After all the fun of Christmas, the days seem to drag on a little longer once January comes around. There is never a better time to plan an escape from the humdrum of the dreary English winter. I’ve got some great winter sun options for your next escape, so get packing and don’t forget the suncream!
Noosa, Queensland, Australia
This little gem is very dear to me, Australia being my home and all. Noosa is in the heart of Queensland’s prized, Sunshine Coast. The clue is in the name – expect about 13.5 hours of glorious warm sunshine at this time of year, with approximate temperatures of 28.8ºC by day, dropping to about 21.3ºC overnight.
Noosa is an upmarket resort town with a down to earth, relaxed vibe. You will be likely to mingle with glamorous couples, Australian celebrities, young families and the well-to-do. Leafy Hastings Street is lined with charming boutiques and lively cafes and restaurants.
Located just off the high street are the golden sands of Noosa’s Main Beach. This is a great option for families or those not confident swimming in the surf. The north facing bay offers protection from the surf and has smaller waves. It’s also patrolled by our infamous Surf Life Savers. For a less populated dip, check out the surf beaches located in the National Park. Be warned that only confident swimmers should attempt to swim these beaches, as they are often susceptible to rips and are not patrolled. For dog lovers, check out Noosa Spit; a dedicated off-the-lead beach, and a popular picnic spot with the locals.
When you need a break from the sun and surf, head to Noosa National Park. It has five hiking trails to choose from, catering for all abilities. Our favourite track is the Coastal Walk; the 10.8 km track follows the hinterland around from the day use picnic area, all the way to Sunshine Beach. For more information on hiking trails check out the Department of National Parks, Sport and Racing.
One of our favourite places in Noosa is the secluded Fairy Rock Pools. The pools are two natural tidal pools that lie low between the basalt rocks just West of the tip of the headland at the eastern end of Granite Bay, near Noosa.
The smaller pool is only separated from the ocean at low tide, but the larger one can still be accessed at high tide when the swell is smaller and fewer waves crash over the rocks to refill the pool.
The pools are within the Noosa National park and can be a little tricky to find. The quickest and easiest route is to park at the beach car park at Little Cove on the edge of Noosa Village and walk around the coastal path past Tea Tree Bay and Granite Bay. The pools are accessed by climbing down the rocks from the lookout on the point at the far eastern end of Granite Bay after you have passed both Winch Cove and Picnic Cove, but before the big bend in the track which goes around the point. Look out for a bench a few hundred metres after the Picnic Cove sign which marks the way down to the rocks. It is around a 30 – 40-minute walk from the Little Cove car park.
For upmarket-casual eats, Bistro C is a must. It offers modern Australian cuisine and has a prime stylish beachfront boardwalk location.
For special occasions try Ricky’s River Bar And Restaurant, located right over the Noosa River. Their stunning waterfront location on the river offers uninterrupted views, gorgeous sunsets and a stylish setting for a relaxed lunch or romantic dinner.
Where to Stay
Airbnb will have oodles of options for you to choose from. There are also several well-established hotels in the area and a lot of serviced apartments to choose from. For something special, why not try Eumarella Shores Noosa Lake Retreat located on the shores of Lake Weyba. The luxury, ten self-contained cottage retreat is perfect for tranquil, relaxing visits to the surrounding National Parks and is less than twenty minutes from Noosa Bay.
All cottages have private decks overlooking the water, and guests have complimentary use of canoes and kayaks. Fishing equipment is also available for hire. Other activities available include Noosa Ferry cruises, mountain biking on the foreshore trail or the Noosa coastal bike trail, and golf on a number of excellent courses. Rates from $280 AUD per night.
With a relatively quick flight to the Caribbean in a little under 9 hours, St Lucia is a great option for some winter sunshine. You will be treated to long sunny days, with about 11.5 hours of sunshine, and warm temperatures of about 26ºC. What I like the most about this island is its unique blend of culture and luxury, and that there is a whole lot more to it than the predictable idyllic beaches of yet another Caribbean island. An emerald blanket of vegetation covers much of the island, touching plunging valleys and rising peaks in lush rainforest. Whilst the majestic Piton Mountains (a UNESCO World Heritage site), rise proudly from the Caribbean Sea and overlook the island.
It is an island for active adventures. Try mountain biking through the rainforest or zip-lining over it. If you are brave enough you can climb a Piton, or visit cocoa, sugar or banana plantations. An abundance of water sports are available, and there are many excursions to see dolphins, whales and neighbouring islands.
British Airways and Virgin often have great sale packages at this time of year, making it a very attractive option.
One of our favourite trips was the Soufriere Adventure Cruise. We sailed down the West Coast to Soufriere, taking in the headlands and exploring the beautiful bays, with the majestic Pitons towering on the horizon. In Soufriere, we took a walking tour of the Sulphur Springs and the lush Botanical Gardens, taking a VERY refreshing dip at Diamond Waterfall. After lunch, we set sail for Anse Cochon for some snorkelling and then sailed on to the quaint town of Marigot Bay to explore. On our return, our friendly crew handed out a LOT of Caribbean Rum Punch and the Captain did a very entertaining rendition of Big Bamboo (the Jamaican calypso)! Our tour was organised through Sandals Halcyon Beach, however, there are a number of similar tours operated by various tour providers. Your hotel will be able to assist you.
