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… 



Hotel review: cycling holidays at Bright Velo, Bright, Victoria Australia

Those who love cycling holidays in Australia will know that Victoria’s High Country is peak cycle territory. We’re talking lycra on the main streets, ebikes galore, kids’ tagalongs … it’s not just the pelotons who dominate the roads.

One of the main reasons this area – three hours’ drive from Melbourne, just before you hit the border with New South Wales – is such a cyclist’s paradise is that it caters for all comers, and its development of rail trails – the old train tracks that have been converted into scenic cycling roots that keep riders off the main highways.

So it makes sense that the newest hotel in the region is a cycling themed hotel. Originally built as the Empire Hotel during Bright’s crazy gold-rush days, Bright Velo is a smart renovation of this lovely building on Bright’s main street. It’s not going to bomb you out with cheezy bike paraphernalia everywhere – it’s a little more subtle than that. Stylish vintage cycling posters dotted here and there, the public bathrooms painted in the colours of the winning jerseys of the three great European tours.

There are three levels of accom – the five unique Heritage rooms, a three-bedroom apartment and the dorm accom which caters for groups. There’s also excellent eating, a whiskey bar and the amaretto sours should have cult status in this town.

Click here to read my review of the hotel for the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age’s Traveller section.

See https://www.traveller.com.au/bright-velo-the-victorian-alps-welcomes-cosy-new-cycling-themed-lodge-h29qzl

Travel Writers Radio: Victoria’s High Country by ebike

Fancy cycling Victoria’s High Country, but don’t want to go the whole Tour de France?  Ebikes, friends.

Recently, I cruised the 68km from Beechworth to Bright on the Mountains to Murray rail trail on an ebike; the first time I’ve traded my road bike for one of these cruisy little numbers.

I chatted to Graeme Kemlo on the Travel Writers Radio show, which airs on Melbourne’s J-Air 88FM about the experience,

We talked about High Country wineries, how beautiful Mt Buffalo is when seen from a bike, and why knicks are your best friend, even on an ebike with a saddle inspired by lounge furniture.

To listen to our chat, click here https://soundcloud.com/travelwritersradio

The Travel Writers Radio show runs on J-Air 88FM every Wednesday at 5-7pm (AEDT) or catch up online, anytime at soundcloud.com/travelwritersradio

For more about biking in Victoria’s High Country, see ridehighcountry.com.au

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.

Travel news: Freewheeling across the world

Cycling in the German Alps. Photo: Bruce Robertson
Have bicycle, will travel. But if you’re not sure where
to ride, click on to this serious collection of bike tours from around the
world. At last count, the website listed 7000 tours in 123 countries for all
levels of fitness, for road bikes, mountain bikes and even electronic bikes. Website
founder and keen cyclist Bruce Robertson is currently infatuated with Korea,
where he’s going with friends for a 350km ride from Seoul to Andong. “Korea’s
cycle paths and infrastructure are incredible,” he says. “The paths follow the
rivers, not the roads.” The site also loves a best-of list, including the best
off-road tours and city tours, packing tips and a guide to choosing the best bicycle
tour. To lycra or not to lycra? That’s your call. See cycletoursglobal.com.

Sleep easy with
the locals
Dublin city, the heart of Istanbul and the jewel of the
Greek islands, Santorini, are the latest destinations in Tempo Holidays’ 2015 Apartments
& Catering Worldwide brochure. Stay in an Italian condo on Lake Como, a maison
in the Cote des Maures in France or
a villa on the Portuguese Algarve. All properties are researched by Tempo
Holidays, which is owned by the world’s longest established
travel company, Cox & Kings. Many apartments and villas include
hotel facilities such as daily or weekly servicing, but with the freedom of
your own space and 24-hour help. Great for larger families or groups, they are
priced per night, but with discounts for extended stays. Phone 1300 558 987, see tempoholidays.com.
Of souks and spices in Morocco
Discover the soul of Morocco on a 10-day gastronomic tour
of the country with TV chef and self-described ‘gastronaut’ Geoff Jansz. The
journey starts in gritty Casablanca and travels through the ancient, regal
cities of Fes, Meknes and Rabat, finishing up in Marrakesh. You’ll taste and
learn about Morocco’s culinary traditions with local experts, shop for spices
in magnificent souks (markets), drink Berber tea in the Atlas Mountains and eat
in restaurants selected by Jansz. There’s also a visit to Roman ruins of
Volubilis, Andalusian gardens and the craziness of Marrakesh’s central square,
Djamma el Fna. The tour will accommodate 24 guests, from November 1-10, 2015.
Costs $6895 a person, twin share. Phone 1300 590 317, see abercrombiekent.com.au.

