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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Bargains in Bali and Britain, family-friendly fun in Malaysia: travel deals 29 September 2013

The Sheraton Mirage Resort & Spa, Gold Coast, Qld.

Grab an off-peak bargain on Britain’s trains or in Bali’s villas, be one of the first to see the revamped Sheraton Mirage on the Gold Coast, or splash out with the kids in Malaysia, a truly family-friendly country. Go on, you’re worth it.

Go now:
See the five-star Sheraton Mirage Resort & Spa Gold
Coast’s $26 million renovation. Stay three, pay for two nights, from $580 or
stay four and pay three nights, from $870, until December 22, (07) 5577 0000, sheratonmiragegoldcoast.com.au.
Go sooner: Britain
Save 20 per cent on the BritRail Pass and Britrail
England Pass between November 1 and February 28, 2014 when you book by February
12, 2014. From $185 an adult for a three-day pass, raileurope.com.au
The main bedroom, Villa Asanda, Bali.
Go now:  Bali
Nine beautiful Balinese villas are on sale: save 20
percent on rates at the fully staffed villas on stays until December 20. Villas
range from three to six bedrooms, from $420 a night, three-bed villa, marketingvillas.com.
KIDS
The themed Kid Suites at the Holiday Inn Resort Penang are
part of a Malaysian getaway with Sheraton Imperial Kuala Lumpur. The
seven-night, two-town package includes domestic flights, two free nights, bonus
upgrades, tours and kids under 12 stay and eat free in Penang. Book by November
30, from $1790 a person, 1300 696 252, myholidaycentre.com.au/Malaysia.

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


Places in the heart: Kate Langbroek

Western Australia has
the best beaches in the world, says Melbourne radio’s Kate Langbroek. And
although the waters of Bass Strait may get nippy, you never regret a swim.
I stayed at Cape Paterson, in south Gippsland, with
(former radio co-presenter and comedian) Dave O’Neill about 12 years ago. His
dad bought the block of land there for $700 in the ‘70s. They all called it
Cape Dump. I’ve been obsessed with the area ever since.
In Cape Paterson I was like a supermodel as all the hard
bodies flock to the inner-city beaches: St Kilda is wall-to-wall people waiting
to be noticed.
My husband, Peter, and I now have a holiday home at south
Gippsland’s Walkerville. The north is the dead-end fisherman’s beach. The south
has the better beach.
Even though it’s cold, we swim every day. You never regret a
swim. And as a woman, I swim because I never want to become one of those
mothers that are just sitting on the beach, watching everyone else having fun
in the water. In Australia, we’re so cloaked in body shame, swathed in our
kaftans: it’s so easy to drift into that when you’ve got kids.
Walkerville beach.

You could do what my mother-in-law and her sister did: with
seven children between them, they’d dig a big hole, bury all the children and
go for a swim. When they saw the first one climb out, they knew they had to
come out of the water. In the ’70s, you had to be resourceful.

