Category Sleep, Spa, Shop

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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Melbourne’s Best Weekend Getaway: Mornington Peninsula

Millionaire's Walk in Portsea on the Mornington Peninsula

Millionaire’s Walk in Portsea on the Mornington Peninsula

About an hour’s drive from Melbourne and wedged like the boot of Italy between Port Phillip and Westernport Bays, the Mornington Peninsula can make you wonder, at times, whether you are in Australia. Great swathes of blue water peak out between horse studs, alleys of pines and vistas of vines making it feel like a playground more Mediterranean than Melbourne.  But then those rolling green hills dotted with sandy bunkers could easily be in Scotland. Yet one glance at koalas lazing in aromatic gum trees and sun-drenched beaches with brightly colored bathing boxes and you realize you are in in the middle of one of Australia’s most appealing holiday destinations. Up until now, it has been a well-kept secret amongst Melbourne’s savvy insiders, but the Mornington Peninsula has so many world-class wineries, restaurants, beaches and gardens that it’s time the rest of the world discovered what it has to offer. For most of the p...

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Bali’s Original Luxury Hotel in Seminyak

Inside a villa compound at the Oberoi Bali

The Oberoi Bali is the Grande Dame of Bali’s resorts, setting the benchmark for classic understated luxury in Seminyak.

Starting life as an exclusive private club in 1974, The Oberoi Bali was the first five-star luxury resort in Seminyak that has been continuously upgraded to maintain its superior standards. The hotel is such a landmark that the street outside the hotel is now known as Oberoi Street.

What sets the Oberoi apart from its many luxury competitors is its exceptional levels of service and genuine engagement by all the staff.

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Australia’s remote castaway tropical island: Haggerstone

Haggerstone Island mfp

Not a skerrick of pretension can be found anywhere near the jungle green mound that is Haggerstone Island, sitting peaceably in its own reef just 80 kilometers from the tip of Cape York Peninsula in Queensland. Those in the know ditch their shoes along with their big city stresses and fly 2 ½ hours from Cairns over virgin rainforest and an aquamarine sea dotted with lily-pad-like reefs.   The airport is a clay landing strip on nearby Hicks Island.  Baggage handling is by tractor. The destination: a remote, castaway tropical island paradise.

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Santorini: Where to stay, what to do and where to eat

Santorini WWW

Oia is the only place to base yourself on Santorini. This is the source of all Santorini’s iconic images that grace the covers of travel magazines.

Here is everything you need to know to enjoy your stay in Oia: Where to Stay, What to do, and Where to Eat.

Where...

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Mr & Mrs Smith: The World’s Boutique Hotel Specialists

The-Rectory-Hotel-overlooking-the-gardens-72

Have you heard of Mr & Mrs Smith? No they are not Brad and Angelina but Brits James and Tamara Lohan who founded the award-winning Mr & Mrs Smith hotel website, booking service and free-to-join travel club that specializes in finding the world’s most inspiring boutique hotels.

Now with offices in London, New York and Melbourne, Mr & Mrs Smith has a detailed website and has published nine coffee-table guidebooks. Its hand-picked and anonymously reviewed collection features 900 of the world’s most stylish stays.

And what about the name, Mr & Mrs Smith? Well, they are all about great escapes with your other half — a wink to couples everywhere, especially those who fancy checking into a fabulous hotel under this classic dirty-weekend pseudonym. In a nod to the changing times, however, they have added a Smith Family range of hotels too.

There are some wonder...

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Kangaroo Island Luxury Retreat: Southern Ocean Lodge

SOL lead image

The multi-award-winning Southern Ocean Lodge is the master of the wow factor and sets the Australian benchmark for luxury…and environmental sustainability. It is well worth the splurge and makes a perfect base to explore Kangaroo Island, which is often nicknamed Australia’s Galapagos for its remarkable collection of Australian animals and birds.

Designed by Kangaroo Island local and Adelaide-based architect, Max Pritchard, Southern Ocean Lodge, a member of Luxury Lodges of Australia, is an organic set of buildings with a bold, wave-shaped Grand Room as its epicentre, a spa facility perched in isolation and 21 spacious split-level suites cantilevered along the cliffs overlooking its namesake ocean that stretches all the way to Antarctica. The views of the ocean…whether it is calm and aquamarine or wild and choppy…dictate your experience at all times.

The Grand Room features a semi-circle of floor-to-ceiling windows that encourage guests to look outward and embrace the natural wor...

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11 Cool Reasons to Visit Australia

The Great Barrier Reef is the first of 11 Cool Reasons to Visit Australia

The Great Barrier Reef is the first of 11 cool reasons to visit Australia

There are so many reasons to visit Australia that it can feel overwhelming to decide what to do. I have combed the country to highlight the best places and most authentic experiences in Australia for my app Australia’s Best Places.

Here is my must-do list.

1. Dive into the Great Barrier Reef

Go snorkeling or scuba diving at the Great Barrier Reef, which is the world’s largest reef system and the largest natural made structure on earth. Take day and overnight trips to the Outer Reef from locations all along the mainland or stay on exquisite tropical islands like Lizard, Hayman and Wilson.

2. See all the unique animals

Nowhere else in the world are there so many unusual and bizarre animals. Think of the whole marsupial family including koalas, kangaroos and wallabies, wombats, and other lesser known gems like bilbies, bandicoots and potoroos all of which have pouches for their babies.

Then there are the mono...

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