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… 



Seven dishes you must try on the Sunshine Coast


Koji creme caramel, Spicers Tamarind

The path to the Sunshine Coast beach town of Noosa is a well-worn path for southerns. However, chef Cameron Matthews’ recommendations of what to eat will send you up into the cool hinterlands to try Asian-inspired creme caramel, wash-rind cheeses and fresh feijoas.

You can find out what his seven must-eat dishes are by clicking here

This article appears on the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age‘s Traveller website.

Seven wonders, by the road: Australia road trips to natural wonders

A great view from the road: World Heritage-listed Uluru in
Australia’s Northern Territory. Photo: Steven Siewert

Seven great icons, seven great road trips, Belinda Jackson discovers that the journey becomes the destination.

Australia’s icons come with plenty of drama – the world’s oldest rainforest, world’s biggest monolith and it’s not called the Good
Barrier Reef, is it?

With some of the planet’s best scenery outside
your window, switch off the phone and seize the moment to explore our
most photographed beaches, our most frequently painted mountain ranges
or go it alone in the strange, remote deserts of the continent’s
interior – often easily seen through your car window. There’s no
hardship: eat our national coat of arms in South Australia, fill the
Esky on the Great Ocean Road or shop for a glass of wine at day’s end in
Tassie​. Read on to discover seven natural icons found on seven great
road trips, where the journey becomes the destination.

The icon: Great Ocean Road, Victoria

Great Ocean Road: the Twelve Apostles. Photo: Damien White

The flavour of the trip: From Torquay to Allansford,
near Warrnambool, the winding road curves along Victoria’s southern
coastline. The road was built by returned soldiers from WWI and
commemorates their fallen mates.
Get the picture: You’re
doing it to see the 12 Apostles, right? But make time to visit
Australia’s capital of surf, Torquay’s Bells Beach, spot wild koalas and
feed the parrots at little Kennett Creek. Plan a cafe and ice-cream run
at Lorne and fill the Esky from Timboon’s providores for a picnic at
Cape Otway.
Leave from: Melbourne. Torquay, the starting point, is 100km west of the capital’s CBD.

How much time to take: You can drive the GOR
straight in five hours, but why bother? Allow at least two nights to
explore. Double your driving time allowance if you’re doing it in the
summer school holidays.
Distance: 243km with plenty of hairpin bends and most of it is speed limited to 80km/hour.
See visitgreatoceanroad.org.au.

The icon: Alice Springs to Uluru, Northern Territory

The flavour of the trip: You’ve seen the ads: blood-red desert sands flank long, straight stretches of highway.
Get the picture:
Sacred Uluru is the undoubtable drawcard, but add to the list Kata
Tjuta​ (the Olgas) and Atila (Mt Connor, aka Fool-uru), another
spectacular monolith that rises up on the southern side of Lasseter
Highway: the rookie mistake is thinking it’s Uluru. To visit Atila, book
through Curtain Springs Station (curtinsprings.com)
Leave from:
Fly in to either Alice Springs or Ayres Rock airport and hire a camper
or standard car (you won’t need a 4WD if you don’t stray from the
highway). For the full immersion, drive 1500km from Darwin.
How much time to take:
Six hours without stops, but savour it with an overnighter​ en route.
It’s speed limited at up to 130km/hr, so you can put your foot down, but
don’t drive at night: you won’t see anything except that roo, camel,
cow or emu coming through the windscreen.
Distance: 462km down the Stuart Highway, then chuck a sharp right at Erldunda Roadhouse onto the Lasseter Highway. See travelnt.com.

The icon: Flinders Ranges, South Australia

The flavour of the trip: A gentle introduction to
the outback (though flashes of aquamarine waters of the Spencer Gulf
always come as a surprise). It’s hard to keep your eyes off the
watercoloured​ ranges, but watch for wild donkeys on the road.
Get the picture: Stop for a FMG (“feral mixed grill”) at the Prairie Hotel, Parachilna (prairiehotel.com.au) and a wedge-tailed eagle’s view of the ranges with a light aircraft flight from Wilpena Pound Resort (wilpenapound.com.au).
Stay overnight at tiny Arkaroola village and wilderness sanctuary to
spot elusive yellow-footed rock wallabies, take a 4WD tagalong tour and
visit the astronomical observatories (arkaroola.com.au).
Leave from: Hawker is 400km from Adelaide on the A1, which finishes at Darwin.
How much time to take: Four nights will fit in the basics, but it deserves a week’s exploration.
Distance: The
classic Flinders circuit is 230km, from Hawker to Blinman, across to
Parachilna and back to Hawker. Add on a round-trip from Hawker up to
Arkaroola, about three hours from Parachilna. See roadtrips.southaustralia.com.

