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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Best things to do on the Bellarine Peninsula, Victoria, Australia

In Melbourne, you’re either east or west holidaymaker. Mornington or Bellarine; pick your peninsula.

Never both – east is the Mornington Peninsula – a holiday hotspot close to my heart. It’s where I took my first holiday, at six weeks, and I’m still back there whenever I can shoot through from the city. Stylish and loaded with great wineries and restaurants, cafes and some of the state’s best hotels.

West is the Bellarine Peninsula. It’s the little sister. Also with great places to eat and drink, with fantastic produce and glorious views. But it’s quieter, it’s more low key. Less corporate, more family-run.

The two peninsulas are connected by a ferry across Port Phillip Bay, so I took the trip from Sorrento on the Mornington side to Queenscliff on the Bellarine, complete with dolphins surfing in the ferry’s wake- how’s that for a great omen for the holiday ahead?

The results of my finds on the Bellarine Peninsula are packed into this story for the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age newspapers’ Traveller section, where I find all the gold; from gold-leaf facials to gold-medalled wines plus wild beaches, wild pinot, wild seals and wild convicts: all just 90 minutes from Melbourne.

https://www.smh.com.au/traveller/inspiration/nine-must-do-highlights-of-victoria-s-underrated-peninsula-20240610-p5jkii.html

I was a guest of Visit Geelong & The Bellarine. See visitgeelongbellarine.com.au


Nominations for the Australian Society of Travel Writers’ awards 2023

Good things come in – whatever size, shape or form you’d like. But today, I have news of two very good things, I’ve received two nominations in the 2023 Australian  Society of Travel Writers’ Awards; for Travel Writer of the Year (yep, the big one!) and Best Accommodation Story.

Some years are tough for those of us working in the creative industries: pandemics, deaths of loved ones, that sort of thing takes a toll on your creativity. Then there are the times where the light is golden, the stories pour into your lap and the words flow like sweet honey.

My three stories for the Travel Writer of the Year award are from far afield – from the deserts of Saudi Arabia and the jungles of Borneo – while my accommodation story is far closer to home, from lovely Beechworth, in north-eastern Victoria.

I’ve shared the links to my stories, if you’d like a read, and send especial thanks to my editors, who continue to commission me and are willing to listen to stories from these remote corners of the world.

2023 Travel Writer of the Year nomination:

Solo travel in Saudi Arabia (Sydney Morning Herald/The Age Traveller) : 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 travellers in the Middle East (Sydney Morning Herald/The Age Traveller): 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 (Gourmet Traveller) https://www.magzter.com/de/stories/travel/Gourmet-Traveller/LORE-OF-THE-JUNGLE

2023 Best Accommodation Story nomination:

Slow Road to a Blissful State (Explore/Canberra Times) https://www.exploretravel.com.au/story/8124768/slow-road-to-a-blissful-state/

 


High country luxury; The Benev, Beechworth

I love a small hotel with a history, and The Benev, in Beechworth, ticks all boxes for its beautiful restoration

For those following along on my instagram account, you’ll know I’ve been hitting the Hume Highway from Melbourne up to Victoria’s High Country a few times in the past six months. I dropped in to the new Bright Velo – a cycling themed hotel in Bright, (you can read my review here)

Click here to read my story on The Benev.

See https://www.exploretravel.com.au/story/8124768/slow-road-to-a-blissful-state/


Spend 15 minutes in Sarawak, Borneo

Would you travel for laksa? I would! Come spend 15 minutes in Sarawak, Borneo – as I chat about one of Malaysia’s easternmost states with Phil Clark, of ABC Radio’s Nightlife program.

And I’d definitely travel to Sarawak for its take on the famed Malaysian noodle soup, which the late American chef and food writer Anthony Bourdain thrust onto the world stage, declaring it the ‘breakfast of the gods’.

In the name of research for you all, I ate laksa for breakfast, lunch and dinner, but also managed to fit in a huge range of indigenous fruits and foods I’d never seen before (orange eggplants, wild mangoes easily mistaken for cannonballs).

