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… 



State of the nation: Jimmy Rees’s Australia

What saved you during Australia’s lockdowns? Was it cake? Boxes of wine or chocolates? Netflix, or perhaps it was Jimmy Rees.

The Melbourne-based comedian found himself unemployed at the beginning of the pandemic, and in his own words, just started mucking around with videos that he posted on social media – see media www.jimmyrees.com.au And he went viral.

In parodying states and territories’ stances on such issues as border closures, mask-wearing and the convoluted rules around daily exercise and social interaction (“yes, you can book a restaurant for 20 people. No, you can’t have 20 people over to your home for a dinner party”) he revealed much about Australia and Australians.

I’m a fan – I’ve been a fan since I watched him as a children’s TV presenter (yes, I may have potty-trained my daughter while watching him play Jimmy Giggle to a stuffed owl). So I leapt at the opportunity to interview him for this travel feature in the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age newspapers’ Traveller section, where we asked him to cast his laser eye over the states and territories.

You can click here to read this cover story, where I play straight woman to Jimmy’s wild  wanderings, as he covers bogans, wild animals, closed rooftop bars and the Flannelette Curtain (it’s in Tassie, if you’re interested…)

Ah, the Gold Coast. The weather, the beaches, the cruisy lifestyle. Everyone’s got a sports car, and there’s lots of bling. It’s flashy and it’s full of cashed-up bogans. (Actually, I don’t think you really need to say there are bogans in Queensland. It’s like a silent “k”). But Queenslanders are like, ‘yeah, we know, and it’s fine. But we have the best weather, so where would you rather be?’ Well, perhaps not Brisbane. You fly into it and then realise it really doesn’t have a beach and you ask yourself ‘Why did I come to Brisbane? I should have just gone to the Goldie or the Sunshine Coast to be with all of the cashed-up bogans’.

Enjoy our wander through the Lucky Country!

Weekend in Kosovo, off to the Olympics, secrets of the Big Apple: Takeoff travel news

Palenque ruins, Mexico


the obscure
Fancy a weekend in Kosovo?  There are few corners of the globe that are
not comprehensively explored, but Intrepid Travel has revealed four new
destinations it says will sate the appetite of the most adventurous explorer.
The tours are the first wave of unusual locations in its new Expedition range,
which could see you uncover your inner Indiana Jones in a southern Mexican
jungle, hike in the Svaneti region of the former Soviet republic of Georgia,
get in the thick of the Rabaul Mask Festival in Papua New Guinea or sail the
ancient Lake Ohrid on a journey through Albania, Kosovo and Macedonia. The 15-day journey
through the Balkan states costs from $1795 a person and departs September 5. See intrepidtravel.com/theme/expeditions.

Crumpler off to
the Olympics
Melbourne luggage brand Crumpler is packing its bags for Rio and
joining our athletes as the official supplier of luggage to the 2016 Australian
Olympic Team. It will be kitting the team out with the Vis-à-Vis trunk
78 centimetre trunk, a hard-shell case bound by sturdy fabric belts and handle for easy,
secure hauling. Currently, the Vis-à-Vis range comes in a black shell, with red,
lime, black or clear handles. The Olympic colour range is yet to be revealed, and
will tie in with the team’s formal uniforms, designed for the seventh time by Sportscraft.
The competition and training uniforms, footwear and casual clothing will again
be designed by Adidas. Expect the big reveal around mid-2016. Crumpler’s
Vis-à-Vis range comes with a lifetime warranty, and the range also includes a 68-centimetre trunk, a 55-centimetre cabin bag and an
attaché case. The 78-centimetre trunk costs $545. See crumpler.com.au.


