DriveAway to Daylesford, Australia

Our DriveAway car at passing Clouds winery

Melbourne residents looking to take a break from the city or visitors to Victoria looking to see a little bit more than just the Melbourne CBD are re-discovering the ‘world away’ feeling of a driving holiday to Daylesford.

And the best part; No car? No problem! While DriveAway Holidays Australia has already become synonymous with motorhome hire around the globe, travellers can also grab a great deal on car hire for mini getaways to some of Victoria’s most scenic and relaxing destinations.

Packing a weekend bag, my partner and I decided to venture outside the city for a mini mid-week break!

Visitors flying into Melbourne Tullamarine can easily collect a hire car from DriveAway’s airport location or in the Melbourne CBD (which is what we did.) We were pleasantly surprised to find the process smooth and the car in great shape (freshly washed and ready to hit the road.)

Located about 100km from Melbourne’s CBD, Daylesford has become known for being a  ‘spa town’ offering plenty of options to relax and unwind with some great options for mineral baths, massage treatments, fresh local produce and a whole lot of pampering. What might seem like a quick 2 day trip is certain to feel like an extended break.

Stay in luxury at Frangos and FrangosWe checked into Frangos and Frangos, a boutique property located in the middle of the town of Daylesford. Offering just 12 rooms, each themed differently, and offering a sophisticated glamour and luxury amenities that make it popular with couples.  The onsite restaurant Jimmy’s Bar and Dining Room offers contemporary Australian fare with a bit of a twist.

The regional area, known for its quality local wine and produce is highlighted on the Jimmy’s menu in beautiful surroundings. So if you’re a wine enthusiast (and who isn’t?) you’re certain to find something that will please your palate.

With both a bar area and a semi-formal dining area, Jimmy’s is ideal for a variety of special events, casual dining options or events, and a romantic dinner.

While in town, wander around the local area and enjoy the variety of cafes and boutique shops including a wide assortment of unique gifts, antiques, and handmade items. Make sure to take a little time out to drive just a short distance to one of many local wineries as well.

We took our chances on finding a winery along the drive and stumbled upon Passing Clouds. Greeted by the official winery dog, we did a quick tasting, discovering a remarkable chardonnay before heading back into town.

As the area is known as a wellness destination, you’ll find plenty of options for looking after yourself with a bit of indulgence and we made sure to experience a treatment at Daylesford Day Spa. Located in the centre of town, it’s a short stroll from our accommodation. With six treatment rooms and a host of treatments available ranging from facials to massages to aromatherapy and everything in between. We tried out one of the spas signature treatments, an aromatic candle massage. By selecting the candle that suits your preference, it’s melted into warm oil that’s used to treat your skin with soybean and essential oils and leave your skin not only moisturised but feeling incredibly soft.

Poached eggs and hollandaise at the Piper St Food Co cooking schoolDay two we took our DriveAway car on another adventure into nearby Kyneton where, similar to Daylesford, you’ll find a variety of quirky shops and antiques as well as the Piper St Food Co. Here you’ll find a tasty little cafe and shop offering a variety of housemade and local treats from nearby producers as well as a cooking school.

Located on the main strip of Kyneton, these courses cover everything from basic cooking classes like creating the perfect picnic to pasta making to full day charcuterie classes- even a master-class on breaking down a full pig just like the butcher!

Class sizes are small so you’re certain to be able to see what’s happening and answer questions.

My session was the Cooking Basics: Eggs course which, in just two hours, had me preparing mayonnaise from scratch, learn how to create the perfect poached egg any time, make a hollandaise sauce and so much more.

Our two days felt like four and we drove back to Melbourne and returned our little car feeling like we’d had an interstate holiday.

While two days certainly wasn’t enough time to experience all there was to see and do, you can plan your own getaway using the Daylesford app offering plenty of ideas and inspiration regarding things to see and do in both Daylesford and nearby Hepburn Springs.

Alternatively, you’ll find more information on experiencing the best of Daylesford and Hepburn Springs area by checking out for plenty of tips and ideas.


About the author

Gwen O’Toole is an accomplished writer focussing on travel, events management and food and wine. She also published a fiction novel while spending the past eight years as a magazine editor and travelling the globe before launching The Ideas Library, a creative services and event management company. She is regularly featured in a variety of travel and leisure publications and blogs.

Sold on Cruising: cruise the Bahamas

Admittedly, going on a cruise wasn’t something I’d seriously considered, but my partner and I had a few spare days during an overseas business/pleasure holiday in Miami and I thought, why not check out what’s available? And that’s exactly how we found ourselves on Royal Caribbean’s Majesty of the Seas for a 4 night cruise through the Bahamas.

