Hamish and Zoe Foster Blake’s cheeky holiday to Great Barrier Reef and the Otways

If you’re going to see Australia, you need to see it in a big way.

That’s the message from comedian Hamish Blake and his wife Zoe Foster Blake who have teamed up again with Tourism Australia for a new campaign that urges Aussies to plan a “big” extended escape to bring some love back to the regions around Australia.

From beach-hopping to bush-bashing, Australian’s backyard really does have it all.

RELATED: Hamish and Zoe Foster Blake encourage big city escapes

RELATED: Hamish, Zoe Foster Blake spruik Aussie holidays in campaign

In their new ad, which is part of Tourism Australia’s Holiday Here This Year campaign, the couple showcases some of the “big” ticket items Australia has to offer for a domestic getaway.

While Tourism Australia has found domestic travellers have been shunning cities in favour of regional areas due to health and safety concerns, there has been a surge in shorter, more frequent, trips rather than traditional month-long getaways typically reserved for European summer holidays.

Couple visit incredible spots for ad campaign

The new $9 million ad campaign features the popular duo exploring some of Australia’s most scenic spots, including the Great Barrier Reef in Queensland, the Otways in Victoria, and WA’s Purnululu National Park in the Kimberleys.

“Making this was complete stuff of dreams,” Foster Blake said on her Instagram alongside the new ad.

“My husband and I are the luckiest pigs in Australia getting to shoot (together!) at these breathtaking locations – places we’d always dreamed of visiting … but “never made the time.”

“If you’ve been thinking about – or putting off – a trip to one of Australia’s many epic spots, well, this is your year.”

Trade, Tourism and Investment Minister Dan Tehan said the new campaign will hopefully encourage Australians to travel more “further afield”.

“Australians typically spend more overseas than foreign tourists spend in Australia, so we want Australians to treat their domestic holiday this year like an overseas trip,” Mr Tehan said.

“The net impact of Australian tourist spending in Australia was a positive benefit to the economy of around $7.5 billion in the December quarter; and in 2019, holidays of five nights or longer contributed $31.8 billion to the economy.”

Longer holidays better for health and better for businesses

A recent report released by Tourism Australia revealed that Australians need to extend their holidays to be happier, healthier and more productive at work.

Dubbed the ‘Annual (leave) report’, the study showed that while Australians took 29.4 million overnight trips in 2020 – with 82 per cent of those trips being one to four nights – just 18 per cent were five nights or more.

Of those 18 per cent who took a longer break, the respondents noticed they were happier, less irritable and three times less likely to argue with their family, friends or partners. In addition, they were more likely to stick to healthy habits such as good diets and regular exercise programs after a longer holiday.

“With a backyard as vast as ours, Australians are spoiled for choice when it comes to epic destinations and holiday experiences,” Tourism Australia managing director Phillipa Harrison said.

“We have a reef so big you can see it from space, the world’s greatest rock formation, and mountain ranges that dominate over three states and more.

“To make the most of these epic holiday opportunities, we’re urging Australians to take a bigger break of five days or more and explore those parts of the country that are especially reliant on international visitors. Taking a longer break is not only good for our personal wellbeing but also for Australia and the many communities and businesses that rely on tourism.”

The Epic Holidays campaign will be rolled out across a range of channels including TV, print, online, social media, content partnerships, search, radio, cinema and outdoor advertising from today.

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How to visit Australia’s Lord Howe Island cloud forest

It’s the island that’s been tipped as the new Byron Bay.

A luxurious getaway that’s favoured by Chris Hemsworth and his young family, as well as comedian Hamish Blake and Go-To skincare founder Zoe Foster-Blake.

But a stunning feature that’s been captured hovering above the island in some of their recent holiday photos has shown off a rare phenomenon – and created a unique opportunity for Australian travellers to view a stunning ‘cloud forest’ in our own backyard.