Best seat in the
Intrepid families will love this simple bag, which is
designed to pack up your kid’s car seat and protect it when you’re on the move.
The bag is padded on all sides so you can include the car seat as checked-in luggage,
and is made from water-resistant fabric. It can also be worn as backpack for a
hassle-free, hands-free trek through the airport when you’ve run out of arms
pushing trolleys and reining in children. Great for those who prefer to
BYO car seat on driving holidays, the bag measures 45cm W x34cm H x45cm D. The
JL Childress Black Ultimate Car Seat Travel Bag costs $69.95. See
Silver service, gold-rush route
The scenery is fabulous in the Canadian Rockies, but the food can
be great, too. The Rocky Mountaineer train network is adding 840 SilverLeaf
Service seats to its Rainforest to Gold Rush route, which journeys deep into
the Canadian Rockies. This train route deviates from the best-known Rockies
route from Vancouver to Toronto, and instead veers north to visit the ski mecca
of Whistler and Jasper via the gold-panning city of Quesnel. The SilverLeaf
class lets you dine in style, with local beers and wines from the British
Colombia’s Okanagan Valley. A two-day rail journey from Whistler to Jasper (or in reverse)
costs from $1865 a person. See rockymountaineer.com.
Northern newcomer
Brisbane’s CBD is currently enjoying a wave of new hotel
openings and the latest, Capri by Fraser, threw open its doors on April 1. The
Albert St property blends hotel and residence with 239 studios and one-bed apartments,
pool and gym as well as a restaurant bar and cafe by celebrity chef and paleo
poster boy, Pete Evans.  Expect design
touches including vertical garden walls and art installations as well as
ergonomic workspaces in the rooms. E-travellers can check-in by iPad and the
e-Concierge, while the rest of us will appreciate the 24-hour gym, in-room kitchenettes,
room service and laundry with Xbox Kinect. This is Fraser Hospitality’s fourth
Australian property, with Fraser Suites in Sydney and Perth and Fraser Place in
Melbourne. Capri by Fraser’s opening special costs from $179 a night, which
includes wi-fi and parking (Friday – Sunday nights) on stays until June 30.
Located at 80 Albert St, Brisbane. Phone 1800 110 800, see capribyfraser.com.
Big Apple secrets
If you, like half the world, have a passionate affair with
Manhattan, tuck this modest book under your arm before you decamp to New York.
Its title is self-explanatory; Seeking
New York: the stories behind the historic architecture of Manhattan – One Building at a Time
. The book is based on the blog Daytonian in Manhattan, written by Tom Miller, a NY police inspector
originally from Daytonia, Ohio. His curious mind digs into the histories of 55 of
the borough’s buildings (there are many, many more on his blog), describing property
speculation in 1820s Canal Street, the impoverished Lower East Side at the turn
of the 20th century, great real estate coups and architectural
intricacies. There are grand triumphs and small stories: it’s also a history of
the people that made the city. “Never stop being a tourist, never stop looking
up,” says Miller. Costs $29.99. See allenandunwin.com.

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

Farewell, toxic world: Takeoff travel news

Farewell, toxic
Learn to achieve true wellness in a world where we are
exposed daily to toxins, in a once-off retreat at the luxurious Gwinganna
Lifestyle Retreat. The two-night retreat on the Gold Coast hinterland is led by
Professor Marc Cohen, head of Wellness Discipline in the School of Health
Sciences at RMIT University. With simple solutions to reduce your exposure and
increase your wellbeing, ‘Wellness in a Toxic World’ runs May 22-24. The
weekend includes two nights’ eco-accommodation, all organic food and drinks, transfers
from Gold Coast airport and a 50-minute massage in the indoor/outdoor Spa Sanctuary.
Costs from $1175 a person, twin share. Phone 1800 219 272, see