The icon: Mungo National Park, New South Wales  

Big skies and bigger stories: Mungo National Park. Photo: Quentin Jones

The flavour of the trip: This is ancient land:
people have been living around Mungo for 50,000 years – gear up for big
deserts, big rivers, big skies and even bigger stories.
Get the picture:
See the skeletons of ghosts past, when Australia’s massive inland sea
receded at the end of the last ice age. Mungo Man, Australia’s oldest
human remains, were discovered here, and plan for sunset and sunrise
looking to the dramatic Walls of China. You can do a 2.5-hour tagalong
driving tour of the national park with Aboriginal Discovery Rangers and
learn about the megafauna – giant kangaroos, wombats, lions and emus –
who lived here.
Leave from: Sydney via Goulburn
and Wagga, with eyes peeled for emus on the Hay plains. Otherwise,
award-winning Echidna Walkabout Nature Tours runs tours from Melbourne
How much time to take: Allow
two days to reach Mungo. If desert camping is too extreme for you,
pitch your tent by the Murrumbidgee in Balranald, 130km from Mungo, or
take a motel room in Wentworth and visit the red dunes outside the town,
148km from Mungo.
Distance: 875km from Sydney. See visitmungo.com.au.

The icon: Daintree, Queensland

The flavour of the trip: A sunny drive up the scenic
Queensland coast to visit the world’s oldest surviving tropical
rainforest, with the Great Barrier Reef served up on the side.
Get the picture:
Beach camping, twice-daily swims, sunset barbies: it’s the great
Australian holiday. For a change of scenery, take the byroads through
the lush Atherton Tablelands.
Leave from: Townsville.
The drive up to the Daintree and nearby Cape Tribulation is around
500km. Determined roadtrippers​ could start out in Brissy for an 1800km
one-way journey.
How much time to take: Allow a
week to soak up the Cairns vibe and let yourself be diverted from the
road on a boat trip out onto the reef off Townsville, staying at luxe
Orpheus Island (orpheus.com.au) or friendly Magnetic Island (magnetic-island.com.au).
Distance: 470km. See queensland.com.

The icon: Freycinet Peninsula, Tasmania

The flavour of the trip: A slow drive up Tasmania’s
sleepy east coast with a day’s detour on the foot passenger ferry to the
former convict colony of Maria Bay.
Get the picture:
Constantly featured in “Top 10 world’s best beaches”, the perfect curve
of Wineglass Bay is best appreciated from its lookout.  Don’t miss the
chance to stock up on local wine on the way (winetasmania.com.au)
and make time for a short walk down to Hazards Beach on the Freycinet
Peninsula. Keep the camera ready for white-bellied sea-eagles and
adorable little paddymelons.
Leave from: Hobart via Sorrel, Orford and Swansea.
How much time to take: Three days minimum, unless you really like seafood and cool-climate wines.
Distance: 400km for a round-trip circuit. See discovertasmania.com.au.

The icon: Bungle Bungle Range, Western Australia

The flavour of the trip: Lonesome and lovely, this
drive through the Kimberley is the dictionary definition of the word
“remote”. Mind you, the Gibb River Rd does become a bit crowded in peak
(winter) season.
Get the picture: The sandstone
“beehives” known as the Bungle Bungles are in Purnululu National Park,
weathered away over 350 million years. Book a scenic flight over them
from the local caravan park (bunglebunglecaravanpark.com.au). Take a dip
in Cathedral Gorge, but stay clear of the waters of Windjana Gorge –
it’s croc territory.
Leave from: Broome and turn due east.
How much time to take:
Seven days minimum – you’re on bush time now and the roads into
Purnululu are slow. But you could fall in love with the Kimberley and
never leave.
Distance: 1100km via the Gibb River Rd. You could leave from Perth, but that is a 3000km drive, one way. See westernaustralia.com.

This article brought to you in association with Avis.

This feature by Belinda Jackson was published on Fairfax Media’s Traveller website.

