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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The Fullerton Sydney Hotel: the best high tea in Sydney?

Don your smartest, stretchiest pants and get ready for a truly extravagant afternoon tea.

As one who has devoured afternoon and high teas from London to Luxor, I can confidently report The Fullerton Hotel Sydney’s tiered tower shames most comers.

The two-tiered tower needed to be super sturdy, laden as it was with duck rillettes, white truffle egg mayonnaise sandwiches, layered smoked salmon mille-feuille topped with caviar, and lobster cosied up in a Boston Cornet a l’Oriental. It paraded a profusion of mini bagels and perfectly cut sandwich squares, and a pretty green pandan kaya lamington in a Sydney-Singapore mash-up.

Click here to read more about how to get a Singapore tang into your Sydney-bound life.


Rise of the phoenix: Melbourne in lockdown

It’s been a tough week for us Melburnians. Banned from every other state, curfews from 8pm, corralled to just 5km from our homes. This week, the city has been divided between sadness and anger. Friends have sobbed – in privacy or in public – mourning the loss of their former lives, while others – me included – are hot balls of rage at the stupidity of a few who have refused to listen to our doctors telling us to stop mingling, or more people will die.

I wrote this piece because I’m oddly patriotic about this city, because I need to voice how gutted I am about these restrictions on our lives, and also to reinforce my belief that they’re necessary to preserve our people. I also I know we’ll come out of this stronger, and that we will find unexpected reserves of creativity and beauty, that we will ensnare those dreams and ideas that, in our usual frantic lives, dance on the fringes of our peripheral vision, forgotten in the grind of the commute and clock punching.

—–

Once upon a time, Melbourne was a dag. You may love our laneways, live music, literature and lavish tables, but this town’s definitely been shabby around the edges in its past.

Born in Melbourne to parents who later fled north for the warmth of the tropics, my return visits to Melbourne as a child were nothing short of Alice arriving in a multicultural wonderland. Traipsing behind my gruff great-aunt, in her fur-lined coat perfumed with Alpine menthol cigarettes, she’d let me purchase our tickets from the (quite frankly, terrifying) conductor on the tram into the city, where we’d walk Swanston Street.

We’d slow down past the delights of the Arthur Daley-styled London con man selling kangaroo-shaped opal necklaces on the way to the Coles Cafeteria on Bourke Street. Six floors up in a lift! She’d treat me to braised steak and onions, and dessert I didn’t have to share with a sibling. Walking through the city, I’d smell the rich scent of Greek souvlaki, taste lemony Italian gelato, hear sales pitches called in heavily accented English at the Queen Vic and South Melbourne fruit markets, where freshly skinned rabbits hung beside salamis of obscene lengths.

Later, I would wash my hands in the water wall and stare up into the looming interiors of the NGV, pausing especially for Tom Roberts’ and Frederick McCubbin’s Australian idylls painted in the wilderness of Box Hill nearly a century before I was born there.

What my great-aunt didn’t dwell on were the wee-washed laneways or the abandoned factories whose brick walls we’d hit our tennis balls against for hours, the rough band rooms with beer-washed floors and a mullet-topped clientele, and a railway depot in the city’s centre.

The city weathered the scorn poured on it from its northern rival, the Emerald City, with its greed-is-good suits and aerobics classes in front of the Opera House. Truth be told, Sydney just did a far better PR job on itself in the 80s and 90s, with its waterfront beauty, money worship and bicentennial bluster.

In retaliation, the Melbourne scene crawled out from its underground lair and laid itself bare to the world. Cheap rents, laid-back laws and low expectations fuelled the spawning of tiny specialist cafes, the 10-person bars, the curious design shops, the wee art spaces wedged into street corners.  It’s a truism that if you walk down a darkened lane in Sydney, you expect to be mugged. Walk down a darkened lane in Melbourne and find…the hottest bar that everyone’s talking about: if you can’t find it, it must be sensational.

Those lanes, places and arcades are empty right now, as we push through what fees like a never-ending lockdown.

But we’re a resilient people, an artistic people. We know our talents and if we can flip from a backwater to become internationally renowned for our food, music, art and literature, then we’ll flip again from this virus. We’ll write, we’ll paint, we’ll act and we’ll sing. And we’ll do it all bloody well, because that’s what we’re good at.

I’ve written this piece as much for myself as for my fellow Melburnians in the face of rising coronavirus numbers, locked borders, closed airports and nasty memes. There have been tears, there have been rages, but there’s also been rationality and there is also hope.

I’ll see you under the clocks again soon.


Expat: Tips from Long Island City/Manhattan

EXPAT Manhattan Denise GreenAustralian expat Denise Green is originally from Brisbane, and has been living in NYC and working from her Long Island City studio for four decades.
The artist suggests strolling around Columbus Circle. ” I am deeply interested in how we collectively and individually remember historic events, and explore it in my exhibition at Gallery 9 in Sydney this month at gallery9.com.au,” she says.
Denise will be in Sydney for the opening of her exhibition at Gallery 9 on April 18, 2018.
Click here to read Denise’s insights into her stomping ground, published in the Traveller section of the Sun-Herald and Sunday Age newspapers.

