Seven incredible spots to go surfing in Australia

By Brisbane / Great Ocean Road / Hobart / New South Wales / Perth / Queensland / Sydney / Tasmania / Victoria / Western Australia /

Pro surfer Mick Fanning may be contemplating getting back into the ocean, but even his dramatic brush with a hungry Great White can’t put a stop to Australia’s 100-year love affair of combining the board with the breakwater. In a tribute to surfing, here are seven incredible suggestions on where to catch an epic wave around Oz.

1. Sheringa, SA

While only accessible by 4WD or foot, a short hike is well worth it to discover these hidden gems in South Australia. On the southern side of a rocky outcrop, the mellow point break at Sheringa Beach offers up a challenge, but for those who really have a death wish, Sheringa Left to the north produces an unpredictable swell amongst a rocky, reefy, remote part of the Eyre Peninsula. Sharp rocks, dangerous rips, and even sharks make surfing at Sheringa something to write home about – if you survive.

2. Ningaloo Coast, WA

Famous for its incredible UNESCO World Heritage listed reef which is home to more than 500 species of fish, rays and turtles, many don’t realise that between July and October the fringing coral reef of the Ningaloo Coast serves up some pretty awesome swells. At the north of the cape, The Bommie, Dunes and Wobiri Access offer waves of varying difficulty while at the southern end of the reef, surfers at Gnaraloo can expect three metre waves even on an average day. The perfect combination of endless surf breaks and ecological wonders make the Ningaloo Coast a great getaway destination for those who can’t agree on one or the other. Make sure you have plenty of time to explore all of the Reef’s secrets though, as driving along the length of the 280km reef takes at least eight hours!

3. Bells Beach, VIC

Who can go past the famous Bell’s Beach in Torquay? Home to matted mops of salty, sun-kissed hair, surf brand warehouse sales and of course the world’s longest running professional surfing competition, the Rip Curl Pro, which since has continued to draw massive crowds over the Easter long weekend. I still remember visiting as a little kid in my oversized Rusty cap with ice cream in hand, jostling other spectators for a prime viewing spot atop the golden Torquay dunes. If you’re visiting the area, hire a car at Melbourne airport to get straight on the road towards this exceptional surfing spot.

4. Lord Howe Island, NSW

For those who strive to avoid the crowds, there are few destinations more intimate than the beautiful Lord Howe Island. With a strict cap on the number of visitors to the island at any one time, Lord Howe was once described as ‘paradise on Earth’ and ‘quite possibly the most perfect place in the world’ by globetrotter Lee Abbamonte. If anyone should know it is him, having visited every single country on the planet! There are eight designated surf spots dotted around the island, but it’s rumoured a friendly chat with the locals can sometimes reveal the very best kept secrets.

5. Gold Coast’s Superbank, QLD

For those hoping to catch a glimpse of our resident shark wrangler and other world champs Steph Gilmore and Joel Parkinson, the Superbank is your best bet, where surf breaks Snapper Rocks, Rainbow Bay and Greenmount combine. If you are lucky, you may manage to catch a wave for 2kms along the coast!

6. Yallingup, WA

Not for the faint hearted, Yallingup Reef, located 300kms south of Perth boasts consistent 10 foot waves along the Margaret River coastline. Brave surfers impress beachside spectators, while others snorkel and paddle in the lagoon, soaking up the brilliant view of the Reef’s aquatic wonderland. Surfers of all ability come from near and far to visit the famous waves of Yallingup. If you haven’t already, it’s one to add to your bucket list.

7. Lighthouse Beach, TAS

Of course, we can’t forget our cousins across the Strait, where surfers brave the chilly waters of Lighthouse Beach, a beautiful stretch of pristine coastline offering a sheltered yet powerful beach break for beginners and accomplished riders alike. Relatively deserted, this unpatrolled, isolated spot serves as the perfect oceanic escape.

And remember folks, if you do happen to be that unfortunate one in 11 million confronted by a shark, contrary to Mick’s action of ‘punching him in the back’, the best advice is to punch and claw at the eyes and gills aggressively.



Best campsites and hidden gems in NSW this spring and summer

By Australia / Australian Capital Territory / Canberra / New South Wales / Sydney /

Destination NSW know better than anyone about the best camping spots for the warmer weather that comes with spring and summer. As the team says “It’s the ideal time of year to discover some of the NSW’s secret campsites and hidden gems.”

Rent a car or campervan at Sydney airport, then off you go on a camping adventure!”

According to Destination NSW CEO Sandra Chipchase, “NSW is filled with hidden camping gems waiting to be discovered. NSW has amazing coastal and bush camping spots that continue to stay under the radar and would make an ideal weekend away this spring.”

“These hidden camping gems are just that, secret spots that locals across NSW love due to their unique location and easy access to beautiful beaches, stunning national parks and pristine wilderness environments.”