The 50 best travel finds of 2014 from around the globe

Miss Moneypenny’s, Noosa

Yeah, I know it’s already 8 January, but I’m still looking back… maybe it’s because Australia really hasn’t kicked back properly into work yet. Consensus is that next Monday is the day we all turn our brains on once again. I had many great discoveries last year, including the new COMO hotel in the Maldives, Maalifushi, a villa in Lombok and the newly scrubbed Tahrir square in Cairo, but  also a few fun finds locally, in Australia. Here’s my contribution to a recent round-up by the Sun-Herald‘s brace of writers on our best travel finds in 2014.

Miss Moneypenny, Noosa, Queensland

watching is a delight in Noosa, when the buff and the beautiful hit the
sidewalks. Take a ringside seat at Miss Moneypenny, one of the newest additions
to Hastings Street, and order up on the seafood share boards and an 80s cruise
ship drink, their signature pina coladas – we’re in the tropics, people! The
open-air bar-cafe-restaurant spills into the street, ideal for seafood Sundays
or Saturday’s late-night supper club.missmoneypennys.com

Jean-Paul Gaultier Exhibition, National Gallery of Victoria 

Playful, cheeky, self-deprecating: not the words usually associated with
fashion. Jean Paul Gaultier delights in smashing the mould; remember the
conical bra he strapped onto Madonna in 1990? Haute couture comes alive with
moving catwalks and interactive mannequins, the exhibition has already
travelled from San Fran to Stockholm. But in Melbourne, the only showing in the
Asia Pacific, Gaultier assures us, it’s almost perfect. Make a night of it with
the NGV’s fantastic Friday Nights program, with DJs and talks, includes
admission to the exhibition. Costs $22 adults/$10 children 5-15 years
(exhibition only), $28/$10 Friday Nights at Jean Paul Gaultier. Until February
8, 2015. ngv.vic.gov.au

Seahaven Resort, Noosa

A stalwart in Hastings St, Seahaven has enjoyed a $16 million refurbishment
and is unrecognisable from its former self. The resort eclipses the big names
for blockbuster location, bang on Noosa’s Main Beach. Accommodation ranges from
studio boltholes to two-storey penthouses, with fully kitted kitchens, rain
showers and laundries. Plan drinks on your balcony, overlooking the sea.
Seahaven’s three swimming pools and its beachfront barbecue.  It’s a
two-minute trot along the beach boardwalk for morning coffee or for dinner at
Noosa’s sensational restaurants. Sunrise yoga on the beach is de rigueur. seahavennoosa.com.au

This feature was published in Sydney’s Sun-Herald newspaper.

Travel deals: Free Fiji



Stay eight nights at the five-star Outrigger on the Lagoon
with return airfares, $600 resort credit, butler service, spa treatment
and kids stay and eat free, saving $2000. Book by February 28; travel
until March 31. Worth $2790, from $1990 a person. Phone 1300 003 454, see myfiji.com.au.

Be one of the first to stay in the newly refurbished
apartments and suites of Seahaven Noosa, set between Hastings Street and
the beachfront. Save $25 a night, with 2pm checkout, on stays until
March 30. From $175 a night, studio. Phone (07) 5447 3422, see www.seahavennoosa.com.au.



Book a historic mansion in Marais, five minutes’ walk from
the Musee Picasso, and save $70 a night. The large guest suite of
Apartment 268 includes a private terrace and breakfast served by your
Parisian host. Costs from $272 a night, double, until March 30. See petiteparis.com.au.


Cosy up in a country cottage in Hall and pay half price until
July 31. Book two nights at the 4.5-star Gooromon Park Cottages and get
champagne and chocolates, breakfast and Wi-Fi. From $380, two nights,
quote “Elegance” or “Silhouette”. Phone 1300 88 7979, see wotif.com/hotelW212536.



Just 15 minutes from Angkor Wat’s temples, the new 30-room
Angkor Heritage Boutique hotel’s opening special cuts 35 per cent off
room rates until September 30. From $86 a night, includes breakfast,
Wi-Fi and airport transfers. Phone 855 63 966 660, see angkorheritagehotel.com.


Book a 19-day West Coast Discovery Tour from Darwin to Perth
by March 31 to get discounts and your friend flies free. Discover
Litchfield, Kakadu and Monkey Mia. Departs July 9, August 6 and 27. From
$7395 a person, twin share. Phone 1300 383 747, see evergreentours.com.

