so on, day by day, until the room is booked again. The deal runs from December 16 until January 13, 2013. Costs from $165 a night. 1800 278 468, artserieshotels.com.au.
To celebrate the first major exhibition of the 20th-century great Francis Bacon at the Art Gallery of NSW, the Sofitel Sydney Wentworth gives you one night’s accommodation, full breakfast for two and a free double pass to the exhibition, worth $60. The Cultural Stay package is available until February 24, 2013. Costs from $325 a night. 1300 656 565, sofitel.com.
Northern Territory
Darwin gets green and steamy over Christmas, so breakfast by the pool, followed by a cool dip, is the order when staying at the Holiday Inn Darwin. Stay three nights and save 20 per cent on accommodation, and there is free brekkie and kids under 17 can eat and stay free with a Happy-Go-Lucky package. Book and stay by February 28, 2013. Costs from $327 for three nights’ B&B. Quote “happy”. 138 388, holidayinn.com/happy.
You don’t have to drive for days for a bush holiday. Spicers Hidden Vale is a luxury retreat on 4800 hectares, less than an hour’s drive from Brisbane. Best of all, it includes an all-day kids’ club, where kids aged between four and 12 can herd sheep, go mountain biking, spot roos, play in the animal nursery, go fishing or visit cattle stations in a four-wheel-drive. And you? Hit the pool, have a massage, do yoga, go horse riding or have a drink at a live jazz session on Sundays. Book a two-night Family Farmstay until January 31, 2013 (excluding December 24-26 and January 1), and enjoy a free kids’ club, valued at $260, and kids dine free, with a pony lead for each child. Costs from $798 for a family of four, for two nights. 1300 284 667, spicersgroup.com.au.
The Blackman hotel, St Kilda, Melbourne
Take your morning cuppa among the treetops during the Tahune Forest Air Walk or amid the beautiful Allendale Gardens and Rainforest on a 12-day coach tour of Tasmania. The trip begins and ends in Launceston, with highlights including a cruise down the Gordon River. Book by December 30 and save $350 a person on departures on February 16 and 23, and March 2, 2013. Costs from $3135 a person, including airfares from Sydney. Quote code SH when booking. 1800 815 906, seniorscoachtours.com.au.


Koh Phangan island’s beauty is undisputed. Stay six nights, pay for four at the four-star beachfront Buri Rasa Village. Daily breakfast and speedboat transfers from Koh Samui airport on stays May 1-July 15, 2013. Must be booked by December 31, 2012. From $495 a person, twin share. 1300 138 755, travelindochina.com.au.
Happy to rug up? Save 20 per cent on a Eurail Global Flexi Pass in the northern winter and get a roaming SIM card worth $50. The pass is for trains and ships through 23 countries from Ireland to Romania for 10 or 15 days’ travel in a two-month period. Must be booked and paid for by December 31, for travel until March 31, 2013. From $430 (under 26s), $660 (singles 26 and over). 1300 387 245, internationalrail.com.au.
Chicago does winter beautifully, with its free ice rink in Millennium Park open until mid-March and its Christkindlmarket – said to be the largest of its kind outside Europe – running daily until Christmas Eve. Stay two nights at the Swissotel Chicago, save 20 per cent on the best available rate until February 25, 2013. From $US318 ($303) a room. 1800 121 043, swissotel.com.
Powerderhounds are sniffing the air at Whistler, which recently opened for winter, and the pros are forecasting a great year for heli-skiing. The new Ultimate Whistler Experience package includes five nights for the price of four in a four-star hotel in Whistler Village, three days’ skiing at Whistler Blackcomb, one day’s heli-skiing at 6000-10,000 feet, and a free Fresh Tracks pass for each adult. From now until April 21, 2013. Costs from $1462 a person. +1 604 905 3337, whistlerblackcomb.com.
New Zealand
Yes, Huka Lodge is luxurious, but then the private Alan Pye Cottage, set on the lodge grounds, takes it up another notch. It can accommodate two couples and from April 1-September 30, 2013, the rate includes a private two-hour cooking lesson from Michelin-trained executive chef Michel Louws. So if you’ve snagged a trout in Lake Taupo, bring it in for regal treatment. The two-night package includes five-course dinners and country breakfasts. Costs from $8970 for two nights. +64 7 378 5791, hukalodge.co.nz.

Tourwatch: Bhutan
In a world where it seems everybody’s travelling, it’s hard to escape the pack. The tiny Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan limits the number of international visitors, to preserve its ecosystems and its indigenous traditions. However, it has recently opened remote national parks to hikers, with two new five-night treks. The seasons for the Merak & Sakteng Trek are short — March 15-May 31, 2013 and September 1-November 30, 2013. The trek, graded easy-moderate, offers a rare chance to see remote villages, yak herds, the semi-nomadic Brokpas people and endangered wildlife in the Sakteng Wildlife Sanctuary in eastern Bhutan. Packages include the five-night trek, two nights pre-trek in Samdrup Jongkhar and two nights post-trek in Trashigang. Costs from $US2706 ($2580) a person from Assam, India. 1300 367 875, bhutan.com.au.

Source: Belinda Jackson, Sun Herald