September 07, 2010

Ten of the best train journeys in NSW

The golden days of train travel are here again as more and more discerning holiday-makers are discovering the relaxing pace and wonderful hospitality presented by the great train journeys of the modern era. Take a remarkable train journey in NSW where 'getting there' truly is half the fun.

For a touch of old world charm, jump aboard theSouthern Aurora at Sydney Central. Journey to historic Uralla & Armidale in New England country, along forgotten rail lines to Coonamble & Dubbo and to Narrabri over five-days. Train departs 1-5 October.

A new journey beckons in early 2011 with The Southern Spirit racing through the rural heartlands of four states. In NSW, visit Dubbo's Western Plains, the Blue Mountains, the Hunter Valley, Port Macquarie and Byron Bay.

The Indian Pacific takes its passengers on a journey from the spectacular Blue Mountains to the treeless plains of The Nullarbor. See the sights of some of the most famous outback towns with a scheduled stop at Broken Hill.

Take the kids on a rare day out with Thomas the Tank Engine. Life-size Thomas will greet friends and little ones can also enjoy a 50-minute train ride with Donald, the steam locomotive, departing from Sodor Island Railway Station around Thirlmere on 18 & 19 September.

Visit Dubbo's Western Plain Zoo with Countrylink's Dubbo Zoo Package. Depart from Sydney on a three-day tour, stay in Dubbo and spend your days getting up close and personal with the animals. Take advantage of Countrylink's kids 'travel for a dollar' deal allowing kids to travel for just $1.

Stay in one of the fully restored Red Rattler train carriages at the quirky Carriageway Resort located in the Upper Hunter region of NSW. With the main line running through a far corner of the property, train spotting from the timber bridge is a must.

Zig Zag Railway

Ordinary muggles will magically transform into wizards aboard the Blue Mountain's Zig Zag Railway's Wizards Express! For a more hands on experience try the Zig Zag's Footplate Experience which will see you driving a steam train in no time.

Re-live some of the former train operations at the historic Cowra Roundhouse Depot and Museum, the only existing railway roundhouse depot in NSW where steam locomotives are still lit up for a day's operation.

Sleep in one of three converted 100-year-old railway carriages decorated in Orient Express style luxury at Ruwenzori, a secluded, bush retreat near Mudgee in Central West NSW.

Leave your car and cares behind and see the traditional (and not so traditional) events of the Highlander Games in Bundanoon in the Southern Highlands. Be transported there and back in the comfort of train travel departing from Canberra Station for a day of fun and games.

Struth! Beach bums urged to cover up

STRUTH !    

IN his continuing search for the more weird, wacky and wondrous in the world of travel, David Ellis says that whether you want to believe it or not, that bastion of the bikini and skimpy dress, the Mediterranean is under threat.

Because authorities from France's Riviera to Italy in the east and Spain in the west are cracking down on female tourists who invade their streets and pavement caf├ęs dressed only in bikinis. And blokes in nothing more than shorts and budgie-smugglers overhung by gross beer bellies.

Civic authorities in such bikini-littered resorts as Cannes and St Tropez say locals are getting fed-up with tourists who aren't content to just sport their bikinis on the beach, they can't even be bothered donning a shirt, shorts or slacks to cover themselves when forsaking the sun and sand for shopping, sightseeing, and wining and dining.

Even Provence which has its fair share of fully-nude beaches is cracking down on inappropriate off-beach wear, exposed beer bellies, and even simply the sight of hairy chests. And Paris which has long enforced "decency of dress" in its streets is now further tightening its public-dress laws.

As well the Vatican is coming down harder than ever on dress requirements in St Peter's Square, while authorities in Spain have begun warning tourists about wandering Barcelona's streets "in bikinis, shirtless, or showing the affects of alcohol."

Authorities in several countries say its all part of a need to protect human dignity, decency, morality and the young: in Italy recently police were called to speak to a woman bathing topless after another complained that the way the sunbather was applying suntan lotion "was troubling for my sons."

These authorities still generally agree that skimpy dress will always be part of beach culture, but they say it's got to be contained to the beach – and a survey by one newspaper attributed the new thinking to such reasons as new feminist priorities, concerns about skin cancer, a return to old-fashioned modesty, and Europe's growing Muslim population.

