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… 



Roadtripping on the Anti-Great Ocean Road, Victoria, Australia

Do you remember what the Great Ocean Road was, pre-COVID? Bumper-to-bumper cars ogling the 12 (or so) Apostles, the crashing surf and the koalas.

You can rail against the international travel ban (and god knows, we’ve all suffered as a result of it), or you can look for the rainbows: no more foreign tourists bogging up the scenic spots, we’ve got it all for ourselves.

Alternatively, you could try what I’ve dubbed the Anti-Great-Ocean-Road, the Hamilton Highway, which runs from Melbourne to the pearl of the Road, Port Fairy. Green fields, stone walls, historic pubs and a great dollop of indigenous and Irish history.

I wrote a piece for the Traveller section of the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, take a look here for some Victorian travel love.


The outlaw in the frame: Ned Kelly tourist attractions, Victoria, Australia’s ultimate hipster

Hero or villain, Ned Kelly was Australia’s original hipster, writes Belinda Jackson.


I’m lying in bed and a masked man
hovers nearby, clad in armour, brandishing a sawnoff rifle. And then it
comes to me: Ned Kelly was the ultimate hipster. 

Unforgiven by Adam Cullen (Ned Kelly and Constable Fitzpatrick),

He had the beard. He
had the country hideaway. He definitely had the anti-establishment
attitude, and he was into designing his own clothes, which are still
distinctly his own, even 135 years later.


It’s only fitting, then, that Ned is
celebrated in Melbourne’s hipster digs, The Cullen hotel, in edgy,
inner-city Prahran. 

He’s in the lifts, he’s in the corridors, he’s on my
bedroom wall, watching over my bed, a metal can on his head, Winchester
repeater aimed high behind me.


The Cullen celebrates the work of
Archibald prize winner Adam Cullen, who died in 2014, aged 46. ‘‘Cullen
was … interested in representing other bad boys, criminals and
bushrangers,’’ says Tansy Curtin, senior curator at the Bendigo Art


The Cullen Stormie Suite

Staying on the hipster theme, I
ponder: what would Ned drink? Probably home-made rum, so the guy was
obviously a locavore, eating and drinking from within 100 kilometres of
his home.


This guy was into fashion, sporting handcrafted clothing.

Following suit, I raid the
offlicence just behind the hotel for a pinot grigio from the King
Valley, prime Kelly country, and score handmade pizza from the famed
ovens of Ladro, nearby.

And this guy was into fashion,
sporting hand-crafted clothing. 

‘‘Ned was a dandy,’’ says art curator
Andrew Gaynor, who leads me through the wealth of Kellyinspired art at
The Cullen.


‘‘Beneath his armour at the Siege of
Glenrowan, he wore a silk waistcoat, pin-striped trousers and a green,
silk cummerbund. The gang cut a really good figure, and Ned had plenty
of sympathisers to his cause for a new, free state.’’


Hero or cop killer? Choose your fairytale, which is now overlaid with decades of research, turning up crooked judges, botched

investigations and plenty of gloves-off England versus Ireland racism.


‘‘There’s so much we didn’t know until recently,’’ says Kellyphile and guide Airi Repetti, at the State Library of Victoria.


The stately building is home to Kelly’s original set of armour, forged from a set of ploughshares.

   However, if you went looking for the
44-kilogram suit of armour, you’d find a polite note telling you to go
to Bendigo, where it’s the hero artefact in a new exhibition that
celebrates the Kelly legend, Imagining Ned.


The exhibition brings together some
of the most memorable images of the man, from the Kelly series by Sidney
Nolan and his contemporary, Albert Tucker, to one entire room dedicated

Cullen’s huge, rich works of the players in the Kelly saga.


Edward’s Bag of Fruit by Adam

There are photos of the bushranger’s
commanding, handsome face in a portrait he had taken just days before
he was hanged, sporting a full bushranger’s beard and an oiled quiff.

And beside it, created just days later, the impossibly sad death mask of Kelly, clean-shaven and vulnerable for eternity.


His head was cut from his body to
create several moulds and, a week after his execution, the general
public could ogle the death mask in the Bourke Street waxworks museum
owned by the maskmaker, Maximillian Kreitmayer, who used it to link
criminality and lowered brows in

the crack science of phrenology.
While his bones were interred in a country town’s cemetery in 2013,
Ned’s skull is missing still, which only adds to the legend.