“Tourism managers across the state have shared their favourite secret camping spots with Destination NSW for this short-list, however this does not exhaust the multitude of amazing campsites just waiting to be discovered. I encourage everyone to get out and explore NSW’s hidden gems this spring,” Ms Chipchase said.

Here are some of Destination NSW’s best secret camping spots along the coast and inland:

1. The spectacular and secluded Honeymoon Bay at Point Perpendicular on the northern end of Jervis Bay on the South Coast allows camping on weekends and during school holidays only. Allocated on a first-come, first-served basis, this rustic bush camp site is a true bush camping experience and just moments to the beaches of northern part of Jervis Bay.

2. Camp by the beach and amongst banksia trees at Picnic Point campground in Mimosa Rocks National Park. Find the perfect fishing spot, swim in crystal clear waters and enjoy scenic views of the stunning Sapphire Coastline.

3. An unknown gem, Lakesea Caravan Park Durras near Bateman’s Bay, has grassy shaded sites with BBQ drums and a campground that is kitted out for the more novice camper including a camp kitchen with free gas BBQs, fridge and oven. Just moments to Durras Beach and Lake Durras, enjoy surfing, kayaking, fishing and bush walking in nearby Murramarang National Park.

4. While many know the Central Coast’s Glenworth Valley for its horse riding and quad biking, it is it’s amazing bush camping sites will surprise people. Expect pristine, bush style campsites along the river bank with wood-fired BBQs, hot showers and plenty of peace and quiet.

5. For absolute beachfront, Beachcomber Holiday Park at Potato Point (pictured) is the place. Backing onto Eurobodalla National Park, expect to be camping amongst kangaroos and wallabies whilst cooking on the pizza oven and relaxing around the communal camp fires.

6. Outside of Mudgee in Central NSW is the pristine Dunns Swamp in Wollemi National Park. Set on the banks of the Cudgegong River and nestled amongst stunning sandstone pagoda rock formations, Dunns Swamp is a nature lovers dream with plenty of walking tracks and canoeing and swimming spots.

7. The pet-friendly Mystery Bay Camp Ground, near Tilba on the South Coast, is just moments from the beach, which has off-leash areas. Enjoy this bush camping site and all that Mystery Bay offers – snorkelling in the bay, surfing at 1080 beach, cheese tasting in nearby Tilba and of course the stunning views of Montague Island.

8. Camp under the stars and experience a true Australian outback station stay at Corynnia Station near Hay in Outback NSW. Camp under ancient black box tree on the edge of a 1,000 acre dry swamp on this working farm and discover this immense property on nature walks, paddock picnics and farm tours.

9. At the end of the dead-end road, North Coast Holiday Park Corindi Beach, on the NSW North Coast, has just 6 cabins and 64 shady campsites to choose from. Nestled beside the beach, within a bush setting enjoy gentle sea breezes and stunning bush and coastal views. Spend days fishing, snorkelling, surfing, swimming and kayaking in nearby beaches, lakes and rivers.

10. Camp in the middle of the mighty Tapin Tops National Park, in the NSW North Coast, at Dingo Tops and explore the park’s stunning waterfalls and creeks and relics from the areas forestry past. Surrounded by ancient rainforests and eucalypt forest, Dingo Tops is a quiet campground where parma wallabies, red-legged pademelons, greater gliders (at night) and koalas are frequently spotted.

For more ideas on camping in NSW this spring go to visitnsw.com/camping


Five jacaranda hot spots in NSW

By Australia / New South Wales / Sydney /

Late October and November is a time Sydney and NSW is a purple explosion of jacaranda season signalling one of the most beautiful times of the year in the state.

Set against harbour backdrops in some of Sydney’s most picturesque suburbs and historic regional towns in NSW, it’s the perfect time to visit Sydney to take in the stunning sight of the jacarandas.

Destination NSW CEO Sandra Chipchase said: “NSW has so many jacaranda trees in bloom, we even have an annual festival dedicated to them in the historic town of Grafton.  From harbourside enclaves to regional towns, spring is a wonderful time to visit with family and friends to enjoy NSW in bloom during jacaranda season.”

Here are a few of NSW’s fantastic jacaranda spots:

1. North Shore: The North Shore suburbs of Lavender Bay, Greenwich, Waverton, Hunters Hill, Woolwich, Longueville and Wollstonecraft all display a beautiful selection of jacaranda trees during the season. Make a day of it and pack a picnic to enjoy a feast under the trees

2. Eastern Suburbs: Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs including Paddington, Woollahra and Double Bay all sport stunning lilac hues during October and November.  Oxford Street and Five Ways in Paddington always have a great selection to view

3. Sydney City: Starting at the Royal Botanic Gardens, a jacaranda walking tour through Circular Quay and The Rocks is a great way to see the trees, while taking in the iconic Sydney Harbour Bridge, Sydney Opera House, harbour views and historic cobblestone streets of The Rocks

4. Inner Sydney:  The giant jacaranda tree at the University of Sydney is so iconic that growers at the University have cloned it to ensure it lives on.  This tree is one of Sydney’s most famous jacarandas and well worth a visit during the season.  Neighbouring suburbs of Glebe and Erskineville are also worth exploring for blue hue.

