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Spend a weekend glamping at Olio Bello in Margaret River, where there are luxuries aplenty. Image: Tourism Western Australia.

Down the lazy river

Feeling frazzled by the grind of city life? Set your GPS due-south of Perth and in a few hours you’ll find the Margaret River region, where family-owned wineries, lakeside glamping spots and ocean-adjacent bush tracks made for meandering await.

Back to basics

Switch gears with a stay on a 320-acre organic olive farm – the perfect backdrop for a slow-paced break in nature. Home to six luxury safari-style bungalows, Olio Bello may be a working olive farm but this isn’t your average farm stay. The bungalows feature teak cabinetry, luxury linen, raised verandas and reverse cycle heating and cooling. An onsite tasting room and alfresco café means guests can fully appreciate the farm’s produce.

“It’s all about getting back to basics,” says Olio Bello director Dr Garry Garside. “There are not many places like this in the world, where award-winning olive oil, organic gourmet produce and beauty products are all coming directly from the same place you’re staying.”

Guests are treated to fresh bread and farm-made olive oil on their arrival at Olio Bello. Image: Jo Stewart.

Wine time

Windows Estate fans know they have to be quick to secure a drop of the latest vintage. Due to be certified organic in December 2019, the tiny, family-owned winery attracts a strong following of chardonnay and sauvignon blanc lovers, who recognise the value the small producer brings to the table.   

Run by local husband-and-wife team Chris and Jo Davies, the Yallingup property is rich in ironstone, quartz and clay, and will one day be handed down to the couple’s children, Violette and Lucas. The minimalist cellar door mirrors the couple’s approach to winemaking. 

“We’re not driven by market trends and don’t follow the crowd,” says Jo. “Instead … we forge our own path. I think there’s an honesty and openness with this that people appreciate. Being a small owner-operator, we’ve maintained a commitment to quality at all times. Our wines each tell a story of the year that was on our farm.”

Natural beauty

Olives make themselves useful in more ways than one in these parts. At Vasse Virgin, olive oil is the key ingredient within a range of cult skincare products born from humble origins. 

Years ago, local couple Louis and Edwina Scherini searched for natural products to relieve their children’s eczema. When they came up short, they made their own. Two decades later, the Vasse Virgin factory store is now found at the end of an unsealed, tree-lined driveway in Wilyabrup. Hosting hands-on workshops and masterclasses, the store’s premium soaps and balms are enduring favourites with locals and visitors alike.

Give your Mercedes-Benz a workout on Margaret River's winding bush roads and enjoy the sights along the way. Image: Jo Stewart. 

Make tracks

Named one of Australia’s best multi-day walks by Australian Geographic, the Cape to Cape Track combines two of Western Australia’s biggest drawcards: wildflowers and head-turning views of the deep blue sea. With so much to take in, this is a trail you’ll want to savour. Whether you tackle the whole track or simply scout out the highlights, blockbuster views are assured around every corner.  

Words Jo Stewart

* Mercedes-Benz Australia/Pacific Pty Ltd at all times promotes the responsible service and consumption of alcohol.

Jessica Sbaraglia established Terre de Monaco to improve urban agriculture in Monaco. Image: © Terre de Monaco.

Luxe and local in Monaco

Monaco is on track to be completely carbon neutral by 2050, with just a little bit of help from local producers.

From the southern side of Tour Odéon, a luxury apartment tower in Monte Carlo, the residents have multi-million-dollar views of oversized luxury yachts bobbing in the Mediterranean and a rocky coastline fringed with exclusive hotels. But to the north there’s another, more rustic view: a garden perched on a steep hillside that is home to 30 chickens, 10 beehives, fruit trees and around a dozen large, terraced vegetable plots.

Terre de Monaco founder Jessica Sbaraglia operates five working gardens throughout the city-state. As well as being sold to locals, you can find her heirloom produce in fine-dining restaurants including the Michelin-starred Blue Bay Restaurant at the Monte-Carlo Bay Hotel. “Last year I grew two and a half tonnes of food,” says Sbaraglia as she affectionately pets one of her favourite Silkie hens, “and my chickens ate three tonnes of scraps donated by three hotels and three bakeries.”

Image: Justine Costigan.

Reducing waste and eating local is one of the many ways the hospitality and tourism industry is getting behind Monaco’s ambition to become carbon neutral by 2050. The goal is supported by Prince Rainier II, whose eponymous foundation has already given more than 55 million euro in grants to sustainability- and environmental conservation-focused projects.

At the Société des Bains de Mer (SBM), the majority principality-owned hotel, casino and entertainment business and owner of the famous Hôtel de Paris and Hermitage hotels, making sustainability a priority has been a decade-long endeavour, with plenty more to do. “Our guests now expect it,” says purchasing manager Dimitri De Andolenko, who has overseen changes from energy use and supply chain to working with businesses such as Terre de Monaco and establishing the company’s own 40-hive-strong apiary.

Image: Visit Monaco. 

Frédéric Rouxeville, the co-founder of Perles de Monaco, has been shucking organically grown oysters finished in tubs fed with pristine seawater for 20 years. Located at the end of the Fort de Fontvieille pier, Perles de Monaco supplies more than 20 tonnes of oysters to restaurants throughout Monaco and to customers who love to sit at the pier’s rustic tables as they eat. It’s all about the flavour for Rouxeville, who keeps service simple. “Just a squeeze of lemon, or nothing at all,” he says.

Reducing waste was the key inspiration for entrepreneur Philip Culazzo, whose L’Orangerie is the first spirit and liqueur to be produced in Monaco. Keen to save the fruit from the region’s iconic orange trees from landfill, Culazzo brings the unwanted oranges to his small Monte Carlo distillery where it is zested, juiced and turned into a bittersweet liqueur and a grappa-style spirit to be sold by the bottle, and at bars and in restaurants throughout Monaco. “I wanted to make something useful,” says Culazzo, “and something that genuinely comes from here.” 

Words Justine Costigan

Likuliku Lagoon Resort is home to two cocktail bars, including Masima Bar on an island in the central lagoon. Image: © Mark Daffey.

Bask in the luxury of Fiji’s only over-water bures

Is that an octopus out in the open? I thought they always hid away among holes and cracks in reefs. And look at that! A lobster is crawling across the ocean floor. Any other time I’ve see one of those, they’ve been safely tucked away inside a crevice. This is how marine life should be observed – through a window in the floor of one’s room, floodlit at night, while wearing a dressing gown.

Likuliku Lagoon Resort’s 10 over-water bures were the first of their kind to be built in Fiji. Suspended above a coral reef teeming with tropical fish, shy crustaceans and elastic molluscs, they’re highly coveted by loved-up couples who like to dip their toes in the water without ever having to go far to do it.

The over-water bures sit in a stunning protected marine sanctuary. Image: © Mark Daffey. 

The floors in the lounge areas have glass sections for viewing the marine life swimming around in the waters beneath the bure. Cavernous bathtubs sit beside windows framing the bay. And ladders off each bure’s private balcony allow occupants to lower themselves into the water to swim or snorkel.

Guests in this luxurious, adults-only resort can also stay in one of three garden, 14 standard or 18 deluxe beachfront bures. Deluxe versions boast their own plunge pool and private sunbed, with authentically Fijian timber furnishings.

It was among the thick jungle foliage outside one of these bures that a Fijian crested iguana was spotted in 2010, years after the emerald-hued reptile was thought to be extinct. The resort has since led the way in preservation efforts designed to ensure the critically endangered lizard’s survival, leading to its accreditation as one of National Geographic’s Unique Lodges of the World.

Don't forget to snap a few photos from the walkway to Masima Island. Image: © Mark Daffey. 

Other activities on offer include cultural tours to neighbouring villages, which many staff members return home to at night. The snorkelling around the bay, a protected marine reserve, is as good as anywhere in the region. And complimentary kayaks, stand-up paddleboards, windsurfers and catamarans are available during daylight hours.

Away from the island, one excursion not to be missed is a sunrise trip to Mociu or Honeymoon Island, where hearty breakfast hampers complement 360-degrees vistas. There are fishing excursions and boat tours around the Mamanuca Islands.

Therapy sessions in the resort’s Tatadra Spa relax mind and body. And the delicious meals, sourced locally whenever possible and dished up by Executive Chef Shane Watson and his Fijiana Restaurant team, are truly mouth-watering. Even with octopus on the menu.

Words and images Mark Daffey. He visited Likuliku Lagoon Resort courtesy of Ahura Resorts.

Ovolo Nishi represents the future of Canberra's hotel scene, with its stylish, sustainable design aesthetic.

Stay a little longer in Canberra

Canberra is experiencing a renaissance of sorts. Well-known for its affiliation with politics, the city’s growing selection of great food, exceptional wine and world-class art is changing long-held perceptions.

Take the scenic three-and-a-half-hour drive from Sydney to spend a weekend exploring Australia’s most well-planned city.

Creatures of culture

I’ll wager you didn’t know that the building currently housing the National Film and Sound Archive (NFSA) was once the Australian Institute of Anatomy – and that visitors can book in to one of the monthly evening ghost tours to hear stories about what’s lurking in the basement. 

A visit during daylight hours will provide visual wonders straight from the set of Australian film The Dressmaker (until August 18). Jan Müller, the CEO of NFSA, says: “The Dressmaker exhibition features a spectacular range of 1950s and vintage haute couture costumes worn by the film’s stars – including Kate Winslet, Liam Hemsworth, Hugo Weaving, Sarah Snook, Judy Davis and Rebecca Gibney.” The costumes were designed by Marion Boyce – who assisted in the curation and design of the exhibition – and a selection of props from the set are on display, too.   

The Dressmaker exhibition is open every day from 10am to 4pm. 

A visit to the National Portrait Gallery between October 11 and November 24 will delight readers of Vogue Australia. Women In Vogue celebrates 60 years of the magazine in Australia and showcases magazine archives and iconic imagery.

Snuggle up at Ovolo Nishi

So much more than just a place to lay your head, Ovolo Nishi is offering a whole new way to stay. Weekly jetsetters looking for a place to crash between business engagements will enjoy the new Snug Sun rooms, which provide the essential elements of a hotel room with some extra flourishes thrown in for comfort. Most notable is the list of free inclusions, says Dave Baswal, the CFO of Ovolo Hotels Australia. “The stay includes free breakfast, Vino x Pinchos social happy hour, an in-room mini bar, a 24-hour gym, Wi-Fi and loot bags filled with snacks to make pinching toiletries a whole lot easier,” says Baswal. 

Ovolo Nishi's ultra-functional new Snug Sun rooms are perfect for short weekend stays and business trips. 

The striking building housing this edgy hotel has sustainability in mind. “The staircase was built with reclaimed timber from destroyed buildings including a basketball court, an old house and buildings from the Nishi site itself,” says Baswal. Beds are made from reclaimed oak, and the custom-designed clay-rendered walls regulate humidity and purify the air. 

Eat well and be merry

While staying at Ovolo Nishi in New Acton, try a few eateries within walking distance. Hardly a leg-stretch but well-worth the visit is Monster Kitchen and Bar, conveniently located in the lobby. Partake in a complimentary breakfast (when you’re a guest of the hotel) or a selection of flavoursome share plates designed by executive chef Daniel Flatt, in the comfort of the mosaic-studded dining room. Try the Feed the Monster set menu, which includes a chef’s selection of three small plates, four share plates and a shared dessert.

Breakfast at Morning Glory – also located in New Acton – can be accompanied by an early cocktail (perhaps a morning-groni or a yuzu-mosa). The Australian/South East Asian fusion is visible in the menu with matcha hotcakes topped off with yuzu, white chocolate and peanut brittle, the terung burger (a twist on the Malaysian dish made with eggplant) and the adzuki coconut shake.

Enjoy Monster Kitchen and Bar's Japanese and Middle Eastern-inspired menu. 

Picture this – a long drive through the countryside with a freshly packed picnic lunch waiting for you on arrival at Lake Burley Griffin. It’s easy to make this a reality with pop-up gourmet picnic company Schmicnics. Choose from a range of different picnic hampers that include fresh salads, proteins and drinks. You’ll also find picnic options for gluten-free and vegetarian diners and a range of party catering offerings.

For a tipple, head up the stairs to the first floor of the Melbourne building where you’ll find Bar Rochford – a contemporary wine and cocktail bar. No matter the weather, this minimalist bar will have you at “what are you drinking?”. The roaring fireplace provides winter solace while the arch windows are the perfect spot for people-watching. 

Words Georgia Lejeune 

* Mercedes-Benz Australia/Pacific Pty Ltd at all times promotes the responsible service and consumption of alcohol.

The best flamenco shows in Andalusia

Flamenco is passionate, fiery and cloaked in mystery.  With its soulful singing, virtuoso guitar riffs, riveting dance, and elaborate hand clapping, it soared to popularity in the late 18th and early 19th centuries in the southern Spanish state of Andalusia. It is an art form inextricably linked with Andalusia’s Roma population, who arrived in Spain from India, through the Middle East and North Africa. They sang and danced about their life struggles in sensuous laments that were also infused with early Spanish folklore. 

Seville produced some of Andalusia’s finest performers, who lived in the working-class district of Triana but often performed for wealthy patrons in the palaces and theatres of this gracious orange tree-lined city. With its signature look of polka-dotted frilly dresses and tight waistcoats, flamenco is still performed in Seville’s theatres, bars, cultural associations, and even on street corners. Now UNESCO has listed it as an expression of Intangible Cultural Heritage, and Seville remains at the forefront of this living art form, hosting the Flamenco Biennale every other year. The next one runs from September 4 to October 4, 2020.

Here are three places that offer some of the city’s finest performances.

Casa de la Memoria de Al-Andalus

Set in a small courtyard that once formed the stables of the Palace of the Countess of Lebrija, Casa de la Memoria (House of Andalusian Memories) offers two exceptional nightly performances of traditional flamenco guitar, singing and dance. There are also posters of flamenco art to admire, and exclusive arts and crafts from the Andalusian and Sephardic traditions.

Teatro Flamenco Triana

The Teatro Flamenco Triana is in a former private home decorated with Seville’s iconic tilework. The two-storey theatre showcases a revolving line-up of established performers as well as emerging artists who have studied at the prestigious flamenco school of the Cristina Heeren Foundation of Flamenco Art. After the show, head out for tapas at atmospheric nearby bars like Antiqua Albaceria, Casa Cuesta and Las Golondrinas.

Museo del Baile Flamenco

Created by former flamenco dancer Cristina Hoyos, the Museum of Flamenco Dance in Santa Cruz is a state-of-the-art museum with interactive exhibits involving music, video and costumes, photography and paintings showcasing the origins and evolution of flamenco. One-hour performances featuring young flamenco performers are held in the historic building’s stunning patio courtyard. You can also take introductory percussion and flamenco dance lessons. 

