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… 



Spotted by locals: Lisa Gorman’s Great Ocean Road

Lisa Gorman: fashion designer,
entrepreneur, mother

Melbourne fashionista Lisa Gorman takes to the Great Ocean Road.

Gorman’s childhood was spent traversing the Great Ocean Road, so when
this stylish Victorian recently went home for the weekend, her local
knowledge came to the fore.

fishing for eels, of all things, in the Erskine
River,” recalls fashionista Lisa Gorman of family holidays spent on the
coast. “Being from Warrnambool, we spent our holidays in Lorne, Port
Campbell and Wye River,” she says. “We’d do a little fishing before
breakfast, then we’d swim. We were always in the water.”

and her husband, Dean Angelucci, recently took their young family to
her favourite local places, and discovered new experiences, on the way
to seeing family in Warrnambool.

The chief drawcard along the
Great Ocean Road is undoubtedly the Twelve Apostles near Port Campbell,
while Cape Otway is the place to spot koalas. However, the addition of
African-style safari tents set on wooden platforms at Cumberland River
Holiday Park near Lorne also caught Lisa’s attention. “It’s a gorgeous
caravan park,” she says. “The safari tents are perfect for really bad
campers like me. You just turn up and they’re already set up for you. It
was a great discovery. We’re staying there next time.”

holiday, Lisa, Dean and their children spent a night at Azure, a beach
house in Wye River. “For a sheer, slick, high-end holiday residence,
Azure is amazing,” she says. Ocean views unfold from the balcony, and
the property is about a five-minute walk from the township, where the
family dined at Wye Beach Hotel.

“It was packed, with a good, local feel, not that holiday-tourist feel, with interesting hearty pub food being served.”

The riches of the Wye River General Store

breakfast the next morning, Lisa visited an old favourite, the Wye
River General Store. Recently refreshed and given a touch of city aplomb
by celebrity architects Six Degrees (think Newmarket Hotel in St Kilda
or the Boatbuilders Yard at South Wharf), the store showcases local
produce. The family stocked up on chocolates, Zeally Bay sourdough from
Torquay and the famed Irrewarra muesli, produced near Colac, about an
hour north of Wye River.

The store’s great coffee helped fuel
Lisa’s drive from the sheltered bushlands of Lorne to Apollo Bay, where
the family stopped for calamari at Bayleaf Cafe and took a walk on the
pier. But there was no swimming in the chilly waters of Bass Strait.
“Lorne and Wye River are quite protected where the bush meets the beach,
but after Apollo Bay it gets really wild,” Lisa says.

A night at
the chic Great Ocean Ecolodge, built in a conservation park adjoining
the Great Otway National Park, meant the family woke up with wildlife on
their doorstep, before driving on to Cape Otway Lighthouse to take a
tour of the building. “It’s two-and-a-half hours from Cape Otway to
Warrnambool, and the drive between the cape and the Twelve Apostles is
gorgeous. It just continues to roll, with fruit trees mixed with gum
trees,” Lisa says.

There were thousands of tourists at the Gibson Steps,
she says, and at the Twelve Apostles the wind was howling. “There’s a
photo of me there, my hair at an 180-degree angle across my face. I look
like Cousin It. But it was still a sky-blue day.”

From Port
Campbell, the family drove into the hills at Timboon, 16 kilometres from
the coast. The towns along the Great Ocean Road really know how to feed
their visitors, serving a mix of the ocean’s bounty and
western-district farmland produce.

A hot tip for foodies, Lisa says, is
to pack a portable cooler and make for Timboon Distillery, where the
shelves are laden with local fare – from Arabian-style pomegranate
dressing to pear chutney, goats cheese and freshly-baked loaves. Lisa
stocked up on L’Artisan’s Mountain Man organic washed-rind cheese and a
bottle of Newtown’s Ridge chardonnay. As she drove away, she realised
she’d forgotten to stock up on Parratte smoked eel, but that’s okay –
she’ll be back soon for another taste of her childhood region.

Lisa Gorman and her husband, Dean Angelucci, took their children on a
recent weekend break, a leisurely drive from Melbourne to Warrnambool,
Lisa’s home town, via the Great Ocean Road beckoned. The family spent
two nights on the road: one night at a designer beach house at Wye, the
other at a chic eco-lodge.

Azure (stayz.com.au/83824)
is a contemporary four-bedroom beachhouse that sleeps eight people and
has 180-degree views of the Great Ocean Road and the township of Wye
River. “Azure is immaculate, with spectacular views of the coastline,”
Lisa says. “It’s a really beautifully appointed house.”

The Great Ocean Ecolodge (greatoceanecolodge.com),
established and operated by the Conservation Ecology Centre, is
adjacent to the Great Otway National Park and hosts a welcoming communal
dining table.

Founded by Shayne Neal and Lizzie Corke, the
solar-powered eco-lodge’s ethos is impressive. “It’s a private business
and not-for-profit, taking care of wildlife and the bush: it’s a very
well-rounded concept, and they’re a multitasking gang,” Lisa says.
“Shayne will take you out at dawn to look for koalas or at night to look
at sugar gliders, then he’s pouring you a local pinot or two, while
chef Kylie is very conscientious and super-knowledgeable about local
produce. And her apple pie! It’s great for families, very educational,
with beautiful food and in a really beautiful environment.”

or winter, holidays with children usually include requests for
ice-cream and Dooley’s Ice Cream, made in Apollo Bay, recently took home
the gold at the 2013 Grand Dairy Awards for its liquorice variety. “We
always ate ice-cream as children on holidays along the Great Ocean Road,
but I think I’m eating more now,” Lisa says. Dooley’s liquorice is
very, very good.”

