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.
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”.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
Emma Gardiner is one of those lovely people you meet in life – kind, interesting, innovative and well-travelled. She is a respected Public Relations professional, but also hosts popular travel site, SheGoes. She took time out to tell TravelLiveLearn about her favourite travel destination, Slovenia.
Emma Gardiner, PR Manager, Hawaii Tourism Oceania and Sultanate of Oman
Tell us a bit about She Goes and how it got started: I started SheGoes because I am a frustrated writer. I studied writing at university and worked as print journalist before crossing over to the dark side about eight years ago. I wanted to have an opinion and share it in my own voice – something that is verboten in PR – so I decided to start a blog about my favourite thing in the world – travel.
Fave travel destination? Slovenia
What’s so cool about this place? It’s like walking around in a fairytale … Lake Bled, the castles, churches, dragon bridge and central produce market in Ljubljana, the ancient seaside villages. It’s the most romantic place I have ever been.
Why did you decide to go in the first place? I went there on a work trip. I was hosting an Australian media famil and the client I was working wanted to showcase the route from Finland to Slovenia.
Favourite part/experiences of this particular trip? Definitely the central produce market in Ljubljana. It’s in the city square surrounded by 16th century stone halls dedicated to fish, cheese, bread and meat. The fruit, vegetables and flowers are in the open air section; I have never seen produce like it – it was a foodie’s paradise.
How did you get around? We travelled in a mini-bus around Slovenia but also did quite a few tours on foot.
What would you recommend other people do? You absolutely have to visit Lake Bled and take a traditional row boat out to the old church in the centre. The scenery will blow you away.
What’s your number one travel tip? Take a good book in your hand luggage. It’s a foolproof way of entertaining yourself during inevitable delays.
What are your top tips for aspiring bloggers: Do it for love. Blogging won’t make you rich but you will have an enormous amount of fun and it will open doors to a world of experiences, people and ideas.
And your next (ideal) travel destination?: Japan. I am a craft, art and design nerd and Japanese people are some of the most inventive creators out there!
When in Rome
“Rome, it’s as beautiful as everybody says it is; to me it’s not the big things they tell you about – the sculptures, the imposing squares and monuments, though they are amazing. It’s the little things; the tiny details, the improbable awesomeness of every little damn thing.” −Anthony Bourdain.
Last night we were watching Anthony Bourdain on the Travel Channel. He was experiencing his first visit to Rome, Italy, and one of his initial descriptions really hit home with me, because it wasn’t all the massive ‘stereotypically Rome’ monuments that got to me either … it was the little streets, lamps, fountains, statues. Beautiful, intricate details that to me are now ‘classically Roman’.
Simply amazing Rome, hope to see you again one day x
Click to play our Flickr gallery:
Musings from 1 December 2011: Sitting in a darkened coach (which once upon a time I would have called a ‘bus’ – inside joke, ask Steve our Welsh Expat Explore driver ;-), on my way back from beautiful Whistler Village in British Columbia.
As I stare back at my own reflection in the window, unable to make out the Sea to Sky view into the black night, it hits me all of a sudden. It’s the day I knew it would nearly be all over, just a few days before we head back to Australia.
When travel comes to an end – what to do when the adventure is ‘over’
It’s hard to not feel a little overwhelmed by this realisation, as all the memories of packing, goodbyes and new beginnings during our first week staying in Bloomsbury come flooding back as if it was all just yesterday. What will I do when travel comes to an end?
I began updating my old Sugoi blog space a couple of years ago in 2009. Our very first entries document when we came up with a grand plan to drop everything and start a new life in London for a year or more (a smart or brave thing to do in our thirties?). We talk about plans, excitement, challenges, apprehension but most importantly the adventure that lay ahead.
Since then I’ve had all manner of fodder to write about – new jobs, new homes, snow, Starbucks, dogs we’ve met in the park (or cafes, street or just about anywhere actually), first-times for everything from visiting European cities to being stuck in airports, and having to work out where to buy groceries and linen.
