TRAVELS WITH NINA

is the online portfolio and journal of Australian travel writer Nina Karnikowski.

DOLPHIN ISLAND: THE PROPERTY ADDICT

DOLPHIN ISLAND: THE PROPERTY ADDICT

The only genuinely private island of Fiji’s 333, Dolphin Island offers the most luxe of castaway experiences for you and up to seven friends. This dollop of paradise, a 15-minute boat ride north of Fiji’s main island Viti Levu, offers just four elegant timber-floored, wooden-shuttered bures with high palm-thatched roofs, wall-to-wall glass doors opening to tantalizing sea […]

LUXURY BALI: THE PROPERTY ADDICT

LUXURY BALI: THE PROPERTY ADDICT

KATAMAMA You’d be hard-pressed to find a hotel more bespoke than Katamama, the newest kid on the luxury Balinese hotels block, lying just around the corner from the Potato Head Beach Club. The details are all handmade by artisans preserving Indonesian traditions – from the hand-pressed temple bricks of the striking geometric façade and the […]

ALTO ATACAMA: THE PROPERTY ADDICT

ALTO ATACAMA: THE PROPERTY ADDICT

Tucked beneath spectacular terracotta rock walls in a quiet ravine in Chile’s Atacama Desert, Alto Atacama Desert Lodge & Spa is a luxurious, eco-friendly launch pad from which to discover the cracked caramel landscapes of the highest, driest desert on the planet. Alto’s rates are all-inclusive, meaning you can be as active or as sedentary […]

PARIS HOTEL REVIEW: SMH TRAVELLER

PARIS HOTEL REVIEW: SMH TRAVELLER

  THE PLACE Built in 1926, Hotel Bastille Boutet originally housed a wood manufacturer, then in 1944 the Maison Boutet Swiss chocolate factory. In 2015, the nearby Ecole Boulle school of fine arts helped renovate the building into its current hotel incarnation. Nods to the building’s history are peppered throughout; from the black-and-white photographs of woodworking […]

ULTIMATE HOTELS: SMH TRAVELLER

ULTIMATE HOTELS: SMH TRAVELLER

THE TREEHOUSE By Nina Karnikowski My love affair with treehouses started early. At age five, I helped my big sister pull a thick plank of wood out of dad’s shed at the back of the garden, and balance it from a rock ledge into the boughs of the jacaranda tree opposite. Our first treehouse never […]

ESSAOUIRAN HOME STAY: SMH TRAVELLER

ESSAOUIRAN HOME STAY: SMH TRAVELLER

If Essaouira were a house, it would have to be this one. Rustically glamorous, its curved whitewashed walls nod to the Moroccan seaside town’s languid ’70s vibes, and the central light well and trio of black-and-white-tiled rooftop terraces renders it sunny, breezy and relaxed. Do my travel companion and I need five floors’ worth of […]

TAJ MAHAL HOTEL, MUMBAI: SMH TRAVELLER

TAJ MAHAL HOTEL, MUMBAI: SMH TRAVELLER

Bombay is a crowd, as the great V.S. Naipaul​ once said. Even when it’s sleeping, it seems this morning. My husband and I tiptoe over the dozens of slumbering bodies lining Colaba Causeway, the main street of Mumbai’s southernmost suburb of Colaba just before dawn. We touched down on Indian soil only an hour ago […]

ALTO ATACAMA, CHILE: GOOD WEEKEND

ALTO ATACAMA, CHILE: GOOD WEEKEND

Tucked beneath terracotta rock walls in Chile’s Atacama Desert, Alto Atacama Desert Lodge & Spa is the most luxurious of launch pads from which to discover this otherworldly region. Experience the spluttering El Tatio geysers, visit high-altitude salt flats peppered with pink flamingos, explore Wild West-vibed Adobe villages or watching the sun sink over lunar-like Moon […]

HOTEL AMOUR, PARIS: SMH TRAVELLER

HOTEL AMOUR, PARIS: SMH TRAVELLER

One night in Paris, that’s all my husband and I had. Where we’d spend it needed no discussion; we’d had Hotel Amour, a sexy designer nook in the South Pigalle neighbourhood, dog-eared for just this kind of occasion. Inspired by Japanese love hotels and plonked right in the middle of the ex-red light neighbourhood, it […]

