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… 



Stars of the spa: the best spas in Victoria

Victoria is up to its neck in hot water, and loving it. And our love of balneotherapy – to give mineral-water bathing its scientific name – shows no signs of drying up. Indeed, run your finger along a map of Victoria’s coast, and you’ll find aquifers aplenty, bubbling to the surface, and that’s before you head up to the spa country of Hepburn Springs, in central Victoria.

It’s not all facials and massages: hot springs and mineral water bathing taps into the aquifers below ground, to yield mineral-rich waters that help heal and detoxify our bodies and minds.

The bellwethers are Peninsula Hot Springs and Hepburn Springs, with two newcomers opening in recent months: the sparkling, new Alba on the Mornington Peninsula and Metung Hot Springs in East Gippsland. We’ve got an eye on Phillip Island, where a new hot springs facility is being developed in conjunction with Peninsula Hot Springs, to open later this year.

This wellness journey was a tough assignment, but I visited what I’m dubbing the UnDirty Seven: the best spas in Victoria who specialise in hot springs and mineral water bathing facilities in Victoria, on the Mornington Peninsula, the Bellarine Peninsula, in Gippsland and Hepburn Springs, not forgetting Warrnambool’s sleeper hit, The Deep Blue (see thedeepblue.com.au)

Click here to read my cover story for the Traveller section of the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age newspapers.

See https://www.traveller.com.au/the-best-spas-in-victoria-seven-top-soaking-experiences-in-australias-spa-state-h29r0u

State of escape: busting out for the goodness of Gippsland, Australia

Victoria, can you feel the chains falling from your shoulders? We are free! Well, we are almost free.

As of Monday June 1, we can now do sleepovers, which means it’s time to hit the road again and start exploring! I’ve got plans to poke around central Victoria and returning to my old hunting ground in Gippsland – the vast region that covers most of the east of the state.

I and am a huge fan of its pocket-sized villages and their little secrets: gin distillers in century-old buildings, little cafes selling locally made cheeses and smallgoods, a green field garnished with a few luxuriously fitted Bell tents, overlooking the wild seas that separate mainland Australia from Tasmania.

Have I sold you yet?

Hot off the presses, Eat. Drink Gippsland sees food writer Richard Cornish share all his detailed knowledge of the foodie spots in the region (pack an esky in the car boot), you can grab a copy while pootling around, or download it here.

Check out whale trails, truffle hunts, empty beaches and the best views of rolling green hills on Visit Gippsland’s website. It also has some great driving itineraries, for the forward planners out there. we





Travel deals: Indonesia’s Gili islands

Flying to Fiji’s Mamanucas with the kids.

Those looking beyond Bali into the rest of Indonesia’s archipelago are finding themselves in the Gili Islands off the coast of Lombok, a two-hour fast ferry from Bali. Otherwise, we love Noos-aaah or pootling around Fiji by seaplane. 

