Friday, 22 February 2008



YOUR WEEKLY TRAVEL TIPS for week beginning 25 February '08

travellers good buys with david ellis


THE brand-new Mercure Hotel Centro Port Macquarie north of Sydney has
teamed with Virgin Blue to celebrate the airline's first-ever services
to the town, with a 3-night package including return air starting from
$500pp twin-share from Sydney and $680pp from Melbourne or Brisbane on
select dates to June 26. The 72-room Mercure is in the centre of town
with many rooms having ocean or Hastings River views, and there's a
pool, gym, restaurant and bar. Port Macquarie last year attracted over
600,000 visitors, with the local area having eight beaches, a
cosmopolitan dining scene, and excellent national parks; details from
Blue Holidays on 13 15 16 or agents.

WHY you'd want to we don't know, but you can part with $565 and risk
your life to Run With the Bulls in Pamplona in Spain. A 5-day package
starting on July 5 in San Sebastian includes twin-share accommodation,
breakfasts daily, transfers, services of a guide and entry tickets to
the first two Runnings of the Bulls, the Champagne Opening Ceremony,
welcome drinks on arrival, a final night party and a souvenir T-shirt
for survivors. Air travel is additional; details Student Flights 1300
554 175 or

SYDNEY Aquarium has launched a Shark Explorer glass-bottom boat ride
for those who want to get up-close and almost personal with ten sharks
in their 1.65 million litre Great Barrier Reef exhibit. The 10-minute
ride also includes the opportunity to feed the hundreds of colourful
reef fish in what is claimed to be the largest Great Barrier Reef
exhibit in the world. The Shark Explorer costs $10 for adults and $5
for children 15yrs and under;

A FOUR day Yangtze River Cruise includes the amazing Qutang Gorge and
a chance to see the extraordinary Three Gorges Dam site that will
drown thirteen cities to create the world's largest water reservoir.
The Victoria Empress Riverboat will also sail past centuries-old
villages along the Qutang River with ample time to take-in the
spectacular scenery and village life. There's an English-speaking
guide, cabins with private facilities and most meals; price starts
from $779pp twin-share. Details from Qantas Holidays 13 14 15; air is

REVITALISE the body at the 5-star The Byron Bay Resort and Spa that
offers hot stone massages, organic cuisine, body wraps, serenity
facials and other treatments. The Resort is set amid nearly 20ha of
lush rainforest on the NSW north coast; accommodation starts from
$260pp twin-share, with airfares extra. Details on 1800 002 333 or

TRUE: A travel agent in Italy has told how a client booking a holiday
to Australia said he only wanted to go to where the female population
was less than the male population.

(NEED a holiday? We're archived on


Monday, 18 February 2008



YOUR WEEKLY TRAVEL TIPS for week beginning 18 February 2008

travellers good buys: with david ellis


OCEANIA Cruises whose 5-star Nautica has just sailed the company's
first-ever season in Australia and New Zealand, has revealed that to
meet demand its building two more ships that will each have double the
capacity of its existing 680-passenger Nautica, Regatta and Insignia.
The new ships will be launched in 2010 and 2011 with the company
hoping one will spend full southern summers in Australian waters; in
the meantime because of her popularity here this summer, Nautica will
return in December this year for two more 5-star sailings between
Sydney and Auckland, and then cruise from Sydney via five coastal
ports to Darwin and Asia. If you like to be pampered see travel
agents, phone (02) 9959 1370 or visit

SOMETHING different in holidaying accommodation at Victoria's Port
Fairy is a stay in early 1900s railway carriages. The carriages have
master bedrooms with queen bed, ensuite and air-conditioning, and
there's a 3-star kennel, dog run and minding for pets. The Codrington
Settlement & Gardens is 2km from the Great Southern Ocean, and has
National Parks and a Lake nearby for picnicking and fishing. Prices
start from $90 per carriage per night for minimum 5-night stays.

COMBINE a holiday in the Philippines with volunteer work as a teacher,
doing building or maintenance work, or helping with health care at
local schools and day-care centres. Volunteers can also live with
local families to learn their culture and language; Overseas Working
Holidays has 2-week programs that cost from $1510pp and include
accommodation, meals, training, supervision, a pre-arranged volunteer
position, transport and discounted travel; longer 6-week programs
begin from $1874pp. Air travel is additional in both cases. Details
on 1300 651 639 or

A 3-HOUR New York TV & Movie Sites tour visits 40-plus locations used
for over 60 shows and movies including Will & Grace, The Cosby Show,
Ghostbusters, The Devil Wears Prada, and The Apprentice. It's priced
from $42 per adult and can been booked here through Explore Holidays
or travel agents. More details:

CASTAWAY Cove at Marcus Beach just outside Noosa offers a secluded
getaway behind forested sand dunes, yet only 7-minutes from
cosmopolitan Hastings Street. Individual luxury units have TV and AV
equipment, and most feature spas, private BBQs and ocean views;
there's 15km of ocean beach at the doorstep. Prices start from $140
per apartment per night. Details on

TRUE: The popular Greek island of Mykonos has a permanent population
of 15,000, gets over 100,000 visitors a month during summer, but has
only 23 taxis.


