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5 reasons to escape to the Whitsundays this winter

5 reasons to escape to the Whitsundays this winter

If you prefer to escape the cold and holiday somewhere hot, then ditch the winter blues and pack for the sunny Whitsundays. When it comes to choosing whether to freeze or fry over winter, Aussies love a hot getaway, with 72.5 per cent preferring to head to a hot destination, according to a winter survey by travel website Wotif.com.

5 reasons to escape to the Whitsundays this winter

  1. Soak up the Vitamin D: In the recent Wotif.com survey, 34.8 per cent of holidaymakers revealed going to the beach was their top hot activity in winter, followed by 29.2 per cent favouring to explore new cultures, 24.7 per cent relaxing by the pool, 9.3 per cent drinking cold cocktails. You can escape the cold winter days and swap them for 22 degree days relaxing on the beaches at the Whitsundays. It’s the perfect weather to go on a GoDo Whitehaven Beach sailing adventure with time to relax and roll out your beach towel on the powdery, white sand.
  1. Swap hot chocolates for tropical cocktails: Relax on Hamilton Island and re-live your summer with refreshing cocktails by the pool or at one of the bars. The Hamilton Island Reef View Hotel has a range of refreshing cocktails on offer at the poolside Reef Terrace Restaurant.You can finish the evening with stunning sunset views sipping on a strawberry and orange ‘Summer Love’ cocktail at One Tree Hill, the Island’s hill-top lookout.
  1. Indulge and get pampered: Relax at Airlie Beach’s Pinnacles Resort & Spa and get pampered with Endota’s weekday June spa special. After your pampering, relax on the private verandah with views over the Coral Sea and Whitsunday Islands.
  1. See the underwater world: With the water temperature rarely dropping below 23 degrees, it’s just the right temperature to get up close with tropical fish and colourful coral species snorkelling or scuba diving along the World Heritage listed Great Barrier Reef, one of the seven natural wonders of the world. Did you know you can even spend the night out under the stars of the Reef?
  1. Spot a whale: From July to October, whales are a common sight frolicking among the Whitsunday Islands and even occasionally out on the Great Barrier Reef. Those out on the water, the islands, or even just sitting in a café by the beach are regularly indulged by excited young calves and their mothers breaching out of the water, playing with boats and each other, and majestically gliding through the waters of the Whitsundays.

 

You might also like TravelLiveLearn.com Whitsundays Wonder 

Featured image by Richard Rydge, creative commons

 

Weekend retreat – travel to the Blue Mountains

Located less than two hours from Sydney is the Blue Mountains, a stunning World-Heritage listed region attracting millions of visitors each year. Not only is it a firm favourite with international visitors but it’s a popular weekend retreat for local Aussie travellers.

With spectacular natural attractions, sights and a relaxed atmosphere – the Blue Mountains is a breath of fresh air after being consumed by Sydney’s hustle bustle lifestyle. Recently I was fortunate to escape to the Mountains for a weekend full of adventure and nature gazing.

Here are my top highlights and recommended things to experience in the Blue Mountains:

Three Sisters

One of the most famous landmarks in the Blue Mountains is the Three Sisters, an unusual rock formation towering high above the Jamison Valley. Standing over 900 metres tall, the Three Sisters is a spectacular sight and offers some beautiful and intense walking tracks. There is one trail ‘The Giant Stairway’ that takes you up close to the Three Sisters and then down to the valley floor via more than 800 steps. Learn from my mistake – be prepared and go early in the day to avoid missing out of the Scenic Railway that takes you back to the top, otherwise it’s a long thigh-burning climb.

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Jenolan Caves

Now this will take your breath away. The Jenolan Caves is renowned for its spectacular limestone cave formations. Dating back to at least 340 million years, the Jenolan Caves is the world’s oldest known open cave system. Fascinating thing is the cave network is so vast – it has over 40kms of multi-level passages and it’s still undergoing active exploration today. Over 250,000 tourists visit each year to get a glimpse at the cave’s magnificent limestone formations and underground rivers. There are a number of guided tours running day or night and they even have ghost tours and adventure caving for those thrill-seekers.

