Christmas and New Years Fever

Your go to guide these holidays!

By Crystal Landers

Granted – the best place to spend Christmas and New Years is surrounded by family and friends – but with Australia’s scorching summer sunshine, the list of beautiful places to spend the festive seasons is almost limitless. Whether you’re an outdoors, party or leisure lover these options are guaranteed to excite.

Cruising the Harbour

Relax with some succulent sparkling wine, mouth-watering nibbles and a view that will remain implanted in your memory for a lifetime with a Darling Harbour Cruise.  After cruising down the endless ocean blue, be entertained by a different sea of red and white with Darling Harbour’s Santa Fest. If you’re looking at spending New Years in the bustling city, it doesn’t get much better than Harbour side fireworks.

Getting back to nature

Why not bask in the beauty of the heartland of natural wonders, Cairns? A few treasures include Lake Eachem, Millaa Millaa Falls, Kuranda, Paronella Park and of course, Australia’s very own Great Barrier Reef.  Take time to experience the Reef’s colourful characters and coral with a snorkel, or journey out in a glass bottom boat. The chef’s at Green Island Resort will also be serving up a scrumptious menu of fresh produce and traditional Christmas delights.

Stargazing

Pack a picnic with everything under the sun and head to Western Australia’s Kings Park & Botanic Gardens. When it turns to dusk enjoy a movie under the stars at the outdoor cinema located in the park’s Synergy Parkland. Session screening times are available online. Moonlight cinema screenings are also playing in Brisbane, Melbourne, Adelaide, Port Douglas and Sydney.

Get Away

Hamilton Island’s annual Summer Festival makes it an ideal holiday spot for the December/January holidays. Get into the Christmas spirit underneath the Whitsunday skies with Christmas Eve Carols by Candlelight and dance the night away in Front Street as it comes alive on New Year’s Eve. Family friendly fireworks are also set to sparkle from Catseye Beach.

For more ideas check out our travel guide in your state: QLD NSW ACT VIC TAS SA NT WA

Cycling the Riesling Trail

All those wineries and mountains by bike! 

By Julie Fison - Blogger at Julie Fison. 

It’s a glorious sunny morning in Clare, two hours north west of Adelaide as my husband and I set off on bikes to explore Riesling country. We’re taking a path along an old railway line that cuts through the length of the Clare Valley. The Riesling Trail, as it’s known, runs for 36 km, but we’ve got our sights set on Auburn, 25 km away.

Just as train travel offers an intimate view of life along the railway line, so does the trail. At various times it borders bush land, vineyards and farms. We cycle past cellar doors, kangaroos, chook runs, duck ponds, through eucalypt avenues and along hedges of lavender and pine - the perfect country scene. 

But it is only after we stop for lunch in Auburn and begin the journey home that I realize that my bottom isn’t going to make the 25 km back to Clare. And when I dismount to push my bike I realize that virtually the entire return journey will be uphill and that my legs aren’t going to make it either.

I push and pedal as far as O’Leary Walker Wines, some eight kilometres up the track. There, I admit defeat and do the only reasonable thing. While the weather closes in and my husband presses on to finish the ride, I head for the cellar door. I find a comfortable sofa, a magazine, a glass of wine, and I wait for my husband to return with the car. Of course, it's not as rewarding as cycling uphill in the rain, but sometimes sacrifices have to be made!

The following day the rain has set in, so we head, by car, for the Skillogalee Winery. I wonder if we are the only people crazy enough to be out in this winter weather. But when we enter the quaint old farmhouse that doubles as a restaurant and cellar door and ask for a table for lunch, we are met with a surprising response from a member of staff.

‘You have a reservation.’

It’s not even a question. The restaurant, which seats eighty – between its cosy interior and picturesque verandah, is fully booked. Anyone who knows to visit Skillogalee for lunch knows to book in advance (apart from us, it seems). Skillogalee is a South Australian institution and weekends at the family-owned boutique winery are busy no matter how wet it gets outside.

As luck would have it, the restaurant can seat us for an early lunch, which gives us ample time to admire the view over the cottage garden and the misty vineyards, enjoy a beautiful regional meal and taste a selection of Skillogalee’s wines.

A fire is roaring inside, and even on the veranda we are well protected from the weather. Heaters are warming the slate floor and just in case we get chilly – there are knee rugs on offer.  

By the time we finish lunch, it’s still wet outside and our Tour de Vallé Clare has been completely washed out. My husband is disappointed. I’d also love to see the sun shining on the Clare Valley, but I’m quietly relieved. Cycling is magical, but how comfortable is it to tour the wineries by car! 

