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… 

Follow

 

Enter the Year of the Dragon! Celebrate the Lunar New Year in Melbourne

Kung Hei Fat Choi! The Lunar New Year is upon us, and we’re entering into the Year of the Dragon, and not just a dragon, but the wood dragon, which promises growth and prosperity for all!

Word is China is bracing for a baby boom in this auspicious year, says Chris Chun, the artist of this lovely green dragon and my guest on The World Awaits travel podcast this week.

Take Chris’ recommendation and visit Melbourne’s Chinatown to see the Lunar New Year parade followed by yum cha, then pop into the ⁠Museum of Chinese Australian History⁠ to say “Kung Hei Fat Choi” to the largest dragon in the world, the Millennial Dragon, whose head weighs around 200kg.

Also, ⁠@bookingcom ⁠releases its Top 10 Most Welcoming Places in Australia, and the @SunshineCoast and @VisitVictoria are shining bright – but who do you think got the top gong? Tune in for more Sunny Coast goodness, and to put its claim as Australia’s craft beer capital to the test.

And finally, let’s save money on travel insurance, says financial comparison site @mozo.com.au

Thanks to my co-host @kirstiewrites and sound producer @alaisdair for another great episode! And if you’d like to continue to hear more great pods, why not buy us a coffee? https://ko-fi.com/theworldawaits


Best new architecture openings in 2024

From Paris to Seoul, Notre-Dame cathedral to a robot-built museum about robots, architecture perves are in for a treat this year.

In my round-up of new architecture openings in 2024 for the Traveller section of the Sydney Morning Herald/The Age newspapers, I suggest you book tickets to Albania or Saudi Arabia, to China or hit New York City to see some of the best new designs in the world.

If, like me, you’re here in Australia, you don’t have to go far to find some of the best – the iconic Sydney Fish Market is a glittering addition by Danish architects 3XN to Blackwattle Bay, while Victoria’s Great Ocean Road gets a piece of man-made architecture that finally matches the natural beauty of the 12 Apostles.

Click the link below to read my story on some of the best new architecture openings for 2024.

https://www.smh.com.au/traveller/inspiration/world-s-most-incredible-buildings-to-have-on-your-radar-in-2024-20231110-p5ej38.html


Winner: ASTW Travel Writer of the Year!

I am so very, very, very pleased to tell you that I have been named Travel Writer of the Year 2023 by the Australian Society of Travel Writers (ASTW)!

The ASTW made the announcement at its awards ceremony in Sydney this weekend, a glittering occasion (not least because I decided to emulate a human mirrorball for the evening). It was one of three awards I received:

  • Best accommodation story; for my review of The Benev spa hotel in Beechworth, in Victoria’s High Country
  • The Jack Butters Award for outstanding contribution to the ASTW; and, of course,
  • Travel Writer of the Year 2023.

The Travel Writer of the Year entry requires submission of three features; I took a turn off the beaten path to include my solo travel in Saudi Arabia for Traveller.com.au, another women-only travel in Islamic countries, for the Sydney Morning Herald/The Age and a third story on journeying through the Malaysian state of Sarawak, on the island of Borneo, for Gourmet Traveller magazine.

The Jack Butters Award is named after the first president of the ASTW, and recognises outstanding service to the ASTW. It’s a tricky one to talk about without sounding boastful – I organise the Victorian events for the ASTW, and in the past have managed its social media, encourage networking and connection within the industry and generally get my hands mucky on the job. I am very proud of this award, as it requires nomination from fellow members. So, thank you to those who thought of me at this time.

I send thanks to my editors, particularly Craig Platt for going out on a limb and running my women-in-Saudi piece on traveller.com.au, and for Anthony Dennis for seeing the need for a cover story on women-only travel in Islamic countries in the Sydney Morning Herald. Neither can be described mainstream topics. And sending thanks to Sarah Maguire, editor of the Explore section of Aust Community Media/Canberra Times/ Newcastle Herald, for indulging my love of raw linen and bush fragrances of The Benev in Beechworth.

I’m equally thankful for the sponsors who make such travel, especially Experience AlUla in Saudi Arabia, North East Tourism here in Victoria, Tourism Malaysia and the countless people who have helped and guided me on my years of travels in the Middle East, North Africa and Central Asia.

Thanks also to the sponsors for each award – Virgin Australia who sponsors the Travel Writer of the Year award, and the lovely Victorian company Lancemore Hotels, who sponsored of the accommodation award, and finally, the ASTW itself and in particular, its board and awards committee. Without the ASTW, I would not have the friendships, the connections, the support and encouragement of the many, many talented people in its ranks.

