I’m a journalist, travel writer, editor and copywriter based in Melbourne, Australia. I write pacy travel features, edit edifying websites and fashion flamboyant copy. My articles and photographs have appeared in publications worldwide, from inflight to interior design: I’ve visited every continent, and have lived in three. Want to work together? Drop me a line… 

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Tonga: pitch perfect

Tonga Belinda Jackson.JPG

Tongan Beach Resort  PHOTO:Belle Jackson

“We Tongans party today, and there’s nothing on the table tomorrow,” a Tongan woman tells me as we queue at Tongatapu’s airport. It’s 2am, I haven’t even set foot in the country and already I’ve been warned that Tongans are hardened socialites.

Looking around, I realise it’s true. You’re nobody if you’re not kissing a staff member. Customs officers, passport controllers, baggage handlers – they’re all wrapped in warm, loving embraces from the passengers from our plane, all serenade by a tuneful, live ukulele band. I guess there’s a reason why Captain Cook called them the Friendly Islands.

My recent story in Air Niugini’s inflight magazine, Paradise, finds the song of Tonga, from ukulele bands at the airport to the ancient, deep and almost mournful whalesong that reverberates through the water and into my bones.

It’s not a country high on the tourism radar, and I can’t work out why. Surely the great Aussie tropical getaway is the new one-two – first stop Fiji, second stop Tonga (the whale-loving archipelago of Vava’u is now connected by direct flights to the Fijian capital, Nadi).

 

 


From Rajasthani fortress to boutique hotel

Oh I’ve been bad – this poor blog! But the reason for my neglect is good: I’ve been tromping around the wilds of Rajasthan, specifically Bishangarh, a little village about an hour north of Jaipur.

FortBishangarh

Photo: Belle Jackson

The lure was the opening of the new Alila Fort Bishangarh, a fortress turned boutique hotel. I went crazy on instagram – take a look.

It took seven years to convert the 230-year-old fort, and it still retains a tang of military austerity. Happily, the dungeon is free of bats, snakes and gunpowder: it’s now an Alila spa, and staircases lead to rooftop restaurants or a little yoga platform. I did a little housework, cooking flatbread over an open fire in a mud-floor house, I cycled past camel carts and flocks of goats and took a brief pilgrimage to a Hindu temple – interspersed with cool, scented towels, sugared lime juice and dips in this pool (below) because hey, it’s monsoon season in this part of the world, and why suffer if you don’t have to?

My first review is out, for the Sydney Morning Herald/Sunday Age Traveller: click here to read it. If you’re planning a sojourn to Jaipur in the near future, this hotel absolutely must be on your list.

FortBishangarhpool.JPG

Photo: Belle Jackson

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Hotel review: Hilton Darwin, Northern Territory, Australia

It’s peak season up in Darwin, as southerners rush north to escape winter (and hey, I’m not blaming anybody here). The Hilton is the city’s only official five-star hotel, and the pool is one fine reason to check in.

The 236-room hotel has held this city-centre position for years: old Darwin hands will remember the Hilton Darwin as a Crowne Plaza. The hotel is just behind the mall, and should you feel the need to swim with crocs, the croc hotpot of Crocosaurus Cove is just a few steps away.

Click here to take a look at the review I wrote for the Traveller section of the Sydney Morning Herald/The Age.HiltonDarwin


Hotel review: Hilton Darwin, Northern Territory, Australia

It’s peak season up in Darwin, as southerners rush north to escape winter (and hey, I’m not blaming anybody here – anyone notice that this is the second hotel pool shot I’ve blogged this week?)

The Hilton is the city’s only official five-star hotel, and the pool is one fine reason to check in.

The 236-room hotel has held this city-centre position for years: old Darwin hands will remember the Hilton Darwin as a Crowne Plaza. The hotel is just behind the mall, and should you feel the need to swim with crocs, the croc hotpot of Crocosaurus Cove is just a few steps away.

Click here to take a look at the review I wrote for the Traveller section of the Sydney Morning Herald/The Age.


Light shines on Red Centre

BNE magAustralia’s Red Centre is the dictionary definition of remote – scattered hamlets of humanity, vast cattle stations and long, open drives. Perfect for the baby roadtripper. No, really. It’s just a three-hour drive on sealed roads between Uluru and Ayres Rock Resort to Kings Canyon, add on another leg and you’ve hit the heady delights of our favourite outback town, Alice Springs.

If it piques your interest, take a look at my story for BNE magazine  on the Red Centre Way, a classic route for a cruisy long-weekender roadtrip, which can easily stretch out for a week.

Click here to read more.

 


Glamping in Oman

Oman

Warning: gratuitous carpet shot!
Pulled this one out of the archives when thinking about the things I love most about Oman, in prep for my chat with the food & travel radio show @amoveablefeast_3aw this morning. Glamping in style in the Wahiba Sands, on the edge of the mysterious Empty Quarter.


