WE LOVE HER JEWEL SEA...

Weather pre­sen­ters Steve Ja­cobs and Natalia Cooper of the To­day show share their favourite Aus­tralian places to stay

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - Escape - - COVER STORY -

As Aus­tralian tele­vi­sion’s long­est run­ning trav­el­ling weather pre­sen­ter, Chan­nel 9’s Steve Ja­cobs has seen more of his home coun­try over the past 12 years than most would see in a life­time. Of­ten travers­ing across five states in a week on the To­day show, he has ex­pe­ri­enced the best lo­ca­tions and des­ti­na­tions Aus­tralia has to of­fer. As Steve moved to Week­end

To­day, Natalia Cooper took over the week­day reins and in just eight months she has clocked up an im­pres­sive amount of fre­quent flyer miles. Here, the trav­el­ling duo re­veals a short­list of their favourite Aus­tralian des­ti­na­tions.

1 STEVE’S GEMS

NA­ROOMA, NSW On the far south coast of NSW about five hours from Syd­ney is the per­fect coastal town of Na­rooma. Its name is de­rived from an Abo­rig­i­nal word mean­ing “clear blue wa­ter”, which it has in abun­dance. In fact, the wa­ter is so clear and clean that a sea grass grows here that is unique to the re­gion. With the ocean on one side and beau­ti­ful Wagonga In­let on the other, Na­rooma is per­fect. It is sleepy and re­laxed but also fea­tures plenty of wa­ter sports, world-class fish­ing, seafood restau­rants and a top 50-rated golf course with in­cred­i­ble views. This area is also home to some of the best oys­ters in the coun­try and not far from the cheese-mak­ing town of Bo­dalla. If you are look­ing for the ideal Aus­tralian coastal life­style, then lay your hat in Na­rooma.

Top tips: My favourite oys­ters come from Na­rooma Bridge Oys­ters. Buy them and eat them fresh on the spot with a slice of lo­cal lemon.

And you need to try the cheeses at the Bo­dalla Dairy Shed, an award­win­ning cafe and retro milk bar where the milk comes fresh from the cows out the back.

BO­DAL­LADAIRYSHED.COM.AU

2 BY­RON BAY, NSW

Maybe not so hid­den any­more, but there is still some­thing mag­i­cal about By­ron Bay. From the eclec­tic mix of hip­pies danc­ing down the street giv­ing out flow­ers to the mul­ti­mil­lion-dol­lar man­sions at Wat­e­gos Beach, it re­ally has some­thing for every­one. Drum­ming, danc­ing and fire-twirling on the beach at night cre­ate an in­fec­tious surf vibe that makes you feel like you’ve been trans­ported back to the 1960s. The beaches are sub­lime and the lo­cally sourced pro­duce makes for a thriv­ing pad­dock-to-plate food scene. Stun­ning sun­rises, surf breaks, whale watch­ing, vi­brant mu­sic, yoga and more dread­locks than a Bob Mar­ley video; this is boho chic at its best. Don’t for­get to head up to the hin­ter­land and visit the breath­tak­ing towns of Ban­ga­low, Newry­bar and Fed­eral. Fire danc­ing and the lo­cal drum­ming cir­cle are on Fri­day, Satur­day and Sun­day nights on Be­longil Beach.

Top tips: A trip to By­ron isn’t com­plete with­out shop­ping at Is­land Luxe, stay­ing at Rae’s on Wat­e­gos and din­ing out at Bayleaf Cafe for brekkie and Mez Club for din­ner.

3 THE KIM­BER­LEY, WA

It is three times the size of Eng­land and one of the world’s last great wilder­ness fron­tiers, but sur­pris­ingly, it is still some­where Aus­tralians don’t seem to con­sider much in their travel itin­er­ar­ies. It is wild, re­mote and sparse, with red land­scapes that seem to stretch into in­fin­ity. Visit an Out­back sta­tion and meet a true Croc­o­dile Dundee char­ac­ter, swim in an in­cred­i­ble fresh­wa­ter hole on the side of a moun­tain or walk through a labyrinth of canyons that seem to be carved by na­ture to take your breath away by their awe and beauty. This is true Aus­tralia at its very best.

Top tip: Get your­self to the Zebedee Ther­mal Springs in the El Que­stro Na­tional Park.

