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Travellers’ Good Buys Compiled By John Rozentals

January 5, 2018 Travel Deals No Comments Email Email

I must admit — despite having crossed the river many times, to having swum in its upper reaches, and to having cruised some of its lower reaches — to never having been to the actual Coorong, the mouth where the mighty Murray is swallowed up by the ocean, or to nearby Lake Alexandrina.

I know, too, that it’s an omission I’ll have to tend to. There’s just too much happening there and there’s far too much natural beauty to ignore the place.

In terms of absorbing natural beauty there’s the opportunity to engage in spectacular back-to-nature activities such as kayaking, and perhaps being joined by an inquisitive seal. Or taking the time out of a most likely hectic schedule to see how many of the area’s 200-or-so species of birdlife you can spot.

In terms of food and wine, the Coorong and Lake Alexandrina are adjacent to Langhorne Creek, home of some of the country’s top wineries, such as Bremerton and Bleasdale, and made famous by Wolf Blass winning several highly coveted Jimmy Watson Trophies with wines made largely from grapes grown there.

Come on, take the oath like I have, and add the Coorong and surrounds into your travel diary.

Meantime, do the next best thing and visit

 The harbour at Grassy, King Island. Image: Dietmar Kahles.

For island vibes like no other, the Festival of King Island delivers in spades.

Held in Currie, overlooking the beautiful harbor, from the January 26-28, the festival brings together musical talent such as Bobby Alu, King Social, Tom Richardson and Angie Boxall.

The locals welcome performers into their homes to stay during the festival and the island’s stellar cheese, beef and seafood are all showcased over the festival weekend.

Activities include a 100-metre soap-accelerated plastic-sheet waterslide, a raft race full of un-seaworthy vessels and a pie-eating contest for those who make it back to land.


 A traditional owner talks about ancient Quinkan rock art with a group of young enthusiasts.

Explore one of UNESCO’s top 10 rock-art sites in the world with a traditional owner.

Kuku Yalanji guides tell the story of the ancient Quinkan rock art near the small town of Laura, in North Queensland, on a Jarramali Rock Art Tour.

Quinkan rock art provides an extensive legacy and offers one of the best collections on the planet. It is outstanding for its variety, quantity and quality.

In the words of one of the guides: “This is our history book. I’d like to welcome you to my library. I will explain to you the meaning of our life, our culture and how we lived.”


 An exhilarating experience … yoga on the front lawn of Solar Springs Retreat.

Solar Springs Retreat, the delightful, all-inclusive health resort at Bundanoon, in the NSW Southern Highlands, has been sold.

While the new owners are planning to close the retreat for renovations in the second half of 2018, they have been working closely with Bundanoon’s local history group to ensure that developments are sympathetically carried out.

In the mean time, the retreat has reopened after a brief closure and will continue to operate very much as previously until the end of June.

This includes packages such as the two-night ‘Escape’, which is priced from $690 per person twin-share, including accommodation, all meals, scheduled daily activities, use of all facilities (25-metre heated indoor pool, spa, sauna, steam room, gym, tennis courts, mountain bikes), a 55-minute Swedish massage and a 55-minute facial.

I do hope that the owners have a good think about the gem they have on their hands. The retreat could certainly do with a facelift, but it does have a 1920s/30s charm to it as well and it would be a great shame to lose that.

And, like many of the repeat guests, I love the fact that the approach is so totally non-fascist. Sure, have a glass or two of wine with dinner if you’d like, and feel free to do as little or as much as you’d like.

Phone 1800 044 944 or visit

 Spirit of Progress … immaculately preserved.

Cruise Express has organised a cruise-and-heritage-rail tour featuring two of Australia’s most famous and historic trains — the Southern Aurora and the Spirit of Progress.

Next October’s five-day ‘Melbourne Limited’ itinerary will see guests sail from Sydney to Melbourne aboard Princess Cruises’ 17-deck Golden Princess and return on the two immaculately preserved trains.

In Melbourne, guests will stay a night at the Vibe Savoy Hotel, including breakfast and lunch or dinner aboard Melbourne’s historic Colonial Tramcar Restaurant.

Then guests will board the blue-and-gold carriages of the Spirit of Progress at Melbourne’s Southern Cross Station, hauled by heritage locomotives and using the original carriages, including compartments, dining and parlor cars, with breakfast served onboard.

In Seymour, guests will transfer to the gleaming, stainless-steel carriages of the Southern Aurora, which once offered a first-class, overnight express service between Sydney and Melbourne.

Lunch will be served in the dining room of the 139-year-old Junee Railway Station, with afternoon tea at Goulburn and a light dinner on the train before it arrives at Sydney’s Central Station.

The tour is priced from $1990 per person twin-share.

Phone 1300 766 537 or visit

 Andaman Beach Suites Hotel … receive three free nights and a range of bonus extras.