5. Grafton: Located alongside the majestic Clarence River on NSW’s North Coast, the historic town of Grafton is home to the Jacaranda Festival, taking place from 28th October to 5th November 2017. Famous for its 6,500 jacaranda trees, the Festival is one of Australia’s longest running flower festivals and celebrates the town’s magnificent lilac-blossomed trees. Festival events include the coronation of a jacaranda queen, a street parade with themed floats, markets, live performances and fireworks.Rent a car in Sydney or at the airport and make a road trip out of it!


Road trip Sydney and beyond – 5 great drives this summer

By Australia / Australian Capital Territory / New South Wales / Sydney /

If you are to Google Earth our beautiful country you would quickly realise we’re spoilt for choice when it comes to road trips throughout our enormous continent. You can get your rental car from Sydney Airport and then every road leads to a great adventure. But where to start? Try these suggestions.

Sydney to Leura (pictured)

Set your sights in a westerly direction and head for Wentworth Falls via the M4 Motorway. Catch some gorgeous little towns along the way including Glenbrook, Faulconbridge, Hazelbrook and continue on to magnficient Wentworth Falls. The views over the Jamison Valley are hard to beat and there are some great opportunities for  a walk through the Blue Mountains National Park. After that take the 10 minute drive to Leura where you can take a stroll checking out the local shops, galleries and craft stores while having a bite in one of the gourmet cafes.

Grand Pacific Drive

This southerly sensation is arguably Australia’s best, a spectacular driving route that takes in ocean views, countless beaches and such hotspots as Stanwell Tops, Bald Hill Lookout and Sea Cliff Bridge, a sight to behold that swerves out from the cliffs over the sea. Heading off from Sydney, it all starts in Royal National Park before cruising through Wollongong, Shellharbour and Kiama (a stop off at Easts Beach Big4 Holiday Park is a must!).  Explore quaint seaside villages, drive through rainforests and enjoy a stellar coastline with an endless supply of views.

Discover the Poachers Way

It may be a three hour journey (no stops) from Sydney, but it’s both the journey and the destination that provide loads of highlights with this one. The journey south will take you through such touristy treats like Bowral and Goulburn before you reach the region surrounding Canberra. Welcome to the Poachers Way, a tourist route where you can sample the fine food, wine and art produced by local chefs, winemakers and artists. Visit the towns of Yass, Hall and gorgeous Murrumbatemen along the way and enjoy the high quality produce and discover the handcrafts and local produce of local businesses and artisans.

Hunter Valley

Wine country, yes, but you don’t necessarily need to be a big fan of the grape! Hunter Valley is a two and a half hour drive from the heart of Sydney and while it has a smorgasbord of beautiful rolling vineyards, wineries and great cellar doors, there are also such attractions as Hunter Valley Gardens (with 10 stunning storybook feature gardens), luxury retreats like the Chateau Elan at The Vintage, a splendid golf and spa resort, restaurants galore, and national parks with great walks on offer.

Port Stephens

Head north and hug the coast for a couple of hours and providing you can avoid beautiful distractions like the Central Coast, Lake Macquarie and Newcastle you will stumble upon Port Stephens. There’s a lot to do here, from enjoying “blue water paradise” with 30km of pristine coastline for a swim, fish, whale watching expedition or a dolphin cruise, otherwise hit the sand dunes at Stockton Beach on a quad bike or discover national parks and a superb marina at Nelson Bay for a shop or bite to eat.

Also try Six Summer Sensations in Sydney and Sydney To The Blue Mountains – 5 Ways To Play


5 step guide to a Melbourne city escape between Christmas and New Year

By Melbourne / Victoria /

It’s a long way off but there’s a certain time of year the rest of the human race are either snoozing or have escaped to somewhere else when it comes to Melbourne city and inner city ‘burbs. With Christmas and Boxing Day out of the way and many catching their breath before New Year’s suddenly arrives, Melbourne’s a little sleepy and there are some great hotel deals on offer if you’re looking for a quick getaway.

For a two night, three day stay and play in the big smoke, here are five suggestions for a great Melbourne short stay in 12 months time. The biggest tip of all is you have to be organised so get that calendar ready with reminders.

Flights … the gang at skyscanner recently revealed some observations about the best time to buy flights for Christmas/New Year’s. According to Skyscanner’s research, the best time to buy a Christmas flight is during the week of November 21 for an average savings of more than 6%. Get on the newsletter mailouts, too, for the sales.

Wheels …  Goes without saying you need to click through to the DriveNow Melbourne airport car rental deals at any time of the year. For a three day rental you could be looking at anywhere from $150-$200+ all up depending on your choice of car and size. Will you need a car for the quick-fire getaway? Yes, though you won’t need to be in it often, but it will definitely come in handy for those little trips a few kilometres away during the day – if you choose to venture that far.