Master host
Eat like a local, with a local, on a new food tour by
Masterchef winner and proud Tasmanian Ben Milbourne. Like armies, adventurers
travel on their stomachs and we have an appetite for Tassie’s burgeoning food
tourism scene, unsurprising given that the isle produces not only apples, but
also truffles, wasabi, rare-breed meats, single malt whiskey and chocolate. And
that’s aside from the staples of salmon and wine. On the One Degree Experience
tour, Ben wines and dines up to eight guests at his residence,
Fairholme, a 1920s farmhouse in Spreyton, 10 minutes from Devonport. You’ll hit
the big guns, such as Hellyer’s
Road Distillery and Anvers House of Chocolate, but also go off-piste in
north-west Tasmania to dig out boutique beer, ginseng and dairy from the hands
of the producers themselves. The tailor-made tours include lunch, a take-home
hamper, cooking demo and five-course degustation dinner. From $550 a
person.  Phone 0428 266 545, see benmilbourne.com.au.
Light and bright
The old design maxim, “Say it in French,
it always sounds better,” also rings true for visual appeal – the Lipault Paris
luggage range is sure to brighten the world’s baggage carousels with its two
new spring-inspired colours, duck blue and orange. Taking cues from Parisian
catwalks, designer François Lipovetsky has ultra-lightweight luggage cred,
having created baggage for Air France.
The Original Plume is a soft-sided wheeled trolley that comes in three sizes,
55cm (2.8kg), 65cm (3.4kg) and 92cm (3.8kg), from $229. Best of all, it’s
foldable, so your storage cupboards aren’t full of bulky suitcases between
jaunts. Match it up with the Lady Plume carry-all, $99. First launched in 2005
and recently purchased by Samsonite, the Lipault Paris range has been available
in Australia only since November. Snap up in all the best places; Selfridges in
London, Galeries Lafayette in Paris or Myer in Australia, or phone 1800 331 690.
Bird’s eye view
Think staycation, think walking past your office
on a weekend? Sail to a secluded island with world-class views, but still use
your metro card to get there when you stay on Cockatoo Island. The Sydney
Harbour Federation Trust has added a new two-bedroom apartment to the
accommodation on the UNESCO World Heritage site, which is on the Balmain ferry
route. The new self-contained apartment has a balcony facing the
harbour, an enclosed garden and sleeps up to four. Formerly a police station,
learn about the Federation-era building on an audio tour of Cockatoo Island’s
history or call for cocktails beneath striped umbrellas and watch the sun set
at the Island Bar. The Cockatoo Island Garden Apartment has a full
kitchen, laundry and all linen. Costs from $370 a night, midweek, or $280 as a
one-bedroom stay. See cockatooisland.gov.au.
That’s the Spirit
A new restaurant, more bars, two new cinemas and new
recliners are on the cards when the hardworking Tasmanian ferries, the Spirit of Tasmania I and II, undergo
major makeovers over the coming months. It’s the first time in 13 years the
ships will have had a major refit since they started working the Melbourne-Devonport
route in 2002. All decks will have changes, including refurbishment of the
deluxe cabins and a refresh in all other classes, a new kids’ zone and teen
area, and new lounge areas to showcase Tasmanian wines, ciders and beers. Some
things don’t change. “We’re still going to have the same ocean views, relaxing
atmosphere and sensational Tasmanian cuisine,” says Spirit of Tasmania CEO
Bernard Dwyer. The refurbishment will be complete by September. The Spirit of Tasmania ships are also increasing
day sailings this year, and offering half-price travel from May 16 to September
17 when you book by April 4. Day sailings cost from $43 one-way, night sailings
from $48 one-way in an ocean recliner. Phone 1800 634 906, see spiritoftasmania.com.au.
A novel idea
What’s the quintessential read of New York, Vietnam or
even Brisbane? Find a book that captures the soul of your destination with
tripfiction.com, which links up books and the regions in which they’re set. The
British website was born in 2012 with just 1000 books, and now has five times that
amount, covering fiction and non-fiction including memoirs, across 1100
locations. It’s free to register, which will allow you to create your own
must-read list. You can also add your own books and reviews, which are moderated
by the site’s founders, Tina Hartas and Tony Geary. The discussion board turns
up some interesting topics, from ‘best Scandiavian noir’ to ‘new Yemeni
thriller’, and is sure to guarantee itchy feet. For those who travel by
airplane or armchair. See tripfiction.com.
The Takeoff travel news, by Belinda Jackson, is published every Sunday in Sydney’s Sun-Herald newspaper’s Traveller section.  

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


What happens in
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.
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.


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.

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.


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.


A state of good
Get out of town for good food during October in The Sydney Morning Herald Good Food
 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

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

Get going: bound for Bali

101 Bali-Legian hotel, Bali.

Hi ho, the summer sun is still only just dipping below the horizon but it’s time to think winter, with all the international resorts releasing their snow deals for the 2014 winter season, or drumming up business for summer in the mountains. 

Otherwise, there are olives to pluck in Tuscany and family holidays mixing the Taj with tigers in this week’s international and domestic travel deals. 