A taste of the Tamar

The wine, food and accommodation route of Tasmania

By Winsor Dobbin

Tasmania’s cool-climate wines are all the rage right now, with demand for the fresh, lively flavours of the Apple Isle often exceeding supply. 

The longest-established wine touring route in the state, The Tamar Valley Wine Route, is this year celebrating its 21st birthday and at several of the cellar doors visitors are able to taste and buy wines made in such tiny quantities they seldom make it to the mainland.

The Tamar Valley, and the adjacent grape-growing areas of Pipers River and Relbia, are based in a fertile region where grapes were first grown in the 1800s.

Today, northern Tasmania is becoming increasingly well known around the world for its sparkling wines, aromatic whites and stellar pinot noirs.

Just a short drive from Launceston Airport, the Josef Chromy cellar door recently launched a new up-market restaurant that overlooks the vines and a picturesque lake. Velo Wines, meanwhile, has opened a new architect-designed café and tasting facility that has quickly become a favourite with both locals and visitors.

The major appeal of the Tamar Valley Wine Route is the fact that many of the wineries are family-owned, so you will usually be served at cellar door by someone intimately involved with the wines.

 

The region that encircles the state’s second city of Launceston remains small, friendly and largely undeveloped in terms of mass tourism.

Some cellar doors are only open at weekends, or during the warmer months, so it pays to check before setting off on a day of exploration. Others, including Grey Sands, Clover Hill, Waterton and Humbug Reach, require a prior appointment.

Visitors can follow around 170 kilometres of trails marked by yellow and blue “Wine Route” road signage and the route was named one of the best 10 in the world by the UK’s Essential Travel magazine last year. 

There are over 30 boutique producers, some of whose wines you can taste and purchase at the award-winning Harvest Producers Market held every Saturday morning in Launceston, or at specialist retailers like The Pinot Shop and Davies Grand Central.

Best cellar doors:

Josef Chromy was named cellar door of the year at the 2012 Tamar Valley Wine Route awards. Here you’ll find an excellent range of wines at several price points, a tasting facility with knowledgeable staff and lovely vineyard and lake views, as well as a top-notch restaurant specialising in local produce.  

Tamar Ridge Kayena Vineyard, now owned by Brown Brothers, has a tasting facility overlooking the vines in the West Tamar and offers a large range of wines that can be sampled, along with back vintages. Cheese and other regional produce is available for sale.  

Pipers Brook Vineyard allows visitors to take a self-guided drive through the vines and offers tastings of Pipers Brook, Ninth Island and Kreglinger sparkling wines, as well as serving lunches, coffees and cakes in the Winery Cafe.

Lovers of sparkling wines will head straight for the Jansz Wine Room, an impressively modern edifice at Pipers Brook that is open seven days a week that also contains an interpretive centre and serves cheese platters and coffees.

Holm Oak offers a rustic tasting experience surrounded by vines and visitors can poke their heads into the on-site winery, where Tim and Bec Duffy also produce artisan ciders under the Small Players label. Wines here are grown, made and bottled on the farm.

Bay of Fires Wines produces still wines under the Bay of Fires label and Australia’s most exclusive sparkling wines under the House of Arras label. Sample tasting plates, tea and coffee. 

Also try:  Leaning Church, Marion’s Vineyard, Dalrymple Estate, Sinapius, Delamere, Three Wishes, Iron Pot Bay, Goaty Hill, Moores Hill, Stoney Rise, Winter Brook, Ninth Island, Native Point, Providence, Sharmans and Bass Fine Wine (an urban winery housed in a Launceston industrial complex) 

Where to eat:

Koukla’s at Gravelly Beach has been a local favourite for eight years. Chef Cathy McCarthy, a third generation Greek cook, also uses Italian, Spanish and Moroccan flavours in her dishes and her menu changes weekly depending on what seasonal produce is available locally.

The Cove Restaurant and Bar at Peppers York Cove specialises in local produce. Talented chef Jason Smith previously worked at the now closed Daniel Alps at Strathlynn. His menu ranges from traditional fish and chips to dishes like slow-roasted beef cheeks and honey and aniseed pork belly. Two dozen local wines are available by the glass.

The House cafe/restaurant at the Elmslie cellar door serves light lunches matched to the estate wines in an extension to a delightful 1900s federation homestead. There are wide verandas with water views.

Velo Wines at Legana, just 10 minutes from Launceston, is owned by former Tour de France cyclist Micheal Wilson and his wife Mary, who recently opened a new cafe/cellar door complex open seven days a week.

UtSi Cafe at Perth, near to both Relbia and Evandale, is a former church, surrounded by a kitchen garden where mother and son team Colette Barnes and Julian Davies specialise in fresh, organic, local and ethically-raised food.   

