Winter holidays in Fiji: Family jewels

Fiji's coral islands are not just for the honeymooners — they are child-friendly too, writes Sadie Beckman. It's all very well seeing those classic advertisements for holidays in Pacific Island paradises, featuring loved-up honeymooners frolicking on impossibly beautiful beaches or sipping cocktails at sunset. But what about the rest of us, for whom the honeymoon is long over, there are kids in tow, and while we still might like to reminisce about our frolicking days over a cocktail, we need a

USA: Wine and relaxation on Californian vacation

Sadie Beckman gets a taste for the relaxing life in California Halfway between frenetic Los Angeles and bustling San Francisco lies part of California where the pace is more of a stroll. Both a coastal and rural lifestyle exist in this place, a blend of earth, sea, history and agriculture that is home to creative industries and people. San Luis Obispo County, aptly nicknamed "SLO", covers some 9300km of southern California. With a population just slightly more than that of Wellington, it is t

Pacific Jewel: Out for a laugh

A getaway cruise has food, drink, wall-to-wall comedians and has you back in time for work on Monday, writes Sadie Beckman. Cruising is basically getting in a floating hotel full of affluent geriatrics and attempting to eat your own bodyweight from a buffet while watching a cheesy lounge singer, right? Wrong actually — as my partner and I recently found out. First-time cruisers, we were on board P&O's Pacific Jewel for a themed Comedy Cruise and rather than a sea of grey heads heading to the c

West Hollywood: Neighbourhood watch

If you are looking for a community-minded neighbourhood where the locals are friendly, streets are clean, art in many forms turns up on every corner and there are leafy residential roads, the last place you'd expect to find it would be right in the middle of crazy, busy, infamous Los Angeles, right? Yet West Hollywood - affectionately known as WeHo - is all of these things, as well as the epicentre of glamour, wealth and history associated with LA's movie and music industries. This unusual dic

Push pause in Picton on your next road trip

A weekend escape that is not too far, yet far enough away from home can be enough to get that holiday feeling, writes Sadie Beckman. How often do we pass through a place without taking it in? Picton is the perfect example of a place that is beautiful in its own right, yet the fact it is a travel hub connecting the South Island to its northern neighbour means this quaint and friendly harbour town is sometimes overlooked as a destination in its own right. As I recently discovered though, visitor

Staying at the QT Hotel, Wellington

We arrived at a popular check-in time, so there was quite a queue, but when we got our turn, the welcome was friendly and efficient. Valet service and an attentive concierge was the icing on the cake. The room: One of the main drawcards for our stay had been hearing about the new suite of art rooms the QT (formerly The Museum Hotel) had recently opened. Gallery 4 is the latest artistic collaboration for this hotel, renowned for its involvement with the creative community. The fourth floor featu

Driving California's Highway One: Feeling like a celebrity

Crowds cheer, cameras flash; Sadie Beckman feels like a celebrity as she rolls down Highway One in a Cadillac. Road-tripping in a Cadillac down California's scenic Highway One, hair flying in the breeze, sun on bare shoulders and 70s funk on the stereo sounds like the stuff of movies or dreams, so I had to pinch myself when I recently did just that. Highway One connects California's northern and southern regions. It's a spectacular coastal route showcasing the glittering Pacific Ocean and the

Staying at The Shangri-La Fiji

Sadie Beckman checks in to The Shangri-La Fiji on Yanuca Island, in Viti Levu's Coral Coast. A friendly Fijian welcome, with attentive porters, a shell necklace placed around our necks, chilled fresh coconuts with straws stuck in them and a loud call of "bula!" awaited us on arrival. Check-in was painless and there were iPads for self check-in, too. The room: A ground-floor room near the main pool, with a nice bathroom, daybed and ranch slider leading out to a small but not private seating are