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Wentworth Falls

A great spot for outdoor exploring and waterfall chasing is Wentworth Falls. Suitable for all fitness levels, one of my favourite walking tacks is Fletchers Lookout– this easy graded track takes around an hour to complete (including return) and offers spanning views of Mount Solitary, Kings Tableland and Jamison Valley. During this walk you’ll comes across a lovely spot at the top of Wentworth Falls called Queen’s Cascade Falls. It’s a perfect scenic area to rest, take some photos and soak up the calming sounds of the rainforest and cascading water.

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Yellow Deli, Katoomba

For a dining experience that makes you feel like you’re on the set of The Hobbit is the Yellow Deli. This venue is perfect for a winter’s lunch serving up hearty soups, burgers, sandwiches, herbal teas and delectable desserts. Inside its extremely cosy decorated with log-carved booths, a stone fireplace, hanging vines and dim lighting. It’s definitely a quirky place packed with diners. Overall my experience was good – the food was delicious and affordable however only downside was the service. It was a little slow but at the same point it was nice not to feel rushed as it was so cosy and relaxed inside.

Only thing to be aware of before visiting is to understand that the Yellow Deli is a religiously run venue.  At the time I didn’t even realise it until doing research afterwards. I suppose my ignorance illustrates that it’s not in your face. If you can get past the religious factor then it’s a pretty cool spot to eat in the Blue Mountains.

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Have you visited the Blue Mountains? Let us know your favourite attractions?

Queen's Cascade Falls (Copy)

About the author

Danielle Muller (@stuffitgotravel) is a Sydney-based travel blogger and communications professional. Follow her travel adventures, stories and recommendations at www.stuffitgotravelling.com.

 

 

Eat, drink, sleep, repeat – The Elandra Mission Beach

Eat, drink, sleep, repeat – The Elandra Mission Beach

Welcome to The Elandra Mission Beach

Pretty palm trees arched across an elegant driveway signified we had arrived at a special tropical location. As we pulled to a stop outside The Elandra Resort, we tried to overcome feeling frazzled; we had only fifteen minutes to spare before we were due to attend a cocktail party. You see, it had been one of “those days”. Instead of enjoying the scenic Friday afternoon drive to Mission Beach, I desperately attempted to tick off unaccounted-for items on my to-do list, computer and mobi Wi-Fi working hard on my lap in the car; Cooper, sitting behind the wheel, grew increasingly impatient with the time-consuming road-works which we’d not factored into our schedule. We jumped out of the car at our final destination however, and caught sight of the breathtaking pool deck (voted “sexiest in Australia” by avid travellers), Dunk and other islands of the Great Barrier Reef through the foyer.

Stunning, and instantly therapeutic.

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Then, resort manager, Sharon Muir, appeared − a breath of vibrant fresh air. She guessed who we were and welcomed us as if we were life-long friends, buggied us to our villa, handed over the keys and said, “Enjoy our beautiful beach house”.

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And that’s how they roll at this exclusive little piece of paradise, generally only an hour and a half drive from Cairns, and about two and a half from Townsville. The Elandra Resort Mission Beach is up-market, rainforest-meets-the-sea heaven, with a warm side of family-style hospitality. Even owners, Katrina Knowles and Adam Karras’ dog, Willis, sauntered over to us on our arrival. He didn’t need coaxing for cuddles − fine by us as we’re always happy to adopt a dog when away from home.

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Also fine was room 404, which aside from being oversized, welcoming, plush and comfy, boasts dramatic sea, island and coastal beach views as far as the appreciative eye can gaze. There really is nothing more soothing than spending time by the ocean, and perched above a setting like this is exactly what I needed to recharge my drained batteries.

Crisp, stylish, yet emanating a calm northern Queensland vibe, Elandra − meaning “safari or home by the sea” − isn’t your average resort. Core business here revolves around weddings, special events, conferences and corporate incentive escapes. Sharon insists there are to be “no worries” when you turn up to The Elandra for an event, whether you’re a guest, bride, groom, CEO or group facilitator. “You tell us what you need, what you do and/or don’t want as part of your experience, how many people are coming, and we will design a bespoke itinerary and package to suit your requirements and budget, utilising our own exceptional team as well as hand-chosen, trusted quality service providers from around the region,” she explains.