Also try:  Launceston is just a few minutes’ drive from most of the wineries and is home to outstanding restaurants in Stillwater, Black Cow Bistro, Novaro’s, Pierre’s, Salt@Seaport, Me Wah, the Terrace at Country Club Tasmania and Mud. For simpler fare try The Jailhouse Grill, Burger Got Soul, the Dickens Cider House or the Pizza Pub.    

Where to stay:

Peppers York Cove at George Town is a modern luxury resort offering hotel rooms and one-, two-and three-bedroom apartments overlooking the Tamar River.  There is a heated pool and spa and an on-site gym, as well as a good restaurant.

The River House is a luxury, boutique B&B in two hectares of bush overlooking the Tamar River at Dilston. Visitors can choose between traditional B&B service or self-catering.

The Hatherley-Birrell Collection has a selection of four different styles of luxury apartments in Launceston. All are beautifully decorated and offer the most upmarket accommodation in town. The two apartments at Hatherley House have access to beautiful gardens.

Launceston has several good hotels at various price points. Among the best are the affordable Mercure Hotel, the waterfront Peppers Seaport, Balmoral on York, Country Club Tasmania, The Sebel and the Hotel Charles. The luxury apartments at TwoFourTwo and affordable Hillview House bed and breakfast are also very good.  

Festivale, a three-day celebration of local wine, food, beer, ciders and culture is held in Launceston’s City Park each February.

The James Boag Centre for beer lovers in downtown Launceston has regular brewery tours and tastings while the Yondover Farm House cheesery at Lilydale features wine and cheese tastings and cheese platters seven days a week and the Lilydale Larder offers a one-stop shop for local gourmet goodies, including wines and produce.  

For more details visit www.tamarvalleywineroute.com.au 

Moving to Melbourne?

Consider a Trip First


When tourists think of Australia, they tend to focus on the urban delights of Sydney and its famous opera house or the wild spaces of the Outback or the Great Barrier Reef. However, there are plenty of other interesting and trendy antipodean locations which are worth a visit, including the regional cities.

The state of Victoria is home to Melbourne, the country’s second most populous metropolitan area and the ‘garden city’ of Australia on the southern coast, so why not investigate flights to Melbourne for your next city break. 

A world-class city


As Melbourne Airport is the second busiest in Australia; it’s almost too easy to book a flight to this city for a minibreak and sample its delights. The Economist Group’s Intelligence Unit has repeatedly found Melbourne to be the world’s most liveable city, so it should definitely be worth finding out why the locals love it so much.

Many of its most notable buildings, such as the Royal Exhibition Building and the South Melbourne Town Hall, are World Heritage Sites or on the Victorian Heritage Register. The city is the hometown the several major sports clubs and held the first Olympic Games in the southern hemisphere as well as recently hosting the Commonwealth Games. Sports lovers have plenty of reasons to book their flights to Melbourne, as the Australian Open and the country’s Grand Prix are held in this city.

Mixing the old and the new


Melbourne
is perfect mix of urban delights and favourable climactic conditions. It hosts a large natural bay, Port Philip, which means that the city benefits from a refreshing ocean climate. Its coastal location also means that the tourists to the city have easy access to a wide variety of beaches and seaside activities.

Visitors do not even need to venture outside the city boundaries to find wide open spaces. Melbourne is famed for retaining a certain Victorian charm, with family-friendly parks and gardens dotted around the bustling city. For travellers who are interested in seeking out locations which have historical charm, the streets of Melbourne are threaded with quirky shopping lanes and arcades which date back to the settlement era.

As the city also hosts the majority of Australia’s tallest buildings, tourists to Melbourne can expect to find hybrid specimen of modern development and old-fashioned charm.

Ideal for culture vultures


To outsiders, Melbourne is perhaps best known for being the setting of Neighbours, the popular television soap opera which is set in the city’s suburbs. However, Melbourne is also regarded as the cultural capital of Australia.

As well as being the major hub for Australian television and film production and the country’s music capital, the city boasts its own artistic style, the Heidelberg School impressionist movement. It’s the home to the Australian Ballet, a symphony orchestra and hosts major arts festivals throughout the calendar. Visit the Melbourne Tourist Board before booking your flight to the city to find out what events are underway at the moment.

In short, whether you are culture vulture, a beach lover, an architecture aficionado, or a sports enthusiast, Melbourne should be next on your list of top travel destinations. 

Read more about Melbourne and other popular destinations online in the AGFG travel guide

Great Pacific Drive, Sydney - The Gourmet Road Trip Adventure!

If your love for experiencing new culinary flavours, tastes, and cuisines is what drives you to choose a travel destination, then why not explore the option of developing your very own road trip food adventure?    