TOURWATCH: Top End angling
Snap up a fishy tale in the Top End as luxury lodge Bamurru
Plains transforms into a fishing lodge until April 28, with metre-long
barramundi up for grabs. Three hours from Darwin on the NT’s Mary River floodplains,
cast a line from Bamurru’s airboats with fishing guides. The
all-inclusive eco-camp has nine safari suites, operates on a
catch-and-release ethos and includes all meals, drinks and fishing
tours. From $2350 a person, twin share, three nights. Phone 1300 790 561. See wildbushfishing.com.

KIDS’ DEALS: In the zone


Kids run the show at the new Cool Zones and Adventure Zones
in 11 Asia-Pacific Shangri-La properties including Kerry Hotel, Beijing,
which has just completed a $6.5 million renovation. Its Adventure Zone
has three slides including the Demon Drop, net towers, ball pits, a
wading pool and village complete with dress-ups for toddlers, free for
kids four to 12 years. (Psst, parents! The hotel’s new wine bar opens
June 2014.) Deluxe rooms cost from $274 plus taxes; see shangri-la.com.

This column by Belinda Jackson was published in the Sun-Herald newspaper. 

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

Where Maggie Beer relaxes, Fleur Wood eats and wellness and eco escapes: Good Weekend

Where does Maggie Beer truly relax, and Fleur Woods
find a Victorian gourmet getaway? Part of Good Weekend’s 52 ExtraordinaryJourneys that cover wellness retreats and eco-escapes.

restaurateur, author

The experience: Consistency, attention to detail and utter relaxation
on Kangaroo Island. 
“I have visited the Southern Ocean Lodge four times, as
I host a Kangaroo Island Food Safari each year. Recently, I stayed at the lodge
for five days. I’m a detail freak and I appreciate every little bit. The luxury
is the staff, who are lovely people. It’s in the swivel chairs you sit on. It’s
in the way everything is so restful, and how every window is set to capture a
view: the first time I walked into the lodge’s great room, it took my breath
away. It’s in the greeting on arrival, the freshly made lamingtons served and
the good-quality tea. On my last visit, we walked the cliffs to Hanson Bay
every morning, and every morning the staff would offer to pack us cut fruit on
ice or a picnic and rug. We sat outside for every meal we could, eating the
best food, using seasonal, local produce. The lodge’s signature scent is lemon
myrtle, so there’s a sense of the bush. I don’t relax easily unless I’m by the
sea. Here, I am so relaxed, I just give myself over to it.” 
Dream to reality: Regional
Express (rex.com.au) flies daily from Adelaide to Kangaroo Island; Sealink
(sealink.com.au) has a daily ferry service from Cape Jervis on the mainland.
Southern Ocean Lodge, Hanson Bay, two-night stays from $990 a person a night,
twin share. southernoceanlodge.com.au

The experience:
 Chardonnay body scrub, pinot bath and a glass of wine.
Snuggled in the wild dunes of Tasmania’s far north-east, Barnbougle Lost Farm’s
spa menu includes vinotherapy – embracing blends from the nearby Tamar Valley’s
cool-climate wines. Think chardonnay exfoliant, pinot noir body mask, then a
still-water pinot bath.
Dream to reality: Barnbougle Lost Farm, Waterhouse
Road, Bridport, is one hour’s drive from Launceston. Fly direct from
Melbourne’s Moorabbin Airport. Rooms from $190 a night, twin share; 150 minutes
of vinotherapy from $320 a person. lostfarm.com.au

The experience: Waterfall “treatment” in
subtropical climes.
Nature’s hand replaces that of the therapist, no booking is required, and there
are no man-made products – just an invigorating pummelling. In and around
beautiful Litchfield National Park south of Darwin, the popular Florence Falls,
Wangi Falls, Sandy Creek (Tjaynera Falls), Surprise Creek Falls and Buley
Rockhole can deliver neck-and-shoulder workouts. The best time to try is early
in the
dry season, May-June.
Dream to reality: Litchfield National Park is a
90-minute drive from Darwin. Walk from carparks to individual waterfalls.

