Smart Traveller: Franklin rafting takes No. 1 spot

Respected US magazine Outside has ranked World Expeditions' Franklin River trip in Tasmania as the world's best whitewater rafting. The magazine says the river's ecosystem is one of the most pristine thanks to "hawk-like activism and conservation efforts". Former Greens leader Bob Brown was at the forefront of protecting the Franklin River in the late 1970s and early '80s from state government plans to dam the Gordon River below its confluence with the Franklin and log the surrounding wilderness. Brown has described the Franklin as a mix of canyons and waterfalls, with sea eagles, platypuses and ancient Huon pines.

World Expeditions has a long history on the river, having pioneered commercial trips more than 30 years ago. Rafters camp under rock shelters on some nights and often see no one else for the duration of a nine-day adventure that costs $2595 a person. For the year to March, 837,400 people visited Tasmania. The state's tourism sector directly and indirectly employs about 35,000 people. Also on Outside's top 10 list are Peru's Rio Cotahuasi River, Tibet's Drigung Chu River and Arizona's Colorado River.

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Tropical north defies winter gloom

Queensland's tropical north is sizzling, with the region having its best winter season in years following some aggressive marketing, according to the chief executive of Tourism Queensland, Anthony Hayes. He says that for the first time in several seasons, hotels, resorts and apartments are near full, defying the slump in domestic tourism, with Flight Centre bookings to the tropical north up 23 per cent compared with the same time last year.

"Operators are reporting an influx of visitors from the southern states, particularly Victoria, which has been shivering through a cold winter," Hayes says.

The chief executive of Tourism Tropical North Queensland, Rob Giason, says the region is buzzing off the back of an 18 per cent increase in domestic holiday visitor numbers reported in the National Visitor Survey for the year ending March, and 22 per cent more domestic air services to Cairns.

Meanwhile, China Eastern Airlines has announced three direct flights from Shanghai to Cairns each week, starting in October. The flights are expected to bring an extra 700 visitors a week.


Peak performance

Coronet Peak in New Zealand has been voted the most popular ski field among Australians and New Zealanders. A poll by travel search site Skyscanner asked 1000 people for their favourite ski field among the top 10 across the two countries. The rankings are: 1. Coronet Peak, NZ; 2. Mount Buller, Australia; 3. Mount Ruapehu, NZ; 4. Mount Hutt, NZ; 5. Cardrona, NZ; 6. Falls Creek, Australia; 7 Perisher, Australia; 8. Mount Hotham, Australia; 9. Treble Cone, NZ; 10. Thredbo, Australia.


TrailRider trailblazers

Dr David Stratton ascended the rocky track to the top of Boronia Peak in the Grampians in Victoria last September. It left him exhilarated and his team of four sherpas breathless. On the world scale of peaks, this scenic dot may not amount to much, but Stratton's progress was remarkable. He has multiple sclerosis and is confined to a wheelchair, but the triumph of reaching the top was more than a physical challenge. It was a trail-blazing moment in opening up national parks to disabled visitors. The trek was achieved in a $7000 all-terrain Canadian-built wheelchair called a TrailRider that was pushed, pulled and prodded by four sherpas. "They are really family members but I like to call them sherpas," Stratton says.

The TrailRiders are available for free at the Grampians and Wilsons Promontory through Parks Victoria, which has also ordered the all-terrain wheelchairs for Lysterfield Park and Cape Conran Coastal Park. There are also beach-access wheelchairs - with fat tyres so they don't sink into the sand - at Wilsons Promontory, Point Nepean and Cape Conran. Stratton has been instrumental in having the TrailRiders introduced in Victoria and says Parks Victoria has been quick to act in adopting them. He says he will lobby national park authorities in NSW and Tasmania.


Boat rentals in Amsterdam

Car rental company Hertz has launched into boat rentals in the Netherlands, so customers can explore Amsterdam by water. Rentals include gondolas, motorboats, taxi boats and open boats, with hourly rates from €5 ($5.89) a person or €150 a boat. See

Singapore in the palm of your hand

An iPad rental service has been launched in Singapore that provides visitors with the tablet loaded with travel apps and information about the country and internet access. The iPads cost $S30 ($23) a day and are collected at hotels and the airport.


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