Category Food & Wine

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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Hawaii’s Big Island Gourmet: chocolate, coffee, honey and more

Big Island Chocolate is the only bean to bar chocolate farm in the United States

The Big Island of Hawaii — with all that rich volcanic soil, a delicious diversity of environments from mountains to valleys, plus oodles of tropical sunshine and rain — grows some fabulous foods. I recently discovered some truly amazing local gourmet goodies such as chocolate, coffee and honey. Here are some suggestions for a great gourmet touring route.

Big Island Chocolate

I am wander...

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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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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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Paris Beach: Sand by the Seine in Summer

Every summer for four weeks Paris is turned into a beach

It’s the middle of summer in Paris and all you see are other tourists flocking to the usual sites…the Louvre, Notre Dame and the Eiffel Tower. Les Parisiens have escaped to their summer houses.  But wait, what’s that down by the Seine? A guinguette, or outdoor café, locals sunning themselves on deck chairs, a few petanque pitches, kids playing in the sand, and people singing French tunes around an outdoor piano.  And there’s not a map-toting, camera-wielding, white-sneaker-wearing person in sight.

For four weeks each summer, starting around July 20, a couple of the busiest quarters of Paris are transformed into beaches! Yes, you heard me, beaches! In French it is called Paris Plage.

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Beechworth Victoria: Food, wine and shopping in historic goldmining town

Beechworth has rich goldmining and bushranger history and a terrific food, wine and shopping scene

A long weekend in Beechworth on the edge of the Victorian high country really ticks all the boxes.  It has buckets of gold rush and Ned Kelly bushranger history, a charming small-town streetscape, boutiques and gift shops that rival the best big city offerings, fabulous restaurants, atmospheric accommodations, and even a craft boutique brewery. It is also a terrific stopover on a road trip between Melbourne and Canberra or Sydney.

I am struck by how wide the main street is, wide enough, I am told by local historian Michael Beattie, to turn around a stage-coach, laden with gold. It’s a boulevard, really, and it’s lined with Victorian shop fronts with awnings shading pedestrians much like they did in the 1870s.

I meet Michael outside the Beechworth Information Centre, located in the heart of the Historic and Cultural Precinct. Dressed in an Akubra hat and jaunty waistcoat with fob watch, the long bearded guide, or one of his colleagues, takes visitors on guided walks around town...

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Great Overnight Getaway from Tokyo: Karuizawa

The onsen in Karuizawa, an hour out of Tokyo

The mountain retreat of Karuizawa, just an hour by bullet train from Tokyo, offers a delightful overnight getaway from the frenetic metropolis. In winter, it has skiing, snow shoeing, and steaming onsen baths. In summer it offers a wonderful respite from Tokyo’s heat. And year-round it has great shopping, walking, restaurants and other adventures.

Karuizawa,  has long welcomed travellers. From the early 17th century, when Japan was ruled by the Edo (Tokyo)-based shogun, Karuizawa was a post town along the busy Nakasendo highway between Tokyo and Kyoto.

You can still explore the long narrow post-town street once lined with wooden restaurants and inns catering to samurai lords and merchants. These days the offerings lean more towards trinket-filled Japanese souvenir outlets, bakeries and sweets shops.

What distinguishes Karuizawa from other post towns is…surprisingly…how it became a getaway for Westerners in the late 19th century.  After first coming in 1886, Canadian-born missionary Alexander Croft Shaw recommended what he called Happy Valley to fellow missionaries and other foreigners as a wonderful place to escape Tokyo’s summer heat. Soon an entire community of western-style houses was built among the larch and fir trees.

A ret...

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Darwin’s Top Attractions: crocodiles, markets, and World War II

Darwin's Mindil Street Markets

As the gateway to Asia and Aboriginal Arnhem Land on the northernmost tip of Australia, Darwin exudes a laid back tropical style and a fascinating multicultural mix. Closer to Jakarta than to Sydney and with vibrant Greek, Indonesian, Thai, Indian, Aboriginal, East Timorese, Malay and African communities, Darwin is no white bread movie set. Here is the definitive insider’s guide to make the most of your visit to the capital of the Northern Territory.

History

Darwin was founded in 1869, its harbor named after Charles Darwin by his one-time shipmate the surveyor John Wickham.

An ob...

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Insider’s Guide to Fez

The leather dyeing vats in the Fez medina

The leather dyeing vats in the Fez medina

Fez is the cultural and spiritual heart of Morocco, its UNESCO World Heritage-listed Medina the world’s largest car-free urban area. The American writer and longtime Moroccan resident Paul Bowles called it “an enchanted labyrinth sheltered from time”. Today people live and work in its 9000 lanes in much the same way as they have for a thousand or so years. Donkeys remain the main form of transport. For a visitor this ancient city can seem inscrutable so it is important to find ways to connect with the locals in order to gain an insider’s view of this fascinating place.

On my first visit to Fez I had felt very much the tourist with an official guide leading me along a hackneyed path of historical highlights (such as the tomb of its founder, Moulay Iddriss II, the great, great, grandson of the prophet Mohammed) and shopping meccas where I’d bargained for leather, carpets and jewelry in government-approved shops.

Yet I was fascinated by this place of secrets, of veiled women and hooded men navigating narrow passageways that weave between high windowless walls. It was so radically different to Marrakesh, six hours drive to the south, which has become a sort of Sub-Saharan Costa Brava, with mega resorts and nightclubs fed by a constant stream of budget flights filled with sun-starved Europeans. Fez, on the other hand, followed a fervent daily rhythm in a time capsule, like a lost tribe in the middle of a maze, unaware that the rest of the world had moved into the 21st century.

It was time to take a different tack on my next visit.

Lucki...

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