Get return flights from Sydney with Virgin Australia and
three nights at the 3.5-star 101 Bali-Legian hotel, with Wi-Fi and one
three-course dinner thrown in. From $600 a person, twin share, on stays
May 14-17. 1300 887 979, wotif.com/packages.

Check into Brisbane’s newest hotel, the Four Points by
Sheraton Brisbane, and save up to 60 per cent on stays until September
3. There is free Wi-Fi, and craft beers in the hotel bar. From $149 a
night. 1800 074 545, fourpoints.com/brisbane.

The best of Colorado, USA.


Discover Aspen’s glorious spring season. Local hotels and
lodges are offering the third night free from May 15-June 16, plus $50
towards outdoor activities such as ballooning, rafting or biking.

See stayaspensnowmass.com/secret.


Take one of Australia’s most luxurious hikes and bring a
friend free. The Arkaba Walk is a four-day, 45-kilometre private hike
through the Flinders Ranges, with food, wine and guides. Book by April
11 for travel June 12-August 31. Costs $2150 for two people. 1300 790 561, arkabawalk.com.

The rustic huts of Corinna, Tasmania.



Explore the incomparable Tarkine Wilderness in winter. Stay
three nights for the price of two, get a brekky hamper, half-day kayak
hire and discounts on the Arcadia II river cruises. Three nights from
$540, queen cabin, $760, family cabin. (03) 6446 1170, corinna.com.au.


Celebrate the Year of the Horse with $200 off Helen Wong’s
China and Vietnam group tours; its 12-day China Discovery tour costs
$3930 a person, includes international flights. Book by April 4, travel
May 1-November 30. 1300 788 328, helenwongstours.com.



Experience quintessential Italy at the annual olive harvest
in San Miniato, Tuscany. Back-Roads Touring’s new seven-day “Harvest in
Tuscany” winter tour takes you into the heart of the region’s cuisine
and landscape, with cooking classes, Prosecco and a night in a
12th-century castle. Tours depart November 11 and 18, 2014. From $2418 a
person, twin share. 1300 100 410,  backroadstouring.com.au.

Talking tigers, India.



If you’re looking to take the kids into the wild, the
eight-day India Family Holiday package fits the bill. You’ll explore
manic Old Delhi by rickshaw, (hopefully) spot tigers in Ranthambore
National Park, take an elephant ride in Jaipur and witness sunrise at
the Taj Mahal.

Staying in three-star hotels, the tour departs daily
(except July-September). From $1698 an adult, $1443 a child, low season
(April-June). 1300 760 208, selectivetours.com.

Belinda Jackson‘s Get Going column is published every Sunday in Sydney’s Sun-Herald newspaper.  

Drink in the coffee, Rhone varietals or a Himalayan vista: travel deals 26 May 2013

Drink coffee in Brisbane, Rhone varietals in Rutherglen, or just drink in the view in the Indian Himalayas.

Discover the rich reds, Rhone
varietals and sweet muscats of Rutherglen at the Rutherglen Winery
Walkabout, Australia’s longest-running wine festival, on the weekend of
June 8-9 (winemakers.com.au). Stay at Tuileries and save 20 per cent on
Sunday to Friday nights until September 30. They’ll include a country
breakfast and three-course dinner for two at Tuileries Restaurant
including its unlimited wine buffet, which showcases the region’s top
drops. Usually $346 a night, now $276. (02) 6032 9033, tuileriesrutherglen.com.au.

New South Wales
or board Perisher and Thredbo from the central
location of the Snowy Mountains’ Lake Crackenback Resort & Spa,
which is 15 minutes from either ski resort. Normally studio apartments
cost from $250 a night but the resort has two-night stays with a hot
breakfast, $100 to spend in the spa or restaurant, discounts on ski
hire, day spas, and free shuttles to the Skitube to Perisher. Available
from June 7 until October 6. Costs from $593 for two nights in a studio
apartment (sleeps two), or from $1034 for two nights in a two-bedroom
apartment (sleeps four). 1800 020 524, lakecrackenback.com.au.

in to Brisbane’s new Traders Hotel and they’ll give you a coffee
machine. Yes, really. Book a Friday, Saturday or Sunday night stay and
get a Nespresso U machine, worth $299, along with early check-in and
late checkout and a $50 voucher. There’s free wi-fi, too. The hotel is
opposite the Brisbane Transit Centre on Roma Street and within walking
distance of the spectacular Queensland Art Gallery and Gallery of Modern
Art. Book by June 30 for stays until December 29. Costs from $298 a
night. (07) 3238 2222, www.tradershotels.com/brisbane.

