Port > Adelaide in under 5 hours

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Port Macquarie to Adelaide in around the same time as a relaxed drive to Sydney: it’s now possible flying direct from Newcastle. The service, three return flights a week, expands to four a week from next month and during March.

The journey’s a bit over 4.5 hours’ travelling time in all: allowing 2.5hrs for the drive from Port to Newcastle and around two hours 10mins in the air before touching down in the South Australian capital. So far, yet so near.

You won’t be flying business class but by 100-seater Fokker, a very comfortable plane on these shorter routes. In return passengers avoid the delays, queues, frustrations and transfers that accompany bigger aircraft from bigger, busier airports. The planes belong to Alliance Airlines’ fleet, which operates similar aircraft on the Virgin-booked Port to Brisbane route. (Alliance, with schedules throughout Queensland and across Australia, is headed up by a former Port Macquarie local.)

The Adelaide-return flights are by Fly Pelican, which also operates 13 direct Taree-Sydney one-hour return flights six days a week (excepting Saturdays.)

At time of writing the forward journey to Adelaide ex Newcastle leaves at 6.35pm (Mon, Wed) and 7.45pm (Fri), allowing for a relaxed trip by road and no need to overnight in Newcastle, plus a conveniently-timed arrival in Adelaide, half an hour behind NSW (at 8.15pm and 9.30pm respectively.) Similarly, return flights leave mid-late afternoon from ADL, arriving back at 5.55pm/7.15pm: again, suitable for a same-day drive home with no overnight hotel costs, unless stopping over in Newcastle is preferred. Check with your local travel agent to confirm current flight times. The schedule’s ideal for both shorter and longer stays in SA: say, two to four nights, or more, depending on your purpose and destination. The food and wines of the Adelaide Hills, Barossa, Clare Valley and McLaren Vale are among the State’s renowned drawcards. Other top attractions are Kangaroo Island and Murray River cruising.

SeaLink, an Adelaide-founded company, and subsidiary Captain Cook Cruises have around 80 vessels of all shapes and sizes around Australia, and in Fiji, operating from Sydney Harbour, Tassie’s Bruny Island, WA’s Rottnest and Darwin … to the Murray Princess. The elegant paddle wheeler accommodates 120 passengers in 60 cabins and staterooms, each with its own bathroom, on one- to seven-night tours and cruises. Cabin areas are approximately 12sq.m, staterooms naturally more expansive. See the website www.murrrayprincess.com.au and follow the numerous links for a plan of the five decks, outlines of the cruises on offer, and information for those of limited mobility. I cruised the Murray in a small houseboat a few years back. I was apprehensive the experience might be a little humdrum, boring, even claustrophobic. Yet I found it amazingly scenic, relaxing and fun, especially in our group of six. Outgoing couples will enjoy the Mighty Murray’s attractions too, but I think it’s even more appealing in a group of at least three or four.

Sealink also offers a wide range of other packages from half and full-day Adelaide city and Hahndorf wine region tours to trips of varying durations to Kangaroo Island, a mere 45-minute ferry journey from the mainland. And: singles are not alone! There are a number of escorted tours of varying durations on offer (check the single supplement), and travel by coach as well as self-drive (hire a car in Adelaide or on KI itself, but book ahead!) Discover all the options by roaming at www.sealink.com.au

If you’re nimble you may still find bookings for a special, glamorous event: next month’s Sealink Kangaroo Island Racing Carnival, from Thursday 14 to Saturday 16 February. The KI Cup is run on Saturday along with an extravagant Long Lunch trackside. On Sunday 17 wind down with touring and/or live music at KI’s Dudley Wines cliff-top cellar door, and food and wine at KI Spirits, KI Brewery and vineyards. Details at the Sealink website under the Specials tab.

HOLIDAY TRAVEL READING: The July 2018 event that had so many in sustained suspense, The Great Cave Rescue, the story of the Thai boy soccer team trapped for 18 days, by James Massola. Allen & Unwin RRP $29.99.

Travel Editor Susie Boswell.

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