The tasting platter served at Timboon Distillery (timboondistillery.com.au)
was another foodie highlight, she says. The region’s artisan producers
are well represented in Timboon’s menus – think Old Lorne Road olives,
an Istra salami or ham, toasted sourdough, three cheeses including
Meredith goat cheese and a soft cheese from Apostle Whey – with Timboon
Fine Ice Cream to finish. In winter, soup shooters are added to the
menu. Many travellers also take the local food trail, known under the
umbrella of the 12 Apostles Food Artisans (visit12apostles.com.au), to sample everything from malt whisky to chocolates to berries and highland beef pies.

Wye River General Store (wyerivergeneralstore.com.au)
stocks a robust wine list that includes Bellarine Peninsula gems such
as Provenance pinot gris from Bannockburn, Lethbridge riesling and
Gosling Creek sauvignon blanc.

Great Ocean Road is not just about the views, it’s also about the food,
the walks. It’s about nature, and it’s about the ocean,” says Lisa.
Cape Otway Lighthouse (lightstation.com),
at the “junction” of Bass Strait and the Southern Ocean, has
self-guided and guided tours, including a ghost tour which takes you up
the spiral staircase to the top of the light tower. “It was crazily
windy when we were there. They tell you to take off your hat and
sunglasses before you walk out onto the balcony,” says Lisa.

A key
calling card of the Great Ocean Road are the limestone stacks of the 12
Apostles, an hour by car from Warrnambool. At nearby Port Campbell,
visitors take the Gibson Steps up a 70-metre cliffside walk for the
breathtaking views from the top. Another formation of stacks, the Bay of
Islands, is 10-minutes west of Peterborough.

Treasures can also
be found indoors on this coast, too. “Ten minutes past Warrnambool,
Mailors Flat Demolition & Antiques is a big treasure hunt,” Lisa
says. “The owner, Bernie, has some great old stuff – whole staircases,
knobs, parts of buildings.” (www.visitwarrnambool.com.au)

Spotted by Locals is brought to you in association with Tourism Victoria. See more content from around Victoria on Twitter via #spottedbylocals

Source: Belinda Jackson, Good Weekend Magazine

Places in the heart: Anthony Field

Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park is ”chill city” for Anthony Field, aka the Blue Wiggle, who says visiting the red heart of the Northern Territory is like going on a retreat.

I first went to Uluru in the 1980s and I’ve been back five or six times, twice with my wife, Miki, and our three kids. I used to love driving from Alice Springs, but now I fly. The first thing I always do is get a photo with whomever I’m with, lying in the red dust. People can’t believe it when they see the colour of the ground.
It’s a totally different style of holiday to when I was a kid. I love my mum and dad, but Dad’s idea of a holiday was driving to Canberra in a Holden station wagon with seven kids, no seat belts. We got kicked out of the Australian War Memorial for being too noisy. It made the Canberra Times.
Mum was very protective of us: at Sydney’s Royal Easter Show, we had a rope tied around our waists. We got in the papers again. Uluru’s the real Australia, the real spirit. You can actually feel it. It’s like going on a retreat. You can even meditate, walking around Uluru and around Kata Tjuta.
Yes, it’s beautiful to watch the colours change on the rock at sunrise or sunset, but in the midday heat, there are secret waterholes in the shade. We pick desert roses and other native flowers – and my children actually put down their Nintendos for the weekend.
The main thing is to switch gears in my brain. Uluru is chill city, even though it may be 40 degrees. However, I don’t really care about the heat. We’re going back there. I think all Australians, if they can get there, should go to Uluru. It’s something we should all do. It’s the heart of Australia.
The Wiggles’ national Taking Off tour starts in March. thewiggles.com.au

Places in the Heart: Pat Rafter

Forget lounging by the pool: tennis champion Pat Rafter’s holidays are action-packed adventures on Sunshine Coast beaches and in the hinterland.
My family moved to the Sunshine Coast from Mount Isa when I was eight. I’m one of nine kids, and someone was always playing sport at weekends, so we just had little adventures, such as going camping, and we were always big swimmers.
When we lived in Mt Isa, we’d drive to Sydney, stopping at beach caravan parks along the way.
From about age 10, I got right into tennis, which pretty much takes over your life. I travel overseas two or three times a year, but I don’t feel the need to go anywhere else when I’ve got time off. When I’m away, I want to go home, for the surfing, golf and beaches. My home is right on the beach and I love it.
I’m a really active person: a holiday is not piña coladas and reading a book. I try to exercise a couple of times a day and I go for a surf first thing.
I took up surfing for a bit of fun after I finished my tennis career. I’ve got a mountain bike and there are great tracks in the Sunshine Coast hinterland. It’s pretty full on. I fall off — I’m bloody hopeless.
I go hard and do all the adventures with my kids, teaching them new skills such as kayaking or exploring marine life. The kids swim and surf, and they’re in the local nippers club — they’re living one big holiday. Hey, the kids have got it easy!
They’ll say, “I don’t want to go down to the beach.” That’s the way kids are.
You just tell them, “Put your shoes on and put your hat on.” And they get on the beach and have a ball.

– Interview: Belinda Jackson. Source: Good Weekend

Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/travel/travel-feature/places-in-the-heart-pat-rafter-20121129-2ahy7.html#ixzz2E5CS9CRv

Feral at Dreamworld, flora in Canberra: travel deals 23 September 2012

Go feral at Dreamworld, or floral in Canberra or find out if it really is all happening at the zoo, in San Diego. 