September 06, 2010


david ellis

SO you wanna go Robinson Crusoe…

There's a little place in the South Pacific that's just for you. But that doesn't mean you won't need to do some planning if you're thinking of really escaping to a people-free paradise.

Because despite no one living on this miniscule 1.5-square kilometre oceanic dot that has no electricity, no running water, no roads and no telephones, your peace could still be shattered.

By hordes storming the beaches, and all keen to share your little piece of paradise, if just for a day…

And it's no mystery why: because, simply, this magical little spot you thought you had to yourselves, is called Mystery Island. And the mystery why you won't find it on the map, is that it's officially Inyeug, the most southerly island in Vanuatu.

And no one lives here is because its traditional owners who live on the island next door, believe it's haunted after dark by ghosts.

In the 1850s Australian traders who set up operations on the larger Aneityum Island just across the channel, mostly lived on Inyeug as they figured that the-then cannibalistic Aneityumese were unlikely to attack spooky Inyeug under cover of darkness.

Canadian missionaries also built the biggest church for its time in the South Pacific on the neighbouring Aneityum, its 1000 seats enough for a quarter of that island's population.

The traders and missionaries eventually drifted away due to ill-health or waning years, and abandonment and a tsunami put paid to the church; by the late 1800s Aneityum's near-4000 population had been decimated to just 500 – the legacy of western diseases introduced by the foreigners.

Aneityum and Inyeug faded into obscurity for over a century until in the 1980s the cruise ship Fairstar started visiting Vanuatu, often putting her passengers ashore by lifeboats for a day on this jewel of South Pacific white sand islands.

Fairstar's owners, the Sitmar Line also re-named Inyeug as Mystery Island – as it was always a mystery whether they could land their passengers there due because of unpredictable seas.

After Fairstar was sold, P&O started visiting with its bigger South Pacific cruisers out of Sydney and Brisbane; the company helped build a landing-jetty on the island, and every year its ships now put around 65,000 guests ashore for a day's swimming, coral reef snorkelling, beachcombing, or buying fresh fruits, shells, and souvenirs from the Aneityumese who come across on "ship days."

Mystery Island also has the clean and basic Mystery Island Bungalows: a Double-bed Bungalow that costs $66 a night, Beach Bungalow with two single beds ($33pp per night,) and Guest House with a double bed and three single beds costing $160 per night.

And you'll have the whole island virtually to yourself: Aneityum villagers who may turn-up to occasionally fish, are always well gone before sunset for fear of those ghosts.

It leaves visitors at the bungalows to rise in the morning when it suits, dangle a line for reef-fish or lobsters, beach-walk, snorkel, and ponder what we poor fools are doing back in "civilisation…"

And with no TV, telephone or internet, if isolation becomes too much it's simply a matter of waiting for someone to come across from Aneityum and negotiating a lift back by canoe to explore the neighbouring "big island."

Bungalow guests have to bring all basic food and other needs on the twice-weekly flight from Port Vila – the grass airstrip was built on Mystery Island to service the too-mountainous Aneityum.

Arrangements can also be made to have someone from Aneityum bring over local garden produce and cook for you if you want to experience the local fare. (Details from travel agents or

And it's important to check whether during your planned stay, one of those cruise ships isn't going to pop up on the horizon and disgorge its 1000-plus passengers to share the solitude of your 1.5sq kilometre island for a day – the more so if you're prone to sunbaking in the bollocky.

FOOTNOTE: In 1974 while Queen Elizabeth was on her way to Australia from Port Vila aboard the Royal Yacht Brittania as part of a Pacific tour, she made a unscheduled stop at Mystery Island for an impromptu royal beach picnic in paradise. And for the first time, she had no one to wave to…


[] BLINK and you've missed it – Vanuatu's tiny Mystery Island

[] LONG gone cruise liner Fairstar that put Mystery Island on the map

[] TODAY's P&O Pacific Jewel a regular visitor to the island

[] ISLAND in the sun for Pacific Jewel day trippers

[] MYSTERY Island Bungalow for that Robinson Crusoe getaway

Images: Vanuatu Tourism; P&O Cruises; Malcolm Andrews                                

Support Traveloscopy - Support Responsible Travel.

Traveloscopy is a freelance journalism enterprise supporting the tourism and travel industries. We aim to encourage people to travel thoughtfully and responsibly and also support sustainable initiatives within the travel sector. You can help us cover our operating costs, even if in just a small way.

Last 30 Days' Most Popular Posts