There’s a bound manuscript of Peter
Carey’s novel, The Secret History of the Kelly Gang; a reward poster
offering the fortune of £8000 for the four men at a time when a
labourer’s annual wage tipped £50; pictures of the siege printed on
chocolate boxes; and Ned’s Snider-Enfield 0.577 calibre long rifle.


It’s only 135 years, or four
generations back, that Ned Kelly was hanged in Melbourne Gaol. As I’m
driving back to Melbourne from Bendigo, an angry talkback caller is
blasting the radio, comparing executed drug

smugglers Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran to Ned Kelly.


‘‘It’s just this stupid Australian habit of turning criminals into heroes!’’ she fumes.


The Schaller Studio lobby, Bendigo

A week later, my child’s ballet
teacher mentions that her elderly mother knew the Kelly family. ‘‘It
seems no one wanted to know them, in the past,’’ I say. ‘‘Yes, but we
all know what the police did – the rapes, the harassment,’’ she says,


Brought up by Irish Catholic nuns,
my sympathies can only go the way of the Kelly gang, with its backstory
of police harassment, the assault of his sister and the sentence of
three years’ hard labour for his mother, while carrying a newborn babe.


On the other side of the fence, he’s
a pathological liar, layabout criminal and unremorseful murderer,
preferring armed robbery to honest farm labour.


Criminal, anti-hero, cult leader or
Australia’s answer to Robin Hood? Despite the new exhibition and the
museums, the jury is still out.


Such is life. 

of Ned Kelly feature throughout The Cullen hotel. Costs from $209 a night for a
studio suite, 164 Commercial Road, Prahran, thecullen.com.au. In Bendigo, its sister art hotel, The
Schaller Studio, costs from $115 a night for a Workspace Queen, cnr Lucan &
Bayne Sts, Bendigo. Phone 1800 278 468.

Imagining Ned shows until June 28. Bendigo
Art Gallery (closed Mondays) has free tours at noon Wednesdays and Saturdays, $10
adults. Phone (03) 5434 6088, see bendigoartgallery.com.au.

PHOTOS: (Clockwise from main) Estate of Adam Cullen and Michael Reid Art Gallery

This feature by Belinda Jackson was published in the Sydney Morning Herald/The Age newspapers.  

Ski Victoria, prison sleeps and luxe trains in Ireland: Takeoff travel news

SNOW: Winter is coming

Victoria’s ski season opened on the
Queen’s Birthday long weekend (June 6), with more bang for its buck. The
state’s most popular resort, Mount Buller, begins with fireworks and
new snowmakers pumping out up to 30 per cent more snow (mtbuller.com.au) while nearby Mount Stirling’s renovated Nordic Centre ramps up its cross-country gear offerings (mtstirling.com.au). Mount Hotham has new two-hour ski and snowboard masterclasses and is
now linked with nearby Dinner Plain by the 12-kilometre Brabralung
Indigenous Interpretation Trail, a crosscountry ski trail that follows
an ancient route of the ‘‘first peoples’’ of the Alps (mthotham.com.au). Dinner Plain also has a new tubing Snow Park with night tubing,
while family-friendly Lake Mountain has expanded its Snowman’s Village,
with a fourth toboggan slope and new snowshoeing trails. Finally,
Victoria’s largest ski resort, Falls Creek, hosts the 25th year of the
annual Kangaroo Hoppet cross-country event on August 22 (fallscreek.com.au).

HOSTEL: Sleep tight in Freo’s lock-up

Spend the night behind bars and pay
for the privilege. However, you won’t have to rob a bank to sleep at the
new Fremantle Prison YHA, which costs from just $28 a night in a 10-bed
dorm (and half-price throughout May – that’s $14). 

The 19th-century jail first opened in 1855 and is World Heritage-listed, with the last prisoners checking out in 1991. 