new 277-room Pullman Phuket Arcadia is on Naithon Beach, 15 minutes
from the airport. It has sunken lounges with wine libraries as well as a
kids’ lunchtime restaurant by the pool, and spa aficionados will
appreciate the French Payot range. The hotel’s soft-opening special
means you can pay as little as $105 a night, saving 30 per cent off the
best rate on stays of three days or more, with breakfast and wi-fi
included. Valid until October 31. Costs from $315 for three nights. pullmanphuketarcadia.com.

coastline of Nha Trang boasts much natural beauty, and then there are
the hotels. The lush Evason Ana Mandara, main picture, sits on its own
stretch of sea, which obligingly issues lobsters for the table. Stay
seven nights and pay for five, with a villa upgrade, breakfast, airport
transfers and an hour-long massage for two in its spa. Includes return
international flights with Vietnam Airlines. Costs from $2032 a person,
twin share. Book by June 15 for stays until December 19. 1300 138 755, travelindochina.com.au.

exploring the Indian Himalayas in winter does it for you, this new
22-day Zanskar Ice Trek fits the bill. World Expeditions freely admits
this is one of its most adventurous treks, with minus-30-degree nights,
frozen river trekking and remote high passes. The tour departs from Leh
and includes all meals, internal flights, bilingual guides, sleeping bag
and jacket. Save 15 per cent off the second traveller when two people
book together; singles save 7½ per cent. Book by June 21 to depart on
February 2. Costs from $3900 a person, twin share. 1300 720 000, worldexpeditions.com.


Travel deals: 29 July 2012

TOURWATCH: Bend to pray at Kumbha Mela 2013

Surfers flex their pecs in Port Macquarie, while saints and holy men, seers and the devout bend to pray in India.

Nature lovers can also be comfort lovers, especially when
we’re talking winter in Tasmania. Admire the glory of the Freycinet peninsula,
home to the perfect crescent of Wineglass Bay, from the tub. The eco-friendly
Freycinet Lodge has just refurbished its 10 premier suites, complete with new
bathrooms (and TV) earning them a 4.5-star rating. Snap up a winter special
until August 31, normally $300 a night, rooms start from $170 a night.  1800 420 155,


The Australian Surf Festival kicks off 11-26 August in
Port Macquarie, where up to 400 surfers are expected to flex the pecs as they
fight for 25 Aussie titles. There’ll also be movies, music and art exhibits
around a surf theme. Stay three nights in a 2-bedroom riverside spa cottage in
the Sundowner Tourist Park and get a free platter of local produce, a $50
voucher to blow at the Port City Bowling Club and midday checkout. Costs from
$441 for three nights, from August 1-31. 1300 303 155, portmacquarieinfo.com.au


The Fireside Festival runs throughout August, with
100-mile dinners, wine and degustation dinners in 25 venues across Canberra. Stay
two nights in a King Bed superior room at the Crowne Plaza Canberra and save 20
per cent, book until August 17 and stay until September 30. Costs from $336 a
room for two nights, including breakfast. 1300 888 180, zuji.com.au

Spicers Balfour Hotel, Brisbane.

Brisbane’s Gallery of Modern Art has pulled off yet
another major coup, currently showing masterpieces from Madrid’s Prado in its
galleries, so it’s time to head north. You’ll turn heads when you let drop
you’re staying in one of the town’s hippest little hotels, the nine-room Spicers
Balfour Hotel. Set 3km from the CBD in funky New Farm, book 14 days ahead and save
$60 a night. Includes breakfast, canapés in the rooftop bar and wi-fi. Costs
from $299 a room. 1300 597 540, spicersgroup.com.au.


