7 unmissable Queensland food and wine events in 2016

By Australia / Brisbane / Cairns / Gold Coast / Port Douglas / Queensland /

THE Sunshine State is not just beaches, babes and sunshine, you know, it’s also home to an endless supply of delicious local produce that’s been grown, caught, baked and served by “an array of clever clogs and inspired minds”, as the Tourism Queensland crew tell us and here are five suggestions by them for Queensland food and wine events to kill for in 2016

What: Ginger Flower & Food Festival

When: January 22-24

Where: Yandina
The Ginger Factory Yandina comes alive for the weekend-long Ginger Food & Flower Festival, surrounded by Australia’s largest and most ornamental gingers and heliconias, all under one roof. This year the festival celebrates its 20th birthday with a line-up of local kitchen maestros and gardening experts.

What: Feast of the Senses

When: March 12-20

Where: Innisfail
Discover North Queensland’s premier tropical food event that engages every one of your senses! Over 10 amazing days, this region’s abundance of exotic tropical fruits, produce, seafood and meats will be on show and include farm trails, art, and photography, cooking competitions and the piece de resistance – a market day extravaganza on 20 March – with Innisfail’s art deco architecture providing a fitting backdrop.

What: Gold Coast Italian Festival

When: March 26–27

Where: Gold Coast (various locations)
Savour the tastes, sights and sounds of Italy at the first annual Gold Coast Italian Festival. From fine food, Italian wines and family entertainment, the festival will celebrate all the best about the dolce vita culture. Street vendors will be slinging wood fired pizza, pasta and gelato.

What: Felton Food Festival

When: April 10

Where: Felton
For one day, Felton throws the spotlight on the delectable produce, stunning landscape and the people that make this region so vibrant. For a taste of real country living, families, farmers and food lovers are invited to mingle through markets, take a crop tour, meet a local farmer and learn more about the paddock to plate concept. Special guests this year include Matt Golinski, Alison Alexander and for the first time Wild Canary Head Chef, Glen Barratt.
What: Relish Fraser Coast

When: June 4

Where: Fraser Coast (Multiple Locations)
A feast of culture and cuisine is served! Immerse yourself in Maryborough’s heritage streetscapes and riverside parks for the Relish Fraser Coast and their jam-packed program of celebrity chefs, gourmet tastings, cooking workshops, live music and art. True foodies will have the chance to try Hervey Bay’s famous scallops, Fraser Island prawns and macadamia nuts all paired with wines from Queensland’s premier wineries.

What: Regional Flavours

When July 15-17

Where: South Brisbane
South Bank’s signature food and lifestyle event returns in 2016 with free entertainment, celeb chefs and industry experts as well as fresh produce from more than 80 Queensland providores. Within eight unique venues, the food lover in all of us can experience al fresco dining, expand our culinary knowledge and sample some of the state’s best artisanal food and wine. Gather a group and take advantage of the South Bank views to eat and enjoy a few of life’s simplest pleasures.
What: Hervey Bay Seafood Festival

When: August 14

Where: Hervey Bay
A festival to celebrate wild-caught seafood from the pristine waters of the Fraser Coast. Escape for a warm wintery weekend and tempt your tastebuds with an ultimate seafood menu at the festival’s signature Tastes of the Bay long lunch with Chef Andrew Mirosch. If that doesn’t take your fancy, navigate a DIY feast at the array of seafood stands serving the iconic Hervey Bay scallop, prawns and fish by local restaurants. Either way, no one is going home hungry!



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.





Top snorkeling spots in Australia

By Australia / Brisbane / Cairns / New South Wales / Perth / Port Douglas / Queensland / Sydney / Western Australia /

AUSTRALIA  has some of the best snorkeling spots in the world. If you’re heading to the Australian coast this summer, consider discovering the beauty of the underwater world with snorkeling. Join a guided tour or grab your snorkeling gear and swim through some of the most spectacular marine areas – anybody can do it.

Here are some of Australia’s best places to snorkel.

