Five unmissable chocolate factories in Melbourne and surrounds

By Australia / Melbourne / Victoria /

THEY say woman rated chocolate higher than sex in a recent survey (Women’s Health Mag) giving a whole new meaning to the saying “I’ll have what she’s having”.  The humble cocoa bean clearly isn’t just a pretty face!

So where best to experience this love affair with the converted cocoa bean? A chocolate factory, of course, and there are plenty around Melbourne that must be on your hit-list. Try these.

Yarra Valley Chocolaterie and Ice Creamery

35 Old Healesville Road, Yarra Glen

Head out Old Healesville Road in the Yarra Valley and you’ll stumble across this gem at which free tastings are in abundance. Best of all it’s only an hour from Melbourne’s CBD and set amidst one of the state’s premier wine regions. The bonus? Ice creamery as well! Skilled European chocolatiers craft more than 200 varieties of chocolates, there’s a cool cafe inside and the kids can run off all that extra energy on the games area and expansive lawn.

Pink Lady Chocolates

13 Hume Street, Huntingdale

Since 1938 this icon of the chocolate world has been hand blending “exceptional ingredients” to perfect their “superfine chocolates”. Pink Lady chocolates are renowned for going hand in hand with a night out at the theatre way back in the day and their reputation for premium products still stands strong today. From handmade cream truffles to twist selections to their famous tablets and hearts, a drive to Huntingdale is well worth it to snap up some bargains.

Phillip Island Chocolate Factory

930 Phillip Island Road, Newhaven

It’s a cruisy 90-minute drive from the Melbourne CBD, but one well worth it. Phillip Island Chocolate Factory is one like no other: beautiful milk chocolates blended to perfection, a great little tour – Panny’s Amazing World of Chocolate for about $15 and loads of fun games and interactive features including a gorgeous chocolate fountain and chocolate making line where you can whip up a chocky treat in your own special way. There is more chocolate than you can imagine including other treats such as a choc dipped bananas, ginger, honey and amazing rocky road. Pannys café sells the most amazing meals, drinks and snacks, all with a chocolate theme.

The Chocolate Garden

55 Hallam Road, Hampton Park

Head east for the hills and you’ll stumble upon beautiful Dandenong Chocolate Factory now known as The Chocolate Garden. The family owned business has been servicing Melbourne clients with scrumptious chocolate treats for the past 30 years. They have a large range of personalised gifts including chocolate bouquets, hampers, and wedding, baby, birthday and occasion bonbonnieres.


11 Strathalbyn Street, Kew East

A shop rather than a choc factory, pronounced sho-KO-la-tl, this is the Aztec word for chocolate and for more than 10 years Christos Partsiogloui and family have served up Belgium-style chocolate truffles filled with beautiful combinations including balsamic strawberry at their chocolate cafes. Bon Bons, blocks, bars and even healthy options are all the rage here and keep locals and visitors coming back for more.


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Fun Melbourne holiday activities for the family this summer

By Australia / Melbourne /

We’re only a couple of weeks into school holidays and some parents are already pulling their hair out. But there are loads of activities on in Melbourne throughout the holidays to keep families occupied all summer, as the team from Tourism Victoria tell us. Try these for size.

Australian Open
For two weeks in January, Melbourne Park is the home of family fun, when it hosts the Grand Slam of the Pan-Pacific, the Australian Open. Along with world class tennis, there is a range of activities for budding tennis stars to enjoy. The fun continues at Birrarung Marr where the all-new, free and family-friendly Australian Open Festival will host activities and live entertainment. Open daily throughout the Open, the Festival will showcase some of Melbourne’s famous world-class dining and food vendors, just a short walk from Melbourne Park itself. The Festival will feature three key areas, including Kids World (pictured) with Nickelodeon’s giant inflatable playground, Nickelodeon characters, the famous Nickelodeon Slime Lab, a Woolworths Kids Zone with fresh fruit frozen yoghurt and fun ball-kid challenges and free tennis on the ANZ Tennis Hot Shots mini-courts.

Arts Centre Melbourne
Arts Centre Melbourne is inviting movers and shakers of all ages and dance abilities to take a spin on its pop-up Dance Floor(11-23 December 2015), where a sound and light spectacular is triggered by leaping, twirling and tiptoeing. The Australian Ballet’s production of The Sleeping Beauty: Storytime Ballet16-20 December 2015) will provide plenty of dance-piration. Other family friendly productions include: The 3 Little Pigs (2-17 January 2016), direct from London’s West End, which tells the classic fairytale with a musical twist; Noodlenut (19 January 2016), comedy master Frank Woodley’s show for children and; The Illusionists 1903 a magic extravaganza full of tricks that will leave the whole family in awe. Public art and interactive experience, Tangle (20-24 January 2016) invites kids to take a giant ball of elastic and weave around golden poles, creating and contributing to a dense, multi-coloured landscape to play, explore and bounce in. 100 St Kilda Road, Melbourne, 1300 182 183

As part of the blockbuster exhibition, Andy Warhol | Ai Weiwei, NGV Kids presents Studio Cats (11 December 2015 – 24 April 2016), a large-scale installation especially for children that draws upon creative connections between the two artists and their mutual love of cats. Over at Federation Square, The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia presents Our Land is Alive Hermannsburg Potters for Kids (September 2015 – April 2016) with twenty pots depicting some of the AFL’s best and finest Indigenous players from all eighteen teams. 180 St Kilda Road, Melbourne, +61 3 8620 2222