Can’t decide between drinking beer or hunting for Tasmanian tigers? Do both when you stay the Cradle Mountain Chateau, at the northern side of the dramatic national park that includes Tassie’s best-loved mountain and serene Lake St Claire. The 60-room hotel includes a Wilderness Gallery featuring photography of the region’s dramatic scenery and night tours of the local animals. Save 55 per cent on stays until December 20. Costs from $65 per person, twin share. 1800 420 555. cradlemountainchateau.com.au.
Floriade celebrates 25 years in 2012. 
Canberra bursts into colour with Floriade, its annual
flower extravaganza, until September 23. Now in its 25th year, highlights of
the festival include The Best Exotic Marigold Tea House, with Indian teas and
music in a wildly exotic setting, and Floriade NightFest, comedy, music and
light displays from 6.30pm nightly, floriadeaustralia.com.
Murrays’ bus service has a web special providing daily return services  between Sydney and Canberra until October 14.
Normally $83 return, costs $59 return. murrays.com.au.
Knock two of Victoria’s most beautiful walks off your bucket list with a two-up walking deal with Park Trek. Spend four days walking the coastal Great Ocean Walk (November 3-6) then head inland and upwards, for another four days in the Grampians (November 8-11). You’ll carry just a small, light daypack, and the price includes all accommodation, meals and expert guides. Book two tours, save $110. Costs $2190 a person. (03) 9877 9540, www.parktrek.com.

Bustin’ some moves at Dreamworld
The price of unlimited happiness is $59.99. That’s the
cost of a kids’ ticket that gives unlimited visits to Dreamworld and WhiteWater
World from now until June 30, 2013. New this summer is Kung Fu Panda Land and
new rides in Wiggles World, and there are balloon twisters, roving beatboxers,
magicians, and, from September 22 to October 7, evicted Big Brother Housemates
(pssst, you can watch BB being filmed live at Dreamworld Studios for $15).
One-day tickets normally cost $69.99 kids/$109.99 adults, but the Unlimited
World Passes also include a free SkyPoint Observation Deck annual pass, worth
$29, that shoots you to the top of Q1 tower, at Surfers Paradise. Costs $59.99
for kids, $109.99 for adults. (07) 5588 1111, dreamworld.com.au.
Birdsville, the Alice, Kakadu, Uluru: the Outback is calling, and what better way to see it than by private aircraft? This 12-day journey covers 10,000 kilometres, visiting the iconic towns of the outback, including Katherine, Broome and Longreach. Includes all meals, accommodation and guides. Harvey World Travel clients also get one night’s pre-tour accommodation at the Sheraton on the Park, Sydney, and airport transfers. Book by October 31, and save $1000 on travel between March-August 2013. Costs from $13,495 a person, 132 757, harveyworld.com.au.

There’s no tv, no phones and a no-talking ‘quiet room’.
Scared yet? Spring-clean your body and mind at Solar Springs Retreat, in
Bundanoon, on the Southern Highlands, which has 20 per cent off its
all-inclusive packages during spring. The new three-night midweek ‘Seriously
Spring Time’ deal includes accommodation, all meals and three spa treatments –
a facial, foot therapy and body buff. Also included are guided bushwalks, yoga
and meditation and health and fitness talks. Valid until November 30, costs
from $820 a person, twin share, or $1540 a couple for three nights. (02) 4883
6027, solarsprings.com.au.
the road and a GPS are your friends, discover Europe by hire car. Sydney’s globalCARS is offering free pick-up
and drop-off, valued up to $640 in Rome and Madrid, at 33 locations across
Europe and the UK during 2013. Includes unlimited kilometres, insurance with no
excess and 24-hour assistance. Book and pay by October 31. Costs from $27 a day
for six-month leases, $42 a day for 26-day leases. Contact
travel agents, 1300 789 992, globalCARS.com.au.
San Diego, USA
It’s all happening at the zoo, specifically San Diego
zoo, which is celebrating the birth a baby boy panda. Stay four nights at the Sheraton San Diego Hotel, pay for three,
and also get a one-day pass to the zoo, which is just 10 minutes from the
hotel. Book by 3pm March 29 2013, travel until March 31, 2013. Costs from $379
a person, twin share.  1300 130 485, travel.com.au.
Cancel all ideas of Abu Dhabi as solely a desert
wilderness. Check into the waterfront Eastern Mangroves Hotel & Spa by
Anantara, stay five nights and pay four on stays now to October 31, 2013. Otherwise,
book 45 days in advance and pay by December 31, and save 15 per cent off your
room rate. Costs from $84 a person, twin share, in a deluxe room with balcony,
including breakfast.  1300 665 673,
Getting off the beaten track in Europe is possible, with
a nine-day tour of Portugal, visiting castles, cathedrals and Roman temples
including the evocative Belem Tower, in Lisbon. Balancing the history are
visits to its beaches and famous vineyards of the Douro Valley. Save 10 per
cent when you book and pay by December 27, for travel March 30 – October 12. Includes
luxury coach transport, accommodation, meals and airport transfers. Costs from
$1665 a person, twin share. 1300 237 886, insightvacations.com.
All island resorts are not made equal, as the Gili
Lankanfushi (formerly Soneva Gili) amply demonstrates, to wit its 45 rustic
chic overwater villas, the overwater bar and Mr Friday, who can do everything
from pack your bag to look after the kids. Stay seven nights on the private
island, get three nights free on stays till December 19, when booked by
December 12. Virtuoso guests will also get a room upgrade, 30-minute spa
treatment for two and a private sunset sail. Costs from $4330 a room, seven
nights. (02) 9957 4511, maryrossitravel.com.

