Five highlights in your travel week | 10 Jan

A very special experience … cracking a geode at Crystal Caves.
A very special experience … cracking a geode at Crystal Caves.

Give your child — or the child inside every adult — a very special experience by taking them to visit Crystal Caves in Atherton, Far North Queensland, and letting them break open a geode to reveal the mineral mystery inside.

Cracking a geode is a highlight of a caves visit, with the specially built geode cracker being ratcheted up and breaking the round rock in two, exposing the beautiful crystal sparkling inside.

The lucky person who does the work is the first person ever to see the inside of the 44-million-year-old geode.

The geodes are mined in Chihuahua, Mexico, where they are formed by volcanic activity and are usually banded from finely grained microcrystalline quartz.

Phone 07 4091 2365 or visit www.crystalcaves.com.au

Kangaroo Island’s Vivonne Bay … was once voted as Australia’s best beach.

Kangaroo Island’s Vivonne Bay … was once voted as Australia’s best beach.

South Australia’s Kangaroo Island is these days so well known for its premium food and top-flight accommodation that it’s easy to forget what put it on so many Australians’ must-visit lists — a superb natural environment, including some of the nation’s top beaches.

Take Vivonne Bay, for instance. Located smack bang in the middle of the island’s south coast, this six-kilometre-long U-shaped bay is postcard-perfect and was once voted as Australia’s best beach.

Here, white sandy shores meet gently lapping waves, perfect for wading waist-deep. With a jetty framing the south-end and distant dunes in the north, it’s a great excuse to slip away for the day without another soul in sight.

Another little gem of a spot is Stokes Bay, on Kangaroo Island’s northern shore.

After pulling up in the carpark, you’ll weave through a little labyrinth of caves before emerging on to some of the whitest sand and clearest water in Australia.

If you’re lucky, you might even get the entire beach to yourself!

A once-in-a-lifetime opportunity … interacting with whales in the temperate Ningaloo waters. Image: Jacob Hill.

A once-in-a-lifetime opportunity … interacting with whales in the temperate Ningaloo waters. Image: Jacob Hill.

Humpback whale-interaction tours have been given the green light to continue for the 2018 season at Western Australia’s Ningaloo region, and the tours will return to Exmouth and Coral Bay from August to November.

The tours offer a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to interact with the whales as they swim by or rest in the temperate Ningaloo waters, and complement the region’s other nature-based offerings, such as whale-shark swims and manta-ray interactions.

The Ord Valley … home to the Ord Valley Muster in north-west Western Australia. Image: Ben Broady.

The Ord Valley … home to the Ord Valley Muster in north-west Western Australia. Image: Ben Broady.

Early-bird tickets are on sale until February 12 for the Ord Valley Muster, which will be held at Kununurra, in north-west Western Australia, from May 11-20.

Event-goers can save almost 20 per cent with the new Muster Double that includes general admission to the hallmark event, the Aviair HeliSpirit Kimberley Moon Experience, and the Melbourne International Comedy Festival Roadshow that will be held in the official Muster Festival Hub at the Jim Hughes Amphitheatre.

The black-tie Kimberley Fine Diamonds Dinner at the Kimberley Moon Experience is the Kimberley’s most prestigious and lavish event of the year and includes riverboat transfers, exclusive dance floor and champagne, canapés and a full sit-down multi-course dinner under the stars.

Country music rock royalty Lee Kernaghan OAM will headline the Aviair HeliSpirit Kimberley Moon Experience, with The Cat Empire.

Travel packages with flights from Perth start from $1210 per person, including accommodation, transfers, event tickets and tour options. Self-drive packages from Broome start from $524 per person, including accommodation, transfers and event tickets.

The Retreat Port Stephens … next to Australia’s biggest sand dunes.

The Retreat Port Stephens … next to Australia’s biggest sand dunes.

Sand dunes, serenity and the sea — plus normally a healthy dose of sunshine — make the Retreat Port Stephens an ideal destination for late-summer and autumn escapes, especially with guests able to save 20 per cent on stays between January 15 and April 30.

Nestled near unspoiled beaches, natural bushland and Australia’s biggest sand dunes, the Retreat Port Stephens provides a peaceful bush hideaway for guests to stay and enjoy beautiful Port Stephens.

The private, 1.6-hectare property offers self-contained cabins and bungalows accommodating up to six people and boasts a range of free activities, including a swimming pool, playground, barbecues, games room and bushwalks.

During the designated period, it is offering the discounted rate of $650 on a five-night stay in a cabin for, based on two guests but in accommodation can sleep up to five.

A five-night stay in a bungalow is available for $950, based on four guests in accommodation can sleep up to six.

Kids under 12 stay at no extra cost, with additional guests over 12 paying $100 per person extra for the five nights.

Phone 02 4982 1244 or visit www.theretreatportstephens.com.au