So, you’ve left the mercy dash away from the dreaded family Christmas until the final hour?! Fear not, some of the world’s most extraordinary destinations are waiting for you, bells and all!
1. Ratua, Private Island, Vanuatu
You probably didn’t know, but the Islands of Vanuatu in the South Pacific are only about three and half hours direct flight from Sydney. That’s the same as flying to Cairns. To get to Ratua however, you will need to fly into Vanuatu’s secret little island of Espiritu Santo and from there get a speed boat across to Ratua, a private island owned by a French Billionaire.
But thankfully, you don’t need to have billions of your own dollars to stay there, just billions of reasons why you wouldn’t rather be anywhere else! It boasts pristine aqua waters, barely another soul in sight, horse-riding across beaches, lush coconut palm plantations, fresh seafood, crisp French champagne and blue swimming holes that will blow your mind. Oh, and the eco-chic villas are some of the most unique and brilliantly appointed you’ll find anywhere in the world.
2. House-Boating down the Murray River, Australia
You don’t need to be a boatie to fall deeply and passionately in love with the serenity that the Australian Murray River will bring you. Board in Echuka, and watch the paddle-boats slosh their way happily up and down stream with the sound of Australia’s most iconic birds and wildlife serenading you from the shoreline.
The beauty about these holidays is that there’s an abundance of boats along the Murray, to suit every budget, you call the shots with your own itinerary and the more family and friends the merrier!!
3. Formentera, Spain
So, just say your budget can stretch to overseas flights then you wont regret a sneaky holiday to the most magical island in the Spanish Meditterranean called Formentera. It’s not far from Ibiza geographically, but miles apart culturally.
This is where to cool set go to stop the clock, not wind it up. The abundance of private villas and small hotels here is fantastic, as are the pristine beaches. The bonus of a trip here at Christmas time for Aussies is that it’s not peak summer season in Europe, so prices should be reasonable and off-peak flights at last minute!
4. Haggerstone Island, Australia
Staying local for a holiday has so many benefits. But, with so much of Australia's north dominated by crocs, tourists and stingers, it’s no wonder you may not initially think of this. Haggerstone Island is a boutique luxury resort located on the Australian Great Barrier Reef. While you wouldn’t have heard of it, it has been running quietly (among the secret set) for more than 30 years and is your gateway to the world’s best underwater playground! Imagine spending Christmas day windsurfing, scuba diving or swimming in private pristine waterfalls before feasting on freshly caught seafood!
5. Arrowtown, New Zealand
If you want to leave the stress of your homeland behind, without the price tag of a long haul flight then New Zealand is your answer. But in particular, a tiny little, hidden away town named Arrowtown.
One of Conde Naste’s world’s top 100 restaurants (Saffron) sits nestled unassumingly amongst tiny old weathered timber houses and stores, a majestic little stream trickles down the middle of the town – oh and did I mention you’re only a hop, skip and a jump away from some of the best winery regions this world-renowned nation has to offer!
6. El Questro, Western Australia
You have a few options here, depending on your budget and tastes, but no matter what you will be gobsmacked by the pristine beauty of Western Australia’s Kimberley Region, where El Questro proudly sits. The El Questro Homestead has been named #2 Luxury Lodge in Australia and seriously won’t disappoint. For the family friendly option, check out the El Questro Station and consider the tent option for a bit of fun and something outside the box. A pretty awesome way to spend Christmas Day, heli-fishing or strolling the Emma Gorge with your camera.
7. Machu Picchu, Peru
This is the trip that will tick your ultimate Bucket List moment. There is no way on earth you will return for a journey through Peru to Macchu Picchu without a very different view on life. People speak of the amazing effect this archaeological site will have on you, but until you experience it personally, it is hard to describe.
Getting there takes effort, but then, all the best things do. Planes, trains, buses, hikes. This is part of the experience. It doesn’t have to blow the budget. People journey from across the globe every year, young and old, rich and poor, for a glimpse of this spiritual phenomenon – and none leave disappointed. Instead of spending the day eating til you explode and drinking til you snooze, do something that may alter your path in life.
8. Copenhagen, Denmark
You can claim you’re simply heading all that way (away from your parents) to wish “our” Princess Mary a Merry Christmas, out of your own patriotic generosity. But really, we all know Copenhagen is the new hot destination for shopping, bicycle riding, dark funky forward-thinking bars and cafes, and just quietly, some of the best Christmas Markets in the world! Go at night, so you can appreciate all the lights in their full glory. Embrace the cold and sip on a warm glass of Gluehwein (warm fruity red wine punch) or head out for Christmas lunch to the World’s Best Restaurant, Noma… if you can get in of course. Maybe ask Princess Mary to make the reservation for you!
9. Nusa Lembongan, Indonesia
We all know about Bali. And yes, essentially you fly into Bali to get to Nusa Lembongan (hello, cheap flights!!) but the island of “Lembo” itself is far from the chaos of Seminyak or Kuta! That’s not to say Lembongan isn’t fast rising on the radar of the cool set and all their flock of friends and fam very rapidly, but if you get there this Christmas, you’re still certain to find uncrowded beaches, brilliant Indonesian food, spectacular snorkeling, numerous reasonably priced villas and small hotels (Le Pirate!!) and after a day of massages and bintangs, this has to be one of the ultimate ways to celebrate the most hectic day of the year.
10. Gulet Cruise, Turkey
Everyone raves about Croatia. And that’s fine. But beat the crowds and go one better. The coastline of Turkey is extraordinary. Grab a small group of 8-10 friends and ditch solid soil for the calm cruising waters of Turkey’s coast. Gulets are the old-school timber sailing boats that lay claim to this region and they are romantic in every way.
Sail or motor into tiny azure bays, drop anchor and set up for lunch on the back deck. Catch some rays under the sail as you cruise to the next bay and perhaps grab your espadrilles for a wander through the sleepy little villages along the way. Your captain is there to takes you where you want when you want – and the chef is there to keep you full for all the times in between. This is the ultimate way to makes every friend in your Facebook contacts green with envy and also the best way to see the coast of one of the most fascinating and beautiful countries on earth. Anchors away!
Rose Jacobs is an award winning Travel Journalist and Television Presenter. Along with being the Travel Expert for The Lifestyle Channels she is a popular host on Sydney Weekender on the Seven Network. Rose also writes her own blog www.poopypropeller.blogspot.com.au with travel advice for parents travelling with kids. Connect with Rose on Fbook: @RoseJacobs, Twitter: @JacobsRosie or Insta: RoseJacobs1