Underwater clubs, living English literature, best kids’ travel destinations: Takeoff travel news

FOOD:  Up is down in the Maldives

The Maldives likes to turn
everything on its head: take, for example, Subsix, the world’s first
underwater nightclub. The club, which is 500 metres out to sea and six
metres under water, can be found at Per Aquum Niyama resort, which has
also just opened Nest treehouse restaurant. Dining pods are suspended
above ground, with wooden walkways linking the tables amid the jungle.
The restaurant serves Asian cuisines. Niyama is set on two islands in
the Dhaalu Atoll, named Play (think adventure sports and kids’ club for
12 months-12 years) and Chill (think spa). Other ‘‘altered reality’’
experiences in the Maldives include underwater restaurants (Conrad
Maldives Rangali Island, Kihavah Anantara) to overwater spas (pretty
much everywhere) and even government cabinet meetings (OK, that was a
one-off publicity stunt). See
peraquum.com 
.

 

GEAR Lather up for Sydney

 Ease homesickness for expat friends
by sending them a little piece of Sydney. These new shower gift packs
hail from our northern beaches, and comprise a body bar, a soy candle in
a tin and loofah in three of the company’s best-selling fragrances;
French vanilla, vintage

gardenia and coconut & lime.
Palm Beach products are Australian made and owned by a local family
company. Shower gift packs cost $24.95 each. See palmbeach collection.
com.au.
 

AIRLINE Fly north for winter

Southerners chasing the sun will
welcome the news that Tigerair is increasing the number of flights from
Sydney to the Whitsunday Coast Airport at Proserpine. The north
Queensland town is a key jumping-off point for travel to Airlie Beach
and the Whitsunday Islands, including popular Hamilton Island. The new
Sunday service departs Sydney at 9.10am, and returns from Whitsunday
Coast at 11.15am with

a flight time of 2 hours 35 minutes.
The service starts October 25, priced from $89 for a Light fare, which
includes 7kg carry-on luggage. The airline has also increased flights on
its Melbourne-Gold Coast route, adding new Friday and Sunday services
from

September 18, just ahead of the term
three school holidays, with tickets from $79. The additional services
come as Tigerair cancels its Melbourne-Mackay route from September 7,
due to low demand. Tickets for the new services are on sale, see tigerair.com.
 


KIDS Have kids, will travel

Sydney Harbour has been voted
Australia’s most family-friendly destination in the newest edition of
Lonely Planet’s Travel with Children book. Sydney’s ferry rides,
picnicking on Fort Denison and catching the super-cat to Manly for a
surf lesson all add up to a top-notch staycation, says Lonely Planet.
Others in its top

10 top family-friendly destinations
include the theme parks of the Gold Coast and Canberra’s Questacon and
the National Arboretum Playground (nb: they also encourage knocking out
somersaults on the immaculate grass dome of Parliament House.) Tassie’s
ghoulish ghost tours get a guernsey, as does Brissie’s Streets Beach and
the kids’ activity rooms in

the Queensland Museum &
Sciencentre, Queensland Art Gallery and Gallery of Modern Art. The new
edition helps you take the brood to more than 80 countries, from Austria
to Zanzibar, with advice and tips for fun family travel. It costs
$29.99. See the new Lonely Planet Twitter and Facebook pages and lonelyplanetkids.com.

PICTURES In the frame

Celebrate Australian and
international photography at the month-long Ballarat International Foto
Biennale, which runs from August 22 to September 20. Central Ballarat
will host exhibitions by the 21 invited artists, with another 118 events
(and rising) in the fringe festival across the city. The festival’s
founder and creative director, Jeff Moorfoot, travels the world to bring
photographers’ work to the biennale. Those on show can be established
or emerging artists – the only criterion is that their works have not
yet been shown in Australia. Seven heritage buildings in the city centre
will host the major exhibitions, so you can skip between the Ballarat
Art Gallery and Mining Exchange to smaller galleries and bars for
projection projects and workshops, which cover subjects from light
painting to visual storytelling to Photography 101, from $79 to $475.
For the full program, see
ballaratfoto.org. For more photography festivals in the Pacific Rim, see
asiapacificphotoforum.org.
 



NEWS Crowded house

Wolf Hall, Poldark… Britain is on a
roll with silver-screen adaptations of some of its best loved
literature, showcasing its cities and villages. The latest is Thomas
Hardy’s romantic tragedy Far from the Madding Crowd, now in cinemas.
Filmed around Dorset, the novel is

set in the village of Evershot,
which Hardy renamed Evershead in his novels, a four-hour train journey
from central London. Hardy was also an architect, and in 1893 he
designed the drawing-room wing of what is now the Red Carnation’s
five-star Summer Lodge Country House hotel. Stays cost from $680,
b&b, double. Otherwise, wake from slumber in a four-poster bed to a
full English breakfast at the 16th-century Acorn Inn, mentioned in
Hardy’s Tess of the d’Urbervilles. Costs from $565 a night, double. See
summerlodgehotel.co.uk, acorn-inn.co.uk and visitbritain.co.uk

 The Takeoff travel news column by Belinda Jackson is published every Sunday in Sydney’s Sun-Herald newspaper’s Traveller section.    


Airline review: Scoot business class, Sydney to Singapore

Scoot's Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner.

THE PLANE Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner – the airline received its first Dreamliner
this year, for the Singapore-Perth and Singapore-Hong Kong routes. By
the end of 2015, all Australian routes will be serviced by Dreamliners.
THE ROUTE Sydney to Singapore.
THE LOYALTY SCHEME Scoot joined Singapore Airlines’ KrisFlyer frequent flyer program in April.
CLASS
Business class, seat 1H (aisle) but before takeoff, I shimmy down to
3J (window) to score two empty seats. The flight is less than half-full
today, and quite a few people seem to have been upgraded.
DURATION 7 hours.
FREQUENCY  Scoot currently flies Sydney to Singapore non-stop five times a week,
going daily from May 1. Conveniently, the flight leaves at lunchtime to
arrive in Singapore just in time for dinner (The return flight’s 1am
departure is less convenient.)