Reserve tickets to all these venues as shows sell out. You can also book a flamenco tour with Ivan through Corazon Tours. He offers fascinating insights into how flamenco evolved, explains each element of the music and dance, then takes you on a tapas crawl. 

Words Susan Gough Henly

Stay at Crystal Creek Rainforest Retreat to explore Tweed's incredible hinterland.

A twist in the Tweed

Forget the heavy, flecked cloth that first comes to mind when you think of tweed. Instead, get to know Tweed, a natural hideaway nestled between the Gold Coast and Byron Bay.

Thanks to its proximity to the Gold Coast Airport, a weekend is enough time to explore both the stunning coast and lush hinterland, especially for those who enjoy a drive. 

For total relaxation and immersion in nature, start at Crystal Creek Rainforest Retreat. It’s surrounded by Numinbah Nature Reserve, a World Heritage-listed national park, so your stay will be all about privacy, peace and beauty. There’s no need to dress for dinner, as gourmet meals will be delivered to your door. Only the retreat’s creek-side walking trails will tempt you to leave your lodge’s private plunge pool and the uninterrupted rainforest views. 

Once you’re refreshed for a day of exploration, start at Tweed Regional Gallery, where you will find a replica of Margaret Olley’s delightfully shambolic Sydney studio. Step out onto the balcony to enjoy a panoramic view of Wollumbin-Mount Warning, the core of a giant and ancient volcano. It is the heart – and, some say, soul – of the region.

Inside the Margaret Olley Art Centre at the Tweed Regional Gallery. Image: Ryan Fowler.

Stop at Mavis’s Kitchen, only a few kilometres from the mountain’s base, for lunch on the balcony of a magnificently restored Queenslander or to enjoy a pre-arranged picnic on the grounds.

Though you may be reluctant to turn your back on the hinterland, don’t skip a trip to the beach. The drive to Cabarita is ideal for a window-open, top-down journey through paperbark forest, complete with the possibility of a koala sighting.

Your destination is Halcyon House, right on the beach at Cabarita. A South of France-style renovation transformed this former brown-brick motel into a boutique hotel that was recognised as one of the best in the world on the 2019 Conde Nast Gold List.

Halycon House is the definition of beachside cool. Image: Ryan Fowler.

Guests only need to take a few steps to reach dinner. Paper Daisy, the co-located two-hatted restaurant, offers dishes such as salted kangaroo served with saltbush and macadamia. If you need some pampering, the spa’s menu of holistic treatments is equally luxurious.

Come morning, watch the sun rise from the water before exploring Tweed’s extensive and sparsely populated beaches. Choose from the nearby Cabarita headland or a river-side drive to Fingal Head’s ‘Giant’s Causeway’.

Bonus days will allow you to explore the region’s cute-as-a-button towns, or head inland for a scenic drive around the caldera’s rim; but even a two-day visit is enough to introduce you to the secrets of the Tweed.

Words Vivienne Pearson 

Drink, dine and play in Oaxaca City

With galleries and restaurants at every turn, you’ll quickly understand why Oaxaca is renowned for its visual and culinary arts.

As the home state of Mexico’s largest indigenous population, visitors will be inspired by how Oaxaca marries a culture of creativity with the preservation of land and heritage. The result is a city uncorrupted by shiny corporate buildings and fast-food chains. Instead the streets are lined with colourful terraces and gated courtyards with kaleidoscope tiles. A lot is hidden from view, so here’s a quick guide to get the most out of your visit.


Mexico is known for its tequila, but the pride and glory of Oaxaca is mezcal: a clear, smoky spirit that you sip like a whisky. Learn about this Oaxacan delicacy via a tasting at Mezcaloteca, where expert bartenders will guide you through the process of mezcal-making.

To rub shoulders with the hip and trendy, head to Sabina Sabe – a stylish but casual small bar with delicious share plates and creative cocktails.

Make a reservation to enjoy tapas and mezcal at Los Danzantes.


Oaxaca is not short of fine dining destinations that showcase the region’s best produce. Restaurant Los Danzantes offers its take on Oaxacan cuisine in a breathtaking, leafy courtyard, making the destination as fine as the fare. Try the Hierba Santa and grilled octopus. Other world-class venues include Casa OaxacaOrigen and the minimalist’s delight, Criollo.

During the day you can’t go past La Merced, a local market where restaurant stalls line a large, chaotic dining area. It’s the perfect spot for a bowl of chilaquiles (fried tortilla chips in salsa).  

Meanwhile, café and patisserie Boulenc will satisfy your carb and coffee cravings. Every dish is divine, but the venue’s take on avocado toast has worlds colliding. There’s usually a line for breakfast, so if you don’t have time to wait, grab some takeaway from the adjoining bakery. If a caffeine hit is what you seek, also try Muss Café and Caracol Púrpura.

The impressive Monte Albán ruins are worth a day trip – they sit just outside the city. 


Most activities in Oaxaca City are situated near the glorious Santo Domingo church. From here you can wander down the Alcalá street where you’ll pass Oaxaca’s Museum of Contemporary Art (MACO). While there’s no shortage of galleries, MACO offers a unique insight into the tensions of present day Mexico via exhibitions from local artists. To learn more about traditional land and culture, try the Oaxaca Textile Museum, or the ethnobotanical gardens for a lush escape.

There is also plenty to see just beyond the city limits. In 20 minutes, you can be at the Monte Albán pyramid ruins, a sacred site for the Zapotec people. If you’re feeling more adventurous, you can also drive to Hierve el Agua for a dip in the mountain-top infinity pools. Just start the day early to avoid crowds.   

Words Rebecca Mitchell

* Mercedes-Benz Australia/Pacific Pty Ltd at all times promotes the responsible service and consumption of alcohol. 

The Burleigh Pavilion is the trendiest new addition to the Coast. Image: The Burleigh Pavilion.

See the Gold Coast in a whole new light

Surely I’m lost? I’m looking for a parking spot in a street full of mechanic workshops. But when I pull into a space I hear music – a fast-paced jazz fusion a million miles from Aussie pub rock – and I see bright neon lights telling me I’m here: Miami Marketta. Inside this enormous, remodelled warehouse there’s another universe, though as I’m discovering, this is part of the Gold Coast’s new split personality. A band plays on a velvet-lined stage, and there are food trucks serving cuisine from all around the world beside the funkiest cocktail bar I’ve seen in Queensland.

Three suburbs south, it’s a similar picture in just as unlikely a location. At Dust Temple, a warehouse-turned-creative-space in Currumbin Waters, I order a coffee before settling in to watch a band perform in front of a local exhibition. Behind us, a rum distillery’s set to open soon, beside an artist offering modern art workshops. A few streets away, you’ll find one of Australia’s best craft beers (Balter) within a trendy new brewery that was once a radiator factory.

Enjoy an ice cold brew at Balter, beside a custom mural produced by local artists. Image: Trent Mitchell. 

And north of here – out the back of Surfers Paradise – Home of the Arts (HOTA) now houses Australia’s largest regional art gallery, plus live acts the calibre of Neil Finn in a 3000 square-metre amphitheatre.

If you thought the Gold Coast was just about theme parks and surfing, it’s time you paid another visit. Its cultural offerings are now as important as Sea World ever was … and then there’s the food.

A fancy meal here used to be schnitzel with fries at a surf club. Now the Coast is home to some of Queensland’s most innovative new restaurants, with Burleigh Heads, and Rick Shores in particular, leading the way. Rated the number one restaurant in Queensland by Delicious, it’s so close to the sea the floor is concrete to allow for king high tides. There’s an effortless chic about the place, without pretence (waiters wear trainers and shorts). Next door, the owners of Manly Wharf have just spent $10 million on the Coast’s first beach club, Burleigh Pavilion, with a menu chosen by Sydney chef Guillaume Zika.

Iku Yakitori Bar is known for its charcoal-grilled meats... and extensive collection of whisky. Image: Iku Yakitori Bar.

I’m as taken by the restaurants I have to search for. After wandering a labyrinth of bars and restaurants I stumble upon Iku Yakitori Bar, though it’s so self-effacing I walk past it three times before I discover the entrance in a laneway out back. Japanese chefs cook over hot binchotan charcoal, transporting me to old Tokyo. And just south, be sure to book ahead for The Collective at Palm Beach. There are five separate kitchens inside its two-storey open-air restaurant, and it’s now the southern Gold Coast’s hippest eatery.

Craig Tansley travelled courtesy of Destination Gold Coast.

* Mercedes-Benz Australia/Pacific Pty Ltd at all times promotes the responsible service and consumption of alcohol. 

Enjoy luxury accommodation at Mount Lofty House, an elegant historical manor.

Revel in a weekend trip to the Adelaide Hills

Long left in the shadow of its neighbouring wine regions, the Adelaide Hills may not have the international fame of McLaren Vale or the Barossa Valley, but that shouldn’t stop you from exploring this charming part of South Australia. Located on the doorstep of the state’s capital, the Adelaide Hills offer a fuss-free weekend away.

Our choice of accommodation is Mount Lofty House, an 1850s manor nestled among the vines. Despite a rebuild after the Ash Wednesday fires in 1983, the estate is a wonderful blend of historic charm combined with luxury amenities – think soft linens, decadent spa treatments and a three-hatted, award-winning on-site restaurant. 

Hardy’s Verandah Restaurant, a relatively new addition to the hotel, is headed by executive chef Jin Choi, alongside master barman Simone Petronici. Treat yourself to either the ‘Short Story’ or ‘Long Story’ degustation – both showcase an eclectic mix of high-end fine-dining (think sea urchin wrapped lovingly in wilted kale) and tasty nibbles, including fried garlic chips and fresh wasabi. With tables wisely placed window-side, the experience is completed with panoramic views of the Basket Ranges and nearby Uraidla.

While away an afternoon at Hardy's Verandah Restaurant, where sommeliers will match local wines to your meal.   

Of course, the best way to experience the Adelaide Hills is to explore any number of wineries scattered around the region. Though geographically near to the Barossa Valley, the high altitude of the region allows for a significantly cooler and wetter climate, making it perfect for chardonnay, pinot noir – and, significantly, sauvignon blanc. Even if you’re not usually a sauvignon blanc fan, the varieties on offer are quite different to their New Zealand cousins, and well worth a taste or two.

During your stay at Mount Lofty House, it's worth dropping into Arthur's Wine Cellar for its award-winning wine list.

The best way to decide on a winery is to determine what kind of experience you’re after. For a smaller boutique winery, try Deviation Road, run by husband and wife Hamish and Kate Laurie, the latter of whom trained at the renowned Lycee Viticole d'Avize school in Champagne – unsurprisingly, they have an award-winning sparkling wine on offer. For something more commercial, try The Lane Vineyard. Wine tastings are available for a small cost at the cellar door, while the award-winning restaurant perched above the vineyard makes for a glorious location to spend an afternoon.

Looking for something other than wine in the area? Venture to Uraidla, a sleepy town that has a number of excellent restaurants, despite the resident population hovering at just over 460. Drop into Lost in a Forest for a whimsical take on your standard pizza and wine combo, with décor resembling something out of a Brothers Grimm fairytale. While you’ll have the option of trying any number of natural wines, including some from the Adelaide Hills region, you can take ‘local wine’ one step further and sample owner Taras Ochota’s personally grown and bottled wines.

For something a bit more typical, visit the Uraidla Hotel, a delightfully low-key venue located just across the road. The menu is packed with crowd favourites updated with an artisanal twist. Combine this with a sprawling garden and verandah, and it’s the quintessential place to spend a balmy night.

Words Hannah Louey

* Mercedes-Benz Australia/Pacific Pty Ltd at all times promotes the responsible service and consumption of alcohol.

Game drives are just one of the activities on offer at Bumi Hills Safari Lodge.

Lions, ‘tigers’ and infinity pools

There’s an elephant and her calf on the runway delaying our landing, and baboons have temporarily broken the wi-fi – these are things I discover on arrival at Bumi Hills Safari Lodge. This may well be one of Zimbabwe’s most iconic safari lodges – and one of its most luxurious since African Bush Camps bought and reopened the property two years ago with a multi-million-dollar refurbishment – but wild animals still run the show.

You won’t find a better view of Lake Kariba (the world’s largest man-made lake which runs for almost 250 kilometres) than here on the property’s deck, where I dine looking out on elephants and hippos basking on the lake’s sandy foreshore, but the vervet monkeys hiding in the bush beside us are clearly in charge; when I’m not looking, they nibble on my canapes and share my table.

The bar and restaurant look across Lake Kariba.

And as we dined under the stars – communal dining is preferred here – lions roared below us as they staked out a kill. Next morning, guide Steve Chinhoi entices me out of a 4WD, to walk across the plains looking for the lions. “I will be in front loaded,” he says, motioning at his rifle. We don’t find the lions, but there are many wild creatures here in the private reserve, bordered by the Matusadona National Park in the Zambezi Valley.

What sets Bumi Hills Safari Lodge apart from other lodges in southern Africa is the sheer variety of activities on hand, all centred around one of Zimbabwe’s most luxurious lodges. Here, guests lounge by an infinity pool overlooking the lake, and sleep in lakeview rooms and premium suites built along the side of the hill, all furnished in modern greys, browns and calicos with wood carvings and sepia wildlife photos on the walls.

And because the lake is barely five minutes’ drive from our lodge, not only may I walk with lions and go on game drives, I can board a boat at sunset, sipping Champagne as hippos bellow around me, and fish for Africa’s most prized fighting fish, the mighty tiger. 

What to know

Fly from Perth to Johannesburg and Victoria Falls with South African Airlines, then fly direct to Bumi Hills with Safari Logistics. All arrangements can be organised by bespoke African safari specialists, The Classic Safari Company.

Get a Zimbabwe tourist visa on arrival at Victoria Falls for US$40.

Parts of Zimbabwe are malaria areas, though it hasn’t been prevalent in the Bumi Hills region for some time. Ensure all vaccinations are up-to-date. There’s no need for a yellow fever vaccination.

Words Craig Tansley. He travelled courtesy of The Classic Safari Company and African Bush Camps.

Gearing up for Tokyo 2020

A spate of gleaming new hotels, commercial centres and sports venues have caused the always-evolving Tokyo skyline to grow even faster ahead of the 2020 Olympic Games.

Tokyo has long been a city that seems just a few steps ahead of the rest of the world. When you take those first few steps off the Shinkansen in Tokyo Station, surrounded by what seems like the population of an entire city efficiently streaming around you, it’s as if you’ve stepped into the world as it will be, someday, in some far-off time, when order and manners prevail. It is a city where traditional and of-the-moment are seamlessly integrated into the fabric of daily urban life.