FOUR SEASONS LANGKAWI: GOOD WEEKEND

FOUR SEASONS LANGKAWI: GOOD WEEKEND

After a sunrise yoga session by the lotus pond, stroll along the resort’s private beach amid soaring, 550 million-year-old  limestone karst cliffs before taking a dip in the Andaman Sea. A morning boat safari through neighbouring mangroves has you dropping in on mountain hawk-eagles, vipers and rhesus macaque monkeys. Come the afternoon, loll poolside at your beachfront villa (there […]

WILDFLOWER HALL, SHIMLA: GOOD WEEKEND

WILDFLOWER HALL, SHIMLA: GOOD WEEKEND

A turreted fairytale castle perched on a mountaintop in Shimla, the summer capital of the British Raj, Wildflower Hall is the perfect spot in which to stoke your colonial-era fantasies. Take afternoon tea on the terrace surrounded by lush Himalayan cedar forests, sip a G&T by the opulent fireplace in the Cavalry Bar or stroll […]

Sydney’s Best Design Hotels: MASTERCARD

Sydney’s Best Design Hotels: MASTERCARD

The Old Clare Hotel Walk inside the big oval bar of the newest player on the design hotels block, the funky 62-room Old Clare Hotel in gritty Chippendale, and you’ll immediately feel the ghost of parties past. Before this year’s transformation, the hotel was the historic Clare Hotel pub adjoining the Carlton & United Breweries administration building. […]

OZO WESLEY, HOTEL REVIEW HONG KONG: SMH TRAVELLER

OZO WESLEY, HOTEL REVIEW HONG KONG: SMH TRAVELLER

THE LOCATION In a city as dynamic as Hong Kong, you want to be staying in the centre of the action, but still get a good night’s sleep. OZO Wesley takes its guests’ rest seriously, so even though the hotel is in Wanchai (a party district filled with restaurants and bars in the heart of […]

Qantas business class flight review: SMH TRAVELLER

Qantas business class flight review: SMH TRAVELLER

THE PLANE Boeing 747-400 aircraft with refreshed A380-style interiors. THE ROUTE Sydney to San Francisco. THE LOYALTY SCHEME Qantas Frequent Flyer (oneworld). CLASS Business, seat 6K. DURATION 12 hours, 10 minutes. THE SEAT 80 inch (203 centimetre) seat pitch and bed length, 24 inch (61cm) width. There are 58 business class seats in a mostly […]

Atlas Mountains Morocco: SMH TRAVELLER

Atlas Mountains Morocco: SMH TRAVELLER

The torrential rain starts pounding down just minutes before I arrive at Kasbah Tamadot, Sir Richard Branson’s luxury retreat in Morocco’s Atlas Mountains. Not exactly the way this moment had played out in my head as I’d dreamt of it over the past five years, but our driver Mouhssine, clocking my panicked expression in the […]

FLIGHT TEST, CATHAY PACIFIC BUSINESS CLASS: SMH TRAVELLER

FLIGHT TEST, CATHAY PACIFIC BUSINESS CLASS: SMH TRAVELLER

THE ROUTE Sydney to Hong Kong.   THE PLANE Airbus A330-300.   THE LOYALTY SCHEME The Marco Polo Club. Members are automatically enrolled as Asia Miles members, too.   CLASS Business class. I’m in aisle seat 18G.   DURATION Nine hours and 20 minutes. We take off 20 minutes late but make it up in […]

HOTEL HOTEL, CANBERRA: GOOD WEEKEND

HOTEL HOTEL, CANBERRA: GOOD WEEKEND

THE LOCATION Canberra is cool. The New York Times has acknowledged it, so it must be true, right? Well, pockets of Canberra are cool. NewActon, Hotel Hotel’s home, is a case in point: a hip precinct that’s quickly filling with restaurants, bars and galleries.   THE PLACE Hotel Hotel is spread over three floors of NewActon’s Nishi […]