The experience: A splendid bolthole and secluded
beach in the south-west.
Injidup Spa Retreat’s 10 villas have heated plunge pools, ocean views, in-villa
dining and an in-villa massage service. A member of the Small Luxury Hotels of
the World network, Injidup is adjacent to Leeuwin-Naturaliste National Park and
within driving distance of the Margaret River wine-and-dine bounty, yet well
suited to travellers who seek to be alone, but pampered, near a brooding sea.
Dream to reality: Injidup is a three-hour drive
southwest of Perth. Two-night weekend villa stays from $650 a night.

The experience: Barossa bush bathing.
The seven-suite Kingsford Homestead, built in 1856, has an alfresco two-person
bath set in a private corner of the estate. Guests are handed a basket
containing a bathrobe and salts before they walk into the bush to bathe.
Dream to reality: Kingsford is an hour’s drive
north of Adelaide. Two-night stays from $1780 for two. kingsfordhomestead.com.au

The experience: A Noosa ‘‘bodibreak’’ for those
made of tough stuff.
Train like a pro under the direction of Life’s A Gym coaches: think
bootcamp-style sessions on the beach, in the ocean and pool, as well as
running, bike riding, and stand-up paddling and surfing sessions. The regimen
is bespoke and includes fitness and nutrition advice.
Dream to reality: Fly direct from Sydney or
Melbourne to Sunshine Coast Airport. Stay at Outrigger Little Hastings Street,
Noosa. Four-day ‘‘bodibreak’’ from $1650 a person, twin share. lifesagym.com

The experience: Savannah meets wetlands meets
lodge comforts.
Wake to a chorus of brolgas after a night’s sleep in an African-style tented
stay overlooking the 2000-hectare Mareeba Tropical Savanna and Wetland Reserve
the Atherton Tableland west of Cairns, in Far North Queensland. The Wildlife
Conservancy of Tropical Queensland spent 10 years developing the reserve.
Dream to reality: By car, it’s about a 90-minute
drive from Cairns or Port Douglas. Lodge stays from $229 a person a night, twin
share. Cairns-Mareeba train and bus services available. Transfers from Cairns
to the Jabiru Safari Lodge are available by special request.

The experience: Stylish digs deep in native
Winter and early spring bring forth flowering plants and orchids at the
spectacular Tanonga, a 100-hectare property on the Eyre Peninsula where more
than 25,000 native trees, shrubs, grasses and sedges have been planted to help
restore the land. It’s a robust landscape of incredible views, with two
architect-designed, self-contained lodges sitting among it.
Dream to reality: Regional Express flies daily
from Adelaide to Port Lincoln. Tanonga Luxury Eco Lodges are a 20-minute drive
from the airport. Lodge stay is $310-$340 a night. Minimum two-night stay.

The experience: At home on the edge of the wild
Corinna is a former goldmining settlement, its riverside workers’ cottages and
stores since renovated and an additional 14 retreats built to complement the
settler vernacular. On the southern side of the Tarkine – the largest temperate
rainforest in Australia – Corinna has rainwater on tap. While you’re there,
take a Pieman River cruise on the stunning Arcadia II, a 17-metre vessel made
of huon pine in 1939.
Dream to reality: Corinna is a three-hour drive
south west of Stanley or 90 minutes north of Strahan, on Tasmania’s west coast.
One-bedroom retreats from $200 a night for two people. corinna.com.au

The experience: Corrugated-iron “bush
shelters”, courtesy of architects.
Self-contained studios insulated with sheep’s wool and decorated with found and
recycled materials form The Odd Frog, built on
4.2 hectares in Bright in Victoria’s north-east. It’s a solar-powered stay,
with grey water going to the orchard, walking and cycling tracks (including the
sealed Murray to the Mountains rail trail) nearby, and Bright’s shops a short
stroll away.
Dream to reality: Bright is about a three-hour
drive from Melbourne. Nearest airport is Albury, NSW. Studios from $150 a
night. theoddfrog.com

The experience: No plastic, thanks, we’re
permaculture people.
Tucked between a sandstone escarpment and the Morton National Park, Kangaroo
Valley has National Trust-listed landscapes and village buildings, a
long-standing ‘‘no plastic bags in shops’’ policy, and tourism operators who
are upfront about their efforts to reduce their carbon emissions. About 1300
people live in the valley, and it’s
a badge of honour for many that there are no traffic lights in the area.
Dream to reality: Kangaroo Valley is a two-hour
drive south of Sydney. kangaroovalleytourist.asn.au
FLEUR WOOD, Sydney fashion