The Australian Centre of the Moving Image (ACMI) will roll out a Summer in Motion program featuring movies, workshops and free stuff for kids. Highlight films include Asterix: The Mansion of the Gods (23 December 2015 – 29 January 2016) and Monkey Kingdom (21 December 2015 – 31 January 2016). Workshops include Make a Movie, (6-8 and 11-13 January 2016) a three day hands on creative and technical filmaking workshop and Claymation for Kids (15 January 2016), where kids can sculpt their own characters from clay. Federation Square, Flinders Street, Melbourne, +61 3 8663 2200

Luna Park
Melbourne’s much-loved theme park is gearing up for its biggest summer ever with four new rides and something to suit everyone’s thrill threshold. Cars for Kids offers smaller kids the chance to practice their driving skills on mini dodgem cars. Body Rock is a high speed thrill ride, lifting adventure seekers up in the air and from side to side and all around. Jungle Twist is a family friendly spinning coaster and Hurricane sends carriages plummeting upward and downward as the entire ride rotates in a fast fury of excitement. LEGO workshops will also take place throughout the holidays. 18 Lower Esplanade, St Kilda, +61 3 9525 5033

Melbourne Zoo
At Melbourne Zoo, kids have the chance to become a Seal Life-Saver (19 December 2015 – 24 March 2016) as the Carousel Park transforms into a pop-up beach. At the Wild Sea, kids can meet seals, pelicans and penguins and find out how to help save these marine wildlife. Littlies can enjoy beach-themed activities in Keeper Kids from 12pm or the seal show at 11.30am every day. At dusk every Friday and Saturday, Zoo Twilights (29 January – 12 March 2016) welcomes a selection of local and international artists to the stage. Acts include Birds of Tokyo, José González, John Butler Trio and Belinda Carlisle. Entry for kids under 16 is free. Elliott Ave, Parkville, +61 39285 9300

SEA LIFE Melbourne Aquarium
In addition to its face-to-face marine life experiences, the SEA LIFE Melbourne Aquarium has recently launched a 4-D experience, Ice Age: No Time For Nuts. This fully immersive, high energy, nine minute show features exclusive brand new footage, presented in high definition. 3-D projection combines with in-theatre special effects such as vibrating seats, water spray, strobe lights to create the 4-D experience. A specially-themed pre-show area features an interactive ice wall and photo opportunities. After the show, kids can top the day off with a visit to the King and Gentoo penguins in their own Antarctic world, Penguin Playground. King Street and Flinders St, Melbourne, +61 3 9923 5925

Royal Botanic Gardens
The Royal Botanic Gardens provide the perfect setting for a picnic all year round, and in summer the Gardens offer school holiday fun for the whole family. The Australian Shakespear Company presents Tinkerbell and the Dream Fairies (6 – 23 January 2016), an interactive adventure where dressing up as an fairy or elf is positively encouraged. At the sun sets, the Moonlight Cinema (3 December 2015 – 27 March 2016) gets under way and families and older children can roll out the picnic rug while waiting for their favourite film to roll against the city skyline. Birdwood Avenue, South Yarra, +61 3 9252 2300

Melbourne Museum
A fun filled and informative night-time tour of the Wild and Forest galleries, Night Bird Watch (26 December 2015 – 26 January 2016) will enable kids to discover owls and nightjars of of Australasia, North America and Eurasia up close. During the day, the Museum’s activity rooms will become a nocturnal soundscape Night Space (26 December 2015 – 26 January 2016) featuring the the sights and sounds of creatures that are most active at night. Next door IMAX will be showing Under the Sea a child-friendly 45 minute documentary. Older kids will enjoy Star Wars in 3-D, and to accompany the film there will be loads of Star Wars droids and a Star Wars staircase, perfect for instagrammable pics. 11 Nicholson Street, Carlton, +61 3 8341 7777

Science Works
Science Works will host a 20-minute show, Blown Away (1 – 26 January 2016) every day at midday throughout January. Demonstrations will show kids the difference between high and low air pressure and how it moves around. Ages 8 and up will also enjoy the chance to explore the world with just a smartphone in a cardboard box with Virtually Real! (1 – 26 January 2016). The simple stereoscopic mask combines two images into one for a 3-D effect, while a motion sensor in the device detects and adjusts the image according head movements. 2 Booker Street, Spotswood, +61 3 9392 4800

Shrine of Remembrance
A free Summer Family Program(11 – 22 January 2016) will run at the Shrine of Remembrance and include two activities. Symbol Quest: Lions, Crowns and Colours is a 55-minute program introducing children aged seven to 13 to the symbolism, metaphors and codes embedded into the Shrine of Remembrance architecture, Galleries of Remembrance exhibitions and surrounding parklands. Children aged four to six can enjoy Stories to Remember, telling tales written for children about the challenges faced by people and animals during wartime will be told. Birdwood Ave, Melbourne, +61 3 9661 8100

2016 Formula 1® Australian Grand Prix Disney preview
Disney will keep both kids and parents entertained during the 2016 Formula 1® Australian Grand Prix (17-20 March, 2016), and as a sneak preview, fans can catch a glimpse of their favourite Disney characters and activities this January. Disney will be on show at F1 World at City Square from 12-22 January, and at F1 @ Federation Square from 26-28 February. In another coup for families and just in time for Christmas, the Australian Grand Prix Corporation is offering ‘2 for 1’ tickets for General Admission fans until 22 December 2015. Crn Swanston Street and Collins Street

Phillip Island Nature Parks
Out of town, Phillip Island Nature Parks has just launched two new experiences. Antarctic Journey, at the Nobbies Centre, takes visitors on a virtual journey into the world of the Southern Ocean and Antarctica, through interactive and immersive experiences over three levels. At the Penguin Parade, an upgraded Penguins Plus viewing area enables visitors to see eye to eye with penguins as they waddle up the shore to their burrows.


