Here at Lonely Planet, we have travel experts on tap. In this excerpt from the September 2010 issue of Lonely Planet Magazine, they help out a reader looking for a great beach with sightseeing spots.
Q: My husband and I are hoping to go on holiday before our first baby is born in January. We want to go in September and would like something that combines relaxing on a beach with some interesting sightseeing, either by taking day trips or to top and tail the holiday. Any ideas? - Shirin Pawlowska, London
During August, it can feel like half of Italy is on Sicily's marvellous beaches; in September, it's much quieter. Try to travel closer to the middle of September than the end to get the best of the weather. Cefalù, an hour from Palermo by train, is one of Sicily's most beautiful towns and has a long, golden beach. Dolce Vita B&B has five rooms and there are superb views from the roof terrace (£40 to £90).
Combine this with a few days in Taormina, via a change of trains in Messina. This medieval town has a fine beach and Isola Bella, a great place to snorkel, is set in a beautiful cove close by. Villa Fiorita Hotel has sea views and a pretty garden (£105). There are flights to Palermo with Ryanair, Alitalia and easyJet, plus charter seasonal flights with Thomson to Catania.
Late September is the perfect time to be in Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts. The weather's still great, prices for beach-side rentals halve, and the kids are back in school. It's compact and diverse, lined with gold-sand beaches, forests and cliffs. The three east-side towns are: salty Vineyard Haven, outgoing Oak Bluffs (home to a beloved carousel) and refined Edgartown with its Greek revival homes and beautiful harbour-side lighthouse. You can also reach water holes, public beaches and farmers' markets on bike trails and there's a great public bus system.
Aquinnah, at the west end, is home to the Wampanoag, the Native American group who participated in the fabled first Thanksgiving. They have a cultural institute you can visit and the surrounding scenery here is gorgeous. Look for car rentals at budgetmv.com. An inexpensive but lovely little inn to stay at is Nashua House in Oak Bluffs.
3. North Queensland, recommended by Lonely Planet publisher Jane Thompson
There's a very special spot near Mission Beach in Far North Queensland, Australia, that's set in tropical rainforest overlooking the Coral Sea. Sanctuary Retreat has cabins hidden in the forest canopy with screens instead of walls - so you and your bump can fall asleep surrounded by warm ocean breezes and the sounds of the forest. The food is healthy and delicious, too, plus there are yoga and massage sessions, a pool, a rainforest to explore and beautiful beaches within walking distance (from £37).
Head into nearby Mission Beach and take your pick of the great activities on offer there: snorkel the Great Barrier Reef (from £93 for a day trip; calypsodive.com); enjoy a crocodile cruise down the Hull River (from £18; missionbeachinfo.com); or take a day trip to Dunk Island (£31 return). You can get to the Sanctuary from Cairns airport by shuttle (£28; sunpalmtransport.com), and there are flights to Cairns with British Airways and Qantas from £900.
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