Scoot’s Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner. Photo: Supplied

THE SEAT A 38-inch (96-centimetre) pitch, 22-inch (56cm) width. There are 35 seats in ScootBiz, in a 2-3-2 formation.
BAGGAGE Checked luggage up to 20 kilograms and 15kg (two pieces) of carry-on.
COMFORT A Dreamliner is still a Dreamliner, no matter if it’s sporting
full-service or low-cost livery. That means low engine noise, cleaner
air and lower fuel consumption (and hopefully, lower ticket costs). The
seats are broad and comfortable, with an extendable foot rest to help
stretch out. Be prepared to pay extra for a snooze kit, which has a
fleece blanket, eye mask and neck pillow, or bring your own. Costs $17 
pre-booked or $21.80  on board.
ENTERTAINMENT As I’m sitting up at the bulkhead and gossiping, it takes a while to
realise there are no screens. To watch a movie, you have to download an
app beforehand and they’ll send the movie to the app. It’s far easier to
load your own movies onto your tablet or laptop. AC power is available
in every seat, no adaptors required. (Economy passengers have to pay
$7.60  for power). There are no USB sockets, crazy given they’re pushing
inflight Wi-Fi. You can go online once you hit 10,000ft and costs
$11.30/one hour, $16/three hours, or $20.80/24 hours and you can use any
remaining time on the return flight. There are no download limits.
SERVICE The pleasant, dignified staff hide any indignation at being referred
to as “Scootees” and one even shares his hot tip for the best Hainanese
chicken rice on the ground in Singapore. (I may have also been warned
off ordering the western breakfast on the return leg.) The pilots are
called Scooters and announce on takeoff: “We’re getting outta here!”
FOOD Lunch arrives shortly after takeoff. We have pre-ordered the soya
sauce chicken rice – braised chicken, Chinese mushrooms and quail eggs:
no marks for presentation and “saltiness” does not equate to
“flavoursome”. The meal includes a small Toblerone chocolate and is
presented on a tray that is broader than the narrow pull-out tables, and
slides dangerously. Quick, save that Wolf Blass chardonnay! The
ScootBiz fare includes one meal and one alcoholic drink. Additional
drinks can be bought with cash or credit card. Beers cost $8, $9 for
wine or pre-mix Singapore Sling. The peckish can order cup noodles (add
an instant egg for only $2), packet soup, biscuits or ice-cream. I
learn, too late, that the classic Singapore dish, Hainanese chicken
rice, is available only as a pre-order on the Sydney-Singapore leg.
ONE MORE THING Scoot is slated to start a Melbourne-Singapore direct service in November. 
THE VERDICT Apart from the spacious Dreamliner surrounds, this is not business
class as you know it. Think of it as premium economy. I’m good with BYO
amenities and entertainment, but the big let-down is the quality of the
food and wine, especially as Singapore prides itself on its cuisine. But
any qualms are far outweighed by the price: no-frills economy fares
cost as little as $219 and ScootBiz is priced from $499, with plenty of
sales available.

Tested by Belinda Jackson, who flew courtesy of Scoot. See www.flyscoot.com.


This Flight Test by Belinda Jackson was published in Sydney’s Sun-Herald Traveller section. 


Farewell, toxic world: Takeoff travel news

SPA
Farewell, toxic
world
Learn to achieve true wellness in a world where we are
exposed daily to toxins, in a once-off retreat at the luxurious Gwinganna
Lifestyle Retreat. The two-night retreat on the Gold Coast hinterland is led by
Professor Marc Cohen, head of Wellness Discipline in the School of Health
Sciences at RMIT University. With simple solutions to reduce your exposure and
increase your wellbeing, ‘Wellness in a Toxic World’ runs May 22-24. The
weekend includes two nights’ eco-accommodation, all organic food and drinks, transfers
from Gold Coast airport and a 50-minute massage in the indoor/outdoor Spa Sanctuary.
Costs from $1175 a person, twin share. Phone 1800 219 272, see
gwinganna.com.  