Majesty of the Seas

We boarded at the Port of Miami with similar ease to checking into a flight only instead of waiting at the gate or in the airport lounge we found ourselves immediately enjoying lunch on the ship. Rooms were cosy and perfectly fine for two, because really, who books a Bahamas cruise to stay in a cabin?

The ship offers all you’d expect – swimming pools, sun decks, restaurants, shopping outlets, a cabaret theatre for nightly entertainment, children’s activities and more (including a rock climbing wall.) Additionally, the wealth of excursions available can make it tricky to choose just a few and pack them into your time in port.


The first stop in Nassau allowed us to wander around the port enjoying the area before experiencing a swim with a dolphin on Blue Lagoon Island, a private island with plenty of opportunity to engage with dolphins, sea lions and more. Guests also have the option of visiting the popular Atlantis Resort and experiencing the water park as just one of the resorts several facilities.

Stop two, the private island of CocoCay, owned by Royal Caribbean and set up as your own private paradise. Guests are encouraged to make the most of the sunshine with lounge chairs and hammocks everywhere. A large range of activities including water slides, snorkelling and more are also available for guests.


The final port before our return was Key West, Florida where we ventured off to enjoy a bird’s eye view of the island via parasail before wandering the port village and enjoying a slice of the famous key lime pie (delish).

Prior to our journey, we were told by a colleague, “Once you’ve been on a cruise, you’ll never want to travel any other way,” and now it’s easy to see exactly what they meant. Destination, activities and general ‘we’re on holiday’ atmosphere aside, it simply makes sense.

So much time of our holidays is spent in transit, waiting at gates, riding in taxis, queuing up for checking in at hotels, airports, etc. Why wouldn’t you unpack just once and actually enjoy your transit time, stress free and hassle free. Cruising is (for the most part) all-inclusive, making it easier to budget and allowing you to make the most of your holiday experience without any extra surprises. No worrying about who to tip as gratuities are all pre-paid (which can be a huge relief for many travelling to cities in the USA.)


One tip to note, the demographics or the cruise (as we quickly discovered when we also boarded an Alaskan cruise a few weeks later) can change dramatically based on destinations. For the Bahamas, we found ourselves surrounded by younger singles (23-45) as well as couples, newly-weds, larger groups of friends travelling together and families.

Sold on cruising as our new favourite way to travel, all our ‘wish list’ holiday talks now start with where to sail next.


About the author
Gwen O’Toole is an accomplished writer focussing on travel, events management and food and wine. She also published a fiction novel while spending the past eight years as a magazine editor and travelling the globe before launching The Ideas Library, a creative services and event management company. She is regularly featured in a variety of travel and leisure publications and blogs.


Have you got a cruise anecdote to share? Drop us a line in the comments below :-)

48 hours in San Francisco

48 hours in San Francisco

This ‘city by the bay’, known for its famous landmarks such as the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz and cable cars offers an abundance of attractions, dining, shopping, and night life that’s are certainly less pretentious than its Los Angeles counterpart but no less indulgent or exciting. Voted the ‘Best US City by Conde Nast Traveler for 16 years running, the city has recently been named the home of the upcoming Super Bowl 50 in February 2016 for the USA‘s National Football League (NFL).

Whether you’re just passing through heading to the Napa/Sonoma wine country or staying longer in this travel hotspot, here are a few suggestions for keeping yourself entertained while enjoying the ‘fog city’ even if you’re short on time.

48 hours in San Francisco – what to do

Dining and drink

San Francisco has no shortage of culinary treats to please every palate. From slow food to street food, farm-to-fork or caviar to champagne; no matter what your taste, this city has something to match it.

Urban Tavern main dining room

The modern Urban Tavern offers fresh, seasonal produce where 80 per cent of the ingredients are sourced within 100 miles of the Bay Area. Classic items that have previously been featured on the Urban Tavern menu have included spicy beer sausage and house made pretzel, crawfish and wild mushroom turnovers, five spice braised baby back ribs; and more.

The restaurant’s wine list is focused on selections that are organic, bio dynamic and/or made from sustainably farmed grapes. The domestic list includes more than 100 local vintages and even the table water being served is filtered in-house, not obtained from a commercial source.

Step back in timewith thistribute to old San Fran glamour as John’s Grill is an iconic restaurant located near Union Square. Featuring a wall full of photo of the famous diners who’ve enjoyed this eatery over the years, this particular restaurant’s atmosphere was also once made famous by Dashiell Hammett’s The Maltese Falcon. The menu features a wide variety of steak, seafood and pasta options as well as a heavy serving of nostalgia.

