Saturday, 29 August 2015

Australian Stories - 27 August 2015

New visitor experience at AIS
Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) has launched a new website showcasing the experiences available at their Canberra campus including guided tours, concerts, health and fitness facilities and more.
CheeseFest extends to three days
Adelaide’s CheeseFest has extended to three days from the 23 – 25 October. The annual festival will showcase over 27 cheese makers from across the country and ten South Australian winemakers.
Hellyers Road Distillery makes top ten
Tasmania’s Hellyers Road Distillery’s Single Malt Pinot Noir Finish has been ranked in the Top Ten – Value for Money whiskies in the world by London-based liquor industry publication, The Spirits Business.
New walking tour in Southern Queensland
Take an inspiring walking tour with Sharman Apununga Parsons and gain some insights into Aboriginal philosophy and the land in which it resides.
New Italian bar and eatery for Sydney
The newly opened restaurant Beccafico is tucked away in a courtyard oasis off Danks Street in Waterloo and is currently serving brunch and dinner.
Sydney icon receives green certification
The Sydney Opera House has received a 4 green star rating from the Green Building Council of Australia, making it one of the few World Heritage buildings that have achieved green certification globally.
Hot 50 Restaurants for 2015
The Australian Weekend Magazine has announced their Hot 50 Restaurants for 2015. Notable winners on the list included Attica, which was named Australia’s Hottest Restaurant and Hottest Restaurant in Victoria.
Program announced for SMH Good Food Month
The Sydney Morning Herald Good Food Month, held 1 – 31 October, have launched this year’s program which features over 300 tastings, masterclasses, picnic adventures and more.

Adriatic Cruise - Barossa Valley - Fiji Cruise - European Walking Tour - Rocky Mountaineer - more

Cruise Express will include complimentary shore tours in its new 16-night ‘Highlights of the Adriatic’ cruise tour in May 2016, with onboard drinks also included if you book an ocean-view cabin or above.
The package is priced from $7990 per person twin-share ex Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide or Perth, and incorporates a 12-night voyage from Venice to Rome aboard Celebrity Constellation.
The cruise will include visits to the medieval Slovenian city of Koper, Ravenna in Italy, the Croatian seaside city of Zadar, Split on Croatia’s Dalmatian Coast and the fjord-lined, old-world town of Kotor in Montenegro.
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Novotel Barossa Valley Resort … refurbished spa suites with king-size beds.
Phone 1300 764 509 or visit 
Novotel Barossa Valley Resort has unveiled 24 newly refurbished studio apartments and 10 spa suites in response to the demand for premium-quality accommodation in one of the world’s most famous wine regions.
The studio apartments feature new bathrooms with large walk-in rain showers, kitchens and laundry facilities complete with state-of the-art appliances, providing long-stay guests with the convenience and comforts of apartment-style living.
The spa suites feature king-size beds and come with complimentary water, newspapers, in-house movies, wifi internet access as well as a Nespresso coffee machine and a selection of Dilmah teas.
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Pullman Danang Beach Resort … great base for exploring nearby historic cities.

Central Vietnam’s Danang combines beachside relation with the chance to do some serious cultural and culinary exploration in the nearby historic cities of Hoi An and the ancient capital of Hue.
Recent upgrades to the international airport have increased access and allowed the likes of Singapore Airlines Holidays to package deals such as seven nights in the Pullman Danang Beach Resort from $1925 per person twin-share ex Australia.
The resort, right on Bac My An Beach, features newly renovated rooms with private balconies overlooking the beach, infinity pool or tropical gardens.
Phone 1300 728 998 or visit
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 Cruising the Yasawa Islands on Blue Lagoon’s Fiji Princess.

