Destinations

Winter escapes in Oceania and Southeast Asia

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Tired of winter already? You’re not the only one. Luckily, sun-soaked destinations are a quick flight away and packing light is almost essential. When you’re spending your days in and out of the water and enjoying balmy evenings out, you’ll need little more than sunglasses, a sarong and your swimmers. These are our pick of close-to-home getaways to take this winter.

Bali

You can rely on this holiday haven for warm weather and get-away-from-it-all vibes, and direct flights are easy to come by from Brisbane, Perth, Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide. If you’ve been to Bali before, explore it in a different way and venture beyond your usual haunts. The ancient temples of Uluwatu, chilled-out beaches of Seminyak, or rice terraces of Ubud are definite Balinese highlights. A spa treatment, visit to the Monkey Forest, or cleansing Water Temple ritual could also be the order of the day … when you’re not partying or sunbaking that is.

Thailand

Leave your winter woollies at home when you head for Thailand – it’s wonderfully warm here all year round. Skip Bangkok if you’re looking to kick back and unwind; there are other Thai destinations destined to help you do just that. Thailand’s biggest island, Phuket, is an Aussie favourite for its beautiful beaches and happening nightclub scene. As tempting as it is to keep going to the beach opposite your hotel – Phuket’s nearby islands have some of the best beaches in Thailand. Koh Samui is another popular spot to consider for its palm-fringed beaches, nightlife, and watersports. Wat Phra Yai, also known as the Big Buddha Temple, is well worth a visit for a little culture while you’re there. Krabi, on Thailand’s west coast, is a quieter alternative. It’s surrounded by sheer limestone cliffs and looks out over more than a hundred islands, many of which are easy to explore by boat.

Fiji

Loved as much for its tropical beauty as it is for warmth and friendliness, this South Pacific paradise is one you’ll want to return to year after year. Welcoming locals greet you with a genuine “Bula!” just about everywhere you go, and there’s a resort to suit every budget, particularly along the Coral Coast. Fiji is made up of 330 islands, so there’s no end to the island-hopping you can do if adventure calls. You’ll devour sweet tropical fruits, drink straight from a freshly plucked coconut, and find yourself smiling from ear to ear – just like the locals. Many resorts offer you the chance to take part in a kava ceremony, watch traditional dancing and share a meal cooked in the hot coals of a Lovo (earth oven).

Cook Islands

Island life doesn’t get much more laid back than on the 15 tiny islands that make up the Cooks. This archipelago is truly unspoilt, and its natural beauty will astonish you. Aitutaki Lagoon, for instance, is widely considered one of the most beautiful lagoons in the world (and there are some pretty amazing lagoons in the world!). Paddle a kayak through its aquamarine waters and snorkel its colourful coral gardens to really take it all in. The Cook Islands are not as touristy as you’d expect, and the locals are downright delightful. Rarotonga, the biggest and most populated island, is the most developed but it never feels crowded (especially outside of Australian school holiday times). Picturesque Muri Beach is a must-visit while you’re in Rarotonga, the local markets are fun to visit, and take advantage of the guided and self-guided hiking trails through the island’s mountainous interior.

Vanuatu

If sunny days that hover around the mid-20s sound like heaven to you, get yourself over to Vanuatu. This South Pacific archipelago isn’t glitzy, but its secluded beaches, authentic cultural experiences and serene surroundings make it a standout winter escape. Many Ni-Vanuatu people live like they always have, so visiting local villages is a great way to learn about their traditional ceremonies, dances and customs – especially on Tanna Island. Walk to the rim of fiery Mount Yasur volcano while you’re on Tanna. It’s been bubbling away safely for 800 years and is sure to be one of the most memorable moments of your trip.

 


Author

I grew up in the US, Germany and Australia, so it feels more foreign for me to stay in one place than to move around. Since then, I’ve called Boston, London, Seattle, Brisbane, Madison and Sydney home for study and work as a journalist, travel writer and photographer. I specialize in adventure travel, social issues and interiors/architecture. Home is now an 1890s cottage in the Blue Mountains near Sydney. I traveled to my seventh continent last year – an action-packed expedition to Antarctica – and have memories galore of my travels. Snowshoeing in the Canadian Rockies, galloping with gauchos in Chilean Patagonia, trekking through Japan, and camel riding in Jordan are among the most memorable. My least favourite travel hiccup was being stranded in Cameroon when I should have been winging my way to Paris for a little me-time. You win some, you lose some.

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