If you’d prefer to play winter princess, check out a tour from Helsinki to St Petersburg, WWI battlefields or (dare we say it) Victoria’s Philip Island? It’s all here, in this week’s best international and domestic travel deals.
Get two nights free when you book a seven-night holiday,
worth $950, at the absolute beachfront apartments at Seahaven Noosa until July
31. The 4.5-star property includes four heated pools, spa, gym and bbq. From $2375,
seven nights. (07) 5447 3422, seahavennoosa.com.au.
Travel by coach and rail from Helsinki to St Petersburg
and Moscow on the nine-day Tsar Route tour and save $225. Includes transport,
accommodation in first-class hotels, breakfast and sightseeing. Available  August-September 2014. Costs $1891 a person,
twin share. 1300 668 844, eetbtravel.com.
The glamour of the Russian empire
Take a
break on Phillip Island and get $200 of extras including dinner, wine and a
three-parks pass that includes the Penguin Parade when you stay two nights in a
studio spa room at the Ramada Resort Phillip Island. Costs $484, two nights,
until August 31. (03) 5952 8000, ramadaphillipisland.com.au.
The new Karma Reef hotel on Gili Meno, Lombok
Tiny Gili Meno is one of a trio of hip isles of the coast
of Lombok, two hours by boat from Bali. The new boutique resort Karma Reef’s low-season
special runs from October 1, 2014 – March 31, 2015 (excludes Christmas).
Normally $315 a night, from $170 B&B for two. +62 370 642 340,
spring by reconnecting with nature at the eco-accredited Paperbark Camp near
Jervis Bay, and save up to $440 throughout September and midweek
(Sunday-Thursday) in October. From $500, two nights, with gourmet breakfast,
bikes, kayaks and stand-up paddling. 1300 668 167, paperbarkcamp.com.au.
Discover the Roman ruins, Crusader castles and ancient
Nabataen civilisation of Petra on an 11-night tour through this beautiful
desert country. Book by September 30 and receive all entrance fees to sites
free. Departs March 30, 2015. From $4989 a person, twin share. (07) 3372
4833,  gypsiantours.com.au
Petra, Jordan
Travel is half the adventure, especially when you catch a
family fly-in, fly-out package to Fiji’s Castaway Island in the Mamanucas. The
five-night offer includes helicopter and sea plane transfers for two adults and
two kids from Nadi airport to the island. There’s also plenty of water action,
with snorkelling, a dolphin safari, sunset cruise and a ride on a banana boat
included. From $5470 for a family of four, available until March 31, 2015. +679 666 1233, castawayfiji.com
Follow a soldier’s footsteps on a guided tour of Europe’s
most poignant battlefields during the centenary years of WWI. The 12-day tour travels from London to Amsterdam
via France and Belgium to the D-Day landing beaches of Normandy, the
battlefields of the Somme and Ypres’ Menin Gate. Highlights include the new
First World War Galleries in the Imperial War Museum in London, and lighter
moments are found in a wine tasting in Reims and dinner in a local’s home in
Amsterdam. From $3775 a person, twin share. 1300
663 043, trafalgar.com.

This travel deals column by Belinda Jackson is published in Sydney’s Sun-Herald newspaper every Sunday.

Great Southern Land: Our Patch, Gippsland

Melburnians, if you were stuck for a weekend away, you’d do far worse than hitting the highway for an hour to South Gippsland. Here’s what we discovered on a weekend away, visiting Inverloch, Cape Paterson, Kilkunda, Wilson’s Promontory and the lovely crossroads of Fish Creek and Koonwarra.

The shopping basket was packed with cheeses and fresh bread from Koonwarra, ‘life-changing’ biscuits thanks to Kilkunda General Store, and a fantastic shirt I snapped up in Inverloch’s Mookah designs.

The Patch: inspiredbygippsland.com.au

This content is produced by Traveller in commercial partnership with Tourism Victoria

Adventure beckons: Metung, East Gippsland

Metung jetty at sunset. Pic: Belinda Jackson

Coastal chic meets village vibes on a svelte strip of land that dips into the Gippsland Lakes. 

happens around Metung’s Village Green: from kids on swings to cafe
culture to hopeful fishermen looking for a bite from a bream. The
village is surrounded on three sides by lakes, and the air here is
filled with the chimes made by the riggings on yachts.

Metung’s lakes King and Victoria on a traditional timber boat (no
licence necessary) and take a picnic to a deserted sand island where you
may spot wild goats, inquisitive seals and the occasional dolphin.

lakes’ waters are calm and clear, excellent for lazy-day swims, and are
well guarded from the crashing surf of Bass Strait by a long spit of
low-lying dunes: cross them and you’re on the wild, rugged Ninety Mile

For panoramic views, boat to Barrier Landing, moor and
follow the path across the dunes to one of Australia’s great coastal
wildernesses. For an epicurean excursion, the hills above Metung include
the Nicholson River Winery, Tambo Estate and Lightfoot & Sons.

With the kids
Under fives
* Back Beach on Lake King is the place for the buckets-and-spades brigade.
* Press the big green button at the Rain Drop Water Play Area in Metung village’s Patterson Park.

Older children
* Try the new mountain-bike track at Nowa Nowa, a 40-minute drive from Metung.
* The best surfing conditions can be found at high tide at Red Bluff,
between Lakes Entrance and Lake Tyers Beach, a 30-minute drive from

* Learn to water ski, wake board or tube ride at nearby Paynesville; aquamania.com.au.

While there Locals head to Bancroft Bites on Metung Road or The Metung Galley, just opposite, for a caffeine fix. Cruisers and day boats are available for hire at Metung Marina; rivieranautic.com.au, bullscruisers.com.au.

Getting there Metung is 3 1/2 hours’ drive east of Melbourne on the Monash Freeway.