Pull on your walking boots for a spring trek along
Victoria’s south-west coast and save $110 when you book the Great South West
Walk (22-25 Sept) and Great Ocean Walk (27-30 Sept).  Carrying just your day pack, the guided walk
follows well-maintained trails and includes a night in Cape Otway lighthouse
and lunch with the 12 Apostles as a backdrop. Both trips depart from Melbourne
and groups are limited to 14 people. Costs $2190 a person. (03) 9877 9540,

Katherine Gorge

See the best of the west, from Perth to Darwin, over 18
days, visiting some of the world’s greatest beauty spots: Ningaloo Reef, the
windswept limestone formations of the Pinnacles and the gorgeous gorges of the
Territory. There’s a touch of luxe, too, at Cable Beach Club Resort in Broome,
and El Questro Wilderness Park. Save $650 on coach tours departing September 6
and 29 and October 18. Costs $6345 a person. 1300 805 493, travelmarvel.com.au.

Zipping in from the remote islands and need a pad to hole
up for the night? Or want to get to grips with the street markets of Nadi, the
Novotel Nadi and Mercure Nadi are knocking 20 percent off their room rates for
two-night stays. Includes free airport transfers, on stays until January 31.
Costs from $87 a night (Novotel) and $70 a night (Mercure). 1300 656565, accorhotels.com

Wander the medieval cobbled streets of the rue du
Faubourg St-Antoine on the Right Bank, for a slice of Parisian life. Stay four
nights, pay three at the three-star Le Patio St Antoine when you book and
travel before August 31. Includes breakfast daily, costs $321 a person, twin
share. 1300 747 400, creativeholidays.com.

It’s a country with one of the coolest soundtracks… aaah,
Cuba, you’re hip to the eyeballs. This tour covers the length of the country,
from Havana in the west to the old pirate haven of Baracoa in the far east,
with stops for the Che Guevara museum, Trinidad’s beaches and some sultry salsa
in Santiago de Cuba. Book by August 27 to for September 1 departure and
save $456 a person. Costs $1369 a person, 15 days. 1300 018 8701, intrepidtravel.com

South Luangwa game drive, Zambia

There are just seven safari tents at Sanctuary Puku
Ridge, which treat lightly on the earth of the South Luangwa National Park.
Watch the sun rise from your bed, and animals gathering at the waterhole near
your tent. Stay three nights and save more than $1700 a couple, including all
meals, drinks, game viewing and flights from Lusaka. Costs $2120 a person, twin
share, until October 31. 1300 195 873, benchinternational.com.au

The fish are
seriously big on Alaska’s Kenai peninsula, as are the bears. It’s Alaska’s wild
playground. Discover it in 5-star style, o a 28-day journey from Canada up to
the Arctic Circle, including seven nights cruising the Alaskan coastline,
slipping between the icebergs of Glacier Bay National Park. Couples booking before
October 19 will get one free return flight to Canada. Costs from $16,010 a
person, twin share, which includes flights for the second person travelling.  1300 723 642, scenictours.com.au. 

Saints and holy men, seers and the devout: watch the
swirl of humanity as India bends to pray at Kumbha Mela, one of the world’s
largest pilgrimages. In January and February 2013, up to 60 million people will
gather in Allahabad, in the Uttar Pradesh, at the confluence of point
Hinduism’s three holiest rivers – the Ganges, the Yamuna and the ethereal Saraswati.
Devotees stretch 15km along the riverbanks on auspicious bathing days to
cleanse themselves of sin. This eight-day tour starts in Delhi and warms to the
religious theme with a visit to the holy city of Varanasi, south of Delhi,
before continuing to Allahabad, where you’ll stay in a tented camp in the heart
of the action. Costs from US$809 (A$780) a person. Unique Tourism, (02) 921