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Cooper and I were lucky enough to experience the Elandra events expertise first-hand during the resort’s wonderful Tastes of the Tropics weekend, an event designed to “give back” to the local community and supporters who the Elandra team hold dear. “Our community spirit has always been alive and well, but it’s really been since Cyclone Yasi in 2011 that everyone treasures local relationships more closely. The eye of the storm came in directly over us. Elandra was actually an evacuation point for South Mission Beach because the areas below us are really low-lying and a damaging king tide was expected. We had hundreds of people bunkered up across the 40 rooms on the property, and provided safe haven for pets − cats, dogs, snakes − you name it! We’ve got the only helipad in the area too, so a couple of hundred army personnel from Townsville were also based here during the emergency so they could service the hard-hit areas between Cardwell and Innisfail. Because we’re not open to the general public anymore, we try to host various local events every year or two, so that our friends from the region can come back to enjoy the Elandra experience,” Sharon tells us.

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This was no ordinary meal with mates though; Tastes of the Tropics was a gourmet getaway like no other, brimming with indulgence, sampling, demonstrations and degustation. The weekend included a cocktail dinner boasting divine canapés utilising only the freshest local seafood and produce, and a gala dinner, both catered for by none other than acclaimed celebrity chef from Channel Ten’s The Living Room, Miguel Maestre. Stuffed mussels, tigres style with brava sauce; lobster sliders, freshly shucked oysters; sesame crusted yellow fin tuna and seaweed salad as well as suckling pig with celeriac remoulade were just a few of Miguel’s delicacies featured on the weekend menu. Set to a theme of Spanish guitar and flamenco dancing as a nod to special guests, Miguel and his family’s heritage, the entire spectrum of events we were privileged to attend really showcased the experience and pride that the team here injects into anything that happens on their land. I should add also, that when Miguel wasn’t in charge of the kitchen, the treats rustled up by The Elandra Mission Beach’s chef, Tomasz Kornacki, were just as delicious.

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I relished in the energy of this place. It’s not hard to fall in love with The Elandra when you’re lounging around on an oversized daybed overlooking the Coral Sea, or meandering through the lush gardens, enjoying the overall beauty and serenity that we have on offer in our backyard, Queensland. Whether you’re planning to host your own celebrity-studded event, idyllic tropical wedding, extraordinary bucks or hens extravaganza including cocktails, manis, pedis or even a night-time game of laser tag in the rainforest; you want to indulge in secluded island day trips and beach picnics, or you wish to do as we did − eat, drink, sleep, repeat (and make some new friends along the way), consider this spot for your special get-together. Sublime, sexy, easy, exceptional − Elandra (elandraresorts.com).

 

Where to stay in Adelaide – Rendezvous Grand Hotel

Rendezvous Grand Hotel Adelaide - Exterior - New (Copy)There’s nowhere more central to stay than the lovely Rendezvous Grand Hotel. It’s one of those properties that boasts two critical home-away-from-home elements − homeliness and cosmopolitan style.

Friendly staff were consistently on hand to assist, and this continued throughout my entire stay. They were swift and helpful when I called for assistance to my room because there was an issue with the plug in the bathroom sink not raising so water couldn’t drain, and were equally nice to me when they explained it’s one of those you simply push down so it pops back up. Blonde moment.

I was pleasantly surprised by the fact that each time I exited or entered the hotel I’d receive a happy, “Hello Miss, have a lovely day” − a touch that means that much extra when you’re travelling solo.

It’s true that first impressions count for a lot, and on setting foot inside this upscale hotel I was entirely satisfied that I’d enjoy my stay.

The foyer is elegant with chic mood lighting and comfortable spaces to sit and relax. Lounge 55 features prominently on this level too, and beckons with a tone that tempted me along these lines: “Hey, aren’t you tired from that flight, would you like a yummy vino?”

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I was excited to discover my Deluxe King room was on level 17 (of 18) with sweeping views of the city which is equally as pretty day or night. The elevator reception areas on each floor are spacious and emanate class through sleek finishes and pleasing European-style design.

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The most important aspect of any hotel are its rooms, of course, and I loved mine. Sliding Japanese style doors lead to the wardrobe space and luxurious bathroom with oversized tub and French Connection toiletries. The bed was supremely comfortable and if you’re like me and fussy about your pillow, there’s a specialised menu available to suit all requirements. Floor to ceiling windows present the city in an alluring way, and when the curtains are drawn back the natural light really showcases all the pleasing elements of the room, including its modern spaces, reading/day chair, work desk, flat screen television and large bathroom.