MUDGEE WEEKEND AWAY: SMH TRAVELLER

MUDGEE WEEKEND AWAY: SMH TRAVELLER

THE LOCATION To begin with a terrible travel writing cliche, Horizon Mudgee is nestled in the hills. But consider that Mudgee is flanked on three sides by the Great Dividing Range, that its name means “nest in the hills” in the Wiradjuri Aboriginal language and maybe the cliche becomes acceptable. Either way, this geometrically designed […]

THE DARLING SYDNEY, HOTEL REVIEW: SMH TRAVELLER

THE DARLING SYDNEY, HOTEL REVIEW: SMH TRAVELLER

THE SETTING From the moment my best friend and I step on to the Akira Isogawa-designed floral carpet in The Darling’s light-filled, stone-pillared lobby at The Star casino complex in Sydney’s harbourside Pyrmont, we feel rather fabulous. The likes of George Clooney and Leonardo DiCaprio have previously stayed here, so we keep our eyes peeled […]

SAMOA TREEHOUSE: SMH TRAVELLER

SAMOA TREEHOUSE: SMH TRAVELLER

I’m in the shower, wrapped in Samson’s arms, when my husband walks in. He doesn’t scream, he doesn’t yell. In fact, he smiles. He smiles because Samson is not a hunky man, but a 300-year-old banyan tree in Tiavi, in Samoa’s Upolu hinterland, who for the past two years has been playing host to the […]

FLIGHT TEST, VIRGIN ECONOMY: SMH TRAVELLER

FLIGHT TEST, VIRGIN ECONOMY: SMH TRAVELLER

THE ROUTE Sydney to Samoa.   THE PLANE Boeing 737 800.   THE LOYALTY SCHEME Velocity frequent flyer program.   UP THE BACK OR POINTY END My husband has purchased an exit row seat for $45; I have a standard ticket but Virgin staff sit me in his row and block out the seat between […]

KANGAROO VALLEY COTTAGE REVIEW: SMH TRAVELLER

KANGAROO VALLEY COTTAGE REVIEW: SMH TRAVELLER

THE SETTING The journey back in time begins as you descend down the sandstone escarpments into Kangaroo Valley from Berry. The roads become narrower, the vegetation more lush, the houses more quaint and the wombats more abundant. At one turn in the windy road, a small self-serve fridge stacked with gooey homemade fudge running on […]

MUMBAI HOTEL REVIEW, INDIA: SMH TRAVELLER

MUMBAI HOTEL REVIEW, INDIA: SMH TRAVELLER

Abode, Mumbai’s first boutique hotel, is almost a microcosm of the city: at once revering its rich colonial history, while simultaneously grasping at a modern, globalised future. The two-storey hotel opened in January in Colaba, the pulsing and slightly posh heart of the city, in perfect timing with the opening of Mumbai Airport’s $2 billion […]

FASHION HOTELS: LUXURY MAGAZINE

FASHION HOTELS: LUXURY MAGAZINE

When Versace launched the world’s first fashion hotel, Palazzo Versace on the Gold Coast in 2000, it opened the doors to a radical new trend and business model for the luxury hospitality industry that took travelling in style to a whole new level. Sunland, the group behind Palazzo Versace, was giving fashion designers the ability […]

LAKE PALACE UDAIPUR, INDIA: SMH TRAVELLER

LAKE PALACE UDAIPUR, INDIA: SMH TRAVELLER

As my husband and I motor across Udaipur’s Lake Pichola towards the Taj Lake Palace, the floating marble mirage that we’ve spent the past three days ogling from our less salubrious digs on dry land, I can’t help feeling a little like a Bond girl. The feeling only increases as I’m helped off the boat […]

FRANKLIN HOTEL ADELAIDE: SMH TRAVELLER

FRANKLIN HOTEL ADELAIDE: SMH TRAVELLER

THE SETTING Adelaide’s having a moment. Lonely Planet listed the city as one of the world’s top 10 to visit in 2014, and if the slew of events (Santos Tour Down Under, Adelaide Fringe Festival, Adelaide Food and Wine Festival) and trendy restaurants and bars popping up across the city are anything to go by, […]

WEEKEND IN TERRIGAL: SMH TRAVELLER

WEEKEND IN TERRIGAL: SMH TRAVELLER

Remember that scene in the movie The Holiday, when Kate Winslet enters the Los Angeles super-mansion she has house-swapped her English cottage for and drops her suitcase and her jaw, before scurrying about the place, clapping and squealing with delight? Yeah, well, that was me (sort of) when I arrived at Seawinds luxury beachfront apartment […]