You can sleep in a cell, still with
locks, spyholes, original walls and floors, in an eight-bed guard’s
cottage or in the (more spacious) new extension. Rooms range from
private twin and family rooms with en suites to dorms, with a

kitchen, Wi-Fi, laundry and games
rooms for all. There are also plans afoot for outdoor movie nights, a
volleyball court and giant chess. Twin-bed cells cost from $68, $120 for
a double with en suite, or $140 for family rooms. Phone (08) 9433 4305, see

TRAIN: The green miles

Are trains the new cruise ships?
Glide through the greenery of both the Republic of Ireland and Northern
Ireland on the Belmond Grand Hibernian, the country’s first luxury
train, which is now taking bookings for its inaugural season, in 2016.
Aboard, there are just 40 guests in 20 en suite cabins, with restaurant
and observation bar cars, kitted up for two-, four- or six-night

The train visits the island’s beautiful cities, pausing for such quintessential experiences as

kissing the Blarney Stone, catching
traditional Irish music and visiting renowned castle gardens. Like a
cruise itinerary, you can also add

extensions to the journey, such as a day on the green for a round of golf or a tour of cultural Dublin. The two-night Realm of Giants tour,
from Dublin to Belfast and Portrush, costs from $4470 a person,
including all meals, drinks and excursions including the

Giant’s Causeway and Titanic Experience. Phone 1800 000 395, see

GEAR: Keep cool with military precision

You don’t muck around getting food
from the supermarket, do you? You’re more a hunt-and-gather type,
snagging barra, snaring crabs or chasing calamari. This new bin from the hard guys of gear, Pelican Products, is a prince among wheeled portable coolers. The new elite cooler can roll over the toughest terrain with its two large wheels and sturdy pull-along handle. It has a 75.7-litre capacity with a
built-in bottle opener and a fish measure that is moulded into the lid,
so you can ensure your catch is legal. Want more tough talk? 

Its military-grade insulation is
guaranteed to keep drinks at polar temps, it’s also certified grizzly
bear resistant (though we don’t know how it would stack up against our
koalas) and comes with a lifetime guarantee. Ideal for the boat, the

beach or heading into the outback. The Pelican ProGear™ Elite 80QT Cooler costs $649.95. See

TECH: Fickle pick-and-mix travellers can triple dip

Brand loyalty is so last century:
today’s travellers shop for the best prices and experiences across
brands and across the world. However, the pick-and-mix approach makes it
tough to rack up points on loyalty cards. Travel company Expedia has
launched its own loyalty program, Expedia+, which lets you collect
points on bookings made through its website. It also means you can still
claim points with your frequent flyer programs and also your credit
cards – effectively a points triple dip. Expedia+ members can get
benefits such as bar or spa discounts at hotels, and it promises to
price match lower quotes on flights, car hire, hotels, cruises and
packages. Book through its mobile app and snap up the launch promotion
of triple points. See

KIDS: Littlest lifesavers

Teach your kids essential skills
with a First Aid for Kids class that could save your life. The one-hour
classes are hands-on to hold short attention spans, and are tailored for
kids as young as kinder age up to 13 years. Run by First Aid instructors (many of

whom are also parents), kids learn about dialing 000, managing asthma, what to do for bites or stings, CPR and blood loss. Trainers are based in all capital
cities and come to your location to teach groups (minimum 10 children).
There’s also a superhero certificate and stickers at the end of the
course. “Our age-specific kids’ courses give them self-confidence and
teach important development skills,” says director Mary Dawes. Ideal
preparation for the big round-Australia trip or backyard escapades. Costs $12 a child. Phone 1300 853 050, see

Travel news: Freewheeling across the world

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

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

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

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

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

Brick? Brack! It’s all Irish to me: recipe for Irish Bambrick

I was about to post this recipe, then I thought, that’s not very travel-oriented. But wait! It’s a recipe for Irish Bambrick!

So it’s time to break out the Bewley’s tea (Van Morrison’s fave), whack on the Claddagh CD (or Cranberries, Corrs, Boyzone – oh, Rohan – whatever takes your fancy) and carve up a slice of this solid, wholesome tea-time treat.

Irish Bambrick
1½ cups cold black tea
¼ cups sultanas
1 cup currants
¾ cup mixed peel, finely chopped (I think mixed peel is sooo ’50s, I used apricots)
½ cup brown sugar
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 cups self-raising flour (I used 1 cup wholemeal – I AM my mother!)
½ cup walnuts (almonds or brazil nuts)

The recipe doesn’t call for it, but I added a little nutmeg and some cinnamon. In hindsight, I’d drop the cinnamon.

Combine tea, sultanas, currants, mixed peel (apricots) and sugar in a bowl. Cover. Stand the mixture overnight. Stir in egg. Mix in flour and nuts. Spoon into a greased and lined 13x21cm loaf pan. Bake at 160 degrees for 1 – 1 1/4 hours or until cooked when tested with a skewer. Stand for 5 minutes. Turn onto a wire rack to cool. This cake can be frozen for up to three months (though why you wouldn’t want to eat it hot from the oven is beyond me).