Flying from LA to Auckland with Air New Zealand

Sadie Beckman flies NZ005 from California to the City of Sails Check-in: Despite the enormity and volume of people at LAX, well-organised lines moved swiftly, and security screening was surprisingly easy, given the often-zealous American approach. Airport experience: LAX is a good representation of the American way of doing things — huge, glamorous and somewhat excessive. Designer shops line the mall-like concourses and there are multitudes of places to eat. Be prepared, however, to pay premiu

Taranaki: A rustic retreat at Ahu Ahu Beach Villas

On a fine day we can catch a glimpse of Mt Taranaki through an old star-gazing telescope from our Kapiti Coast back garden — the distinctive rugged peaks clearly visible in the sights. The mountain is renowned for being coy about shedding its cloud cloak, so I felt fortunate indeed when we got a perfect, and much closer view of it recently — those same peaks we see in the telescope seen with our naked eyes, sharply defined against a crisp autumn sky. A window of beautiful weather, school holid

Sanur: A charming slice of Bali

Far enough away from the madness of Bali's most touristy destinations lies a seaside town that may seem unassuming at first, but soon gets under your skin for its easy charm, genuine local atmosphere and top quality visitor attractions. Sanur is nestled on a long stretch of coast in the south east of the island, around 12 kilometres from Bali's international airport, making it a popular landing place to acclimatise on arrival in the Indonesian holiday island. Known for being clean and relative

Road, rail and sail to Dunedin: A family road trip on the South Island

Setting off on a family holiday without the car can be slightly daunting at first. That metal-plated comfort zone on wheels allows the transport of not just the family members, but their respective piles of possessions that apparently must be lugged around everywhere with them for normal functioning to occur. As the kids have got older, the detritus has admittedly reduced, but it was still a challenge when we decided that this time, we would be one-bag-each foot travellers, and head to the deep

Whanganui's The Flying Fox a quirky, rustic retreat from the world

Cosy, crooked little cottages with smoke curling out of their chimneys, sit high on a riverbank amongst multitudes of trees laden with apples, avocados and figs. The river babbles below, and birdsong rings out of the surrounding vegetation. Fat, brown chickens peck contentedly in the orchard, the washing line holds a row of crisp white sheets dancing in a warm breeze and the scent of baking wafts from the larger of the houses. A fairytale village perhaps? It certainly wouldn't seem out of place

A Martinborough winter escape

Sometimes winter's depths feel like an eternity away from the heady joys of summer. The mass exodus to beach or bach seems out of reach as the rain lashes down and the southerlies roll in. However, those in need of a midyear pickup should remember that a winter getaway can do wonders for the cold weather blues, offering a host of charms unique to this chilly time of year. Wairarapa's Martinborough wine village is well-known as a summer destination, with abundant wineries, outdoor music events

Byron Bay BluesFest with the kids

As the Antipodean winter draws slowly draws to a close, the prospect of warmer temperatures brings thoughts of outdoor activities, events and the summer festival season. Some of the most outstanding festivals though, happened while Kiwis huddled by the fire and upped their TV viewing, with one of the best being Australia's Byron Bay BluesFest. I have wanted to go to BluesFest for years, so 2014 was finally the year! A few weeks ago myself, my husband and our two young children flew out to the

A family holiday in the Sunshine Coast

A family holiday to Australia's Gold Coast is a popular choice, but to be honest it's so far on the beaten track that it's both a joy and a relief to discover so much variety in the surrounding regions, all of which are within an easy day's drive. The Sunshine Coast is a gem of a place, where the glitz and glamour of Surfer's Paradise and Miami gives way to the laid back, alternative vibe of Maleny and Mooloolabah. Bush-clad ridges offer spectacular views across Australian hinterland to the se

Discovering the Rangitikei

We've all heard the old adage "a change is as good as a holiday," but after several particularly unsatisfying sessions of rearranging the furniture, attempting to cook ambitious meals and briefly considering being a brunette, I decided it's a load of rubbish so loaded my family into the car and set off to seek adventure. Living in New Zealand means a diverse range of options for holidays are on our doorstep, and being a tourist in your own country actually has a lot going for it. From the Kapit