We spent two weeks in the Kimberley recently and buried all
our kids on the beach in Broome. Individually, not in a giant pit.
Western Australia has the best beaches in the world: the
Kimberley’s are the most stunning I’ve ever seen. Every time we stopped, the
beach was exquisite. We drove down to Eco Beach, south of Broome, and there was
not a footprint on it.
But while the Kimberley has the best beaches, I’ll choose
Walkerville for its life and wild rugged beauty, with fishing boats and whales
outside your window as they go into Waratah Bay to rest with their babies.
Alison Lester wrote the children’s book Magic
Beach
about Walkerville, but it’s still a secret beach. The local fishermen
will hate me for talking about it.
I’m from Queensland and have lived on the Gold Coast, in
Brisbane and in Papua New Guinea. Mum and dad would take us to the Spit on the Gold
Coast, where we learned to swim, which was really odd as the Spit is that
finger of land near where SeaWorld is, with crashing waves and wild surf. Dad
couldn’t swim well, and mum didn’t swim at all. I remember me and my brother
being out of our depth many, many times.
Mum and Dad would book a flat (calling it an apartment was
gilding the lily) on the Gold Coast for two weeks. We swam at Burleigh Heads, Tallebudgera
and Kirra Beach.
Inexplicably, Peter and I decided to go on a road trip
when our first son, Lewis, was six weeks old. We drove 4000km and on the way
back, we stopped at Bondi because even though he’s Australian, Peter had never
been to Bondi. We wheeled Lewis onto the sand in his pram and were so dying to
get into the water, we left him with another family on the beach and asked them
to wave when he woke up: we invoked the community of the beach.
You remember those swims because they’re a stolen, precious
moment.
Peter loves Wilson’s Promontory, which is just beside
Walkerville. He talks about it all the time, as many Melbournians do. He’s
really into nature, so he takes the kids for walks and is teaching them to body
surf. I’m hopeless at it.
We do what people have been doing on the beach for 1000 years:
scoop sand into meaningless piles, find bits of shells and sharks’ heads and
poke them with sticks and talk about the schtunk
of it. It’s ageless. 
Kate Langbroek co-hosts the Hughesy & Kate Breakfast
Show on Nova 100.
Interview by Belinda Jackson. Published in Good Weekend magazine.

Living London style, Bali’s newest digs and sweet Manila: travel deals September 22, 2013

It’s time to up sticks, quick-sticks, to London, and surely one of the loveliest rooms is the reception at The Levin, my favourite photo of the week.


Otherwise, go tropical with a getaway in mad Manila – home of the shoe – check out a new resort in Bali or disappear just over the hills to the Blue Mountains and one of Australia’s most luxurious addresses, Wolgan Valley.

Go later: London
Stay in the heart of Knightsbridge, near Harrods and Harvey
Nicks, and get airport transfers and afternoon tea, worth $350, at the boutique
Levin Hotel. Its three-night Dollar Package costs from $1590 until end May
2014. +44 20 7589 6286, thelevinhotel.co.uk

Go now: Bali
The new U Paasha resort in Seminyak is offering two free
nights, breakfast, transfers and either wellness or watersports activities when
you stay eight nights in a suite, until December 20. From $590 a person. 1800
883 887,travelonline.com.

Go sooner: NSW

Save $500 a couple on a Spring Indulgence at the five-star
Emirates Wolgan Valley Resort & Spa in the Blue Mountains. Includes
a regional picnic hamper and all meals and drinks, and midweek stays also get
$100 spa credit. Until December 19. From $1450 a person, two nights. (02) 9290 9733, wolganvalley.com.
Kids: sweet deal in Manila
Divert the kids with a Filipino cooking school at the
Peninsula Manila while you soak up the city’s fabulous shopping. Kids can whip
up the classic dessert halo-halo or tackle a taka, a papier-mâché
masterpiece. Small guests also eat free and stay half-price in an adjoining
room until December 31, from $393 for two connecting rooms. 1800 116 888,
peninsula.com
Source: Belinda Jackson, Sun-Herald newspaper

Of giant mice and free feeds in Bali, Qld and California: travel deals September 8, 2013

Holiday Inn Resort Baruna Bali

Just because you’ve got kids in tow doesn’t mean getaways are goners. It may mean, however, you find yourself surrounded by giant mice or are lured by the promise of feeding the children for free. Here’s a taste of three kid-friendly faves in Bali, Disneyland and Queensland.