Staying there Jetty
Road Retreat cabins at nearby Nungurner sleep four; jettyroadretreat.com.au. For holiday homes, apartments and B&Bs, see
stayz.com.au. Waterfront apartments overlooking Bancroft Bay include The Moorings at Metung; themoorings.com.au.

More information Visit discovereastgippsland.com.au and destinationgippsland.com.au

The writer was a guest of Gippsland Tourism. 

This feature by Belinda Jackson was published in the Sydney Morning Herald‘s Traveller section.

52 Weekends Away: food and wine in Gippsland

Temptation personified. Photo: Belinda Jackson

On a break from Cairo, here’s a little number from beautiful East Gippsland. If you’re in that neck of the woods (think Lakes Entrance way), make a beeline for this little beauty.

926 Stephenson Road, Tambo Upper, Vic
Phone: (03) 5156 4317 or 0419 302 074
Web: arkenstone.com.au

The location
Tambo Upper is an East
Gippsland hamlet located amid rolling farmland off the highway between
Bairnsdale and Lakes Entrance. Rivendell is a 44-hectare property built
on the hilltops; you can look out to the spectacular Gippsland Lakes, a
favourite spot for boaties, fishermen and birdwatchers.

The place
Rivendell is a working Angus beef farm with two self-contained cottages that have also been named after things or places in The Lord of the Rings
– Arkenstone, a wheelchair-friendly, three-bedroom cottage, and the
one-bedroom Bag End, which we stayed in. In an earlier incarnation, Bag
End’s bedroom was a concrete water tank; it’s still circular, but now
it’s filled by a comfy bed and lined with racks of wine, available for
purchase. Both cottages have well-equipped kitchens and there’s a spa
tub in the garden. The farm is home to peacocks and guinea fowl, sheep,
hens and horses.

The experience
Start the day with
owner-chef Josh Thomas’s excellent breakfast and end it with a
three-course dinner. In between, there’s always lunch: the nearby
Nicholson River Winery serves platters that complement its renowned
Gippsland pinot noirs. Rivendell hires canoes and mountain bikes to
enable visitors to explore the picturesque Tambo River and the East
Gippsland Rail Trail.

Don’t miss
East Gippsland’s vibrant
villages. Bruthen is at the start of the Great Alpine Road and here you
can sink a local brew at the Bullant Brewery before popping into the new
Bruthen Bazaar. Metung, on the water’s edge, has a thriving cafe scene
and breakfast at The Metung Galley is highly recommended. There’s also a
farmer’s market on the second Saturday of each month.

Need to know
Cost: From $240 a night.
Distance: 3.5 hours’ drive (310km) east of Melbourne.
Children: Yes.

This story, written by Belinda Jackson, is part of 52 Weekends Away, published in the Sydney Morning 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
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
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.

How to choose the ideal holiday home

Peppers Bale Penthouse, with over 300sqm of Luxury, in its
Absolute Beach Front Penthouse.

Here’s a thought guaranteed to scare you: Christmas is coming. If you’re planning the great Australian holiday, here are a few tips when booking a holiday home that will set you ahead of the pack.

But don’t be shy: keep scrolling down and you’ll also find the winners of the 2013 Stayz best holiday rentals for lovers of pets, the great outdoors and each other.

peak times, such as Christmas, school holidays and the ski season,
houses can be booked out 12 months in advance. Otherwise, allow at least
three months.

Most properties
have midweek specials and some beach areas drop their prices in the
colder months or throw in an extra night free. Traditionally, May is the
slowest month.

Many owners
add special touches, particularly in their downtime, such as breakfast
baskets filled with home-made jams and eggs from their own hens, or a
bottle of local wine on arrival.

properties have two-night minimum stays on the weekends, and up to
seven-night minimum stays in the peak seasons. Staying two weeks usually
attracts a lower rate.

If you’re flying in, book your car at the same time, so you’re not left stranded on the ground.

Stay with the stars

Our top picks of the Stayz 2013 holiday rental winners.

Toraja Luxury, NSW
A luxury pad with 180-degree ocean panoramas just outside Byron Bay. Sleeps six.
Who goes there? Honeymooners and lovers (of each other and of luxury).
When to go All year round thanks to the swimming pool, open fireplace, outdoor lounges and gourmet kitchen.
Must-visit local attraction The sparkling beaches of Broken Head and Lennox Head.
Guest comment
“The pool area is a beautiful spot to while away the hours … the
verandah [and all of the windows in the house] look out over rolling
green pastures to the sea.”
Trip notes From $470 to $1100, minimum three nights, stayz.com.au/115047.