Exploring Patagonia, Chile
The only way to explore Chilean Patagonia is by
horseback. You’ll need to know the difference between nose and tail for these
five-day expeditions, which explore the wilds of the end of the earth on a
series of day rides past glaciers and mountains of unimaginable beauty, with
your gaucho bro. Each night, you’ll 
return to the sublime Hotel Salto Chico, in Torres del Paine National
Park, with its spectacular mountain views and an outdoor hot spa that will surely
become your second-best friend (after your horse) at the end of a day in the
saddle. The tours depart once a month from October, cost from $2780 a person,
twin share, includes all meals, drinks, airport transfers and equipment. +56
2395 2800, explora.com
Source: Belinda Jackson, Sun Herald

Shake it, spa it, catwalk it: Travel deals 9 September 2012

Four-Diamond Hyatt Regency Waikiki Resort & Spa 
Nostalgic surfer chic meets Miami swim catwalk on the Gold Coast and learn to shake what your mama gave you at the home of samba, salsa and tango. 

Quest’s five new studio apartment properties in
inner-urban Sydney and Melbourne include a kitchenette, workspace and free
wi-fi. They’re kicking off with deals such as $175 a night, down from $300, at
Quest Studios East Melbourne, close to the shopping strip of Bridge Road and
Melbourne’s top sports arenas. Includes breakfast for two at a local café. Stay
until October 30, quote ‘SHSO’ when booking. (03)
9413 0000, questapartments.com.au.
Save 40 per cent when you book a night at Launceston’s
Country Club Tasmania, on the edge of the state’s second city. A night in a 4.5-star
deluxe room for two includes a bottle of Tasmanian wine, 18 holes of golf and a
30-minute massage as well as breakfast in the Links restaurant. Go horse
riding, take a wine tour or fish for trout in its private lake. Costs $299 a
night, until September 30.  1800 635 344,
QT Gold Coast
Get the party started on the Gold Coast with a two-night
stay in the slinky QT Gold Coast, self-described as ‘nostalgic surfer chic
meets Miami swim catwalk’. That’ll help you choose your wardrobe. On top of a
saving of $384, you’ll get breakfast, an exploratory dinner for two in its hugely
popular signature restaurant, Bazaar and $50 spa credit or a party starter at
the happening Stingray Lounge. Costs from $450 a room for two nights until
November 30.  (07) 5584 1200, qtgoldcoast.com.au.
Seashells Resort Mandurah
Mandurah is only an hour south of Fremantle, which is
gearing up for the return of the replica Dutch ship Duyfken, the first European
ship to reach Australia in 1606, on Sunday 23 September. Stay three, pay for
two nights in a one-bedroom apartment at the 4.5-star Seashells Resort Mandurah
until November 30. Costs from $210 a person, three nights, twin share.  132 757, harveyworld.com.au.
Watch the sun rise on Uluru, discover galleries of
Aboriginal rock art and visit the Royal Flying Doctor Service. Book 12 months
advance for your journey into the red centre, saving up to $450 a couple on a
six-day Red Centre Discovery. Included is a dinner and a discovery tour of the
Earth Sanctuary World National Centre, airport transfers and guiding. Deal
valid on departures until December 28, 2013. Earlybird special costs from $1689 a person, twin
share. 1300 228 546, aatkings.com.au.
Spring has sprung so put a wiggle in your walk with a
visit to the town of love and light, Byron Bay. Normally $780 room only, the
sleek Byron at Byron resort’s spring package gets you 10 per cent off in the
spa, restaurant and bar, as well as free yoga, wifi, daily breakfast buffet and
bike hire to cruise the rainforest trails down to the beach. Valid for stays
until December 10. Costs $794 for two nights in a standard suite. 1300 554 362, thebyronatbyron.com.au.
Île Saint-Louis, Paris
You may still be shopping for the wardrobe to suit your
Parisian jaunt, but your apartment will certainly come up to scratch. Set on
the Île Saint-Louis, an island in the middle of the Seine, the B&B is on
the third floor of a traditional Haussmann building, and despite its antique
interiors, its owners welcome kids. There are two rooms, great for families or
two couples. Save from E44 a night on stays between November 1 and March 30.
Costs from E175 a night. petiteparis.com.au.
Hit the sands of Waikiki beach and stay eight nights at the Four-Diamond Hyatt Regency Waikiki Resort & Spa, with breakfast, flights and airport transfers. Kids under 17 stay free, under-12s get free lunch and dinner with a paying adult. Bonuses include a tour of Pearl Harbour and Honolulu city and one entertainment show or catamaran dinner cruise. Costs from $1990 a person, twin share, eight nights and return airfares with Hawaiian Airlines. 1300 00 42 92, myholidaycentre.com.au/hawaii.

Semara Resort & Spa
Hot to shop and the island’s best dining strip, Seminyak
is the fast-beating heart of Bali. The Semara Resort & Spa’s Winter Escape
deal saves $438 on stays until September 30. Book a two-night stay in a
superior poolside room, get daily buffet breakfast,  dinner for two at Finns Beach Club, two hours
for two in the spa, wifi, yoga  and
meditation classes and airport transfers. Costs from $484 for two people, two
nights. +62 (361) 847 6661, semararesorts.com.
Koto Kinabalu, Malaysia
Get a double dose of the tropics and a free Darwin stopover
on your way to Malaysia’s Kota Kinabalu. Price includes return flights to KK via
Darwin with Singapore Airlines and Virgin Australia, two nights at Darwin’s
Travel Lodge Mirambeena Resort and four nights at Novotel Kota Kinabalu.
They’ll throw in a free tour of Litchfield National Park, worth $149, full
breakfast daily and one free nightBook by end September, travel November 1 –
December 7. Costs from $1459 a person (land and air). 1300 747 400, creativeholidays.com/asiaonsale.
Blend African wildlife with the craziness of Cairo and
Jordan’s deserts over 26 days from Cape Town to Cairo. Book before December 31
and your friend flies free (paying only taxes of $795), saving up to $2040 per
couple. Departs August – October 2013 and includes all flights within Africa,
two charter flights in Kenya, 4WD game viewing and accommodation in private
game lodges and luxury camps. Costs from $18,995 a person, twin share. 1300 229
804, aptouring.com.au.
Learn to shake what your mama gave you, and where better
than the home of samba, salsa and tango, South America? This 14-day dance-themed tour starts in
Santiago, Chile, where you’ll tackle the cueca and rumba, lubricated with wineries
visits, before hitting Buenos Aires’ La Boca district for up-close-and-personal
tango workshops. There’s samba and salsa classes in Rio de Janeiro as well as
visits to Copacabana Beach and Corcovado Mountain, to stand at the feet of
Christ the Redeemer, and the tour includes a trip to the Argentinean and
Brazilian sides of the magnificent Iguassu Falls. Departs March 3, 2013. Costs
from $3995 a person, twin share and includes some meals and all South American
flights. 1300 558 987, tempoholidays.com.
Source: Belinda Jackson Sun Herald