Unmissable music festivals in Melbourne and surrounds

By Melbourne / Victoria /

Summer is quite possibly the best time of year to visit Victoria. Not only is the weather perfect (save for the occasional thunderstorm) and the public gardens perfectly manicured for a lazy afternoon picnic, the warmer weather sees the southern state host a huge calendar of music festivals as the highly anticipated party season kicks into gear.

Queenscliff Music Festival, 27-29 November

Now in its 18th year, this quirky and colourful music festival will feature the likes of Angus and Julia Stone, Kate Miller-Heidke and funny gal Cal Wilson, just to name a few. The huge festival encompasses beachfront stages, local bars and pubs and even the steam powered Blues Train, home to travelling tunes. The focus is on music at this fully licensed event but there are plenty of art installations, roving performers, market stalls, food trucks and even a ‘Kids Quarter’ to keep the whole family entertained over this brilliant weekend by the beach.

For more info and tickets visit: qmf.net.au.

So Frenchy So Chic, Werribee Mansion, 10 January

Boasting a ‘summer French’ escape of music, food, flowers and friends, this family friendly music festival sees punters treated to all things French, from the artists to the cuisine and wine. Generously, children under 12 are admitted free, with activities like croquet, face painting, giant chess and hopscotch amongst the mansion lawns sure to keep them busy throughout the day. For foodies, specially prepared picnic boxes, hampers and cheese plates are the perfect accompaniment to the French music and atmosphere. No doubt, picnicking in the gorgeous surrounds is the next best thing to France that Victoria has to offer.

Check out sofrenchysochic.com.au for more info.

St Kilda Festival, 6 – 14 February

While the festival showcases plenty of music in local venues over the second week of February, the highlight of the week is definitely the wrap up event, Festival Sunday. Easily the biggest free music event in Australia, the sensational day has been known to attract a crowd of over 350,000 people. The streets of St Kilda are closed to traffic while Australia’s best musicians rock out over multiple stages against the awesome backdrop of palm trees, the ocean and the iconic 103 year old Luna Park. The festival also showcases extreme sports, carnival rides, street performers and a street market. Also not to be missed is the festival opening event Yalukit Wilum Ngargee, a free Indigenous arts, music and dance event held on February 6, which also showcases heritage walks and traditional food offerings.

For more info on the festival visit: stkildafestival.com.au.

Riverboats Music Festival, Echuca 19-21 February

Located two-and a half hours from Melbourne on the banks of the mighty Murray, Riverboats is a premiere contemporary music event set in a natural amphitheatre lined by historic red gums. Traditional paddle steamers meander past the festival all weekend while visitors enjoy dancing, art and delicious regional food and wine, all the while absorbing the natural beauty of the region. With impressive past line-ups including Dan Sultan, Sarah Blasko and The Whitlams, the organisers boast that it is one of the prettiest and laid-back festivals in Australia.

Visit the website for more info riverboatsmusic.com.au.

Motor City Music Festival, Geelong 11 – 13 March

Another festival offering free entry for kids (on the Sunday only) is the rock’n’roll ‘Geetroit Rocks Motor City Music Festival’ at the Geelong Showgrounds. While the Friday and Saturday events are dedicated to adults only with five stages spread out over the fully licensed venue, ‘family friendly’ Sunday is all ages and focuses on children’s entertainment. A huge fireworks display on the Sunday night wraps up the huge weekend of tribute bands, dedicated to get festival-goers rocking out to the great classics of Guns’n’Roses, INXS and ACDC.

For more info on the festival visit: motorcitymusicfestival.com.au




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Six unconventional places to have lunch in Melbourne

By Australia / Melbourne / Victoria /

Melbourne is known for its incredible food and is the perfect travel destination for those with a weakness for gluttony. While your taste buds are celebrating the amazing produce, fresh micro-brewery craft beers and local wines, why not indulge your visual and olfactory senses by grabbing a bite at Melbourne’s most unconventional eateries.

Ponyfish Island, Yarra River

Floating under the pedestrian bridge between Flinders St Station and Southgate and surrounded by water on all sides, the quirky Ponyfish is only accessible by the stairs descending from above. On a relaxing summer’s day the views over the river set the scene as diners indulge on an all-day menu featuring mouthwatering dishes like zucchini fritters with salsa and chilli jam, crispy salads and Mexican fare. Visitors can also enjoy fresh anti-pasto platters complemented by the bar’s very own brands of lager and cider as they take in the 360 degree views from the wonderfully unique location.


Easey’s Burgers, Collingwood (pictured)

Melbournians are always looking for creative ways to promote their culinary delights and Easey’s is no exception. An eye-catching sight and talking point for many visitors, three train cars sit atop the roof of the building, which houses a downstairs kitchen and bar area. Diners make themselves at home in the old Hitachi carriages complete with 90s era tartan seat material for a nostalgic lunch of epic proportions. Both the view over the old industrial buildings of Collingwood and the enormous burgers such as the macaroni cheese and bacon filled ‘Layup’ are very impressive, as is the accompanying hand-crafted Changz Hot Sauce. Of course, the carriages wouldn’t be complete if they weren’t sporting some spray-painted street art, which again adds that authentic 90s touch.