Liptrap Loft, Vic
A rustic shack in Walkerville, south Gippsland. Sleeps six.
Who goes there? Bushies for privacy and a Japanese bathhouse.
When to go Summer for the beach, winter for the whales and their calves in Waratah Bay for R&R.
Must-visit local attraction Wilson’s Promontory, 30 minutes away, is a naturist’s delight.
Guest comment
“Eccentric in a beautiful way, the furniture is a delight.We will
return in winter to hunker down with the fire and listen to nature’s
Trip notes From $190 to $265 a night, minimum two nights, stayz.com.au/22270.

The Evening Star, Vic
A polished two-bedroom cottage outside Bright, in the Victorian High Country. Sleeps four.
Who goes there? Mountain lovers, bike riders, kids over 10 years old.
When to go Autumn for the colour.
Must-visit local attraction Bright’s foodie scene and Hotham’s ski fields are 45 minutes away.
Guest comment “Deafening silence, crisp mountain air and amazing views from a gorgeous house where all the little touches have been added.”
Trip notes From $250 (weekdays) to $400 (weekends) a night, minimum two nights, stayz.com.au/19289.

Riversdale Retreat, Vic
A super-slick eco-cottage at Chewton, near Castlemaine. Sleeps three.
Who goes there? Melbourne foodies. Shortlisted for the World Architecture Festival Awards 2009.
When to go Great for a cold-weather getaway.
Must-visit local attraction Daylesford and the restaurants and vintage shopping in Kyneton and Castlemaine.
Guest comment “It
felt a bit like a groovy city pad in the middle of the bush. Even
honoured by visits from kangaroos and red-bellied robins. Enjoyed
bushwalking and the marvellous Chewton market.”
Trip notes Costs $220 a double (Monday-Thursday), $265 (Friday-Sunday), minimum two nights, stayz.com.au/66476.

Noosa Holiday House, Qld
A three-story house at Castaways Beach, near Noosa. Sleeps eight.
Who goes there? Pet-owning design lovers.
When to go A minute from the beach, summer is hugely popular.
Must-visit local attraction The restaurant strip at Sunshine Beach; Peregian Beach design markets.
Guest comment “With
the home being on three levels, we were able to have time to ourselves
and our children loved the free Wi-Fi. Dog loved the backyard … lots
of great bush, beach and rainforest walks.”
Trip notes From $550 to $900 a night, minimum five nights, stayz.com.au/55345.
Stayz is a division of Fairfax Media.

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

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.

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.

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
it’s a vivid image of the beautiful villas on the Cote d’Azure
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

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.

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

Loving Mungo and Malaysia: travel deals 3 March 2013

Tiptoe through the tulips, snap up a bargain stay in Malaysia or go mad for Mungo in our own wilderness, at the edge of the Outback. (Ok, so this column is up a little bit late, but you never know when a bargain will strike!)

Wring the last out of summer with a quickie getaway to the far northern NSW coast, for great fish & chips and quiet, sandy beaches, just 20 minutes south of the Gold Coast airport. Save 20 per cent on stays at Peppers Salt Resort & Spa, Kingscliff, and get buffet breakfast, in-room movies and internet access thrown in on stays until September 10. Costs from $564 for three nights in a one-bedroom spa suite. 1300 987 600, peppers.com.au.

The time poor don’t have to miss out on the beauties of the Top End: the five-day Mysterious North journey whisks you around the crown jewels, including Kakadu and Litchfield National Parks to swim in waterfalls and view Aboriginal rock art galleries. There’s also a cruise down Katherine Gorge and glamping at Wildman Wilderness Lodge to round up a perfect week away from the office. Save $105 when you book six months before departure; tours depart between May 12 and October 20. Costs from $2075 a person, twin share. 1800 467 747, inspiringjourneys.com.au

The Terrace Hotel, Perth


With Chanel now open on Perth’s King St and photographs from New York’s Museum of Modern Art showing in the Art Gallery of Western Australia, our western cousin is a sophisticate, indeed. Add to the mix a new boutique hotel, situated on St Georges Terrace in Perth’s happening West End. The elegant buildings of the Terrace Hotel were built in 1892, and the 15-suite hotel starts at $505 a night. Book the ‘Weekend Warrior’ and they’ll add a cocktail and full breakfast for stays on Friday and Saturday nights until April 1. Costs from $495 a night, (08) 9214 4444, terracehotelperth.com.au.