Ningaloo Reef, WA

Check out the whale sharks, manta rays, turtles and humpback whale at certain times of the year around this incredible section of the world. Some of Ningaloo’s hotspots are:

The Oyster Stacks. Five isolated islets which protrude from the reef and are covered with oysters. It’s also home to a variety of colourful fish. Best accessed during high or incoming tide.

Turquoise Bay. Absolutely stunning and is widely considered by many to be one of the area’s best snorkeling spots. Beginners who don’t want to deal with currents can simply step off the beautiful sandy beach of Turquoise Bay and swim right into the coral section.

Geographe Bay, WA

While Geographe Bay has many popular attractions, snorkeling off this pristine coastline in the state’s south-west is the number one experience for anybody visiting the region.

Busselton Jetty. The heritage listed Busselton Jetty is the longest timber-piled jetty in the Southern Hemisphere, extending 1.8 kilometres across the bay. Dive into the surrounding waters surrounding to discover the 300 different marine species living below the jetty.

See something different at Shelly Cove, located at the end of Bunker Point. It’s a wonderful place to snorkel, with limestone cliffs towering above and gorgeous pebbles and shells of all colours and patterns scattered across the seabed.

Great Barrier Reef (pictured)

The world’s longest coral reef system has inner reefs, which comprise of softer corals, and outer reefs, where you’ll find harder corals. It’s definitely worth visiting both if you’ve got the time. However, the GBR stretches for over 2,300 kilometres, so we’ve narrowed it down to the three best snorkeling spots for you.

Agincourt Reef: located on the very outer edge of the Great Barrier Reef. Because of its distance, fewer travellers visit. Here, unique reefs known as ‘ribbons’ run parallel to the continental shelf, offering vibrant coral gardens.

Lady Elliot Island, Southern Great Barrier Reef: the lagoon on the island’s eastern side is ideal for beginners, with an abundance of colourful coral and tropical fish, along with sea cucumbers, starfish, sea urchins and gorgeous turtles. More experienced snorkelers can head to the deeper western side, where you’ll encounter mantas, reef sharks and dolphins.

Orpheus Island: this world-class snorkel site is situated just north of Townsville. Researchers regularly study this gorgeous section of the reef because of it’s fantastic variety of marine life. There are thousands of damsel fish and hundreds of giant clams, which have been seen to squirt water at low tide!

Lord Howe Island, NSW

Situated at the crossroads of five major ocean currents, Lord Howe Island is renowned for its pristine waters. Some of the best snorkeling spots include:

North Bay: a secluded beach, accessible only by foot or water. In these waters explore the colourful fish and coral, and also the shipwreck of the Favourite, which has been lying on the ocean floor since 1965.

Erscott’s Hole: among the luscious coral garden, including Staghorn coral, you may spot the amazing Double Header Wrasse or the Blue Fish, which can change its body colour from dark green to sky blue within seconds.



A visit to Mossman Gorge – Daintree Rainforest

By Australia / Cairns / Port Douglas / Queensland /

SITTING on the edge of the World Heritage listed Daintree Rainforest, Mossman Gorge is part of the world’s oldest rainforest tracing its origins back over 130 million years and home to an extraordinary diversity of flora and fauna.

If you are visiting Far North Queensland take time out to spend a half-a-day visiting Mossman Gorge. Located just over an hour’s drive north of Cairns and 20 minutes from Port Douglas, Mossman Gorge is easy to reach with sealed roads and plenty of parking available at the Gorge Centre. DriveNow can help with car hire in Cairns and there are also rental locations in Port Douglas.

The Mossman Gorge Centre is staff and managed by the local indigenous Kuku Yalanji people and through its Art Gallery showcases artwork from artists based locally and from across northern Queensland. There’s a retail shop with gifts and souvenirs designed by the local community and the Mayi Cafe allows you to experience locally sourced bush ingredients with light snacks and full meals.

To help protect the Gorge environment travel from the Centre up to the Gorge (2kms) is via shuttle bus that runs every 15 minutes and the entry fee is $8.50 per adult, $4.25 for children (free under the age of 4) and family of 4 passes cost $21.25.