Centre Place and Degraves St, CBD

A well-known and frequently visited site for many Melbournians, the area is a concrete jungle filled with colourful graffiti, funky fashion boutiques and tiny hole-in-the-wall cafes. Such is their compact size, tables and milk-crate stools spill out into the paved laneway full of students, office workers and of course weary travelers. The laneway buzzes with life throughout the day and the smell of freshly ground coffee allures those passing by, while buskers take advantage of the laneway’s great acoustics. Hungry visitors can expect to enjoy their fill of great coffee, sweet and savoury crepes and hot soups with a side of political street art.

Welcome to Thornbury

Open for lunch from Friday-Sundays, Welcome to Thornbury is Melbourne’s first permanent bar and Food Truck stop. Capitalising on the exploding food truck scene, the huge beer garden has made itself at home in an old Morris Minor factory. With up to six trucks serving street food at any one time, the bar has an impressive 40 trucks signed up which rotate on a daily basis, including foodie favourites such as Mr Burger, Soul Kitchen Pizza and Digging for Fire BBQ. All of the amazing food offerings go perfectly with the huge variety of on-tap local and imported beers and the delicious cocktail sharing jugs.


Madame Brussels, CBD

Think Alice in Wonderland meets 50s garden party, complete with retro furniture, chesterfield lounges and turf covered floors, walls and bar. Diners will feel like they have stepped back in time as they bask in the sun on the open terrace which over-looks the city’s historic church spires, hotels and grand theatres. Madame Brussels is the quirkiest high tea lunching spot in the city. Smoked trout dip, marinated olives and cheese platters offer mouthwatering savoury options, while fresh raspberry cupcakes and chocolate fondue will satisfy those with a sweet tooth. Paired with the bar’s famous punch jugs such as amaretto sour and Prussian iced tea, dining at Madame Brussels is an experience full of old-world charm.


Abbotsford Convent

Owned and operated by a not-for-profit organisation on behalf of the public, the site of 11 historical buildings and gardens is nestled on bend along the Yarra River. As well as offering four dining options including the award winning vegetarian restaurant Lentil-as-Anything, the Convent is home to over 100 art studios, two galleries, a radio station, an open air cinema and various markets. A Melbourne institution, the Convent is an important arts and cultural learning precinct set in incredible heritage listed architecture and gardens. While the restaurants are forever popular, a picnic under the shade of the massive pine trees that tower over the lush green lawns is always a popular option.




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Five great Australian sporting events you can’t miss

By Australia / Hobart / Melbourne / New South Wales / Sydney / Tasmania / Victoria /

It’s no secret we Australians are absolutely crazy about our sports and springtime is arguably the most action packed time of the sporting calendar. To get into the sporting spirit, here are five huge upcoming events that everyone can cheer about.

1. Australian Football League grand final, October 3 (Victoria)

Now complete with a pre-final public holiday, the AFL Grand Final weekend will see fanatics swarm the city on Grand Final eve for the annual parade. Here, you can catch an up close view of players from the two competing clubs as they eye each other off before Victoria’s largest sporting event at the world-renowned Melbourne Cricket Ground. AFL is the unofficial religion of this southern state, so if you plan on visiting make sure you book accommodation early. On the big day, the whole of Melbourne buzzes with a festival-like atmosphere, suburban verandas proudly draped in team colours while out back the beer flows and sausages sizzle. If you’re not lucky enough to be heading to the game, be sure to arrive at the pub well before the opening bounce to secure yourself a prime viewing spot. Alternatively you can catch the game on the big screen at Federation Square with thousands of other crazy fans.

2. National Rugby League grand final, October 4 (New South Wales)

The day after Victoria’s premier event, down some Berocca and bounce back into sports spectator mode because all eyes will be on Sydney’s ANZ Stadium which plays host to the NRL 2015 Grand Final. The occasion is more of a week-long celebration, with a live screened Grand Final Breakfast function attended by both teams and hundreds of guests in the days before. The Sydney Harbour Bridge is lit up each night in the countdown to the big day with 80-metre high projections of the competing teams. This year, the Grand Final will be marked by an NRL first, with Darling Harbour the home to a new interactive fan engagement centre where visitors can meet players from all 16 clubs and catch a glimpse of the two competing teas as they prepare to go head to head. Skills tests, giveaways and free entertainment will also be available to fans of the game.

3. Bathurst 1000, October 8 -11 (New South Wales)

For petrol heads who can’t get enough of the smell of burning rubber, the Bathurst 1000 is widely regarded as the pinnacle of Australian Motor Sport and is known as the “The Great Race” among motorsport fans and media. Run exclusively for V8 supercars, the four day event sees fans pitching camp under the stars on Mount Panorama for a weekend of high octane fumes, cars racing at dizzying speeds and of course, plenty of beer. The race culminates with the winner being presented with the coveted Peter Brock Trophy, introduced in 2006 to commemorate the death of supercar legend Peter Brock, who won the event nine times.

