Top Spots to Escape the Australian Winter
On the doorstep
Destination: Port Douglas, Queensland
Idyllically set ‘where the forest meets the sea’, with The Great Barrier Reef and Daintree Rainforest as a backdrop, Port Douglas is the perfect place to escape the southern Australian winter blues. With average ‘winter’ temperatures in the mid 20’s and buildings restricted to ‘palm tree’ height, the feeling is uncrowded and laid back. There are more luxurious resorts than you could poke a snorkel at and away from the palm fringed beaches, everything from adventure to pampering is on tap.
Taking a day trip out to the reef is a must do (especially as visibility is at its best in winter) and with many operators to choose from it’s a matter of what you want to do once you’re out there – snorkel, dive, tour in a glass bottom boat or lie on a deck and soak up the sun. Most people head to the outer reef, but don’t overlook the Low Isles – they’re just as awesome. The Daintree is a short drive from Port Douglas and many day trips take in the magic of the forest – you might even like to try the exhilarating zip lining course or take in the Flames of the Forest dining experience.
Fancy doing something completely different? How about ocean walking (or sometimes called ‘helmet diving’) on the reef. It’s diving minus the tanks and skill level. You breathe fresh air through your helmet and you don’t even need to be able to swim. From the depths of the ocean you might also like to take to the skies and take a helicopter ride over the coastline. You can even touch down on a sandy cay for a picnic.
Short hop with passport
July to September is peak season in Fiji with temperatures that will warm the cockles of your heart – high 20’s to low 30’s, sunny and dry. With more than 300 islands and less than one million it’s easy to swap the greyness of the Australian winter for picture perfect beaches with azure water, snow white sand lined with palm trees gently waving in the breeze. Bula is the national greeting and really the only word you’ll need. The Fijians are some of the happiest and friendliest people on the planet and absolutely love children. Fiji resorts are super family friendly but it’s also possible to find plenty of adults only getaways like the Tadrai Island Resort or Qamea Island Resort.
After you’ve thawed out and adjusted to ‘island time’ (that will take two milliseconds) kick back and soak up the atmosphere. Snorkelling is as easy as walking off the shore into water so clear you barely need a mask and snorkel. Learn to stand up paddle board, surf or simply swing in a hammock. You can re-enact the movie Cast Away by heading for a day trip to Modriki Island where the real thing was filmed or find your own island and spend a day playing Robinson Crusoe. Don’t miss enjoying a traditional Fijian feast cooked on a ‘lovo’ an underground oven made of heated rocks.
When you have to drag yourself away from seventh heaven, you can take you own piece of Fiji home with you. Pure Fiji is a brand of skin products that bottle coconut oil, fruits, nuts
and flower extracts into blissful lotions for the skin, body and hair. Guaranteed to get you through the rest of winter simply by transporting your mind back to paradise.
A few movies and you’re there
Destination: Central Vietnam
Vietnam is year round warmth, but here’s you’re Goldilocks moment… During the Australian winter months Vietnam’s south is wet, north is too hot, but Central Vietnam is ‘just right’. And taking in Hue, once the imperial capital and the Nha Trang region, you can have your cake and eat it too with the best of cultural, historical and water activities.
Enjoy downtime in one of the many stunning resorts around Nha Trang. For total pampering Sixth Senses at Ninh Van Bay is tucked away on a private island 20 mins by speedboat from the mainland.
Even if you’re not a history buff, Hue, A UNESCO world heritage site is absolutely fascinating. From the various areas of the Imperial Citadel to the many pagodas and monuments throughout the UNESCO World Heritage Site, you’ll get a feel for Vietnam’s complex and culturally rich history. Here you can wander through the pagodas and monuments of
The food is as much as a part of the Vietnamese culture as it’s history and what better way to enjoy it than a cooking class. La Maison 1888 is a sumptuous resort in Da Trang that runs a cooking school year round. You might even be fortunate enough coincide your trip with one of Michelin starred chef Michel Roux’s cooking classes.
Long haul (but worth it)
Often in the shadow of France and Italy, Portugal is a great reason to swap an Australian winter for a European summer. Breathtaking beaches, stunning architecture, rich history, great food (think of the tarts) – it has it all tied up in a neat, easy to get around country that is also considered one of the safest in Europe. And will certainly shed your winter woollies, Lisbon is Europe’s sunniest capital with an average 2,799 hours of sunshine a year.
The exquisite coastline of the Algarve is all about dramatic cliffs, golden sandy beaches, hidden coves and beautiful resorts, so you’ll have no trouble filling your days with water based activities. Praia Verde in Eastern Algarve is great for bird watching, Arrifana in the west has brilliant surfing and the Azores is the spot for diving (especially as the water temperature is in the low 20’s). But there’s far more to Portugal than the beaches. From the large cities of Porto and Lisbon to the tiny villages dotted throughout the country, you’ll find cobbled streets, pretty castles and historic buildings waiting to be explored. And then there’s the wine. Why not take a wine tasting cruise along the Douro River?
Step straight into a fairy tale with a day trip from Lisbon to Sintra, the mystical mountain village that Hans Christian Anderson called the most beautiful place in Portugal.
Even saying the word conjures up curiosity. The world’s fourth largest island, floating in the inky blue Indian Ocean off the coast of Africa is one of the most important eco systems on the planet with 90% of all wildlife endemic to the island. And the added bonus is that the Australian winter months is prime time to experience this fascinating part of the world with less humidity, dry days and comfortable temperatures.
With no ‘human eating’ predators, safaris are a little different here as feet can replace jeeps. There’s more than 100 different types of lemur alone together with hundreds of species of birds, lizards and everyone’s favourite – the chameleons. Although still untouched by mass tourism, luxurious lodges are found throughout the island. Isalo National Park is the Jurassic Park of Madagascar. Stunning scenery and sandstone rock formations that date back to (you guessed it) the Jurassic period. Don’t miss the avenue of Baobab trees in Kirindy, especially at sunrise or sunset and the snorkelling in the turquoise waters of Tsarabanjina is sensational.
July is the start of the whale watching season. Sainte Marie is the hotspot where large groups of humpbacks settle in for the winter to breed and feed before migrating back to Antarctica.