The arrival of the Summer Olympics in any city instantly transforms the landscape, if only due to the sudden influx of athletes and attendees. Approximately 920,000 daily visitors are expected to attend in 2020, and this will surely add a novel dimension to the city for the duration of the events.

The architectural centrepiece of the Games is Tokyo’s National Stadium, currently undergoing a massive renovation by the architect Kengo Kuma. Additional buildings being erected around town in preparation for the big event include the Musashino Forest Sport Plaza, where badminton and fencing will take place, as well as Tokyo Bay’s Tokyo Aquatics Centre.  

The Ritz Carlton is just one of the hotels that will welcome hundreds of guests during the Olympic Games. 

Accommodation in Tokyo is richly varied, with hotels that cater to every budget level. For luxury accommodation there is no better choice than The Ritz Carlton, located in Tokyo’s tallest building and part of the towering Tokyo Midtown complex in Rappongi. 

Additionally, the Shangri-La Hotel, just across from the Imperial Palace and Aman’s first Tokyo property, is sure to satisfy even the most jaded of travellers.

For those seeking more intimate and affordable places to stay, both the Citan Hostel in Bakurocho and Trunk Hotel in Shibuya offer the distinctly Japanese attention to service and detail, with locations closer to the ground and minimalist in design.  

Equal to the value placed on hard work, Japanese culture elevates relaxation and offers opportunities to do so that shouldn’t be missed. A number of popular weekend getaways where people can relax in nature are just a bullet train ride away. Among these country respites is the mountain resort village of Karuizawa, located just an hour’s ride out of the city on the Shinkansen. Though several lodging options await, the extraordinary Hoshinoya Karuizawa is a village-like resort hotel that skirts the line between traditional Ryokan and contemporary hotel. Nestled on verdant sloping hills with rooms built around an inviting pond, guests enjoy traditional Japanese mountain cuisine, served in the Kaiseki style, and hot springs baths – onsen – that are otherworldly. Not to be missed.     

Words Jake Townsend

Taste your way around Paris

You don’t have to be a committed foodie to appreciate the countless drool-worthy displays of patisseries, gâteaux, macarons, chocolates, cheeses and other gourmet specialties in the shop windows of Paris. They are mouth-watering like no other, but where to start?

Le Food Trip is a novel concept devised by a small team of passionate locals who have selected 25 of the city’s best food stores and specialist artisans to provide a self-guided tour, complete with tasting coupons and maps of where to find them. 

Ordering online, you can choose either six (35 euros) or 12 (45 euros) tasting coupons and then pick up Le Food Passport from a designated participating store. The passport comprises a large fold-out map of Paris marking the five food precincts where the stores are located and smaller, more detailed maps showing the specific addresses with relevant Metro stations. There is a short background story about each shop and a description of the products offered for tasting, plus opening hours – which are worth checking before setting off. (There is also an app you can download to help find the tasting locations.)

Being a Francophile and a foodie, I was quick to pick up a passport with 12 coupons before setting off to discover not only new taste sensations but new neighbourhoods as well.

Delicacies and delights

I was familiar with the precincts of Le Marais, Montorgueil and Saint-Germain-des-Pres where I was staying, but did not know Champ-de-Mars at all.

So I take the Metro to École Militaire with the first stop, Épicerie Fine Rive Gauche, where co-owner Nathalie Mievre shows me around her Aladdin’s cave of 2000 French regional products. I hand her a Le Trip coupon and she presents me with a box of salted butter caramels from Brittany. How decadently divine.

My next treat is a mini merveilleux at Aux Merveilleux de Fred. I’d never heard of these melt-in-the-mouth meringues before. Originally from Lille, two meringues are held together with whipped cream and covered with chocolate shavings.

Calissons at Le Petit Duc.

Next on my map is Le Petit Duc, which specialises in calissons, my favourite French sweet treat from Aix-en-Provence. Traditionally made from marzipan, they also produce other flavours such as pistachio, lavender, ginger, orange, rose and saffron. Who’d have thought you would find them here, in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower?

Nearby down a side street is Maison Dubernet, one of the oldest foie gras houses in Paris. Owner Muriel Barouti offers me a generous taste of the most famous of French gastronomic treats, which she prepares with some 14 different spices.

Fortunately, I had checked the opening hours at Les Petits Domaines and make it just in time to sample a few small-batch rosé wines before they closed for lunch. Owner Isabel is a most knowledgeable wine merchant specialising in small winegrowers who respect traditional savour-faire.

Rediscovering the classics

Over the next few days, I was to savour a violet-flavoured macaron at Monsieur Benjamin, a smoked salmon-topped canelé at Aux Deux Canelésplus a pastel de nata or egg tart at Nata Republic in Le Marais; an exemplary madeleine at Épicerie Claus and a whopping black sesame cookie from Jean Hwang Carrant in Montorgueil. 

And in Saint-Germain-des-Près, tastings of summer and winter beaufort cheese at La Coop(you can tell the difference), and a fabulously fine waffle from the house of Meert – one of the oldest waffle houses in France, the sweet treat reputedly being former French President Charles de Gaulle’s favourite pastry; and the perfect breakfast roesti, popular in the Alsace region of France, from Épicerie Claus,which set me up for the day ahead. 

Next time, I’m heading for Montmartre to check out award-winning chocolate, buttery Breton biscuits, indulgent duck paté and the most popular of French cheeses, comté – some are matured in the cave of an old French castle. I can’t wait.

Words Tricia Welsh

On the wild side

Walking up the wide stone steps to the pavilion-style main lodge of Thala Beach Nature Reserve, I’m struck by how the open-sided burnished timber and stone building looks as though it has sprung from the earth. All around the striking lodge is thick forest, rainbow lorikeets flit between the nearby trees, while metallic starlings swirl around the edges of the building, the sunlight illuminating their iridescent purple and green feathers.

A private oasis

Thala (pronounced Tah-la) is a deluxe eco retreat sitting atop a private, forested beachfront headland 15 minutes south of Port Douglas in Tropical North Queensland. The 58-hectare property was originally a sugarcane farm but in the early 1970s owners Rob and Oonagh Prettejohn planted thousands of indigenous plants to return the land to its natural state.

The retreat's enviable location in the heart of the rainforest.

It’s now a pristine sanctuary for nature-loving guests, who are accommodated in one of the 83 spacious tree house-style bungalows with immersive views over the mountains, forest or ocean. This year the property celebrates 20 years as one of Australia's ecotourism leaders, and National Geographic recently invited Thala to join its ‘Unique Lodges of the World’ program. It is one of only five Australian properties to meet the stringent criteria, which ensures a strong commitment to sustainable practices and protecting natural and cultural heritage. 

Nature up close

The reserve has six different habitats including a mangrove forest, dry eucalypt woodland and a rare vine rainforest, which attract hundreds of bird and butterfly species, as well as bandicoots, possums, wallabies and monitor lizards. Snubfin dolphins, dugongs and sea turtles are also regularly spotted offshore.

I spend a couple of hours enthralled by Brett Kelly, the gardens manager and head guide, who shares his encyclopaedic knowledge about the reserve’s plants, birds and wildlife. It’s one of many nature-based activities offered at Thala. Brave guests even try licking a green ant’s bottom. “It’s got a real zing, like lemon sherbet,” says Kelly. “It’s a traditional bushfood that we incorporate onto the menu here at Thala.”

Osprey's, the in-house restaurant, looks out over the incredible scenery.

Call me timid, but I’m happy to stick to the modern Australian offerings on the menu at Osprey’s, the resort’s restaurant where you dine among the forest canopy, with breathtaking views of the Coral Sea and surrounding mountains.

If you’ve ever wanted to feel at one with nature but still have modern luxuries at your fingertips, Thala is the place. And as for the name? “Thala is a local Aboriginal word for the white-bellied sea eagle,” says owner Rob Prettejohn. “I adopted the name because it’s a bird that epitomises the feeling of wild and free spaces, which is exactly what Thala is all about.” 

Words Lindy Alexander

From kitsch to cosmopolitan: How Honolulu became hip

With its high rises, swarming beaches and a glut of tired hotels, Hawaii’s capital has long been little more than a stopover for those seeking a peaceful, high-end holiday in the Aloha State. But a new wave has hit Honolulu’s shores, leaving a trail of modern, minimalist design and inspired dining options in its wake.     

Leading the pack in Waikiki is Alohilani Resort. Formerly known as the Pacific Beach Hotel, the beachfront building has been a local landmark since the late ’60s and came to bear all the hallmarks of Hawaiiana fustiness – busy carpets, dark wood accents, bamboo furniture, furnishings covered in floral motifs. Today, Alohilani Resort’s pared-down look – some US$115 million and 18 months of refurbishment later – is a world away.

Open since December 2017, the 38-storey property is the picture of fresh design and clean lines. The New York-based architecture and design firm tasked with the redesign – the Rockwell Group – was bold enough to let the the hotel’s views do the talking. West-facing rooms hero Waikiki Beach and the bright lights of the cityscape; east-facing rooms chiefly frame the crumpled, verdant ridgeline of extinct volcano Diamond Head; and south-facing rooms look squarely at the ocean, just a few strides beyond the hotel’s doorstep. Each and every room features lanais (balconies), textured white bed linens, blonde wood furnishings and filtered prints of Hawaii’s coastline, while bathrooms boast organic and all-natural toiletries from local outfit Malie.

The Rockwell Group’s other showpiece is the expansive, fifth-floor infinity pool deck. By day it hosts yoga sessions on a secluded patch of astroturf and features guests reclining on semi-submerged sun loungers, or idling in the sunshine by the bar. By night local musicians play acoustic sets while the fire pits glow, illuminating driftwood sculptures and the rooftop’s swaying palm trees.

Also enlisted in the redesign of this Honolulu stalwart was contemporary American sculpture artist Nina Helms. She created a bespoke, 11-metre-wide, six-metre-high, coral-inspired bas-relief sculpture, known as Makai, meaning ‘ocean’. The delicate installation creeps up the wall behind Alohilani’s front desk like white oceanic ivy. “I like to play with shapes and relative sizes in nature that we commonly see, but change it up so that the viewer experiences a sense of delight and freshness,” says Helms of her work. “It’s a feeling not dissimilar to the wonder of seeing things for the first time as small children.”

Masaharu Morimoto. 

Design aside, the five-star hotel has garnered column inches more recently for its two restaurant openings. Spearheaded by Japanese celebrity chef Masaharu Morimoto, Alohilani Resort is home to fine dining Morimoto Asia Waikiki, and the more casual izakaya-style eatery Momosan Waikiki by Morimoto. At the former our waiter – a certified sake sommelier – takes us through a flight of the Japanese rice wine, highlighting which drops are aromatic or nutty and comparing them to their wine equivalent. Here, an old fashioned is smoked tableside, tuna carpaccio (so fresh it looks practically purple) collides with anchovy aioli aboard a crisp tortilla ‘plate’, and finely marbled A5-grade wagyu beef is cooked by ishiyaki – a piping hot grilling stone that’s oiled with a morsel of fat at your table. Sister restaurant Momosan serves some equally playful options beyond its staples of ramen, gyoza and yakitori – think peking duck tacos and crunchy servings of pig’s ear.

Japanese hot stone cooking or "ishiyaki" at Morimoto Asia Waikiki. 

Morimoto says local chefs have been raising the bar of the capital’s food scene exponentially in recent years. “I think the dining in Honolulu is really growing and we can see that with the level of sophisticated guests that we get in our two restaurants here,” he explains. “They have a good understanding of not only what tastes good, but also ask where the food comes from and want to know about the origins of the dishes. It’s an exciting time here for food.”

Words Chloe Cann
Images Evan Sung Photography

The kitchen that feeds 100,000 people a day

The Golden Temple is Amritsar in north-west India’s most well-known attraction but it’s not only a holy pilgrimage site for Sikhs, it’s also home to a huge community kitchen, which serves up meals every day of the year. 

The world’s largest soup kitchen is in full flight by the time my bare feet hit the cool marble floor. Pausing momentarily to get my bearings, I’m jostled towards the community kitchen at Amritsar’s Golden Temple, which is known as the ‘langar’,

Behind me a steady line of Sikh devotees surge forward clutching a steel tray, drinking bowl and spoon. Toddlers grasp the hands of mothers clad in rainbow-hued, elaborately embroidered Punjabi suits. Grey-bearded, turbaned men shuffle forward, some in jeans and shirt, others wearing traditional salwars in subdued pastels. Caught up in the pulsing wave, I’m carried by the crowd before squeezing through an inadequately sized doorway.

The 5,000 capacity dining hall, which will dish up more than 100,000 vegetarian meals before the day ends, is devoid of furniture. Instead, the floor is laid with woven mats running the width of the cavernous space, delineating seating areas from serving corridors.

Volunteers swinging stainless steel buckets filled with dahl, steamed rice and a sweet rice pudding called kheer ladle generous servings onto our trays. Another follows dispensing chapatis like errant frisbees. A cheeky adolescent boy manning a wheeled water trolley pours drinking water into my bowl by pressing and releasing a mechanism adapted from a bicycle handbrake.

My guide, Davinder Singh, explains how sharing is an integral part of the Sikh faith. “Sikhism is based on humanism,” he says. “All the food here is donated. If we can’t donate food we will donate 10 per cent of our income. If we can’t donate money we share our time by volunteering – around three hours is considered a worthy contribution.”

The langar is orderly yet chaotic in the way that only India can be: noisy, yet oddly subdued. As a sign of respect, every head is covered. It is a hive of efficiency. As diners finish their meals, they move outside swiftly, handing empty plates to be washed by hundreds of volunteers up to their elbows in soapy suds. Young men surge behind us wielding water-logged rubber squeegees, cleaning the floor for the next intake of devotees.

And so it goes for 24 hours a day, 365 days of the year.

Reflecting the Sikh faith’s ethos of giving and sharing, this langar has been serving free meals since the 1570s, encouraging all castes to eat together before visiting the Guru of the Golden Temple, the holiest of Sikh shrines.

Surrounded by a man-made lake filled with holy water, the Golden Temple has been rebuilt countless times since the first marble was laid in the late 1500s. Each evening the Sikh holy book, known as the Guru Granth Sahib, is ceremoniously closed and carried from the sacred shrine on a floral-decorated pillow-bed to its nightly resting place accompanied by high-ranking, chanting devotees.  At dawn, as thousands of pilgrims line up to pay respect to the Guru, the ceremony is reversed. But not before they’ve feasted on dahl, rice and chappatis at the world’s largest community kitchen.

Words Fiona Harper

Hotel barge Panache moored at Damery on the River Marne.

