Category Adventures & Attractions

Ten Napa Wineries with Great Visitor Experiences

Napa is a short trip from San Francisco

California’s Napa Valley is a Holy Grail for wine lovers yet it can be hard to figure out how to enjoy the best wine touring. Here is the low down on ten wineries with great visitor experiences as well a guerilla guide to making the most of a Napa visit with tips on how to avoid the crowds and engage with the locals.

A guerilla guide to understanding Napa

Just over an hour’s drive north of San Francisco, Napa is tiny…just eight kilometers wide and 48 kilometers long….yet it is home to more than 450 wineries.

Napa is Cabernet country. All the experts agree that it produces the world’s best big, elegant, full-bodied Cabernets with plenty of structure and age-ability. Chardonnay is the second most planted variety, especially in the Los Carneros region. Other grapes include Merlot, Petit Verdot, Malbec and Cabernet Franc (the classic Bordeaux blending varieties) as well as Sauvignon Blanc, Zinfandel and even the occasional Pinot Noir.

The Napa produce...

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Hallstatt is the Heart of Austria’s Beautiful Lakes District

Austria's village of Hallstatt reflected in the lake of the same name

Hallstatt

UNESCO World Heritage-listed Hallstatt is reflected so perfectly in the lake that it is often described as one of Europe’s most beautiful villages. The Chinese admire it so much they’ve built an exact replica. But it is just one of many “screensaver worthy” scenes in Austria’s Lakes District.

Set between the foothills and the Alps, this region, called Salzkammergut in German, is about 300 kilometers west of Vienna and just an hour’s drive southeast of Salzburg. With 76 lakes and soaring limestone mountains, the Salzkammergut offers exquisite scenery and water sports not to mention hiking, biking and fishing.

It is difficult to believe there are so many different blues, but each lake lays claim to its own unique shade. Centuries-old, flower-decked wooden holiday houses, simple lakeside cottages, and rustic boat sheds adorn each lake shore. Wildflowers carpet rolling fields; woodpiles are stacked with designer precision (Austria wins Olympic gold for wood stacking); small boats tootle on the waters; huge trout and arctic char slither underneath; walkers and cyclists breathe the clear mountain air.

The name Salzkammergut...

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An Insider’s Guide to Melbourne’s Laneways

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Centre Way. Photo by Robyn Lea

Melbourne’s laneways are the soul of the city. Learn your way around these hidden pathways and you will discover that Melbourne, not Sydney, is the center of art, fashion and café life in Australia. (And for those who don’t know the term, a laneway is a collective term for narrow streets and alleyways that weave around Melbourne’s central business district.)

“The laneways are our bloodlines. They are where our heritage blends with younger entrepreneurs making their mark in the city,” says Fiona Sweetman, director of Melbourne’s Hidden Secrets Tours.

Melbourne’s character was forged after the 1850s gold rush when for a short time it became the wealthiest city on the planet.  Large ornate public buildings were built on the bullock-dray-wide avenues whilst in the narrow streets behind, small workshops, stables and factories serviced the burgeoning city...

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Hoshinoya Kyoto: classic Japanese inn with a twist

Hoshinoya Kyoto has been built with traditional Japanese craftsmanship

Hoshinoya Kyoto is a unique contemporary ryokan inside a noble’s retreat on the banks of the Ooigawa River in Arashiyama, just outside Kyoto. It offers a rare vision of authentic Japan incorporating a reverence for traditional culture with a whimsical modern sensibility. There are few Japanese high-end inns, indeed few resorts in the world, whose aesthetic appeals both to well-heeled locals and an informed international clientele. Hoshinoya is breaking new ground.

To get to Hoshinoya, I arrive at a dock near the famous moon-viewing Togetsukyo Bridge for the ten-minute trip in a covered boat along the forest-lined river. Tomoko Tsuchima greets me and shows me around the re-imagined interior and exterior spaces of this protected heritage site. Hoshinoya’s designers have utilised centuries-old techniques of Kyoto craftsmen…hand-crafted washi paper, latticework, ceramic roof tiles, sand plastered walls…to create a modern gem embodying the lightness of touch inherent in good Japanese design.

At t...

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Four of the Best Sydney Harbourside Walks

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Sydney may be a city of five million people but it also has more than 400 hectares of natural harbor waterfront that is best accessed by a remarkable network of walking trails.

We can thank the early colonists’ fear of being invaded for the creation of the Sydney Harbour National Park, which was established in the 1970s when numerous military and naval installations on prime harbor-front property were decommissioned.

Today, in conjunction with a patchwork of local preserves, you can walk through stands of Sydney red gums, she oaks, heath land and sub-tropical rainforest alive with native bird life, explore fascinating historical sites and enjoy jaw-dropping harbour views. Not only that, there are aboriginal middens and rock art as well as secluded beaches far from the madding crowds. Many of the trails also pass alongside some downright spectacular waterfront mansions so you can get your fix of the lifestyles of the rich and famous too!

