WE LOVE HER JEWEL SEA...
Weather presenters Steve Jacobs and Natalia Cooper of the Today show share their favourite Australian places to stay
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.
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
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.
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.
Filled with natural wonders, secluded beaches and hidden gems, the Whitsunday Islands have made a firm impression on Steve Jacobs.