Category Australasia & Oceania

Brisbane is Australia’s New World City with great food, shops and culture

Overlooking the Brisbane CBD as it wraps around the Brisbane River

There’s an old joke that does a pretty good job of describing Brisbane compared to Australia’s other major capital cities. It goes something like this. In Melbourne, people ask where you went to school. In Sydney, they ask what suburb you live in. But in Brisbane they say, ‘Come and have a beer mate!’

Brisbane has always had a big country town demeanour, which of course has its plusses and minuses. Growing up here in the 1970s, it felt like I was drowning in its laconic torpor with not much more going on than the horse races and cricket on muggy weekend afternoons. Fast forward forty years and Brisbane is now marketing itself as Australia’s New World City and there are plenty of cultural and culinary adventures in store.

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Photo Friday: Is this the most beautiful beach in the world

You can have Champagne Beach all to yourself on Fiji's Yasawa Island

Is this the most beautiful beach in the world?

I took this photo on Champagne Beach in the remote Yasawa Islands off the northwest coast of the main island of Viti Levu in Fiji.  It is a huge arc of fine pinkish sand which surrounds a wide bay of aquamarine water. At each end are small reefs where you can snorkel to see myriad brightly colored tropical fish and hard and soft corals.

Even better, most of the time you have the whole beach to yourselves save for an occasional fisherman.

So how do you get here to enjoy it?

Yasawa Island Resort: home to the world’s most beautiful beaches

It is one of 11 pristine beaches that are available to guests of Yasawa Island Resort, one of Fiji’s most upscale one-island resorts located on one of the country’s most unspoiled islands. Although remote, it is just a 30-minute flight from Nadi International Airport to the resort’s private airstrip.

Yasawa is a standout in Fiji because of its absolutely spectacular beaches...

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Byron Bay’s Best Aussie Beach Cottages

Imeson Cottage has a spectacular view of Clarkes Beach in Byron Bay

Byron Bay beach cottage with panoramic ocean view

Byron Bay on the North Coast of New South Wales has the answer to all our fantasies about the perfect Aussie beach cottage. They have beach cottages to suit just about every family and friend configuration and better yet, they are actually right behind the beach!

There is something built into the Australian DNA that summertime must be spent with family and/or friends in a simple beach house as close to the water as possible. Memories of salty sun-kissed bodies, towels thrown over veranda railings, surfboards propped against the fence, and casual barbecues within earshot of the surf bring us all back to those carefree days.

Problem is that in most cases our aesthetic has grown up a little and there is a huge gap between those wistful fantasies and the real life comforts we all now seek on holiday...

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Allenvale Cottages: Two hours from Melbourne, three minutes from Lorne on the Great Ocean Road

Allenvale Cottages along The Great Ocean Road offer the best of the beach and the bush Two hours from Melbourne, three minutes from Lorne and a million miles from anywhere, Allenvale Cottages offer the perfect low-key retreat that combines the best of the beach and the bush in a bucolic valley behind Lorne along Victoria’s Great Ocean Road. My husband and I and our two teenage daughters arrive in Lorne in the middle of the madness that is Christmas week. The main street is clogged with cars, the campground is chockers, surfers jam into milk bars, and couples push prams along crowded footpaths. Then we drive over the hill, past Qdos art gallery and restaurant, and down a dirt road to the entrance of the Great Otway National Park, which encircles Allenvale’s 50 acres.Allenvale Cottage are surrounded by the bush outside of LorneA rust...

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What to Do Along the Great Ocean Road: beaches, forests, coastal towns

Victoria's Great Ocean Road is one of the world's great drives

Photo by Robert Blackburn

Not the ok ocean road or the good ocean road, Victoria is home to the GREAT Ocean Road, one of the world’s most scenic coastal drives that spans 243 km of Victoria’s stunning coastline southwest of Melbourne.

All too often visitors zip past The Great Ocean Road’s spectacular beaches, zigzag around its jagged cliffs, plough through its soaring rainforests, and scarcely make a pit-stop in its pretty beach towns in their rush to get to the 12 Apostles.

If the truth...

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Photo Friday: Packing Prosecco Picnic in Victoria’s King Valley

Forges Farm offers a Packing Prosecco picnic in the King Valley

I took this Photo Friday image in the bucolic King Valley in Victoria’s High Country.

The afternoon sun glints on the Prosecco glasses set beside platters of local Milawa cheeses and crusty bread. Ancient river red gums shade our picnic area, set with hessian-covered hay bales, blankets and bright pillows as Hereford cows feast on clover in a nearby paddock. Our horses also enjoyed chomping on those sweet green grasses on the 20-minute pack horse ride…more of a lazy amble really…to the picnic spot along the King River on Forges Farm.