4. Melbourne Cup Spring Racing Carnival, October 31 – November 7 (Victoria)

Touted as ‘the race that stops a nation’, the Melbourne Cup is a heart-stopping event accompanied by yet another public holiday that is celebrated throughout Victoria. While the carnival runs over a week, the big race is held on the first Tuesday of every November. In nearly every home, workplace and local pub, all eyes on the room will be glued to the TV for about three and a half minutes, followed by gasps of elation, but mostly sighs of disappointment. The event sees some 110,000 people attend, some in formal race day wear and others in amusing costumes, but even if you are not terribly fond of racing or betting, the people watching opportunities are endless.

5. Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race, December 26 – 31 (NSW, VIC, TAS)

Considered one of the most difficult sailing races in the world, the incredible Sydney to Hobart race covers nearly 1200 kilometres through the Sydney Headlands, across the Tasman Sea and to the Derwent River before the boats cross the line just in time for New Year’s Eve celebrations. The yachts come from all over the world, as do competitors, hailing from the UK, Singapore, Hong Kong, Germany, Cyprus and New Zealand. With the firing of the starting cannon, around 100 yachts will set sail in front of a crowd of 600,000, with the best vantage points including North Head and South Head in Sydney. Hobart’s historic waterfront plays host to a post event reception and spectators are encouraged to head there for celebrations after welcoming the yachts at Battery point.





Five Australian resorts for a girls weekend away

By Adelaide / Australia / Brisbane / Melbourne / New South Wales / South Australia / Sydney / Victoria /

Looking for a girls’ weekend away? Here are five resorts, which are absolutely perfect for a some relaxing time with the ladies.

Smiths Beach Resort, Margaret River, WA

Experience the ultimate beachfront lifestyle at Smiths Beach Resort, which is nestled between Cape Naturaliste and Cape Leeuwin in Western Australia. It’s heaven for beach lovers who are looking for a sunny weekend away with the girls. Spoil yourself with self-contained accommodation that boasts ocean views. In the resort you also have a cellar door, bar and restaurant at your disposal. Not to mention the many spa treatments available.

The Mineral Spa, Daylesford, VIC

This retreat is located in the heart of Victoria’s spa country. The Mineral Spa retreat offers you an indulgent spa experience, with its two warm mineral spa pools and a cool plunge pool that overlooks beautiful gardens. There are exclusive packages on offer when you have six or more friends. These include a choice of facial, massage, exfoliation, pedicure and manicure options – plus finger food and cocktails.

Crystal Creek Meadows, Kangaroo Valley, NSW

Crystal Creek Meadows boasts luxury, award winning country cottages, where you can stay overnight. Then there’s also a day spa retreat, which sets the scene for an amazing girls’ weekend away in the country. Rejuvenate and unwind with amazing massages, spa baths, aromatherapy and skin care treatments. There are also many local shops and dainty cafes to check out while you’re in Kangaroo Valley Village.

Glass on Glasshouse, 1hr north of Brisbane
If luxurious cottages with a spa bath, private patio and amazing views of the Glasshouse Mountains sounds like your idea of the perfect getaway, then Glass on Glasshouse is the place for you! The cottages feature floor-to-ceiling windows, which overlook the mountains, and in the winter months you also have a fireplace at your disposal. Relax with an on-site massage, or go sightseeing nearby.

Sticky Rice Cooking School and Villas, Adelaide Hills

This inspiring accommodation is set in the lovely town of Stirling. It features three gorgeous villas, with each luxury villa offering a different theme. Visitors can choose between Bali, Thailand and Japan style accommodation, before being immersed in the flavours of the world. Sticky Rice is also a cooking school, offering hands on cooking classes, where visitors learn from respected chefs on how to cook Asian, Spanish and Moroccan cuisine.


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Six Australian food festivals you simply cannot miss

By Australia / Brisbane / Melbourne / New South Wales / Perth / Queensland / Sydney / Victoria / Western Australia /

Food, fabulous food. Everyone loves it – that’s why we celebrate it with food festivals.

As we gladly wave goodbye to winter and welcome springtime with open arms, both seasons offer the perfect opportunity to unwind and enjoy the incredible fresh produce and diversity in food that Australia is gifted with.

Is there anything more indulgent than sitting by an open fire, sharing a charcuterie board or an aged bottle of deep, woody Shiraz? To celebrate the country’s love affair with all things delicious, here are six upcoming food and wine festivals from around Australia.

Barossa Gourmet Weekend, SA, 14-16 August

Shed the winter blues with a weekend getaway to the world renowned Barossa Valley in South Australia, just over an hour’s drive north from Adelaide Airport. The weekend showcases everything delicious that the picturesque wine-producing region is famous for, as visitors are treated to a packed program of winery tours, masterclasses and long lunches, all accompanied by live music and entertainment. Shuttle buses will run throughout the weekend, but accommodation is limited so get in quick to book your Barossa Gourmet getaway. Visit barossagourmet.com for more information.

Newcastle Food and Wine Expo, NSW, 28-30 August

Visitors to the harbour side city of Newcastle will be able to kiss the cold goodbye in serious foodie style, with the three day exhibition of non-stop feasting, celebrity chef cooking demonstrations, culinary presentations and free samples of food and wine. About 150 gourmet exhibitors from all over the state will be tempting foodies with their incredible produce. Just some of the mouth-watering products include those from the Hunter Valley Cheese Factory, Byron Bay Chocolate Co and Coastal Garden Preserves, so make sure you head there on an empty stomach! Also on the event program are free appreciation classes to give you a better understanding of gourmet food and drink. The varied classes cover cheese, wine, beer and liqueur, so there is definitely something for everyone to indulge in. For more information, check out foodandwineexpo.com.au/shows/newcastle/.