Couples cruising around Fiji’s Yasawa Islands on Blue Lagoon’s Fiji Princess can extend their holiday with several free on-shore accommodation offers.
When two adults sharing a cabin book a seven-night cruise, for instance, they receive two free nights at the Sofitel Fiji Resort & Spa at Denarau.
A three-night cruise for two around the Mamanuca and southern Yasawa islands comes with two free nights at Novotel Nadi Hotel.
The offer is valid for cruises taken between November 1 this year and March 31 next.
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 Brufe … one of northern Portugal’s many charming villages.

Want to take a European walking tour but feel a bit navigationally challenged?
On Foot Holidays has added a service offering local guides for the first day or two of several itineraries in Portugal, England, France, Spain and Italy.
A seven-night inn-to-inn hike through the wild hill country of northern Portugal, for instance, is priced from about $1260 per person twin-share, including breakfasts, six picnics, one evening meal and transfer of luggage. Add the services of a first-day guide for about $245 regardless of group size.
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 MSC Mediterranean cruising … a good fit for European train travel.

Melbourne-based International Rail has diversified its product portfolio with the launch of International Cruise, a new cruise-booking division that will allow customers to better integrate travel arrangements.
For instance, a seven-night MSC Mediterranean cruise departing from Venice can be paired $1020 per person twin-share with a three-day-in-one-month Eurail Italy Rail Pass.
Products range from traditional ocean cruises to small-ship adventures to European river cruising.
Phone 1800 793 431 or visit
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The Rocky Mountaineer … a legendary Canadian experience.

Book by December 1 for one of’s 15-night Canadian Rockies and Alaskan Adventures packages and you’ll get a free upgrade from inside cabin to ocean-view cabin on the seven-night Alaskan cruise component aboard Holland America Lines’ Nieuw Amsterdam.
The price of from $8499 per person twin-share also includes an eight-day land component that takes in a Lake Louise tour featuring a helicopter ride, Banff tour with gondola ride, a glacier experience and a two-day journey on the legendary Rocky Mountaineer train.
Phone 1300 369 848 or visit
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The ancient city of Bukhara.

Beyond Travel’s new 17-day ‘Central Asian Odyssey’ focuses on the legendary Silk Road cities of Khiva, Samarkand and Bukhara.
The journey begins in the capital of Kazakhstan, Almaty, and is priced from $6995 per person twin-share, including daily breakfast and a large selection of other meals.
Highlights include exploring Tashkent before joining a high-speed train to the ancient city of Samarkand, an important part of the ancient traders’ route.
A four-day Turkmenistan extension, featuring the Darvaza ‘Gates of Hell’ and Ashgabat is available after the main tour.
Phone 1300 363 554 or visit
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An African highlight … Tinga Lodge in the Kruger National Park.

Get a companion-flies-free deal on APT’s 27-day ‘African Journey with East Africa’ package, which includes 10 days exploring South Africa, two days in Botswana, spotting game on the banks of the Chobe river, three days in Zambia, eight days in Tanzania and four days in Kenya.
Pay from $21,995 per person twin-share.
Includes a two-night visit to Victoria Falls, staying at the Royal Livingstone Hotel on the edge of the falls.
Book for December 30 for departures next year.
Phone 1300 196 420 or visit
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InterContinental Sydney Double Bay … family breakfast in Stockroom restaurant.

Take the family for a bayside getaway at the InterContinental Sydney Double Bay.
Pay from $350 per night, including buffet breakfast in Stockroom restaurant and valet car parking.
Bondi Beach is a 10-minute drive away and the city a short ferry ride from the wharf 200 metres from the hotel.
Valid for stays until 11 October.
Phone 02 8388 8388 or visit
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Radisson on Flagstaff Gardens … great views of the Melbourne skyline.

Save 25 per cent on a stay at Melbourne’s Radisson on Flagstaff Gardens.
Pay from $149 per room per night.
Melbourne’s oldest park is on your doorstep and the rooftop gymnasium offers great views of the city skyline.
Book and stay by 30 September.
Phone 1800 687 236 or visit
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Peppers Parehua … set among some of New Zealand’s best vineyards.