Barging through Champagne

With vineyards sweeping down undulating hillsides on both sides of the River Marne and postcard pretty villages en route whose entire raison d’etre is the tasting, selling and marketing of the prestigious sparkling wine, a river cruise through the celebrated Champagne region is a little akin to taking an indulgent bath in the actual bubbles themselves.

I join European Waterways’ luxury hotel barge Panache on a leisurely adventure between Châlons-en-Champagne on the Canal Lateral à la Marne and Château-Thierry on the River Marne itself. Covering a distance of just 90kms through the heart of the wine-rich region, it might take an hour by car – but that’s not the point when barging. You want it to take as long as possible – in our case, a whole week.

After a champagne welcome on deck, we meet our six-man crew and four other passengers – two New Zealanders and two Americans. Our cabin is well designed although compact, and is most comfortable as either a twin or double. In the morning, we slip the mooring ropes and are on our way through the first of many locks to pretty Tours-sur-Marne where evergreen trees line waterways and birdsong fills the air.

After lunch, we continue on to nearby Reims, to visit the magnificent 11–12th century Gothic cathedral, considered one of the most important in France, where all except two French kings were crowned.

Next day, we visit the esteemed hilltop village of Hautvillers, the ‘cradle of Champagne’, where Benedictine monk Dom Pérignon is credited with discovering the ‘methode champenoise’ in the mid 17th century. We visit the Abbey of Hautvillers where he is buried and wander the pretty rose-bedecked village before settling down to a private tasting of champagne with local cheese.

Food on board Panache is outstanding. As well as fresh fruit juices, fruit salad, cereals and pastries for breakfast, there is always a hot dish such as scrambled eggs with smoked salmon, filled omelets or American pancakes. For lunch, it might be moules marinières, chili garlic prawns or hot chicken, mushroom, bacon and parmesan salad.

There’s an open bar with premium wine suggestions for each meal. Dinners are three-course – perhaps smoked mackerel and horseradish paté followed by herb-crusted rack of lamb, with a classic tarte Tatin – followed by a mouth-watering cheese selection.

As it’s an unusually warm summer, we opt for early morning walks, then relaxing in the comfortable air-conditioned lounge to watch the passing scenery through wide picture windows – occasionally going up on deck to watch our progression through the series of locks along the Marne.

Daily excursions tick all the boxes of ‘things to do’ in Champagne from village rambles and champagne tastings to visiting World War I battlefields and memorials, and discovering the extensive underground labyrinth of champagne maturation caves. We learn there are 110kms of caves under the streets of Epernay – more than there are above ground in the town itself.

And in a region where food and wine is king, it seems a natural inclusion to dine in one of the region’s myriad Michelin-star restaurants. At the red-carpet Hostellerie La Briqueterie, in the village of Vinay, we dine on foie gras followed by main courses of either pan-fried turbot or pigeon stuffed with dates – all presented with great pomp and ceremony from under silver-domed cloches. It’s a delightful addition to our luxury barge experience; one we feel we could all get used to. Very easily.

Words Tricia Welsh

Take in the rugged Irish countryside on the Westport to Clifden road. Image: Mateusz Delegacz.

A drive on the wild side

Every turn and twist of the road kicks up one of nature’s surprises, which is exactly why Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way should be a slow and leisurely experience.

While the distances look tiny on a map, Ireland’s spectacular coastal driving route – among Lonely Planet’s best epic drives in the world – stretches for 2500km. But for those looking for a weekend trip, exploring the highlights of Sligo, Galway and Clare can be comfortably undertaken over two days.

Start in Sligo town (day 1) where a statue of the poet, William Butler Yeats, proudly stands on Stephen Street. A 30-minute drive away is tiny Drumcliffe, where his grave is marked with the famous lines: “Cast a cold Eye/ On Life, on Death/ Horseman pass by.”

Swing back to the coast where the soft green fields run into the Atlantic and stop at Strandhill, a popular surfing beach – you’ll need your bodysuit, even in summer. The Voya seaweed baths are great for relaxing. Sink into a warm bath filled with organic seaweed, which is harvested by hand nearby.

Shells café next door makes a decent café latte and fresh house-made salads. Or try the cosy Venue pub, especially good for seafood. The front bar has top-class Guinness and regular traditional Irish music seisiuns. Further on is Enniscrone beach and stay the night in Ballina at the Ice House Hotel.

Stop over in Galway to appreciate its postcard beauty. Image: Conor Luddy.

Next morning (day 2) take the one-hour inland route to the heritage town of Westport. The Westport to Clifden coastal road is spectacular, passing the holy mountain of Croagh Patrick, Ireland’s only fjord at Killary harbour and the Sky Road with mesmerising ocean views. From Clifden, drive inland to Galway, Ireland’s fourth-biggest city, where the streets are packed with revellers and dancers on summer nights. The Harbour Hotel, on the waterfront, is very central.

The Burren, a rocky limestone geopark dotted with ancient monuments, is one of the most haunting parts of Clare (day 3). Visit Kinvara’s Secret Garden Gallery, which features local artists’ work. Further on, break for lunch at Monk’s at the Pier pub, overlooking the sea at Ballyvaughan. Just after Doolin are the Cliffs of Moher, one of Ireland’s most dramatic sights, huge dark cliffs that rise up out of the Atlantic. On a clear day you can see the Aran islands but straight ahead there’s nothing between you and the US except the wild ocean. Finish the day in Limerick and stay at the cosy boutique hotel No.1 Pery Square.

Don’t hurry, be happy and remember it’s all about the journey not the destination. As the Irish are so fond of saying, “May the road rise with you”.

Words Mary O’Brien

Rosalind Park, in the heart of the city. Image: Bendigo Tourism.

Escape to Bendigo this autumn

There’s something undeniably charming about Bendigo. The central Victorian town contains many vestiges of its mining past – beautiful heritage buildings adorn the main streets – but there is an emerging modernity as well.

Thanks to the Bendigo Art Gallery, the city has a well-earned reputation as an arts and culture destination, while a growing number of cafés and restaurants showcase the region’s quality food and wine.

Drive the mere two hours north from Melbourne to spend a weekend discovering this flourishing city.

Indulge your passion for fashion (and culture)

Start your visit at the Bendigo Art Gallery, where the Marimekko exhibition is in full swing. The show explores the Finnish fashion and textile brand through the decades, from its establishment in 1951. It’s fascinating to see photographs, prints and outfits in the brand’s bold and colourful style, including dresses from Jacqueline Kennedy’s wardrobe. Afterwards, duck into the Marimekko pop-up store across the street, where you’ll find it hard to resist a few ‘souvenir’ purchases. The exhibition runs until 11 June, although with its vast permanent collection, the gallery is a must-visit all year around.

The Bendigo Art Gallery, decorated with one of Marimekko's most iconic patterns – Unikko, the rebel flower.

From there, wander to the Gallery Café for brunch. The distinctive glasshouse structure is a work of art itself – it was designed by Fender Katsalidis Architects, the firm behind the Eureka Tower in Melbourne. Enjoy views of Rosalind Park, Bendigo’s sprawling central gardens that burst with colour during autumn.

Once your food has settled, climb to the top of the Poppet Head, an unusual leftover mining relic that dates back to 1931. From the top of this lookout tower, take in breathtaking views of the entire city.

Wine, dine and relax

Bendigo is home to several award-winning wineries, though the oldest and most popular is Balgownie Estate. Sample both Bendigo and Yarra Valley wines at the cellar door (the Black Label Shiraz is divine), before relaxing in the restaurant courtyard overlooking the vineyard. The menu includes wagyu beef and lamb dishes that complement the red wines for which Balgownie is famous.

You won't have to wander far for your accommodation – luxurious glamping tents are ensconced in the bush, mere metres from the vineyard. Each bell tent has its own private deck, so you can savour the rural views and marvel at the stars after dark.

Balgownie Estate's luxury tents have all the comforts of home.

For breakfast, tuck into fresh local produce at the winery restaurant, or return to town, where Cortille is a local favourite. This bright, urban café is best described as an indoor food truck (its kitchen is even inside a caravan), and its menu brings a taste of Melbourne to the country.

Discover local secrets

Bendigo, much like Melbourne, hides some of its best secrets down winding laneways. Bath Lane, for example, is an unobtrusive strip hidden in the shadow of the Bendigo Bank building, but don’t let that fool you – this is Bendigo’s best shopping district. Visit clothing boutiques Soho and Mona Lisa to shop Australian designers such as Viktoria & Woods and Asilio, and drop into Oliver Birch for stylish homewares.

Some of Bendigo's best food and wine can be found on Chancery Lane
. Image by Bendigo Tourism.

Then hunt down Chancery Lane, a concealed laneway full of vibrant street art and al fresco seating that will remind you of Europe. Chancery Lane is home to El Gordo, a quirky Spanish tapas café, and The Dispensary, a bar and diner with an impressive range of craft beers, wines, spirits and cocktails. It’s easy to while away the afternoon here, especially on a sunny day.

Once dinner time calls, just a few minutes’ walk away is Masons of Bendigo, a sophisticated restaurant in a heritage-listed former bank building. Husband-and-wife chefs Nick and Sonia Anthony serve French and English-inspired dishes with a farm-to-table ethos. It’s an exquisite dining experience.

Order small savoury bites and large share plates at Masons of Bendigo. Image by Bendigo Tourism.

Take the long way home

Come morning, it might be time to hit the road, but the adventure doesn’t have to end there. Take the back roads home through the Harcourt Valley. The famous apple-growing region makes for a stunning drive. Stop off at the Mount Alexander Regional Park and walk up to Shepherd’s Flat Lookout for views of the valley’s bushland, orchards and vineyards. On your hike down, wander through Oak Forest, an otherworldly oak plantation that has thrived in the middle of the bush for over 100 years. It’s the perfect end to an ideal weekend.

Words Emily Tatti

Gin Lane, Kensington Street. Image by Megan Osborne.

Chippendale of old and new

With luxe accommodation, fine dining, street space redesigns and small businesses moving in, visitors and locals alike are stopping to see what this small slice of Sydney has to offer.

In Chippendale, just south of Sydney’s CBD, new commercial high-rises sit alongside character-rich heritage buildings. The main thoroughfare, Broadway, is home to the Central Park shopping complex, topped by apartments and shrouded in lush vertical gardens. Just two streets back you’ll find avenues arched by established amber trees and old brick apartment blocks. It’s against this backdrop that this neighbourhood is making a name for itself as a foodie destination of note.

In the suburb’ s north, perched on the corner of Kensington and Broadway, is The Old Clare Hotel. Re-opening its doors in 2015 after an impressive renovation, the hotel encapsulates the same fusion of old and new that’s evident on the surrounding streets. Owned by Singaporean hotelier and restaurateur Loh Lik Peng, the refurbishment breathed new life into two grand buildings: the original Clare Hotel and the Carlton United Brewery (CUB).

Connell Room at the Old Clare Hotel.

The update retains as much heritage as possible, particularly from the CUB building. With seven different types of room, the eclectic suites have hosted guests such as Elon Musk and Björk. Some feature original bar counter tops, wall panelling, ante-rooms and even a few bathroom fixtures, while modern design elements are artfully incorporated around the legacy of the buildings’ former life. In another nod to the past, 96 mid-century chairs from Loh Lik Peng’s personal collection are housed in the hotel.

Fine dining options

Alongside The Old Clare, restaurants Kensington Street Social and Automata have helped forge a well-regarded Kensington Street dining scene.

“The Chippendale of old has been revamped and given a new lease on life,” says Clayton Wells, chef and part owner of Automata. The contemporary restaurant was awarded two chef’s hats in the 2018 Good Food Guide and focuses on degustation dining with a blend of Australian flavours and Asian influence and technique.

Chef Clayton Wells.

Wells has impressive experience under his belt, from Sydney’s Quay, Tetsuya’s and Momofuku Seiobo, to Noma in Copenhagen. At Automata the menu is evolving, with seasonal produce guiding the way.

“I’ve always shied away from having a signature dish,” says Wells, even though he’s constantly asked what it might be. “Although there are dishes that we’re well-known for, I won’t keep them on the menu. I don’t want to stop our creative process … when people start saying ’You can never take this off the menu’, that’s when I take it off, because it slows us down.”

The ground floor at Clayton Wells' restaurant Automata.

Seasonality inspires the offering, but doesn’t mean the same dishes are simply refreshed each year.

“I love using certain ingredients, but we’re always trying to push into doing things with different techniques and flavour profiles,” says Wells.

The five-course menu – with a three-course option at lunch – changes frequently, but plates seen in early 2018 feature a starting dish of dried tomato with sheep’s curd, black plum, shiso and tomato vinegar, and a delicate dessert dish of yoghurt and marjoram sorbet with pineapple, finger lime and a burnt butter caramel. Australian produce is showcased, with dishes incorporating organic ingredients from the Blue Mountains and seafood from the south coast of New South Wales or New Zealand. “We try and stay as local as possible,” Wells says.

The modern concrete interior creates a sleek yet intimate dining space that stretches along an open kitchen on one side and windows to Kensington Street on the other. Having previously lived in Chippendale, Wells has witnessed the neighbourhood’s changes first-hand. “You wouldn’t have walked down Kensington Street at night four years ago. The way that it’s changed in such a short period of time is really cool.”

Casual eateries abound

In fact, the street is now a bustling evening spot, and it’s not just fine dining. A more casual atmosphere has arrived in the form of Spice Alley, a winding al fresco food mall with Asian hawker-style eateries, specialised bars such as Gin Lane, and the playful Koi Dessert Bar.

White Rabbit Gallery. 

When you’re ready to explore further, Chippendale’s residential back streets are home to its creative side – look out for art galleries White Rabbit Gallery and Galerie Pompom, and street art by iconic Sydney artist Scott Marsh. Keep heading south from Broadway and you’ll find things like artisan bakery Brickfields, and popular modern dining spot, Ester (touted as a place chefs go to eat).

The Central Park complex has brought a cinema into the area, and the new apartment high-rises come complete with an open area called Chippendale Green, which hosts markets and community events.

“It’s coming along,” says Wells. “You can’t just make a suburb, but it’s really getting there now.”

Words Megan Osborne
Skier on the Muggengrat-Tali ski run into Zürs. © Mark Daffey

Taming the White Ring

The White Ring ski circuit linking the Austrian winter resorts of Lech, Zürs and Zug has been attracting wannabe skiing racers for more than 60 years.

The first ski lifts have only just opened for the day but it seems like everyone in the ritzy Arlberg village of Lech has the same idea as us – to ski the White Ring.

The White Ring is a stunningly beautiful, 22-kilometre ski circuit combining groomed slopes and breathtaking views. The route was the brainchild of Arlberg native, Sepp Bildstein, who began building ski lifts above the villages of Lech and Zürs in the 1940s. Today, the White Ring sweeps down 5439 vertical metres then climbs a total of seven lifts in one of the most visually spectacular alpine settings in Europe.