Rockhampton Capricorn Food and Wine Festival, QLD, 18-20 September

Set against the backdrop of the Fitzroy River, the location of the 2015 Capricorn Food and Wine Festival couldn’t be more ideal for a weekend of grazing and wine tasting. In the springtime, the perfect view is rivalled only by the ideal weather that Queensland is famous for, and 8000 people are expected to flock to the riverbank and surrounding areas to indulge in exquisite wine and cuisine in the gorgeous sunshine state. The festival isn’t just restricted to the hub of the riverbank though, as all of Rockhampton’s finest dining establishments will have the chance to get involved in the event. Abundant regional food will be showcased, with emphasis placed on the importance of sustainable and healthy paddock-to-plate practices, and supporting Australian farmers as the country’s love affair with good food continues to evolve. For more information go to capricornfoodandwine.com.au.

Heathcote Wine & Food Festival, VIC, 10-11 October

City slickers need head north just 90 minutes to reach the Heathcote area, a location rich in history and nestled smack-bang in the middle of Victoria. Once a bustling mining and logging town, the owners of over 70 vineyards in the region can thank the Germans and Italians for introducing grape growing to the area as the gold rush began to stall. It goes without saying then that this year’s theme, ‘Shiraz Heaven’ couldn’t be more fitting and visitors are invited on a delicious journey discovering the region’s famous full-bodied shiraz and alternative varieties of reds, whites and sparkling. The endless wine list will be complemented by perfectly matched regional food and accompanied by and live music and entertainment. The Heathcote festival’s promise of knockout wines, specialty masterclasses and tasting sessions enjoyed in the great country atmosphere are sure to have punters welcoming spring with open arms. Visit heathcotewinegrowers.com.au/festival to plan your weekend getaway.

Mildura Jazz, Food and Wine Festival, VIC, 30 October – 2 November

Run annually the weekend prior to Melbourne Cup, this established festival celebrates its 35th year combining traditional jazz, contemporary sounds and locally produced gourmet food and wine. The ambience of the festival is impossible to beat and the Murray River provides the perfect backdrop as paddle steamers chug by the riverside wineries, clubs and pubs as visitors are treated to an incredible auditory, gustatory and visual feast. Lunches and dinners aboard the paddle steamers, picnics in the parks, jazz by the river and even a Saturday night street party will no doubt ensure that visitors are treated to one heck of a party over four exciting days. For more info, check out artsmildura.com.au.

Geographe Crush Food and Wine Festival, WA, 7-9 November

The Geographe Crush celebrates the wine, food and attractions of the south west wine region of Geographe in Western Australia. The huge area extends from Harvey in the north, Collie, Dardanup and Donnybrook in the east and Capel and Busselton in the south, centering on the main city of Bunbury. Run over three days, an opening night function welcomes visitors on the Friday and Saturday sees the Crush Wine Exhibition showcasing the wines of the region and includes wine seminars, cooking demonstrations and entertainment. On the Sunday, visitors are treated to tours of wineries and the restaurants and cellar doors provide visitors the chance to enjoy local produce and dishes before stocking up on their favourite reds, whites and sparkling. Stay tuned to wineandfood.com.au as more info is released.



5 great restaurants to kill for in Melbourne

By Australia / Melbourne / Victoria /

Luckily for Melbournians, there are so many amazing restaurants to kill for – and they’re spread throughout the city. You’ll find dishes from every culture, including Chinese, Vietnamese, Italian and Greek. Here are five of the best restaurants.

The Press Club

Owner and Masterchef star George Calombaris loves to make others happy through the love and emotion of hospitality – so much that this is even stated in his menu. He draws on his Greek heritage to bring you Greece’s exquisite flavours and aromas. Delicious sweets and flavours such as Psari with plum and yoghurt are always popular with diners. The Press Club offers between four and six course meals.

Rice Paper Scissors

Rice Paper Scissors is modelled on South East Asia’s hawker dining bars, with the focus of its offering being a shared-eating concept. Fresh and organic ingredients are plentiful, and the homemade sauces, pates and relishes are a must-try. Rice Paper Scissors is open every day from noon until 3pm, and 6pm until late.


Scopri proudly boasts its menu as “a reflection of the seasons”, serving up the freshest produce, which is sourced locally. Scopri offers an interesting interpretation of classic Italian food, producing dishes that originate from across Italy’s many different regions.

Chin Chin

Benjamin Cooper is the executive chef of Chin Chin Restaurant in Flinders Lane, serving South-East Asian cuisine with a shared-eating concept. Some of Chin Chin’s amazing dishes include the crispy Barramundi and green apple salad, and then there’s the spicy corn and coriander fritters. The restaurant has a walk-in only policy, but one table of 10-12 people is available for bookings. It’s open 11am until late every day of the week.


Coda is hidden in Oliver Lane, only minutes away from Federation Square and the Yarra River. Coda’s innovative menu draws influence from flavours and spices that originate from all corners of the globe. However, the restaurant is mostly listed as offering French-Vietnamese and Modern Australian cuisine. 



Hit the road through Gippsland in Victoria for some winter treats

By Australia / Melbourne / Victoria /

The air is chilly in winter down south, but that’s a great reason to load up the car or campervan and set off on a road trip through Victoria’s beautiful Gippsland region. Stretching all the way from the rugged coastline of Phillip Island to the sheltered beaches of Mallacoota, Gippsland also covers picturesque alpine regions and scenic country sides. Whether your interest is fantastic local food and wine, finding the perfect fishing spot, or enjoying an action-packed trip of adventure, Gippsland Touring make mapping out the ideal road trip easy with itineraries to suit everyone’s tastes. Explorers can select from a range of routes, each filled with its own hidden treasures waiting to be uncovered. 