Get special midweek rates at Peppers Parehua, set among the rolling green hills of New Zealand’s Martinborough region.
Pay from $139 per night for a Winemakers Cottage or from $189 per night for a Garden Cottage.
Located an hour from Wellington among some of New Zealand’s best vineyards.
Valid Sunday to Thursday nights until 30 October.
Phone 1300 987 600 or visit

Thursday, 20 August 2015

Australian Quick Bites - 20 August 2015

We Will Rock You returns to Australia in 2016
We Will Rock You, will return to Australia for a national tour in 2016. The futurist comedy by Ben Elton features more than 24 of Queen’s biggest hit songs. Join the waitlist for priority bookings.
New hotel in Canberra opening soon
Little National is opening on 1 September in Canberra’s historic suburb of Barton. Featuring 120 rooms, the hotel is targeting business travellers who stay in Canberra for a few days at a time.
Rockpool Sydney wins restaurant of the year
Rockpool Sydney has won restaurant of the year at the Australian Gourmet Traveller Restaurant Awards. Other winners on the night included Chef of the year Dan Hunter from Brae and new restaurant of the year Bennelong. For a full list of winners visit here.
New suites for Rydges Tradewinds Cairns
Rydges Tradewinds Cairns’ seafront resort has transformed its top floor to provide six spacious new suites. Each suite features a king bed, two king singles, generous bathroom and living space as well as a large furnished balcony.
MCG Open Day
The MCG Open Day will be held on 4 October, the day after the 2015 AFL Grand Final. This free event allows visitors rare access to the turf, player change rooms and the MCC Library. Register your interest here.
Hemingway’s Brewery to open in Port Douglas
Providing a fitting end to a day on the Great Barrier Reef, Hemingway’s Brewery, a new waterfront microbrewery, bar and restaurant will open in May 2016. The microbrewery is part of The Reef Marina’s multimillion-dollar expansion.
Boomerang Festival joins Bluesfest
Bluesfest 2016 welcomes back the cultural and Indigenous event, The Boomerang Festival. The interactive festival will include a diverse program of dance, language, story, talks & ideas, carving, weaving and traditional healing programs.
Open House unlocks the city of Gold Coast
On the 17 October, the City of Gold Coast Open House will unlock the doors of around 20 quirky and significant buildings that are not typically available for public access.

Thursday, 13 August 2015

Australian Travel Briefs - 13 August 2015

AJ Hackett attempts Guinness World Record
On Saturday 29 August from 8am to 12am, AJ Hackett Cairns will attempt to break their own Guinness World Record of most people bungy jumping in 24 hours in celebration of 25 years of operation. The Rainforest Bungy and Swing site at Smithfield will be transformed into a family friendly festival with live local bands, food stalls and more.

Tickets on sale for wine event in Perth
Australia’s First Families of Wine are heading to Perth on the 27 – 28 August for the unique wine tasting event UNLOCKED and UNLEASHED. Taste wine by 12 of Australia’s wine icons such as d’Arenberg, De Bortoli Wines and Tahbilk at UNLOCKED or attend UNLEASHED and learn more about the next generation of wine makers.
New Tasmania golf course opens in October
Located on Tasmania’s King Island, Cape Wickham Links Golf Course will open on 30 October 2015. This unique course features 18 holes with eight of them located on the coastline, offering spectacular views of Bass Strait.

New boutique hotel in Perth
Featuring 74 rooms, Alex Hotel is centrally located between the city centre of Perth and Northbridge. The boutique hotel features a roof top garden terrace with spectacular views of Perth’s city skyline.
Wine Island on Sydney Harbour this November
From 13 – 15 November, three day festival Wine Island takes over Clark Island on Sydney Harbour. The festival features cellar door experiences, gourmet food huts, a VIP Island Bar and complimentary master classes hosted by Wine Australia. Tickets on sale from 1 September.