Skiers on the Madlochbahn twin-chairlift. © Mark Daffey

Each January, 1000 skiers (and the odd snowboarder) in lycra race suits and novelty penguin costumes hurl down the Rüfikopf, Omeshorn and Kriegerhorn mountains at breakneck speed in the hope of taking out victory in the White Ring Race. The race began in 2006, on the 50th anniversary of the circuit’s completion, and it attracts Olympic and World Cup ski champions.

The race record stands at a tick over 44 minutes, and that includes an unavoidable 30 minutes of kicking air on the various ski lifts. But my group of six skiers and one snowboarder has no intention of trying to break any speed records today, preferring instead to ski the runs at a comfortable pace that allows us to soak up the views and to settle in for a leisurely lunch at a mountain hut part-way through.

“Welcome to my office,” says our guide, Markus, as we clip into our bindings at the top of the Rüfikopf gondola that doubles as the circuit’s starting point. Nary a cloud besmirches the sky and two metres of snow blankets the valley. Only on the jagged mountaintops do boulders break through; the rest appears as soft and fluffy as a baby’s pillow.

Winter skiing above Lech. © Mark Daffey

Most of the runs that make up the White Ring are graded intermediate and our first groomed piste, the poetic Monzabonsee, is long, smooth and sweeping, culminating at the foot of a short T-bar. Markus races ahead on the next run, the 1.5km-long Schüttboden towards Zürs, Lech’s smaller but equally swanky sibling from which lifts fan out in several directions. But to get there, we first need to ride the Trittalp cable car then tear down Hexenboden’s western flanks into town.

From Zürs, it’s possible to catch a gondola to Stuben and then continue onto St Christoph and St Anton, thereby connecting each of the five main Arlberg resorts. But it’s the opposite side of the valley we climb, after which Markus leads us away from the White Ring so we can speed down the run I rate as my favourite in the Arlberg – the Muggengrat-Täli.

The fast, twisting blue run beneath the solitary 2500m peak of Hasenfluh adds about four kilometres to our day and deposits us back in Zürs, where the 10-minute wait at the foot of the two-seater Madloch chairlift is the longest we experience all morning. But the delay is quickly forgotten once we stream down the flowing, often ungroomed Madloch piste – considered the most technical along the route – from the circuit’s highest point into the two-sled town of Zug.

Lech’s Rud-Alpe mountain hut – one of 21 hatted restaurants in Lech-Zürs. © Mark Daffey

Balmalp Restaurant, above Zug, is where we huddle down for sausage, schnitzel and strudel lunches washed down with crisp Austrian wines, so it’s fortunate most of the day’s skiing is behind us. From the Kriegerhorn summit, we’re able to ski the rousing final four-kilometre descent into Lech in one hit, some six hours after we began. We’re way outside the race record, but it may well be the greatest day I’ve had on skis.

Getting there: Fly into Zurich – private shuttles operate the 2.5-hour cross-border journey.
Staying there: Room tariffs at the luxuriously cosy Kristiania (kristiania.at) hotel in Lech start at €290 per night.
Costs: One-day lift tickets for adults cost €53. Ski and boot hire costs around €35 per day.

Words and images Mark Daffey. He travelled courtesy of the Austrian National Tourist Office.

Top 5 cultural delights in Boston

One of the oldest cities in the United States and the site of many key events in the American Revolution, Boston is also an innovation hub and home to no fewer than 35 universities. This mix of historical importance and progress make it a fine cultural destination full of grand and intimate discoveries. Fly there directly from Los Angeles or New York, or take an Amtrak train from New York City.

Harvard University

The oldest university in the United States, located across the Charles River in Cambridge, offers plenty of cultural attractions for visitors. Native American artefacts from Lewis and Clark’s exploration of the American West are on show at The Peabody Museum, and the Museum of Natural History is home to the Blaschka Glass Flowers - 3000 creations of hundreds of plant species designed by father-and-son craftsmen over five decades. Chinese jade and Japanese woodblocks are highlights at the Sackler Museum, French Impressionist and Post-Impressionist art anchors the Fogg Museum, while the Busch-Reisinger Museum focuses on the arts of Central and Northern Europe.

Grolier Poetry Bookshop

Founded in 1927, this is the only bookshop in the United States that is exclusively dedicated to poetry. The Grolier Poetry Bookshop, which is also in Cambridge, has played a seminal role in nurturing poetry with its collections of works from poets both well-known and obscure, its readings, competitions, street festivals and more. Owned by Nigerian-born, Harvard PhD and Wellesley college philosophy professor, Ifeanyi Menkiti, it continues to advance the cause of poetry. It’s old, intimate and a little dusty, which only adds to its allure.

Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum

Just around the corner from Boston’s more well-known Museum of Fine Arts, the intimate Gardner Museum reflects the passions of art collector Isabella Stewart Gardner. The 1903 building, designed to emulate a 15th century Venetian palace, has an eclectic collection of tapestries, religious art and masterpieces by Titian, Rembrandt, Michelangelo, Botticelli, Manet, Michelangelo, Matisse, Whistler and Sargent, plus original books by Dante and illuminated manuscripts. Seasonal gardens are a highlight of the interior courtyard while a new Renzo Piano-designed wing houses concerts, special exhibitions and an airy restaurant. In 1990, in the world’s greatest single property theft, thieves stole 13 artworks valued at $500 million, including paintings by Vermeer and Rembrandt. The case remains unsolved and the empty frames are still on show in the museum.

John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum

Housed in a striking I.M. Pei-designed building on the Boston waterfront, the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum not only stores the original papers, correspondence and oral histories of the Kennedy administration but also 25 fascinating multimedia exhibits that immerse visitors in Kennedy’s life, legacy and leadership. There are exhibits about the 1960 campaign trail, the inauguration, the Briefing Room, the Space Race, and the Oval Office as well as Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy artefacts. Interestingly, the library is also the repository of the vast majority of Ernest Hemingway’s manuscripts, making it the world’s principal centre for research on the author.

Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art

The last must-visit Boston cultural attraction is not in the city at all, but well worth the two-and-a-half hour drive west to a converted factory complex in North Adams, Massachusetts. Akin to Tasmania’s Museum of Old and New Art, Mass MoCa is one of the largest and liveliest centres for enjoying contemporary visual and performing arts in the United States. With vast galleries and a stunning collection of indoor and outdoor venues, Mass MoCa embraces music, sculpture, dance, film, painting, photography, theatre, as well as new, boundary-crossing works, much of which are created during on-site artist residencies.

Words Susan Gough Henly
Horse riding in the San Isidro del General area in southern Costa Rica.

Paradise found in Costa Rica

It doesn’t take long to understand the meaning of “pura vida,” one of Costa Rica’s most common sayings.

As Costa Ricans or Ticos explain, it translates as enjoying “pure life”.

No wonder it’s repeated so often in a country that has topped the Happy Planet Index for years. It’s that feeling of sheer joy when you finally spy a grey sloth spread eagled on a high branch riverside, or watch hundreds of beautiful indigo blue butterflies dance among the greenery.

A leader in eco-tourism, the tiny Central American country represents close to four per cent of the total biodiversity on earth, and about 25 per cent of the country has protected forests and reserves. It is home to 500,000 plant and animal species, 750,000 insect species and more than 10 per cent of the world’s butterflies. It is also a peaceful country – the army was abolished in 1949 with funds redirected to education and health.

To experience the best of Costa Rica, leave the cities behind and head south to Hacienda AltaGracia, a sprawling luxury boutique resort located in the San Isidro del General area that is relatively untouched by tourism.

It’s the Poro trees bursting with vivid orange blossoms and green rainforests that star in this food bowl area with extensive plantations of pineapple, sugarcane, banana and coffee.

The stunning mountain retreat, part of the Auberge Resorts Collection, is set on 350 hectares with 50 casitas featuring chic bedrooms, bathrooms, living areas and terraces overlooking the Valle de El General, where eagles soar.

Nearby Cerro Chirripo National Park and Los Cusingos Biological Reserve are perfect for white-water rafting, ultra-light flights, zip-lining and horse riding tours. Complimentary hikes, meditation, tropical fruit tasting, garden walks and horse feeding are offered.

Dining is an adventure – sip a Rainforest Martini at La Cantina while a glorious blood red sunset streaks the sky. Fresh produce from nearby San Isidro farmers market – the biggest in the country – and the resort’s own sustainable farm, La Huerto, feature on the menu at Ambar.

At breakfast, try the typical Costa Rican Tico dish – Gallo Pinto with scrambled eggs, homemade tortilla, sweet plantain and tico cheese.

Later, head to the indoor or outdoor pool with killer views, followed by a coffee scrub spa treatment. Be warned those hammocks you pass on the way back under thatched pavilions in manicured gardens dotted with bright hibiscus, are traps. Despite the long journey from Australia to the Costa Rican capital of San Jose, it’s well worth it when “pura vida” is assured.

Words Sue Wallace
Tranquility in the Queensland bush.

Take a walk on Queensland's wild side

It looks like a small piece of wood, a tree stump in miniature. If you don’t know what you’re looking for, it’s easy to miss, but inside is a female trap-door spider ready to pounce. At this startling revelation, everyone in our group immediately takes a little step backwards; but we’re already too fascinated not to slowly edge closer again, anxious to see what happens next.

With the blade of his knife, our guide – Steve Grainger of Tropical Treks – eases open the lid of the trap and we all hold our breath. But the spider is too smart for us. Aware of our presence, she’s retreated deep into her home and all we can see is the smooth, hollow core of the trap’s entrance.

For most trekkers through the forest, the spider’s home would be nothing more than an indistinguishable part of the undergrowth. But thanks to Grainger, we’re starting to see this lush, ancient rainforest environment with new eyes.

On a bespoke luxe trek, we’re walking part of the Sunshine Coast Great Walk through Kondalilla National Park. And although the luxe part involves pick-up and delivery to the entry to the national park, water and snacks, a gourmet picnic lunch, tea and coffee made on a nifty boiler Grainger pulls from his backpack like a rabbit out of a hat, and a stay at one of the region’s top boutique hotels, there’s consensus in our group of five that one of the greatest luxuries of this adventure is having access to Grainger’s experience, knowledge and passion for the natural world.

As we walk through the forest, a winding trek down to the Kondalilla waterfall and up and out the other side, he helps us identify individual birdsong, tells stories of the Gubbi Gubbi – the local Indigenous people – and of the region’s colonial and contemporary history. As we walk we smell, touch and admire the towering old-growth trees, bushes and flowers and take in the spectacular views. As the forest and its inhabitants are gradually revealed to us, our conversation deepens to cover history, ecology and conservation. From how to build a termite tower to the habits of trap-door spiders, we’ve become mini-experts in just a few hours.

Our group is all reasonably fit, but because the walking is slow (there’s so much to see and learn and we’re constantly stopping to talk) the trek is suitable for all ages, provided you’re mobile and healthy. Grainger also creates bespoke experiences tailored to different interests, fitness and age groups.

Because the walking is easy, we arrive at Narrows Escape near the hinterland village of Montville in the late afternoon pleasantly tired but not exhausted. Which is ideal, because collapsing into bed and sleeping would be a waste of this tranquil rainforest location. Child-free, Narrows was designed to be a peaceful adult oasis with private eco pavilions nestled in the forest, a large verandah looking out on to bush and a range of luxuries – including spa ensuites, high quality linens and toiletries, and complimentary local cheeses and port.

After a day’s walk, it’s a thrill to ditch the hiking boots, pour a glass of wine and enjoy the sights and sounds of the rainforest from the luscious retreat.

Words Justine Costigan

Tropical Treks offers tailored bushwalking and birdwatching experiences on the Sunshine Coast. Narrows Escape’s Luxe Trekking package includes two nights’ accommodation, a guided day walk and all meals. 

Image: Tourism Victoria.

Meander Victoria’s High Country

The stars seem brighter, sunsets more vibrant and the air fresher – in Victoria’s High Country, the scenery is deserving of a rousing applause. Gourmet food trails, wineries where visitors can sample everything from traditional reds to interesting Italian varietals, and charming small towns, are just waiting to be discovered.


Image: The Dacha

Snuggle down in the charming bolthole, The Dacha, located on the outskirts of the historic village of Wandiligong, 4.5 kilometres from Bright. “Dacha” is the Russian word for a second country home – and here you’re guaranteed to feel right at home. Sit on the large deck of the three-bedroom house and soak up the views of Mystic Mountain while the clear waters of the babbling Morses Creek run by. Stock up on fresh produce at local farm gates and cook up a feast in the gourmet kitchen before checking out those starry skies before bed.

402 Morses Creek Road, Wandiligong, 3744


Image: Provenance, credit Jana Langhorst

Chef Michael Ryan’s restaurant Provenance features fresh local produce with a Japanese twist and is nestled in Beechworth’s former Bank of Australasia, which was built in 1856. Ryan has collected two chef’s hats in The Age Good Food Guide for the past five years, while his partner, winemaker Jeanette Henderson has won accolades for her regional wine lists. Braised beef with roasted radish, pickled radish, citrus and daikon oroshi reflect those Japanese influences and there’s an excellent sake menu. Naturally, the cellar is housed in the old vault.

86 Ford Street Beechworth 3747


Get on your bike and cycle one of the well-maintained High Country Rail Trails. There are hundreds of kilometres of safe, picturesque rides built over disused railway lines that traverse scenic landscapes and pass by cafés, wineries and farm gates where you can purchase treats, have a coffee and take a break. For a fun ride, tackle the exhilarating 16 kilometre downhill trail from Beechworth to Everton – just don’t forget to pre-book a return transfer back up the hill.


Image: Pizzini Wines.

The King Valley was once a best-kept secret until wineries such as Pizzini Wines put it on the global wine scene’s map. Fred Pizzini and family make Italian varietals including pinot grigio, arneis, prosecco, sangiovese and nebbiolo, while wife, Katrina shares her culinary secrets at her A tavola! cooking school that accepts just 10 participants for each class. Soak up the glorious views from the cellar door and time your visit around a long lunch with Italian food and music.

175 King Valley Road, Whitfield 3733


Image: Hedonistic Hiking.

The high country is no slouch when it comes to fabulous walks, with spectacular trails in Mt Buffalo, the King Valley and Beechworth. Jackie and Mike Parsons of Hedonistic Hiking divide their time between Europe and Australia and their Aussie walks include two hikes on trails in the Mount Buffalo National Park and a gentle stroll through vineyards in the Ovens Valley. Italian-style dinners are matched to wines* from the area and gourmet al fresco picnics star.


