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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Right wavelength: Heron Island

Turtles viewed from the island’s quasi-submarine

“INFANTS are just hand luggage,” a travel veteran told me before the
arrival of a Jackson jnr. “Take them to all the posh restaurants before
they can walk, and travel.”

“Families should stick to holidays in Queensland and stop
inflicting their kids on the rest of us during long-distance flights,”
sniped a chorus of online travellers. Snipers, we took your advice.

So,
wary of the many evil eyes cast by business travellers on a red-eye up
to Brisbane and onward to Gladstone, the first family holiday is to that
bastion of family holidays, north of the border.

Heron Island is a coral cay 72kilometres off the coast of
Gladstone. It’s a two-hour ferry journey or, if you’re flush, half an
hour in a chopper.

To read more, click here


Well I’ll be burgered. Shopping Australia Day


It’s that time again when we celebrate sunburn, sand in your swimmers and all things beetroot.

Yes I know most of you are still reeling from Christmas and New Year’s, and the first hot cross buns have already appeared in the supermarkets in preparation for Easter, which doesn’t appear till 8 April.

But in between, we still have Australia Day, on 26 January. I remember an Irish colleague marvelling at his first Australia Day barbie in rainy, wintery Dublin. “We had beetroot burgers!” he reported back to the rest of the Dublin newsroom, eyes wide with astonishment. Oh, the culinary heights. Australian theme bars the world over (most notably London’s notorious Walkabout pubs) break out the Men at Work and Ganggagang records and the cricket and tennis are on.

This year, the Aussie Day theme seems to have gone into overdrive in the homeland. Building on the 2011 Christmas must-have decoration, reindeer antlers for your car, you can now replace them with car-safe Aussie flags. Forget that American ‘respect for the flag’ thing, our flag also appears on paper plates and serviettes, swimmers and dresses, tins of beetroot, inflatable thongs, singlets, and of course, eskies and beer coolers.

Hot, or what?

You can buy raw burgers moulded in the shape of Australia (yes, Tassie is attached), or savoury biscuits in Aussie bbq meat lovers flavour. Lamingtons, those all-Australian cakes, are on special, as are ANZAC biscuits and flag-emblazoned Nutri-Grain (IronMan food).

I nearly gave the award of most useless Australia Day object to the disposable nappies emblazoned with our Union Jack and stars, but the winner is… an Australian Flag car mirror sock, free when you buy slabs of beer from a leading supermarket. Yes, car mirror socks – you know, a sock for your car’s side mirror. Total must-have.

Have a Happy Australia Day, wherever you are.


Cheap and full of cheer

Rejoice, oh disorganised work slaves! Bargains still abound for those who don’t book their summer holidays a year ahead.

Everything about Malaysia screams “bargain” and it’s all
done so nicely. Getting to Kuala Lumpur is cheap, thanks to respectable
Malaysian budget airline AirAsia, and the shopping is fabulous, with
Chrissy sales making it even better (psst, and heaps cheaper than
Singapore). You can snap up a city five-star hotel for as little as $100
a night but for a cheap, authentic experience, try a home stay in a
kampong (village) house with a local family, eating home cooking and
experiencing the culture. The government-monitored initiative costs from
$27 a day. In January, the holiday islands of Penang and Langkawi are
starting to dry out from their November deluge but new hotels are
keeping the competition fierce – check out the new Four Points by
Sheraton on Langkawi and Penang’s new Hard Rock Hotel.
airasia.com, go2homestay.com, tourismmalaysia.com.au.

Others on the budget radar include Singapore, Tahiti, Hawai’i, Cambodia, New Zealand and our own Cairns is on sale, too.
Click here to read more.

Cairns pulls at the heartstrings

Cairns lagoon. Skin cancer central, but does have some shade!

On a busy corner of tropical Cairns, I could see OK Souvenirs, Koaland and Louis Vuitton. Then I got trampled by a Japanese tourist group. A woman outside my hotel window smoked rolled cigarettes and spat tobacco and invectives at passers-by, the hotel concierge went AWOL while I was trying to haul baby, pram and bags up the front stairs, and it was hot, humid and heavy. Cairns, I was quite prepared to hate you.

But the next morning, I’d softened. The concierge had materialised at the Cairns Hilton, which has just had a $6 million renovation. The streets were full of cute open-air cafes and restaurants and locals and travellers were splashing happily in the lagoon, a clear water pool in the middle of town. I liked the notices pinned telling you where to take baby flying foxes that have fallen out of the trees above, and the primal squeak of a hundred furry little bodies hanging from the branches like over-excited black fruit.

Flying foxes, just hanging out in Cairns.

Then, there was the discovery that the Hanuman restaurant in the Hilton is of the same family as the legendary Darwin Hanuman, and I was unnaturally thrilled to learn they even do bento, basically upmarket take-away, comprising two perfect curries, rice and some rather exciting pickles.

Pulling out of the harbour on a boat turned toward Fitzroy Island, I could smell the massaman curry and jasmine rice, and the prospect of enjoying it on a tropical island seemed pretty damned good. Cairns, welcome back into the heart.


Salalah, Oman

We love a ‘top 10’ and the Lonely Planet’s top 10 cities is always good for a spot of cultural biffo.