Bluxome Winery Barrel with Lights

If it’s a tasty drop you’re after, Bluxome Street Winery is the first San Franciscan winery in over a decade. While the city was once long ago full-to-the-brim with wine-makers, unfortunately, most of the wine-making facilities were destroyed due to the 1906 earthquake and its ensuing fires.

Now the Winery offers enthusiasts a way to experience some of what makes the California wine region a favourite without leaving the city. The Winery crushes and ferment its grapes on site to produce small quantities of high quality pinot noir, chardonnay, and sauvignon blanc.

Often the site of special epicurean dinners, tastings and more, it’s well worth the visit.


Things to do

Geographically speaking, the city is small enough to get around in a short period of time which makes it easy to see and do a number of things in just two days, particularly if you take the iconic cable cars.

Among the quintessential San Francisco icons, the Golden Gate Bridge is said to be one of the most photographed structures in the world and still manages to impress visitors with its expansive span over the Bay. Also in the San Francisco Bay is the notorious Alcatraz prison, former home to some of the most famed ‘baddies’ in US history including Al Capone. This prison was closed in the 1960’s and remains a fascinating tour and attraction for exploration.


Fisherman’s Wharf is also home to Pier 39, an area bursting with waterfront shopping, dining and night life options. It’s also home to a large and highly photogenic community of seas lions who have taken up residence on the floats to the west of the pier.

Serious shoppers will adore Union Square with its multiple department stores, designer boutiques any so much more all within a short stroll.

Sea Lions 2

Lastly, and certainly one of the city’s most underrated attractions, Beach Blanket Babylon, is a quirky comedic musical revue that’s stood the test of time for 40 years. The outrageous and elaborate costumes, irreverent humour and high calibre performances are enough to even make the toughest crowds chuckle. While much of the humour is based in American pop culture, even international guests will connect with the jokes. Performances are held at Club Fugazi in the North Beach district and are well worth booking for something out of the box.

Where we stayed

The Taj Campton Place is centrally located in Union Square and offers easy access to most anything in the city. Rooms are spacious and comfortable and in 2010, its restaurant earned one Michelin Star.

For more inspiration on this destination visit The San Francisco Travel Association at


About the author
Gwen O’Toole is an accomplished writer focussing on travel, events management and food and wine. She also published a fiction novel while spending the past eight years as a magazine editor and travelling the globe before launching The Ideas Library, a creative services and event management company. She is regularly featured in a variety of travel and leisure publications and blogs.


Have you visited San Francisco recently? Do you have any extraordinary experiences you can share with us in the comments below? We’d love to hear from you! 



Food with heart – the rise of not-for-profit cafes and restaurants

Food with heart – the rise of not-for-profit cafes and restaurants

While eating out today can seem crazy complicated with any number of food ideologies believed to make us healthier, from paleo diets to gluten or sugar free, there’s another food philosophy designed to make us better, more socially responsible people.

Popping up all over the place are non-profit cafes and restaurants are not only serving up great food but giving those in need a hand up. So if you’re keen to feed your soul as well as your body, here are a few of these socially minded hotspots to try out.

The rise of not-for-profit cafes and restaurants

Melbourne’s Feast of Merit: Richmond, VIC

Melbourne-based Feast of Merit opened in Richmond in early March this year. Created by not-for-profit organisation YGAP, the concept was inspired by the festive Indian ritual whereby a wealthy member of the community will liquidate all their assets and throw a feast for their community, unifying them. The menu focuses on supporting local, sustainable and seasonal produce with a Middle Eastern influence.

“All profits generated by Feast of Merit will be channelled into YGAP’s youth education projects in developing communities across Africa, Asia and Australia,” says YGAP CEO Elliot Costello. “We are so proud of our outcomes that with Feast of Merit we are hoping to offer a simple way for people to get involved and support our projects while eating great food and having fun with friends.”

Feast of Merit Rooftop


Perth’s 1905 – Coffee on Newcastle: Northbridge, WA

This cafe is managed by Workpower, a not-for-profit enterprise which both trains and employs people with a disability or mental illness, thereby giving them skills and confidence to transition into the open workforce. The regular work also offers employees social opportunities, a sense of achievement and for some, a reason to get out of bed in the mornings.

Housed in a redeveloped heritage-listed building built in 1905 (hence the name), the innovative and funky cafe provides cafe food and coffee in the heart of Northbridge. While the cafe was designed to be commercially viable, the focus is far greater than the bottom line, says Workpower CEO, Lee Broomhall (pictured below).