And to end, here are the links for each piece:

Solo woman’s travel in Saudi Arabia – https://www.smh.com.au/traveller/inspiration/visiting-saudia-arabia-as-a-woman-i-went-to-the-notoriously-sexist-country-as-a-solo-female-tourist-20220705-h24v9q.html

Women-only travel in Islamic countries – https://www.smh.com.au/traveller/inspiration/travel-guide-for-women-travellers-in-the-middle-east-tips-and-advice-20220624-h24nad.html

Lore of the jungle: adventuring in Sarawak, Malaysian Borneo – https://www.magzter.com/de/stories/travel/Gourmet-Traveller/LORE-OF-THE-JUNGLE

Slow road to a blissful state: The Benev, Beechworth, Australia – https://www.exploretravel.com.au/story/8124768/slow-road-to-a-blissful-state/


Rebuilding Maui & Life in Bhutan

This week on The World Awaits podcast… rebuilding Maui and life in Bhutan.

Click here to listen to the latest episode of our travel podcast.

Did you know there are only 45 foreigners living in the tiny Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan? One is Carissa Nimah, an Australian responsible for marketing the Land of the Thunder Dragon. Surrounded by snowy peaks and temples, I caught up with Carissa to talk about about the hiking trails, homestays and spirituality of Bhutan, bhutan.travel⁠

Also on the podcast this week, Lianne Driessen from Sail Trilogy, talks to Kirstie about the fires that recently devastated Maui. The a 50-year-old tourism business is integral in helping rebuild Maui and Lianne – who lost her own home 12 weeks ago – shares what you can do to help in its recovery, sailtrilogy.com⁠ 

We’re announcing the winners of our giveaway, Lonely Planet’s new book, Best in Travel 2024, hack claiming insurance if monkeys steal your gear, and cover Fodor’s 2024 No List; travel list of places to avoid.


Saudi Arabia on a plate

Camel kebabs, gold-flecked savoury porridge, shakshuka, mint tea, green coffee and lots and lots of dates. Eating in Saudi Arabia is an adventure in its own right.

I recently wrote a story about food in Saudi Arabia for Gourmet Traveller magazine, detailing my delicious meanderings amongst oases, deserts and desserts.

Click to read
about street eats and Michelin-starred restaurants serving up food beneath the stars, on desert sands and in the mudbrick town of oasis AlUla and seaside city of Jeddah.

All this takes place as Saudi Arabia transforms from secretive kingdom to global leader of luxury travel, with the money and imagination to make even the most incredible projects manifest.

In a whiplash reversal of protocol that took place just before the global pandemic, non-religious tourists are now welcomed into the Kingdom.

Women don’t need to cover their hair and while I admire and covet Saudi women’s dramatic abayas – long, often beautifully embroidered cloaks – there is no requirement for me to be so covered; simply modest clothing is just fine.

What to learn more about travelling in Saudi Arabia? Click to read more of my stories, such as travelling solo as a woman in Saudi Arabia.


Teaser alert: the newest travel podcast in town has dropped!

I’m super excited to announce that I’ve teamed up with fellow travel journalist Kirstie Bedford to create a new podcast for the Travel Writers Radio show.

Travel podcasters

Kirstie Bedford and Belle Jackson have launched their new travel podcast.

Travel Writers Radio is a two-hour, drive-time slot running on Melbourne’s J-Air 88FM each Wednesday, and repeated on Saturdays 1-3pm, which you can also listen back on https://soundcloud.com/travelwritersradio and the podcast takes the show further out into the world.

Rome! Tasmania! Champagne! They’re just a sample of the places we’ll take you on the first episode Travel Writers Radio podcast, which drops on Spotify, Amazon, Apple and wherever you find good podcasts, this coming Thursday 1 June.

You can also visit us at https://travelwritersradio.com to check it all out.

Click here for a little teaser full of promises. See you on the pod!

See https://podcasters.spotify.com/pod/show/travel-writers-podcast/


A traveller’s guide for new architecture openings in 2023

What does architecture need to get onto your travel wishlist? To be a record-breaker? To be cleverly reused and recycled? To be innovative and sustainable?

All these conversations are happening in Copenhagen this year, as the 2023 World Capital of Architecture. The triennial event includes Open House opening buildings normally closed to the public, a run through the city with architects from around the world, and a world congress on the UN Sustainable Futures theme, “Leave No One Behind”.