I’m going to be a snob and say up front that London is a rather ho-hum choice for the number one city to visit out of all the world, and Orlando in the US leaves us cold, but hey, Australia’s always got Darwin. Yes, Darwin. Land of jumping crocodiles and topless barmaids. Sorrrrryyyy, that’s SUCH an awful picture of Darwin. We like our most northern capital.

Happy to see the entire Middle East hasn’t been written off, and we’re big fans of Oman and Hong Kong is perpetually fabulous. Of course, the game is to see how many you’ve already ticked off before the Lonely Planet got there…

Here’s the list in its entirety:
1. London, UK
2. Muscat, Oman
3. Bengaluru (Bangalore), India
4. Cadiz, Spain
5. Stockholm, Sweden,
6. Guimaraes, Portugal
7. Santiago, Chile
8. Hong Kong
9. Orlando, USA
10. Darwin Australia.

In the top 10 countries, Uganda is the ‘too cool for school’ number 1, with Taiwan and gorgeous Jordan in there. Ukraine? Horses for courses, man, and Cuba’s still a goer while the Castros remain in power, with the ever-powerful tagline, ‘go before it changes irrevocably’.

The top 10 regions include coastal Wales, La Ruta Maya (central America), northern Kenya, Arunachal Pradesh (India), Hvar (Croatia), Sicily (Italy), Maritime Provinces (Canada), Queenstown and southern lakes (New Zealand), Borneo and Poitou-Charentes (France).


More icing on the cake: Daylesford

Australia’s premier spa town just keeps getting better – and tastier. Discovers what’s new in Daylesford. 

“PLEASE, no mobile phones,” requests the Lake House’s restaurant
menu. And, “Please, no thongs.” Oh, only because you ask so nicely, I
won’t wear my thongs into your two-hatted restaurant for the first
showing of its spring table.

They like to keep themselves nice in Daylesford.

Click here to read more/

Notes from the back of a Daylesford wine bottle

Good Catholic Girl ‘Teresa’ Riesling 2010, Clare Valley: 

‘St Teresa of Avila b. 1515 (patron of headache sufferers) is said to have been viewed levitating during deep prayer. My mother Teresa, prays, but to this point has not achieved levitation. The consumption of Clare Riesling over many decades has not caused her to levitate either. Could this dry crisp Riesling be the one?

Grapes grown by good catholic boys Faulkner and Pearson of Penworthham and Marsson of Watervale. Blessed with 600 dozen. Julie Ann Barry, Maker. www.goodcatholicgirl.com.au”
 

This excellent young Riesling was sitting perkily in the fridge of Monastiraki (Greek: ‘little monastery), the latest offering from Tina Banitski, the artist and mastermind
of The Convent, in Daylesford. 

The forbidding former Catholic nunnery and school is now a cheeky art gallery, as well as Bad Habits cafe and the Altar bar (because the bar contains a chunk of the original altar in it, as well as the tabernacle). 

Tina has also recently renovated a nearby house, stuffing it with work from her favourite artists, curios and wine to create Monastiraki, the perfect getaway for a bunch of friends or family. 

People, it is officially Out There, from the paint-splattered mannequins hanging from the coat hooks to the scarlet or lime green bedroom walls, the fabulously wild artworks, cushion-tastic daybeds and buttock sculptures, essential, of course, for any self-respecting boudoir.


Saturday night in Daylesford

On Saturday night, I
was in Kazuki, the newest restaurant in delicious Daylesford, about 90 minutes
north of Melbourne. Daylesford is, of course, hip to the eyeballs. Only a
population of 7000 people, yet it has art galleries, cafes, restaurants and
beautiful villas wriggling out of every pore.
Kazuki is a Japanese
restaurant on up and coming Howe St, and while I was snacking on tiny plates of
smoked eel ravioli and Japanese mushroom and celery soup, I looked across at
the next table, to see a couple enjoying a romantic evening: the wine, the
food, the view of the darkened street. The only odd note  was that they were both about 20. Was I so
composed that at 20, I was taking dates out to swanky restaurants full of
ingredients I couldn’t pronounce? I can quite safely admit that no, I was far
too busy skulking around looking for low-budget entertainment in band pubs,
existing on a diet of unflavoured boiled rice, to even contemplate such
refinement.
“These kids of
Daylesford,” I thought, “they’re in a class of their own.”
Mind you, several
hours later into the evening, a band of the buggers ripped the two wing mirrors
off my daggy old, hardworking car. They’re not so bloody different, after all.

A different direction: Lovin’ Lorne

My drive from Melbourne to Lorne, on the Victorian coastline, is not quite Hunter S. Thompson’s iconic road journey, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, where he packs his attorney, two bags of grass, mescaline, acid and a salt shaker half full of cocaine: I’m packin’ my mum, some nice nectarines and a swimsuit in the hope that the water in Lorne’s Loutit Bay, aka Bass Strait, isn’t going to freeze my blood.

Click here to read more.


Hot to shop: Adelaide

Adelaide Arcade pic credit: Sun Herald

For vintage fashion, antiques and contemporary design, this city is streets ahead. We’re talking Adelaide. Yes, Adelaide. Canny eastern states bargain hunters are well aware of the great deals to be had in the city of churches, sex shops and hydroponic gardeners (and we’re not talking tomatoes here).


And with the addition of some cool new markets and ramped-up fashion, the city could possibly be getting rid of its love-hate relationship with Sydney & Melbourne (love to run away there, hate it when others run away there…)


To read more, click here


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