Best Fiji cuisine
Taste Fiji before you even get hit the happy isles with Fiji
Airways’ new signature dish for business-class passengers. The airline offers a
charred beef fillet with masala chai tea rub, herb buttered prawns and Fijian
organic vegetables, or seared wild fish with coriander and pineapple rice pilaf
red papaya curry sauce. The dishes are designed by Fiji Airways’
Culinary Ambassador chef Lance Seeto, who says the menu is influenced not just
the native iTaukei cuisine but Indian, Chinese and colonial British as well.
Seeto, who is based on Fiji’s Castaway Island resort, says it’s part of a
culinary renaissance taking place across the country. Other business-class menu
additions include a Fijian rum cocktail and mocktail, and the Yadra Vinaka
(good morning) sleeper service. Phone 1800 230
150, see fijiairways.com.

Come to mamma
Whoever thought having kids meant giving up seriously
good food and wine? The new La Dolce Vita Wine & Food Festival welcomes
kids with all of its Italian heart. Held at eight wineries in Victoria’s King
Valley, there will be jumping castles and giant sandpits, playgrounds and
circus training, and every winery will offer a kids’ menu. Meanwhile, parents
(and non-parents) can test-drive Prosecco cocktails, turn their hand at gnocchi
making, cruise the market stalls or join a Long Lunch. The festival takes place
on November 15-16. Phone 1800 801 065, see
Clean hands, clear
If the phrase ‘life-changing hand sanitiser’ sounds a
little far-fetched, log the tracking number on the back of this antibacterial
hand sanitiser and you may find you’ve just helped provide clean water for a
village in Myanmar. These body care products are from Thankyou, a social enterprise
that channels its profits directly into health and hygiene training in
developing nations. The hand sanitiser is a trusty travel companion that comes
in a tasty grapefruit or eucalyptus mint fragrance, and at 50ml, it’s well
under the airlines’ carry-on liquids limit. Other products include hand cream
and soap, all Australian made, all without harsh chemicals and all are
ethically sourced. Available at major supermarkets. See thankyou.co.

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

Sustainable Melbourne

EDIT: I am very pleased to note that this feature, originally published in Honda Magazine, has won the Australian Society of Travel Writers’ 2014 award for Best Responsible Tourism feature.

Little Hunter, 195 Little Collins St, Melbourne

can be a guilty pleasure for the green-minded, but Melbourne shows how to blend
ecology and exploration without stinting on the good times, discovers Belinda