New exhibition at National Museum of Australia
The Kaninjaku: Stories from the Canning Stock Route exhibition is now on at the National Museum of Australia. The exhibition explores the history of the West Australian droving road, Canning Stock Route, the route’s impact on Aboriginal people and the importance of the Country surrounding it.

National Science Week this month
The Australian National Maritime Museum invites you to celebrate National Science Week from 18 – 23 August with a week of activities exploring the science of underwater survival for humans and ocean life.

Saturday, 31 January 2015

Borneo Tour - Long Paddock - Mantra Christchurch - Diamond Princess Japan

unnamed (18)Backyard Travel has added the Malaysian part of the island of Borneo to its portfolio, offering travellers an array of intimate and adventurous experiences among untouched rainforests, pristine coastlines, remote villages and bustling towns.
Lowland and mountain rainforests are home to a myriad of animal species, including orangutan, proboscis monkeys and a spectacular array of birdlife. The coral reefs are the most diverse in Malaysia and the highest peak — Kota Kinabalu — boasts UNESCO World Heritage billing for its incredible topography.
From modern, multicultural Kuching — ‘Cat City’ — to the remote longhouse villages of the Iban people, the diverse communities of East Malaysian Borneo each offer their own traditions, their own cuisines, their own architecture and their own unique charms for travelers to discover.

Life on the Long Paddock … a very different kind of adventure for intrepid travellers
Limited to just 40 adventurers on two journeys in May and costing $2500 per person, the Long Paddock Cattle Drive will offer a new kind of adventure for intrepid traveller — the chance to help move a mob of 500 cattle across the Hay Plains over the course of a weekend while enjoying an unprecedented level of luxury.
The ride will begin at Wanganella, 40 kilometres north of Deniliquin in southern NSW, and riders can expect to do about 10 hours of riding over two days.
With an instructor for every four riders, it is expected that guests will develop their riding skills over the course of the weekend, while more experienced riders will rise to the challenge.

 So good to see Christchurch’s resurrection … architect’s rendition of the reconstructed BreakFree on Cashel
It’s just so good to see the continuing renaissance of charming Christchurch following its earthquake devastation.
Now the Mantra Group has announced it will manage the fully reconstructed 263-room hotel located at 165 Cashel Street when it reopens in April as the BreakFree on Cashel Christchurch.
Formerly the All Seasons, the hotel was the largest property on the South Island and occupies a prime central-city location.

douro.jpg — Douro … a bright, sophisticated Portuguese city
Scenic Tours has unveiled plans for its latest vessel, Scenic Azure, to launch on Portugal’s Douro River in April 2016 and undertake 11-day journeys between Porto and Vega de Terron.
The 80-metre Scenic Azure will offer all-inclusive luxury such as private butler service, unlimited complimentary beverages including restocked mini-bar, and full-size private-balcony suites.
Scenic Azure joins the Scenic fleet of 14 luxury river cruise ships throughout Europe, Russia and South-East Asia.

One of Japan’s ‘diamonds’ … a centuries-old traditional teahouse
Cruise Express’s new 39-night ‘Diamonds of Japan’ tour this August includes an escorted six-night land tour in Japan and a 33-night voyage on Diamond Princess to Sydney visiting five ports in Japan before heading to China, Vietnam, Singapore and Indonesia.
The all-inclusive itinerary begins with two nights in Tokyo, rides on three bullet trains, a cruise on Lake Ashi at the foot of Mt Fuji, and visits to the grand imperial palaces, temples and exotic gardens of Tokyo and Kyoto.
Prices start from $8990 per person twin-share, including the flight to Tokyo.
Phone 1300 764 509 or visit

Europe’s highest peak … hiking in the shadow of Mont Blanc
On Foot Holidays’ new self-guided seven-night ‘Chamonix and the French Alps’ hike takes walkers through the French Alps in the shadow of Europe’s highest peak, Mont Blanc, and features charming French hamlets, dark pine forests, refreshing brooks, spectacular suspension bridges and stays each night in small, family-run B&Bs or chalets where they meet up with their luggage each day.
Daily breakfasts, two dinners and two picnics are included in the package, with walkers able to sample the Chamonix region’s famous gourmet cooking and a range of French wines.
Prices are from £805 (about $1505) per person twin-share.