RELATED: Hemsworths and other celebs leading the charge for ‘new Byron Bay’

The beautiful ‘cloud forest’, which hovers between the 875-metre summit of Mount Gower and lower Mount Lidgbird on Lord Howe Island during summer months, is created by a balanced ecosystem that causes clouds to float directly over mountaintops.

As pictured in the recent trip to the island for both celebrity couples, the cloud formation appears when the air travelling across the ocean collects invisible water vapour, which then collides with the mountains before cooling and condensing into clouds.

Just a two-hour flight from Sydney, Lord Howe Island is surrounded by white sand beaches, lush forests and crystal clear waters right near parts of the Barrier Reef which is home to over 500 fish species and 90 species of coral.

Ecologist Dr Ian Hutton said the humidity from ‘cloud forests’ created a suitable climate for the growth of rare mosses on the island, as well as ferns and other flowering plants, some of which are found nowhere else on earth.

“Running around outside the door is one of the world’s rarest birds, the woodhen, seabirds are flying overhead, and after a five-minute walk from the house I can go down and have a swim in the world’s most southerly coral reef in our lagoon,” he told the ABC.

“It’s like living in a David Attenborough documentary, I guess. You are just totally immersed in nature.”

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Hemsworths leading charge for ‘new Byron Bay’

It was only a matter of time.

We knew Byron Bay had reached its peak, but there was still the question of which city we’d all move onto and ruin next.

The possibilities were honestly overwhelming. So many iconic Australian towns to destroy!

We couldn’t wait to whirl into quaint bays and shires up and down the east coast – marvelling at their beauty and assessing all the ways we could completely change them.

There’s always something so exciting about the prospect of skyrocketing an entire region’s property market. By the end of last year, we’d kicked up Byron prices 40 per cent. Wherever we moved onto next, the challenge was on to beat that PB. Let’s try get it to 50 per cent! Take that, housing affordability! Give us ya shacks, locals!

Anyway, the new Byron has been decided. Well, it was kinda picked for us – by those Hemsworths, of course. Classic Hemsworth move. They’re our most famous gentrifiers. In decades to come, Chris will probably be awarded an OAM for services to gentrification and biceps.

Their new target? Lord Howe Island.

The famous family – including movie star brother Liam and that older, less-successful Hemsworth brother – first popped up over there in October with a made-for-Instagram holiday the action star undertook in his role as a Tourism Australia ambassador.

The getaway made headlines around the world. Maybe that’s what caused a spike in tourism on the island. In January, Blue Lagoon Lodge manager Des Thompson told the ABC they were fully booked until September.

RELATED: Inside Hemsworth’s holiday to Lord Howe Island

Chris and Elsa jetted back to the remote island in January, before the Thor star flew to Sydney and got to work filming the latest instalment of the Marvel franchise.

Fans went nuts over the Instagram snaps and headlines buzzed around the internet about both Mr and Mrs Hemsworth’s insanely ripped rigs.

“I think you can see Chris’ abs from space!” gasped one fan in the comments of one photo that was ‘liked’ almost five million times. Only a Hemsworth can upstage the beauty of a pristinely preserved paradise.

Smart move, Tourism Australia. Sure, the view’s nice in the pics. But nothin’ sells a holiday destination like Hemsworth abs. You’ve learned a lot since the Bingle days.

And once the Hemsworths shipped off back to the mainland, the Foster-Blakes ferried on in.

Radio star Hamish Blake and beauty entrepreneur Zoe Foster – whose estimated net worth of $36 million recently landed her on The Australian Financial Review’s Young Rich List – took to Instagram this week to document their stay on the island.

They shacked up at the newly-built Island House – the same luxury lodging that hosted the Hemsworths. The joint reportedly goes for about $6,600 a night but it’s totally worth it because it comes with a copper bath tub.

With all this publicity and celebrification, locals better be prepared for an influx of us randoms. The island has long battled a rat infestation, but there’s no way they can prepare themselves for the influencer infestation that’s about to plague their paradise.

