Five highlights in your travel week | 16 Oct

 A surprise discovery … brightly coloured coral off the Whitsunday coast.
A surprise discovery … brightly coloured coral off the Whitsunday coast.

A surprise discovery has amazed and delighted tourism operators on the Great Barrier Reef.

Huge colonies of pristine coral have been discovered in a lagoon system about 100 kilometres off the coast of the Whitsundays mainland, causing excitement amongst reef experts and tourists.

The significant discovery took place after Daydream Island’s ‘Living Reef’ marine biologist Johnny Gaskell spotted a “deep blue circle” on Google maps and went to investigate.

Now, he hopes the coral — which includes huge colonies of Staghorn and Birdsnest corals that have been protected by the 20-metre deep lagoon — will help to recolonise other areas of coral on the reef.

“Inside the walls of this lagoon, which we estimate to be about 150 metres across and at least 20 metres deep, were huge colonies of extremely delicate but undamaged corals,” he said.

Grafton … pride of place during jacaranda time.

Grafton … pride of place during jacaranda time.

NSW is bursting with spring colour as wildflowers bloom and Sydney counts down to the start of its famous annual jacaranda season which sees the city bathed in a sea of purple blossoms.

The historic town of Grafton, located alongside the Clarence River on the NSW North Coast, will take centre stage with the Grafton Jacaranda Festival from October 28 to November 5. Highlights include the coronation of a jacaranda queen, a street parade with themed floats, markets, live performances and fireworks.

But you can also take a do-it-yourself jacaranda walking tour through Sydney, starting at the Royal Botanic Garden Sydney, passing through Circular Quay and The Rocks. View the stunning trees set against the backdrop of the iconic Sydney Harbour Bridge, Sydney Opera House, Sydney Harbour and historic cobblestone streets of The Rocks.

One of the stars of the Grampians Wine Region … Mount Langi Ghiran.

One of the stars of the Grampians Wine Region … Mount Langi Ghiran.

From 3-7 November, central Victoria’s Grampians Wine Region will celebrate its award-winning shiraz at picturesque venues across some of the best wineries in Australia.

Guests at the annual Seriously Shiraz festival will have an opportunity to taste their way around the Grampians, with more than 20 events over five days spread around a Melbourne Cup weekend of masterclasses, unique tasting experiences, special dining events and live music.

Wineries involved include Best’s Great Western, Montara Wines, Grampians Estate, Mount Langi Ghiran, Seppelt Great Western and Halls Gap Estate, all eager to show what makes the Grampians one of the most historical and acclaimed wine regions in Australia.

Festival goers can indulge in live music performed by musicians from the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, a grand degustation, a garden party with croquet, and flights over the vines.

Oceanic … offering Kimberley wet-season specials.

Oceanic … offering Kimberley wet-season specials.

Thundering waterfalls and vast, empty coastal waters will greet passengers on Ahoy Buccaneers’ first two cruises for 2018 along the Kimberley coast, with bookings made by October 31 receiving a complimentary night’s accommodation before and after the cruise.

The low-cost cruise operator’s 19-guest motor yacht, Oceanic, will offer special 13-day wet-season cruises between Broome and Wyndham in February and March.

Every year, the monsoonal wet of the far north transforms the famous Kimberley coast waterfalls like King George Falls, Kings Cascades and Casuarina Falls into spectacular, thundering jets of water, enabling adventure-seekers to see and feel nature at its raw and powerful best.

Ahoy Buccaneer’s wet-season expeditions through the wild and remote islands of the Buccaneer and Bonaparte archipelagos also enable guests to experience the dramatic excitement of tropical storms, beautiful sunsets and lightning shows, and lush scenery.

The wet season is also devoid of larger cruise ships, leaving Ahoy Buccaneer’s privileged passengers to enjoy the region’s serenity alone.

Oceanic offers double bed and bunk cabins as well as the opportunity for passengers to sleep under the stars in deluxe swags in a mix of boat and beach locations each night.

Each of the 13-day cruises next February and March is available from $5000 per person (including for solos) in a swag and from $6600 per person twin-share in a cabin. Fares include meals, shore excursions and transfers.

Phone 08 9193 7650 or visit

Songlines: Tracking the Seven Sisters … a dramatic chase across the Australian deserts.

Songlines: Tracking the Seven Sisters … a dramatic chase across the Australian deserts.

An ancient creation saga featuring a dramatic chase across the Australian deserts is at the heart of a ground-breaking exhibition, Songlines: Tracking the Seven Sisters, which has opened at the National Museum of Australia in Canberra.

The exhibition showcases sections of five Indigenous Western and Central Desert songlines, utilising some 100 paintings and photographs, objects, song, dance and multimedia to narrate the story of the Seven Sisters, as they traverse the continent from west to east, through three states, three deserts and across some 500,000 square kilometres.

The exhibition features the world’s highest-resolution six-metre-wide travelling DomeLab under which visitors will be immersed in images of Seven Sisters rock art from the remote Cave Hill site in South Australia, animated art works, the transit of the Orion constellation, and the Pleiades star cluster.