Bed … Come December the deals start hatching as distressed inventory (aka rooms that need to be booked) are on offer. We chose the delightful Melbourne Parkview Hotel in Albert Park, on St Kilda Rd. Sniff out deals closer to the date, but some rippers come with breakfast for two and free parking. Better still, everything’s within walking distance, including Albert Park Lake for a morning stroll (about 5km), Commercial Road and Chapel Street buzz, restaurants along St Kilda Road and more.

R&R … Literally 15 minutes by foot along St Kilda Rd from your hotel you will discover a treat for the senses at Leelawadee Thai Massage & Skin Care. We booked a double one-hour Thai massage in the same room mid-afternoon, allowed little feet trodding along the body for a few minutes before sinking into a luxurious and relaxing massage for $130 all up! Awesome value. While a little jelly like we skipped across the road to stylish cocktail bar The Amberoom for a jug of water and a cocktail.

Feast … Say hello to Roxborough Bar and Kitchen in Acland Street, St Kilda, as recommended by good friend and Chin Chin executive chef extraordinaire Benjamin Cooper. It’s a decent 15 minute walk from the hotel or a 5 minute $10-15 taxi. This little gem is making waves on the Melbourne food scene with its spacious open vibe, cleanliness and immaculate service in such an intimate setting (yep, it’s cosy, but it works). The food is scrumptious: snacks like Bruny Island oysters, Jamon and manchego croquetas, lime cured watermelon with goats curd and basil. Entrees to share that jump off the menu include Pippies and clams with smoked pork hock, broad beans and parsely, or how about Chargrilled Queensland king prawns, with garlic and smoked paprika butter. Sumptuous mains that hit the spot are Chargrilled 400g pasture fed Gippsland Entrecote on the bone with bone marrow butter, roasted spring garlic, silver beet puree, or Twice cooked Milawa half free range chicken diavolo with a spring pea and tarragon chicken jus. This place rocks.




Party time in the Northern Territory over winter months

By Australia / Darwin / Northern Territory /

COOLER temperature and the dry season up north usually means there’s a party going on in the Northern Territory, so jump in your Darwin car rental or Alice Springs car hire and get ready to enjoy one of these great events. Tourism Northern Territory gives us the heads up for coming months:

Beer Can Regatta (Darwin), July 9

See boats built of beer cans, plastic soft drink bottles and cartons put to the test! Get involved in some of the silly competitions that take place at this unique Top End festival. Thousands gather for this annual Darwin family event on Mindil Beach, taking full advantage of the balmy dry season weather in the Northern Territory.

Apex Camel Cup (Alice Springs), July 15

The quirky, annual Apex Camel Cup attracts visitors to Alice Springs from all over the world. While camels may have a reputation as dedicated ‘ships of the desert’, these magnificent beasts are certainly not short on personality. Entertainment is assured, with nine unique races scheduled around the dusty outback track throughout the day for what is a Northern Territory classic!

Darwin Festival (Darwin), August 10-27

Darwin Festival combines the local love of outdoor community festivities and dining with a program of Australian and international performances and exhibitions. Festival goers can be seen for 18 nights each August at the long communal tables in the festooned Festival Park eating Darwin’s legendary Asian food and arguing about who has seen the most shows.

Darwin Aboriginal Art Fair (Darwin), August 11-13

The Darwin Aboriginal Art Fair is back! Affectionately known as DAAF, it provides an amazing and genuine opportunity for arts industry buyers, and art and design aficionados, to purchase art directly from Indigenous owned and incorporated Art Centres. The Fair showcases the work of emerging and established artists. It  also provides a space for visitors to meet them and learn from the variety of different cultural groups across Australia.

Henley on Todd Regatta (Alice Springs), August 19

The Henley on Todd Regatta is one of the most iconic events in the Australian outback. It’s a boat race – without any sign of water! It’s an action packed day where teams and individuals race ‘boats’ in the dry bed of the Todd River including bottomless ‘eights’, ‘Oxford tubs’, ‘rowing 8’s’ and ‘yachts’ through the deep coarse sand.

Find more information visit www.northernterritory.com


Californian dreaming on the road to Sonoma County

By California / United States /

SO you’ve flown into San Francisco, picked up your California car rental and not sure where to go? We say “not far at all” if you underline the words “Sonoma County” on your itinerary. We’ve tapped into the Sonoma County Tourism latest news to give you the lowdown on what makes it special, so read on.

Sonoma County

Located in Northern California just a 50km drive north of San Francisco, Sonoma County offers a blend of incredible scenery, urban sophistication, agriculture, small-town charm, outdoor adventure, and, of course, the food and wine that make this region famous. Sonoma County boasts more than 425 wineries, 100-plus organic farms, and 80km of stunning Pacific Ocean coastline.

Whether your goal is to savor food and wine pairings at renowned wineries, explore the more than 50 miles of spectacular Pacific coastline, picnic under towering redwood trees, shop unique local galleries and boutiques, or discover other Sonoma County delights, here are a few things you might want to know before visiting Sonoma Wine Country.