It’s been 16 mesmerising, special, amazing and unbelievable months. We’ve made new friends, embarked on adventures I never dreamed possible and visited places abroad that I never ever thought I’d have the opportunity to go.
I no longer shed a tear at the thought that I’ve ‘missed out’ on travel – feeling like I’ve lost the chance to gaze up at the glittering Eiffel Tower as it lights up into the evening or missed out on falling in love with Prague as I watch from the castle above the city.
I have had a chance to smile down at the Gondoliers as they calmly float on by through a Venetian canal, and be chastised by the Gladiators in Rome for taking a photo of them outside the Colosseum without paying my €5. There are so many things that make me smile now – memories that are mine and Cooper’s, not just scenes from a film.
A couple of years ago for some reason I thought I’d lost all chance to follow my dreams of living and working overseas, but fate stepped in and opportunities arrived seemingly out of the blue. I’m super excited to go home – it was sad to leave our parents, siblings and dog. I can’t wait to give them all a big hug.
My brother now lives in Australia after being away in Japan for five years. It was really sad to literally pass him as he came back into the country and I decided to leave. Since we’ve been gone a new baby nephew has come into the world. What a happy little guy he looks to be; he’ll be sick of me kissing him by the time Christmas rolls around (as will my other 5-year-old nephew, come to think of it). It will be nice to have a ‘home’ base again, at least for the time being. I mean, I think even my computer is getting tired of moving around, with its flickering screen that keeps crashing every few minutes – makes getting through work very frustrating, but I can’t be too upset, it has seen me through travels and work from the Gold Coast to Cairns, London to Paris, throughout Europe, Scotland, Dublin and across to Prince Edward Island, down to Boston, across to British Columbia and beyond.
How though, do I come to terms with the end of life as I presently know it, where every day brings somewhere and someone new across my path? When I was in London I saw another travel writer Tweet something about this and I’ve saved his feature on file… somewhere… I remember the key message though. He was discussing his life as a traveller and a journalist and how each day abroad is addictive, intoxicating − especially for some personality types: the drug of a new day and the exciting type of challenges that the lifestyle brings.
When he touches back down at home and is planning to be there for an extended period sometimes it’s challenging in itself to get back to the ‘real world’.
The lesson, he pointed out, is that travel and adventure should teach us to bring the new found love of exploration back home. Explore places in your backyard that you might not usually go to or that you take for granted. Write about it, film and photograph, share tips, tricks and strike up new friendships that you would if you were a tourist.
My adventure has provided me with so much insight into what can be done – by me and others. I have a feature on the topic in the pipeline for a very fabulous Aussie national monthly women’s consumer magazine (out mid 2012), I’ve learned the value of blogging and social media from my time in London; I have learned to love and be inspired by music again (also thanks to London) and I have ideas and inspiration regarding the future.
Once upon a time I had looked on this day as the ‘end of the adventure’, but now I maintain the hope that it’s really only just beginning. Next year I have the privilege of going back to England as the new Blogger for Back-Roads Touring – something I would never have had the tools or knowledge to even consider entering in the first place but for this time outside of my comfort zone.
Following some supremely inspiring interviews with a series of women aged between 30 and 40 who all decided to do the same as me – take a mid-career pause to live, work and travel overseas – I realised that not one of us for a single second regret taking this ‘time out’ to pursue some kind of crazy Eat Pray Love dream.
In fact, each agrees that regardless of any fears prior to leaving ‘home’, all have returned with a greater sense of inspiration and knowledge we can do so much more than we ever thought possible. Certainly some, like myself, feel just a little bit broken hearted about leaving what became a ‘new home’ (whether it was London, Paris, Vancouver…) but we don’t believe the adventure is over. It’s life changing, both for what’s happened in the past and what will be directed to happen by us in the future.