GO NOW: USA
Visiting Disneyland Anaheim? Check in for three nights at
the Desert Palms Hotel & Suites in Orange County, only 1km away from the
action, and get the third night free. Includes breakfast and parking, until
September 13. expedia.com.au/promos/usa-sale.
Hamilton Island, Queensland

GO LATER: BALI

Save up to 30 per cent on your stay at the Holiday Inn
Resort Baruna Bali, with breakfast, internet, a massage and access to its
departure lounge for late flights. Kids under 12 eat and stay free, too, until
December 31. From $127.25 a night. 1803 656 888, bali.holidayinn.com.
GO SOONER: QUEENSLAND
If the kids are eating you out of house and home, book a
Palm bungalow on Hamilton Island for four nights, with use of catamarans,
snorkelling and windsurfing gear, and kids eat and stay free. From $679 a
person, twin share. 131 398, travelscene.net.au.
Source: Belinda Jackson, Sun-Herald newspaper

Big wheels keep on turnin’ in Paris, Auckland and Ipswich: deals & kids’ gigs, September 1, 2013

The Workshop Rail Museum
in Ipswich, Qld

Right. Instead of leading with a lovely pool shot or something pleasingly ethnic (think old Indian man or a Vietnamese cyclist), I’m appealing to the trainspotters amongst you. Specifically, trainspotters in Ipswich. With kids. That’s Ipswich, Australia. I know you’re out there. If I lost you at trains, never fear, shack up in style on North Stradbroke Island or go five-star glam in Auckland or hit the moveable feast that is Paris, staying in your own apartment.

KIDS
Build your own railway empire, get behind the wheel of
the big engine or just let off steam at the award-winning Workshop Rail Museum
in Ipswich, 40km from Brisbane. For more big, loud fun, take a ride on the
monthly Steam Train Sundays and roar through Brisbane’s main drag on a steam
train. Open daily. General entry costs $20 adults, $11.30 kids 3-15 years,
families $59, theworkshops.qm.qld.gov.au.
GO NOW: NEW
ZEALAND
Stay
four nights at the five-star Langham Auckland and save 20 per cent and get free
wifi until September 13. Score the ‘Linger Longer for Less’ offer at Langham
hotels including London and Sydney. Auckland costs from $149 a night. +64
(9) 379 5132, langhamhotels.com.
The pool shot we had to have: North Stradbroke Island, Qld
GO SOONER:
QUEENSLAND
Wrap up winter with three nights on family-friendly North
Stradbroke Island off Brisbane. Stay in a self-contained beach shack amongst
the dunes with return vehicle transfer, midday check-out, a meat tray for the
barbie and wi-fi until September 18. From $600, (07) 3415 0000, allurestradbroke.com.au.
GO LATER: PARIS
Enjoy la vie simple
with family holidays in Paris: this kid-friendly two-bedroom apartment in the
Marais is ideal for discovering the city by foot. Sleeps four or five and
includes breakfast. Usually $415 a night, from $355 a night until 31 January,
2014. petiteparis.com.au.

Source: Belinda Jackson, Sun-Herald newspaper

Wheeling through South Korea, wining in dear old Lonnie: travel deals & kids’ gigs, August 25

New to travel: cycling in South Korea.

With winter just about out the window, you could be forgiven for thinking Tasmania’s raison d’être has also gone the way of the Australian tiger. That’s only because you haven’t been to Launceston, up on the north coast. Interestingly (well, ok, interesting to me), a Brit once said it should be pronounced Launston ( the ‘ces’ isn’t pronounced: think Worcestershire sauce). But I digress. Check out this week’s travel deals and kids’ gig, where smearing your nose along a window is encouraged – nay – obligatory.

TASMANIA

Visit Launceston and take in the art galleries, harvest
markets and Tamar Valley wineries. Stay in a one-bed Superior suite at The
Sebel Launceston from $219, and they’ll deliver breakfast in bed and a wee
bottle of champagne. Until December 31. accorhotels.com.
SOUTH KOREA
Singapore is about to roar: F1 racing comes to town.
Get ahead of the pack with South Korea’s new cycle
trails. Save 25 percent on the first, nine-day Korean Cycle trip from Seoul to
traditional Andong through unspoilt forests and villages. Departs October 26, from
$2590, 1800 107 060, adventuresouth.co.nz.
SINGAPORE
Head to the 2013 Formula 1 Singapore Grand Prix,
September 19-23. Packages include a three-day Grandstand race ticket, race preview
lunch, return international airfares and four nights’ accommodation. Save
over $500, costs $2595, 1300 888 858, sportsnetholidays.com.
Gentle luxury at The
Sebel Launceston.
KIDS
If squished noses on windows is a feature of your airport
visits, check out the Parkroyal Melbourne Airport’s Kids Plane-Spotting package
and watch the big birds take off right outside your hotel room. Includes
accommodation for one adult and one child under 12 (Friday and Saturday nights
only), breakfast and an activity package, from $269 until 31 December. Extra
adults from $20. 1800 192 144, parkroyalhotels.com. 