FOOD
Master host
Eat like a local, with a local, on a new food tour by
Masterchef winner and proud Tasmanian Ben Milbourne. Like armies, adventurers
travel on their stomachs and we have an appetite for Tassie’s burgeoning food
tourism scene, unsurprising given that the isle produces not only apples, but
also truffles, wasabi, rare-breed meats, single malt whiskey and chocolate. And
that’s aside from the staples of salmon and wine. On the One Degree Experience
tour, Ben wines and dines up to eight guests at his residence,
Fairholme, a 1920s farmhouse in Spreyton, 10 minutes from Devonport. You’ll hit
the big guns, such as Hellyer’s
Road Distillery and Anvers House of Chocolate, but also go off-piste in
north-west Tasmania to dig out boutique beer, ginseng and dairy from the hands
of the producers themselves. The tailor-made tours include lunch, a take-home
hamper, cooking demo and five-course degustation dinner. From $550 a
person.  Phone 0428 266 545, see benmilbourne.com.au.
GEAR
Light and bright
The old design maxim, “Say it in French,
it always sounds better,” also rings true for visual appeal – the Lipault Paris
luggage range is sure to brighten the world’s baggage carousels with its two
new spring-inspired colours, duck blue and orange. Taking cues from Parisian
catwalks, designer François Lipovetsky has ultra-lightweight luggage cred,
having created baggage for Air France.
The Original Plume is a soft-sided wheeled trolley that comes in three sizes,
55cm (2.8kg), 65cm (3.4kg) and 92cm (3.8kg), from $229. Best of all, it’s
foldable, so your storage cupboards aren’t full of bulky suitcases between
jaunts. Match it up with the Lady Plume carry-all, $99. First launched in 2005
and recently purchased by Samsonite, the Lipault Paris range has been available
in Australia only since November. Snap up in all the best places; Selfridges in
London, Galeries Lafayette in Paris or Myer in Australia, or phone 1800 331 690.
STAYCATION
Bird’s eye view
Think staycation, think walking past your office
on a weekend? Sail to a secluded island with world-class views, but still use
your metro card to get there when you stay on Cockatoo Island. The Sydney
Harbour Federation Trust has added a new two-bedroom apartment to the
accommodation on the UNESCO World Heritage site, which is on the Balmain ferry
route. The new self-contained apartment has a balcony facing the
harbour, an enclosed garden and sleeps up to four. Formerly a police station,
learn about the Federation-era building on an audio tour of Cockatoo Island’s
history or call for cocktails beneath striped umbrellas and watch the sun set
at the Island Bar. The Cockatoo Island Garden Apartment has a full
kitchen, laundry and all linen. Costs from $370 a night, midweek, or $280 as a
one-bedroom stay. See cockatooisland.gov.au.
CRUISE
That’s the Spirit
A new restaurant, more bars, two new cinemas and new
recliners are on the cards when the hardworking Tasmanian ferries, the Spirit of Tasmania I and II, undergo
major makeovers over the coming months. It’s the first time in 13 years the
ships will have had a major refit since they started working the Melbourne-Devonport
route in 2002. All decks will have changes, including refurbishment of the
deluxe cabins and a refresh in all other classes, a new kids’ zone and teen
area, and new lounge areas to showcase Tasmanian wines, ciders and beers. Some
things don’t change. “We’re still going to have the same ocean views, relaxing
atmosphere and sensational Tasmanian cuisine,” says Spirit of Tasmania CEO
Bernard Dwyer. The refurbishment will be complete by September. The Spirit of Tasmania ships are also increasing
day sailings this year, and offering half-price travel from May 16 to September
17 when you book by April 4. Day sailings cost from $43 one-way, night sailings
from $48 one-way in an ocean recliner. Phone 1800 634 906, see spiritoftasmania.com.au.
TECH
A novel idea
What’s the quintessential read of New York, Vietnam or
even Brisbane? Find a book that captures the soul of your destination with
tripfiction.com, which links up books and the regions in which they’re set. The
British website was born in 2012 with just 1000 books, and now has five times that
amount, covering fiction and non-fiction including memoirs, across 1100
locations. It’s free to register, which will allow you to create your own
must-read list. You can also add your own books and reviews, which are moderated
by the site’s founders, Tina Hartas and Tony Geary. The discussion board turns
up some interesting topics, from ‘best Scandiavian noir’ to ‘new Yemeni
thriller’, and is sure to guarantee itchy feet. For those who travel by
airplane or armchair. See tripfiction.com.
The Takeoff travel news, by Belinda Jackson, is published every Sunday in Sydney’s Sun-Herald newspaper’s Traveller section.  

Gone drovin’ and hanging loose: Takeoff travel news

ADVENTURE

Gone
drovin’

Turn your horse’s head to the west on a new droving experience in the
Riverina. There are just 20 places available on the new Long Paddock Cattle
Drive, which sees you droving a mob of cattle along one of Australia’s iconic
stock routes that’s still in use today. There’ll be plenty of big hats, billy
tea and bulldust, but there’s also a ready-made camp to return to each night
(with stretcher beds!) at Wanganella Creek Camp. Here, local Riverina produce is showcased at
each meal, hot showers and horse wranglers on hand to help each rider, from
beginners to seasoned hackers. The first two rides will take place from May 1-3
and May 8-10. Riders need to be 18 years and over, costs $2500 a person. See thelongpaddock.com.au/cattle-drive.


TECH
Taking care of
YourSelfie

Unfortunately for the anti-selfie-stick brigade, modern travel
is inextricably linked to technology, with split-second social media replacing
more genteel, though less timely postcards. Learn how to digitally unwind with
tech mistress Randi Zuckerberg and Celebrity Cruises. Zuckerberg is
editor-in-chief of Dot Complicated, sister to Facebook inventor Mark, and the
social medium’s former  director of
market development and spokesperson. The year-long “Take Care of
YourSelfie” campaign helps travellers navigate the delicate tech-travel
balance, surely aided by cruise ships’ traditionally steep internet charges and
limited access. But stop envisaging a bunch of rabid geeks on bandwidth withdrawal:
unplug with spa and health treatments onboard Celebrity’s 11 ships at the
Canyon Ranch SpaClub, including the InstaGlow detox ritual, fACEial Time
facial, seaweed peat wrAPP and the Texitcure manicure. Phone 1800 754 500, see celebritycruises.com.au.

GEAR
Wear your Aussie
heart on your sleeve
Take a little piece of home on your travels abroad with
this chunky eco bracelet made from Tasmanian timbers such as huon pine, myrtle
and sassafras. The timber offcuts have been polished into beads and are offset
with Tagua seeds from South American rainforests, which are collected by women
in impoverished rural communities. The jewellery is available several
colourways, and each unique piece is made by Tamika Bannister of Spotted Quoll
studio in Launceston, Tasmania. Melbourne online retailer BitsOfAustralia ships
free within Australia for purchases over $30, and $15 internationally. Spotted
Quoll eco bracelets cost $45, eco necklaces also available, $55. See bitsofaustralia.com.au.