Vietnam on famil, en famille

Playing with restaurant staff at Temple Club, Saigon.

Last week, I travelled in Saigon and Hanoi for work, with a 17-month-old in tow. News flash: we survived.

It’s not often I do a blog about the family, mainly because the term ‘mummy blogger’ makes me cringe, and also because I think most people would be bored with twee tails of my junior assistant. But if you’re not, here goes:

Living in Australia and wanting to holiday with kids, conventional wisdom says you holiday either at your local beach, in Queensland or, further afield, in Bali or Fiji. Lovely places all of them, but hello? How limited is that?

What little advice I read about babies and Vietnam was a truism in the Lonely Planet that the main problem is controlling what they put in their mouths.

So true, especially when I watched her throw her dummy onto the ground in Saigon’s main wet (very wet) fish market. A kind trader hosed the dummy down with cold water and then watched carefully to see if I’d reinsert. I diverted the awkward situation by pausing to give the baby a drink of water after thanking the trader and walking off, mid-drink.

Fiji trades on its affinity with children: the same should be said for Vietnam. The staff on Vietnam Airlines played with her curls incessantly, taking lots of photos and trying to stuff her with chocolate cake, and it was no different throughout the country. As another traveller said to me recently, “Asia is far more patient with children than our Western countries.”

Chilling out in a bassinet aboard the Vietnam
Airways flight to Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City).

The minute we walked into hotels, restaurants, galleries or shops, a smiling person would drop to their knees and say hi to the baby, leaving me free to shop, check in, or check out the menu. Baby chairs were everywhere (compared with the icy reception I received from a Sydney maitre’d recently: ‘No, madam, we do NOT have high chairs’), and people, you could order off-menu to suit the child!

I stayed in four and five-star hotels, so paid accordingl: the going rate for babysitters was $8/hour, comparable to Bali’s five-star hotel rates. Thanks to the three-hour time difference, the baby slept around 7 or 8pm, as the sun was going down, and I organised babysitters to co-incide when she’d be sleeping: easier on her, easier on them. I also spotted plenty of shops in the big cities selling bottles, dummies, wipes and nappies: babies are big business in Vietnam.

The main issues were the same ones we adults encounter: keeping hydrated and avoiding the hottest and most humid times of the day. In August, Saigon was cooler and drier, whereas the noise and heat of Hanoi’s Old Quarter meant two hours outside at the most. Any more than that, and there were tears. I thought rooftop cafes would be a good, breezy escape, except there were so many escape routes – mainly over the side of unfenced terraces. Not so good.
A few pointers:
Most milk sold in Vietnam is sweetened, so ask for non-sweetened for babies’ bottles.
I have had success with night flights, as the baby is so exhausted, she’ll sleep all the way home, unless another kid starts bellyaching (which happened recently coming home from Bali. No fun for anyone, especially his parents).
In Hanoi, I used our pram for cool, early morning walks around the lake to watch the locals play badminton and do martial-looking exercises. Otherwise, the sidewalks are almost non-existent, so baby carriers make more sense, though kids do get hot if squished against you for a long time.
Gorgeous tropical fruit is everywhere – the usual rule applies to peel everything.

Essential packing items:
Dummy cord (see fish market above).
Baby food tubes (Rafferty’s Garden etc – they’re not packed in glass so they’re unsmashable, and sometimes kids like a taste of home such as spag bol or lamb casserole, no matter what the age. They’re great squirted over rice for a bigger meal.)
A toybag with short colouring-in pencils, books for the plane and favourite soft toy. 101 Dalmations, on Disney Channel, was invaluable, with plenty of time spent woofing at the screen.
Photos of family from home, so she didn’t miss her papa or nana.

(PS: if you’re wondering about the headline, ‘famil’ is short for ‘familiarisation’, slang for a press trip.)

Midnight marathons and trekking in Bhutan: travel deals 19 August

Anantara Dhigu Resort & Spa, Maldives

Midnight marathons, trekking in Bhutan and the London Design Festival; great international and domestic travel deals.

The great thing about Adelaide is the wineries on its
city fringe including the granddaddy of them all, Penfolds’ Magill Estate,
where you can stop for a drop or dinner. Book two nights at the Oaks iStay Precinct,
in the centre of Adelaide, and get an upgrade to a one-bedroom, fully
self-contained sky view apartment with free parking. Costs from $119 a night,
two night minimum. Book by August 31, stay by September 30.  1300 721 514, oakshotelsresorts.com.au.