Explore the Gorge yourself or join a guided tour with Dreamtime Gorge and Legend Walks that give you the opportunity to discover more about the culture and traditions of the Kuku Yalanji people with an experienced local guide. Tours operate daily running for between 1.5 and 2.5 hours and can be booked at the Mossman Gorge Tour desk.

Useful things to take with you – if you are going to swim in the Mossman River – bathers and towel, hat and sunscreen, comfortable walking shoes – thongs may not be the go over the paths, insect repellent – although visiting in July we found this not a requirement, water bottle and light clothing (being in North Queensland this is likely a given!).

For further information visit the Mossman Gorge Website .

DriveNow Reservations Team






7 amazing things to do in Australia’s great outdoors before your croak it

By Melbourne / Northern Territory / Perth / Port Douglas / Queensland /

AUSTRALIA’S landscapes are so vast and diverse, with so much to offer travellers who love an unforgettable outdoor experience. Hit the road and explore the great outdoors (and underground!) with one of these exciting adventures.

1. Hang gliding in one of Queensland’s popular seaside towns

Where: Port Douglas, 67km north of Cairns

Hang gliding is probably the closest you’ll ever come to experiencing what it’s like to fly like a bird. Admire Port Douglas’ stunning beaches and blue waters from above, while enjoying the thrill of take off and landing.

2. Horse riding in the Snowy Mountains

Where: Bago State Forest, 240 km south west of Canberra

Explore a stunning landscape on horseback with Mountain Ash Trails’ half day and full day rides. Ride through the gorgeous Tumbarumba region and spot kangaroos, brumbies and kookaburras along the way.

3. Cave exploring in Gippsland

Where: Buchan, 355km east of Melbourne

Underground a wonderland of ancient caves awaits, formed nearly 400 million years ago as rivers cut through limestone rock. Guided tours take you to see some of the amazing limestone formations, including Fairy Cave’s decorative stalactites and stalagmites, and the Royal Caves calcite-rimmed pools.

4. Walk the Bay of Fires (pictured)

Where: 275km north east of Hobart

Famous for its white beaches, turquoise waters and large boulders dusted with orange, Tasmania’s Bay of Fires is a must see on every traveller’s list. Take your time to stop and admire the breathtaking views of this untouched wilderness at every opportunity, because you’ll never see anything like it again.

5. Canoe along the Coorong

Where: Coorong Wetlands, 85 km south west of Adelaide

Take in the natural beauty of the Murray River, Lakes and Coorong with a kayak trip through the Coorong Wetlands, one of South Australia’s ‘best kept secrets’. You’ll also learn about the area’s fascinating wildlife and its importance to Indigenous culture.

6. Snorkelling in crystal clear waters

Where: Shoalwater Islands Marine Park, 47 km south of Perth

This marine park’s beautiful limestone islands, shipwrecks, reefs and sea life provide for excellent snorkeling and diving. Swim near bottlenose dolphins, spot little penguins, sea lions and also seabirds, which are rarely seen on the mainland.

7. Camel trekking in the Red Centre

Where: Alice Springs, 1,500 km south of Darwin

Marvel at the unique beauty of the Red Centre with Pyndan Camel Tracks’ sunset camel ride. Trek along the intriguing Ilparpa Valley, looking out for some of Australia’s iconic animals such as dingoes and kangaroos. All against a backdrop of stunning mountain ranges.



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Away with the Family out of School Holidays periods

By Australia / Port Douglas / Queensland /

My family and I recently went to Port Douglas to relax before the mayhem of the festive season.  Taking kids out of school for a family holiday is a hot topic at the moment.  But as our eldest child was in Prep this year we thought a week away (armed with her writing journal and a few reader books), would actually enhance her education.

Now most people think that Far North Queensland is not the place to be in late spring, but let me tell you – the weather was perfect, we had the place to ourselves and we enjoyed the low (out of school holiday) season prices!

We actually booked our travel arrangements 3 months earlier and got great deals on flights, accommodation and car hire.  Car hire was booked via with Thrifty.

