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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.

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.

Words by Justine Costigan

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.

Looking for more adventure?

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.

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

Images courtesy Piermont Estate

Words Lucy Siebert

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

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