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Further facilities you’ll also love about this place include its gym, pool, spa and sauna; free WiFi, concierge service, business centre, the Straits Cafe which boasts a delicious modern Australian menu, and in-room dining which I can personally vouch for as being the perfect combination of a comforting guilty pleasure and excellent value for money.
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The Rendezvous Grand Hotel Adelaide (part of TFE Hotels tfehotels.com) is well priced for its pleasurable amenities and convenient location for business or leisure travellers. I was in the city to attend the Taste Australia showcase and #WordsToGo, presented in and around Victoria Square (close to the popular Adelaide Central Markets), and this property is literally four minutes walk from this precinct.

It also appeared to me to be pretty safe by day and night if you happen to be getting around on foot (which is likely as Adelaide is an easy walking city). Adelaide Convention Centre, Rundle Mall, the cultural boulevard of North Terrace, and popular Gouger and Waymouth Street restaurant precincts are all within walking distance of the hotel. You can also easily explore South Australia’s famous Barossa Valley and McLaren Vale wine regions with a daytrip into the picturesque countryside.

It is easy to get to and from the airport − around ten minutes via car, taxi (approx $20 ride) or chauffeur service.

Where to stay in Adelaide

Rendezvous Grand Hotel Adelaide
55 Waymouth Street, Adelaide
Tel: +61 (0) 8 8115 8888
rendezvoushotels.com/adelaide

Want to take a look behind-the-scenes at Tasting Australia 2014 and cheese making with Udder Delights?

Hotel love: Urban Hotel Brisbane

The best of boutique hotels: For accommodation that’s inspiring and surprising (and a little left-of-centre in all the right ways), check out – or check into – Brisbane’s Urban Hotel. Situated at the highest point of the city, this stylish hotel is nestled in a gorgeous little pocket overlooking the CBD and within walking distance to lush parks, cafes, transport and a variety of convenience options.

Take a one-minute tour with me…

 

The mantra here is to offer guests ‘surprises’, and on this promise, Hotel Urban certainly delivers. We’re not the only ones who think so either, as this hotel recently scored a Trip Advisor Travellers’ Choice Award and the Best Superior Hotel (4 to 4.5 Stars) accolade at the Queensland Hotel Awards.

The lobby − aka Moët Rosé Lounge − showcases alluring art, elegant seating and Hollywoodesque decor, as well as designer fragrances which you’re free spritz for a post-travel pick-me-up. Rooms are spacious and fitted with contemporary luxuries like Nespresso pod machines, iPod docking stations, flat-screen televisions, quality interiors, and include comfy Slow Down slippers, plush bathrobes,  and the signature Urban Snorer specially crafted underlay, snug duvet and feather pillows. There is a range of rooms on offer, including suites with enormous balconies and sweeping city views, as well as pool-side villas named after Australia’s most famous beaches. In fact, the pool-side accommodation is ideal for groups travelling to Brisbane, because the sophisticated outdoor area beyond these rooms features private cabanas, sun-chairs and landscaping that will have you and your entourage channelling the glamorous lives of Footballers’ Wives in no time. There’s a gym (‘jim’), in-room massage available, funny and friendly staff, arty and colourful public spaces ideal for reading or a quiet chat with friends, and even an amazing private rooftop nightclub, meeting and conference rooms for those interested in reserving special-event facilities.

The Gazebo Bar & Restaurant on-site is not only where delicious meals may be devoured, drinks consumed and live entertainment enjoyed on Friday nights, but friends are likely to be made too! It’s an informal yet sassy gathering-place that at any given time brings forward a mix of accents and interesting folk. If however, you’re alone at the end of the day, Suzanne the cuddle-pole has been thoughtfully positioned so you’ve got ‘someone’ to lean on as darkness falls. Or, if you’re lucky like me, you might score one of the hotel brand’s signature soft-toy monkeys to keep as a memento of a truly lovely, unique, stylish, incredibly cool facility that offers so much more than just a bed for the night. Press play on the video above to see all of this in a one-minute walk-thru.

 

Hotel Urban, 345 Wickham Terrace, Brisbane │ +61 7 3831 6177

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Has a hotel ever exceeded your expectations? Share with us on FACEBOOK or TWITTER x

 

Wonderful Whitsundays

Wonderful Whitsundays

Travelled: to Qualia Resort, Hamilton Island and Hayman Island.