What to pack

Sonoma County’s moderate temperatures rarely dip below freezing, even in winter. The county typically gets about 25 to 30 inches of annual rainfall, mainly from November through April.

However, microclimates are part of what make Sonoma County such a great place to grow wine grapes, and some areas of the county can be much cooler, warmer, or windier than others. When the inland areas heat up in the summer, the coastal regions can remain cool. The weather can be changeable, and a chilly, foggy summer morning anywhere in the county can heat up to 80 degrees Fahrenheit (or more) by 2pm.

It’s best to wear layers. Jeans, khakis or shorts, T-shirts, comfortable walking shoes, a sweater, and a medium-weight jacket are good for daytime sightseeing. Wine Country casual — like business casual, but with the laid-back, country feeling of a vineyard — is typical for evenings out.

Getting to Sonoma County

For those flying into other airports, Sonoma County is about 75 miles north of either San Francisco International (SFO) or Oakland International (OAK) airports, or about 120 miles west of Sacramento International (SMF). When traveling by car from San Francisco (and points south of there), cross the Golden Gate Bridge and head north on Highway 101. From Sacramento, go west on US-80, then west on Highway 12/121. From Seattle/Portland, go south on Highway 101 or US Interstate 5.

Visit a winery or ten

Home to more than 425 award-winning wineries, Sonoma County barrels a varietal for nearly every palate. Taste by region or varietal, tour vineyards, barrel rooms, and wine caves. Savor delicious food-and-wine pairings, or learn how to blend wine. “Sparkling” isn’t just about wine in Sonoma County. The area’s artisan breweries, cider houses and distilleries offer tours as well. Be as active or as laid back as you wish, Sonoma County has a winery experience that’s right for you.

Get outdoors

Stroll through ancient redwoods; or soar through the forest on a zip line. Hike remote trails through more than 60 state and regional nature parks. Paddle a canoe through various rivers, lakes, and even an ocean. Cycle backroads easy enough for a beginner or challenging enough for the pro cyclists who compete in Amgen Tour of California or the Gran Fondo. Golfers can tee off at one of 20-plus stunning courses. Go horseback riding, take a ride in a hot-air balloon, observe wildlife, or simply sit back and enjoy the sounds of nature.

Explore the coast

The stunning drive along Highway 1 unveils the rugged cliffs, pristine sand beaches, stunning vistas, whale watching, and small towns nestled along more than 50 miles of coastline. The area is dramatic, yet approachable. Trails and beaches beg travelers to stop and explore on foot. State and regional parks dot the coastline, tempting with hiking, beaches, fishing, camping, water sports, and horseback riding. Or simply relax at a beach for the day, enjoy a romantic picnic, or go all-out on a camping trip. While the coast is beautiful to explore at any time, be aware that the weather can turn windy or foggy any time of year, so always bring along a windbreaker and cap.

For a free visitors guide or information on hotels, wineries, events, spas, attractions, and dining in Sonoma County, visit www.sonomacounty.com or call +1-707-522-5800.


Five food experiences worth the drive from Melbourne’s CBD

By Australia / Melbourne / Victoria /

Food, glorious food. Melbourne is a melting pot hot spot of food experiences, many of which can be found in that easy to navigate CBD grid, but venture a little further afield and there are unforgettable tasty treats off the yellow brick road to enjoy. Grab a Melbourne car rental and try these five:

#1 La Sala restaurant at Olivigna, South Warrandyte

The drive … (from CBD) 45-50 minutes north-east

The rolling hills of Warrandyte is welcome sight for those escaping the urban jungle for a leafy green village with a river running through it. The Tuscan-like atmosphere of beautiful Olivigna (pictured) in the southern part of Warrandyte is highlighted by La Sala restaurant, the star of the show. Outside is the stunning piazza, a place to breathe in the freshest Green Wedge air and soak up the views while sharing a pizza and Rose. Nearby eye candy comes with lemon trees and olive grove, a vineyard, horses grazing in the background like a painting while often the resident kangaroos can arrive seemingly on call for diners to really appreciate the views beyond the glass windows at La Sala. Inside a spacious dining room is a polished update on traditional Italian design, with chandeliers, mudstone fireplace and walls lined with mesmerizing large black and white photographs that blend in with the sounds of clinking cutlery and social chatter; it gets noisy here but that only lends it the charm of happy people enjoying their outing. The seasonal menu is irresistible.

#2 Royal Mail Hotel, Dunkeld

The drive …  two hours west

This one’s a “two hatter” courtesy of the Age Good Food Guide two years running and the Royal Mail Hotel Dining Room offers “nature-based cuisine focusing on the highest quality locally sourced produce” according to the Visit Victoria team. Menus are inspired by the hotel’s large organic garden and some stunning dishes are created. The signature dining experience? An eight course chef’s tasting menu with matched wines, is served every evening, as is a five course option. A two course and three course set menu is available Sunday to Thursday nights. The Dining Room is open for breakfast daily and lunch Wednesday to Sunday.