Bunurong route

The Bunurong route (pictured) showcases breathtaking coastal scenery and lush countryside in the same setting, the perfect location for enjoying a local-produce picnic by the beach. The 7km George Bass Coastal Walk is sure to work up an appetite and for those who prefer two wheels, the16km Bass Coast Rail Trail is dedicated to cyclists as well as walkers. After all that exercise, plenty of cosy accommodation and dinner options make this coastline trip the perfect winter getaway.

La Trobe route

For hidden antique treasures, local art galleries and incredible produce, the comforts of winter are a welcome sight on the La Trobe route. Think red wine by the B&B log fire after a day exploring Glengarry, a historic village established in 1883 and now known for its fresh and locally sourced produce and wine.

Country Drive route

The Country Drive route takes visitors through the town of Briagolong, which boasts heritage buildings on every corner. The self-guided Historic Town Walk is a great way to absorb the history of the buildings and reflects the rich heritage of the town, predominantly in farming and gold mining. Nowadays Briagolong is famous for local artwork and those passing through are treated to paintings, sculptures and paper creations by established and aspiring artists, displayed in the many galleries and workshops open to the public. The Country Drive then winds through to Stratford, a charming village on the banks of the Avon River, the ideal backdrop for the town’s very own annual Shakespeare festival.

Inspiring Gippsland Hinterland Drive

For the more adventurous, the Inspiring Gippsland Hinterland Drive guides explorers through the small towns of Yarragon and Walhalla to Melbourne’s closest downhill ski resort, Mt Baw Baw Alpine Village. Walhalla, another township bearing the heritage of the gold rush treats visitors to one of the most spectacular rail journeys in Australia. Operated and maintained solely by volunteers, the Goldfields Railway 60 minute trip offers everything from wildflowers and waterfalls to autumnal leaves that light up the valley.

For more information about Gippsland’s Touring Routes, visit:




Four great experiences in Australia for road-trippers

By Australia / Australian Capital Territory / Canberra / Melbourne / Port Douglas / Queensland / Victoria /

Learn to water ski with a world champ

Where: Echuca Moama, 215km north of Melbourne

IF anyone tells you Brett Sands can walk on water, you had better believe it. This triple world champion and two-time world record holder, who has lived on the mighty Murray most of his life, first put on water skiis when he was just three years old so you’ll be learning from the best. Brett Sands Watersports in Echuca-Moama offers lessons in waterskiing, wakeboarding, barefooting and kneeboarding. Take part in anything from hourly lessons to multiple day packages on the calm waters of the Murray. Family beginner packages offered. Having spent thousands of hours on the water and instructed and coached throughout the world you are in for a lot of FUN and stories about celebrities. The school, located on 26 acres of beautiful, waterfront property, has had clients returning time and time again since opening in 1986. Whether you’ve never hit the water before or you’re looking to take your waterskiing skills to the next level, this adrenaline-filled experience is perfect for anybody willing to take the plunge. If you really want to get into the spirit, every February Echuca Moama hosts the world’s biggest water ski race – the ‘Southern 80’ Ski Race. Suggested stays: Murray River Holiday Park or Echuca Holiday Park

Cycle with Michael Milton

Where: Canberra

“I like to do things that I think are fun and instead of setting up a little bike-riding tour around Lake Burley Griffin, I decided to do one in the dark,” inspirational six-time Paralympian Michael Milton says of his Bigfoot Adventures option known as the Canberra All Lit Up Tour. Not only can you spin wheels and shoot the breeze with an elite athlete and top bloke after the sun goes down, it’s a chance to develop some mountain biking skills while enjoying “lit up” views of national monuments around Canberra. Australia’s bike-friendly capital city appeals to thousands of cyclists with its city bike tracks and mountain bike riding paths. Bike lamps light the way on this two-and-a-half hour ride, which takes you to the Parliament House exercise track, around Capitol Hill and the wetlands. Best of all, you don’t have to be a national sporting champion like Michael to do the tour – it’s an easy, enjoyable ride. Suggested stay: Capital Country Holiday Village

Townsville segway

Where: Far North Queensland

See the hidden wonders of the sunny, coastal city of Townsville in an environmentally-friendly way. Ride through the city’s beautiful parks and gardens on your own Segway – a two-wheeled, self-balancing electric vehicle. The guided tours run in small groups and take you through training before embarking on a two-hour journey, covering 8.5 kilometres of track. Suggested stays: Coral Coast Tourist Park and BIG4 Walkabout Palms, Townsville.

Chauffer drive in the Mornington Peninsula  

Where: Mornington Peninsula, 75km south east of Melbourne

Have you ever dreamed of living the life of a royal? You definitely can for a day with your very own chauffer on the Mornington Peninsula. Travel in style as you look at the peninsula’s magnificent green hills and sandy beaches from behind the glass windows of your very own Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow. While listening to the music of your choice, visit the peninsula’s finest galleries and dine at the most exquisite wineries. Some of the popular things you might like to do during your private tour includes a tour of a cheese factory, stopping at stunning lookout points along the coast, lunch at Arthurs Seat Maze or a visit to art and craft exhibitions. Silver Health Chauffer Services suggests it’s best to pick five tastings and venues a day, to ensure you aren’t too rushed. But if you simply want to sit back, relax and let someone else make the decisions, your chauffer is at your service! Suggested stays: Kangerong Holiday Park or Marina View Van Village.