The experience: Towns that let the tables do the talking. 
“Victoria’s Daylesford region is a foodie revelation All
we did on a weekend visit was eat. My favourite restaurant is Kazuki’s –
modern, Japanese-inspired bistro food. There’s beef and foie gras on the menu,
but it’s very light. It’s my kind of food and I wanted everything on the menu.
Wombat Hill House cafe, in the botanic gardens, is a great place to take kids
and the food is fresh, organic and healthy. We had lunch in the conservatory
and were struck by the delicious salads with fresh herbs and the local spring
water. I did manage to get to Hepburn Bathhouse and Spa and visit Lavandula, a
Swiss-Italian-style lavender farm for the signature lavender scones, of course.
It is really beautiful, a good place for a post-spa afternoon tea. There are so
many restaurants, yet there’s still an Australian country town aesthetic about
Daylesford. With a husband and young baby, plus restaurants and spa treatments
to experience, I didn’t have much time for shopping, but we took home some
home-made apricot and almond jam. So much of the food is local and organic and
there’s a real pride in growing and producing your own foods. It’s such a great
community. If it was just outside Sydney, I’d be there every second
Dream to reality: Daylesford
and the Macedon Ranges is north-west of Melbourne. Self-guided touring
recommended. visitvictoria.com

This article originally appeared in Good
. Like Good Weekend on Facebook to get regular updates on upcoming stories
and events – www.facebook.com/GoodWeekendMagazine

Source: Belinda Jackson, Good Weekend Magazine

See Tokyo in style and go warp-drive in Sri Lanka: travel deals 10 February 2013

Click on for Mark Jensen’s bbq octopus recipe, Noosa Food & Wine, Qld.
Beautiful people eating beautiful food: it’s Noosa in a nutshell come this May. Otherwise, Tokyo in style and knowing your warp and weft in Sri Lanka, in this week’s domestic and international travel deals.

Foodies will flock to Noosa from May 16-19 for the 10th Noosa International Food & Wine festival. Highlights
include Edible Music, which sees musicians and chefs combined, degustation
dinners, sunset concerts and a new Barefoot beach marquee for cocktail
competitions and a seafood feast. Tickets cost from $40, which include
celebrity chef cooking demos and live entertainment, up to $330 for a Weekend
Gold Pass, which includes cocktail parties and preferential concert seating.
Book before April 1 and save 10 per cent discount (excluding some events and
the Platinum Experience). (07) 5455 4455, noosafoodandwine.com.au.
“Autumn is a delightful time to escape into our wonderful alpine landscape, with epic sunsets and soft meadows filled with wildflowers,” says Alan Fenner of ParkTrek. The highlight of the ‘Alpine High Plains’ wfour-day walk (March 23-26) is a trek along the Razorback from Mt Hotham to Mt Feathertop. Team it up with the four-day ‘Easter in the Victorian Alps’ walk (March 29 – April 1), which criss-crosses the high country, visiting historical huts, staying at a ski lodge in Falls Creek. Walks are graded easy to medium, averaging 12-16km daily. Book both trips and save $120. Costs $2080 a person for two trips, includes meals, accommodation and guides (03) 9877 9540, parktrek.com.

Tassie is girding its
loins for the island’s international arts festival, Ten Days on the Island,
coming up on March 15-24 (tendaysontheisland.com). Get in early and hook
yourself some seriously swank digs, at the beautiful Villa Howden, 15
minute drive from Hobart on the shores of North West Bay. Comprising 10 luxury suites looking over the bay,
the setting is serene,  with wi-fi,
Australian cosmetics, full breakfast and in-suite bar included. Stay two
nights, get a third free, saving a cool $420. Book and stay by March 28. Costs
from $840 for three nights. (03) 6267 1161, villahowden.com.au.
Start planning for WA’s wildflower season, which carpets the state in a rich
tapestry from June to November. Outback Spirit’s 15-day Western Wildflower
Discovery tour traverses the state’s riches, from Monkey Mia and the Shark Bay
Marina to wildlife sanctuaries as well as those beautiful stretches of native
wildflowers. Tours depart in September and October, book by February 28 and fly
Sydney-Perth return for just $199. Costs from $5595 a person, twin share. 1800
688 222, outbackspirittours.com.au.
Shangri-La Tokyo
Get to grips with Tokyo in style, with the Shangri-La Hotel’s new package, which sees you skipping about town in a private limo. Hotel stays usually cost from $740 a night, but the two-night ‘Explore Tokyo in Style’ package lets you snap your fingers and have the car whisk you on a tour, to the airport or just to take you shopping, until June 30. Costs from $1500, two nights. 1800 222 448, www.shangri-la.com/jp.