With Australia consisting of arid locations, coastal sea breeze communities, bustling city centres, and rolling country hillsides, the visual feast of varied and captivating landscapes will enrich your gourmet travel experience by adding a dash of open air adventure.

An ample selection of restaurants, pubs, cafés, and tea shops, are dotted along the Australian map.  With fine dining, casual meals, through to menus offering a smorgasbord of gastronomic fun, there is something to suit all tastes and budgets.  Even the most distinguished food critic will discover plenty of locations serving up dishes that have attracted travellers from near and far.  

If you want to indulge in a fun and exciting road trip food adventure, then consider exploring the scenic, captivating, and inviting journey of the Great Pacific Drive.  

The Great Pacific Drive, Sydney – The Food, Wine, and Adventure Road Trip

The Great Pacific Drive encompasses exploring amazing and inviting landscapes that detail remarkable landmarks, coastal blue waters, and lush green hillsides.  With many destinations dotted along the way being renowned for their offerings of delectable food and wine (just as much as their captivating scenery), you will revel in a road trip that is both visually and tastefully pleasing.   

Here is our selection of locations to add to your Great Pacific Drive road trip itinerary - source all our ideas or simply add a few to your travel plans.

Royal National Park to Wollongong 

Fresh homemade and hearty recipes are a top choice by many of the eateries located along the journey from Sydney to Wollongong.  Here are some favourites of the region: 

  • Otford Apple Pie Shop (Otford) – enjoy a selection of homemade apple pies that have won the hearts of many visitors. 
  • Palms Café (Stanwell Park) – fresh local produce served on a menu that includes breakfasts, hearty meals to satisfy the hunger, and light meals that offer a simple pick-me up. 
  • Austi Beach Café (Austinmer) – serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner, stop by and select from a mouth-watering menu.  Be tempted by a grilled haloumi salad, chicken linguine, Austi chicken breast schnitzel burger, fennel and chilli squid, beer battered fish and chips, or their renowned gelato. 
  • Fireworks Café (Austinmer) – home cooked hearty meals made with the freshest ingredients.  The perfect combination to enjoy a relaxing dinner.
  • Flanagans Restaurant & Bar (Thirroul) – a unique menu that changes with the availability of fresh and in season produce, your stomach will indulge in a gastronomic feast when visiting Flanagans.  A seven course menu is available on Friday and Saturday nights – book in if you want to experience an amazing dining event.  Their modern take on the fish and chip combination has proved a true success with it drawing returning travellers and locals. 
  • Chedo’s Café / Restaurant (Coledale) – homemade gelato, European cuisine made with the freshest and unique tastes of the family owned olive oils. 
  • Illawarra Brewery (Wollongong) – as the name suggests, you can enjoy a great beer at the Illawarra Brewery.  Sit back and relax with ocean views as you digest a delectable meal while indulging in one of the brewery’s handcrafted beers.  Choose from a menu that includes brewery breads, a light meal of fish and chips, fresh pacific oysters, chicken caesar salad, salt and pepper squid with lemon dipping aioli, American style mini burgers, and a great selection of mains and sides. 

Adventure Options: Hang glide or paraglide at Bald Hill lookout; explore Sea Cliff Bridge; skydive with Skydive the Beach; visit the Illawarra Fly Treetop Walk; plan a day out at Jamberoo Action Park; or take a relaxing and refreshing swim at Garie, Coledale, Austinmer, Stanwell, Bellambi, Thirroul, Towradgi, or Port Kembla beaches.

Want to explore even further?  Then here is a small snippet of more of the destinations you can explore along the Great Pacific Drive.

Wollongong to Shellharbour

This portion of the trip is dotted with an amazing selection of eatery options.  With unique dining styles and menus consisting of enticing recipes and dishes, fulfilling your hunger will surely be satisfied at one of these great suggestions.

  • Ocean Mist Restaurant – offering a modern Australian café style menu, enjoy wood fired roasted seafood by day and gourmet pizza at night.
  • Relish on Addison – daytime menu offers café style meals with night time presenting a modern and unique Australian cuisine.  Fully licenced, Relish on Addison also offers a great selection of cocktails.   
  • Shellharbour Country Kitchen – indulge in a menu that has an assortment of homemade cakes, Devonshire tea, seafood, schnitzels, focaccias, and so much more.  
  • Bobby’s Diner – enjoy the delights of the best burgers in town in the surrounds of a rock-n-roll themed diner.  Tantalise your tastebuds with the full flavoursome burger recipe. 
  • Branches Restaurant – for a true fine dining experience encompassing seafood, Italian, and Mediterranean dishes, a visit to Branches is a must.  

