I’m a journalist, travel writer, editor and copywriter based in Melbourne, Australia. I write pacy travel features, edit edifying websites and fashion flamboyant copy. My articles and photographs have appeared in publications worldwide, from inflight to interior design: I’ve visited every continent, and have lived in three. Want to work together? Drop me a line… 

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Where to elope in the Yarra Valley & Dandenong Ranges

With COVID-19 wreaking havoc on the best-laid wedding plans, elopements have moved out of the realms of star-crossed lovers (think Romeo & Juliet, Angelina Jolie & Billy Bob Thornton) and into fashion.

So, you need to dodge lockdowns and border closures, and want to get hitched? Here’s where to elope in the Yarra Valley & Dandenong Ranges.

While you might thing an elopement requires just two people and a celebrant, by law, you do actually have to have two witnesses. And the celebrants I spoke to for this story did tell me tales of weddings being interrupted by park rangers, checking to see if they had the correct paperwork to be married in the public gardens.

If you’re thinking of eloping, check out this piece I wrote for Off-Peak Weddings, which is published by Yarra Ranges Tourism.

Click here to read the full story.


A city sleeps: Melbourne moves into Lockdown #6

Last night, I walked through the heart of Melbourne as we went into our sixth lockdown.

The city’s laneways rang with the sound of shutters going down as the city locked itself up.

It was a pretty crazy time to be editing a guidebook for the city. But there I found myself, sitting in little Shandong Mama Mini, eating its fabulous mackerel dumplings with manager Gin, taking notes and talking optimistically about when New Yorkers are going to roam freely through our little laneways once again…maybe next June.

Walking the darkening streets, I saw a woman at the gates of Gucci, pleading, pleading to make a last purchase before lockdown – only to be turned away by staff. The cash registers are closed, she was told, night is falling and lockdown looms.

The doorman at Society, the hottest new restaurant in town, told me all the late bookings had been shunted into earlier time slots, with diners ushered back onto the streets before the stroke of 8pm.

A cheery Big Issue seller chatted about his business model falling apart: with few office workers and less city dwellers, his magazines remain unsold. But he was fully vaccinated, he told me. Was I?

“These lockdowns are killing us,” said the waiter in Pellegrini where, for the first time in living memory, I could get a seat at the bar and a chat with the black apron clad waiters. Snapping a photo of the luscious cakes of the Hopetoun Tea Rooms in the glittering Block Arcade – normally a false hope due to the hordes of drooling instagrammers – was but a cinch, and the Royal Arcade remains empty of its traditional shoppers, down on a day trip from the country.

Street cafes were being packed up, outdoor furniture stacked away, kitchen staff clearing the benches, glass of wine in hand. Music played in empty hotel lobbies, with no-one to listen to it.

The streets emptied so completely they could double as a setting for an apocalyptic zombie movie.

Food delivery drivers tore down empty footpaths on their scooters with impunity.

Traffic lights clicked uselessly as an ambulance careened unimpeded through a red light – lights flashing but the sirens silent in the darkening night.


Men getting married: best buck’s parties in the Yarra Ranges

You’d think it was a divergence from travel writing – writing about ideas for buck’s or bachelor parties – but this fun little story let me take a cruise through the Yarra Valley & Dandenong Ranges.

I found a rum distillery in Belgrave (killik.com.au), discovered a 120-meter flying fox nearby in the Tall Trees Adventures (treesadventure.com.au) and the thing I’m going to do the minute Melbourne is out of Lockdown #5, the O’Shannassy Aqueduct Trail, an easy mountain-bike trail through redwood forests in the Yarra Ranges National Park.

My story on eight great ideas for buck’s parties is in the current edition of Off-Peak Wedding Magazine, produced by Yarra Ranges Tourism – click here to download the free mag.


Ten great car-free towns: from Hoi An to Hydra

Is there nothing better than a car-free town? I’m thinking those little hilltop towns dotted through Italy, the ancient marketplaces of the Middle East, the pedestrian zones of the otherwise honking, fume-laden roads of South America’s great cities.

My top 10 list includes such greats as Jerusalem’s Old City, the Princes Islands off Istanbul and beautiful Hydra, one of the Saronic islands in the Greek archipelago, which holds a special place in my heart for its donkeys and vast, opportunistic orange cat population. There’s also lovely Hoi An, Vietnam’s town of tailors and, of course, the most famous of them all, La Serenissima, aka Venice.

You can click here to read my list, published in The Age and the Sydney Morning Herald’s Traveller section.

Just after it ran, I received an email from a reader telling me that Medina Malta should have made the top 10. Overlooking the fact he had an iconic Maltese surname, he’s definitely got a point – the so-called Silent City, which has been inhabited since 8th-century BC, was another beautiful film location for King’s Landing in Game of Thrones and a worthy contender.  Do you have any suggestions?


Camp Island the Great Barrier Reef’s newest private island escape, Queensland Australia

On a quiet Sunday afternoon in locked-down Melbourne,  my beautiful daydream is of Camp Island, on the Great Barrier Reef.

The little island is at the top of the Whitsunday Islands group, and when you take it, you take the whole island. To get there, I had to dodge two cyclones, a COVID outbreak and several COVID scares, but it was worth it. While the island is located in the curve of Abbot Bay, in between Airlie Beach and Townsville, there was almost no sight of another human.