Lived: like a Queen! And experienced a sea plane for the first time.

Learned: humans really shouldn’t feed wildlife – the rubbish we eat completely ruins not only the eco-system but a wild animal’s natural ability to live, hunt, protect itself and grow.

VIEW ENTIRE PHOTO GALLERY / VIEW PART ONE

Already unsure as to how this particular weekend could get any better, Tamara impressed me by taking us to one of the jewels in Hamilton Island‘s gleaming crown – Qualia – an ultra-exclusive, private retreat that offers guests ‘Qualia-only’ beachfront, dining and spa space. We were privileged to join an early morning yoga class overlooking the ocean (the epitome of Zen), followed by a delicious breakfast in Qualia’s long pavilion.

As I indulged in Eggs Benedict with a special touch of avocado and spicy tomato, I couldn’t help but gaze out at the ocean and mountain views thinking, “how on Earth did I end up here?”.

This continued to play on my mind as Linda and I wandered down to the guests’ private pool and beach-front (pictured below) to snap a few photos. Lucky patrons lazed on comfy sun beds, soothed by the lapping ocean and warm environment, no doubt admiring the view which included a whale playing in the inlet!

Next we were in for a real treat! The five of us, along with our belongings, were packed carefully on board an Air Whitsunday sea plane – destination: super exclusive, beautiful Hayman Island. Grinning like a 5-year-old I held on tight to my handbag as we took off across the ocean. Gliding over coral reefs and Whitsunday islands of all shapes and sizes, we stared in awe at the beauty that we, as Australians, so often take for granted. A highlight of the flight was the fly-by of spectacular Whitehaven Beach  – a stunning and iconic Queensland location, popular for weddings and tourism photo shoots.

Take a 60-second flight with us:

The sea plane engines quietened as our pilot guided us down on to the water, and we gently sailed our way into Hayman’s ‘backyard’. I have always dreamed of visiting Hayman.

As a teen – a child of hard-working parents, doing their utmost to provide a decent education for their kids – I attended a private school brimming with ‘privileged families’, and I recall some of my classmates telling stories about Hayman. It sounded so flash, high-end, luxurious. Let me assure you, it is.

Serene, absolutely beautiful, and I now am the one who is privileged to have visited. Walking through the doors into my sensational pool-view apartment, I was overwhelmed by the now familiar, “how did I get here?” feeling. In fact, thanks to Hayman (and all of the Whitsundays, actually), my enthusiasm and delight for travelling ‘in my own backyard’ has been renewed. Hayman Island really is a paradise, second to nothing witnessed on the Travel Channel, anywhere in the world.

From the mouth-watering fine-dining menus, peaceful spa treatments, landscaped gardens, open air gym, tennis facilities and beaches to the water sport activities, island hopping adventures and reef diving, it’s all here (and more!) – indulgence and fun at your fingertips. Save your pennies people, this spot is worth it. Whether you’re in a beach villa, pool-side or lagoon-view apartment, it’s all luxury and five-star service. And why would you travel overseas to experience paradise when you can support local operations like this? Enough said.

Any Whitsundays experience will provide ample opportunities to do whatever you fancy – rest, relax, exercise, indulge. The Whitsunday Islands are sublime; everywhere we went the service was excellent and amenities certainly five-star. See you all again soon, with any luck 😉

GREAT BARRIER REEF, KEY FACTS

  • The world’s largest coral reef system.
  • In 1981 was deemed a World Heritage Area.
  • Spans an area almost one and a half times that of the UK or roughly the area of Germany.
  • Comprises just over 2900 individual reefs; around 760 of these are fringing reefs, which can be found on sections of the mainland shores and islands.
  • The reef includes 900 islands, 600 of which are continental islands, such as those 74 in the Whitsundays; others are coral cays formed though build up of coral.
  • The GBR is home to 10% of the world’s fish species; includes 1625 species of fish, 400 species of hard coral, more than 150 species of soft coral, six of the world’s seven species of marine turtle, 30 species of whales and dolphins, 133 species of sharks and rays, 215 species of birds and approximately 1300 species of crustaceans.
    [Sources: Great Barrier Marine Park Authority (GRMPBA), UNESCO, Queensland Department of Environment and Resource Management (DERM), Great Barrier Reef Foundation]

 

Featured image by Paul Benjamin, creative commons