Locals probably think they’ve got things under control by enforcing a cap of 400 tourists at a time. This only encourages us. Getting on The Top 400 list – as it will become known – is a challenge. The Top 400 list will be a true marker of success, influence and status.

It’s a terrific idea – true exclusivity. Treat ‘em mean, keep ‘em keen. Byron should’ve thought of making a Top 400 list. Well, it doesn’t matter now. That place is done and we’ve moved on.

Lord Howe is now officially on its way to becoming the new Byron. First it’s the celebrities, then the rich people. The influencers scuttle in pretty quickly after that and then the rest of us bogans roll into town and complain about the offensive lack of a Mad Mex and a 7-11.

But that’ll get fixed in due time when outsiders start outnumbering the 380 locals who live there permanently. Just like that, things will tilt in our favour. Soon, there’ll be mainstream takeout joints with frozen daiquiri machines as far as the eye can see.

Twitter, Facebook: @hellojamesweir

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Hamish and Zoe Foster Blake encourage big city escapes in Tourism Australia campaign

From beach-hopping to bush-bashing, Australians have been enjoying our new-found travel freedom since border restrictions relaxed, but there’s one area we’re criminally overlooking – our big cities.

So travel-loving couple Hamish Blake and Zoe Foster Blake have teamed up again with Tourism Australia for a new campaign that urges Aussies to plan a city escape to bring some love back to the big smoke.

In their new ad campaign, which is part of Tourism Australia’s Holiday Here This Year campaign, the popular couple showcases what our cities have to offer for your next domestic getaway.

Speaking to news.com.au about the City Escapes campaign and their upcoming travel plans, the pair explained how Australia’s excellent cities leave us spoiled for choice.

“No offence to other countries, but let’s say if you go to America, you’ve got some good capital cities in America but you’ve got some duds. In Australia, we’ve got no duds. If it was up to me, the campaign would be called Australia: No Dud Cities,” Blake said.

“Every capital city is awesome in its own unique way. I do love that so much about Australia. Cities that are smaller, population-wise, are kind of even cooler because they’ve got their own art, culture, food, geography, cool hotels. The cities have boomed.”

“And also whether you’re going with children, or just your partner, or you’re going for nature, or you’re going for shopping – you’ve got all of it,” Foster Blake added. “Art galleries, museums – they’re smashing it.”

The couple said they already had a hit list of cities they planned to go to next with kids Sonny, 6, and Rudy, 3.

“We were just saying we feel embarrassed we haven’t been to MONA (Museum of Old and New Art) in Hobart,” Foster Blake said.

“Our kids like to be a bit free-range and barefooted and feral, so we’ll definitely head to somewhere that affords that sort of environment as well. That might be Perth, or Brissie.”

Blake agreed he was “dying to get back to Perth”.

“I haven’t been for a couple of years and again, I think one of my favourite things about Perth is that it’s that perfect mix between big and small,” he said.

“It’s obviously a big city but it’s spacious, there’s lots of little great pockets and there are amazing beaches.”

Tourism Australia has found domestic travellers have been shunning cities in favour of regional areas due to health and safety concerns.

Spending on overnight trips across Australia fell by $27.1 billion, or 34 per cent, in the year ending September 2020, compared to the previous year.

It has especially been felt in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Gold Coast and Perth.

Hotel occupancy has also taken a dive, with Melbourne, Sydney and Hobart the hardest hit – their occupancy rates have plunged to 33 per cent, 40 per cent and 49 per cent respectively.

Tourism Australia managing director Phillipa Harrison said tourism operators in Australia’s cities were still struggling almost a year after the country’s international borders snapped shut and lockdown restrictions inhibited domestic travel.

“Our cities are the key international gateways to Australia and transit hubs for travellers, so it’s no surprise that they’ve been hit the hardest in terms of tourism spend, hotel occupancy and aviation capacity over the past year,” Ms Harrison said.