To discover more about Camp Island, click here to read my story in the Sydney Morning Herald/The Age‘s Traveller section.


Reports from locked-down Melbourne

Melbourne is back in lockdown – it’s our fourth lockdown since the beginning of the global pandemic.

On 1 one of our new regime, I had a chat with ABC News Radio in a short segment ambitiously titled, “How to survive a lockdown.”

I might have snorted a little when asked whether photographer Jude van Daalen and I were going to produce a sequel to our book, Together Apart. If it means locking down for another six months, um, no thanks!

Currently, the whole of Victoria is on Stage 4 restrictions, which means working from home, all non-essential shops closed, the ability to travel no further than 5km from your front door and schools closed.

Tune in if you want a little reminder of what’s going on down here in the snap-frozen south – so far, the one-week circuit breaker has been extended for another week, let’s hope it doesn’t continue past that date.

 

The feature photograph on this post is by photographer Jude van Daalen/The Melbourne Portrait Studio, and features in Together Apart: Life in Lockdown. Click here to order your copy.


In the pink: nine of Australia’s best pink lakes

What’s hot right now? Pink gin. Pink salt. Pink hair. Pink lakes. Yep, pink lakes, of which Australia has plenty.

From champagne to candy, with rose and bubblegum in between, is it any wonder we love them? The natural phenomenon occurs only with the right balance of salt, sun and some hardworking micro-organisms.

In this piece, I rounded up nine lovely pink lakes around Australia with the hottest hues, for your pink perusal. Some, like the pink lake that occasionally lives beneath Melbourne’s Westgate Bridge, are easy to find. Others, such as Western Australia’s Lake Hillier, are our most iconic, but also the hardest to reach.

Click here to read my story in Traveller about nine of Australia’s best pink lakes.


Ingineous: testing Bass & Flinders’ at-home custom gin blends

What do Ginona Ryder, Jusgin Beiber and Osama Gin Laden have in common? They’re all custom gins blended at kitchen tables around Australia, with a little hand-holding by Bass & Flinders’ master distiller, Holly Klintworth.

During Victoria’s COVID-19 lockdowns, some of us cuddled up to a packet of Tim Tams and Netflix, others re-tuned themselves into uber-athletes (ok, so not that many, but enough to make it a think on social media), and others had the local boozer on speed-dial. Mornington Peninsula distillery Bass & Flinders put its creativity hat on, and released an at-home custom gin blending kit for housebound gin drinkers to turn to. The clincher here was that all the botanicals supplied are native to Australia – think strawberry gum, wattleseed and – my favourite – native lemongrass.

Following an easy-to-watch video tutorial by Holly, I blended my own gin, which I named Lockdown’s Gindolence. Is it going to take the gin world by storm? Honestly, maybe not. I’ll leave that to Holly and her brace of beautiful gins, available at the distillery in Habitat, the artisan precinct in Victoria’s Dromana Industrial Estate, which I’ve written about here in the past. Click here to read my story for Essentials magazine.

Cheers!

 

Roadtest: Bass & Flinders’ at-home gin masterclass kit


Secret seven: best places to see the Aurora Australis (Southern Lights)

Life lessons I have learned: a pitching boat in the Norwegian Sea is not the only place to see an aurora, and definitely not the best place to photograph one, as adroitly illustrated by my dodgy pic of the Northern Lights, taken from the top deck of a Hurtigruten ship off the Norwegian coast.

Far closer (and much warmer) for those of us in the antipodes, our own Aurora Australis is gearing up for a solar maximus in the coming years.

“We’re just coming out of solar minimum, building up to a solar maximus, so we can expect to see increasing solar activity to peak in the next three or four years,” forecasts Tasmanian aurora watcher Margaret Sonnemann, who I’ve interviewed several times, and is an aurora expert. Stemming from her appreciation of the southern skies, she began what’s now Australia’s biggest online Aurora Australis information group (see facebook.com/groups/auroraaustralis). 

I’ve rounded up seven best places to see the Southern Lights, from Tassie to Victoria and – travel bubbles willing – New Zealand. Find recommendations in designated dark sky sanctuaries, from a plane in the air or even in car parks. Click here to read my story for the Sydney Morning Herald/The Age newspapers’ online travel section, Traveller.

 


Driving the Snowy Valleys Way, Australia

Stop the clock, skip the highways and take the slow road through forested vales, rolling farmlands and vibrant villages. It’s time to linger longer.

I’m pleased to show you the new website for the Snowy Valleys Way, a driving route through the foothills of the Australian Alps, from Gundagai in NSW heading south through the western foothills of the Snowy Mountains to Beechworth in Victoria’s High Country.

Writing this website was a way to escape the confines of Melbourne’s COVID-19 lockdown, where I could travel to wild swimming holes and historic streets, stay in a stone farm cottage or a stylish highway inn. In my mind, I revisited farmgates and markets, walked apple orchards and visited century-old museums.

Hopefully, the website inspires you to visit these gentle landscapes, on the NSW-Victorian border, not just in your mind, but in your car, on foot, by bicycle or perhaps on horseback.

Click here to visit the new Snowy Valleys Way website.


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