1905 – Coffee on Newcastle is a social enterprise. It acts as a launch pad for people with mental health issues or disability, equipping them with new skills and greater confidence so they can further their careers in hospitality,” says Lee.

“The customer feedback is great. They feel like they’re contributing by being there. They’re not only having a coffee or breakfast, they’re helping others too. Our food is pretty simple – wraps, quiches, eggs, pancakes – but it’s cooked to a high standard and reasonably priced, so we’re not just trading on the feel-good factor.”

The 40 seat cafe currently has five staff members working alongside five work experience students with disability from Central Institute, working as baristas, kitchen hands and cooks. The cafe also offers free Wi-Fi, and patrons can browse second-hand books for sale as they eat. Cafe 1905 also does catering for local businesses, who are enthusiastic supporters.

1905 Lee


Brisbane’s Bleeding Heart: Brisbane, QLD

Similarly in Brisbane, Bleeding Heart cafe is a ‘profit for purpose’ dining and gallery/event space that contributes all profits into charitable and community projects. The space has been running since 2008 as an initiative of the Wise Foundation which offers support to disadvantaged and marginalised individuals.

By creating a social enterprise hub, Bleeding Heart contributes space, training and funding to a variety of social causes and charities.

bleeding heart buildingfront


About the author
Gwen O’Toole is an accomplished writer focussing on travel, events management and food and wine. She also published a fiction novel while spending the past eight years as a magazine editor and travelling the globe before launching The Ideas Library, a creative services and event management company. She is regularly featured in a variety of travel and leisure publications and blogs.


Melbourne city chic

Melbourne city chic

If there’s one thing you can rely on in Melbourne, it’s that every day there’s something new to experience. New cafes, bars, restaurants, events and pop-ups are well, popping up, quicker than most can keep track, leaving many visitors and locals paralysed with choice when the weekend rolls around.

Whether you’re relishing in a hotel Melbourne CBD or just keen to play tourist in your own backyard, here are a few ideas on how to have a quintessential Melbourne experience without waiting in line for the latest hot spot.

Image via

Venues such as The Astor Theatre in St Kilda (pictured above) still offer a memorable cinema experience, often with the option of dressing up and singing along, for typically under $20.

While the films might not always be the latest Hollywood blockbusters, they’re the classic cinema and gems from childhood you’re certain to have a soft spot for.

With new places to drink and dine opening and closing every week, why not grab a table somewhere that’s proved itself consistently over the years.

Astor Insty

Travel tip: Stay in a fab Melbourne CBD hotel

Get amongst the action, whether you’re visiting or simply seeking a staycation.

We enjoy the super convenient and lovely hotel Melbourne CBD stay with Ibis/Accor, click to find out more.



The Italian on 101 Collins Street in the city (pictured) also offers a classic Melbourne dining experience that’s been ‘hatted’ by The Age’s Good Food Guide for five years running.

It’s tucked away and offers couples an ideal pre-theatre date night dining spot as a variety of the best theatres are all an easy stroll away.

The Italian

Those seeking something a little bit different should consider a Melbourne coffee tour. As a place with a reputation for having world-class baristas, why not enjoy one of the things this city does best?

While there are a variety of tour providers to choose from, typically these are walking tours roughly around 2-3km in distance and let participants experience not just great coffee, but also some of the unique architecture, laneways and street art that endears the city to so many.

As an added plus, they usually run in small groups, so if you’re keen to meet new people, it’s a great way to do it.

And while you’re on foot, the Royal Botanic Gardens offers an absolutely vibrant Aboriginal Heritage Walk. This is one of the more popular tours through the Gardens for good reason, as it provides both an informative as well as serene way to appreciate the spot as well as its traditional owners. Tours are run by an indigenous guide and include a smoking ceremony, guided walk and talk about traditional uses for food, medicine and many other surprising bits of information we often take for granted among the hustle and bustle of daily life.

In a city where there is always something new to do, it’s easy to overlook some of the classic experiences that have consistently impressed visitors and locals alike. Remember, it’s not always about the next best thing.

Want to go and need a tip on a hotel in Melbourne’s CBD? Check rates here.

About the author
Gwen O’Toole is an accomplished writer focussing on travel, events management and food and wine. She also published a fiction novel while spending the past eight years as a magazine editor and travelling the globe before launching The Ideas Library, a creative services and event management company. She is regularly featured in a variety of travel and leisure publications and blogs.