Adventure Options: Snorkel and scuba dive along the coast or if you are a fishing enthusiast, you may like to throw a line in at Lake Illawarra, Warilla Beach, Shellharbour Boat Harbour, or Bass Point Reserve.

Shellharbour to Kiama

These suggestions are all about unique tastes and flavours.  Starring the delights of the dessert world, a visit to one of the local ice creameries will have you reminiscing about your childhood beach visits that consisted of sun, surf, sand, and a trip to the local ice cream shop. 

  • Ice Creamery Kiama – the original ‘Ice Cream Specialists’ offering over 40 unique and delightful flavours.  
  • Scoops Ice Creamery and Café – snacks galore are on offer at Scoops Ice Creamery and Café. Quench your thirst from a delicious range of smoothies, thick shakes, and juices, or indulge in an ice cream or gelato.  With up to 36 delicious ice cream flavours to select from, there is sure to be a taste to suit everyone.
  • Kiama Stonegrill – grill to your personal taste at Kiama Stonegrill.  Whether you love meat, seafood, or a combination of both, you will delight in the flavours and taste on offer.
  • Ritzy Gritz New Mexican Grill – whether you like it hot or prefer to have a slight hint of heat, then Ritzy Gritz is ideal for you.  Enjoy freshly cooked Californian style Mexican and let your tastebuds revel in the unique taste and flavours.

Adventure Options: Plan a surfing trip at ‘The Farm’ or take a nature walk with a visit to Spring Creek Wetlands or Hoddles Track.  If you prefer to explore the region, then take a short scenic drive that encompasses Mount Pleasant Lookout, Gerringong, Gerroa, and Seven Mile Beach.  

For the Wine Lovers

The next stage of the Great Pacific Drive encompasses the trip from Kiama to Shoalhaven and is the perfect road trip addition for wine lovers.  Coolangatta Estate Winery has national and internationally recognised wines with all presenting their own distinctive and captivating flavour.  Taste, enjoy, and revel in the atmosphere of the Estate while enjoying the cuisine of Alexanders Vineyard Restaurant or The Historic Great Hall.  

Venturing beyond to the Southern Highlands provides the opportunity to indulge in cool climate wines with a selection of over 60 vineyards and 16 cellar doors.  Plan a short trip or take a few days and let your senses savour the delicate and unique wine flavours of the region.    

Ideas for Getting There and Back!

If you are travelling from interstate or even overseas, you can take to the open road with an affordable car hire package from Car Rental Buddy.  Sourcing the best deals from reputable suppliers that include both major and independent agents, you can access a range of vehicles that will suit all budgets and car hire preferences.  

Looking to take a group road trip and enjoy the journey in the one vehicle?  Then consider your seven, eight, or 12 seater van options.

If you would like to take the Great Pacific Drive, then compare and book your car hire online.  With great deals available for short and long term rentals, you can choose to make your road trip adventure a simple weekend getaway or a month long journey.

Car Hire Tips:  Always book in advance and if you are planning on being spontaneous with your itinerary and travel options, then be sure to book a rental package offering ‘unlimited kilometres’.  

Looking to car-pool or hire a van?  Our top tip is to determine who the designated driver will be prior to booking!  With the booking being made in the driver’s name, it is important to remember that only the nominated driver is able to operate the vehicle.  If your love of food also coincides with sampling the house red or white wine, then you may want to opt out of being the nominated driver!  Not to worry, you can take it in turns with Car Rental Buddy’s suppliers offering the option to add additional drivers to your rental package.

Take to the open road and awaken your culinary senses!  Travel provides the ideal opportunity to experience new cultures, flavours, tastes, local cuisines, and delicacies.  No matter where you travel within Australia, each destination across this amazing and diverse landscape offers the prospect to indulge in something new and exciting.

Get out, about, and explore – your taste buds will love you for it!

Three Aussie Camper Van Drives

 

Try Before You Buy

 
The great Australian road trip is alive and well with boom-time numbers in the world of caravanning, campervanning and camping. And that means Aussies are rediscovering the simple pleasures of time spent together on the road.
 
 
 
 
 
That sounds great, but it poses two questions. Firstly, what if you can’t afford spending half a bank vault on a brand new campervan? Secondly, where do you start?
 
Fortunately, the DriveNow gang provide aspiring road-trippers with a way to “try before you buy” when it comes to getting a taste of the campervanning caper. The website is a comparison hub for snapping up discounted campervan rentals from all the major suppliers and is a breeze to click and book in seconds.
 
 
 
 
So, with your wheels organized, just where do you aim that GPS app of yours? Here are three road trip ideas with some tasty little recommendations. And remember, make sure your trusty Australian Good Food Guide app is at the ready for discovering hidden gems along the way… as a travel writer, it’s an essential front-page app for when I hit the road.
 