Feel the rails rocking beneath you on the night journey from Paris to Rome. The Thello night trains travel up to 180km/hour and travel between Paris, Milan, Venice and now Rome with both six-berth couchette and first-class sleepers available. Book seven days in advance and save up to 50 per cent. Seats are limited, so get in early.  Costs from $52 a person in a six-berth couchette. 1300 387 245, internationalrail.com.au.

Get the true taste of Creole with a cooking school that
unravels the cuisine of the Deep South, with its French, Spanish, Portuguese,
Italian and Native American influences. There’s also a tour of the Jack Daniels
distillery and dinner in a Natchez mansion on this 10-day Tastes & Sounds
of the South tour. The tours depart between May 2 and October 31. Book six
months ahead and save $119. Costs from $2256 a person, twin share. 1300 663
043, trafalgar.com.
Recovered from Christmas? It’s time to start planning for
next year, with a Canadian White Christmas tour. Have Christmas Day brunch at
Lake Louise followed by a ride in a horse-drawn sleigh, train through The
Rockies, visit the snow haven of Whistler and a take gondola ride at Banff.  Departs December 16. Book by April 30, save
up to $500 a person. Costs from $6495 a person, twin share. 1300 278 278, aptouring.com.au.
Bargain hunters love Malaysia, not only for the shopping, but also for the good value on its accommodation. The Villa Samadhi is a sleek, 21-room contemporary Asian residence brimming with pools, thatch roofs and Asian antiques in central Kuala Lumpur. Stay two nights at the Relais & Chateaux property before February 28, get dinner and airport transfers and $173 off. Costs from $566 a villa, two nights. 1800 667731, globalhotelsmarketing.com.

One of this year’s hot spots, the attention on Sri Lanka
is justly deserved for its spectacular beaches, lush landscapes and intriguing
culture. Textiles aficionados have the chance to explore the island’s textiles
history, from lace to embroidery, batik and handloomed cloth.  The tour is led by Melbourne embroidery
artist Cresside Colette, originally from Colombo. Highlights include private
textiles collections, weaving villages and lace workshops, as well as the
island’s main tourist sites and there’s plenty of opportunity to shop its busy
markets, with Active Travel’s wise shoppers by your side. The tour departs May
6-17. Costs from $3874 a person, twin share (excludes airfares). (02) 6249
6122, activetravel.com.au.

SOURCE: Belinda Jackson, Sun Herald

Dine in the desert, lap up the luxury: travel deals 3 February 2013

It could only be the Maldives.

Lap up the luxury in the Maldives, dine in the desert beneath the stars at Uluru or snigger like a schoolboy in Cappadocia, in this week’s domestic and international travel deals. 


Small and beautiful not only describes the island of Tasmania, but also Hobart’s sleek boutique hotel scene, led by the bellwether The Islington. The last word in chic, the 11-room hotel is offering 20 per cent off dinner, bed and breakfast in its lush Garden View rooms when you stay Wednesday to Sunday. Normally $585 a night, rug up and save $117 a night on stays between April 1 and September 30. The offer includes a three-course a la carte dinner for two. Book by February 28. Costs from $468 a night. 1300 896 627, mrandmrssmith.com.
Now the holiday crowds have gone, you can soak up the
beauty of the Great Ocean Road in relative peace. Stay three nights in a cabin
at the Big4 Beacon Resort in Queenscliff and they’ll include a Movie Munch
popcorn pack, free DVD hire, mountain bikes, two meals for the price of one at
Terindah Estate vineyard, half price on a South Bay eco-tours discovery tour
and a bottle of chardonnay from local vineyard, Scotchmans Hill. Excludes
Saturday nights, the Bellarine Getaway
Package is valid until August 31. Costs from $330, three nights. 1800 351 152, beaconresort.com.au.
The Sebel Resort Noosa, Queensland.
If you thought Noosa’s locals couldn’t get any more buff and beautiful, wait till the Kellogg’s Nutri-grain Ironman and Ironwoman series comes to town on February 24. Get into the action with a stay at the refurbished Sebel Resort Noosa, on Hastings Street. Stay in a one-bed spa apartment and get 35 per cent off, kids stay free and you’ll also get free internet. Stay two nights or more, and get free bike hire or surfboard hire. Book by February 28 for stays until June 20 (excluding Easter), and quote the suitably vigorous promo code ‘outdoors’. Costs from $259 a night. 131 515, sebelresortnoosa.com.

