Season to stay or stray

Winsor Dobbin, Belinda Jackson and Mal Chenu know where foodies, culture mavens and adventurers can go to embrace or escape the cold.



Nowhere in Australia does winter quite like Tasmania, where a warm log fire and a hearty meal are usually just a few minutes away. In Hobart, it's possible to enjoy a brisk winter walk along the waterfront, then head to the Lark Distillery ( for a heart-starting taste of locally produced whiskies and brandies. Next on the agenda, a steaming cone of takeaway fish and chips from the popular Fish Frenzy on the Elizabeth Street Pier at Sullivans Cove (

The New Sydney Hotel on Hobart's Bathurst Street offers a roaring log fire, live music most evenings and dishes such as duck ragout with purple gem gnocchi or a bouillabaisse with sourdough along with at least a dozen beers on tap, including Kilkenny and the strangely-named Tokyo Stout — direct from the Scottish Highlands (

At the historic Shipwright's Arms on Trumpeter Street in Battery Point, a bowl of seafood chowder will set you back less than a tenner; and there is an open fire ( Monty's on Montpelier, behind Salamanca Place, has three log fires to help you defrost and serves seasonal starters like crumbed tongue and herb-roasted marrowbone,and mains of slow-braised local rabbit with sage and cinnamon pasta (

In the Huon Valley, Steve Cumper, the award-winning Red Velvet Lounge chef, embraces winter with his house-made coarse sausage with piperade, potato puree and salsa verde ( And at Cradle Mountain Lodge, next weekend's Tastings at the Top festival features many of the state's best food and wine producers and new executive chef Jee Whan Lee's warming dishes. (,


Sitting on the beach under a cloudless Koh Samui sky, cocktail in hand, massage reservation confirmed, Thailand's second-largest island is the perfect gourmet getaway. Bustling beach strips Chaweng and Lamai are home to bars and restaurants, including the Page restaurant at the upmarket The Library resort - a great spot to dine, see and be seen ( The Page is so chic it hurts. Every dish looks like a work of art. Think Thai and Western fusion dishes and funky tapas at the beach bar. The Page also has a walk-in cellar of wines from around the world, a welcome luxury in a country where wine is not always a priority.


Tucked away on a side street you'll find the Spirit House, an old monastery with impressive tropical gardens where the cooking is authentic and the Massaman curries and duck dishes are legendary ( Also check out 26th Degree at the hillside Kala Samui resort, which offers spectacular views of the Gulf of Siam and is an ideal place for a romantic meal ( soak up the sun in stylish surrounds, head to the Nikki Beach Club for champagne, views and feasts of crispy coconut shrimp or Asian tapas platters (

- WD



Make like a Melburnian and don your big coat - black, naturally - for a cultural winter and no, the AFL doesn't count. The State of Design Festival from July 20-31includes Melbourne Open House, which gives you a licence to perve at 75 of the city's most beautiful and environmentally sustainable designs - free. The city's best tagging, bombing, paste-ups and stencilling are seen on street art walking tours ($69 a person,

Otherwise, download free DIY tours of hot and hidden street art ( or a guide to the city's design hot spots (

The National Gallery of Victoria's new shopfront window allows passersby to watch 'zine artists do their thing from July 11-August 8, while the Gertrude Street Projection Festival transforms Fitzroy's Gertrude Street into an open-air gallery with light projections cast across the streetscape (July 22-31,

Federation Square's Atrium showcases more than 100 Victorian wines, with winemakers on hand and live jazz on Wednesdays and Thursdays from July 6-August 4 ($25, For more jazz, grab a table beneath the heaters on Hardware Lane for cool tunes (Mon-Sat, from 7pm). Chill on Ice Lounge serves drinks among 30 tonnes of icy walls in its Russell Street digs until July 16, then reopens at Southbank in August with bigger ice decor. Do your best Torvill and Dean impersonations on the ice outside at the Melbourne Museum, then work on your apres ski skills at the Winter Festival, from August 18 to September 4. Highlights include free ice skating shows, too. (,


Bare all in New York's great parks for a season of festivals, concerts and hot summer nights outdoors until September. Opera buffs flock to the Metropolitan Opera's summer recital series, held from July 11-28 across the Five Boroughs - free ( Indie groovers make for the Village Voice's July 16 Four Knots Festival, headlined this year by the Black Angels (free,, while jazzsters take in the Charlie Parker Jazz Festival on August 27-28, also free. It's part of the city's massive Summerstage arts festival (

Shakespeare in the Park presents Measure for Measure and All's Well that Ends Well in Central Park (free, until July 30, shakespearein and Lower Manhattan's River to River Festival celebrates public art and music along the river's edge (free, until July 16, riverto Meantime, the Latino Cultural Festival in Queens's Flushing Meadows is the place to go for pulsing dance, theatre and music from July 25 to August 7 (,

- BJ



With every rib on his left side broken, his abdomen and spleen uncovered, his lung ripped open, diaphragm punctured and the main artery from his heart exposed, it took 360 stitches to put Rodney Fox back together after he was mauled by a great white shark in 1963. Surprisingly, he survived the attack. Less surprisingly, he went on to invent the shark cage.

Today Rodney (now 70) and his son, Andrew, take "sharkophiles" to South Australia's Neptune Islands in the cooler months, where great whites approach six metres and 2000 kilograms. The beasts cruise past your cage within petting range before grabbing the bait, teeth lunging. Extreme photography is the lure for many divers, says Andrew, who hosts three- and four-day trips to the Neptunes, 70 kilometres south of Port Lincoln - or about 4½ hours aboard the 23-metre Princess II.

"Taking the cage 18 metres down to the ocean floor is the ultimate thrill," he says. "The floor is more confrontational and more dangerous, which makes for better photos."

Andrew says the islands feel like a final frontier. "The Neptunes boast pristine, clear waters and there are huge stingrays, a major fur seal colony and unique reefs as well as rare leafy sea dragons. And the sunsets are incredible."

Three-night cruises are from $1995 a person twin share, four nights from $2470 a person, twin share. Ocean floor cage diving is for certified divers only. (08) 8363 1788.


The incredible Cocos Island Marine Park, 483 kilometres south-west (or 36 hours) from Cabo Blanco, Costa Rica, is a World Heritage-listed site and the jewel in the crown of Costa Rica's national parks.

Cocos is the largest uninhabited island in the world and is considered a must-dive location for marine aficionados. Legendary diver and filmmaker Jacques Cousteau called Isla del Coco the "most beautiful island in the world" and Robert Louis Stevenson immortalised it as Treasure Island.

Beneath the tropical waters hammerhead sharks school among labyrinthine coral reefs, especially in June, July and August. Whale sharks are regulars at this time of year and mobula rays up to five metres across (also known as devil fish) breach up to two metres out of the water. Dolphins, tuna, barracudas and pilot whales are spotted, while curious two-metre white-tipped reef sharks and silky sharks gather by the score.

The Undersea Hunter Group has 10-day Cocos Island tours starting at $US4895 ($4575) a person, twin share. A six-metre DeepSee submarine takes two passengers and a pilot to a maximum depth of 305 metres, priced from $US1200 a person, for the ultimate 1½ hour thrill. +506 2228 6613. (

- MC