Australian holidaymakers are checking in to some of the most expensive cities in the world for accommodation, according to the latest hotel price index by hotels.com.
New York, the No.1 destination for Australians in 2012, also had the priciest five-star hotels, averaging $532 a night, and the second-most expensive hotel rooms overall, averaging $278 a night, a rise of 4 per cent from 2011. Also ranked in the top 10 for popularity and price was Singapore (No.3, $217 ), London (No.5, $212), Paris (No.8, $227) and Honolulu (No.4, $229).
Hotels.com vice-president and managing director Asia Pacific, Johan Svanstrom, says the continued strength of the Australian dollar allowed travellers time to plan for destinations beyond traditional, closer favourites such as Bali, still ranked sixth-most popular.
"[Australians] turned away a little from Fiji and Bali to go to places like Honolulu and Europe, and if you look to this year, that's probably going to continue ... I would expect Europe to be even stronger as quite a lot of people may have not fully discovered the opportunities you may have in Spain, Italy or Greece," Svanstrom says.
He says the US continues to be an Australian favourite, with cities including New York, Las Vegas, Honolulu, Los Angeles and San Francisco in the top 20 overseas cities in 2012, further buoyed by additional flights.
''The strong Australian dollar has driven Australians to visit traditionally expensive destinations, like the US, where their money is now going further. This, alongside the increased flight options to the US (Jetstar returning its route from Melbourne to Honolulu; Qantas increasing their non-stop service from Dallas/Fort Worth to Brisbane, and on to Sydney, to daily), has helped to drive the popularity of travel to the country."
In Australia, the average hotel room rose by 4 per cent to $171 a night, with the Whitsundays the most expensive at $247 a night.
Adelaide was the cheapest of all capitals ($147), while in Western Australia, the mining boom pushed Perth hotel prices up by 15 per cent to $211 a night.
The index is based on prices paid in Australian dollars at about 155,000 properties worldwide.
Most expensive average hotel prices for Australians in 2012
1 Rio De Janeiro $293
2 New York $278
3 Geneva $251
4 Boston $232
5 Honolulu $229
6 Dubrovnik $227
7 Paris $227
8 Venice $227
9 Cancun $218
10 Singapore $217
11 London $212
12 Tel Aviv $212
13 Perth $211
14 Miami $208
15 Jerusalem $205
Top overseas destinations for Australians in 2012
1 New York
2 Las Vegas
7 Los Angeles
10 Hong Kong
On a bicycle built for brew
There's a lot to like about Oregon in the US, not least of which is attendants who pump your petrol, a law Smart Traveller mistook for chivalry a decade ago.
Unlike its neighbour California, the state's entire 500-plus kilometres of Pacific Ocean coastline is open to the public, there are dedicated bike trails, and it's a craft-beer specialist with 52 breweries alone in the city of Portland.
At outdoor haven Bend, one can pedal to 19 microbreweries on the Cycle Pub, a bike-powered trolley of up to 14 riders.
About 450 wineries produce 72 varieties of grapes in a region wine critic Robert Parker recently described as having come of age.
Parker wrote: "2012 promises to be one of the state's all-time-great vintages."
For food and wine lovers, the second Feast Portland on September 19-22 shows off the state's produce credentials, including its exotic forest mushrooms that are sent to Japan.
Hawaiian Airlines flies daily from Sydney to Honolulu (10 hours) and then Portland (5½ hours). Fares cost from $1731 return.
Nordic and nice
For the first time, luxury train the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express will make its way into Scandinavia, stopping in Stockholm.
The one-way journey departs from Venice and travels through Austria, Switzerland and Germany before heading to the Swedish capital by way of Copenhagen.
While on board the train, guests dine in original art deco dining cars and are served by white-gloved staff.
The five-night trip includes two nights at the uber-smart Hotel Cipriani, two nights aboard the VSOE from Venice to Stockholm (and one night at the Copenhagen Mariott hotel).
The April departure is fully booked but will be offered again in 2014. See orient-express.com.
A documentary on Australians James Castrission and Justin Jones' 2275-kilometre journey across Antarctica, winner of the grand prize at the Banff Mountain Film Festival in Canada in 2012, will be featured during the festival's tour of Australia from April to June.
Adventures in New Zealand white-water streams, in Japan's deep powder snow and on Yosemite's sheer rock walls also are featured in 2½ hours of footage taken from 60 films shown at Banff in October.
Screenings at 17 venues around Australia include Brisbane, April 17- 20; Sydney, May 13-19; and Melbourne, June 19-22.
Sea and be seen
Photographer and surfer Rodney Hyett has lived on Victoria's Great Ocean Road since the 1980s.
In that time he has captured images of the rugged coastline for calendars.
Some of those photographs are now featured in a new coffee-table book titled Great Ocean Road.
The images, shot from the sea and on land, accompany historical diaries, engravings and maps of the area.
"The best spot to feel this power of the ocean and photograph big waves at the closest of quarters is Broken Head at the western end of the Loch Ard Gorge where Sherbrook River enters the sea," Hyett says in his book.
Great Ocean Road ($69.95).
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