Source: Belinda Jackson, Sun-Herald newspaper


Shacktastic! Great Aussie holiday homes

Getting away from it all? Not any more — we want holiday homes that have it all… (or, as I’ve subtitled this piece in my noisy head, how we traded the caravan for the castle.)

For generations of Aussies, summer holidays always started with a
long, “I spy”-dominated drive to the beach.

The accommodation was either
a caravan park, where kids ran rampant from dawn until dusk and the
queue at the shower block was the essential meeting place, or the
classic beach shack, built on a shoestring and furnished with the
cast-offs from the family home.

We’ve always loved our beach
shacks: hidden from view on the white-sand beaches of the NSW south
coast or up in idyllic Byron Bay, you’ll see them among the dunes along
the South Australian coastline, tucked away down sandy lanes on the
Bellarine and Mornington peninsulas, so laid-back they’re almost
horizontal.

Stayz, a division of Fairfax Media, recently held its annual awards for
the best holiday rentals in seven categories including best for pets,
romance, families and eco-friendliness, as well as a people’s choice.
Judged by a panel of travel industry experts with guest ratings and
reviews in the mix, the results are an eye-opener.

These days the locations are different: we’re not just running to the
beach any more. Sure, there are winners in Noosa, Byron Bay and on
Culburra Beach, just outside Nowra, but there are also winners in the
Victorian foodie region around Kyneton, in the genteel NSW southern
highlands and another on the sleepy east Gippsland coastline.

“The
mix of holiday homes is changing,” says Anton Stanish, general manager
of Stayz. “We’ve also got more inner-city serviced apartments,
especially on the Gold Coast. They’re so convenient for fly-in
holidaymakers. And we’ve got more unique properties.”

Choose your dream: a tree-house? A castle? A lighthouse? Or a yurt? A
train carriage or go underground to a subterranean B&B? You might
need a jetty for your own boat, or helicopter access for a particularly
dramatic arrival. While the shape of the holiday house has changed, so
have our requirements.

Nowadays, remember to take your iPad and
smartphones, Stanish says. Far from getting away from it all, a huge
percentage of holiday homes now have Wi-Fi. We’re holidaying
differently: we expect great beds, pay-TV and internet access. We’re out
to “enjoy ourselves” and “we’re no longer doing hardship”, he says.

Indulgence winner: Toraja Luxury just outside Byron Bay.

With
the rise in demand comes the rise in agents happy to supply, and not
just traditional real estate agents. The last year has seen a rush of
activity among the online players, which include behemoth Stayz, which
has more than 40,000 properties on its books, HomeAway.com.au with
19,000 holiday listings, and wotif.com, which launched a dedicated
holiday homes service in March 2012.

Newcomer Airbnb, which lets people
advertise not only their homes but also rooms, launched in Australia
late last year, and has gone public about its intention to take on Stayz
in the holiday rentals market.

With such choice available, you need to choose carefully. Think about
what you’d use the property for: obviously, a couple chasing romance
doesn’t need to pay for a two-bedroom house and if you’re a large group,
check that there are enough bathrooms for you all.

Groups also
need to ensure they have enough transport, especially if you’re booking a
country house, such as a Victorian farmhouse B&B.

If you want
to eat in a different restaurant every night, is a country retreat
really for you, or would it be better basing yourself in a foodie town,
such as the beloved spa town of Daylesford, Victoria, where you can
totter home afterwards, bypassing the need for a designated driver? And
while pool fences are compulsory in Australia, it also goes without
saying that kids and cliff-top retreats don’t mix.