Footy fever is about to hit Melbourne in earnest, when
the AFL grand final wraps up in September. Stay at Melbourne’s designer sports
hotel, the Middle Park Hotel, and they’ll serve up a pre-footy frothy, a
counter meal by the city’s top meat man, chef Paul Wilson, and a gourmet brekky
to set you to rights, the next morning. The Finals Fever package is available
throughout September. Save $49, costs $209 a night for two people. (03) 9690
1958, middleparkhotel.com.au

Skyview apartment, Oaks iStay Precinct, Adelaide


With snowy Mt Wellington overlooking Hobart, it may be
cold, but it’ll always be picturesque. A destination in its own right, the
harbourside Henry Jones Hotel has been a jam factory and a whaling station and its
current reincarnation is as a sleek art hotel. Stay until September 30, save 28
per cent on your room rate. Costs from $234 a night (standard room) or $328
(deluxe spa harbour view room). 1800
420 555, thehenryjones.com.au.


Far North
Queensland is one of the best vantage points to view the total solar eclipse
that will take place around 14 November, when the sun is completely blocked by
the moon. Stay at Peppers Beach Club & Spa in Palm Cove, and save 20 per
cent on your room. Book until September 9, stay from November 12-15. Costs from
$1530 for three nights in a lagoon spa room, includes breakfast for two daily.
1300 737 444, peppers.com.au


Just 170km south of Darwin is one of Australia’s natural
gems:  Kakadu National Park. Explore the
eerily beautiful landscapes, from croc rivers to ancient galleries of
Aboriginal rock art, and the floodplains spread below you at Ubirr. The
three-day Kakadu and Litchfield small group tour includes 4WD transport, guide
and a stay at the Wildman Wilderness Lodge. Book before September 7, travel
from August 31-November 3 and get $600 toward your airfares. Costs $1559 a
person, twin share, land only. 1800 228 546, aatkings.com.au.

15th annual midnight run, Bangkok

THAILANDTake to Bangkok’s streets at night, when the temps are
cool and the traffic’s taken a breather, with the 15th annual charity
midnight run, to be held on October 20. Runners in the 6km and 12km races will
raise money for local causes. Stay two nights at the Amari Watergate, get two tickets
to the marathon (worth $11 apiece), an upgrade to a Grand Deluxe room, free
wifi, 2pm checkout and 20 per cent off spa treatments and food. Costs $347 a room
for two nights. +66 (0) 2653 9000, amari.com.


Trek to Taktshang Monastery, 900 meters above the valley floor, where it’s said Buddhism came to the Land of the Thunder Dragon. Gay tourism operator Gay Globe will lead a 10-day tour of the Kingdom of Bhutan from January 5, 2013, exploring the cultural and natural aspects of this secretive land. Book before September 30 and save 10 per cent. Includes accommodation, meals and private guides. Costs from $2691 a person. (02) 8005 1690, gayglobe.com.au

Chen Sea Resort & Spa, Phy Quoc, Vietnam

Detox in style at the four-star Chen Sea Resort & Spa Phu Quoc, on the
southern holiday island of Phu Quoc. The deal, valid until September 30,
includes an hour-long Vietnamese massage for two people, daily breakfast, a
three-course lunch or dinner for two, free meditation and private tai chi
classes. Costs from USD$552 for four nights. +662 101 1234, centarahotelsresorts.com

Glowing London is still hot, post-games, with the London
Design Festival (September 17-23) the next cab off the rank. Get in on the good
vibes and stay five nights in a Falconers two bedroom suite at the five-star 51
Buckingham Gate, a Taj hotel. Stay until September 30 and save 20 per cent,
that’s $1339. Costs from $3495 for five nights. (02) 9331 9000, tajhotels.com.


Have the kids been good? Treat them with a holiday in the
Maldives. The Anantara Dhigu Resort & Spa is every kid’s dream, with one
Dining by Design dinner, a dolphin cruise, unlimited ice cream (for genuine kids
only!), babysitting, kid’s cooking classes and seaplane airport transfers. 
For travel until January 9. Costs from $5368 for two adults and two children
under 12, for four nights. +66 (0) 2365 7500, anantara.com.


Singapore sizzles to the sound of smokin’ engines from
September 21-23 when the 2012 Formula 1 SingTel Singapore Grand Prix hits town.
It’s not all about crazy cars, the entertainment includes Katy Perry, Noel
Gallagher and Maroon 5. If you’re an 80s tragic, Bananarama, The Proclaimers
and The Pretenders are also strutting the stages. A three-day Premier Walkabout
ticket costs around $115 a day with access to all zones, singaporegp.sg.  Or stay in four-star accommodation and get
transfers, breakfast and a three-day Grandstand ticket. Costs from $892 a
person, four nights. 1300 747 400, creativeholidays.com.
Source: Belinda Jackson, Sun Herald

The sacred cows of travel: user pays (and pays)

Sacred cows (Photo: Belle Jackson)

*Warning: this post contains mild ranting and mentions children*

It seems our fair country is in the midst of a
tussle between ideologies of socialism and capitalism, once again.

The government sells off more energy sources to foreign
countries, and we pay for exactly what we use (oh, and how we pays). Yet at the
same time, it’s setting up the National Disability Insurance Scheme, which has
its principles in the idea that society looks after all its members – as one
commentator said recently, some members of our society want to have a shower
more than twice a week…

Back in travel, with the increase of Tiger Airways and the
arrival of Scoot, and the growing tightness of Jetstar, we’re becoming accustomed to paying for
everything from seat allocations to food. And while infants once flew free,
we’re now being charged for the luxury of those babies sitting on our laps in
the low-cost carriers. I forecast this will extend to the financially
strapped so-called full-service airlines before too long. Don’t tell me it’s
not on their financial planners’ whiteboards.