#3 Jack Rabbit, Bellarine

The drive … 90 minutes south-west

No, it’s not a play on great food haunts with animal names but it just so happens we’re following up a Pickled Pig with a Jack Rabbit. Jack Rabbit is an absolute winner on the Bellarine Peninsula with its stunning views across the bay to the You Yangs and Geelong, and its two venues – Jack Rabbit Restaurant, a showstopping gastronomical attraction with a sensational seasonal a la carte menu, while The House of Jack Rabbit is a step down for beaut lunches seven days a week.

#4 Pickled Pig, Warrnambool

The drive … a touch over two hours west

Victoria’s  regional fine dining scene is expanding by the year and this ripper is set on the seaside city of Warrnambool. Visit Victoria says chef Brenton Banner, who cut his teeth in the kitchen of Melbourne’s famous Press Club, brings his imagination and flair to Pickled Pig’s modern European menu, awarded a hat by The Age Good Food Guide. Treat yourself to a tasting menu or take your pick of the tempting a la carte options.

#5 Eleonore’s Restaurant, Yering

The drive … a touch over an hour east

Step it up in style at Eleonore Restaurant in the Yarra Valley, which combines a contemporary cuisine in an historic setting. The fine dining restaurant’s modern menu is lagely influenced by Asian flavours, manages to sit sublimely within the old-world surrounds of a 19th-century chateau.



Lap of luxury in Mornington Peninsula with Jackalope

By Australia / Melbourne / Victoria /

A brand new luxury hotel called Jackalope in the heart of the wine country on the Mornington Peninsula is one of five great reasons to jump in a Melbourne car rental and head south for just over an hour.

Jackalope Hotel

A reimagination of luxury and a new voice in high-end Australian accommodation has arrived with the opening of Jackalope Hotel on the Mornington Peninsula. The hotel is a personal project of 29-year-old Melbourne-based entrepreneur, Louis Li, who moved to Melbourne in 2006 to study filmmaking.

Rather than tell stories through film, hotel design is now the creative platform. In addition to luxury accommodation and idyllic vineyard views, Jackalope invites guests on a sensory journey—a delicate interplay between the ideal and the surreal—by reimagining the role of art, design, dining and storytelling in the hotel space.

Jackalope’s 46 rooms introduce guests to a reverie of relaxation. 38 sqm ‘Terrace’ or ‘Vineyard View’ categories range through to 85 sqm ‘Lairs’. Floor-to-ceiling windows and private terraces connect guests to the rural surrounds while, inside, bathroom features include deep-soak, black Japanese tubs, rain showers and double vanities.

The spa-like setting is complete with bath luxuries developed exclusively by Melbourne’s Hunter Lab, including a pinot grape skin and seed bath soak and body scrub, made using grapes from the hotel’s vineyard. A dining destination in its own right, two restaurants take their place on the site under the culinary direction of Executive Chef, Guy Stanaway. Refined dining, Doot Doot Doot, presents the region’s finest produce in a series of tasting menus intrinsically linked to the land; while winery restaurant, Rare Hare, designed by Projects of Imagination, celebrates the surrounding Willow Creek vineyard through immersive casual dining and wine experiences.

The hotel’s bar, Flaggerdoot, delights in the alchemic process of distillation. An experimental spirit stirs a daring cocktail menu of both classic and in-house creations. The space itself is an infusion of forms; herringbone floors and open fires warm the room, while commissions and installations from the likes of Peninsula local, Andrew Hazewinkel, and international icon, Rick Owens, create a sense of curated cool.
Outside, a black 30-metre infinity pool laps up to the surrounding vineyard, while a poolside pavilion offers sun lounge service and is also available for massage treatments or private dining. A seven-metre-tall namesake Jackalope sculpted by Melbourne artist, Emily Floyd, has taken tenancy at the entrance to the hotel.

Rates start at $650 per night and include a la carte breakfast, in-room mini bar, wine on arrival and WiFi. More www.jackalopehotels.com


Bass and Flinders Distillery

While on the subject of food and wine, Bass and Flinders Distillery is set in the heart of Red Hill country and is dubbed the “only bespoke distillery and cellar door” that gives you a chance to experience a journey from the stills to glass. Get insights into how they make their fine products including a range of gins, Australia’s first grape based vodka, limoncello and aged spirits. Tours of the barrel room and distillery are offered every weekend and you can score a tasting at the tasting bar. The most unique gin masterclasses in Australia are held here, too, where guests have an opportunity to create their very own bespoke gin. More bassandflindersdistillery.com