A note of warning: the uncooked mixture is seriously sticky. I added an extra splash of tea and it didn’t hurt. And it really needs the full hour or more in the oven, otherwise you’ll end up with a sticky heart.

PS: This recipe was clipped from an Australian nursing newsletter. The spelling of bambrick is weird: I have found reference to ‘barmbrack’, but just I’d call this a brack – take it from one who has consumed many bracks in her time living in Dublin.

Step into the Famous Spiegeltent or on board a private jet for an African safari: travel deals April 7, 2013

Intercontinental Sydney
Private jets are back, people. You mean you didn’t know they were out of style, and had been hanging onto yours in a hangar out the back? Let someone else do the flying while you skim the continent of Africa. Or try Knight School in Sydney or glamp on the Great Barrier Reef in this week’s international and domestic travel deals. 
Want to know what’s happening in Sydney? The InterContinental Sydney’s chief concierge and Les Clef d’Or member David Patt suggests Cirque de las Symphony (April 18-20) or perhaps Knight School for kids during the school holidays. Sydney’s also is in the midst of its autumn thoroughbred racing season, with the Sydney Cup Day on April 27, and there are more thoroughbreds on display at the Art Gallery of NSW, at the Archibald, Wynne and Sulman Prize winners’ annual exhibition.  Stay two nights at InterContinental Sydney before April 30 and get 20 per cent off your room as well as a free breakfast buffet for two. Costs from $250 a night. 1800 781 066, sydney.intercontinental.com.
Hobart’s iconic Wrest Point, on the banks of the Derwent River, has hit plenty of benchmarks: Australia’s first legal casino, Hobart’s first five-star rooms, and now it’s celebrating 40 years in the business with a Ruby Anniversary package. Stay in a premier suite and get room service breakfast, a box of Tasmanian red fruit, a Huon pine cheese platter and knife with Ashgrove Rubicon Red cheese, a bottle of House of Arras vintage Rose 2004 and, to finish, a commemorative ruby necklace by goldsmith Gavin MacSporran. Costs from $950 for two, saving $216. Valid until February 10, 2014. 1800 703 006, wrestpoint.com.au.

The Famous Spiegeltent is in town and Robyn Nevin is
treading the boards at the Southbank Theatre. Kick up your heels on a Friday
night at Melbourne’s coolest hotels, the Art Series, which comprises the
Cullen, Blackman and Olsen. Their Weekend Retreat deals include $25 to spend
inhouse – think food, movies or bike hire – and they’ll work in a room upgrade
as well. Valid for Friday – Monday nights until August 31. Worth around $280, costs
from $209 a night. 1800 278 468, artserieshotels.com.au.
Get shipwrecked in style on tiny Wilson Island, which can accommodate just 12 guests in six luxury tents on the beach, with hammocks, housekeepers and chefs as befits the ‘glamping’ (glamour camping) tag. The rate includes all meals and non-alcoholic drinks and return boat transfers from Gladstone. Booking the whole island saves over $300 on the individual rate: book by June 30 for stays now until May 4, from June 30 2013 – January 27, 2014 and March 1-31, 2014. Costs from $6499, two nights. 1800 044 066, travel-associates.com.au.