So it should come as no surprise to me that hotel rooms are also
charging for cots. Now, Jnr Jackson and I have knocked up a few miles already,
even though she’s still under the magical 24-month milestone, when she gets to
start paying at least 25 percent for her airline seat. We’ve messed up some of
the best hotel rooms in Fiji, Indonesia and Australia. Even so, I’m obviously
still a novice at learning what the hotels and carriers can dream up to charge
I suspect this learning curve will continue, and the direction is skyward.

Twenty reasons to visit Fiji

From white-water rafting to spa treatments, these are the top 20 reasons to visit Fiji.

Castaway Island Resort in the Mamanuca Islands.
Castaway Island Resort in the Mamanuca Islands.

From white-water rafting to spa treatments, these are the top 20 reasons to visit Fiji.

1 Diving

The Great Astrolabe Reef is the world’s fourth-largest
barrier reef and curls around the sparsely populated southern island of
Kadavu. Snorkellers can cruise the reef’s coral gardens and divers can
swim with eagle and manta rays, turtles and wrasse and ogle the reef’s
drop-offs. Stay at the simple thatch bures of Matava dive resort (matava.com).
Astrolabe’s rival for the title of best diving, the Great Sea Reef, is
known locally as Cakaulevu. Off the northern island of Vanua Levu, the
reef was little explored before 2004 and is home to green turtles and
spinner dolphins. The closest resort is Nukubati. nukubati.com.

2 Sigatoka river and cave safaris

It’s a jet-boat safari, yet it’s also a great cultural
adventure. Take a 15-kilometre journey up the rich, green Sigatoka
Valley to visit one of 15 Fijian villages to learn of local customs and
legends on the Sigatoka River safari. There’s a kava ceremony at the
village chief’s bure, followed by lunch and traditional singing and
dancing. Costs from $140.80 adults, $69 children. The newest tour from
the same gang is the Off-Road Cave safari, which visits Fiji’s largest
cave system, Naihehe Cave, once the home of a cannibal tribe. Costs from
$131 for adults, $60 for children. Both tours depart from Sigatoka, 70
kilometres south of Nadi on the Coral Coast, and pick up from Nadi or
Coral Coast resorts, twice daily, Monday to Saturday. sigatokariver.com.

3 Mei-meis (Fijian nannies)

Cultural show ... Fijian fire-walking.
Cultural show … Fijian fire-walking.
Photo: Alamy

Fijians are renowned for their love of kids and every
hotel caters for them (save a handful of exclusive, adults-only
retreats) without busting your budget. Top kid-friendly hotels include
Outrigger on the Lagoon, which has 30 mei-meis (nannies), great for
families with babies, while Holidays with Kids magazine’s latest survey
found the top three family-friendly resorts are Shangri-La’s Fijian
Resort & Spa, Yanuca Island, the Naviti Resort, Coral Coast and
Plantation Island. shangri-la.com; warwicknaviti.com; plantationisland.com.

4 Fire-walking

Who knew that there are two types of fire-walking in
Fiji, not the commonly known one? There’s the indigenous Fijian
tradition of walking over hot stones and the Hindu purification ritual
of walking on ashes and charcoal. Fijian fire-walking can be seen during
cultural shows at many resorts across the country or at the Arts
Village in Suva, and Suva’s Mariamma Temple holds a South Indian ritual,
Trenial, featuring fire-walking, in July or August each year.

5 South sea pearls

At the top of your Fiji souvenir list should be South Sea
pearls, which come in a rainbow of colours from soft creams to
pearlescent greys. You’ll find earrings and necklaces at the big
souvenir shops such as Tappoo (tappoo.com.fj) or Jacks (jacksfiji.com)
but also from the lady sellers at most resorts. There’s also a daily
craft market in the centre of Nadi and Suva’s craft market runs every
day except Sundays. If you’re in Savusavu, be sure to visit the black
pearl farm J. Hunter Pearls for farm tours and shopping. pearlsfiji.com.

6 Tribal belonging

Maybe you never felt you belonged: maybe you belong in a
Fijian tribe in a cross-cultural social experiment. Spend a week or more
on Vorovoro island with the people of this remote community, helping
with sustainable community tourism projects that aim to bring positive
change. tribewanted.com.

7 Tropical spas

The award-winning Bebe Spa Sanctuary at the Outrigger on
the Lagoon is built high on a hilltop and looks over the main island’s
Coral Coast. The spa treatments use Pevonia and Pure Fiji spa products
and Bebe’s warm seashell massage is worth the journey south ($126/hour).
The founder of Pure Fiji, Daniel Anania, lists among his favourite spas
Spa Denarau at Denarau Marina, Harmony Spa at the Radisson Blu Hotel
and the InterContinental Fiji Golf Resort and Spa as well as Bebe Spa. bebespafiji.com; radissonblu.com/resort-fiji; intercontinental.com.

8 Pure Fiji

Fiji’s own spa brand, Pure Fiji, puts into a jar all the
reasons we love to visit Fiji – papaya, coconut milk, pineapple and
kaffir lime – the scents of a tropical paradise. Bestsellers are the
coconut hydrating lotion and coconut sugar rub: the orange
blossom-scented rub is a winner. Find the products at the Pure Fiji spa
in Suva or at the airport on the way home. If you happen to be in Suva
on a Saturday, you can buy the products discounted at their factory
outlet. purefiji.com.

9 Rugby

Rugby is Fiji’s third religion and the locals are
obsessed. Almost every village has a team. Teams from the outer islands
compete in the Island Zone Championship in Suva every August, while the
beloved Farebrother-Sullivan challenge pits provincial teams against
each other from September 1 to October 13. Fijians go crazy supporting
their own province.