Also, Kuching is the place to see semi-wild orangutans (the Borneo orangutan is endangered due to hunting, unsustainable illegal logging, mining and agriculture) I also met an ethical animal charity, Project Borneo, whose volunteers rescue and rehabilitate animals injured after human intervention, either from loss of habitat or as pet trade rescues – not only orangutans, but also sun bears, hornbills, sleepy binturongs (bear cats) and fresh and saltwater crocodiles.

I’ve included some great places to eat in Kuching, a couple of boutique hotels and a homestay in the jungle on the Malaysian-Indonesian border run by Saloma, a woman from Sarawak’s Bidayuh tribe.

Click here to listen to our interview on ABC Radio, which runs nationwide. And tune every Monday evening for the Monday night travel segment.

You can listen to past travel chats between me and Phil Clark, including Langkawi & Penang  and, closer to home, hiking in Victoria’s Grampians on the new Grampians Trail.

https://www.abc.net.au/radio/programs/nightlife/nightlife-travel-sarawak-borneo/102090380

 

 


Stars of the spa: the best spas in Victoria

Victoria is up to its neck in hot water, and loving it. And our love of balneotherapy – to give mineral-water bathing its scientific name – shows no signs of drying up. Indeed, run your finger along a map of Victoria’s coast, and you’ll find aquifers aplenty, bubbling to the surface, and that’s before you head up to the spa country of Hepburn Springs, in central Victoria.

It’s not all facials and massages: hot springs and mineral water bathing taps into the aquifers below ground, to yield mineral-rich waters that help heal and detoxify our bodies and minds.

The bellwethers are Peninsula Hot Springs and Hepburn Springs, with two newcomers opening in recent months: the sparkling, new Alba on the Mornington Peninsula and Metung Hot Springs in East Gippsland. We’ve got an eye on Phillip Island, where a new hot springs facility is being developed in conjunction with Peninsula Hot Springs, to open later this year.

This wellness journey was a tough assignment, but I visited what I’m dubbing the UnDirty Seven: the best spas in Victoria who specialise in hot springs and mineral water bathing facilities in Victoria, on the Mornington Peninsula, the Bellarine Peninsula, in Gippsland and Hepburn Springs, not forgetting Warrnambool’s sleeper hit, The Deep Blue (see thedeepblue.com.au)

Click here to read my cover story for the Traveller section of the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age newspapers.

See https://www.traveller.com.au/the-best-spas-in-victoria-seven-top-soaking-experiences-in-australias-spa-state-h29r0u


Hotel review: cycling holidays at Bright Velo, Bright, Victoria Australia

Those who love cycling holidays in Australia will know that Victoria’s High Country is peak cycle territory. We’re talking lycra on the main streets, ebikes galore, kids’ tagalongs … it’s not just the pelotons who dominate the roads.

One of the main reasons this area – three hours’ drive from Melbourne, just before you hit the border with New South Wales – is such a cyclist’s paradise is that it caters for all comers, and its development of rail trails – the old train tracks that have been converted into scenic cycling roots that keep riders off the main highways.

So it makes sense that the newest hotel in the region is a cycling themed hotel. Originally built as the Empire Hotel during Bright’s crazy gold-rush days, Bright Velo is a smart renovation of this lovely building on Bright’s main street. It’s not going to bomb you out with cheezy bike paraphernalia everywhere – it’s a little more subtle than that. Stylish vintage cycling posters dotted here and there, the public bathrooms painted in the colours of the winning jerseys of the three great European tours.

There are three levels of accom – the five unique Heritage rooms, a three-bedroom apartment and the dorm accom which caters for groups. There’s also excellent eating, a whiskey bar and the amaretto sours should have cult status in this town.

Click here to read my review of the hotel for the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age’s Traveller section.

See https://www.traveller.com.au/bright-velo-the-victorian-alps-welcomes-cosy-new-cycling-themed-lodge-h29qzl


Travel Writers Radio: Victoria’s High Country by ebike

Fancy cycling Victoria’s High Country, but don’t want to go the whole Tour de France?  Ebikes, friends.

Recently, I cruised the 68km from Beechworth to Bright on the Mountains to Murray rail trail on an ebike; the first time I’ve traded my road bike for one of these cruisy little numbers.