The InterContinental Adelaide

Adelaide is celebrating all things
maritime with the arrival of the JMW Turner exhibition, Turner from the Tate,
showing until May 19. Book a Turner Art Package at the InterContinental
Adelaide and save $132. The offer includes one night’s accommodation, two
tickets to the exhibition, breakfast for two and 2pm check-out. The hotel,
which is a short walk from the Art Gallery of South Australia, can also arrange
VIP guided tours of the exhibition. 
Costs from $228 a night. 138 388, icadelaide.com.au

On your bikes, girls, it’s time to explore the Victorian
High Country on a Girls Own Bicycle Adventure. Bring your own or hire one of
Snowy River Cycling’s mountain or hybrid bikes. The six-day tour starts and
finishes at Orbost, in East Gippsland, and covers up to 50km a day (depending
on terrain, weather and mood) staying in national park lodges and farmhouses.
Departs May 5 and includes a basic bike maintenance workshop and an op shop
frock night. Save 20 per cent, or $229, on bookings made by April 5. Costs
$1416 a person, twin share. 0428 556 088, snowyrivercycling.com.au.
The Baglionio, London
An Italian hotel in London – how could you go wrong? And
it’s on sale too. Stay two nights for the price of one, making the Kensington
hotel, the Baglionio, an outrageous steal. There’s a two-night minimum, and the
offer is valid on deluxe rooms until April 1. Smith members also get a bottle
of prosecco into the deal as well: and it’s free to join. Costs from $462 for
two nights. 1300 896 627, mrandmrssmith.com.
Malaysia’s five-star hotels are fabulous, and fabulously
priced. The luxury Saujana Hotel in Kuala Lumpur includes an 18-hole championship
golf course and 260 hectares of tropical gardens. Snap up Malaysia Airlines
discount return flights and team up with a four-night stay at the Saujana. Book
by March 31 for travel until November 13, costs from $1057, or $753 flight
only.  directflights.com.au.
A Dutch deal is hard to find, but the tulips are
plentiful on Outdoor Travel’s Bike & Barge tour through Holland in the
springtime. Highlights include the world’s biggest flower auction, happening Amsterdam,
Delft and a cheese farm in Gouda, as you bike in between cruising the serene
riverways on a 10-cabin craft. Non-cycling partners are welcome. Save up to
$300 per cabin on departures on April 7 and May 12 only. Costs from $1600 a
person, includes most meals and bike hire. 1800 331 582, outdoortravel.com.au.
The best of China is on display over 21 days, from
Beijing to Hong Kong, with Xi’an, Shanghai and the Yangtze River in between.
The China in Depth tour is a hotpot of pandas, Sichuan cooking, Great Walls and limestone crags and
five-star accommodation includes the new Westin Xia and Fairmont Beijing.
Partners fly free from Australia on bookings made by March 31. Costs from
$10,420 a person, twin share.  1300
723 642, scenictours.com.au
Japan just got even cheaper, thanks to a strong Aussie dollar and 15 per cent off World Expeditions’ Japan trips, including its Family Explorer. There are bullet trains, geishas, wasabi farms and fish markets, folk villages and the neon madness of Tokyo on this 12-day trip. The discount applies on bookings made before March 31 for departures July 1 to December 31. Costs from $4,390 a person, twin share. $3746 for kids 6-11 years. 1300 720 000, worldexpeditions.com.

National Park
“I think Aussies are really interested in Mungo National
Park,” says Janine Duffy of Echidna Tours. “It’s like a cathedral of our
history, but we can’t quite understand it.” The ancient landscape of Mungo is
near the meeting place of the Murray and the Darling rivers, in far western
NSW: think out Broken Hill and Mildura way. The Mungo Outback Journey is a
private journey with guides from the local Paakantyi Tribe who spend three days
showing you the beauty of the desert, from brilliant parrots and fairy wrens to
extinct marsupials, and the
remnants of 50,000 years of Aboriginal history. Fly in to Mildura to pick up
the private three-day tour, staying at the pretty river town of Wentworth. Runs
from March to November. Costs from $1350 a person, (03) 9646 8249, echidnawalkabout.com.au.

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