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When it comes to summertime fun, not every town is satisfied with state fairs and carnivals. These intrepid communities celebrate quirky bits of history and time-honored traditions that make simple petting zoos seem boring. While some of these festivals might look bizarre at first glance, they serve the same purpose as the more run-of-the-mill gatherings: Get a bunch of people together to have fun. Read more
Not one of the 20,000 international travelers that are flying in for Oz’s greatest, gayest event of the year, Sydney Mardi Gras (née Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras)? Well, dry those eyes with your yet-to-be-used boa: You can still shake your booty with the best of ‘em and join in the fun of Australia’s most iconic public parade as Optus streams it to a worldwide audience for the first-time ever at MardisGrasTV.org.au — in high-def so you can be sure to catch every shimmering sequin.
Always a hoot, the festivities are shaping up for a banner year, expecting to top the $30 million it pumped into the local New South Wales economy last year. One reason: pop star Kylie Minogue, who returns after 25 years to be queen of the parade, in addition to a sure-to-be-show-stopping performance at the signature main event Mardigrasland. (See below for a video from the diminuative diva.)
Google already has your land travel covered, from Google Earth to street views to building plans (see our post on Indoor Maps), but now they want to take you underwater to Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, with the help of the University of Queensland, Catlin Group Limited, and some pretty fancy cameras. For the project, the Catlin Seaview Survey will photograph 360 degree underwater panorama views of shallow reefs, which over the next few years will be made available to the public through Google Maps, Google Earth, and even live YouTube streams on a dedicated YouTube channel. You can see a demo of the Street-View-inspired Seaview maps here.
These gorgeous images and maps are made possible by a specially designed camera called the SVII, which acts as an underwater scooter and takes photographs as it moves. The photographs will be analyzed by image recognition software that will quickly catalog the wildlife at the 20 sites chosen for study along the Great Barrier Reef. But there are other components to the project, as well: a deep reef survey, and a mega fauna survey.
Elegant, old-world-style Cunard Line will offer their first-ever circumnavigation of Australia, primed for some unrivaled Down Under discovery, come February. Setting sail on February 14 (an over-the-top Valentine for your sweetie, perhaps?) from Sydney (also its point of return), the 22-night cruise aboard the 2,620-passenger Queen Mary 2 will provide cruisers a rare opportunity to completely navigate the massive country, as part of the vessel’s 2012 World Voyage. Read more
If one of your New Year’s resolutions is to spend more quality time with the person you love, then I suggest you enjoy that togetherness someplace amazing! And what’s better or more romantic than a stunning, sun-kissed island? There’s something innately sexy and bond-inspiring about the sea – floating together in gentle turquoise surf, walking hand-in-hand at sunset, enjoying the day’s fresh catch paired with a rum cocktail or a fine wine. So as the new year begins, here are my top 10 picks for the most amazing islands to escape to together in 2012. Read more
Aspiring art thieves, I’ve got good news for you – you can legally hone your thievery skills in Melbourne, Australia, at least until January 15. Melbourne’s Art Series Hotels (the Cullen, the Olsen, and the Blackman, each of which are designed around the work of iconic Australian artists) are about midway through a contest that encourages you to steal the art right off the walls. Well, some of the art, anyway. The hotels are (rather fittingly) currently offering up “Pulp Fiction” by renowned England-based graffiti artist Banksy, if you can steal it.
The artwork can only be stolen by a pre-paid guest of one of the hotels staying any time through January 15th, and only the Banksy piece is up for theft. The full terms and conditions can be found here, but notable rules include: “Be cool. Art thieves are always cool,” “Look the part- we prefer it if you are wearing black tie or a really stunning frock,” and “Banksy we really don’t want you to steal it. It would just be too twisted so please don’t.”
For you Cruise News readers craving access to some of the world’s most far-flung ports, you’ll like this latest offering: This month, a new charter sailing option to South Australia’s Kangaroo Island, dubbed the “Galapagos of Australia,” is being offered by Kangaroo Island Sailing. The 3-day luxury-adventure sailing tours afford high adventure on the high seas aboard the 75-foot classic yacht, the Lady Eugiene. Skirt the scenic cliffs of the Fleuerie Peninsula, plying crystal-clear, dolphin-rich waters en route to storied Kangaroo Island. Once anchored ashore, head out for on-land encounters with wildlife like koalas, sea lions, massive lizards, and of course, kangaroos, led by luxury tour specialist Exceptional Kangaroo Island, and take time to lounge on pristine, secluded beaches before soaking up spectacular sunsets to round out the day. Read more
Fly to Australia this February through May, and count on a three-night complimentary stopover in Tahiti with luxe accommodations included. This is how we see it: You’re preparing for a killer flight halfway around the world to your dream down-under destination (ahem, Auckland or Sydney), so how clutch is a free touchdown in South Pacific paradise along the way? Travelers can pick between the Radisson Plaza Resort Tahiti, a contemporary beachfront resort with innovative dining and prime access to Tahiti’s most famous black-sand beach, or the Sofitel Maeva Beach Resort, a two-year-old all-suite resort with a happening lounge (upgrades are also available for an overwater bungalow at Le Meridien Tahiti for $275 per person for all three nights). Round-trip Air Tahiti Nui flights to Auckland or Sydney from LAX start at $1,118 which represents over 30 percent in savings, minding the Tahiti stopover. This offer must be booked by November 6 for travel January 30 to May 31. Visit www.airtahitinui-usa.com for more details or call 877/824-4846 to book.
For general trip-planning info, see our Australia and Pacific Travel Guide.
Travel round-trip to Sydney for only $1599 with its world-famous Opera House and Harbor Bridge, Ayers Rock (Uluru) in the heart of Australian Outback , and Cairns (gateway to the World Heritage-listed Great Barrier Reef) with the option to also stop in Brisbane and perhaps visit Australian Zoo. The Aussie Icons Airpass offers a fantastic mixture of city, outback and coastal experiences in some of the most stunning parts of Australia. With this deal you are flying to four different Australian cities for the price of one!
THE VALUE: Save up to 40% on this flight compared to other flights during this travel period.
THE CATCH: This deal must be booked by October 31 and travel must be from May 1-June 8, 2012.
THE DETAILS: Visit Travelscene to learn more about the Airpass or call Travelscene 866-538-7280.
WE’VE GOT MORE: See our Australia Travel Guide to figure out what to do when you get there.
Airlines, bloggers, cruise lines, and resorts flood our inboxes daily with travel contests and sweepstakes. The prizes are always tempting, but it’s tough to figure out which giveaways are worth your valuable time (and contact information) and which you should demote to the spam folder. To up your odds of scoring a free vacation, we’ll feature one travel contest each week – and say why it’s worth your while.
Contest: Sponsored by the Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI) and Queensland Tourism, this trip is a diver’s dream: Seven nights, including accommodations and coach airfare, for two in Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, diving’s Holy Grail, which spans 1,400 miles of some of the world’s most stunning underwater scenery. The trip features three nights onboard the dive ship Spirit of Freedom and the opportunity for 11 dives, as well as a day trip to the Daintree Rainforest, the world’s oldest and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
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