10 Blue lagoon

Children of the ’80s, remember when Brooke Shields rose
out of the crystalline waters in the 1980 shipwreck movie Blue Lagoon?
It was filmed on Turtle Island, in the Yasawas, a string of islands
north of the Mamanucas in western Fiji. Widely regarded as having the
best beaches in Fiji, they’re connected by inter-island flights, fast
catamaran and multi-day, languid Blue Lagoon cruises. Yasawa and Turtle
islands are home to two of Fiji’s top resorts, with a high
beach-per-guest ratio. bluelagooncruises.com; yasawa.com; turtlefiji.com.

11 Tropical golf courses

There’s nothing more delightful than dropping a
hole-in-one on a beautifully landscaped, tropical green. Fiji offers a
few green gems, including the home of the Fiji Open, the Natadola golf
course, designed by famed Fijian golfer Vijay Singh, Denarau Golf and
Racquet Club, and Pacific Harbour’s tough Pearl Champion course,
designed by Robert Trent Jones jnr, which has held eighth ranking
worldwide in the past. natadolabay.com; denaraugolf.fiji-golf.net; thepearlsouthpacific.com.

12 Kokoda

Fiji has two main cuisines – indigenous Fijian and Fijian
Indian. Fijian Indian is heavy on the rice, spice and chilli, and
indigenous Fijian features plenty of seafood and is easy on the spice.
Kokoda is the Fijian take on cerviche, a divine dish of local fish
marinated in lemon juice and coconut milk. Time your visit to include
lovo night in the hotels, where food is cooked in an underground oven.
Otherwise, try Indigo, at Port Denarau, which serves Indian fusion as
well as indigenous Fijian, or Sky Top, on the rooftop of Ohana
restaurant (Queens Rd, Martintar). If you’re self-catering, get down to
the morning produce markets, held in all the main towns, including Nadi,
Suvasuva and Suva, or just stop along the roadside to buy freshly
caught prawns, mud crabs or fish. Also, pineapple, papaya and mangoes
are plentiful when in season.

13 The Mamanucas

Castaway, Treasure, Beachcomber and Bounty islands: the
Mamanuca Islands are total showponies (literally: the Tom Hanks movie
Cast Away was filmed on Modriki). This handful of islands is beloved of
day trippers with good reason: the diving, snorkelling and surfing are
world class and busy Beachcomber has the reputation of Fiji’s top party
island. Lying west of Nadi, the islands are easily reached by boat from
Denarau Marina; South Sea Cruises does most of the day trips. ssc.com.fj.

14 Kula Eco Park

Get up close and personal with Fiji’s rare and endangered
animals in this environmental haven near Sigatoka, on the Coral Coast.
It’s a great stop for kids, with fruit bats, iguanas, an array of
rainbow-coloured parrots including the flashy Kadavu red-breasted musk
parrot, and the fluffy orange dove. It’s
also a pram-friendly set-up. fijiwild.com.

15 Glamour digs

Make no mistake: while Fiji loves its reputation as a
family getaway, its 333 islands hide deeply glamorous resorts sought out
by the international jet set. Mel Gibson owns an island in the Lau
group, and TV bachelorettes hang out at Anthony Robbins’s luxury Namale
Island. Dolphin Island was the private island of the owner of New
Zealand’s top lodge, Huka Lodge, but has been opened to guests – it can
be home to just four couples or one lucky family – and the new,
adults-only Tadrai Island Resort, which is just a chopper ride from Nadi
in the Mamanucas, has just five villas with their own plunge pools and
butler service. namaleresort.com; dolphinislandfiji.com; tadrai.com.

16 Sigatoka Dunes

When the sun is shining, why stay inside? The prehistoric
sites excavated at Sigatoka Sand Dunes give a glimpse into Fijian
history without having to trek through a museum, and you get to stretch
your legs, too. Archaeological digs are still turning up stone tools and
the area is one of the largest burial sites in the Pacific. You may
even catch sight of Fiji’s national rugby team, which trains down here.

17 Real ecotourism

Jean-Michel Cousteau Resort, on the northern island of
Vanua Levu, is home to Johnny Singh, Fiji’s first marine biologist.
Cousteau, an explorer and oceanographer, set his small resort away from
the bustle of the main island and it has won several awards for its
ecotourism projects. The family-friendly five-star resort has set the
benchmark for other Fijian resorts to follow, featuring organic gardens,
rainwater harvesting and edible landscaping without compromising on
comfort. fijiresort.com.

18 Island-hopping

In Fiji, “day tripping” doesn’t mean hours in a car, it
means lying on the deck of a yacht, smelling the sea breeze, seafood
banquets and snorkelling stops. Charter a private yacht and choose your
course or join a cruise to, say, Tivua Island on the tall ship Ra Marama
and spend the day snorkelling, glass-bottom boating, kayaking or
chilling on the beach in Fiji style. fijisafari.com; captaincook.com.fj.

19 World-class surfing

Most surfers head for the Mamanuca islands to hit the
waves – the permanent six-metre wave Cloudbreak, off the coast of
Tavarua, is a Fijian legend, and reigning world champion Kelly Slater
describes nearby Restaurants as “one of the most perfect waves that I
have ever surfed”. Taravua will host the Volcom Fiji Pro, featuring the
top pro surfers, from June 3 to 15. Off the south coast of the main
island, you’ll find little Beqa Island is home to the challenging
left-handed reef break Frigates, and Sigatoka Beach’s Sand Dunes stand
out on the Coral Coast.

20 White-water rafting

Fiji’s lagoons are brilliant for sea kayaking and the
waterways through its mangroves let you explore these mysterious
ecosystems. The local guides of Rivers Fiji take groups river-rafting
through the forests and past highland villages on the main island and
sea kayaking out to Benq Island, renowned for its fire-walkers and
surfing. riversfiji.com.

Source: 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).

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