January Blues? Not in Sydney!

The summer holiday season is over, warm weather feels quite a while away and the evenings are getting chillier by the day. But what if you could change all that and watch some sport under the sun? New Year is approaching and what better way to spend it than taking a trip to the land Down Under to watch a spot of cricket in sunny Sydney.

And not just any old spot of cricket either: just after New Year, between January 4-8, The Sydney Cricket Ground will play host to the all-important fifth and final Ashes test between England and Australia. The visitors are up against it following defeat in the opening two tests, but Captain Joe Root has said he is confident that the side can still turn it around. As the potential series decider, the fifth Test looks more and more like the hottest ticket in town.

Sydney is the place to be to see in the new year, and the cricket coming so soon after the big event is impeccable timing for those planning a trip. The celebrations in Sydney Harbour are iconic – broadcast on news transmissions all around the world – and seeing the Opera House, Harbour Bridge and waterfront lit up in multicolour by the bright flashes of the show in real life is a true bucket-list experience that you will never forget.

And then there’s the gorgeous weather. While the sleet lashes down back home, it can reach up to 26 degrees over December and January in the Aussie metropolis. As you sit there basking in the Sydney sun watching one of the world’s great cricketing nations edging out in front in a historic series currently tied at 32 wins apiece, you’ll wonder why you never thought of this before. January blues? Not in Sydney.

Away from the pitch, Sydney offers the chance to test out your balance on a board at one of the city’s legendary surf spots, take in beautiful views by climbing the famous Harbour Bridge, marvel at the art in the Gallery of NSW, explore Chinatown or watch the indigenous wildlife at Taronga Zoo.

But the main event that fans around the world will be tuning in to is the final Test, and what a clash it is shaping up to be. If you would like to bag tickets to be there in Sydney to watch the action yourself, you can book a flexible package including hotel accommodation and match tickets by clicking here.

 

The best picnic spots in Perth

We often don’t have much luck with picnics here in the UK. Many a British picnic has gone awry when the heavens have opened five minutes after laying out the spread on the picnic rug. Fortunately, though, the weather Down Under is much more favourable for an outdoor feast, and Perth has a wealth of spots with great vistas where you can enjoy lunch al fresco with a view.

These three lookouts are all beautiful settings for soaking up the Aussie sun and firing up a traditional bbq. So pack up your hamper, put a bottle of wine in the cooler and enjoy!

 

Serpentine Falls

You’ll need to hop in the car for this one as it is found just outside Perth itself, but Serpentine Falls is well worth a trip for a picnic in spectacular surroundings. Make sure to pack your swimming costume as you can take a dip in the water here. If you’ve already enjoyed a big Antipodean brunch in the morning and want to work up an appetite before your lunch, you can tackle the Kitty’s Gorge Walking Trail.

Cottesloe Beach

The Perth coastline is a lovely stretch looking out onto the Indian Ocean and Cottesloe Beach is one of the most idyllic places you can appreciate it from. There are multiple tiers of well-kept lawns where you can put down your picnic rug here, as well as shady gardens to cool off and a playground where the little ones can let off steam.

Kalamunda Zig Zag Lookout

A real adventure to accompany the picnic that comes as a reward at the end, the journey to the top of Kalamunda Zig Zag Lookout will delight both young ones and adults alike. Located in the pleasantly named Gooseberry Hill National Park, the zig zag trail takes you around various twists and turns that allow you to take in the multi-directional views of Perth from this majestic lookout point. On a clear day, there are sweeping vistas of the Swan Coastal Plain, planes taking off from the airport, skyscrapers in the city centre and the surrounding forests.

 

As the sunniest state capital in Australia – on average there are eight hours of sunshine per day and the skies are often without a single cloud – Perth is the perfect place for a picnic. The three locations listed above barely scratch the surface, and you may well come across a hidden gem just from walking around this fantastic city.

Queensland announces exciting Christmas attractions

Queensland Tourism has announced a series of exciting new venues and attractions if you are visiting the area over the Christmas period, including journeying into the expanse of the outback, an intriguing exhibition at the Museum of Brisbane, the chance to stargaze in the Savannah and more.