Image: Bridge Road Brewers.

The High Country Brewery Trail consists of 10 diverse brewers* offering handcrafted beer and ciders. Pop in at a brewery at Mansfield, Jamieson, King Valley, Wangaratta, Taminick, Bright, Dinner Plain, Mt Beauty, Beechworth and Rutherglen. While each one is an attraction in its own right, Beechworth Bridge Road Brewery is located in a 150-year old coach house and stables, while Blizzard Brewing Company at Dinner Plain is Australia’s highest brewery.

Words Sue Wallace

* Mercedes-Benz Australia/Pacific Pty Ltd at all times promotes the responsible service and consumption of alcohol. 
Image: Tourism and Events Queensland

Weekend getaway to Port Douglas

A former fishing village turned elegant playground wedged between Queensland’s Dickson Inlet and the Coral Sea, Port Douglas radiates a tropical vibe midway along the Great Barrier Reef Drive. This scenic coastal road twists and turns northwards from Cairns to Cape Tribulation with the Great Barrier Reef to the right and Wet Tropics Rainforest to the left. It is a tasty enticer to the glittering charms of Port Douglas, known simply as “Port” by locals. The town’s fortunes rise and fall almost as frequently as the tide that laps Four Mile Beach, but Port’s star is shining bright once more. Businessman Christopher Skase started it all back in the ’80s when he developed the Sheraton Mirage resort, attracting a star-studded guest list lured by a balmy climate and incredible natural beauty.


Image: Tourism and Events Queensland 

The aforementioned Sheraton Mirage underwent a $43 million redevelopment in 2016, bringing it back to its former five-star glory. Thirteen interconnected saltwater swimming pools and an 18-hole golf course are the main attractions, as are vast landscaped grounds and a palm tree-shaded location at the southern end of Four Mile Beach. Book a Lagoon Edge Studio Suite with swim-out balcony for a morning swim before lingering over a leisurely breakfast on The Deck at Feast Restaurant.

Port Douglas Rd, Port Douglas


Image: Walkabout Adventures  

Drive northwards from Port, cross the Daintree River via the cable ferry and fill your lungs with air filtered by the ancient World Heritage Daintree Rainforest. To fully understand the scale of the Daintree and its cultural significance to the Kuku Yalanji people, join Indigenous guide Juan Walker as he shares bush tucker and bush medicine knowledge while demonstrating how to hunt for fish and mud crabs. Before leaving the Daintree, call in at the Daintree Ice Cream Company for ice cream lovingly crafted from exotic fruits and harvested from the onsite orchard.

Walkabout Cultural Adventures, Daintree Village


Image: Thala Beach Nature Reserve 

Set high among the treetops in an open-sided pavilion overlooking the Coral Sea and World Heritage mountains, Osprey’s Restaurant at deluxe eco retreat Thala Beach Nature Reserve is 10-minutes drive south of Port. Executive chef Matt Griffin, who honed his skills at acclaimed Salsa, has developed fresh new lunch and dinner menus. Think crispy skinned Daintree barramundi with red curry broth and coconut rice cake – a nod to Thala’s 600-tree coconut plantation.

Thala Beach Nature Reserve, 5078 Captain Cook Hwy, Oak Beach, Port Douglas


Image: Tahitian Lime 

No shrinking violets when it comes to channeling the vibrancy of the tropics and kicking it up a notch, former Sydneyside sisters Prue and Brooke Needham launched their swimwear label Tahitian Lime by opening a boutique in downtown Port. Inspired by childhood holidays in tropical hotspots around the globe, textiles are sourced from Italy, collections feature collaborations with Australian surf artist Wade Lewsi and 10 per cent of all profits are distributed to assist mistreated animals in developing countries. 

20 Macrossan St, Port Douglas 


Image: Tourism and Events Queensland 

Hemingway’s Brewery* was the brainchild of charter fishing entrepreneurs Tony Fyfe and Craig Parsell, and is the place to unwind for waterfront sundowners. The bar is contemporary and radiates the tropical charm and coastal spirit for which Port is famous. Brew names take inspiration from local characters with their signature Pitchfork Betty’s Ale named after a former local publican best known for brandishing an iron pitchfork to control unruly patrons.

Hemingway’s Brewery, The Reef Marina, Port Douglas


Image: Niramaya Day Spa  

Tucked away within the Balinese-inspired Niramaya Villas is Niramaya Day Spa, a peaceful enclave of rainforest serenity. Allow half a day for the decadent four-hour Jewel of the Reef signature treatment, followed by lunch at Rasa Restaurant. Loved-up couples might try the Romance Package with massages, facials and Champagne* and chocolate spa bath.

Niramaya Spa, 1 Bale Dr, Port Douglas

Words Fiona Harper

* Mercedes-Benz Australia/Pacific Pty Ltd at all times promotes the responsible service and consumption of alcohol.

Margaret River meander

There’s more than just a good drop to be had in the premium wine region of Margaret River. Just three hours drive from Perth you’ll find more than 200 wine producers, a burgeoning scene of craft brewers and distillers* and world-class growers – taste everything from abalone and marron, to grassfed beef and lamb, cheese, stone-ground chocolate and heritage vegetables.


Image: Cape Lodge 

Experience luxury in the region’s best wineries at secluded country house hotel Cape Lodge. The five-star property, set among landscaped grounds beside its own eight-acre vineyard, has 22 rooms, many with garden and lake views. For special occasion, there’s a private residence for up to four couples with polished timber floorboards, marble bathrooms and a dining and entertaining area with a fully equipped kitchen.

3341 Caves Rd, Yallingup, 6282


Image: Cullen Wines 

From established fine diners to smaller haunts throughout the region you’ll be spoilt for choice when it comes to winery dining* in the Margaret River. Cullen Wines pioneered winery dining in the ’70s with their menu of simple pastries, soups and cheese platters; these days executive chef Iain Robertson’s refined lunch offering follows the winery’s organic ethos – think smoked kangaroo with candied radicchio or swordfish with freshly picked radish – catered for by the extensive on-site biodynamic fruit and vegetable garden.

4323 Caves Rd, Wilyabrup 6280


Image: Leeuwin Estate 

One of the regions founding five wineries, Leeuwin Estate, has grown its reputation beyond wine. Their Art Series project started in 1980 with the simple premise of using the works of leading Australian artists on their bottle labels, today more than 150 artworks from artists including John Olsen, Arthur Boyd and Sir Sidney Nolan are displayed at the cellar door’s gallery, which reopens in October after major renovations. Round out a visit with lunch at the restaurant overlooking a meadow surrounded by a forest of karri trees.

Stevens Rd, Margaret River 6285


It’s a local affair at Eagle Bay Brewing Co, with third generation Margaret River siblings Nick, Astrid and Adrian d’Espeissis building their microbrewery and restaurant in 2010 on their 66-year-old working farm. While you’ll find a core range of beers across bars and pubs in the region, it’s at the source where you’re best placed to find seasonal releases (like the designated-driver friendly mid-strength lager*), views overlooking Cape Naturaliste and a down-to-earth feed, too.

236 Eagle Bay Rd, Naturaliste 6281


The Margaret River is home to 100s of caves formed over more than a million years and Jewel Cave is Western Australia’s largest show cave and home to one of the longest straw stalactites found in any tourist cave in the world. Take a guided tour through three enormous chambers of stalactites and crystal formations that have taken thousands of years to form.

Jewel Caves Rd, Deepdene 6290


Image: The Margaret River Discovery Co.

Take a paddle down the Margaret River, walk sections of the Cape to Cape, dine between the vines or just sit back and listen to one of the regions most engaging guides, Sean Blocksidge, with a personalised tour by The Margaret River Discovery Co. A wine and hospitality industry veteran, Blocksidge puts experience at the heart of everything he does and the small tours truly unlock the Margaret River.  

Words Max Brearley and Nola James 

* Mercedes-Benz Australia/Pacific Pty Ltd at all times promotes the responsible service and consumption of alcohol.
Image: South Australia Tourism

Kangaroo Island: Your spring-time driving adventure

Spectacular coastal scenery, abundant wildlife and world-class food culture mark Kangaroo Island out as something special. With less than 5000 inhabitants life on “the rock” seems to move at a slower pace, but in recent years, a growing number of gourmet food producers and luxury accommodation providers have turned that into a strength, so you can explore this stunning island paradise in full comfort.


Image: Southern Ocean Lodge 

Nestled in a patch of wilderness atop dramatic ocean-side cliffs, the Southern Ocean Lodge's eco-friendly design blends into the pristine bush landscape but once you step inside, the interior is sleek and ultra-modern. Works commissioned from local artists vie with panoramic views for your attention, and every suite boasts a private terrace and floor-to-ceiling windows. In fact, the hardest part about staying here might be dragging yourself away to explore the rest of the island.

Hanson Bay Rd, Kingscote 5223


Image: South Australia Tourism 

Seal Bay
, home more than 1000 Australian sea lions, is one of the only places in the world where you can see these endangered animals up close. Adults bask in the dunes and waddle around, but the playful pups frolicking in the surf give a sense of their grace in the water. Guided tours allow you to go down onto the beach where the camera-friendly sea lions will often pose obligingly for photos. 

1140 Seal Bay Rd, Kangaroo Island 5221 


Image: Enchanted Fig Tree 

Head to the island's less-travelled north coast for stunning scenery, secluded beaches and the Enchanted Fig Tree – a seasonal restaurant nestled under the 150-year-old tree's boughs in the dunes overlooking Snelling's Beach. From December to April a lunch degustation highlights the island’s treasured ingredients: think sashimi from local fish, free range roast pork and ice cream made from native honey.

5997 North Coast Rd, Middle River 5223


Image: South Australia Tourism 

Explore the island's west by foot to discover towering limestone cliffs, untouched beaches and rugged wilderness. Numerous well-marked walking trails in Flinders Chase National Park provide an excellent chance to see echidnas, koalas and even an elusive platypus, the dramatic lichen-covered formations of Remarkable Rocks provide the perfect setting for sunset, and just down the road fur seals flop about playfully below the natural bridge at Admiral's Arch.

South Coast Rd, Flinders Chase 5223


Image: Kangaroo Island Spirits

Craft distillery Kangaroo Island Spirits spearheaded the boutique gin movement in 2007, and their use of native ingredients and sustainable energy has kept them at the forefront of the trend. The award-winning small batch gins, vodka and liqueurs are available for tasting* at the rustic cellar door, while the botanical garden out back is home to many featured botanicals. For an indulgent treat try the affogato made with honey and walnut liqueur and local coffee. 

856 Playford Hwy, Cygnet River 5223 

Words Alexis Buxton-Collins

* Mercedes-Benz Australia/Pacific Pty Ltd at all times promotes the responsible service and consumption of alcohol.

Discover a Mornington Peninsula drive

About an hour down the freeway from Melbourne, the Mornington Peninsula can be coy about revealing its secrets. Our advice? Take the foot off the pedal and turn down its quiet, country lanes. The rewards will be an exciting wine cellar door, a championship golf links, bracing beach walks and feasts of fine, local produce.


Image: Port Phillip Estate 

Wine runs through the veins of the Mornington Peninsula, so it’s only natural to bed down in a winery. Port Phillip Estate is on the peninsula’s crest at Red Hill, affording views of rolling green hills cloaked in vines, falling down to secluded beaches. The bold, architectural statement of the estate’s limestone walls conceal deep barrel vaults and six suites with polished concrete floors, timber beams and bold, contemporary furnishings.

263 Red Hill Rd, Red Hill South 3937


Image: Moonah Links Golf Course

Moonah Links has hosted two Australian Opens and welcomes all, from putters to pros, to its two world-class,18-hole championship golf courses. Surrounding Peppers Moonah Links Resort, it has all the necessary accoutrements for a perfect weekend away including a day spa, outdoor dining and accommodation. 

5 Peter Thomson Dr, Fingal 3939 


Image: Polperro Winery 

An easy stroll the on sculpture trail through Polperro Winery leads you to a private picnic amongst the vines: local cheeses, cured meats and tasty olives emerge from the hamper, garnished with a bottle of Polperro’s finest. Expect all the trimmings, from glassware to rugs and umbrellas, but if storm clouds are brewing, head to the onsite bistro for charred beef brisket with Dutch carrots or king prawns in kaffir lime butter before a bespoke wine tasting at the cellar door*.

150 Red Hill Rd, Red Hill 3937


Image: Coastal Living 

Set the GPS for Sorrento’s Ocean Beach Road shopping strip to invest in a slice of laid-back beachside living. The two must-visit shops are Coastal Living for pared-back homewares and Australian made spa goods, and the modestly named Debs Boutique, which scours the globe for essential beachwear, including LA designer Raquel Allegra and Australian-Italian Estilo Emporio, whose flowing linen range is made in the peninsula’s soul sister city, Positano on Italy’s Amalfi Coast.

24 and 85 Ocean Beach Rd, Sorrento 3943


Image: Peninsula Hot Springs 

Silent, hilltop, in caves, for babies ... find your ideal bath at Japanese-inspired Peninsula Hot Springs, where 28 outdoor thermal pools, all rich in healthful minerals, are set among the bushland. Afterwards discover the Turkish steam bath and Aboriginal-inspired Kodo spa treatments at its Spa Dreaming Centre, with meditation and outdoor yoga also on offer. The springs are a popular destination all year round; bookings are highly recommended.

30 Springs La, Fingal 3939


Image: Ocean Eight 

The dramatic cellar door at Ocean Eight is hidden down a quiet country lane: pause for a minute at the top of the drive to appreciate its gabled roofs, stone walls and meandering gardens. Chardonnay and pinot noir* are the name of the game on the peninsula, and winemaker Michael Aylward’s exceptional, limited release pinot noir is nurtured by the peninsula’s cool climate and the winery’s own gravity-fed winery with underground barrel rooms. 

271 Tucks Rd, Shoreham 3916 

Words Belinda Jackson

* Mercedes-Benz Australia/Pacific Pty Ltd at all times promotes the responsible service and consumption of alcohol.
Image: Destination NSW

NSW’s Northern Beaches and surrounds: a driving adventure

As the weather warms, the stunning coastline along Sydney’s Northern Beaches is the perfect spot to relax and unwind, with most attractions an easy day-trip from the CBD. As you’d expect from a beachside locale there’s plenty to do outdoors – from national parks to seaside cafes – plus a host of spas and resorts to help you relax in style.