4 BELLIN­GEN, NSW

My wife Rosie in­tro­duced me to this pocket of bliss as her home town where she was raised. It’s a 40-minute drive in­land from Coffs Har­bour on the Mid North Coast and is an au­then­tic hip­pie town with a slow, re­laxed vibe where lo­cals still cel­e­brate the good things in life such as grow­ing or­ganic food, read­ing, writ­ing, smil­ing, con­nect­ing with other peo­ple and switch­ing off from so­cial me­dia. This vibe has prob­a­bly been cre­ated by the stun­ning lush land­scapes that flow through and sur­round this rel­a­tively undis­cov­ered town. With ar­eas like The Promised Land, The Never Never, Dark­wood Val­ley and Dor­rigo Moun­tain, it sounds like a mys­ti­cal place straight out of Mid­dle Earth. With lo­cal mar­kets, jazz fes­ti­vals, rivers, moun­tains and val­leys, it’s one of the best places in the coun­try.

Top tip: Grab a lilo and float down one of the im­pos­si­bly clear blue rivers. There’s a swim­ming hole right

near the homes of Aussie leg­ends Ge­orge Ne­gus and David Helf­gott in Glenif­fer that is just per­fect on a sum­mer’s day. Take a pic­nic lunch with some smoked fish from

BELLIN­GENSMOKE­HOUSE.COM.AU

5 FR­EYCINET PENIN­SULA, TAS­MA­NIA

This is with­out doubt not only one of the most beau­ti­ful lo­ca­tions in Aus­tralia but in the en­tire world. Crys­tal clear wa­ters sur­rounded by pink gran­ite rocks and lush green na­tional parks cre­ate a stun­ning rain­bow of colours that are blind­ingly beau­ti­ful. The beaches are pure per­fec­tion but if I had to choose one that shines above the rest, it would be the iconic Wine­glass Bay, which has to be seen to be be­lieved. And while you are down south, just keep on ex­plor­ing the rest of Tas­ma­nia be­cause this en­tire state is one of the world’s most spec­tac­u­lar hid­den gems.

Top tip: For a very spe­cial stay, you can­not beat Saf­fire Lodge where the de­gus­ta­tion din­ner will blow your mind and your taste­buds.

SAF­FIRE-FR­EYCINET.COM.AU

6 ROBE, SOUTH AUS­TRALIA

Lonely Planet has voted South Aus­tralia as one of the top five must-see des­ti­na­tions in the world for 2017, la­belling it a “de­li­cious feast suit­able to any­one’s taste”. This state is in­cred­i­bly di­verse and the lo­cals know how good they have got it. A drive across SA will re­veal some of the world’s most pic­turesque scenery with stun­ning coast­lines, an abun­dance of fresh pro­duce, amaz­ing seafood and some of the best wine in the world. My bucket list fea­tures a dive in one of the ethe­real un­der­ground sink­holes and caves dot­ted through­out the state.

Top tip: It’s hard to choose a favourite des­ti­na­tion with so many beau­ti­ful sea­side vil­lages but Robe is the per­fect mix of sleepy and so­phis­ti­cated to en­sure a gourmet stay with a to­tally chilled vibe.

7 LOW IS­LAND, QUEENS­LAND

I could fill this en­tire ar­ti­cle with favourite places and hid­den gems found in Queens­land alone. This is an area world fa­mous for its breath­tak­ing nat­u­ral beauty. Ev­ery Aus­tralian should visit the Great Bar­rier Reef and take pride in one of the planet’s most pre­cious nat­u­ral won­ders. The Whit­sun­day Is­lands are a dream for sailors and hol­i­day­mak­ers, the an­cient rain­forests and in­dige­nous cul­tures make for a jour­ney of dis­cov­ery and un­der­stand­ing that will con­nect you to this land like nowhere else. From the vast Queens­land Out­back to the vi­brant cool cafe cul­ture of Port Dou­glas, this is a state you could eas­ily spend a life­time dis­cov­er­ing.

PIC­TURES: SUP­PLIED, SOUTH AUS­TRALIA TOURISM

Filled with nat­u­ral won­ders, se­cluded beaches and hid­den gems, the Whit­sun­day Is­lands have made a firm im­pres­sion on Steve Ja­cobs.

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