Head to The Coal Pot Restaurant for a wide variety of French and Creole dishes including fresh fish, served with sweet sauces all presented beautifully on fish-shaped platters. The elegant restaurant overlooks a picturesque sleepy marina. Dress quite smartly to fit in.
Where to Stay
I have always been hesitant to stay in an all-inclusive resort and had this misconception that they would all be like something out of the In-Betweeners film. I was pleasantly surprised when we stayed at Sandals Halcyon Beach. The luxurious couples only resort is located on a sandy beach with wonderful gardens surrounding the charming low rise colonial-style accommodation. There are a number of excellent restaurants to choose from including sushi, beachside fresh seafood (lobster included) and fine dining. They are generous with premium drink allocations and the fully stocked minibar even includes real Champagne (not Prosecco). In addition, all water sports (including PADI diving) were complimentary and our package included a complimentary island excursion. We thought this resort offered superb value for money. Rates from £352 per night.
Another great option is the BodyHoliday. They offer a rejuvenating holiday experience that combines an incredible daily programme of complimentary body treatments in the Wellness Centre and an unbelievable array of sports, all set in the gorgeous scenery. A number of friends have stayed here and raved about it. It is right up there on my list for when we next return. Rates from £225 per night.
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
One of the most iconic South American countries, Brazil has a lot to offer holidaymakers including a touch over 13 hours of glorious sunshine each day and warm daily temperatures of 26ºC. The birthplace of the Samba is synonymous with flamboyant culture, beautiful people, perfect beaches, and contagious partying. Rio is the most visited city in the Southern Hemisphere and makes for an impressive, memorable destination for visitors from all over the world. I personally haven’t yet experienced Rio for myself, though it is high on my travel-bucket-list, so I enlisted the help of my amazing Brazilian friend Georgia to tell me all about the best places to go for an authentic Brazilian experience.
Georgia insists that if you are in town you must visit the hidden gem, Parque Lage. The picturesque park is located in the Jardim Botânico neighbourhood at the foot of the Corcovado. It was formerly the residence of industrialist Enrique Lage and his wife, singer Gabriella Besanzoni. During the 1960s the land became a public park and includes walking trails through the lush subtropical terrain. There is also a cafe open to the public (great for brunch), and it is home to the Escola de Artes Visuais do Parque Lage (Visual Arts School of Parque Lage). Georgia told me it was her Great-Grandmother’s favourite place in all of Rio to go and paint landscapes. And even more notably, the beautiful mansion and its gardens were featured in the 2003 music video for Snoop Dogg’s single “Beautiful.”
Bar e Restaurante Garota de Ipanema is one of Georgia’s favourite restaurants to grab a bite from. It is a rustic pub that serves draft beer and casual meals. She says it has been popular with the locals since the 1960s and is where Tom Jobim (one of the founders of Bossa Nova), famously wrote “Garota de Ipanema” (“The Girl from Ipanema”), helping to establish Brazilian music globally.
Where to Stay
For the ultimate in luxury accommodation, you must stay at Fasano. Georgia says it is expensive but worth every penny. Expect to see Brazil’s high society and only the most beautiful people. The hotel is located right on the desirable Ipanema’s beachfront. It has a stunning infinity pool that reaches to the horizon of Arpoador Beach below. Beyond are the Dois Irmãos Mountains and the Corcovado. Its architecture and interior design pay homage to the spirit of the iconic Brazilian design of the 1950’s and 1960’s, and the glorious Bossa Nova era. Rates from £376 per night.
Cape Town, South Africa
If you have read my previous posts you will know that I absolutely adore Cape Town and that it feels like a home away from home to me. I love the beautiful landscapes, the spectacular wildlife, the friendly people and the delicious food and wine. It really does have something to offer everyone and is a great option for families, couples and singles alike. You can expect around 14 hours of sunshine a day at this time of year and highs of 26ºC.
This is such a tough one because there are so many incredible things to see and do in Cape Town. I am a real nature lover, so though predictable, I think visiting the African Penguins at Boulders Beach in Simon’s Town is an absolute must. There is a small entry fee to access the boardwalk that stretches over the beach, and though it is possible to gain access for free if you wander further up the path away from this entry to Foxy Beach (where you can also swim with the penguins), I think its also important to make a donation to assist with the continued conservation of the them.
If you want to avoid the crowds, you could also try Betty’s Bay at Stoney Point. It is more rustic and inundated with penguins. You can walk right amongst them along the boardwalk.
For special occasions make sure you visit La Colombe for a gourmet dining experience you won’t forget. With the exchange rate firmly in our favour, there is no excuse not to treat yourself. Overlooking the pristine Silvermist Organic Wine Estate, chef Scot Kirton serves a delicious tasting menu of Asian and French fusion made of the freshest seasonal produce. Also, make sure you also indulge in the carefully selected wine pairings menu, you won’t be disappointed.
Where to Stay
Airbnb has loads of fabulous homes overlooking the scenic bays that are well worth booking. I would suggest looking for something in Clifton or Camps Bay. Alternatively, try the Twelve Apostles Hotel located on a winding bend of Victoria Street (the scenic road that hugs the Eastern Cape Peninsula). The award-winning property offers gourmet food and relaxing spa facilities, all set in opulent surroundings. Rates from £289 per night.
I hope that you manage to take a little break away from the cold Blighty winter and that the above ideas have given you some inspiration. I’d love to hear where you end up booking and if you tried and enjoyed any of the suggested places, so please make sure you comment below this post!
Until next time, safe travels.
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