Image: Pretty Beach House, credit Anson Smart

Located on the southernmost point of the NSW Central Coast this exclusive guesthouse is just 90 minutes drive north of Sydney, yet feels a world away. Pretty Beach House has four adults-only guest pavilions to choose from, featuring heated plunge pools, day beds and private outdoor decks. The main house has a spectacular dining room, open bar, guest lounge, wine cellar and day spa, plus there’s a poolside pizza oven for casual al-fresco dining.
83 High View Rd, Pretty Beach, NSW 2257


Image: Destination NSW 

Charming beachside café The Boathouse at Palm Beach has beautiful views and delicious food. It gets busy, especially at weekends, so drive up early from Sydney to claim one of the wooden picnic tables on the old jetty. Enjoy a seafaring lunchtime feast of Queensland tiger prawns with seafood sauce and sourdough or beer battered fish and chips alongside a glass of chilled Champagne*; post-lunch, linger over a sweet treat from the counter and a coffee while you soak up the afternoon sun.
Barrenjoey Boathouse, Governor Phillip Park, Palm Beach, NSW 2108


Image: Destination NSW 

Take the winding coastal road up to beautiful Bouddi National Park, where the natural surroundings will help you to shake off any city stress, to spa sanctuary Bells at Killcare where the treatments focus on holistic care, leaving you with a deep sense of wellbeing. Opt for a tailor-made facial, full body massage, or an “ocean dreaming” sea kelp treatment package for head-to-toe pampering; an in-house yoga teacher offers personalised classes, too.
107 The Scenic Rd, Killcare Heights, NSW 2257


Locals flock to this gorgeous café-cum-store for superb coffee and maple bacon and egg rolls, then they stay for a little retail therapy. Armchair Collective, just one black from Mona Vale beach, specialises in one-of-kind restored designer armchairs, as well as custom lampshades, soft furnishings and fresh flowers. Upholstery services, interior design consultations and home styling are also available at this beautiful emporium.
9A Darley St East, Mona Vale, NSW 2103


Image: Destination NSW 

Take an easy stroll to Barrenjoey Lighthouse; built in 1881 it sits at Barrenjoey Head at Palm Beach, Sydney’s most northern point. Leave your car at Governor Phillip parking area and take the winding track up to the lighthouse. The hike takes around 30 minutes each way, and if you’re really feeling active you can opt for the more challenging smugglers track. Meander around the lighthouse and keepers’ cottages and take in the views around Broken Bay, Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park and the Central Coast. From May to October, you may even be lucky enough to spot migrating whales. Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park, Palm Beach, NSW 2108


Image: Nikki To 

Waterfront restaurant Pilu Baretto offers casual drinks and meals overlooking Freshwater Beach, just a short drive north of Manly. The recently renovated venue (Baretto means “small bar” in Italian) serves classic cocktails including bellinis, negronis and Aperol spritzes. The evening menu features calamari fritti, salumi misti and chestnut gnocchi with lamb shoulder ragu. Can’t decide? Order a vino*, the wine list is all-Italian, and let the chef choose for you.
Moore Road, Freshwater Beach, NSW 2096

Words Nicola Conville

* Mercedes-Benz Australia/Pacific Pty Ltd at all times promotes the responsible service and consumption of alcohol.

Exploring the Hunter Valley

Food and wine tastes all that much sweeter when you savour it at its source on a road trip through Australia’s oldest wine region. Rest your head in five-star luxury, indulge in a Hawaiian-style massage or devour some of NSW’s finest buttery croissants. The weekend is yours.


Image: Kirkton Park

Luxury hotel and resort Kirkton Park has a sumptuous new look, with a crisp blue, black and white palate by Sydney interior designer Greg Natale. The bespoke 70-room property offers a true sense of arrival from its monochrome grand entry hall through to its elegant Locavore bistro with high-backed banquettes, blue wallpaper, dark timber floor and chic white timber shutters. Sleep easy in stylish rooms with crisp white sheets, and awake to the sound of bird song.
336 Oakey Creek Rd, Pokolbin 2320


Image: Crowne Plaza Hunter Valley 

Golf and beer* are a match made in heaven, perhaps because an ice cold ale tastes best when earned. The Hunter offers the chance to earn that reward with a round at either the 18-hole Greg Norman designed Vintage, or the 18-hole championship course at the Crowne Plaza Hunter Valley. Afterwards head to Lovedale Brewery (also at the Crowne Plaza) and reward yourself with an award-winning Lovedale Lager*. Actually, it’s so good you better take a six-pack home with you. 
430 Wine Country Dr, Lovedale 2325 


Image: Margan Wines and Restaurant

Book an alfresco table at the acclaimed Margan Wines and Restaurant. More than 90 per cent of Margan’s produce comes from its one-acre kitchen garden and orchard; you can even meet the free-range chooks that supply the star ingredient for the divine crispy hen egg served with asparagus, snap peas and wild garlic. Take a seat on the terrace overlooking Yellow Rock and enjoy the inspiring menu paired with estate grown wines.*
1238 Millbrae Rd, Broke 2330


Image: Golden Door Elysia

You don’t need to do a serious detox to enjoy the health benefits of the renowned Golden Door Elysia, one of Australia’s largest day spas and health retreats. Try a Hawaiian lomilomi massage or the signature aquatic bodywork treatment known as watsu, it’s fast garnering a cult following worldwide. Set down a dusty dirt road, beyond a gated entrance high on a hill overlooking the craggy mountain range, check in (make sure to pre-book) and check out for a while. 
165 Thompsons Rd, Pokolbin 2320 


Image: Dark Horse Vineyard 

The Hunter Valley’s first equestrian inspired cellar door, Dark Horse Vineyard, features small batch wines that are hand-picked, single vineyard and exclusively from the region. Formerly of Sydney, owners Olivia and Martin Pukanic have combined their love of horses and passion for wine into a glamourous cellar door, and their wines are every bit as good as the striking bottles they’re sold in. The cellar door doubles as a luxury equestrian inspired homewares store, while April next year sees the winery host the valley’s first Polo in the Vines.*
386 Wilderness Rd, Lovedale 2320


Image: Icky Sticky Patisserie

Word on the street is the divine Icky Sticky Patisserie make the best croissants north of the Harbour Bridge so be sure to take a scenic detour to the charming township of Lorn to get your fill. And it’s not just croissants walking out the door; try and stop at one chocolate éclair, strawberry tart or creamy cheesecake.
2/27 Belmore Rd, Lorn 2320 

Words Sheriden Rhodes 

* Mercedes-Benz Australia/Pacific Pty Ltd at all times promotes the responsible service and consumption of alcohol.
Image: Visit Sunshine Coast

Sashay the Sunshine Coast

From sun-kissed beaches to rainforest glades, a year-round calendar of music festivals and fiery local cuisines there’s much to see and do on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast, plus it’s just over an hour drive from Brisbane so you can get away any weekend of the year.


Image: Spicers Tamarind Retreat 

There’s no shortage of resort-style accommodation on the Sunshine Coast, but for a more secluded break head inland to Spicers Tamarind Retreat. This Asian-influenced refuge will spirit you away to a magical rainforest setting to relax in the day spa, brush up your culinary skills at the cooking school, or take a stroll down to nearby Gardner’s Falls. On alternate Sundays, listen to chilled-out jazz while dining on the restaurant’s award-winning Asian cuisine.

88 Obi La Sth, Maleny 4552


Image: Eumundi Markets 

The Eumundi Markets have been a Sunshine Coast institution since 1979, when three marketeers set up stalls under the guiding ethos: “We make it, bake it, grow it, sew it”. Browse through one-off artworks and handcrafted furniture, sit through spiritual readings or allow yourself to be entertained by local performers while sampling home-cooked dishes each Saturday and Wednesday morning. 

80 Memorial Dr, Eumundi 4562 


The 55-kilometre Blackall Range Hinterland Drive links the three Ms – Maleny, Montville and Mapleton – on a winding, ridge-top course through the Sunshine Coast’s lush interior. These once sleepy villages have become creative havens for artists, writers and musicians who cherish their peaceful ambience. Views at various elevated points along the way extend towards the coast. Step outside for rainforest walks, visit art galleries and boutique wineries, or stop for coffee and cheese platters at a traditional cheese factory. 


After years spent holidaying in Noosa, celebrity chef Peter Kuruvita established his Noosa Beach House restaurant in 2013 in the Sofitel on Hastings Street. The restaurant’s lunch and dinner menus draw on Kuruvita’s signature style, infusing fresh seafood with mouth-watering spices from his Sri Lankan homeland. Try flash-fried crustaceans or the seared yellowfin tuna – just delicious.

16 Hastings St, Noosa Heads 4567 


Image: Noosa Springs Golf Course 

Golfers are blessed for choice in this part of the world, with Noosa Springs rated among the top courses in Australia. The Graham Papworth-designed 18-hole, par 72 course sits among a beautiful woodland and lakeside setting where native wildlife thrives. Facilities include apartment accommodation, a la carte dining and a state-of-the-art spa and fitness centre.

Links Dr, Noosa Heads 4567


Image: Brouhaha Brewery

The Sunshine Coast has wineries, bars and pubs galore but sometimes there’s nothing better than a craft beer to quench your thirst. Order a tasting paddle – 51 varieties have been brewed over the past 18 months – at Maleny’s Brouhaha Brewery* then sit outside on the rear decking. Alternatively, reserve a table in the English gastro-style restaurant and indulge in wagyu and stout sausages with creamy mash or beer battered fish and chips.

6/39 Coral Street, Maleny 4552 

Words Mark Daffey

* Mercedes-Benz Australia/Pacific Pty Ltd at all times promotes the responsible service and consumption of alcohol.

Step back in time in northern Japan

Japan’s Tohoku region is often overlooked in favour of frenetic Tokyo and Osaka or storied Kyoto. But this agricultural region, encompassing six prefectures on the northern tip of the main island Honshu, lays quiet claim to some of the country’s most beautiful scenery. Jump on a bullet train north and discover a Japan of another era.

Visit sacred sites and cherry blossoms

Away from the tourist trail and economic centres, Tohoku is a time capsule for the feudal ages.

The samurai neighbourhood of Kakunodate in Akita prefecture has remained remarkably unchanged since the 17th century. At the Kabazaiku Arts Center, diminutive dressers will wrap you with surprising strength in complex vintage kimono. Appropriately attired, wander the neighbourhood where wealthy samurai lived in elegant wood compounds, most still inhabited by local families.

The three-tiered keep of Hirosaki Castle in Aomori prefecture was the seat of the samurai Tsugaru clan, rebuilt in 1810 after fire destroyed the original. Hirosaki Park is one of Japan’s most popular sakura cherry blossom viewing sites in spring, when over 2500 trees scatter a snowstorm of petals in the moats. Not to be outdone, autumn brings a red blaze to the maple trees dotting the grounds.

In the Iwate prefecture city of Morioka, traditional timber houses and shop fronts sit side-by-side with high-rises beneath volcanic Mt Iwate. In the temple district is Hoonji Temple, known as the "temple of 500 disciples" for the golden statues watching over the shrine (in actuality 499, after one mysteriously disappeared). Each expressive figure, carved by master craftsmen from Kyoto in the 1700s, is completely unique. It’s said you will find your likeness if you look long enough.

Yamadera Temple, meaning "Mountain Temple", perches in the steep mountain-side.

Over 1000 steps wind up through towering pine trees to Yamadera Temple in the crook of a mountain. On your climb, look out for moss-covered Buddha statues hidden among the ferns. First built in 860, the temple commands sweeping views of the valley. The tranquility here inspired famous poet Matsuo Basho to write one of his most enduring haikus in 1689, inscribed at a rock on site. Yamagata prefecture is renowned for cherries; before you leave try a scoop of cherry ice cream in the quaint village below.

Accommodation options

Ryokans (traditional Japanese inns) first started welcoming weary travellers in the Edo period (1603–1868), and in their hey-day could be found along most highways. Most were built over natural hot springs, onsen, where guests could soak and socialise. While ryokans have disappeared from larger cities, a stay in a traditional ryokan is not to be missed in rural Japan.

Alternatively, near scenic Lake Towada, Hotel Towadaso combines ryokan traditions with modern conveniences. Their intricate kaiseki banquet includes bite-size sashimi, delicate crab, tender local beef and an array of morels both familiar and less so. As you dine, or relax in the on-site onsen, a futon is laid out in your spacious tatami room.

From dining to accommodation, ancient Japanese traditions are still popular in the Tohoku region.

Take a bath

Mixed-sex baths were common in ancient Japan, and while changing social conventions have seen them dwindle, they are still popular in Tohoku. The 300-odd year old Sukayu Onsen Ryokan in Hakkoda Mountains is famous for sennin buro, the "thousand-person bath" – two large sulphuric pools in a vaulted timber building. Afterwards, try the ryokan’s multi-course kaiseki meal, including the Aomori Prefecture’s signature soba noodles.

With some of the world’s highest snowfall, the Tohoku region is blanketed in soft powder every season. Recover from the slopes in the open-air baths of Nyuto Onsen. The eight onsen resorts deep in beech forest in Akita Prefecture were popularised by samurai recovering from battle over three centuries ago. To this day, they are still relatively unknown to tourists. Stay at century-old rooms at Tsurunoyu Onsen, and dine on a banquet prepared on traditional sunken hearths called irori.

Dress the part

Cotton yukata gowns are the preferred ryokan attire, tied left over right (right over left is reserved for the dead), with leather slip-ons for different rooms. While many modern onsen have made allowances for tourists, Tohoku onsen are generally more beholden to tradition. Complete nudity is the norm, no bathers or modesty towels here, and uncovered tattoos are a no-no.

Change comes slowly to Tohoku, and mercifully so has the crowds. Discover it for yourself, before the rest catch on.

Words Krysia Bonkowski

Discover Tasmania’s Piermont Estate

Winding your way from Hobart up to the Freycinet Coast is the perfect scene-setter for what lies ahead at Piermont Estate. Just minutes after leaving the city, Tasmania’s landscapes slowly begin to be revealed – meandering rivers and rolling hills dramatically give way to forests and mountainous climbs, before the scenery changes once again.

The reward at the end of this stunning drive (as if the road trip wasn't an experience in itself) is the recently refurbished Piermont Estate and Piermont Homestead Restaurant.

Making an entrance

Turning into the significantly un-gated driveway, you are immediately struck by the untouched coastal view. Even on a cool late winter’s day, the sea sparkles and the sky reveals wispy blues. A tray of local Tasmania bubbles awaits our group, arranged under a tree that borders the classically designed amphitheatre. It’s clear that this is not an average boutique hotel. 

A walking tour of the property with owners Marie Von Haniel and Juan Maiz Casas reveals where Piermont came from – and where it is heading.

Exploring Piermont

The property was acquired by Von Haniel’s father decades ago, as he sought far-flung adventure and warmer climes beyond the confines of Germany. The property became home – but only for a few years, before the family again relocated, this time to Argentina. 