Indijup Spa Retreat, WA
Very private, very fabulous, the Indijup Spa Retreat in
Yallingup is three hours south of Perth, overlooking the Indian Ocean and is
said to lure the likes of Our Kylie. Each of the 10 villas has pools and
panoramas on tap and the spa products are by another WA success story, Sodashi.
Stay seven nights and save up to 39 percent at the five-star retreat on stays
until September 10.  Costs from $2765 a
villa, seven nights. travel.com.au.
Skiers, carve up a snow bargain in Queenstown at Oaks Shores and Oaks Club Resort, on the glacial Lake Wakatipu. Rooms start at $109 a night until June 27, rising to $134 a night between July 15 – August 31, with a minimum three-night stay. Book until April 21. Costs from $327 a room, three nights, or $717 for a two-bedroom lakeview apartment, three nights. oakshotelsresorts.com/oaks-club-resortoakshotelsresorts.com/oaks-shores.
Holiday Inn Express Phuket Patong Beach Central
Phuket’s newest hotel, the Holiday Inn Express Phuket
Patong Beach Central, has just opened and is offering a lovely, long opening
special until October 2013. The deal includes breakfast and high-speed wi-fi.
There are 277 rooms with private balconies, just a few meters from the beach
and within walking distance of Patong’s shopping and dining strips. Costs from
$65++ a night. 1800 007 697, holidayinnexpress.com.
Mneba Island, Tanzania
A tiny dot in the Indian Ocean off the coastline of
Zanzibar, Mneba Island hosts just 20 guests at one time. Stay three nights at Mnemba
Island Lodge and get a free one-way flight from Zanzibar. The private island is
famed for its white-sand beaches, coral reefs and dive sites, and the rate
includes all meals, drinks and water sports, including two dives a day and
sunset dhow cruises. Book by December 31. Costs from $755 a person, twin share.
From fair Dublin to bustling Belfast, the 12-day Country
Roads of Ireland tour crosses borders, the Burren, Giant’s Causeway and the
Cliffs of Moher, for a broad-ranging exploration of an island whose influence
is disproportionate to its size. Save 5 per cent, up to $124, on bookings paid
in fully by April 30 on departure from April to October 2013. Costs from $2301
a person, twin share.  1300 237 886, insightvacations.com.
Train it to Machu Picchu then sail through the Amazon. Is
there any more to life? This 13-day small-group tour sees you climb to the top
of Machu Picchu on the luxury Hiram Bingram train, visit the Sacred Valley of
the Incas and the home of their empire, Cuzco then dive into the Amazon on the
M/V Aria and local skiffs. Book by 21 April and they’ll include free travel
insurance, worth up to $660. Costs $11,695 a person, twin share. 1800 252 053,
The private jet is back: luxury tour operator Abercrombie
& Kent takes to the skies once again in a remodelled Boeing 737, with just 40
guests going on African safari by air. The journey traverses the continent, visiting
seven countries in 19 days, from the rock-cut churches of Ethiopia to the Cape.
A&K founder Geoffrey Kent will lead a three-day Serengeti safari, and the
group has exclusive use of luxury camps in Uganda’s jungle, treehouses in
Zambia, and there are private helicopter rides over Victoria Falls and feast in
the Namibian desert. The keywords are luxury, experience and exclusivity. The
adventure departs from Rome on March 2, 2014. Costs from $76,497 a person, twin
share. 1300 851 800,

Donkeys in Donegal, lounging on Lizard: travel deals 21 October 2012

Donkey and Mt  Errigal, Donegal, Ireland.

Chase donkeys in Donegal, lounge like a lizard on Lizard Island (where else?) or off track into the Balkans on an Ottoman trek.

With the Barossa to the north and Adelaide Hills to the
east, the centre of Adelaide is but a hop-skip to some of Australia’s most
exciting vineyards. If wine’s not your cuppa, the city has a plethora of
chocolate shops that would make a dietician blush. The Mantra Hindmarsh Square
is offering discounts of 13 per cent on stays in its Parkview suits on Thursday
to Monday nights until February 21, 2013. Costs from $199 a night. 131 517 mantra.com.au.
The Sheraton brand is celebrating 75 years in the
business and the Sheraton on the Park is kicking up its heels with a
stay-three, pay-two deal on stays until January 31, 2013 at the Elizabeth St
hotel until November 14. Costs from $587 for three nights. Otherwise, stay at
the standard rates, and pay 1937 prices for breakfast, a whopping 95 cents for
two. (02) 9286 6000, sheraton75.com.
The new Stormie Mills suite, Cullen Art Hotel
Your dreams will be brightly coloured with Melbourne’s
famed street art, on a Street Art Sleepover at the edgy Cullen art hotel. The
package includes a night in its Street Art suites, with works by top artists
Swoon, Blek le Rat and D*Face and the newest, by Australia’s own Stormie Mills.
Also included is a one-hour street art tour and a bottle of wine. Normally $319
accommodation only, save over $100 on stays until December 30. Costs from $329
a night.  (03) 9098 1555, artserieshotels.com.au.
Discover the world’s first private nature photography
gallery, cruise the Gordon River and breathe in the exquisite beauty of Cradle
Mountain’s Dove Lake on a six-day self-drive ’Wilderness Wonders’ journey from
Launceston to Hobart, via Strahan. Includes accommodation at the Henry Jones
Art Hotel, Cradle Mountain Chateau
and Country Club Villas, Launceston. As an added bonus, buy one ticket, get one
free on the West Coast Wilderness Railway. For travel until December 20, costs
from $516.50 a person, twin share, quote code TOU1. 1800 420 155, puretasmania.com.au.
Lizard Island, Queensland
Lizard Island is one of Australia’s top resorts,
literally: it’s 240km north of Cairns, at the top of the Great Barrier Reef.
Stay five nights, pay for four, saving $1444. Includes all gourmet meals, fine
wines and champagne, and if you go off-track to one of its 24 private beaches,
the kitchen will pack a picnic hamper, so you’ll never go without. Book until
March 31, 2013 for stays from December 1 until March 31, 2013 (excluding
December 21-January 7). Costs from $5776 a room. 1300 863 248,
With 22 kilometres of white sand, Cable Beach is one of Australia’s great beach strips, lapped by the Indian Ocean. Book five nights in a pool view studio at the four-star Cable Beach Club Resort & Spa, pay for four. They’ll also include breakfast daily and return airport transfers. Book until November 30, stay until March 31, 2013. Costs from $725 a person for five nights (excluding flights). 132 757, harveyworld.com.au.