Taronga Z...

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Ten Reasons to Use a Guide Rather than a Guidebook

Peter Miller meeting the local kids at a sea gypsy village off the island of Flores in Indonesia

Peter Miller with the local kids at a sea gypsy village off the island of Flores in Indonesia

This is a guest post by Peter Miller, the founder and managing director of No Roads Expeditions.

Like most people, when I travel, I like to understand what I am seeing. I am always asking What is that? Why is that? Who is that? What’s in that? Where is that? The list is endless.

Before guidebooks became fashionable in the 80’s and the internet became ubiquitous in the mid 2000’s, those of us who wanted to understand what they were seeing employed the services of a living, breathing and intelligent human being. That’s right, there are those among us that are passionate about the world we live and work in and we want to share our s encyclopaedic knowledge of places we love. And at the same time organize things for you, introduce you to locals, immerse you in the environment you are traveling in so that at the end of the trip, you understand the place like you could never understand it by reading a book.

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Amangiri Hotel: Sleek Architecture in the Utah Desert

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Its location is certainly far from Adrian Zecha’s usual hangouts but then Aman is always pushing the boundaries of what defines a great hotel and where it might be located. The multi-award-winning Amangiri, which means ‘peaceful mountain’, is wedged into 600 acres of raw mesa-dotted desert in Southern Utah, not far from the Arizona border.  One of Aman’s most popular properties, Amangiri is all about sleek, minimalist architecture which reflects the drama of the Utah desert. This is only the second Aman property in North America, the first being Amangani in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

In classic Aman fa...

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The Rowley Shoals: Australia’s Secret Underwater Paradise

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In the middle of the open ocean I’m flying along a coral channel whose water is so clear I could be a large black bird finning through the sky. Below me giant clams flash by with their gaudy dance hall smiles, aquamarine parrot fish nibble on coral bommies, white-tipped reef sharks lurk in shadows and schools of tiny neon-bright yellow fish dart amongst intricate coralline structures.

Just ahead, I try to catch up with the “Hey Dude” turtle in Little Nemo. Only we are nowhere near the Eastern Australian Current on the Great Barrier Reef.

What and where are the Rowley Shoals?

Fourteen of us are drift snorkeling on the other side of the continent at the Rowley Shoals, 250 kilometers northwest of Broome. They are three tear-drop-shaped reefs which thrust up a dizzying 400 meters from the ocean floor on the edge of the world’s widest continental shelf. This reef ride is one of the few in the world that is courtesy of a five-meter tide, which rises and falls in six hours...

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Barging on France’s Canal du Midi

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I confess I’ve always had a fantasy about canal barging in France…gliding slowly alongside sunflowers and vines, biking to local bakeries, lunching at canal-side cafés, and snoozing away balmy afternoons. No more rushing about not appreciating France’s bucolic riches: our family of five travel a mere 157 kilometres in seven days along the Canal du Midi.

The boat

We start our journey at the Le Boat Company’s port in Castelnaudary, near Toulouse, where a staffer gives us a 15-minute boat handling class. “Yep, we understand how to go forward, reverse and sideways; sure, we’ll remember how to swivel and jiggle the toilet pump for the requisite flushing into the canal…nope we won’t be swimming there;  yes, we see how to fill the water tank and hook up for power. Mais, bien sur, we’ll stick to the speed limit. What is it again…eight kilometers an hour?”

After a full inspection of the 11.5-meter Tango barge boat, we are mightily impressed with its design...

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Sunshine Coast Hinterland Gourmet Hike

There's a jungle out there in the Sunshine Coast hinterland

Most people think the Sunny Coast is all about beaches and alfresco dining in Noosa, Mooloolaba and Caloundra but an entire alternative ecosystem is tucked into the folds of its ancient mountain ranges. In fact, there’s a whole jungle to explore in the Sunshine Coast hinterland…and some mighty fine raw materials for a gourmet getaway.

Black and white dairy cows graze on lime-green pastures. Avocado and macadamia trees burst out of the red earth. Ridge-top gardens peer over the Glasshouse Mountains to the blue Pacific and a family of distinctive villages beckons, each as idiosyncratic as other people’s children.

Two of the Great Walks of Queensland are here too. The 58-kilometer Sunshine Coast Hinterland Great Walk and the 56-kilometer Conondale Range Great Walk rumble through the jungle to the evocative soundtrack of tropical birds and cicadas.

Narrows Escape Rainforest Lodge

Narrow Escape Rainforest Retreat partners with Off Beat Eco Tours to offer a gourmet hiking adventure

Hardy hikers bunk down in campsites along the way but for those of us who prefer our walking in the wild wi...

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