Of pharaohs and heroes: Journey to Egypt

Giza Pyramids.JPG

The Pyramids of Giza, Egypt.Photo: Belinda Jackson

I am so pleased to publish this blog about my recent article in Luxury Travel magazine. This is the first story I’ve written for a mainstream publication about Egypt since its revolution, back in 2011. The feature had the invaluable support of Abercrombie & Kent, which maintains its Cairo office, staffed by charming, knowledgeable Cairenes.

While other countries affected by civil unrest and terrorism events have slipped back onto the travel pages within weeks of the events, I feel Egypt – where I have lived and continue to return to every year – has been punished too harshly, and it suffers deeply the loss of one of its key sources of income.

The people lean heavily on tourism with good reason: their undeniable treasures include the Pyramids of Giza, the colossi at Abu Simbel, the gracious and eternal Nile. And they’re just three of its riches.

Egyptians say that once you’ve drunk from the Nile, you’ll always return. Maybe you’re not up for a cup of river water, hopefully this article will inspire you to visit -or to return.

We come to visit the gods. Stern of face, empty of eye, they stare. Blank, sightless eyes see nothing, yet see everything in the future and back to the ancient world. The colossal sculptures of Abu Simbel are in Egypt’s deep south, touching on the border with Sudan, and are the jewel of the appropriately named Nile in Style journey with Abercrombie & Kent.

“Nowhere are there so many marvellous things, nor in the whole world beside are there to be seen so many works of unspeakable greatness,” wrote Herodotus of Egypt in the fifth century BC. Fifteen centuries later, he’s still on the money.

Click here to read on about my journey down the Nile.

 

 


Smoking hot: Volcano tourism

Fascinated by nature’s spectacular fireworks, a breed of adventurers chase volcanic eruptions around the world.

 

Peering into a chasm into the earth’s crust is the chance to peer into creation – pits of bubbling, boiling lava, deep rumbling voices from our planet’s core, plumes of sulphurous gases and the spectacular, powerful arcs of red-hot, molten lava shooting into a darkened sky.

For some, it’s a glimpse into hell. For others, it’s the perfect holiday.

“I guess we’re like storm chasers and people who want to see solar eclipses – we’re in the same family,” says Belgian geologist Dr Ingrid Smet, a guide for Volcano Adventures (VA).

My piece on volcano tourism was published in Paradise, the inflight magazine of Papua New Guinea’s national airline, Air Nuigini. If you’re not on an Air Nuigini flight any time soon, you can read the full article here.


Six of the best: Stockholm’s family-friendly attractions

Stockholm fun fair Groner Lund.

I’ve visited Stockholm as a freewheeling adult, and also as a parent
toting tots in midwinter (“Why?” I hear you ask. Trust me, I was asking
myself the same question one deep, cold November. But family and the
Northern Lights were calling. Both were in good form.)

Anyway,
should you find yourself in a similar position of travelling in
Stockholm with the brood in tow, there are plenty of fun free and pricey
options, many gathered on the city island of Djurgården, including
Junibacken, which celebrates Nordic writers of children’s fiction
including the beloved Pippi Longstocking, Groner Lund fun park and the
absolutely unmissable Skansen.

I took the 3-year-old to Skansen on
the last visit, and while she slept blissfully in the hired pram, I
spotted rare Arctic animals, chatted about Sami culture with Swedish
guides and watched old-school weaving. When she awoke, she rode fat
ponies and mainlined traditional Christmas pastries. Win-win all round.

You can read my top six Stockholm adventures for kids’ here.

The feature first appeared in the Sun-Herald and Sunday Age newspapers’ Traveller section. Enjoy!


Welcome to Australia’s best beach (which you’ve probably never heard of)

Cossies Beach, Cocos (Keeling) Islands. Photo: Rik Soderlund

It’s official: Australia’s best beach is …drum roll… probably nowhere you’ve ever been.

This week past saw a chat with beach expert Brad Farmer, who has
ventured across Australia, boardies on, notebook in hand, to find our
best beach. His new book lists the top 101 beaches in Australia.

 
He reckons he’s visited about 4000 of Australia’s 11,000-plus
beaches, and the best beach is the newly named Cossies Beach on the tiny
Cocos (Keeling) Islands, about 4.5 hours north-west of Perth. 
The
island group is on the extreme fringe of our marine waters, and better
known for border patrols than beach patrols.
 
Farmer’s research isn’t driven by hotel companies, website stats or
private equity funds, he says. He worked with Tourism Australia, which
says the value of our beaches to the economy need to be appreciated, and
capitalised upon.
 
Also in the top 10 best beaches are strips on another distant
outpost, Christmas Island. Some people will roll their eyes that the
Gold Coast is underrepresented, or that Bondi should be top o’ list. But
I think it’s refreshing that we explore past the everyday.
 
As Brad told me,”Australia is one of the last countries you can
actually go and explore. Go a little further, open your eyes, explore.”
 
It’s a motto to live by.

Click here to read the full story, which appeared in Fairfax Media’s Traveller website.


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