Red Hill Community Market

Rise and shine, peeps, and get your stack of cash ready for a smorgasbord of goodies at Red Hill Community Market. Since 1975 the iconic Red Hill Community Market is the place to be on the first Saturday of the month from September to May. Original Jewellery designs make a perfect gift ready to wrap. Manchester of various textures and colours to suit a wide range of tastes and homes. A whole range of exciting foods and beverages are represented, all fresh and tempting. Expect seasonal injections of local fruits and benches full of home grown vegetables. A huge selection of unique culinary delights make a mouth watering taste feast. There’s loads more. Check it out at craftmarkets.com.au/markets/red-hill.aspx

Cape Schanck – Mornington Peninsula National Park

Fantastic beaches and fabulous wines of the Mornington Peninsula are things everyone already knows, but the state and national parks really are the region’s best kept secrets. But the best thing is, they’re easily accessible and stunning. Just like Cape Schanck Mornington Peninsula National Park, for example, at the most southern tip of the Mornington Peninsula at the meeting of Bass Strait and Western Port. It has been protected since the 1800s and was made a national park in 1988 and offers spectacular scenery.
There are walks around the area with spectacular views along the rugged ocean beaches of Bass Strait towards Sorrento and Point Nepean.

Merricks House Art Gallery

Merricks House Art Gallery is a quick walk through the garden from Merricks General Wine Store and the gallery showcases talent from both the Mornington Peninsula region as well as artists from throughout Australia. The 1920 building has been beautifully restored from many years of dereliction. Polished floor boards and open plan design provide a space ideally suited to a gallery. It has become a renowned Peninsula art destination with high profile exhibitions. More mgwinestore.com.au/art-gallery

Hit the road for a scenic drive

Country roads, galleries, wineries and ocean views. You can’t get much better than going for a cruise along the Port Phillip Bay coastline from Frankston to Portsea, stopping at seaside villages and taking the detour up to Arthurs Seat for some fantastic views of the Peninsula. Also explore the peace and calm of the hinterland roads, wild Cape Schanck and historic Flinders before heading up the Western Port Bay coast.



Top Things to do in the Sunshine Coast this Easter Break

By Australia / Brisbane /

It’s almost here! Four whole days off to indulge in some Easter fun. And, there is no better place to head for the break than the Sunshine Coast. With plenty of family fun to be had this Easter break it seems it’ll be a busy one. Therefore, you should get your car rental at Brisbane airport  booked sharpish.

From food festivals to animal fun at Australia Zoo, here are the top things to do in the Sunshine Coast this Easter break.

Kenilworth Cheese, Wine & Food Fest, 31st March

The region will play host to the Kenilworth Cheese, Wine & Food Fest on Easter Saturday (31st March).  An enjoyable free event which kicks off with a cheese rolling competition, as well as the great Cheester Egg Hunt for children. And, some gourmet cooking demonstrations showcasing produce from the Mary Valley for the adults.

Ocean Street World Festival, 1st April

It’s not only cheese and wine that will be on the menu over the Easter break. On Easter Sunday (1 April), Maroochydore will be transformed into a celebration of diversity at the Ocean Street World Festival. A free event featuring artists across four stages with acts from around the globe. Expect Salsa dancing, Bollywood workshops, choirs, djembe workshops and more.

Australia Zoo, 30th – 2nd April

Australia Zoo will be another hive of activity during the Easter break with an epic egg-pedition treasure hunt, pony trails, plus, meet their Easter Bilby and get a free chocolate egg. From the 30th – 2nd April, the Irwin family will be feeding the crocs (pictured) in the 12pm Wildlife Warrior show in the world-famous Crocoseum.

Pa and Ma Bendall Memorial Surfing Contest, 30th – 1st April

Surfers will be attracted by one of Australia’s oldest surfing competitions: the Pa and Ma Bendall Memorial Surfing Contest, held over the Easter break  (30-1 April) at Caloundra’s Moffat Beach. The surfing contest began in 1974 and has attracted some big names over the years including Wayne (Rabbit) Bartholomew, Simon Anderson and Hawaiian legend Gerry Lopez.

Original Eumundi Markets, 14th March – 9th April

Children can enjoy the annual Easter egg treasure hunt at the Original Eumundi Markets on Easter Saturday (31st March).  This will be another fun and free Easter break activity that includes a hunt with clues through the market with a chocolate surprise at the completion of the journey.

Other toddler activities on sunshine coast include: Magic with Nickleby at the Ginger Factory, mini medieval Olympics at Sunshine Castle or learn how to make robots dance, talk and move at Sunshine Coast Libraries.


Four cool ideas for Melbourne adventures with the kids

By Australia / Melbourne / Victoria /

Sea creatures, a giant eye in the sky, African wildlife and a mighty festival in the CBD make up four great suggestions for family adventure in Melbourne. Grab a Melbourne car rental and strap yourself in for these must-do activities.

Melbourne Star Observation Wheel

See Melbourne from up high with a birds-eye view on the three-year-old Melbourne Star Observation Wheel, which celebrated its birthday in style on Sunday. Catriona Rowntree hosted the “sparkle party” which included the one millionth guest and all sorts of carnival activities in the Melbourne Star’s Piazza followed by 30-minute flights in panoramic cabins for guests that serve up 360-degree views of Melbourne, the city, Port Phillip Bay and beyond. The Star offers up two very different experience either during the daytime or at night when the city (and the wheel) lights up.