Villa Vivante, Coffs Harbour, is perched 750 feet above the Pacific
Ocean,
it’s a vivid image of the beautiful villas on the Cote d’Azure
in
the South of France.

If you’re
packing the pets, check that the local beaches or parks are leash-free:
in summer, many beaches ban dogs in daylight hours. Hound-friendly
holiday homes are on the increase and the advantage for holiday home
owners is that dog owners are a sturdy bunch, with the market not so
reliant on good weather.

“Many dog owners are happy to get a break
from the city all year around to give their dogs a run, so dog-friendly
holiday rentals are becoming increasingly popular,” says Stephen
Nicholls, Fairfax Media’s national Domain editor and property
trend-watcher.

However simple or complex your wishes, at the end
of the day, it’s still a holiday. We’ve come a long way for the best
getaway. In many properties, you’ll also find quality linen supplied,
brand toiletries, top-brand coffee machines… all the lovely things we
may not necessarily have at home.

You can tick off the five key
factors that make a good holiday home: uniqueness, good value, the right
space and size, exclusivity of use and that old real estate mantra,
location, location, location.
Once upon a time, you just added
water – think beaches, rivers or lakes – to make the perfect holiday
home. Now, we expect dependable internet, luxury linen, professionally
kitted-out kitchens and a plethora of entertainment options from
restaurant strips to theme parks and, of course, a great beach.

The
great Australian getaway definitely has changed as our households have
changed, with more singles on the move, as well as couples young and old
without kids. Holidaymakers, as Nicholls points out, want to travel
with their pets, with a group of mates, or take a holiday that leaves a
lighter footprint on the planet.

Families are also more
adventurous – no staying at home just because we have young children,
and thanks to rising petrol costs, lower airfares and more services to
regional airports, many visitors will arrive at their destination by
plane rather than a long road trip through countless country towns. Baby
boomers are happily blowing their children’s inheritance on holidays,
while the core holiday home market – inter-generational travel, which
sees grandparents holidaying with all their kids – has always been a key
holiday rental market.

While villa rentals are on-trend in our
favourite international destinations such as Bali and Thailand,
Australia’s stepping up to the plate; which is particularly timely as
our obsession with overseas travel is set to wane as our dollar winds
back recent gains.

Building on our existing love of a beach shack,
those holiday homes are now a bit glossier, more polished, with
matching linen and chic, gingham-checked breakfast baskets featuring
sumptuous piles of regional produce.

Something that hasn’t changed
is that the most popular spots for holiday homes remain within 2½
hours’ drive of our capital cities. “That’s about as long as young
families with two kids in the back seat can tolerate for a weekend
break,” Nicholls says.

For Sydneysiders, the south coast is a hot
locale. Destination NSW says the most popular spot in the state for
Sydney short-break holidaymakers is the south coast, with 23 per cent of
us heading there, while the north coast gets 17 per cent of the
traffic, and the Hunter Valley 15 per cent. The beach towns of Hyams
Beach, Nowra and Huskisson remain popular as well as Nicholls’ personal
favourite, Jervis Bay, right on the 2½-hour mark.

While it’s
traditionally quiet in the middle of winter, Todd Gallant from Hyams
Beach Real Estate says the beachside spot, which sells itself as having
the whitest sand in the world, is increasingly popular with
holidaymakers, though official tourism figures show its biggest rival is
NSW’s north coast, with tourist traffic to Byron Bay currently booming,
and we’re not even talking about across the border to the holiday mecca
that is Noosa.

Not quite as far away from Sydney, Pacific Palms –
specifically Blueys Beach – is just under three hours’ drive north of
Sydney on the appropriately named Holiday Coast, a strong lure for
time-poor north shore holidaymakers.

As the six-week summer
holiday fades into a nostalgic haze, the long weekender continues to
rise in popularity: four-day mini-breaks are hot right now.