If you’re staying at home, the newly opened Sydney Modern by Japanese firm SANAA is ripe for exploration, while in Melbourne, the National Gallery of Victoria’s 2022 architecture commission, Temple of Boom – a re-imagining of the Parthenon by Melbourne practice NWMN, is open until October. See copenhagenincommon.kk.dk, artgallerynsw.gov.au, ngv.vic.gov.au

Recently, I rounded up eight great new architectural openings for the Traveller section of the Sydney Morning Herald/The Age newspapers. It’s a mix of architectural stand-outs coming up in 2023, from super-tall skyscrapers to re-imagined historic sites and quiet, thoughtful conversation starters.

It’s always a tricky one to write – skyscrapers can be delayed (Merdeka 118 in Kuala Lumpur is a year or two behind schedule), museums unopened (we’ve been promised the Grand Egyptian Museum in Cairo for about eight years now). But 2023 is the year. It’s all opening in a flush of post-COVID exuberance.

Click here to read my story, and let me know what you’re looking at in 2023?


Pyramid selling: Cairo returns to the sun

This year is a bumper year for Egypt and for travel in Cairo – it’s the 100th anniversary of the discovery of King Tutankhamen’s tomb by Egyptology Howard Carter. It’s also the 200th year of the cracking of the code on the Rosetta Stone, which led us to understand Ancient Egypt’s hieroglyphics. It’s the year that Cairo’s Grand Egyptian Museum (GEM) was supposed to have opened – though there is a hint that it will open partially this year, just because 2022 is such a big news year, and because we’ve all been waiting for this museum for more than eight years.

The last surprising “Wonder of the AncienPyramid Selling: travel in Cairot World”. The liveliest of lively street cultures. Fabulous and affordable historic, luxury hotels. A familiar golden backstory prominent in school curriculums around the globe. Cairo, Egypt’s chaotic but captivating capital, is the megalopolis that seems to have it all.

This city, like a colossal bowerbird, has spent millennia sequestering new treasures left in the wake of a parade of invaders from Persia to Macedonia, Assyria to Rome, more recently France and Britain, the last colonial power, to be dispatched in 1956.

Yet for reasons I can never understand, Cairo is given short shrift on travellers’ itineraries, with just a day often allocated on either side of a Nile cruise, or worse, a half day on the way to the airport. The markets! The food! The architecture! The crazy, rushing, structured chaos in which this city survives and thrives. It is one of the world’s biggest cities, it’s inexplicable in its workings, yet it continues to work – in a fashion – to be simultaneously a major Middle Eastern hub and one of the most important cities in Africa.

Summing up more than a decade of ramblings around Cairo, and looking ahead to what’s new in the city, I wrote this story for the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age’s Traveller section, titled Pyramid Selling. Click here to read my story.

I hope you enjoy, and let me know what you love – or don’t enjoy – about Cairo.

 


The dish we missed: chefs name their most delicious travel memories

After two years of lockdown here in Australia, where we couldn’t leave our country, what’s the dish you missed the most? I chatted to 10 of Sydney and Melbourne’s top chefs about those delicious travel memories they hold dear, and where they’re heading when they’re back on a plane this year.

I reckon I’m booking a ticket to Spain to take Brigitte Hafner’s recommendation for slow-cooked lamb in Rioja. Or maybe I need to go back to Turkey for Iskander kebab, which Paul Farag reminded me of. Or snapper cerviche on a beach in Lima, Peru.

If you’re not heading overseas, chefs including Shannon Martinez, Christine Manfield and Scott Pickett also shared some favourite dishes closer to home, within Australia, from dumplings at Supernormal in Melbourne to arkhe in Adelaide, for the Parfait Tartlet a la Burnt Ends.

Click here to read the story, published in the Traveller section of The Age and the Sydney Morning Herald newspapers.

 


Podcast: travelling in the Middle East

Recently, I went to Saudi Arabia for a holiday. Is that a weird thing to say?

Travelling in the Middle East is a guaranteed dinner party starter: travellers either love it or swear they’ll never set foot in any of its countries – from Egypt to the United Arab Emirate, Saudi Arabia to Qatar.

I love the architecture, the languages, the desert landscapes and the blue waters that fringe the Arabian peninsula. I guess that’s why I keep returning.

I chatted to host Ben Groundwater, with Lisa Pagotto, founder of the awesomely adventurous travel company Crooked Compass on the Flights of Fancy podcast to tease out travel in this most misunderstood of regions.

Click here to listen to the full podcast. Go on, you know you want to!