Happy New Year to all my readers! I’ve had a wonderful year, including travel to some places new to me and those which are familiar and favourite haunts.
Near and far, I’ve learned a lot and met some fascinating people. Before we plunge into 2014, full-tilt, here’s a quick look back at my travel year in pictures (most of which you haven’t seen before).
NEW SOUTH WALES: Every January, as some of you know, I teach a travel writing course as part of the Camp Creative summer school in Bellingen, in central northern New South Wales. Last year, after the week of teaching, I headed to nearby Dorrigo National Park to do some bushwalking and spend a few days with my friend Vreni, whose bush garden is also home to a local mob of kangaroos.
NEW ZEALAND: In February, I headed “home” to New Zealand for my niece’s wedding. It was a wonderful, joyous occasion for everyone involved. The bride had chosen a paua theme, using the colours of the shells in all the decorations. The word Aroha is Maori for “love”…and it was certainly a time in which our family’s love for each other really showed. Congratulations, Kellie and Shannon, and thank you for making me part of your wedding!
TAIWAN: My first visit to Taiwan was full of surprises. I loved it! We were there for the annual lantern festival, which provided some amazing images. Thank you to Holidays with Kids magazine for sending me to this wonderful place.
NORTH STRADBROKE ISLAND: Located in Brisbane’s Moreton Bay, “Straddie” is a wonderful getaway. It had been 25 years since my last visit…and I won’t be leaving it so long till the next time I jump aboard the ferry.
SYDNEY: I made a couple of trips to Sydney this year, and on one of them took a ferry out on the harbour to visit Cockatoo Island. This is a fascinating place, a former convict settlement and later a shipbuilding yard. The views back to the city are worth the trip on their own.
FAR NORTH QUEENSLAND: Cairns, Palm Cove, Port Douglas, Cooktown and the outback town of Laura on remote Cape York added up to a busy week or so in Queensland’s Far North. The highlight was the biennial Laura Aboriginal Dance Festival, but there was plenty more to write about, including bushwalking in Mossman Gorge and a cultural tour with indigenous guide Linc Walker – during which I learned to hunt crabs with a spear!
MORETON ISLAND: Checking out the latest glamping option on the world’s second largest sand island, in Brisbane’s Moreton Bay, made for a fun day out. I’m hoping to head back sometime soon to stay overnight…those tents look very comfortable.
AUSTRALIA’S GOLD COAST: I’m a regular visitor to the Gold Coast, and with every trip I discover something else, sometimes in the company of photographer Richard “Tommy” Campion, who has an eye for the unusual (check out Tommy’s blog for his wonderful images). But I also made two business trips to the Gold Coast this year – for the annual ProBlogger training event, and for the Australian Society of Travel Writers annual general meeting and conference. Both were great experiences in developing this changing craft.
SPICERS PEAK LODGE: Even a short break can be very restorative, as I found when spending 24 hours at this luxury lodge just 90 minutes drive from my Brisbane home. The occasion was personal, my friend Annette’s birthday celebrations.
FIJI’S CORAL COAST: Responsible tourism is something I love writing about. It’s always wonderful to hear about travel and tourism companies who are giving back to the communities they operate in. In early December I headed to Fiji’s Coral Coast to see the work hotels there are doing to help local schools and hospitals. Hosted by Outrigger on the Lagoon, I was particularly interested in the fund-raising efforts to build a maternity wing at the local hospital.
NEW ZEALAND’S FIORDLAND: What a wonderful final trip for the year! Just before Christmas I spent five days aboard Island Escape’s luxury small ship Island Passage, cruising the fiords of southern New Zealand. Island Passage is the only ship granted access to some of the fiords in this pristine part of the world, so it was a real privilege to be there. Watch for my upcoming blogs on the cruise.