For a full-list of the winners of this year’s Stayz Group Holiday Rental Awards, see stayz.com.au.

Source: Belinda Jackson, Sydney Morning Herald/The Age


Five Fijian resorts under $450 a night

Who doesn’t love a swim-up bar? The new $2.2m adults-only pools
at Outrigger on the Lagoon,

Sure, Mel Gibson owns an island in Fiji, but if your budget is Homebush than Hollywood, here are a few good options from the old faves of the Coral Coast to mysterious Kadavu, Fiji’s large, southern island. 

Most do packages that include flights from Australia, airport transfers and at least breakfast thrown in. Keep an eye out for specials that might snag you a free massage, dinner or kids’ club.

OUTRIGGER ON THE LAGOON
On the Coral Coast, southern Viti Levu (the main island). Costs from $282 a night, room only. Phone +679 650 0044; see outrigger.com.

MATAVA
The Astrolabe Hideaway eco-resort on Kadavu Island. Costs from $389 a night, all-inclusive. See matava.com.

THE UPRISING BEACH RESORT
A 3½-star adventure resort in Pacific Harbour. Costs from $148 a night, B&B (beachfront bure). Phone +679 345 2200, See uprisingbeachresort.com.

RADISSON BLU
Newly refurbished five-star on Denarau Island, 20 minutes from the airport. Costs from $278 a night. Phone 1800 333 333; see http://www.radissonblu.com/resort-fiji.

MATAMANOA ISLAND RESORT
In
the Mamanuca Islands, 1½ hours by boat from Denarau Marina. Costs from
$270 a night, B&B (garden room) or $438 a night (beachfront bure).
Phone +679 672 3620; see matamanoa.com.

Source: Belinda Jackson, Sydney Morning Herald/The Age


Hidden secrets on the Mornington Pen, Barrington Tops and foodie Sicily: travel deals July 21, 2013

Discover the hidden secrets of Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula, NSW’s Barrington Tops, or a kids’ getaway in Sydney.

GO NOW: Discover
the Big Blue Backyard at the Mornington Peninsula’s secluded St
Andrew’s beach. Until August 31, stay three nights and pay for only two in one
of their three retreats, with Cape Schanck nearby. Costs from $1191, three nights. 1300 896 627, mrandmrssmith.com.

Big Blue Backyard

GO SOONER Enjoy a home amongst the gumtrees near Barrington Tops, three
hours north of Sydney. Stay three nights, pay two in one of Yeranda’s three
bush hideaways with $50 credit at nearby café. Costs from $325, three nights. (02) 4992 1208, yeranda.com.au.

Yeranda’s bush hideaways
GO LATER: Get
a free night’s stay when you book a cooking tour of Sicily with chef
Dominique Rizzo before July 31. The 15-day tour departs May 3, 2014. Costs from
$6095 a person, twin share. (07) 3267 1667, purefoodcookingtours.com.au.

Dominique Rizzo


KIDS
Planning a weekend away in your own backyard? Upgrade the kids
to Swissotel Sydney’s kids’ rooms, chocked full of toys, dvds and kids’ minibar.
The rooms, for kids age two to 12 years, can be a separate room or set up in the
parents’ room. Costs from $229 a room a night (half-half) or $299 for two rooms
(interconnecting available). 1800 334 888, swissotel.com/sydney.
Swissotel Sydney’s kids’ rooms

SOURCE: Belinda Jackson, Sun Herald


Kids in Paris: travel deal June 30, 2013

Children in the Tuileries Garden, Paris.
Pic: Hotel Le Meurice
Paris in summer is a kids’ playground, with puppet theatres, donkey rides, carousel rides and duck feeding in the lake of the Tuileries Gardens.

Stay nearby, at the luxe Hotel Le Meurice, between July 14 and August 29 and pay half price on a deluxe or executive room for the children, including breakfast, room upgrade and $120 dining credit.

Costs from $3846, two rooms, two nights. virtuoso.com.au.


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