Underwater clubs, living English literature, best kids' travel destinations: Takeoff travel news

FOOD:  Up is down in the Maldives
The Maldives likes to turn everything on its head: take, for example, Subsix, the world’s first underwater nightclub. The club, which is 500 metres out to sea and six metres under water, can be found at Per Aquum Niyama resort, which has also just opened Nest treehouse restaurant. Dining pods are suspended above ground, with wooden walkways linking the tables amid the jungle. The restaurant serves Asian cuisines. Niyama is set on two islands in the Dhaalu Atoll, named Play (think adventure sports and kids’ club for 12 months-12 years) and Chill (think spa). Other ‘‘altered reality’’ experiences in the Maldives include underwater restaurants (Conrad Maldives Rangali Island, Kihavah Anantara) to overwater spas (pretty much everywhere) and even government cabinet meetings (OK, that was a one-off publicity stunt). See peraquum.com  .
GEAR Lather up for Sydney
 Ease homesickness for expat friends by sending them a little piece of Sydney. These new shower gift packs hail from our northern beaches, and comprise a body bar, a soy candle in a tin and loofah in three of the company’s best-selling fragrances; French vanilla, vintage gardenia and coconut & lime. Palm Beach products are Australian made and owned by a local family company. Shower gift packs cost $24.95 each. See palmbeach collection. com.au.  

AIRLINE Fly north for winter
Southerners chasing the sun will welcome the news that Tigerair is increasing the number of flights from Sydney to the Whitsunday Coast Airport at Proserpine. The north Queensland town is a key jumping-off point for travel to Airlie Beach and the Whitsunday Islands, including popular Hamilton Island. The new Sunday service departs Sydney at 9.10am, and returns from Whitsunday Coast at 11.15am with a flight time of 2 hours 35 minutes. The service starts October 25, priced from $89 for a Light fare, which includes 7kg carry-on luggage. The airline has also increased flights on its Melbourne-Gold Coast route, adding new Friday and Sunday services from September 18, just ahead of the term three school holidays, with tickets from $79. The additional services come as Tigerair cancels its Melbourne-Mackay route from September 7, due to low demand. Tickets for the new services are on sale, see tigerair.com.  

KIDS Have kids, will travel
Sydney Harbour has been voted Australia’s most family-friendly destination in the newest edition of Lonely Planet’s Travel with Children book. Sydney’s ferry rides, picnicking on Fort Denison and catching the super-cat to Manly for a surf lesson all add up to a top-notch staycation, says Lonely Planet. Others in its top 10 top family-friendly destinations include the theme parks of the Gold Coast and Canberra’s Questacon and the National Arboretum Playground (nb: they also encourage knocking out somersaults on the immaculate grass dome of Parliament House.) Tassie’s ghoulish ghost tours get a guernsey, as does Brissie’s Streets Beach and the kids’ activity rooms in the Queensland Museum & Sciencentre, Queensland Art Gallery and Gallery of Modern Art. The new edition helps you take the brood to more than 80 countries, from Austria to Zanzibar, with advice and tips for fun family travel. It costs $29.99. See the new Lonely Planet Twitter and Facebook pages and lonelyplanetkids.com.

PICTURES In the frame
Celebrate Australian and international photography at the month-long Ballarat International Foto Biennale, which runs from August 22 to September 20. Central Ballarat will host exhibitions by the 21 invited artists, with another 118 events (and rising) in the fringe festival across the city. The festival’s founder and creative director, Jeff Moorfoot, travels the world to bring photographers’ work to the biennale. Those on show can be established or emerging artists – the only criterion is that their works have not yet been shown in Australia. Seven heritage buildings in the city centre will host the major exhibitions, so you can skip between the Ballarat Art Gallery and Mining Exchange to smaller galleries and bars for projection projects and workshops, which cover subjects from light painting to visual storytelling to Photography 101, from $79 to $475. For the full program, see ballaratfoto.org. For more photography festivals in the Pacific Rim, see asiapacificphotoforum.org.  

NEWS Crowded house
Wolf Hall, Poldark... Britain is on a roll with silver-screen adaptations of some of its best loved literature, showcasing its cities and villages. The latest is Thomas Hardy’s romantic tragedy Far from the Madding Crowd, now in cinemas. Filmed around Dorset, the novel is set in the village of Evershot, which Hardy renamed Evershead in his novels, a four-hour train journey from central London. Hardy was also an architect, and in 1893 he designed the drawing-room wing of what is now the Red Carnation’s five-star Summer Lodge Country House hotel. Stays cost from $680, b&b, double. Otherwise, wake from slumber in a four-poster bed to a full English breakfast at the 16th-century Acorn Inn, mentioned in Hardy’s Tess of the d’Urbervilles. Costs from $565 a night, double. See summerlodgehotel.co.uk, acorn-inn.co.uk and visitbritain.co.uk

 The Takeoff travel news column by Belinda Jackson is published every Sunday in Sydney's Sun-Herald newspaper's Traveller section.    


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