When travel comes to an end, what to do when the ‘adventure is over’? Start a new one.
Hello again! I’m back following a forced hiatus − that is, my computer decided to have an extended nap for a week. $$$ and a new screen later, I’m back!
It’s even cooler here in beautiful British Columbia, and the snow is falling. Ski resorts are now welcoming winter sports enthusiasts and I’m there ready to… well, drink hot chocolate and watch in awe.
Cool travels – Grouse Mountain and Vancouver Island
We paid a visit to gorgeous Grouse Mountain last week. Grouse is cool because it’s only about half an hour’s easy commute from Vancouver city. We’ve been patiently watching from the city down below each day, waiting for powder to appear on Grouse’s peaks, and as soon as it did (on a sunny day, no less) we ventured up top for a play in the snow.
Grouse is special to me because it’s really the very first place I ever saw decent, fluttering, deep white winter wonderland-type snow, back in 1999 when my brother and I first visited.
Grouse is fabulous and this time around we trekked into the mountain a little further to see if we could meet the bears they have at a refuge nearby. Unfortunately the lazy little fellas (like the wolves in the sanctuary at the bottom of the mountain) were sleeping, so we were left to guess what they look like. Anyone however, can check out what they are up to day or night by logging onto the Grouse Wildlife Refuge bear-cam.
Little did we know that one day soon, we’d come face to face with a bear in the middle of the night in Whistler village!
Ice-skating, skiing, snowboarding, walks, hot drinks and fabulous Vancouver city views − it’s all at Grouse. There was even an Aussie Blue Cattle Dog playing up the top of the mountain with his owner − a highlight of our day, because this young dog looked just like our very own Harry who we miss back in Aus.
This is my third visit to B.C. but there’s just so much to see in this beautiful part of the world that I never seem to make it far out of Vancouver city itself. We had an aim this time around to at least get to Victoria on Vancouver Island (about four hours from Vancouver by coach, ferry then coach − check for deals on Pacific Coaches).
We’ll have to get back over to Vancouver Island one day because we realise we’ve missed so much − it’s one of the largest islands off the west coast of North America, and there are numerous areas of the region (such as Ladysmith and Tofino) we didn’t get to visit: untamed, wild beautiful landscapes. Typical ‘super natural’ BC (as they tout in the tourism advertisements).
Victoria however (capital of British Columbia), is a picturesque, clean city brimming with cool old buildings, contemporary shopping and night-life.
My friend, Lauren, once sent me a snow globe featuring Victoria’s romantic city skyline and I’ve wanted to visit for myself ever since receiving this treasured gift. Victoria is Western Canada’s oldest city, originally settled in 1843 and is named after Queen Victoria.
Mostly it is easy to navigate by foot if you’re staying in the city centre. Stroll around the inner harbour for lovely views of the city’s classic, famous architecture of parliament buildings and grand old hotels; Government Street offers shopping and entertainment options, and look out for areas like Old Town, Chinatown, Market Square and Bastion Square for historical buildings and boutique browsing.
It’s also worthwhile finding your way to the famous Butchart Gardens and Craigdarroch Castle, and of course whale watching is a popular activity with numerous adventure companies offering a range of options to suit your time and budget.
We were lucky enough to be reunited with a fellow Expat Explorer from our brilliant August trip, which made this visit extra special.
Vancouver Island is definitely worth adding to your B.C. itinerary − it’s stunning, typical of the whole region, but with a slightly different feel to Vancouver city. Again, I feel fortunate to have visited such a pretty part of the world.
We adore Canada and British Columbia and believe it’s one of the most beautiful places in the world.
Take a look for yourself here on Flickr
If you’re interested in more stories from this divine part of the world, you might also enjoy:
Heaven is Harrison Hot Springs
Coffee & cocktails in Gastown
Wonderful Whistler adventures
The X-Files and Vancouver travel journal
By Sarah Blinco