clothes with karma, vintage clothing is the classic sustainable fashion option:
what goes around, comes around.  Forget
fusty, Melbourne’s top shops yield fabulous finds. Check out one of Australia’s
largest vintage stores, Retrostar,
in the equally vintage Nicholas Building (1st floor, Nicholas Building,
37 Swanston St), while Shag finds all its clothing in
Melbourne (Centreway Arcade) and Circa
has fashion dating from the Victorian era (1st Floor, Mitchell House, 358 Lonsdale St). 
Serious hunters, book your spot on a Melbourne Op Shop tour (0421 431 2780421 431 278, melbourneopshoptours.com.au).
Don’t want to wear clothes made by small children or
workers in life-threatening factories? Melbourne’s Etiko sources eco-friendly range of footwear and clothing from
owner co-ops in Argentina and Pakistani micro-businesses, so you can look good
outside and feel good inside. Shop online or see etiko.com.au for stockists.
Lisa Gorman designs
You can go green with current fashion: each season, top
Melbourne designer Lisa Gorman releases her gorman organic range, which uses organic and sustainably produced
fabrics produced without pesticides or with non-chemical processing (GPO Melbourne, Bourke
St Mall, gormanshop.com.au).
Out of the CBD grid, make like a Melburnian and jump a
tram for the fashion label, shop and café that is Social Studio for limited-edition garments handmade from reclaimed
and up-cycled material (126-128 Smith St, Collingwood, thesocialstudio.org).  On Saturdays, dig for handmade treasures at
the artists’ haven of Rose Street
(60 Rose St, Fitzroy).
You know organic
and sustainable production are on trend when the quest takes you to some of the
city’s top tables, including Vue de
, for its salt-cured wallaby (Level 55, Rialto, 525 Collins St) and the signature smoked trout broth at Attica,
recently voted number 21 in the world’s top restaurants (74 Glen Eira Rd,
Ripponlea). Even old-school can go new school, as Italian dining staple Cecconi’s has demonstrated, becoming
the first restaurant to compost its food waste through the Closed Loop system:
the compost is used to grow vegetables on its Bellarine Peninsula farm (61
Flinders La).
Head underground to a recent Melbourne edition, Little Hunter, tucked away beneath city
streets, and order up on beef from the remote Tasmanian locations of Cape Grim and Robbin
Island or tiny Chatham Island’s Blue Cod with seagrasses.
Chef Gavin Baker sources all produces from farmers committed to organic
production and humane treatment (downstairs, 195 Little Collins St)
Melbourne’s café
scene is justly famous: check out the winner of the 2012 Tourism Victoria
Sustainability award, Silo by Joost, a
café that doesn’t have garbage bin. Everything is recycled, renewed or
composted, including the bench you’re sitting at (123 Hardware St, 03 9600
0588). Meanwhile, newcomer Dukes
Coffee Roasters
is pushing toward a carbon-neutrality with its emphasis on
minimising waste and off-set power, with organic and ethically produced
products. What does that mean for you? Seriously fine coffee (247 Flinders La).
And shoppers at Melbourne Central can grab a cuppa at social enterprise STREAT Café, which has so far trained
60 young homeless and at-risk kids into a hospitality career (Cnr Elizabeth
& La Trobe St and 5 McKillop St).
Kinfolk cafe, 673 Bourke St, Melbourne
Kinfolk is a rare bird: it is environmentally sustainable and also socially
responsible, its staff training volunteers to run serve local, organic,
good-tasting food. A private enterprise by young entrepreneur Jarrod Briffa,
its high overheads are eased by the generosity of its patrons: coffee is
donated by crop-to-cup pioneers Di Bella, while meat is from renowned Barossa
organic producer Saskia Beer (673 Bourke St).

finally, self-caterers can find local produce at Queen Victoria Markets, which also has a section devoted to organic
fresh fruit and vegies (513 Elizabeth St).
A night
on the town can also be good for your conscience when you start (or end) with a
drink at Shebeen, Australia’s first
not-for-profit bar. All profits go back to the countries where their drinks are
sourced: think Chilean wines, Sri Lankan beer, South African cider, (36
Manchester Lane).
Melbourne is also a playground for ‘green’ brewers. Pope Joan pours beers from Victorian independent
breweries such as Victoria’s Secret Hoppy Wheat Beer from North Melbourne and
Moondog ‘Love Tap’ Double Lager from Abbotsford (77 Nicholson St, Brunswick
East). Get on your bike into the Mountain
Goat Brewery
for real beer and pizza (Wednesdays & Fridays, 80 North
St, Richmond) or tram it to Monkey  for local, organic and biodynamic wine, beer and
cheese (181 St Georges Rd, Fitzroy North).
Alto on Bourke hotel