GREAT OCEAN ROAD

Melbourne to Port Fairy (5 hours).
 
Coastal cruising doesn’t get much better than when the gateway to Great Ocean Road lovingly smacks you in the senses. It all starts when you reach Torquay before winding your way through charming seaside hamlets like Apollo Bay and Wye River, and attractions including 12 Apostles and the world’s largest surfing and beach culture museum at Surf World. 
 
Park your wheels: Wye River Big4 Caravan Park. Picture this, a valley with mountains behind you and a surf beach out front. Breathtaking. 
 
Fork in the road: Sunnybrae Restaurant & Cooking School. Feast and learn at the same time!
 


GRAND PACIFIC HIGHWAY

Sydney to Port Macquarie (4 and a half hours).

 
It’s a shame campervans weren’t convertible, because this drive through the south coast and lower north coast of NSW is what summer Down Under is all about. Think beautiful beach walks, swimming, whale watching, world heritage-listed national parks and hotspots like Port StephensSalamander Bay and Manning Point.
 
Park your wheels: Lakeside Resort Forster. Perched on the waterfront of Pipers Bay where sunsets and serenity are free. 
 
Fork in the road: Aussie Bob’s in Shoal’s Bay, Port Stephens. If you think you’ve had Australia’s best fish’n’chips, think again. 
 


BRUCE HIGHWAY

Brisbane to Bundaberg (4 to 5 hours).
 
Warning – there’s a good chance you may not ever leave this patch of coastline. What’s normally a four-hour direct drive will likely kick out to at least a week as you meander along with stop-overs while being distracted by Sunshine Coast highlights like Maroochydore and Noosa before hitting the long stretches through Gympie, Maryborough and finally reaching Bundaberg where everything is big. 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Hello golden beaches, Australia Zoo, the Bundaberg Rum Distillery Tours (beware those drop bears!) and Mon Repos Beach where the Loggerhead turtles roam free.
 
Park your wheels: Bargara Beach Caravan Park. Perched on the shores of the Coral Coast, set up camp on a secluded powered site near the peppercorn trees. It’s just a short walk into town and right near Mon Repos Beach Turtle Rookery and close by to Lady Elliot Island and Fraser Island.
 
Fork in the road: Indulge Café in Bourbong St in Bundaberg. Paddock-to-plate style local food, none better than the homemade breads and sweets. Big breakfasts are winners, too, according to the locals.
 

By Scott Podmore 

Australian Alpine & Ski Season

July 2012

Where to Ski and Snowboard


The Queen’s birthday and Diamond Jubilee long weekend (11 June 2012) launched the Australian ski season, so now’s the time to hit the slopes.  Toss aside any winter hibernation inklings and actively seek out the cold snaps when the snow's best at our prime skiing and snowboarding destinations, occupying your time with adrenaline filled runs or more mild terrain depending on your style.


Skiing and Snowboarding in the Snowy Mountains




Ultimate Skiing and Snowboarding


Perisher Resort NSW


Nearby Jindabyne, Perisher Resort is Australia’s biggest ski and snowboarding resort which means it caters to everyone from beginners to the most extreme skiers and snowboarders.  Currently home to Australia’s highest chairlift, visiting Perisher Resort will truly feel like you’re on top of the world.


Take Up Alpine Skiing


Thredbo Alpine Village NSW


With a European-style atmosphere at the foot of Mt Kosciusko, Australia’s highest mountain, Thredbo Alpine Village offers much more than extreme skiing and wicked snowboarding, there’s a whole cultural mecca within strolling (or skiing) distance.  For mates, chicks, families and everyone in between, their 480 acres of snow riding bliss is only part of the fun; once you depart the beginner, advanced or kids’ slopes, you’ll find kazillions of things to do and places to stay.


Extraordinary Winter Skiing 

 

Charlotte Pass Ski Resort NSW

You’ll be on a high when opting to ski and snowboard at Charlotte Pass Ski Resort a.k.a. “The Pass”, unique in that it’s ONLY accessible via Oversnow Transport from Perisher Valley.  This remarkable resort, unlike any other, is completely snowbound and boasts consistent snowfalls covering their runs with top quality natural snow.


Family Friendly Skiing and Snowboarding


Selwyn Fun for the Family NSW


With the motto “family fun everyone can afford”, Selwyn Snowfields bring snow sports to life as recreational pursuits for the whole family to enjoy.  Not just skiing and snowboarding, they also promote snow tubing, tobogganing and general snowplay.  You’ll find Selwyn Snowfields on Kings Cross Road in Kosciuszko National Park.