KIDS
Hang loose in
Sydney
The school holidays are over, but Taronga Zoo makes it
easy to escape into the wilderness with its new Wild Ropes adventure. The
treetop rope course crosses suspension bridges, zip lines and rope climbs.
Happily, the ropes don’t hang over lions’ dens: you’ll be dangling over
herbivores, either Australian native animals including kangaroos and koalas or
its wetlands aviary, during the 90-minute experience, with views to our own Sydney
Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge. Open seven days a week, Wild Ropes costs
$35/adults, $30 children 10-17 years (minimum 1.4m tall) or $69/$45 with
Taronga Zoo entry. See taronga.org.au/wildropes.
AIRLINE
Aussies step aboard
for Hong Kong
Two Australian natural skincare brands get a sky-high
promotion when they are included in Cathay Pacific and Dragonair’s new first
and business class amenity kits. Lucky first-class passengers can now slather
on Aesop hand cream and lip balm, presented in stackable cases also by Aesop,
while business class flyers will receive a perennial Asian favourite, South
Australia’s Jurlique, whose hand, lip and day care creams are packed in a case
by hip Hong Kong bag manufacturer Seventy Eight Percent. In May, the airline
will also reopen its premium airline lounge, The Pier in Hong Kong airport,
following a redesign by British design icon Ilse Crawford’s Studioilse. Word is
that instead of an open space, it will feel more like ‘a luxurious apartment’. Cathay
Pacific launches its Hong Kong-Zurich route on March 29 and Hong Kong-Boston on
May 2, and this month adds additional seats on its Sydney-Hong Kong route when
it deploys its larger Boeing 777-300ERs on the daily service. See
cathaypacific.com.
MUSIC
I’m with the band
The Australian Chamber Choir is hitting the road on its
fifth European tour, and this time, it’s asking its friends along. Yeah, you’re
with the band. Departing on June 25, you’ll enjoy the sights of Berlin,
Copenhagen, Hamburg and Sweden’s Ystad, as well as discovering the sights and sounds
of Europe’s medieval villages. There are
choir performances in 15th-century churches, Berlin’s Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial
Church and at Denmark’s Sorø International Music Festival, as well as traditional
sightseeing highlights such as a visit to Beethoven’s birthplace, in Bonn. The 15-day
tour stays in four-star hotels including a converted monastery in Bavaria, and
includes coach transport, guides, admission to all the concerts and a
(non-compulsory) ‘Friends Choir’, for those who want to sing along. The Friends
Tour of Europe 2015 costs $6950 a person, twin share, excluding flights. See
auschoir.org.

 

Takeoff travel news is edited by Belinda Jackson and published in Sydney’s Sun-Herald newspaper each week. 


Getting snappy in the Arctic, trans-Australian training: Takeoff travel news

It’s been extremely quiet on the blog front, so excuse me while I drag the last couple of Takeoff columns up online. In particular, this photography competition, which will win you a $10,000 polar adventure, closes soon. So make it snappy!

Cold snaps

If ice is the spice of your life, enter Aurora
Expeditions’ new Facebook photography competition as the adventure company hunts
for its next Official Arctic Photographer. Open to all comers, from phone
snappers to professional photographers, the winner will sail from Scotland to
Spitsbergen spotting great whales and polar bears, massive icebergs and wild
landforms on a 14-day adventure. The prize includes airfares, an expedition
cruise and all expenses paid, worth $10,000. To enter, ‘like’ Aurora
Expeditions’ Facebook page, add your best travel photo and write 50 words  on why you should become the official Arctic
photographer. Entries close March 3. See facebook.com/auroraex.

GEAR 
Pack for
adventure

Sometimes, hard-shell suitcases just won’t cut it when
you’re strapped for space: such as when you’re boating or taking a light plane. Hit
the road with Australian company Paklite, whose new Escape rolling duffle bags
are practical and sturdy, ideal for the traveller who likes to pack in plenty
of adventure. The bags come in three sizes for overnighters (1.9kg, 32l),
weekends away (2.4kg, 50l) and longer getaways (2.kg, 72l) in Spring Green,
Rust and black. Each has a lockable trolley handle and wheels, and the smaller
bags can slot over the handle of the larger case, to keep one hand free. Cost
from $159-$199. See paklite.com.au.

TRAINS

Cross country
Central Australia is on show with a new advertising
campaign for the cross-continent trains The Ghan, the Indian Pacific and The
Overland, which links Adelaide and Melbourne. The campaign, ‘Journey Beyond,’
took a year to create and urges travellers to explore some of Australia’s most
evocative and remote landscapes, such as Coober Pedy in South Australia and the
Northern Territory’s Katherine Gorge. “We welcome you to step off the train in the middle of
nowhere to witness an Outback sunrise,” says Steve Kernaghan of Great Southern
Rail. “You can dig for opals, take a river cruise, linger over a long lunch,
board a scenic flight to Uluru.” Current specials include saving up to $992 on
an eight-day Wildman Kakadu Adventure package or a Perth and Margaret River
package on its all-inclusive Gold Service. Book by February 28 for travel from
May 1, 2015 to March 31, 2016. To watch the new TV advertisment, see http://youtu.be/57ZjnxL5eUI, greatsouthernrail.com.au.