The author’s lounge, Mandarin Oriental Bangkok
Jim Thompson, the man who brought Thai silk to the world,
is one of Bangkok’s great figures, and the Mandarin Oriental commemorates 45
years since his mysterious disappearance in 1967. Its package includes three
nights in a superior room with butler, a bespoke tour of Jim Thompson House, a
Thai massage, dinner and show at the hotels’ Sala Rim Naam restaurant and a
silk gift. Valid until March 31, 2013, with some blackout dates, save 18 per
cent, around $350. Costs from $1846 for three nights, +66 (2) 659 9000,
Prices in Bali are undoubtedly on the up, but the new 201-room Mercure Nusa Dua is celebrating its opening in late September with keen opening specials.  Close to the convention centre and Bali Collection shopping mall and airport, it’s also a short hop to the restaurant strips of Seminyak and Kuta’s clubs. Costs from $85 a night on stays until December 20. 1300 656 565, mercure.com.

Tick all China’s top sights – the Great Wall to the
Terracotta Warriors and the Three Gorges Dam – off your bucket list on this
14-day China Special, which departs April 6, 2013. Regular tours cost around
$3050, land only, but the price on this excursion includes return air fares to
China with Singapore Airways, so you can blow your savings on cocktails on
Shanghai’s swanky Bund. Costs from $3550 a person, twin share. 1300 720 000,
Croatia may well have entertained the likes of Tom Cruise, but go off track into the Balkans on the Ottoman Trek to discover the romantic cities of Sarajevo, Belgrade and Sofia and the perennial traveller’s fave, Istanbul in the Ottoman Trek. Book by January 13 and save 15 per cent. Costs from $750 a person, includes walking tours, six nights’ accommodation, all transport and guides and a Lonely Planet guidebook. 1300 287 226, busabout.com/earlybird.

 Beynac in Dordogne, France
French Travel Connection’s 17-day French tour starts in
Paris before exploring the WWII landing beaches of Normandy, the Loire Valley’s
castles, winescapes of Lyon and, of course, Champagne. Book by December 22 for
departure between May to September 2013, save from $300 a person and get a free
airport transfers. Includes 3 and 4-star accommodation, many meals and entrance
fees. Costs from $6486 a person, twin share. 1300 858 304, frenchtravel.com.au.
Breathe and feel the literary and cultural traditions of
Ireland, from Belfast in the north through Mayo to Tipperary down south, with
Donegal man James Clarke. “No, you will not rush to kiss the Blarney Stone,”
James warns. Instead, you’ll attend the spectacular Galway Writers’ Festival,
visit Fethard in County Tipperary where Ned Kelly’s folk hail from, and sail to
remote islands off the wild Donegal coastline. Includes all accommodation
(usually two-night stays), breakfasts, some lunches and all transport.  Next tour departs Belfast April 20, finishes
in Dublin May 1, 2013. Costs $8000 a person (excluding air fares).  0417 206 932, irelandjourneys.com.au

Travel guide to Dublin

Ta-daaaaaaaaaah! It’s Dublin. Hopefully all you need to know (and some you didn’t). But try to squish a city into two pages, and there’ll be some casualties.

Click here to get the lowdown. Slainte!

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