We started our journey from home at 5.00am and set off to catch our Jetstar flight from Melbourne to Cairns.  Having bundled Zac and Tasha  asleep into the car Toni and I made it in plenty of time for the flight.  Jetstar then proceeded to delay the flight by an hour (reasons unknown) but made up the time on the flight.  When we arrived into Cairns, we headed for the Thrifty Car Rental counter to collect our car.   Not only was the car ready with baby seat as prebooked, we were upgraded to an Outlander!

Cairns Airport is under renovations and it was a long walk from the arrivals area to the baggage hall and then back to the Cairns Airport Parking area, where our car was ready to go.

We jumped into the car and headed north to Port Douglas.  The drive up is a beauty and even the kids were impressed.  Beaches on one side, rainforest and mountains on the other.

port-douglas-beachWe were at our accommodation, the Sheraton Mirage Resort, in about 60 minutes, unpacked our bags for the next 8 nights and hit the pool.

As mentioned earlier, the weather was perfect, low 30’s every day.  Some rain at night, but nothing that adversely effected the holiday.

Port Douglas is a great spot to relax, walk or run on the beach, dine (recommend Salsa for the adults and Mango Jam for the kids), swim (pools only at this time of year as it is  jellyfish “stinger” season), or do all the sight seeing activities the region has to offer.

We did all of that, but mainly relaxed by the pool and ate and drank!

The highlights of the activities were :

Great Barrier Reef cruise with Quick Silver –  it’s a bit special to see your 6 year old daughter snorkelling and discovering something that may be dead in 20 years.  Natahsa loved it and it was hard to get her out of the water at the end of the day.  We even made Zac put a mask on and put his head in, just so he can say he has done it. He loved the semi submersible trip that took you right up close to the reef and fish – something we should all see before it disappears.

Daintree rainforest Far North QueenslandWalking in the Daintree Rainforest was beautiful, as was cruising on the Daintree river looking for crocodiles that were happy to be hiding in the river and not making themselves easy to find.

Kuranda markets and the Skyrail, just out of Cairns is another sample of the rainforest and a great way to spend the afternoon.

Golf at the Mirage Resort was lots of fun.  I must say the course is not up to its former glory as they have been affected by the GFC and a drought since May this year.  I hope they are able to recover on both fronts as the layout and location is superb!

After 9 days, it was sad to leave Port Douglas and head back to Cairns airport.  We dropped the rental car off at Cairns Airport, with a key drop conveniently located between the car park and terminal, headed to our flight, which was on time, and checked into “Hotel Reality” – home.


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Port Douglas – 1 Car Hire, 2 Bags, 2 Kids, 2 Parents and a Blissful Break

By Australia / Port Douglas / Queensland /

Weathermen were redundant for our week in Port Douglas. I mean, how difficult can it be to forecast blue skies and 30 degrees? Sheer and utter bliss. For that’s the only way to describe our week in September up North.

Departing a grey overcast Melbourne and with the obligatory (and brief) Sydney stop-over we arrived into Cairns to find the airport in a somewhat chaotic state with extensive renovations underway. To be fair looking at the impressive Qantas check-in area the chaos will be worth enduring.

We’d booked ahead through DriveNow (no surprise there!) and organised an Avis Corolla car rental at Cairns Airport which was perfect for 2 large bags, 2 excited children and 2 parents hoping to spend at least a little time relaxing in peace on the beach, book in hand. Glad to report that no one was disappointed.

Heading up the Captain Cook Highway we did ponder about taking the Karunda Skyrail – this unique Rainforest 7.5km Cableway takes you up from Caravonica over the McAlister Ranges to Karunda and is well worth a visit – however for us the kids had but one appointment in mind and that was poolside 80 minutes north!

Once past Palm Cove the road clings to the coast for 25kms as it winds up the Coral Sea. The scenery is simply stunning, palm-fringed beaches with the Cassowary Ranges as the perfect backdrop.

port-douglas-rendezvous-reef-resortWe had booked a 2 bedroom villa at the Rendezvous Reef Resort around 4 kms from the centre of Port Douglas.

It came with DVD player, Digital TV, Sound system with iPod port, in fact everything to keep the kids happy during any down time. Air-Conditioning in the living and bedrooms ensured a comfortable escape from the heat. Most importantly the kids had 3 pools to choose from!