Skiing and Snowboarding in the Victorian High Country




Learn How to Ski


Falls Creek All Season Alpine Resort VIC


A ski-in ski-out village, Falls Creek offers free cross-country ski trails amongst their main terrain and parks accessible via lift.   Night skiing on Wombats Ramble (that kids LOVE) is available, and the village itself is thriving with a night scene that includes restaurant and bar options. 


Seeking Out Snow


Mt Buller VIC


The closest major ski resort to Melbourne, Mt Buller promises to take you to the top of the world on one of twenty-five ski lifts. Capable of moving 40, 000 skiers and snowboarders at a time, Mt Buller is majorly accessible, offering adventure at higher ground.  They are constantly updating and upgrading their resort with mountain makeovers to ensure there’s always something new to discover.


Ski Perks on the Peaks


Mt Baw Baw VIC


Want to perfect old tricks and try out new ones, well Mt Baw Baw awaits with their Big Air Bag; this 9m by 15m air filled cushion is situated behind a 2m high jump so skiers and snowboarders have a soft landing pad to work with. Besides the draw of cool perks, Mt Baw Baw itself is the closest downhill ski resort to Melbourne and the Mornington Peninsula.  The worthwhile jaunt is ideal for families with its 35 hectares of groomed runs, and includes other draw cards such as the tube park, dog sled tours and kids camps.

By Kelly Korpesio 

Whale Watching

Seeking Australian Tours, Cruises and Top Spots


I’ve just returned from Fraser Island in Queensland, the largest island formation built entirely of sand, spanning 125 km in length.  A remarkable scene in and of itself, I was somewhat regretful that whale watching season was still a month or so away as the isolated bays attract acrobatic and playful Humpback Whales come late autumn.
 

   
 
Aside from my poor timing, the one thing I did do right was book a site seeing tour.  If you’ve heard it once you’ve probably heard it a hundred times, there are definitely times when you want to include professional tours in your travel budget and visiting Fraser Island or other exceptional destinations definitely calls for it; if guaranteed whale sighting is what you're after, then this is one of those times.
 

Guaranteeing a Trip of a Lifetime

 
  • Guided tours often guarantee a sighting
  • Unique viewing platforms are typically part and parcel of the package
  • Fancy a 24 knot cruising speed?
  • Perhaps an underwater viewing window?
  • And yes, complimentary morning or afternoon tea (fully licensed) are typically part of the deal

Note:  If the tour company has been around for awhile, they may have embraced technology.  What this means to you is that you may be able to hear the whales sing, via their Hydrophone (underwater microphone), or view the whales on screen in the comforts of their viewing room, courtesy of their in-hull whale cam.

 


Discovering Australia's Gentle Giants of the Sea

When it comes to whale watching in Australia a similar theme emerges.  By taking a land tour or booking a cruise you benefit from the knowledge of guides who know the lay of the land, are familiar with the water ways and certainly know the migration patterns of the whales that emerge annually near their shoreline.  You’ll also find that tourist groups are taken out during opportune times as the company you choose has a vested interest in your successful sighting of awe inspiring whales.

 
The remarkable recreational whale viewing opportunities in Australia are overwhelming, with a variety of whales visiting Australian waters that include Southern Humpback, Bull and Minke Whales.   Narrowing down the possibilities, the best thing to do is consider where you’re at and take advantage of the nearest whale spotting sight.
 
Whale watching worldwide is a billion dollar industry so when you select a destination and book the cruise or tour you certainly will not be alone – over 13 million people partake in recreational and/or educational whale watching per year. 
 
 
When selecting your whale watching destination, local companies will offer helpful information and for those on a tight budget confer with the local or governmental tourism body because they may have “ocean giant lookout kits” for land viewing.  
 
   

But of course there are designated land tours out there as well, often in association with a national park body.  In the Sydney area you will find guided walks of pristine coastline up to 15km long, and when you partake in this adventurous pursuit during whale migration season the chance of seeing a humpback whale is high.  Lucky hikers may even gaze upon a rare Southern Right whale whilst taking in sandstone formations, secluded Marley beaches and rock engraving sites attributed to the local Dharawal people.

Something to keep in mind, wherever you travel with your sights set on whale watching, the supreme natural beauty surrounding you will be awe-inspiring. Even if it is a relatively quiet day in the water, the water or land based experience will inevitably create memories beyond your imagination.
 
By Kelly Korpesio 
 

Seasonal Whale Watching

The Lifetime "To Do" List

Whale watching is one of those things that goes on the lifetime “to do” list. Since its whale watching season, now’s the time. From late July to early November each year most of the large whales in the Southern Hemisphere migrate to our temperate waters to give birth and mate before returning to the colder Antarctic at the end of spring.