Source: Belinda Jackson, Sun Herald newspaper

PLAY BRISBANE: Fun and sun rolled into one

Streets Beach
The sun is shining, bronzed
people are bouncing about in bikinis and boardies…then everyone packs up and
goes back to the office. Don’t you just love a beach in the middle of the city?
Streets Beach, in South Bank, has got it all: sand, palms, lifesavers
and warm, crystal-clear waters. Open all year round, take a dip then coffee in
the restaurant strip overlooking the lagoon. Perfect. And perfectly Queensland.
Brissy loves its indie
culture and two of its best-loved contemporary performing arts spaces, the Judith
Wright Centre of Contemporary Arts
and the Brisbane Powerhouse, oblige.  The cosy little Judy loves a spot of cabaret
and shines a spotlight on local work, while the Powerhouse hosts film festivals, theatre and is a
major site for the Brisbane Festival. Upcoming visitors include Henry Rollins, blues
guitarist Harry Manx, comedians Judith Lucy and Candy Bowers and classical
pianist Sally Whitwell (judithwrightcentre.com, brisbanepowerhouse.org)
Get a grip on Brisbane and its
surrounds, with views to Moreton Bay, by climbing Brisbane’s architectural
icon, the Story Bridge, 80 meters above the Brisbane River. If you think
bridge climbs are for pre-schoolers, go one up and abseil down the pylons (storybridgeadventureclimb.com.au)
If jumping off a high bridge isn’t your idea of a cool time, instead,
work your photography and climbing skills simultaneously when you climb the bridge
with a professional photographer who’ll help capture the panorama, using your
own camera equipment. Photography climbs
are held monthly (blue-dog.com.au)
For aimless ambling in the sunshine, South Bank Lifestyle Markets
are flush with craft, food, fashion and homewares. Open Friday evenings, all
day Saturday and Sunday on Stanley St, the stalls get a decided fashion bent on
the first Sunday of the month with the addition of the Young Designer Markets, where you can buy direct from the designer
(southbankmarket.com.au, youngdesignersmarket.com.au). Saturday nights in the West
End get a whole lot funkier when the West
End Twilight Markets
are in town, with artisan stalls, providores and free music
by indie performers (cnr Wilson & Boundary St, 2nd and 4th Saturday of the
month, westendtwilightmarkets.com)
For the crush of your classic band pub or the roar of the
latest club, you’ll be asking your taxi to take you to Fortitude Valley. The
Valley’s spit-and-sawdust days are fading as the latest openings combine sexy
bites with well-crafted drinks: take a look at the late-night supper club La Ruche (680 Ann St) and its neighbour
the Bowery Bar (676 Ann St). Veteran Cru Bar is still regarded as one of the best wine bars in
Oh Hello! gathers all the pretty
twentysomethings in one place (621 Ann St) while at ManaBar, you can drink cocktails (for the adult in you) while
hammering video games (for the inner child) (420 Brunswick St).  
Archive Beer Boutique
Keep an
eye out for Alfred
& Constance
, two heritage houses revamped to
include a gastro pub, underground cellar and late-night dessert café by the
Limes Hotel crew, opening July (cnr Alfred & Constance St). Other hotspots across the city include
Woollongabba for Matt Moran’s tapas and rum cocktails at edgy Canvas, its new little sister, Public Bar & Kitchen in the CBD (400
George St) and the West
End’s The End (73
Vulture St).
Real beer drinkers, rejoice! Brisbane is enjoying a
revival of craft beers, the charge is led by the West End’s Archive Beer Boutique (100 Boundary St,
West End). Add to your list The Scratch
for Gold Coast operation Burleigh Brewing’s My
Wife’s Bitter
(8/1 Park Rd, Milton) and newcomer’s Super Whatnot’s grunged-out wine bar, which keeps Brissy brewers
Bacchus on tap (Burnett La, CBD).