WILDLIFE

Songs of the ocean
If you’ve swum with sharks, tuna or seals, it’s time to
play with the big boys, whales, on the first sing-and-swim tour in Tonga. This
tour is the first of its kind to combine swimming with humpback whales and
Tonga’s singing culture. Led by Sydney choir director Stuart Davis, who has
conducted singing tours to Cuba, Morocco and Spain, the 12-day adventure
includes a traditional Tongan song workshop, beach feast, listening and joining
village church choirs as well as five days in the water with the singing
whales. “Their song is ancient and resounds through all your senses,” says
Stuart. “If you are above them, you can experience the sound vibrating through
your body – it’s truly unforgettable. And even the male humpbacks sing.” The tour departs September 9-22 and costs
$3108, twin share, which includes 12 nights’ accommodation. Budget around $1000
for airfares: Virgin Airlines flies direct from Sydney to the Tongan capital,
Nuku’alofa. Contact Stuart Davis on 0403 869 405, singup@optusnet.com.au.
AIRLINE
Kits that means
business
Qantas has brought Australian luxury leathergoods
designer Oroton on board with a collaboration on its new business class
inflight amenity kit. Available only on Qantas flights to Asia, the pro-Australian kits are packed with Aurora Spa ASPAR
toiletries and Qantas pyjamas by Peter Morrissey,
emblazoned with the airline’s logo. Oroton, which has been creating
envy-inducing handbags since 1938, designed the limited edition Business Sleep
Collection kit to help celebrate Qantas’ new A330 business suites. 
These were designed by another key Australian designer, Marc Newson. If your budget hasn’t
stretched up a class, economy passengers travelling on the
refurbished A330s also get broader seats with
power, 11-inch screens and, as across the rest of its aircraft, larger
meals with more dining choices. The A330 aircraft refits are being undertaken
by more than 200 staff in Qantas’ Brisbane hangar and are expected to be
complete by end 2016. Qantas also recently announced it will conduct one-off
flights from Sydney to Istanbul via Perth for the ANZAC centenary
commemorations at Gallipoli. Flights depart April 21, returning April 28. See qantas.com.au.  

TECH
Austria
shells out
If Vienna isn’t within your reach right now, cheat and
see the best of the city here in Sydney, or online. On February 4, the Sydney
Opera House will host a classic Viennese tradition,  a free public concert. Conducted by Ola Rudner
and featuring soprano  Elisabeth Flechl,
the Sydney Symphony Orchestra will play the Greatest Hits from Vienna, with
works by  Mozart, Strauss, Beethoven and
Schubert. During the second half of the concert, our opera house’s sails will
be transformed by scenes of Vienna and artworks such as Gustav Klimt’s The Tree of Life. Watch the concert with
ticketed seats inside, enjoy the the free concert from a public viewing area at
Campbells Cove, near Circular Quay station, or watch it live online from 8.30-10.15pm,
at visions.vienna.info. Upload and tag your photos with #VisionsOfVienna to
enter a competition to win a week in Vienna, with flights by Emirates Airline.

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


Ferry trip to northern Tasmania: The spirit of Tasmania

The Nut at Stanley, Tasmania
The
little french bulldog rolls its great eyes, a young german shepherd starts to
howl, the ship shakes free of its moorings, and we’re off.  If you thought
you had to get to the Mediterranean to go sailing, you’ve forgotten about our
own modest sea crossing, from Melbourne to Tasmania. 
Sure, you
can fly to Tassie – it’s just two hours from Sydney and but an hour from
Melbourne to Launceston. But the luxury of time and the convenience of driving
your own car obviously appeals to many, for tonight’s sailing on the Spirit of
Tasmania is a busy one. There holidaymakers with their fur families (hence all
the hounds in the hold), caravanners with kids’ car seats and those who, like
us, have a few empty eskies  waiting to be filled with Tassie’s spectacular
produce.
We set
sail on the Spirit just in time for dinner, and already the message is clear:
you’ll never starve on this island. The ship’s yet to clear Melbourne’s Port
Phillip Bay and already our dining table in the ship’s Leatherwood restaurant
is laden with smoked quail, brandied chicken pate, ocean trout all from the
island state – and that’s just entrees. The exploration of Tasmania’s 60-plus
vineyards also starts here, with a handy list of cellar doors and wines
including Ghost Rock’s hard-to-get, sparkling wine, the Catherine, and a cheery
MacForbes Riesling, both from northern Tasmania. 
Our gang
of three shares a four-berth cabin: it’s compact and comfortable with two sets
of bunk beds, and the ship rocks gently across the Bass Strait to arrive in
Devonport just on sunrise. The information booth hands out leaflets on the best
breakfast cafes open at this ungodly hour, and the recommendation is for
Anvers’ Chocolate Factory, in nearby LaTrobe (anvers-chocolate.com.au).
Bingo.
The plan
is to drive from east to west along the north coast in just a few days, seeking
out its hamlets and beauty spots, avoiding the (relatively) big smoke of
Launceston, the Bass Strait keeping us company all the way. 
I have
already drawn up a shopping list for our three-day getaway, and it’s
embarrassingly food-oriented: raspberry jam from Christmas Hills in Elizabeth
Town (raspberryfarmcafe.com),
Hellyers’ single malt whiskey in Burnie (hellyersroaddistillery.com.au),
Tasmanian wagyu pies in Devonport (wagyupiecompany.com). There are scallop pies to
be devoured, wine and cider to be drunk, berry ice-cream to be licked. Lucky
I’m also sailing home: the airlines surely would charge me excess baggage on
the return journey.
A word on
driving in Tassie:  a hundred kilometres will not take an hour: there be
many corners, there be wild animals on the road, there be the cutest little
beach just right for paddling, a pick-your-own berry farm or a glorious vista
begging to jump onto your Instagram feed. 
Scallops at Lost Farm

On the
drive east of Devonport, our journey comes to a screeching halt at a crossroad
on the B82, amid  a cluster of Australia’s top sparkling producers,
including Jansz and Piper’s Brook, and we celebrate our find with a glass of
bubbles. 