It’s still summer out in the west, where the turtles are
nesting and the manta rays are swimming. Do your bit to keep the turtles happy
with a guided tour to spot Green, Loggerhead and Hawksbill turtles (08 9949 1176, exmouthwa.com.au), Stay at the nearby Novotel Ningaloo Reef in
Exmouth and get five nights for the price of four on stays until March 28.
Costs from $1100 a room, five nights. (08) 9949 0000, novotelningaloo.com.au.
Tick the Northern Territory many icons off your bucket
list in one swoop, on the 11-day Territory Explorer, including Uluru, Alice
Springs, Kakadu and Katherine Gorge. Highlights also include a Sounds of
Silence dinner in the central Australian desert, a slap-up feed at Daly Waters
pub and two nights at the Sails in the Desert resort at Uluru.  Book by March 31 and your partner gets free
flights into Ayers Rock and out of Darwin, tours depart between June and August.
Costs from $5665 a person, twin share. 
1300 723 642,
Get into the thick of Bangkok’s gold-obsessed Chinatown
with a three-night stay that includes breakfast daily, welcome drinks, free
wi-fi and 20 per cent off at the hotel spa. Rooms from the 11th floor up of the
three-star Grand China hotel include views of the city and Chao Phraya river.
Book by March 31 for stays between April 1 and October 31. Costs from $95 a
person, twin share, for three nights. 133 133, flightcentre.com.au.
The pun-worthy rock formations of Cappadocia, Turkey
Turkish history resonates with Australians, and the
battlefields of World War I are on the itinerary of this seven-day ‘Turkish Delight’ coach tour through
a remarkable country. Other highlights include the ancient cities of Troy and
Ephesus, the Convent of the Whirling Dervishes in far western Konya and the
pun-worthy rock formations of Cappadocia. Save 10 per cent when you book by
February 20, excludes tours during the ANZAC period, April 18-25. Costs from
$828 a person, includes four-star accommodation and most meals. 1300 362 844, tempoholidays.com.
Beat the rush for flights and book your April holiday
before March 1 to save $726 on a seven-night stay at Club Med, Nusa Dua. The
offer includes all meals, open bar and snacks, kids’ club, sports activities
and daily entertainment. They’ll also include airport transfers and Club Med
membership with travel insurance on travel. The deal is valid for travel until
April 30. Normally $1913 for adults, costs from $1187 for adults, $692 for
children, seven nights.  1300 855 052, clubmed.com.au.
The Viceroy Maldives.
You may not
have celebrated Maldives National Day on January 25, but the five-star Viceroy
Maldives, on Vagaru Island, has marked the occasion with a discount on its 61
luxe beach and waterfront villas. Book by February 17 and save up to $760 a
night on stays until March 23. They’ll also include breakfast daily and a free
upgrade to the next villa type, if available. (Minimum stay four nights between
February 4 – 17).
Costs from $910 a
villa, a night. viceroyhotelgroup.com.
Paris and Barcelona: does it get any better? It does,
when you include the French wine regions of Bordeaux, St-Emilion and Sauternes,
then add Seville, Ronda and Granada into the mix. The Splendours of France
& Spain tour spends 18 days ambling through these two European superstars,
with departures on May 5 and September 29. Book before February 28 and get $200
off the luxury coach tour. Costs from $4435 a person, twin share. 1300 237 886,
South Australia’s incomparable Flinders Ranges.
Capture the vastness of central Australia with a new
aerial landscape photography tour, led by the highly experienced photographer Peter
Elfes. The six-day tour skims over the beauty of the Flinders Ranges and Lake
Eyre in light aircraft, and gets down on the ground with walking and 4WD tours
and photography workshops. There’s also an overnight stay in Marree and visit
to Andamooka included, with flights by Air Wilpena, which has been running
scenic flights in the region since 1959. The groups will have a maximum of 12
guests and tours depart June 4-9 and October 22-27. Costs from $4475 a person,
single room, including all flights and tours. (08) 8648 0004, airwilpena.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

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