The kitchen had all the essentials including dishwasher but one thing to note the cooker consisted of a 4 ringed hob and microwave but no grill or oven (I guess the thinking is who wants to use an oven on holiday and in such a warm climate). Perhaps other villas were configured differently.

For those without transport there’s a minibus shuttle into town every 15 minutes for around $4 a pop. For young families this had everything and was a great place to stay. If you have older teenagers who are looking to party then the resorts are probably not going to meet every expectation.

Other resort highlights included the reasonably priced, good quality restaurant with kids eating for free, BBQ facilities, complimentary Tennis and Pitch ‘n’ Putt. Staff were great, mostly UK, Irish and Canadian backpackers working their way round the best of Australia.

As for the beach. Well, nip across the road, take a 10 minute stroll through some of the world’s oldest tropical rainforest and emerge onto 4 mile beach. Endless sand and sea water that is actually warmer than the pools. I suppose if I was to describe a disappointment it would be that the waves churned the sand so the shallows were’nt crystal clear, but hey that’s being pretty picky, this is not a place to miss.

port-douglas-4-mile-beach-stinger-signAlthough September is towards the end of the dry season there was no need to worry about stingers despite the rather novel (for southern and overseas visitors) beach warning signs. Swimming in the sea in Far Northern Australia between November and May is a real no-no – box and the more recently discovered Irukandji Jellyfish (no bigger than your thumbnail) can cause lethal stings. And whilst we’re on dangerous animals, avoid swimming in estuaries where salt water crocodiles may be present. Don’t be put off by these animals, after all it’s their habitat that we have encroached on, the simple rule is ask and follow the advice of local authorities as to where and when it’s safe to swim.

Once we had stocked up at Coles we quickly settled into a routine – the kids spent the entire day(s) in the water up to their necks, mornings were dedicated to pool water, afternoons to sea and then it was back to the pool again for a last late afternoon dip. With 6 and 9 year old water-babies this holiday was never going to be pre-occupied by excursions – water activity around the resort & beach was the popular theme allowing everyone to relax, unwind and enjoy.

This routine quickly became the norm with a couple of minor exceptions – an excursion to the Rainforest Habitat Centre (all of 3kms up the Port Douglas Road back towards Captain Cook Highway) . This was fun – plenty of wildlife much of which you could reach out and touch and all set in a great environment.

Sunday is obligatory Market Day at the point off Wharf Street. Whilst much of the wares were of the ilk found at markets elsewhere, it’s not often you can buy a freshly picked (or should that be ‘dropped’) coconut and then watch the husks being chopped off, drink freshly squeezed cane juice (try it with lemon – heaven) or catch a glass of freshly cracked Pineapple juice. A Frenchman selling the most amazing bird whistles and 15 minute Portrait drawings by a Melbourne migrant were other stand-outs. However we quickly returned to the water!

port-douglas-rendezvous-pool Port Douglas caters for the widest range of budgets. Accommodation includes the luxury Coconut Grove, Peppers Bale, Sea Temple and Mirage Restorts through to Backpacker hotels. There’s plenty of mid-range accommodation as well. Eating out is equally diverse with pub grub, Italian and European Restaurants and we found several places offering early diners ‘kids eat free’ deals which proved to be hugely popular. On a practical level there’s 2 large supermarkets, Chemists, banks, Book stores, Internet Cafes, Post Office – in fact I’ll not go on here – you have everything you need – so don’t worry about packing the kitchen sink!

If you’re looking to hire a car in Port Douglas (use the Show All Locations option), Thrifty, Avis and Budget all have offices up here, Thrifty on Macrossan Street and the other 2 just around the corner in Warner St at the Wharf Street end. For those taking the Cairns Campervan rental option, Panadanus Holiday Park on Port Douglas Road in Port Douglas is 2 kms from the town centre and has pool, kitchen and powered site facilities. A quick scroll (10 mins max) across the road and through the rain-forest will see you emerge onto 4 mile beach.

It was our first visit that far north and we found everything needed for a great family break away from a rather wet and cold Melbourne. Certainly included in our plans for 2010 for a revisit during the winter months.