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Three ways to enjoy adventure travel in Australia

By Australia / Gold Coast / Melbourne / New South Wales / Queensland / Sydney / Victoria /

Skydive in the best ‘drop zones’

Where: Toogoolawah, 120km north west of Brisbane

THE blue skies in Toogoolawah aren’t just “famous for fun”, but are also skydiving central. People travel to this small town from all corners of the globe to take a leap of faith up to 14,000 feet in the air. There are about 5000 people taking their first tandem jump with Ramblers (pictured, courtesy of www.ramblers.com.au) each year. “People have been known to come for a day and stay for months, or years … some have never left since 15 years ago,” sky dive instructor Susie McEvoy says. The company offers adrenalin-pumping jumps for everyone from beginners to those more experienced. Night jumps are also held staged every month around the full moon, treating thrill-seekers to spectacular views of the city lights spanning Toowoomba, the Sunshine Coast and Brisbane.  Susie says the most unique experience is the Skydive Safari 4 Jump Day Trip around southeast Queensland. “People tandem jump like rock stars into each of Ramblers’ drop zones throughout the course of the day, taking off from one location in their private plane and jumping into the next location. It’s the most incredible day ever and there are no other day trips like this in the world.”

Suggested stays: Esk Caravan Park, Lake Somerset Holiday Park (40mins away) or

The ultimate ‘zoofari’

Where: Dubbo, 400km north west of Sydney

A day surrounded by wildlife in wide, open plains at the Taronga Western Plains Zoo in Dubbo is a magical experience the whole family will never forget. The Zoo is home to more than 700 animals, including the gentle elephants, giraffes, rhinos, cheeky monkeys and the famous big cats. With the birth of cheetah cubs, if you head to the Dubbo Zoo soon you’ll spot them playing together and practicing their wrestling, pouncing and biting. There’s also the magnificent bird shows and fascinating keeper talks which tell you all about these amazing animals. Best of all you get up close and personal with some of the animals! For those looking for the ultimate ‘zoofari’ experience, stay the night at Billabong camp, where you camp in tents around a picturesque billabong. Not only do you stay under the stars, but you’ll have access to special behind-the-scenes tours and get to stick around and hear and see the animals when everybody else has gone home.

Suggested stays: Billabong Camp or Big4 Dubbo Parklands

Family skiing at Falls Creek  

Where: Falls Creek, 100km north east of Melbourne

Winter may be the time of the year where most people prefer to stay indoors, curled up in a blanket in front of a fire, but at Victoria’s alpine resorts it’s a completely different story. From the very first second snowflakes start to fall on the trees at Falls Creek, snowboarders and skiers throw on their gear and come out to play. With 65 kilometres of downhill skiing, snowboarding, tobogganing and free cross-country trails, Falls Creek holds a thrilling adventure for every member of the family that visits during snow season. There’s a wide range of different routes ranging from beginner’s level to experienced, with plenty of twists and turns which are sure to get the adrenaline pumping through your veins before meeting at the bottom of the hill. Group or private lessons also run on the mountain, where you can spend a few days mastering your skiing. Then when the snow season is over, the kids will wait in excitement for the next ski season!

Suggested stays: Big4 Bright Holiday Park or Tawonga Caravan Park


5 of the best Melbourne food tours

By Australia / Melbourne / Victoria /

Melbourne is renowned for its trendy cafes, bars, pubs, restaurants and wineries. There are so many that you’ll never be able to see them all. Here are five of Melbourne’s best food tours to steer you on the right path.

Progressive High Tea Stroll

If you’re a sweet tooth then you’ll love exploring Melbourne’s best afternoon tea spots with a few anecdotes along the way. Dig into delicious chocolate, scones, macarons, and cup cakes, which will be joined with tea, juice and wine. The tour is perfect for a day out with the girls.

Vietnamese Cooking Class

Celebrate the flavours of Vietnam with a cookling class and food tour in Richmond. Chef Ha Nguyen takes you to Victoria Street’s best food outlets, where he’ll fill you in on where to buy the freshest produce, meat and seafood. Then he’ll show you how to cook classic Vietnamese dishes such as chicken in banana leaf or pineapple spring rolls .

Melbourne Art and Food Tour

Experience Melbourne’s best food combined with historic laneways, beautiful architecture and hidden art galleries. This four hour walking tour exposes visitors to the city’s ever-changing art scene, while treating you to tastings along the way. One of the tour’s highlights is gathering at Arc One Gallery on Flinders Lane to enjoy canapés and a glass of wine.

Yarra Valley Wine Tasting Tours

Join a small group personal wine tour to the picturesque Yarra Valley wine region. You and your friends will enjoy wine tastings at four wineries of your choice, which may include Yering Station, Coombe Melba Estate, and Oakridge. Lunch is served at the popular Rochford Winery, before the tour makes its way to the Yarra Valley Chocolaterie and the old Farmhouse Cheese Shop.

Lygon St Walking Food Tour

Visit six of Melbourne’s best cafes, restaurants and delicatessens in the popular Lygon Street precinct. Snack on the Italian style meals, sweets and wines that fill the restaurants along Lygon Street. Sample delicious cheeses, dips, bread and other dishes, as you learn about how they’ve been prepared.