Moomba is back!

Moomba Festival is Australia’s largest community festival which attracts crowds of all ages to Birrarung Marr and Alexandra Gardens on the banks of the Yarra River for a family-friendly program of free entertainment, events and activities at the five festival precincts – Main Arena, Kids Zone, Skate Park, River and The Green. Check out local performers, the Moomba Masters’ world-class water sports, skate and BMX comps, flamboyant floats for the Moomba Parade, as well as the wild and wacky Birdman Rally.

Wild slumber party

Go wild with an overnight experience with a Slumber Safari at Werribee Open Range Zoo, the perfect getaway for the whole family in an Out of Africa escape, just 30 minutes from the heart of Melbourne. Slumber Safari dishes up a very special kind of accommodation with a fully hosted experience including  close-up animal encounters, drinks and dips at sunset, a scrummy dinner, as well as night-time activities including a night walk and toasting marshmallows around the evening campfire then a delicious supper of scones, jam and cream. In the morning watch the animals on the African savannah awaken and enjoy a buffet breakfast served in the Safari Dining Hut.

kid at aquarium

Photo by Jeswin Thomas from Pexels

Sea Life Melbourne Aquarium

SEA LIFE Melbourne Aquarium, located on the Yarra waterfront opposite the Crown Casino gives visiting families interactive animal encounters, iconic state-of-the-art displays and animal feeds. SEA LIFE Melbourne is renowned for being educational and completely entertaining. Check out the new Ice Age 4D cinema, Conservation Cove and Bay of Rays, or dive into the Glass Bottom Boat Tour, Penguin Passport or Shark Dive Xtreme.



Adelaide revs up for the hottest event in town, the Clipsal 500

By Adelaide / Australia / South Australia /

PETROL heads, lovers of fast cars, those with a need for speed, and anyone in general heading to South Australia’s capital early in March, it’s time to rev up and start your engines as the Adelaide Clipsal 500 hits town over the weekend of March 2 to 5. So where does your loyalty lie? Ford or Holden?

The streets of Adelaide will come alive with the growls, roars and screeches of some of the fastest vehicles in the world. Whether you’re car crazy or just looking for an awesome day out, you’d be mad to miss it, the team from Southaustralia.com tell us. Here are all the reasons to look forward to a few days in the “city of churches” when motorsport diehards worship their heroes behind the steering wheel.

Virgin Australia Supercars Championship

See iconic Australian Supercars unleash their adrenalin around the Adelaide street circuit in the Virgin Australia Supercars Championship. Simona de Silvestro will join the grid as the first full-time female supercar driver, while changes in the race format will keep drivers on their toes. Nick Percat took out the Clipsal 500 Adelaide trophy in 2016; who will accelerate to victory in 2017?

CAMS Australian GT Championship
In a showcase of breathtaking manufacturing and design, the CAMS Australian GT Championship brings a spectacular field of cars worth millions of dollars to Adelaide. The event will see cars from the world’s leading automotive manufacturers including a Lamborghini Huracan, BMW M6, Ferrari 488 and Audi R8 GTS.

Touring Car Masters spin their wheels
Muscling their way around around the track, Touring Car Masters are by far the loudest and beefiest in the Clipsal 500. See legends of motor sport line up on the grid, including John Bowe, Glenn Seton, Steven Johnson and Jim Richards.

Super Trucks going nuts!

Bridging the gap between on-track and air displays, 650 horsepower Stadium Super Trucks launch themselves over special ramps around the Clipsal 500 Adelaide circuit at speeds reaching 240 kilometres per hour.

Rocking and rapping it up with the best in music

On Friday and Saturday night, the stage will come to life with awesome live music. Hilltop Hoods will tear up the stage on Friday night accompanied by Seth Sentry, The Funkoars and Aradhna.  Rock out on Saturday with Baby Animals, Battlehounds and The Byzantines.

Supercars Paddock to meet your heroes

Let loose on the Clipsal 500 Supercars Paddock and get up-close and personal with your favourite drivers, crews and cars. It’s your opportunity to see the big race rigs, get an autograph, take a photo and spot the motor sport world’s hottest celebs.

Jaguar 60th le Mans Victory Celebration Display
Don’t miss this spectacular tribute to Jaguar featuring over 50 rare and exciting vehicles from the early 1930s to current models. This epic showcase includes a stunning array of beautifully maintained and replica vehicles.

Don’t miss out on the action! Get your tickets from the Clipsal 500 website to secure your place at Australia’s biggest and best motor sport event! General track side entry is $45, concert tickets start at $70, pit entry starts from $99 and platform tickets start from $85. Adelaide car rentals from Drivenow.com.au

SCOTT PODMORE (with southaustralia.com)