Kinrara Expeditions

If you have ever wanted to journey into the outback and get back to nature in the great Aussie bush, this five-day adventure south west of Cairns could be your ticket to a fantastic Christmas.

In an intimate group of a maximum of 12 guests, you will stay in a double tent with a private deck and stunning views of the Burdekin River. Once you’re well rested from a night under the stars, you can get involved with guided walks, kayak trips, mountain biking, helicopter rides, fishing and looking out for the kangaroos, emus and other bird species that live on site.

Li Cunxin Exhibition

A new portrait of ballet dancer Li Cunxin has opened its doors at the Museum of Brisbane. The story of the dancer’s rise to fame is a fascinating one, and the exhibition takes you on the full journey from the difficult circumstances of his poverty-stricken childhood in China to performing on the world stage.

Currently artistic director of the Queensland Ballet in Brisbane, Li dedicates the collection of exclusive interviews, performance footage and personal artefacts to the people who have helped him make a new life for himself outside China.

Stargazing in the Savannah

The stars above the open plains of Australia have great spiritual significance for the indigenous population, and you can see the amazing clarity of the twinkling lights for yourself out in the salt pans in Burketown. You may even see Santa on his sleigh riding up there amongst the stars!

 

Whitehaven Beach ranks second in world’s top 50

Australia is well known for the laid back atmosphere and sunny surfer vibes of its beaches, but now the quality of the sandy stretches Down Under has been officially put on record with an impressive global accolade for Whitehaven Beach.

The glorious white 98% silica of Whitehaven has rightly become an icon of the Whitsundays, the collection of islands which lie between Queensland and the Great Barrier Reef and are famed for lovely blue waters and fantastic beaches to enjoy them from.

And now it has been named the second best beach in the world in a list of The World’s 50 Best Beaches put together by Canada’s largest travel website, Flight Network, based on consultations with more than 600 of the world’s top travel professionals, including journalists, editors, bloggers and agencies.

Whitehaven Beach registered a perfect 10/10, scoring highly for its sheer untouched beauty, remoteness and the quality of both its sand and water.

Sharon Livingston of The Travel Magazine was particularly complimentary of the beach’s beauty.

“Whitehaven Beach has oh-so-white sands, deepest green rainforests, and crystalline waters. It’s a wild island, part of the Great Barrier Reef, and is by far the most beautiful location to experience,” she said.

The organisers of the survey described how the calibre of those polled makes the top 50 list a highly reliable gauge of the very best beaches out there.

“By asking the top travel professionals – the people who do this for a living – to gain insight from their opinions and expertise, FlightNetwork has created the most trustworthy and accurate list out there to inspire travellers and help them choose their upcoming [Northern Hemisphere] winter holiday destinations,” a spokesperson said.

 

Major luxury hotel opening becomes talk of Sydney

The first new-build international luxury hotel to open in Sydney’s central business district for 20 years has opened its doors to its first visitors.

The Sofitel Sydney Darling Harbour, which has an ideal location opposite the International Convention Centre, cost $500 million to get ready for its first guests and looks set to play a major part in the continuing regeneration of the Darling Harbour precinct.

There are over 590 rooms in the hotel, 35 of which are suites, and some of the best views in Sydney can be had from the location’s windows – all of the rooms, in fact, have floor-to-ceiling windows.

If you are looking to splash out on a holiday to remember, some of the creature comforts of the suites include a television in the bathroom and luxurious soaking tubs.

The hotel dazzles right from when you approach it, presenting new arrivals with a 35-storey glass exterior with triangular accents that echo billowing sails and an ochre and blue colour scheme which represents a nod to the indigenous clans of the Eora nation who lived in the area surrounding Tumbalong.

Chief Operating Officer of AccorHotels Pacific, Simon McGrath, explained the new build’s significance in the context of the entire Australian travel industry.

“Sofitel Sydney Darling Harbour will be the first new-build 5-star hotel the city has seen in more than 15-years and it is going to be a flagship property not only for AccorHotels but for the Australian hotel industry,” he said.

The Sofitel Sydney Darling Harbour is one of the first steps in a major revamp of the city’s accommodation options, with over 40 hotels scheduled to open there in the next five years.