Five highlights in your travel week17 Jan

Kayaking with an unexpected, but obviously friendly and inquisitive, interloper … a surprise encounter at the Coorong.I must admit — despite crossing the river many times, to having swum in its upper reaches, and to having cruised some of its lower reaches — to never having been to the actual Coorong, the mouth where the mighty Murray is swallowed up by the ocean, or to nearby Lake Alexandrina.

I know, too, that it’s an omission I’ll have to tend to. There’s just too much happening there and there’s far too much natural beauty to ignore the place.

In terms of absorbing natural beauty there’s the opportunity to engage in spectacular back-to-nature activities such as kayaking, and perhaps being joined by an inquisitive seal. Or taking the time out of a most likely hectic schedule to see how many of the area’s 200-or-so species of birdlife you can spot.

In terms of food and wine, the Coorong and Lake Alexandrina are adjacent to Langhorne Creek, home of some of the country’s top wineries, such as Bremerton and Bleasdale, and made famous by Wolf Blass winning several highly coveted Jimmy Watson Trophies with wines made largely from grapes grown there.

Come on, take the oath like I have, and add the Coorong and surrounds into your travel diary.

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The harbour at Grassy, King Island. Image: Dietmar Kahles.

For island vibes like no other, the Festival of King Island delivers in spades.

Held in Currie, overlooking the beautiful harbor, from the January 26-28, the festival brings together musical talent such as Bobby Alu, King Social, Tom Richardson and Angie Boxall.

The locals welcome performers into their homes to stay during the festival and the island’s stellar cheese, beef and seafood are all showcased over the festival weekend.

Activities include a 100-metre soap-accelerated plastic-sheet waterslide, a raft race full of un-seaworthy vessels and a pie-eating contest for those who make it back to land.

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A traditional owner talks about ancient Quinkan rock art with a group of young enthusiasts.

Explore one of UNESCO’s top 10 rock-art sites in the world with a traditional owner.

Kuku Yalanji guides tell the story of the ancient Quinkan rock art near the small town of Laura, in North Queensland, on a Jarramali Rock Art Tour.

Quinkan rock art provides an extensive legacy and offers one of the best collections on the planet. It is outstanding for its variety, quantity and quality.

In the words of one of the guides: “This is our history book. I’d like to welcome you to my library. I will explain to you the meaning of our life, our culture and how we lived.”

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An exhilarating experience … yoga on the front lawn of Solar Springs Retreat.

Solar Springs Retreat, the delightful, all-inclusive health resort at Bundanoon, in the NSW Southern Highlands, has been sold.

While the new owners are planning to close the retreat for renovations in the second half of 2018, they have been working closely with Bundanoon’s local history group to ensure that developments are sympathetically carried out.

In the mean time, the retreat has reopened after a brief closure and will continue to operate very much as previously until the end of June.

This includes packages such as the two-night ‘Escape’, which is priced from $690 per person twin-share, including accommodation, all meals, scheduled daily activities, use of all facilities (25-metre heated indoor pool, spa, sauna, steam room, gym, tennis courts, mountain bikes), a 55-minute Swedish massage and a 55-minute facial.

I do hope that the owners have a good think about the gem they have on their hands. The retreat could certainly do with a facelift, but it does have a 1920s/30s charm to it as well and it would be a great shame to lose that.

And, like many of the repeat guests, I love the fact that the approach is so totally non-fascist. Sure, have a glass or two of wine with dinner if you’d like, and feel free to do as little or as much as you’d like.

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Spirit of Progress … immaculately preserved.

Cruise Express has organised a cruise-and-heritage-rail tour featuring two of Australia’s most famous and historic trains — the Southern Aurora and the Spirit of Progress.

Next October’s five-day ‘Melbourne Limited’ itinerary will see guests sail from Sydney to Melbourne aboard Princess Cruises’ 17-deck Golden Princess and return on the two immaculately preserved trains.

In Melbourne, guests will stay a night at the Vibe Savoy Hotel, including breakfast and lunch or dinner aboard Melbourne’s historic Colonial Tramcar Restaurant.

Then guests will board the blue-and-gold carriages of the Spirit of Progress at Melbourne’s Southern Cross Station, hauled by heritage locomotives and using the original carriages, including compartments, dining and parlor cars, with breakfast served onboard.

In Seymour, guests will transfer to the gleaming, stainless-steel carriages of the Southern Aurora, which once offered a first-class, overnight express service between Sydney and Melbourne.

Lunch will be served in the dining room of the 139-year-old Junee Railway Station, with afternoon tea at Goulburn and a light dinner on the train before it arrives at Sydney’s Central Station.

The tour is priced from $1990 per person twin-share.

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