Book through TravelOnline and receive three free nights and a range of bonus extras at Thailand’s Andaman Beach Suites Hotel.

Pay from $255 per person twin-share for six nights (for the price of three) in a Superior City View room, including welcome drink and fruit in room on arrival, breakfast daily, free wi-fi, return airport transfers by private car and the choice of either a free two-hour Thai massage for two adults or a free five-hour Phuket tour for two adults.

The deal must be booked more than 60 days prior to travel and is valid for sale until September 15 and for travel from April 1 to November 15.

Andaman Beach Suites Hotel is 150 metres from Patong Beach.

Facilities include two outdoor swimming pools, a children’s pool, tennis courts, restaurant and bar, fitness centre and games room.

Phone 1300 883 887 or visit

 A dog’s life in Japan includes wearing the latest fashion clothing.

Pampered pooches might have a good life in Australia, but in Japan they live like lords, so make a New Year’s Resolution to go to Japan and see for yourself.

Japanese city dwellers include their house-dwelling puppies as part of the family, in more ways than one. Dog lovers in Japan devote a considerable part of their yearly budget to buying the latest fashion clothing for their beloved pet.

Ken Osetroff, who leads Australian tour groups to Japan several time a year said: “When I take our tour guests to visit pet boutiques in Japan their reaction is often that of disbelief.”

Toursgallery offers exclusive tours to see cherry blossoms, national parks, azalea gardens and off-the-beaten track tours priced from $8950 per person twin-share.

Each tour is limited to about 15 guests, who enjoy travelling in the comfort of a 45-seat luxury private coach, superior-quality western-style hotels, spa resorts and traditional Japanese inns.

Phone 1300 307 317 or visit

 Katarina Line’s Rhapsody tour … placing plenty of emphasis on wine tasting.

Croatia’s Katarina Line has enhanced the itineraries of the company’s ‘Harmony’ and ‘Rhapsody’ land tours.

The eight-night, four-country ‘Harmony’ tour emphasises natural attractions and historical destinations in Italy, Slovenia, Austria and Croatia, taking guests from the lagoons of Venice to Diocletian’s Palace in Split on Croatia’s Dalmatian coast.

The eight-night ‘Rhapsody’ tour offers a ‘taste’ of Croatia. It takes guests on a gastronomic journey from the north-western capital of Zagreb to the southern-most city of Dubrovnik, introducing them to wine tastings, Croatian-style tapas, and pašticada, a traditional Dalmatian dish.

Prices for the ‘Harmony’ tour start at $2117 per person twin-share, including all breakfasts, two lunches and dinners, and the services of an English-speaking guide.

Prices for the Rhapsody tour start at $1482 per person twin-share, including all breakfasts, four dinners and four gastronomical experiences in wineries and local restaurants.


 Traversing the Mt Giluwe massif … and possibly pioneering a new PNG trekking experience.

Australian tour company No Roads Expeditions recently led the first group of trekkers over Papua New Guinea’s second-highest mountain, in the hope of opening a new tourism experience in the country’s rugged Highlands region.

The trek was over the Mt Giluwe massif, in a difficult crossing of a plateau which was formed by an ancient volcano at more than 4000 metres above sea level.

The company’s chief executive Peter Miller believes his group made the first full crossing of the massif, ascending from the north and descending on the southern side.

The area is full of waterfalls and meadows and ponds, so it’s a very pleasant place, a very idyllic place to trek in, he said. info info <> info info <>

The purpose of the expedition was not to just to break new ground — it was also to potentially create a new trekking destination in PNG.

But Peter Miller stressed that opening new trekking routes and tourism destinations was difficult in PNG, because almost all land is owned by local people and companies need to negotiate with multiple groups of landowners.

The participants in the inaugural crossing paid $3600 each for the 10-day experience.


 Majestic Whales Encounters … now providing a rare opportunity to swim with orcas.

A swim with wild orcas in the fjords of Norway, a husky safari, a meeting with the indigenous Sami people of the Arctic, a reindeer camp and the stunning Northern Lights form part of a 2019 eco-holiday launched by Majestic Whales Encounters.

The ‘Orca Swim and Northern Lights Expedition’ is the company’s first whale-swim tour outside the South Pacific.

Led by a renowned Scottish photographer and conservationist, Grant Thomas, the 10-day expedition features a six-night cruise along Norway’s wild coastline aboard the 16-passenger MS Stronstad, an expedition vessel with hot tubs, sauna and central heating.

The round-trip cruise along Norway’s spectacular fjords from Tromso offers guests a unique opportunity to see humpbacks, finn and minke whales, puffins, bearded seals, deer, and a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to swim with the orcas — with the protection of a dry suit!

The tour continues ashore with three nights spent in cabins at the bottom of snow-capped mountains near the historic city of Tromso — one of the best vantage points to see the spectacular phenomenon of the Northern Lights.

Prices start at $8400 per person twin-share ex Tromso.

Phone 0405 594 253 or visit

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