Cruise with Margaret Atwood, train bar in Melbourne, discover Aboriginal Sydney: Takeoff travel news

CRUISE: The Arctic explorer’s tale
Fans of The Handmaid’s Tale, The Robber Bride and a dozen other novels, as well as short fiction, poetry and children’s books, can sail through the Northwest Passage with the celebrated Canadian author Margaret Atwood. The cruise departs Kugluktuk, in Nunavut, Canada, following explorers’ footsteps to one the northernmost towns in the world, Qaannaq, Greenland.  Other (non-human) guests include polar bears and possibly the "unicorn of the sea", the narwhal, a tusked whale that lives in the Arctic waters. Highlights including visiting Inuit communities, iceberg spotting and crossing the Arctic Circle. “And it’s always a delight to see the more foolhardy among us take a plunge into subzero Arctic waters,” says Atwood, a dedicated conservationist and twitcher. This is her ninth journey with Adventure Canada. The 17-day cruise departs September 5 and costs from $US8995 ($11,650) a person. See  

FOOD: Top spot for trainspotters
Love trains? Love Melbourne? Then you’ll adore one of the city’s newest bars, in a Hitachi train carriage perched atop a city block in the innercity suburb of Collingwood. Easey’s dishes up burgers and coffee on the ground floor, but climb up to the fifth floor into the train carriage and it’s bottoms up with skyline views. The new burger bar is one of the few to have Melbourne Bitter on tap, fresh from its neighbour, Carlton United Brewery. It also serves local craft brews including Holgate, from Woodend, and Mountain Goat, brewed in nearby Richmond, as well as Victorian spirits such as Melbourne Gin Company. The carriage ran on the Pakenham-Dandenong line from 1972 until its retirement in 2012. The bar’s owner and art curator Jeremy Gaschk says graffiti artists loved these silver Hitachi train carriages, so it’s only fitting the train’s resting point is in the midst of Melbourne’s street art heartland, 48 Easey St, Collingwood. See  

TECH: Airport face-off
TripAdvisor contributors will have a new target in their sights as the rate-and-review site launches its airport pages this month.  First off the ranks is Singapore’s Changi airport, often ranked the world’s best for its shopping galleries, efficiency and cleanliness.  It will be followed by New York’s John F. Kennedy and London Heathrow airports, to launch this Tuesday, along with 10 Australian airports including regionals Townsville, Launceston and Cairns. In total, TripAdvisor aims to include 200 major airports across the world on its website and app. The company says more than 3 billion people use airports each year, with an average time spent in them of 150 minutes. The site aims to help travellers occupy that time with its "Near Me Now" feature, which uses the phone’s GPS to hook you up with the airports’ facilities. See

GEAR: Real-time life in the frame
The next generation of compact cameras makes it easy to dazzle your Instagram followers. With built-in Wi-Fi, the new 16MP Canon PowerShot lets you snap, share to your phone and upload instantly. It’s 50x optical zoom gets you up close and personal, and even stretches out to 100x digital zoom, its ‘‘lock’’ function helping minimise camera shake (though a baby tripod never goes astray). On the cute gimmick side, flip over to fish-eye mode, go totally automatic, or take full control in the manual setting, and it’s a one-button operation to start shooting 1080p Full HD video.    Hook your camera into your phone, computer, printer or even your TV via Wi-Fi or near field communication technology (NFC). Although it weighs 128g, it’s 12x8cm, so it’s not a pocket camera, but will tuck into a small handbag, and Canon also gives you 10GB in its new image storage cloud,  . The PowerShot SX530 HS costs around $426.99. See  

TOUR: Secret treasures of our backyard
Did you know that Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park has the world’s most concentrated collection of Indigenous artefacts? Discover its secrets with local Aboriginal guides on a new tour by Sydney OutBack, including the most famous, The Emu in the Sky. The sophisticated level of Aboriginal astronomy sees an emu carved in sandstone match a constellation in the sky every autumn, when it’s time to gather emu eggs. "The Guringai people were wiped out by a smallpox epidemic in just 10 years," Sydney OutBack’s Paul Pickering says, "but they’ve left us a legacy to tell their story." The full-day "Wilderness & Aboriginal" explorer tour cruises on a private 15-metre motor cruiser through the setting of The Secret River, the Kate Grenville novel and recent ABC drama (film buffs note: it was filmed mostly in East Gippsland’s untouched Lake Tyers). Cost $199 adults/ $149 concession including Sydney CBD transfers and a bush tucker-inspired lunch. Phone (02) 9099 4249. See  

KIDS: Big fish meet small fry
A week into school holidays and out of ideas? New zookeeper workshops let kids feed crocodiles and pat pythons at the Australian Reptile Park at Somersby, on the Central Coast, (see while in the Hunter Valley, kids as young as six weeks have tickled three-metre tawny nurse sharks at Irukandji Shark & Ray Encounters, all served up with a strong conservation message (from $29.50/$19.50/$95, see If you’re on the Gold Coast, Whales in Paradise runs three trips a day to witness the annual migration of 20,000 whales (from $99/$69/$267 family,, and humpbacks, minke and southern right whales are now holidaying along the South Coast. Jervis Bay Wild runs two whale-watching tours each day, seven days a week, departing from Huskisson, 2.5 hours from Sydney ($65/$28/$165,  


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