“While our international borders remain closed and travel restrictions continue to fluctuate around the country, our cities run the risk of continuing to bear the brunt of this pandemic despite offering so many incredible, safe experiences and being more affordable than ever.

“As part of this campaign we are calling on Australians to help support their fellow Australians by booking a city escape, which in turn will help to support the thousands of city-based hotels, restaurants, bars, cultural attractions and experiences that rely on tourism for their livelihoods.”

As Hamish and Zoe look forward to their next city escape, they admitted there was one thing they’d have to contend with – their very opposing approaches to packing.

“He doesn’t pack until the night before, which gives me hives the morning of,” Foster Blake told news.com.au.

“I pack a week out, constantly curating, editing … and I do the kids’ suitcases as well. That will be our point of tension the night before.”

Blake admitted his packing habits were somewhat chaotic.

“For some reason, even though I know where we’re going and I know the temperature, as soon as I open my wardrobe my brain is filled with wild, 1 per cent contingencies,” he said.

“I’m packing wet weather gear on a whim, maybe three woolly jumpers for a beach holiday.

“Then when I get to the destination … it’s like a theatre sports game where I open up a bag and have no idea what’s in there.”

“But he’ll live in the same pair of shorts for seven days,” Foster Blake laughed.

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Hilarious Australian slang words that baffle foreigners

It’s not until you converse with someone from another country that you begin to appreciate just how zany the Australian vernacular is.

In our story last week about things that shock travellers about Australia, we discussed how many elements of our speech leave foreigners scratching their heads (for example, our habit of adding ‘o’ to the end of places, like “servo” and “bottle-o”).

Since then, we’ve discovered a charming article done up by travel visa website Byevisa, that attempts to explain the most confusing Aussie slang terms to people embarking on a trip down under. Here they are …

RELATED: 16 things that shock tourists about Australia when they visit

RELATED: Hamish Blake and Zoë Foster Blake’s top 10 tips for family trips

1. Thongs

This one really baffles visitors, especially those from the United States. In the USA a thong is a piece of underwear. In Australia, it’s what they call flip-flops. Sometimes they also call them “double-pluggers”. If they break their flip-flops you may hear them exclaim that they just had “a blowout in their double-pluggers”.

2. Barbie

It’s not a plastic doll. Down under a “barbie” is short for barbecue. There is actually a whole range of confusing terms you may encounter at an Australian barbecue. An “avo” is an avocado, a “chook” is a chicken, an “Esky” is a portable cooler, “snags” are sausages, “sunnies” are sunglasses and a “tinnie” is a can of beer. And if they say “bring a plate” they don’t mean bring your own empty plate because they don’t have enough crockery. They mean bring a plate of prepared food to share.

3. Cactus

What you think it means? A spiky plant. What it means in Australia? Broken, or not functioning. For example, “I can’t drive us down the coast this weekend, my car is completely cactus”.

4. Shark biscuit

Believe it or not, this is not a type of Animal Cracker cookie. This is someone who is not very good at surfing.

5 . Lappy

Not to be confused with an erotic dance, this is what Australians call their laptop computer.

6. Ankle biter

Many people will think this is in reference to a small, angry, vicious dog, but this is how Australians refer to young children.

7. Swimmers

In most parts of the globe, this term means people partaking in the activity of swimming. In Australia it is often used to refer to a swimming costume. Eg “I’ll come to your pool party, I just need to find where I left my swimmers”.

8. Ta

People think this means goodbye, as in “ta-ta”. But in Australia “ta” is also short for “thank you”.

9. Tea

If an Australian says to you “I have to be home in time for tea,” they are not necessarily referring to a hot beverage. They are probably referring to dinner.

10. Stuffed

In many countries on Christmas Day people will say that they are “stuffed” (full) and couldn’t eat another thing. In Australia “stuffed” often means tired. Eg “I can’t come around to your house tonight, I’m utterly stuffed after work”.

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