Von Haniel always felt a connection with the property and returned years later, determined to transform it into one of the island’s most luxurious retreats. This family heritage remains significant – a relaxed welcoming feel is important for Von Haniel – hence no gates on the driveway.

Guests can stay in either self-contained chalets or spa suites, and have the option to dine in the newly refurbished Hecker Guthrie-designed Piermont Homestead Restaurant. Naturally, in the eatery, seafood features heavily, as does locally grown produce. Chef Chad Woolford’s carefully curated menu includes the likes of Tasmanian Pacific oysters shucked to order, freshly baked bread, pepper crusted kangaroo loin with roasted mash potato, bacon and caramelised onion and chocolate fondant with a chilli and lime sorbet. The perfect accompaniment, of course, is a selection of Tasmanian wines, handpicked from local wineries.

Like the menu, the quietly restrained trademark Hecker Guthrie designs speak for themselves. The thoughtful interiors imbue a sense of paired-back sophistication and have been designed to make the most of the changing weather and light palette. Keeping the atmosphere casual is the inviting bar area and the cozy lounge by the fire.

See and do

Between meals, guests can spend their days exploring the property’s two private beaches, frolicking in the water in the summer months, enjoying a game of tennis, lounging by the pool or simply kicking back in front of a cosy fireplace when the weather rolls in. 

Beyond the property’s border there’s plenty to keep visitors occupied. Choose between a visit to nearby Freycinet National Park, take in a wineries tour, explore the world-famous Great Eastern Drive or embark on a scenic helicopter flight to Hobart’s MONA. For those seeking more physical activities, take your pick from hiking some of Australia’s most stunning trails, kayaking or sailing.

While exclusivity is key to Piermont’s success, Von Haniel and Casas are embarking on a restrained expansion with a new cluster of 32 waterfront residences from architects and designers, Jackson Clements Burrows and Hecker Guthrie. With these carefully considered construction plans underway, the future looks bright for Piermont Estate.

Images courtesy Piermont Estate
Words Lucy Siebert

* Mercedes-Benz Australia/Pacific Pty Ltd at all times promotes the responsible service and consumption of alcohol.

For more on this, and other exclusive accommodation around the world, read the November 2016 issue of Mercedes-Benz Magazine.  

Discover Réunion in 2017

Réunion is arguably one of the world’s best-kept island secrets, an overseas department of France that is nestled in the remote south Indian Ocean. Despite its far-flung location, the island is surprisingly easy for Australians to get to and offers a truly unique cultural experience. Located 6042km west of Perth, 226km southwest of neighbouring Mauritius and 942km east of Madagascar off the coast of East Africa, the 2512 sq km island is a mere dot in the vast sea of blue.

In addition to offering visitors a French cultural experience, the island is home to volcanic landscapes and the Piton de la Fournaise or ‘Peak of the Furnace’, one of the most active volcanos in the world, which earlier this year blew its 2632m-high stack twice.

Along with Mauritius, which is often looked upon as a big sister – although it is an entirely separate country, and nearby Rodrigues, Réunion forms part of the Mascarenes, sometimes called the Vanilla Islands.

As a French overseas territory or a département of France, Réunion accepts much financial support from the fatherland but relies heavily on tourism. Although reputedly one of the richest islands in the Indian Ocean with a high standard of living, it is, for all intents and purposes, a colourful, exotic, tropical (although not strictly in the tropics) island with a wonderful mélange of cultures and traditions.

It is believed the first visitors to the island were Malay, Arab and European mariners – but none stayed. In the mid 1600s, the French settled the island but it wasn’t till the beginning of the 18th century that the French government and the French East India Company took control. When coffee was introduced between 1715 and 1730, slaves shipped in from Africa and Madagascar formed the nucleus of the strong Creole heritage that has survived and prospered ever since.

While French is the official language, most inhabitants speak Creole – a sort of pidgin French. In the capital Saint-Denis, you can take a guided tour of Creole houses and even be introduced to the Creole language through a fun workshop. Boulangeries sell baguettes alongside Creole specialties, Chinese corner stores, Indian linen shops and Arab bazaars trade alongside Malagasy craftspeople in the Grand Marché market. Throughout the island, restaurants feature local Creole dishes such as carri (or curry) of seafood, chicken, duck or pork cooked over an open fire in a sauce made from tomatoes, garlic, onions, thyme, ginger and tumeric, and rougail – a similar sauce but with sausages, cod or perhaps goat.

Luxury stays

At LUX Saint Gilles, you can watch carri chef Henri Romily prepare one of his famous carri dishes over the open charcoal grill. You can later choose a selection of such carris for lunch – perhaps vanilla duck, chicken, eggplant, octopus with red wine or spicy Creole sausage.

Located in the island’s northwest, LUX Saint Gilles is one of just three five-star resorts on the island, and the only one with direct access to a lagoon beach. It makes the ideal base, offering comfortable accommodation for 450 guests in charming colonial-style wooden units, surrounding a central complex with three restaurants, bars, their signature LUX me spa and the island’s largest swimming pool.

According to Christophe Adam, sales and marketing director of the hotel, some 50 per cent of guests are from France, who take advantage of up to six flights daily from Paris while 30 to 40 percent are repeat guests. Not surprisingly, the island’s peak season coincides with the French school holidays. With LUX resorts on both islands, he says many guests combine a visit to Réunion with on Mauritius, too. For Australians, there are direct flights from Perth to Mauritius and regular connections onwards from there to Reunion. Alternatively, fly direct to Johannesburg from either Sydney or Perth and connect onwards from there.

While many of the near half million of visitors to Réunion come to chill out on the beaches and enjoy the relaxed lifestyle, a surprising number come to participate in the more adventurous aspects that the island has to offer, with some 70 different outdoor sports and pursuits from hiking – the number one activity – to climbing, diving, paragliding, white water rafting and canyoning.

Crowned in the north by the circular remnants or cirques of three former volcanoes and in the south by the still active volcano, Le Piton de la Fournaise or ‘Peak of the Furnace’, if you were able to iron it flat, its rugged oval shape would probably double in size. In 2010, almost half of the island was designated a UNESCO Natural World Heritage site.

Air adventures

The best way to appreciate the island’s majestic landscape is to take a helicopter ride with Helilagon Aviation who have been flying guests over the island for 25 years and have nine choppers. Depending on the weather, there are several circuits they fly. Although clouds prevent us flying over the volcano, I take the flight over the northern cirques that circle the island’s highest point, Le Piton des Neiges at 3070 metres. We fly over seaside towns and head for the verdant green centre where the jagged cirques are edged by drop-away peaks. Mountain-top villages cluster on small plateaus between countless rivers and valleys carpeted with thick natural scrub and tree-ferns. Waterfalls cascade between rocky crevices like runny icing on a giant bundt cake. Former French military pilot Jean Claude points out the impressive fast-flowing 400m-high cascade of Trou de Fer: “The same height as the Eiffel Tower,” he says.

Back at the resort, I sit under the shade of feathery filao trees that edge the water and lunch on a salad of local palm heart and seafood as whales breach and spurt in the distance. Between June and October, whales give birth on the reef’s edge with possible early morning sightings of dolphins all year round. While this little corner of paradise might be relatively unknown at the moment, I’m suspecting it won’t take long for word of its idyllic lifestyle to start making news of its own – and, for all the right reasons.

Words Tricia Welsh

Ubud for the “conscious traveller”

A firm favourite with Australians, a holiday in Bali can mean different things for different people. For tourists seeking an authentic and environmentally friendly experience, intimate luxury guesthouses are a great place to stay and they are often located within easy reach of fantastic restaurants and attractions.

On arriving at Bali’s Ngurah Rai International Airport, there’s no mistaking where you are. Aromas of spice and sea salt simultaneously hit passengers as they exit the plane – signalling you have indeed arrived at one of Asia’s most beloved and spiritual destinations.

Leaving the airport for the road transfer to Ubud, the traffic is maddening, but the journey offers a slideshow of life in Bali.

On this particular Ubud holiday, the aim is to “travel with a conscious” – by actively engaging with local communities, food and activities for an authentic Balinese holiday experience.

Where to stay

Of course, there is no shortage of fantastic accommodation options in Ubud – from swanky hotels perched over river rapids to eco-friendly health retreats, villas commanding rice paddy vistas and guesthouses that provide an intimate and authentic stay.

Located in Kutuh Kelod village and about 400m from the main road of Jalan Raya Ubud, Kano Sari is a delightful guesthouse that is entirely built from natural materials such as marble and locally sourced wood.

The villa’s light airy communal living areas immediately make an impression on newly arrived guests.

Within the guesthouse, each spacious room features beautifully appointed local items that are hand-selected by owner and manager Karen Lewis. With a view to reducing the number of plastic bottles that tourists use on the island, unlimited filtered drinking water is provided in each room.

The Jepun Suite (meaning frangipani) is popular due to its separate living room that is perfect for a family and its balcony that overlooks the gorge. Although many of the rooms have gorgeous outlooks, guests in all rooms will wake to the early morning alarm clock of spine-tingling chanting that echoes through the ravine; an exquisite start to the day.

Lewis is passionate about living in Ubud and running a business there, saying she loves “being part of the community and the staff are like family”.

What to do

Ubud is considered Bali’s spiritual capital and there is a plethora of yoga, meditation and other spiritually minded things to do.

One option is a Hindu water blessing at Tirta Empul water temple. While one visit might not fully purify the soul, it will leave you refreshed as you pray while dunking your head beneath the numerous water spouts.

Also known for its art, Ubud has plenty of galleries for visitors to browse.

Nothing, however, beats watching the artists in action. Batuan Village is famed for its paintings of Hindu daily life and mythology. Here, works of art can take up to five years to complete and are sometimes so intricate that they are created under a microscope.

Keliki Village has derived a similar style from the Batuan teachings with its Keliki Painting School, which trains children to paint. There are more than 1000 pieces to view and enjoy, with some pieces for sale. Prices start from $400 and all proceeds go to supporting the village and artists.

Where to eat

Ubud’s eating scene is just as prolific as Seminyak’s and if you want to support local farmers, head to The Elephant, which serves eco-friendly vegetarian fare. At just 2.5sqm, the tiny Fair Warung Bale sees the proceeds from every meal providing two free medical treatments for those in need.

Other ethical options include Element (Jalan Penenstanan Kelod) and Locavore.

Words Carmen Jenner. She was a guest of Kano Sari and Bali Assist.

Explore Vienna with the experts

After you’ve listened to the Vienna Philharmonic, wandered through Vienna’s grand museums, feasted on cake and coffee at its well-known Belle Epoque cafes, it’s time to escape the Austrian capital’s tourist hordes and dig a little deeper. Here is a selection of Little Black Book entries from some of the city’s finest art and museum curators. These are people who live and breathe Vienna and whose profession requires a discerning eye. It’s difficult to imagine more useful insider guides.

Museum curator's top picks

Dr Ursula Storch, deputy director of the Wien Museum, has recently wrote a book on The Prater, Vienna’s iconic park, and the museum’s fascinating exhibition, Meet me at the Prater, details the park’s history since Emperor Joseph II opened his imperial hunting grounds to the general public 250 years ago.

Dr Storch recommends having lunch at The Lusthaus, located in a pretty rotunda at the bucolic end of the Prater. Further afield, she suggests visiting another locale of the Wien Museum: Hermesvilla, Empress Sissi’s “Palace of Dreams” located in Lainzer Tiergarten Park.

On the outskirts of the city, she also loves going to Wirtshaus Steirerstöckl restaurant, located in a rustic former hikers’ shelter on the edge of Pötzleinsdorfer Schlosspark beside the Vienna Woods. Here, feast on traditional Styrian dishes based on ingredients from the restaurant’s own farm. If you are visiting the eccentric Hundertwasser Museum in the 3rd District, for a little retail therapy she recommends the beautifully curated collection of scarves, jewellery and other colourful gifts at the tiny nearby Dea gift shop at Salmgasse 16. 

Discover hidden cultural gems 

Freelance curator and arts consultant Paul Asenbaum was one of the guest curators at the National Gallery of Victoria’s exceptional exhibition, Vienna: Art and Design. He recommends exploring Vienna in search of its striking modernist architecture from the turn of the 20th century. Top of the list is the whimsical gold-domed Austrian-style Art Nouveau Secession Building designed by Joseph Maria Olbrich. Inside you’ll discover Gustav Klimt’s erotic Beethoven Frieze and, as a bonus, see exhibitions of today’s avant-garde from an artist-run cooperative.

He also suggests admiring the minimalist LoosHaus on Michaelerplatz, Adolf Loos’ radical departure from the Neo Renaissance architecture of the Imperial Palace directly opposite. And he loves Otto Wagner’s work, both the Art Nouveau Stadtbahnstation on Karlsplatz and his sleek-lined modernist Postal Savings Bank. If you are keen to purchase any of the rare decorative arts from Vienna’s Modernist and Art Nouveau artists and designers, he suggests visiting Galerie bei der Albertina and Galerie Wolfgang Bauer.

For a contemporary take on Vienna’s design, fashion and café scene, he suggests exploring the neighbourhoods of Neubaugasse and Gumpendorferstrasse, which are both near the Museumsquartier.

Eat, drink and shop 

Dr Alfred Weidinger is deputy director of Vienna’s esteemed Belvedere Museum, the UNESCO World Heritage Baroque palace which is home to the world’s largest collection of the works of Gustav Klimt (including The Kiss). One of his favourite places is Supersense, which is a fascinating contemporary wunderkammer, a perfect German word to describe its cabinet of curiosities. Located on the ground floor of a Venetian-style Palazzo, it is a café that serves excellent coffee and Tyrolean craft beer as well as a shop with a carefully curated collection of photography and hand-made paper products plus a studio that hand-cuts vinyl records and offers the highest quality “direct-to-disc” live recordings.

Independent curator of contemporary art, architecture and design Jade Niklai is a big fan of the MAK, Vienna’s Museum for Applied Arts, which shows furniture, glass, china, silver and textiles from the Middle Ages to the present day as well as offering a space for experimentation for applied arts at the interface of design, architecture and contemporary art. The design shop is a terrific place to find the most interesting gifts. She also recommends annual festivals Impulstanz, one of the world’s largest festivals of contemporary dance, and Curated by Vienna where international curators conceive exhibitions across 20 commercial Viennese galleries.

For the latest in Viennese fashion, she loves the work of Ukrainian-born, Viennese-trained Petar Petrov and for exquisite bags made from full-grain leather and (yes) fish scales, she suggests looking for the Vienna-based Batliner label.

As for places to stay, her pick is the contemporary/retro Austro-Hungarian monarchy style of Hotel Grand Ferdinand, right on the Ringstrasse, which celebrates a life full of relish with a generous dash of good humour.

Words Susan Gough Henly