Further
along, at Bridport, the diversion is a sweet little local bakery followed by a
walk through the rolling sand dunes that stretch out in front of our room for
the night at Barnbougle Dunes, whose  golf course, The Dunes, is rated
11th in the world. We snicker at road signs warning of kangaroos and golfers, and
play “what’s that funny name”  when passing Squeaking Point and
The Dazzler Range.
Driving
west of Devonport, the diversions are many and fabulous, such as the hamlet of
Turners Beach, notable for its kid-friendly beach and the welcoming La Mar
cafe, which packs together a dinner for our night’s stay in the self-catering
The Winged House. 
Further
on, at Penguin, we stop to admire a giant (concrete) penguin, penguins painted
on shop walls and the town’s rubbish bins garnished with penguin sculptures.
The actual penguins are absent, although a smiling woman at Cocoon, one of
Penguin’s brace of remarkable homewares shops, tells me she spent the morning
watching a baby whale frolic in the warm coastal waters with its mum. It’s
lunchtime so the  order is for a couple of scallop pies from the town’s
bakery and, like every other time I’ve eaten them, I’m surprised all over again
that the fat scallops are baked in a curry sauce so thick it’s almost rigid.
Not Thai or Indian or some exotic curry, but more like a super-yellow,
English-love-it Keen’s-curry-powder curry, and I just can’t help but feel a
little sad.
La Mar cafe at Turners Beach
With a
population of 20,000, it feels like we’ve hit the big smoke at Burnie, which
has more than its fair share of great finds, including the best little drive-in
boozer in the north, with rare and wonderful ciders galore, set beside the
recently renovated Ikon Hotel, with great family-sized apartments. But if you
had to make but one stop along this coast road, make it Burnie’s Maker’s
Workshop. 
The town
is packed with art deco architecture thanks to a cash injection via the
Australian Pulp and Paper Mill in 1938, yet the Makers’ Workshop is a
super-modern construct of glass and steel, built in 2009 on the waterfront. At
any time, up to five “makers” will be creating anything from
jewellery to baskets, paintings to glassware and I strike up a conversation
with a peg dolly maker and a felt maker. 
The glass-fronted cafe lets you watch
the working waterfront from a cosy perch. The tourist information centre is
comprehensive and its gift shop, selling Tasmania’s artisan wares, really is
worth saving your pennies for. While the paper mill has since closed, they’re
still making paper here – but this time, it’s from wombat poo or apple pulp and
visitors can turn their hand to making it on the frequent paper-making tours.
But  it’s not all scones and cappuccinos. There’s also a monstrous, yellow
Elphinstone underground loader in the foyer, a reminder that Burnie is also the
home to a Caterpillar factory and the former mechanic and the state’s richest
man, Dean Elphinstone. 
The Winged House, Table Cape

Table
Cape is best known for its tulip farm, but it’s out of season, and no vivid
strips of flowers to be seen. From our architecturally intriguing  home
for the night, The Winged House, the coastline disappears into the mists, first
mapped by Matthew Flinders with his surgeon friend, George Bass, in 1798. To
the west is The Nut at Stanley and further on, Robbins Island and Cape Grim,
said to have the world’s most pure air. It’s a delight to learn that the IGA
supermarket at nearby Wynyard  does what a franchise is supposed to do,
and stocks local scallops, whole Tassie salmon fillets and the famed beef from
Cape Grim.

It’s
 invigorating here on this headland, with the Roaring Forties living up to
its name. So after photographing the coastline from the island’s last working
lighthouse, we push on to Boat Harbour, which a Tassie friend tips as a
must-visit. She’s not wrong. The tiny harbour has a sunny cafe-cum-surf
life-saving club, set on a sandy beach that curves sweetly into the headland,
every one of the village’s beach shacks has commanding water views. It’s the
same story at nearby Sisters Beach, where sea-changers and retirees are
providing brisk business for the local tradies and real estate agents. 
Despite
its location on the north-west edge of Tasmania, little Stanley is terribly
chic. Sure you can hike or catch the chairlift to the top of The Nut, a rough
volcanic bluff  but it also sports a genuinely boutique hotel, @ VDL
Stanley,  upmarket fish-and-chipperies, more fabulous homewares shops and
cafes with a dash of city slickery. 
Next time,
I’m going to juggle my days better to hit the Sunday markets at Penguin and
pretty Ulverstone, I’m going back to funny little Tomahawk to pitch my tent
once again, and I’m going to finally hike in the Tarkine wilderness.
  
On the
way home, a vivid super-moon lights the ship’s decks and I score an upgrade to
a vast deluxe cabin with a double bed, right at the very front of the ship.
Instead of portholes, there are panoramic windows, just the spot to sit and
write that list for the return journey. 
TRIP
NOTES
MORE
INFORMATION
See discovertasmania.com.au.
The
Spirit of Tasmania sails from Melbourne into Devonport. Children travel free
between March 6 and September 13, book by February 28. Costs from $96 adults in
an ocean recliner, or from $258 for two adults and two children in a four-berth
cabin, one-way. See spiritoftasmania.com.au. Virgin Australia (virginaustralia.com),
Jetstar (jetstar.com)
and Qantas (qantas.com.au)
fly from Sydney and Melbourne to Launceston. Rex Airlines flies Melbourne to
Burnie (rex.com.au
STAYING
THERE
Barnbougle
Dunes in Bridport costs from $190 a night. Phone (03) 6356 0094, see barnbougledunes.com.au.
The Winged House at Table Cape costs from $360 a night,  Table Cape. See thewingedhouse.com.au.
Ikon Hotel, Burnie  costs from $170 a night. Phone (03) 6432 4566, see ikonhotel.com.au.
EATING
THERE
Create
your own foodie drive across northern Tasmania, see cradletocoasttastingtrail.com.au
or  the food review app, see tasmanianfoodguide.com.au.
WHILE
YOU’RE THERE
Makers
Workshop, Burnie, makersworkshop.com.au is a must-see. 
FIVE MORE
GREAT TASSIE DRIVES
East
Coast
Hobart to
St Helens.
Explore
some of the island’s  best national parks, including Bay of Fires and
Maria Island. Distance: 295km.
Convict
Trail:
Hobart to
Port Arthur via Richmond. Discover our picturesque, yet brutal colonial
history. Distance: 205km.
Cradle
Country:

Devonport to Cradle Mountain. Balance farmgate snacking and shopping with
world-class hiking. Distance: 226km.
Due
South:
Hobart
to Cockle Creek. Camp at Cockle Creek and take a short walk to South East Cape,
the most southerly point on the island. Distance: 148km.
Wild
West:
Burnie
to Strahan. Drive through Australia’s largest rainforest, the Tarkine
wilderness, via Waratah to the remote west coast. Distance: 180km.


The
writer was a guest of the Spirit of Tasmania, Barnbougle Dunes and the Winged
House.  
This feature by Belinda Jackson was published in the Sun-Herald’s Traveller section.

Cheeky views and eco-tours: travel news from Sydney to South America


GEAR: Undercover views
New York, Paris, LA – you’ve been around, so let your knickers
do the talking with prints of these iconic cities. Cheeky Australian design
company Stonemen has teamed up with artists and photographers across the world
to splash their work across our derrieres. The digitally printed, 360-degree underwear
is seamless, which means no lines interrupting your view of LA. The fabric is 95 per cent cotton and 5 per cent elastane. Men’s boxer, brief and trunk cost $44.99 each,
women’s brief and cheeky cost $39.99 each. See stonemen.com
AIRPORT: Help for the harried
Sociable Sydney loves to make friends, right from the
moment you hit the tarmac, with Sydney Airport’s ambassador program, which has
been operating since 1999. The volunteer ambassadors now sport smart blue
uniforms inspired by our blue skies and harbour, and can check real-time flight
information and tap into language translation applications on their new iPad
minis. The ambassadors are found in T1 and T2, and can also help with departure
cards and directions to taxis and trains. The team will be bolstered by
another 50 Mandarin-speaking Red Ambassadors over the Christmas and Lunar New
Year periods to welcome an influx of Chinese tourists. Download the Sydney
Airport app for flight information and to find out about becoming an ambassador
at sydneyairport.com.au.

TOUR: A cause for paws

If tracking jaguars deep in the Costa Rican jungle sounds
like your cup of adrenaline, use your eco-passion for good and join a volunteer
project that helps protect the endangered big cats’ environment. The projects,
which run from two to 12 weeks, are based in a research station in Jalova, in
Tortuguero National Park, reached only by boat. Day-to-day activities might include
setting remote tracking cameras to collate data, monitoring jaguars’ prey and
exploring their hunting grounds – the rainforests and beaches of Central
America. Jaguar populations in the Americas have plunged from 400,000 to around
14,000 in the past 60 years, and GVI has been organising volunteer work abroad
since 1997. Jaguar conservation programs cost from $1995 a person, two weeks. Call
1300 795 013, see gviaustralia.com.au.

GEAR: Hidden lens
Discerning thieves love it when you advertise whether
you’re packing a Canon or Nikon. Instead, sling this courier-style bag across
your body and keep your preferences to yourself. The Sling III packs a compact DSLR
camera, an extra lens, phone and a padded pocket to fit a 10-inch tablet. The
pocket is suspended within the bag, providing protection for when you drop the bag
on a table or floor, while the outside pockets can fit a water bottle or energy snacks that
will keep you shooting from sunrise to sunset. Internally, the inserts can be
moved to custom-fit your camera and keep extra lenses snugly safe, an interior
mesh stops keys and pens from wandering and it comes with a removable shoulder pad.
Rip out the inserts and it’s just a damned handy bag. The LowePro Passport
Sling III costs $99.95. See lowepro.com.
FOOD: Chef leads a culinary safari
Join chef Martin Boetz, of Longrain restaurant fame, on a
culinary tour of South Africa. The German-born chef will lead a small tour of
up to 10 guests on a 15-day tour through the country. The journey starts in
Johannesburg with a stay at the boutique Ten Bompas hotel, and highlights
including the Soweto township followed by a four-day safari. Expect cooking
classes and foraging for the kitchen in a three-day stay in the wine lands of
Franschhoek, soaking up luxury accommodation and award-winning food at Le
Quartier Français hotel and the fruits of the earth with a coveted seat at Babel
Restaurant. The culinary adventure wraps up in Cape Town with shopping and, of
course, dining from the city’s best tables. Departs March 2015, prices to be
confirmed. See moroccobypriorarrangement.com.

KIDS: Floating arcade to Tassie
Test the waters as a cruising family with a mini-cruise –
no passports required – when you journey to Tasmania on the Spirit of Tasmania. Aside from the regular features of cinema, games arcade and Pirate Pete’s
Playroom for younger kids, summer day sailings include face painting, trivia,
discoes and Tassie wildlife stories. Kids also get a free activity pack. The day sailing season
runs from December 20 until April 13, 2015. Costs from $86 adults/$35 children
from February to April, or $41/$101 in December and January. Phone 1800 634 906,
see spiritoftasmania.com.au

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


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