How do you pack a horse

Fifth generation cattle farmers Anne Marie and Graham Forge are the last original settler family on the King River. Before we had set out, they’d demonstrated the fine art of packing horses, once used to take supplies into the high country.

“I am so proud to be living and working on the same piece of property as my forefathers,” says Anne Marie. “And it’s great to be able to show visitors our packhorse skills.”

Lo...

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Saffire Freycinet: Tasmanian Luxury Lodge by a Secluded Beach

Saffire Freycinet on Great Oyster Bay in Tasmania

I have always thought that Tasmania’s Saffire Freycinet is one of Australia’s finest luxury lodges, not only because it is in a stellar location by a secluded beach but also because it offers exceptional intuitive service and a wide range of luxury experiences.

Tasmania’s Saffire Freycinet was named 2014 Grand Award Winner in Andrew Harper’s world renowned luxury Hideaway Report. Harper describes Saffire Freycinet as a “superb contemporary 20-room resort nestled in a eucalyptus forest beside Great Oyster Bay. Floor-to-ceiling windows in three-story main lodge grant magnificent views of the pink-hued Hazards Mountains across the bay.”

This is another huge stamp of international approval for Luxury Lodges of Australia, which is a collection of independent luxury lodges and camps offering unforgettable experiences in Australia’s most inspiring and extraordinary wilderness locations.

The award is richly deserved.

Saffire Freycinet offers a design-rich but low-key and sophisticated retreat in exquisite natural surroundings on the edge of Tasmania’s Freycinet Peninsula. The name itself conjures up its setting with the merging of the sapphire blue waters of Coles Bay with the fiery hues of the pink granite Hazard Mountain Range at sunset…ergo the jewel of Tasmania.

With its swooping stingray-shaped roof, its dramatic ceiling made of ribbed golden celery-top pine and its wall of windows overlooking the water and mountains, the main lodge makes a grand statement but is also warm and welcoming. The lounge area offers comfortable couches and chairs, with Tasmanian Huon pine stumps for tables, lots of games and a long gas fireplace providing warmth in wild and wintry weather.

While the design is stunning, it is...

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Review: Brae is Australia’s Best New Restaurant in Country Victoria

Dan Hunter's Brae has swept the Australian restaurant awards

Brae is the best new restaurant in Australia

Dan Hunter’s new restaurant Brae  is on the top of Australia’s best restaurant lists less than 12 months after it opened outside the Victorian country town of Birregurra, 90 minutes southwest of Melbourne.

Brae was named by Australian Gourmet Traveller as Australia’s best new restaurant and best regional restaurant for 2014. It also received three hats and The Good Food Guide’s 2014 restaurant of the year for Victoria.

I re...

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Eyre Peninsula Seafood Trail: tuna, oysters, lobster and more

Port Lincoln is the tuna capital of Australia

Slurping down a sweet Coffin Bay Pacific oyster at Port Lincoln Fresh Fish Place as workers shuck them at lightning speed, I ask owner Craig McCathie what it is about the Eyre Peninsula that makes the seafood here so special.

“On one side you have the warm saline waters of Spencer Gulf, which are ideal for prawns, calamari, and blue crabs, and on the other side are the cold, high-nutrient waters of the Great Australian Bight where southern bluefin tuna, snapper, and squid hang out,” he explains. “There are also the shallow estuaries, which are perfect for oysters, garfish and whiting. And let’s not forget the abalone, which live on the rugged limestone rocks. There is such an incredible diversity of environments for sea life and the waters are pristine along this isolated coastline.”

Then...

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Photo Friday: Captain Awesome of Cook Islands’ Koko Lagoon Cruises

Captain Awesome from Koko Lagoon Cruises in the Cook IslandsI took this photo of Captain Awesome, the charismatic leader of a four-man band of guides on Koko Lagoon Cruises in the Cook Islands. He blows on this beautiful conch shell to welcome us aboard the boat. The merry band of funsters are the sole reason why the Koko Lagoon Cruises on Muri Lagoon on the Cook Island’s main island of Rarotonga is such a fun trip. They don’t look that bad either!

Koko Lagoon Cruises

Out come the ukuleles the moment the Koko Lagoon Cruises glass bottom boat pushes off from the creamy sands of Muri Lagoon and Captain Awesome and his mates Captain Amazing, Captain Jack Sparrow and Captain Cook (the chef who creates our lunch) serenade us with toe tapping tunes as we cruise around the aquamarine lagoon. Jack Sparrow even manages to steer the boat with one hand and beat a drum with the other.

We head to the edge of a marine reserve and Captain Amazing jumps overboard to feed the fishes right underneath the glass bottom so that we see a kaleidoscope of color...

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