Neil Oliver, BBC2’s Coast presenter, reveals the destinations close to his heart

I have just come back from filming Coast Australia and I was able to take my family out there for six weeks. We explored Perth, Melbourne and Sydney, but the stand out experience was in Darwin – famous for its salt water crocodiles. The kids have grown up watching Jurassic Park and when they saw a 20-year-old crocodile it was a dinosaur as far as they were concerned. The climate was nearly 100% humidity. We will always remember Darwin as being a total assault on the senses.for-web-Neil-Oliver

If you’re in Sydney, go to Wolfies restaurant in Circular Quay – the classic spot in the heart of the city where you can see both the Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge. We sat right down on the waterfront and the seafood was fantastic – particularly the Barramundi.

“When the sun shines on Orkney it is unlike anywhere else on earth”

I love spending time on boats – something I inherited from my dad. The two of used to go to the west coast of Scotland, like Oban and the Isle of Skye. We’d fish for crabs off hard walls and sometimes take out a little fishing boat. There’s also a real indefinable magic about the Orkney Islands. The unusual landscape will surprise you and every 10 minutes is a different climate experience. When the sun shines on Orkney it’s unlike anywhere else on earth.

Elie, a little village in Scotland, is woven into the fabric of our family history. Out of all of the places I’ve visited in my life, I’d choose to be there. It’s like a sanctuary. We walk along the sand dunes, go rock pooling, fly kites; it’s idyllic.

“We sailed for a month, at times tackling force eight winds and watching for icebergs at night”

In 2011 a small group of us sailed in a 50 foot yacht from Port Stanley in the Falkland Islands to the South Orkney Islands, north of Antarctica, for The Last Explorers (BBC Scotland). We were following in the footsteps of Scottish explorer William Speirs Bruce – Britain’s premier polar explorer at the turn of the 20th century. We sailed for a month, at times tackling force eight winds and watching for icebergs at night. It will be hard to top the extremity of that experience.

When filming Coast I spent five days sailing along the Norwegian coastline. The Lofoten Islands in the north are a mystical, otherworldly place – you feel like you are in a forgotten land. On numerous occasions I have travelled to the Arctic Circle but I am yet to witness the Northern Lights. I hope to see them some day.

I used to think cruises were all about big ocean liners. So when I was asked to give a talk on Viking River Cruises this year, it opened my eyes to another way of exploring the world – along its rivers. When I was young we spent time on a little boat on the Norfolk Broads, and it reminded me of that. The great thing about cruising a river is the ever-changing tableau of towns drifting by.

Read Hollywood Godmothers

Read Interview with Russell Watson

Read the latest issue of Cruise International in shops now

small twitter icon       small pinterest icon       small google-plus icon       small facebook icon       small email icon       small rss-feeds icon