Take a walking tour of the
city to orientate yourself (1300 311 0811300 311 081, melbournebyfoot.com)
and uncover the city’s vivid street art scene (03 9328 555603 9328 5556, melbournestreettours.com) or to get under the city’s skin, through its literature and laneways
(0407 380 9690407 380 969,meltours.com.au) Hit the shops with hunters of high quirk
(03 9663 335803 9663 3358, hiddensecretstours.com) or discover the city’s Aboriginal heart
(03 8622 260003 8622 2600, koorieheritagetrust.com)


Alto on Bourke is Australia’s first carbon-neutral hotel
and winner of domestic and international sustainability awards. The 4-star
hotel uses 100 per cent renewable energy, harvests its rainwater, recycles and
uses energy-efficient cars. There are even beehives on the roof, as part of
Melbourne’s rooftop honey project: see the results on the breakfast buffet
alongside the fairtrade coffee (rooftophoney.com.au) There are 50 hotel rooms from petites to
three-bedroom apartments with full kitchenettes, employing the best environmentally
aware technology including LED lighting, low-water showerheads and an electric
Goget hire car on site, with free parking for all hybrid cars  (1800 135 1231800 135 123, altohotel.com.au)

The best start to a green escape is to offset your airline flight, which
costs around $2 per flight. Melbourne’s CBD grid is a walker’s paradise: you
can cross the city by foot in about 20 minutes. Otherwise, it’s a short tram or
bus ride: the red Number 86 City Circle
does free tours, as does the Melbourne
Shuttle Bus
(131 638, thatsmelbourne.com.au) If you need a car, consider a green car, which can be hired by the
hour from $15 (try flexicar.com.au,  greensharecar.com.au
or goget.com.au) or go
luxe with an eco-limo (ecolimo.com.au) Melbourne
Bike Share
hires bike for 30 minutes for free (1300 71 5901300 71 590, melbournebikeshare.co.au)

Keep a day free for the 2014 Sustainable Living Festival,
held annually in Melbourne. Expect fabulous fashion, thoughtful thinktanks,
green markets, gardening and art. Now on until 23 February, 2014, slf.org.au.
This article was published in Honda magazine. 

Bunker down in top Tassie style, eat Paris or cycle New Zealand: travel deals January 26, 2014

Oh we love any excuse to look at a photo of Paris, even this improbably perfect one of the Eiffel Tower. Snap up a little city stay in the City of Light, cycle New Zealand or see how we Aussies do serious luxury. For something a little more laid back, it’s sun loungers in Caloundra, on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast.

Go now: New
Cycle the world and save 10 percent on 21 journeys including
the Queenstown Otago Rail Trail, stretching 150km from Queenstown to
Christchurch or Dunedin. Book by March 15 for travel until December 31. From $1197
a person, twin share. 1300 720 000, worldcyclejourneys.com.
Go sooner:
Voted Australia’s top luxury lodge, stay four nights and
pay for three at the lush Saffire Freycinet, from March 1 until November 30. Free
activities include fishing, mountain biking, cocktail mixing or the gentle art
of hammocking. From $5400 for four nights. (03) 6256 7888,
Go later: France
Book a five-day Taste of Paris by March 16 and save 20
percent. The tours, which run from July 27 to August 30, include four nights in
a Left Bank hotel, sightseeing and transport passes and airport transfers. From
$533 a person, twin share. 1300 558 987,
Go now: Queensland
Want water slides without the mania and price tag of a
theme park?  Check in to the Oaks Oasis
on the Sunshine Coast  and check out its
new water play park, with slides, fountains and a giant tipping bucket. For
those inclined to recline, there are also sunloungers aplenty. The newly
refurbished accommodation  ranges
from  hotel rooms to apartments and villas,
and is walking distance to the beach, 
close by Australia Zoo and one hour’s drive from Brisbane. From $40 a
person in a family room (sleeps four) until March 31. 1300 031 963,

This article by Belinda Jackson was published in Sydney’s Sun-Herald newspaper.