SRI LANKA HOTEL REVIEW: SMH TRAVELLER

SRI LANKA HOTEL REVIEW: SMH TRAVELLER

Is there any better sound than the rustling of palm leaves, I wonder as I laze about in my enormous, fluffy white island of a bed at the Avani Kalutara Resort on Sri Lanka’s southwestern coast. After all it’s a sound that most often accompanies only good things – things like sun, surf and soft […]

JODPHUR HOTEL REVIEW, INDIA: GOOD WEEKEND

JODPHUR HOTEL REVIEW, INDIA: GOOD WEEKEND

Walking into Raas in Jodhpur, Rajasthan’s bustling “blue city”, is truly an oh-my-god moment. Towering above the boutique hotel is the majestic Mehrangarh Fort, while the city’s signature powder-blue buildings at its feet make a stunning contrast to the pink Jodphuri sandstone from which both the hotel and fort are crafted. Parts of Raas date […]

NEPAL RESORT: SMH TRAVELLER

NEPAL RESORT: SMH TRAVELLER

High in the Nepalese hills, 45 minutes up, up and away from the hustle and bustle of Kathmandu, sits the newly opened Dwarika’s Resort Dhulikhel. Set among lush bushland and with breathtaking views of the snow-capped Himalayas, this holistic retreat is the perfect place to relax and rejuvenate. The 40 guest rooms spread throughout the […]

BUNGENDORE WEEKEND AWAY: GOOD WEEKEND

BUNGENDORE WEEKEND AWAY: GOOD WEEKEND

The Location The sleepy, slightly bohemian town of Bungendore is just a 30-minute drive north-east of Canberra, but don’t let that put you off. It’s also just a few minutes’ drive from the rolling hills of the far reaches of the Canberra District wine region, and the shores of Lake George with its sci-fi-like windmills. […]

SYDNEY DESIGN HOTELS: THE SYDNEY MAGAZINE

SYDNEY DESIGN HOTELS: THE SYDNEY MAGAZINE

Loh Lik Peng stands in the grungy alley way behind the Clare Hotel in Chippendale, surrounded by overflowing bottle bins, barred windows and graffitied walls, and smiles. The Singaporean lawyer turned boutique hotelier is looking at this squalor and seeing a vision: high glass walls, lots of steel and wood panelling, accents of graffiti and […]

DARLING HARBOUR HOTEL REVIEW: SMH TRAVELLER

DARLING HARBOUR HOTEL REVIEW: SMH TRAVELLER

My husband saunters into our ninth-floor suite at the refurbished Parkroyal Darling Harbour and I instantly know he’s after only one thing. It’s the same thing most men are after when they enter a hotel room: something delicious, something delightful, something naughty. My husband is after… the minibar. He moves like a jungle cat, past […]

ROO CORNER, KANGAROO VALLEY: SMH TRAVELLER

ROO CORNER, KANGAROO VALLEY: SMH TRAVELLER

Sitting on a couch strewn with rainbow lorikeet-emblazoned pillows, sipping a cuppa and gazing out the window at three wombats, a wallaby and a flock of rosellas feasting in the afternoon sunlight, my husband and I feel like extras on a set of Skippy the Bush Kangaroo. We should have expected it, really, what with […]

MILLTHORPE B&B: SMH TRAVELLER

MILLTHORPE B&B: SMH TRAVELLER

Millthorpe is a land that time forgot. Halfway between Bathurst and Orange, it boomed after gold was discovered in the 1860s, then declined post-World War I, meaning the entire village – now classified by the National Trust – is also a land that developers forgot. As I cruise Millthorpe’s “main drag”, Pym Street, on a […]

THE WAVES, PORT MACQUARIE: SMH TRAVELLER

THE WAVES, PORT MACQUARIE: SMH TRAVELLER

When The Waves threw a cocktail party to launch its three boutique apartments last September, there was an unexpected guest. There, sitting in one of the paperbark trees overhanging the penthouse balcony, was a cuddly koala. Guests assumed it was a deftly placed stuffed toy. But, as it turns out, native visitors of the furred […]

