Q: My girlfriend and I are looking for a two-week winter trip in a warm climate. We are pretty strong bikers but would like beaches and hiking, too. Any thoughts?
Bram Weinkselbaum, Venice, California
A: If your idea of a happy holiday is a white-sand Christmas and a tan that dips below the turtleneck line, you'd best journey to another hemisphere. Lucky for you, airfares are as low we've seen them in a long, long time. So here's the plan: Catch a flight into Melbourne, rent a car, and head south for about an hour to the Great Ocean Road (think of it as the Aussies answer to our Pacific Coast Highway). Then spend the next week or so biking or driving from beach town to beach town, with occasional hiking/surfing/waterplay stops along the way.
You can start by visiting my favorite online bucket shop, www.etn.nl/discount, where your query will be sent out to various consolidators who will then bombard you with emails about impressively cheap ratesexpect to pay less than $1,000 per person. You'll find info on biking and hiking routes, accommodations, meals, etc., at www.greatoceanrd.org.au. Pay close attention to the section on Lorne, where you can mountain bike from the coast to the eucalyptus groves of the Otway Ranges or hike upriver to Erskine Falls. At some point, be sure to schedule an early-morning stop at Port Campbell National Parkhome to the Twelve Apostleswhere you can watch the sun light up the famous limestone stacks that have made appearances on postcards nationwide.
The only thing that could possibly come between you and Australian-style multisport bliss is the fast-acting couple who snagged the last room at your hotel of choice while you were busy fantasizing about the trip. It's a very busy time of year in this part of the world. Book now.