Zoe Foster Blake And Hamish Blake On The Beauty Of City Escapes

Australia’s favourite couple says a holiday to an Australian city offers a complete package of arts, culture, food and entertainment.

Article by Lucy E Cousins

Photography courtesy of Tourism Australia

While the rest of Australia grapples with the controversial $1.2 billion Federal Government tourism stimulus package designed to boost regional tourism, Australia’s “it” couple, author and cosmetics entrepreneur Zoe Foster-Blake and comedian Hamish Blake are planning their next holiday; a city stay. (Perth and Hobart are both in contention).

It’s not surprising the couple are considering a capital city for their next holiday, they’ve just joined with Tourism Australia for a new campaign to entice Australians to book a cheeky city weekender. “Cities offer the perfect hit of art, food, culture, shopping and chaos,” says Foster-Blake. “They’re best in small doses, because they demand a lot of energy, and don’t let you stop for a second.”

And while some travellers are still nervous about hopping on a plane, Blake suggests that a range of misconceptions might be holding Australians back when it comes to their next domestic holiday. “Maybe people feel they’ve seen [Australia], when in fact, when you think about it, it’s always (at least) years since you’ve been to a certain place and that place has changed now. A lot,” he says. “No one has been everywhere in Australia, and if they have, it’s impossible to have done it all recently!”

T Australia spoke to the jet-setting couple to find out which Australian cities they feel are misunderstood, their tips for travelling with children and whether they think Sydney or Melbourne is the better city.

Photography courtesy of Tourism Australia

Are you organised travellers, arriving at the airport early and looking polished, or do you barely make the flight?

Z: “Option A. I lay out my and the kids’ clothes (down to socks and shoes) and carry-on the night before, and pack a week out. I take packing very seriously.”

H: “I’m not trying to brag but I genuinely feel I could pack 90% of what I’d need for a trip in the time it takes you to read this sentence and if I didn’t pack it I can buy it there and stimulate the local economy.”

What are your tips for booking a city escape?

Z: “I’m a researcher; I don’t want to miss out on any key experiences in a short city visit, so I will spend some time looking up the ‘Bests’ (galleries, playgrounds, coffee, donut, pizzas etc) and make sure we’re locked in well before travelling.”

H: “I like to map out a loose outline so you at least get out of the hotel after brekkie, but then I like to tear the schedule up and see where a city takes you. My policy is just get moving, and there’s adventures in mishaps! (Not sure if Zo would agree…).”

Apart from having kids in tow, what’s the main difference between travelling as a couple and travelling as parents?

Z: “Prior to kids, a key component of my holidays would be rest, sleeping in and naps. You can guess where that component is now. (‘The bin”.)”

H: “I think it’s actually great as the kids become your de facto tour guides. In fact, not tour guides, tour guides listen to you because you’re a paying customer. They become your itinerary deciders. But you do end up at spots you’d never normally go and, I think, always for the better.”

Sunset watching in Perth, WA. Photography courtesy of Tourism Australia

What Aussie city is on your respective bucket lists?

Z: “I’m very keen to see Perth, it’s been over ten years since I’ve been over that side of Australia, and I hear it’s really changed and grown. Also, Hobart. I might be the only person left who is yet to do MONA.”

H: “I’ve been lucky enough to travel to the cities a lot over the journey but I would echo Zo’s picks. I’m also eyeing off a food and wine weekend of sheer piggery with some mates in the near future.”

Are you road trippers or frequent flyers?

Z: “I like both, but our holiday time is usually so compressed that flying is the more efficient option. As the kids get older, there are some epic road trips we have planned; Hamish has been planning one for years already.”

H: “We fly cos with little kids, it’s easier, BUT… the kids are reaching the age where they can sit in the back and argue over who crossed the line in the back seat for hours so I’m licking my lips and revving the engine!”

You both have lived in Sydney and Melbourne, settle the debate, which is better?

Z: “No, no, no. I won’t be drawn into this…! They are both outstanding cities, and quite frankly, incomparable. Lucky us, having two phenomenal cities just an hour’s flight from each other. I love them both equally and for very different reasons.”

H: “It’s like asking me to name a favourite kid! Having said that, I have lived full time with one kid for 39 years and the other kid for 6 weeks so, I guess my heart has to go to Melbourne. But Sydney has 38 years up its sleeve to turn the tide, and it’s made a great start.”

Darwin's Markets at sunset, NT. Photography courtesy of Tourism Australia

What misconception do you think Australians have about travelling in Australia?

Z: “It can’t possibly be that our nature isn’t world-class-level astonishing, so maybe it’s about the cities, that they’re not sophisticated or cool as international cities. Spoiler: they really are! The food, produce and wine (and increasingly, spirits) are as good as you’ll find anywhere in the world. ”

Which Australian city do you think is most misunderstood?

Z: “Canberra. Or maybe Darwin. They have been tarnished with very simplistic associations, and I think there’s a lot more to both of them that deserve to be revisited.”

H: “Maybe growing up in Melbourne… Sydney! There’s a friendly rivalry but I feel it’s dropping away these days as members of both cities travel to and from, and love the differences between them (because of course, who wants two of the same city?).”

It’s been a tough 12 months, looking back, how do you see your experience during the height of the pandemic?

Z: “We felt a real sense of community and solidarity with our fellow Melbournites, unlike anything I’ve felt before. Also, our kids are 6 and 3, which is a super fun age. Spending “compulsory” time at home with them for months on end felt like a gift you don’t get very often.”

H: “I think there were silver linings to a very tough time. As Zo mentioned, the joy of this unexpected time at home creating activities to fill the days with the kids.  I also loved seeing how the adversity made creative people even more creative from musicians to hospitality operators having to turn on a dime and reimagine their whole business. It was inspiring to watch.”

Where is your next holiday and what are you looking forward to?

Z: “We’re off to Queensland for some time on the reef during the school holidays. How lucky can you get, having that underwater wonderland a short flight away?”

H: “My next trip is actually a one-night cheeky camping escape with one of my housemates (my son) next weekend! He’s purely looking forward to the toasted marshmallows. Let’s be honest. Me too.”