I chatted to Graeme Kemlo on the Travel Writers Radio show, which airs on Melbourne’s J-Air 88FM about the experience,

We talked about High Country wineries, how beautiful Mt Buffalo is when seen from a bike, and why knicks are your best friend, even on an ebike with a saddle inspired by lounge furniture.

To listen to our chat, click here https://soundcloud.com/travelwritersradio

The Travel Writers Radio show runs on J-Air 88FM every Wednesday at 5-7pm (AEDT) or catch up online, anytime at soundcloud.com/travelwritersradio

For more about biking in Victoria’s High Country, see ridehighcountry.com.au


Hiking in the Grampians National Park: Victoria, Australia

The new Grampians Peak Trail is a hiking route that spans 160 kilometers of terrain through the Gariwerd/Grampians National Park in western Victoria, Australia.

It’s an amalgamation of existing trails and 100km of new paths through the national park. Some parts can easily be walked by families with kids – I even spotted little ones in gumboots, doing a walk to a local waterfall – while other sections lend themselves to the more adventurous, with camping and hut stays on offer.

I chatted to Philip Clark of ABC Radio’s Nightlife program, about hiking through this beautiful part of Australia. You can click here to listen to the interview.

It’s also the cover story for this week’s Senior Traveller – have a look here!

And finally, a couple of links to get you planning your adventure along the Grampians Peaks Trail:

The official site for Parks Victoria, which looks after all the state’s national parks.

Grampians Peaks Walking Company supports hikers with drop-offs and pick-ups, food and water drops, maps and even gear hire.

Visit Victoria is the state’s tourism body, and has a good overview of the trail, as well.


Take a break: short escapes in Victoria, Australia

Take two days on the Mornington Peninsula or the Yarra Valley, or three days in the Grampians? What’s your choice for your short escape this autumn?

In the Grampians, three hours north-west of Melbourne, you should hit the track on the new Grampians Peak Trail (visitgrampians.com.au), which cuts north-south through Gariwerd-Grampians National Park. You don’t have to walk the full 160kms – that’d take 13 days, but bite off a day walk or a short, scenic walks to local beauty points. For the quickest panorama hit that’s accessible by car, watch the sun rise at Boroka Lookout.

Otherwise, cruise the wineries and beaches of the Mornington Peninsula, or head an hour north of Melbourne to the green, green hills of the Yarra Valley.

Click here to read my suggestions in the cover story in the weekend Traveller section, which runs in the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age newspapers in Sydney and Melbourne, Australia.

 


Click & connect: on creativity in the COVID era

Recently, I teamed back up with photographer Jude van Daalen to talk about creativity in the  COVID era, our collaborative project, ‘Together Apart: Life in Lockdown’ with Hobsons Bay City Council.

Click here to listen to our podcast!

Home Delivery is a new online program that delivers a hit of creative content every Thursday lunchtime. It features live chats with artists, live musical performances, podcasts, or professional development workshop, hosted by MC Matto Lucas.

We talked about how our creative practices have changed – for Jude, it was moving from the environment of a photographic studio to shooting from a safe social distance, swapping colour photography for black and white, and snatching the shot as it happens, instead of a controlled, styled shoot.

For me – well, the last time I worked in an office was a brief stint in the cradle of the Murdoch empire, in the Adelaide Advertiser, back in the mists of time. So, working from home hasn’t been an enormous leap for me. What has changed is the content. In the 12 months before COVID locked us all down, I had taken a private train through Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan, I spent Christmas in a log cabin in remote, central Finland and New Year in icy Stockholm, had been puma spotting on horseback through snowy Patagonia and eaten all the potatoes in Peru, before undertaking an epic, multi-stop flight from Lima to Cairo, via Ecuador and Madrid.

So, when lockdown hit, my job became pretty irrelevant, pretty fast. I still write the occasional travel story based on the journeys I can squeeze in between lockdowns, but with Melbourne recently taking the gong as the world’s longest locked-down city, those trips are becoming but beautiful memories.

Instead, we’ve created a book, billboards and several art exhibitions based on our book, Together Apart: Life in Lockdown based on Melburnians’ lives in lockdown. (yep, it was supposed to be a snapshot of a brief moment in time…)

Click here to watch the podcast, as Jude and I talk about retaining that creative energy while in lockdown.


Global Salsa

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