Escape the winter blues
 

Lizard Island, Great Barrier Reef, Queensland. © Delaware North Companies c/o Tourism Australia

North Cyprus

If you’re looking to kick off the New Year with a zing, producing enough endorphins to get you through winter, then we have three special destinations for you.

Any January holiday search has to begin with North Cyprus. Post-Brexit, your £1 still goes further there at any number of 5-star or smaller hotels. And if you choose the right one, you could find an international pop-concert thrown in for free.

Indeed, the Turkish Republic has established itself as a real mecca for those seeking the high life, with gambling, nightclubs and spas among its specialities. And its drier north coast even boasts a premier golf course – the Korineum – ideal for small-group golfing holidays, with firm, sunny playing conditions that Brits can only dream about in winter.

The island offers stunning castellated views and seascapes to reward both the walker and the driver, and plentiful monuments to its tempestuous history, such as Kantara, Salamis, Girne and Gazimağusa, its harbour citadel recently restored by the EU to the condition Leonardo da Vinci once admired.

Temperatures are typical for the Eastern Mediterranean: expect an average of 17 degrees in January, with plenty of sunshine to go with it.

Flights (Easyjet, London Gatwick to Larnaca) & 7-day stay (28 Dec-4 Jan) full-board at Cratos Premium, £649 per person based on two people sharing from Direct Traveller

Relax with a spa & massage at Cratos Premium Hotel, North Cyprus
Relax with a spa & massage at Cratos Premium Hotel, North Cyprus

 

Barbados

For the more adventurous, beautiful Barbados beckons: just 21 miles long and 14 miles across, and surrounded by crystal clear turquoise water. Often referred to as “Little England” and celebrating its 50th anniversary of independence from Britain this year, Barbados offers a truly warm and safe Caribbean welcome, unbeatable beaches, and a coaxing sun-soaked climate. And of course, reggae and rum punch.

Barbados boasts practically every holiday theme under the sun, from sailing and fine dining at The Cliff, to swimming, submarine tours of its lavish underwater vistas, surfing, ziplining, fascinating heritage tours, hiking, or simply poolside-lounging.

Crystal Cove by Elegant Hotels, Barbados.
Crystal Cove by Elegant Hotels, Barbados

 

From Gospel tours to distillery-sampling, Barbados has it; lacking only casino-gambling, which is illegal. If it’s a flutter you want, horse-racing at Savannah Garrison will provide your thrills.

The island is world-renowned for big game fishing, with seasoned crews waiting to help you land that elusive marlin or sailfish. It’s great all-year weather and immaculate golf-courses, such as Sandy Lane and Royal Westmoreland, are another attraction.

Expect a high level of sophistication and service on this dollar-orientated island, and if you eat flying fish on your first visit, you are bound to return.

Flights (Virgin Atlantic) from London Gatwick to Barbados & 7-day stay at Crystal Cove by Elegant Hotels, £2,415 per person based on two people sharing from Virgin Holidays

Apes Hill Club, Barbados, & its 18-hole golf course
Apes Hill Club, Barbados, & its 18-hole golf course

 

Australia

If you’ve been planning to see friends and family Down Under, the New Year is the ideal time to get away to Australia. Start the year with a bang in Melbourne, on the southern coast, catching one of several dazzling fireworks displays across the city on New Year’s Eve. Among the best is Docklands, or take the family for a night-time party and picnic at Footscray Park.

Visitors to Sydney can start the first day of 2017 at one of the city’s globally-renowned New Year’s Day parties on the beach. Once the hangover has subsided, head up the Gold Coast, in the east, to Byron Bay (a beach paradise, perfect for scuba and surfing), or the stunning 74 Whitsunday Islands (think crystal, aqua blue water, secluded bays, beach camping and bush walking).

One of the wonders of the natural world, the Great Barrier Reef stretches some 1,800 miles, running almost parallel to the Queensland coast, from near the southern coastal town of Bundaberg, up past the northern tip of Cape York. This brilliant marine park is full of vivid coral and unusual sea species, from giant clams to humpback whales, and 1,500 types of tropical fish, providing divers with the most spectacular underwater experience imaginable.

Photo by Darren Jew of the Great Barrier Reef, Queensland. © Tourism Australia
Photo by Darren Jew of the Great Barrier Reef, Queensland. © Tourism Australia

 

And if driving’s your thing, Australia’s magnificent scenery and vast open spaces are the perfect ingredients for an epic road journey – those who’ve sampled a driving holiday often claim they were the ‘experiences of a lifetime’.

Popular routes include the Great Ocean Road (158 miles from Torquay to Warrnambool, both Victoria) passing the 12 Apostles rock sculptures, Port Campbell National Park and Lorch Ard Gorge. If you have more time, do the 5-day Red Way Centre, a 671 mile journey which starts and ends at Alice Springs, taking you to Uluru (Ayers Rock) and King’s Canyon.

The 641-mile, South Eastern Coastal Drive, linking Oz’s two most popular cities, Sydney and Melbourne, has all you’d want from a road trip: relaxing coastal towns, enormous national parks teeming with wildlife, and solitary beaches. You’re also bound to spot a kangaroo or two.

Return flights with Singapore Airlines from London Heathrow to Melbourne International, £1,239 per person (higher if flying out between Christmas and New Year’s Eve).

Photo by Paul Torcello of Stokes Bay, Kangaroo Island, South Australia. © South Australian Tourism Commission
Photo by Paul Torcello of Stokes Bay, Kangaroo Island, South Australia. © South Australian Tourism Commission

 

Main photo (top) of Lizard Island, Great Barrier Reef, Queensland. Photo © Delaware North Companies c/o Tourism Australia