Monday, 11 February 2008



YOUR WEEKLY TRAVEL TIPS for Week beginning 11 February 2008

travellers good buys: with david ellis


YOUR own traditionally-styled cottage amid an olive grove with
spectacular views of the Ionian Sea comes complete with use of a car,
a kitchen stocked with foods and beverages from the private
gated-estate's gardens, daily fresh bread delivery, daily
housekeeping, and a personal laundry service. The 3ha Levendis Estate
on the Greek island of Ithaca has four cottages landscaped for
privacy, there's a communal pool, walking paths through the olive
grove, and traditional meals using local organic foods can be arranged
at extra cost; price is $5334 for two for a week through Icon
Holidays, phone 1300 853 953.

APT World Discoveries that already has a Fly Free to Europe offer in
conjunction with its 21-day Magnificent Europe With Paris and Prague
river cruise, is now adding a free Asia stop-over with packages in
March and November 2009. The 2-night stop-overs in Bangkok, Kuala
Lumpur or Tokyo include twin-share in 5-star hotels, breakfasts and
transfers and are valued at $800 a couple. The 21-day river cruise
packages are priced from $8745pp twin-share from mainland capitals
and include cruising, coach touring, 49 meals, guided tours and
deluxe hotels in Paris and Prague with breakfasts and dinner; the Fly
Free offer saves $5000 per couple. Air taxes and port charges are
additional. Phone 1300 656 985 or visit

A 60-page brochure just put out by Travelmakers is also something of
a useful handbook for those planning holidays in France, Italy,
Germany and Dubai in 2008. It details accommodation, rail,
river-cruising, self-drive and ski holiday ideas, and includes helpful
tips on seasonal climates, clothing, currencies, visa requirements,
driving regulations, and even tips on tipping; all prices are in
Australian dollars making it easier to work out holidaying within a
budget. A copy of this 60-pager can be downloaded free from

THE Novotel Pacific Bay Resort at Coffs Harbour on the NSW North
Coast has a Perfect Getaway package that includes a bottle of
regional wine and a cheese and fruit platter on arrival. It's priced
from $184 per room per night until May 31, excluding NSW school and
public holidays. The Resort fronts Charlesworth Bay and has a day
spa, 9-hole golf, four tennis courts, three pools, games room, kids
club, bushwalking, restaurants, bars, and a Zip Circus Flying Trapeze
School. Ph 1300 363 360 or

SCHOOL and uni leavers heading to the UK for a GAP year can have a
few days getting their London bearings at the new Contiki Basement
located in the Royal National Hotel on Bedford Way. Young travellers
will find good-priced accommodation at the Basement with internet
access, luggage storage facilities, discounted London sightseeing,
and Contiki reps based there to help plan UK or Europe tours.

TRUE: A potential holidaymaker has written to the Australian Consulate
in Germany asking if there are supermarkets in Sydney, and "if milk is
available all year round?"


Monday, 4 February 2008


YOUR WEEKLY TRAVEL TIPS for week beginning 4 February 2008

(PHOTO: John Elias on bended knee proposes to Heidi Hanna atop Sydney
Tower in 2005 – the first-ever proposal on the Tower. And she did say

travellers good buys: with david ellis


ROMANTICS can go to new heights in Sydney on Valentine's Day with an
eagle's eye view of the city from the golden turret of Sydney Tower
260m above street level – and if you've the nerve venturing onto a
moving glass floor that extends over the Tower's edge – all followed
with either a 2-course lunch or dinner at renowned Jordans Seafood
Restaurant. A Valentine's Day package also includes complimentary
chocolates, a long-stemmed rose, a monorail Day Pass, and a CD of
images of your Skywalk experience; price is $250 per couple for
daytime or $270 for nighttime. Phone (02) 9333 9222.

A TOUR of the Kremlin, the Hermitage Museum and a cruise along the
canals of St Petersburg are amongst highlights of small-group 9-day
tours of Russia with Beyond Travel between May and October – and book
by February 29 and you'll save $400 a couple over normal prices. Also
included are the cities of Vladimir, Suzdal and Sergiev Posad and
there are numerous guided activities in Moscow and St Petersburg; most
meals, coach and rail transport, all gratuities and local
English-speaking guides are included in the price that (with the early
booking discount) starts from $3000pp, with air extra. Details on 1300
363 554 or

A 4-NIGHT package at the Grand Mercure Azure Sea Apartments
overlooking Airlie Beach and the Whitsundays comes with a free sunset
cruise between now and March 31. The 1-bedroom apartments give all the
comforts of home, including a modern kitchen, coupled with daily
servicing; price to March 31 starts from $620 a couple for 4-nights.

GET your toes into the samba with 21-day adventure tours from Rio de
Janeiro to Belem in Brazil from May to December. Highlights include
seeing where the Amazon flows into the Atlantic, sandboarding in
Natal, colourful Salvador and the crystal lakes of the Parnaiba Delta;
price starts from $2220pp plus a local payment of US$450pp and
includes 20-nights twin-share, transport, tour guides and some
activities. Air travel and meals are additional. Phone 1300 799 783 or

HISTORIC Mona Country Manor House that was built at Braidwood, between
Canberra and Batemans Bay in 1827, offers luxury rural getaways in one
of two large villas set amid nearly 2ha of formal gardens. Each has
three ensuited king bedrooms, lounge/dining, gourmet kitchen, and one
has a double spa and billiard table. The Manor has tennis, croquet, a
Roman plunge/spa-pool Bathhouse, and golf is just 3-minutes away;
3-night weekend packages for two couples start from $250 per night
including breakfast provisions on arrival; Braidwood abounds with
antique shops, galleries, small restaurants and has a famous pie shop;
details on

TRUE: A woman in Macedonia has made headlines by getting her
first-ever Passport at 110 years of age – and going to a travel agent
for advice on where to go for her first international holiday.