BELLINGEN, AUSTRALIA: GOOD WEEKEND

BELLINGEN, AUSTRALIA: GOOD WEEKEND

Location What’s in a name? Much, evidently, if you’re talking about Promised Land, a tranquil sanctuary of rolling green pastures and lush, subtropical bushland tucked 12 kilometres north-west of Bellingen, just inland from Coffs Harbour, NSW. The World Heritage-listed Dorrigo rainforest is 40 minutes west and 30 minutes to the east you’ll find a string of […]

THREDBO WEEKEND, AUSTRALIA: GOOD WEEKEND

THREDBO WEEKEND, AUSTRALIA: GOOD WEEKEND

The Location Set within Kosciusko National Park at the base of the craggy slopes of Mount Crackenback in the Snowy Mountains, Thredbo boasts, in winter, the longest ski runs in Australia. At other times of the year, it’s a perfect destination in which to drop out for a while and watch the world go by. […]

TASMANIA, AUSTRALIA: SMH TRAVELLER

TASMANIA, AUSTRALIA: SMH TRAVELLER

The Location Tucked into the peaceful banks of Tasmania’s North West Bay, about 15 minutes’ drive south of Hobart’s CBD, sits Villa Howden, a little slice of southern France. Surrounded by landscaped gardens and with views of Mount Wellington, it’s the perfect place to drop out, with a palpable sense of joie de vivre. The Place […]

CRADLE MOUNTAIN LODGE, TASMANIA: GOOD WEEKEND

CRADLE MOUNTAIN LODGE, TASMANIA: GOOD WEEKEND

THE LOCATION If Cradle Mountain’s snow-capped peaks don’t bewitch you as they loom tantalisingly at the end of the two-hour drive from Launceston, then its magnificent wilderness certainly will once you reach its heights. Teeming with wallabies, wombats and super-sized playful possums, it’s the northern end of the 161,000-hectare World Heritage-listed Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair […]

FLIGHT TEST, SCOOT: SMH TRAVELLER

FLIGHT TEST, SCOOT: SMH TRAVELLER

When I hear that Scoot’s maiden flight from Singapore to Sydney is landing one hour late due to a combination of a mechanical fault and a medical emergency, I can’t help but hope the new low-cost airline’s chief executive, Campbell Wilson, isn’t superstitious. I am, and a series of unfortunate events like these – especially […]

BEROWRA WATERS, AUSTRALIA: GOOD WEEKEND

BEROWRA WATERS, AUSTRALIA: GOOD WEEKEND

The Location Bounded by sandstone gorges, tranquil waterways and lush eucalypt forests, Berowra Waters is a tributary at the south-east edge of the Hawkesbury River. Calabash Bay Lodge, tucked snugly into the folds of the bay and accessible only by water, offers complimentary boat transfers from the Berowra Waters public jetty, or there’s the (rather pricey) option […]

CULBURRA BEACH, AUSTRALIA: GOOD WEEKEND

CULBURRA BEACH, AUSTRALIA: GOOD WEEKEND

When I arrive at weekend retreats, I get straight down to business: bag down, red poured, bath running. So it was that, despite The Lighthouse being idyllically perched on a beachfront hill with balconies facing both east and west, I planned to spend my first Culburra Beach twilight in the tub. Call me crazy, but […]

SWISSOTEL REVIEW, SYDNEY: GOOD WEEKEND

SWISSOTEL REVIEW, SYDNEY: GOOD WEEKEND

Checking in at Sydney’s five-star Swissôtel early one Saturday evening, my boyfriend and I had some serious questions to answer. Did we want our complimentary Chandon and chocolate-dipped strawberries sent up to our room right away, or would we prefer to wait an hour? Were we aware that, as part of the Romantic Getaways package we […]

MUDGEE WEEKEND: GOOD WEEKEND

MUDGEE WEEKEND: GOOD WEEKEND

If we weren’t in dire need of a weekend away before we left Sydney, we sure were after the four-hour, rain-drenched drive to Mudgee. However, within minutes of our arrival at Evanslea, a picturesque B&B located on 3.6ha of landscaped riverfront, we knew it was well worth the effort to get here. Owners Vicki and […]