Running next to a real Australian icon … the Australian Outback Marathon
Central Australia has a spectacular line up of major events this year for guests at Ayers Rock Resort.
Things kick off in April with the Tjungu Festival, meaning “meeting together” in local Anangu Pitjantjatjara language — a celebration of the best of Australian Indigenous culture, featuring an array of experiences encompassing film, art, sport, music food and fashion.
This is followed by the Uluru Camel Cup in May, the Australian Outback Marathon in July, and the Uluru Astronomy weekend in August.

Trekking in the Himalayas … a specialty of Wandering the World
Former Peregrine Adventures gurus Glenyce Johnson and Jane Reed have launched Wandering the World, a specialist travel company dedicated to tailoring exceptional walking, trekking and touring holidays.
Trips organised so far include journeys to Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bhutan, the Portuguese Camino and French Camino in Northern Spain.
Visit or contact Glenyce Johnson on 0402 910 552.

Plenty for everyone … the water-play park at Oaks Hotels & Resorts’ Caloundra property
Cuddle a koala, visit the world’s busiest wildlife hospital, enjoy a ‘splashtacular’ water-play park and stay within a tranquil oasis on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast.
Pay from $189 per night for two adults and two children to stay in stay in a newly refurbished Executive Family Room at Oaks Hotels & Resorts’ Caloundra property, including free wifi, noon checkout, bottle of sparkling wine, access to discounted Australia Zoo tickets, and a free ‘Sneak Peek’ pass into the Australia Zoo Wildlife Hospital.
The multi-level, on-site water-play park comes with water slides, fountains, a giant tipping bucket and interactive activities.
Valid for travel until November.

The vast Australian wilderness … heading through the Outback on the Indian Pacific
Save up to $819 per person on an eight-day Perth and Margaret River package during Great Southern Rail’s ‘Journey Beyond’ sale.
Pay from $1230 per person, including three nights in a Gold Service cabin aboard the Indian Pacific, three nights in Perth, and touring in Margaret River, Fremantle and the Barossa Valley.
Fare includes restaurant-quality regional cuisine, a range of Australian beverages and a selection of off-train excursions.
Valid for sale until February 28 for travel from May 1 this year to March 31 next year.
Phone 132 147 or visit

The dunes at Port Stephens … a delightful stretch to stroll along
Save up to $120 on a stay at The Retreat Port Stephens, nestled in natural bushland 10 minutes from Nelson Bay.
Pay from $387 for three nights in a two person self-catering cabin, including a breakfast-and-coffee voucher for Crest Birubi Beach.
The property includes barbecues, camp fires, a pool, a games room and a playground area.
Valid for stays until May 30.
Phone 02 4982 1244 or visit For general information on attractions, dining and events in Port Stephens,

Who’s looking at whom … close encounters with whales on Tonga. Image: Brandon Cole.
Save up to $940 per couple by getting two nights of free accommodation and two free day tours on Majestic Whale Encounters’ nine-night Tongan whale-swim holidays.
Pay from $3900 per person twin-share, including five days on the water with the whales, seven nights in casual beachside fales on the idyllic coral island of Foa in Tonga’s Ha’apai group of islands, and two nights on Tongatapu, Tonga’s main island.
Groups of eight swimmers are accompanied by an experienced guide, with cost including whale swim equipment, all transfers, and return airfares from Tongatapu to Ha’apai.
For sale until February 28 for holidays starting July 28 to August 20.
Phone 0405 594 253 or visit