SHOP BRISBANE: Indie vibe is right on trend

burgeoning fashion scene has a home in inner-city Paddington, a veritable
boutique-crawl up Given Terrace, with plenty of stand-out cafes in between for
stamina. The vibe is indie rather than lables, with an emphasis on good
cutting, great textiles and individuality. 
It all heats up one corner of Given
Terrace, where a cluster of Brisbane designers share the love: take a look at Surafina, where its design duo Laura
and Rechelle are responsible for Brissy’s smart and sexy mums in saucy
above-knee skirts and structured riding jackets. Five minutes and these two
will have your number pegged. 
Nearby, the mood in Maiocchi is too cute, but with tunnel vision, you can get
your geisha on, with her oh-so-ladylike Sino-fab prints in the sweetest dresses
and skirts. While you’re in the hood, check out happening Brissy bag label
LouenHide at Olive Home.
along, Given becomes LaTrobe Terrace where you’ll find stalwart fashion veteran
Chercher La Femme with its delicate
silk and linens in whites, neutrals and naturals, where classic tailoring and
functionality are key. Take a sticky down the back of the shop for the sweetest
babywear in town. Straight across the road, the renovated Queenslander that is
home to La La La Trobe buzzes to a
younger beat, evoking saucy boudoir with its two own funky labels, She’s Gone La La and La La Luxe. The look is a little boho
rock star, a little naughty girlishness, courtesy of a blend of ethnic knits,
leopard pant and a splash of gypsy whimsy. 
The other
major haunt for local label lovers is Fortitude Valley, where the big, brash
fashion names bunker down with up-and-coming boltholes of gorgeousness. 
a certain sleek glossiness to the James St precinct, amply demonstrated by Nat-Sui,
whose vertiginous, handmade heels have been seen
garnishing the legs of such celebs as Delta Goodrem and Deborah Hutton, while
the scent is supplied by Libertine Parfumerie. This Parisian-style
little boutique stocks rare fragrances, many custom designed for royalty and
screen stars. Current best-sellers include Grace Kelly’s ‘Gin Fizz’, first
designed in 1955. 
of handmade beauty will resonate with Incub8r, where crafty
artists showcase one-off pieces, from handbags to picture frames, jewellery to
clothing. Speaking of clothing, while you’re on a roll in the area, check out Drobe’s
racks range from the intense to the minimal, featuring local designer Kate
Anderson and Jessica T for accessories and bags. Brisbane milliner Felicity Boevink’s vintage-inspired creations can be found in the Brisbane multi-brand staple, Jean Brown, in the Emporium precinct.   
hunters will find their soul’s delight in the vintage treasure troves of
Woolloongabba’s Logan Rd strip and the old Queenslander houses that line
Paddington’s main drag, Latrobe Terrace. 
Start with French-farmhouse
inspiration at Blake & Taylor, whose weatherboard Queenslander is
filled to the eyeballs with toile prints, cute signs, cunning coat hooks and
overstuffed chairs before continuing up the hill to the far more severely
edited AP Design House, which brings single, beautiful items from the
world into one warm space. Find beautifully blended gold micron jewellery by
one-to-watch Brisbane label Angle Diamond Dot mixed with Belgian linen duvets
and rugs from Sardinia. 
Put a few hours aside to wander the antique and vintage
shops along the strip until you hit Paddington Antique Centre at the top
of the terrace, with 45 antique dealers trading in anything from life-sized
models of cows to green glasswear, vintage jewellery and taxidermy in one
hyper-ventilatingly crazy mish-mash. Minimalists need not bother entering. 
newest, coolest little shopping strip in town is Winn Lane, a tiny nook off Ann
St in Fortitude Valley. Barely six months old, it supplies rich pickings in the
form of Brisbane fashion luminaries Easton Pearson’s younger EP label, Sunday
for rare and vintage threads, cute local accessories by Ruby
& Prankster
, spanking new Atavist Books for secondhand treasures and Flamingo Café, which creates the
coffee that keeps it all ticking along nicely (winnlane.com)
Address book
Chercher La Femme, 2 LaTrobe Tce, Paddington, chercherlafemme.com
La La La Trobe, 21 LaTrobe Tce, Paddington,
Surafina, 204-208 Given Tce, Paddington surafina.com
Maiocchi, 216
Given Tce, Paddington maiocchi.com.au
Olive Home,
218 Given Tce, Paddington
Nat-Sui, 19 James St,
Fortitude Valley, nat-sui.com.au
Easton Pearson, 60
James St, Fortitude Valley, eastonpearson.com
Incub8, 368
Brunswick St, Fortitude Valley, incube8r.com.au
Drobe, 669 Ann
St, Fortitude
Jean Brown,
1000 Ann St, Fortitude Valley, jeanbrown.com.au
Libertine Parfumerie, 181 Robertson St, Fortitude Valley, libertineparfumerie.com.au
Subfusco, 61
Gray Rd, West End, subfusco.com
Tanya Mrnjaus, idcouture.com
Blake & Taylor, 11 LaTrobe Tce, Paddington, blakeandtaylor.com.au
AP Design House, 15
LaTrobe Tce, Paddington, apdesignhouse.com.au
Paddington Antique Centre, 167 Latrobe Tce, Paddington,
Hamptons Home Living, 180 Latrobe Tce, Paddington,
Source: Sun Herald 

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