Why not follow the whales seeking tropical waters? Whale watching is a great way to get up and personal with these wonderful creatures and viewing from a boat can bring you so close it’s almost spiritual. Or, if seasickness is your weakness, taking a scenic drive along the Great Ocean Road and watching these whales from afar can be a truly impactful experience. The stretch between Lorne and Apollo Bay is considered by many to be the most picturesque section of the Great Ocean Road. Southern Right Whales can often be seen from these sheer cliffs.

Whales in the Horizon

If the prospect of whale watching is indeed captivating you this season, keep in mind that there are places you can stay keen on accommodating you while you are in hot pursuit of some site seeing.  Believe it or not, all this social activity can be seen from the coast and if you want something special, Whitecrest Resort near Appolo Bay offers rooms with seaside views so you can watch the whales from the comfort of your own apartment. Each apartment comes with its own private outside deck and if you’re travelling with the family, it’s a proven fact that the kids will love it.

The Great Ocean Road is definitely a place worth visiting and exploring. There are great restaurants and accommodation dotted all over the place but one thing which is a must when visiting the seaside is dining on seafood. The Vista Seafood Restaurant in Appolo Bay is one of those colourful and chic joints which have a large local following. The menu features a large selection of seafood sourced daily directly from the local trawlers.

Finding The Right Whale

Though the Southern Right Whales are the giants of the sea, you may still need to bring your binoculars to get a good look be it from your balcony, while seaside dining, or out in the waters on a boat tour.  These creatures are slow gentle giants and travel solo with some exceptions, such as mothers who keep with their young.

It’s a depressing truth that with commercial whaling being introduced to our ocean, dramatic declines have been seen in whale populations and whale numbers are on a slow and precarious period of regeneration.  On an optimistic note, since there are only an estimated 2500 to 3000 Rights in existence to be seen, it makes sense to seek them out this season. Perhaps seeing them live will encourage you to speak out for the rights of these defenceless Rights Whales, so to speak.

Whale Breeding in our Own "Backyard"

Something to keep in mind, Logan’s Beach at Warrnambool in Victoria is transformed annually into a whale nursery. Baby whales are generally born between July and September and have a large play area extending from Appolo Bay to Portland. It’s always a pleasure to see calves swim beside their mothers and watchers will be entertained with their activities of breaching and tail slapping. If this isn’t a motivator to be proactive in protecting these magnificent creatures, activism may not be your thing.

Regardless of your stance, a whale watching trip is one you won’t forget and exploring the areas that offer these tremendous views will uplift your spirit. While staring wide eyed, looking for whales, a friendly reminder to keep an eye out for the charming spots along the way.  Dotting your adventuresome travel with hospitality, there are places that will make you comfortable, be it a booked overnight stay or an impromptu nature experience.

 

The Australian Capital Territory

 

 

About the ACT  

Australia’s smallest self governing territory, the Australian Capital Territory – known as the ACT - is engulfed within the boarders of New South Wales, rich in history and the beating heart of Australian politics. The capital territory of Australia, the ACT is small but mighty, containing Canberra, the capital city of the nation. Notorious for hot, dry summers and cold winters, the ACT is pretty straightforward when it comes to seasonal change, unlike some other Australian states, allowing you to enjoy balmy evenings at one of the picturesque lookouts or indoor comforts at one of the state’s many fine dining and accommodation establishments.

Unlike other state capitals, Canberra was wholly designed prior to its making, planned and designed by Walter Burley Griffin as an entry in an international competition, the city built specifically with parliament at the centre of its focus.  Home to approximately 358,800 people, you will never feel the stress of the city in the ACT, locals tending to exude a laidback, welcoming vibe. For a political hub, the ACT has a vibrantly creative side, largely assisted by Canberra’s reputation as the ‘university city’. Art, history and music come alive with an assortment of museums, performances and galleries around every corner.

With generally flat terrain, the Australian Capital Territory is perfect for leisurely strolling or cycling. Abundant in nature, 53% of the state is preserved as parks and reserves, making for clean, crisp air and pure waters. Meander around Canberra’s city centre and gain an insight into its political startup, incredible Australian history and some of the nation's spectacular architecture.

What to do in the ACT 

Here you will the best of what the Australian Capital Territory has on offer, with a list of the top 15 destinations, attractions and activities every visitor should see, do and explore for themselves:

Zoos & Wildlife

Museums 

Cycling

Fishing

Rock Climbing

National Parks

Historic Buildings

Wineries

Festivals

Shopping

Floriade 

The Australian War Memorial

Australian Institute of Sport

       NASA Australia

Royal Australian Mint

 

Additionally, experience the ACT's hospitality by taking a look at the many restaurantsbars and accommodation services available.

   

Tags:

ACT | Top 15 | Travel

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