Street art goes to new heights: The Adnate, Perth, Australia

The Adnate hotel

Living in Melbourne, it’s hard not to love street art. We have such great galleries around the city, including Hosier Lane in the city centre, but stretching out to Fitzroy, Collingwood and neighbouring suburbs, where the local councils have encouraged a culture of street art, you can spy fabulous, big-scale murals across entire buildings.

One of the city’s best-known artists, Matt Adnate, has taken it one step further with his mega-murals down laneways and up high-rise buildings. So it’s great to see he’s become the newest face of the Art Series hotels, who dedicate each of its hotels to a singular artist.

The Adnate opened in Perth last week, and it’s a traffic-stopper, with a 25-storey mural on the hotel’s exterior, the largest mural in the southern hemisphere.

You can read more about it here, in my article for the Traveller section in the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age newspapers.

Rise of the regions: new hotels in rural Australia

Rural retreat hunters are spoilt with a swag of stylish new properties away from the bright lights.

We take a look at Kimo Estate in rural NSW and Mt Mulligan Lodge in far north Queensland, where back roads are back, and slow travel establishes as one of today’s key travel trends in a world that never hits the off button.

With plenty of sparse spaces across the country, Australia’s regions have responded to the demand for dalliance – click here to read on for the Rise of the Regions, first published in Essentials Magazine.

Where Maggie Beer relaxes, Fleur Wood eats and wellness and eco escapes: Good Weekend

Where does Maggie Beer truly relax, and Fleur Woods
find a Victorian gourmet getaway? Part of Good Weekend’s 52 ExtraordinaryJourneys that cover wellness retreats and eco-escapes.

restaurateur, author

The experience: Consistency, attention to detail and utter relaxation
on Kangaroo Island. 
“I have visited the Southern Ocean Lodge four times, as
I host a Kangaroo Island Food Safari each year. Recently, I stayed at the lodge
for five days. I’m a detail freak and I appreciate every little bit. The luxury
is the staff, who are lovely people. It’s in the swivel chairs you sit on. It’s
in the way everything is so restful, and how every window is set to capture a
view: the first time I walked into the lodge’s great room, it took my breath
away. It’s in the greeting on arrival, the freshly made lamingtons served and
the good-quality tea. On my last visit, we walked the cliffs to Hanson Bay
every morning, and every morning the staff would offer to pack us cut fruit on
ice or a picnic and rug. We sat outside for every meal we could, eating the
best food, using seasonal, local produce. The lodge’s signature scent is lemon
myrtle, so there’s a sense of the bush. I don’t relax easily unless I’m by the
sea. Here, I am so relaxed, I just give myself over to it.” 
Dream to reality: Regional
Express ( flies daily from Adelaide to Kangaroo Island; Sealink
( has a daily ferry service from Cape Jervis on the mainland.
Southern Ocean Lodge, Hanson Bay, two-night stays from $990 a person a night,
twin share.

The experience:
 Chardonnay body scrub, pinot bath and a glass of wine.
Snuggled in the wild dunes of Tasmania’s far north-east, Barnbougle Lost Farm’s
spa menu includes vinotherapy – embracing blends from the nearby Tamar Valley’s
cool-climate wines. Think chardonnay exfoliant, pinot noir body mask, then a
still-water pinot bath.
Dream to reality: Barnbougle Lost Farm, Waterhouse
Road, Bridport, is one hour’s drive from Launceston. Fly direct from
Melbourne’s Moorabbin Airport. Rooms from $190 a night, twin share; 150 minutes
of vinotherapy from $320 a person.

The experience: Waterfall “treatment” in
subtropical climes.
Nature’s hand replaces that of the therapist, no booking is required, and there
are no man-made products – just an invigorating pummelling. In and around
beautiful Litchfield National Park south of Darwin, the popular Florence Falls,
Wangi Falls, Sandy Creek (Tjaynera Falls), Surprise Creek Falls and Buley
Rockhole can deliver neck-and-shoulder workouts. The best time to try is early
in the
dry season, May-June.
Dream to reality: Litchfield National Park is a
90-minute drive from Darwin. Walk from carparks to individual waterfalls.

The experience: A splendid bolthole and secluded
beach in the south-west.
Injidup Spa Retreat’s 10 villas have heated plunge pools, ocean views, in-villa
dining and an in-villa massage service. A member of the Small Luxury Hotels of
the World network, Injidup is adjacent to Leeuwin-Naturaliste National Park and
within driving distance of the Margaret River wine-and-dine bounty, yet well
suited to travellers who seek to be alone, but pampered, near a brooding sea.
Dream to reality: Injidup is a three-hour drive
southwest of Perth. Two-night weekend villa stays from $650 a night.

The experience: Barossa bush bathing.
The seven-suite Kingsford Homestead, built in 1856, has an alfresco two-person
bath set in a private corner of the estate. Guests are handed a basket
containing a bathrobe and salts before they walk into the bush to bathe.
Dream to reality: Kingsford is an hour’s drive
north of Adelaide. Two-night stays from $1780 for two.

The experience: A Noosa ‘‘bodibreak’’ for those
made of tough stuff.
Train like a pro under the direction of Life’s A Gym coaches: think
bootcamp-style sessions on the beach, in the ocean and pool, as well as
running, bike riding, and stand-up paddling and surfing sessions. The regimen
is bespoke and includes fitness and nutrition advice.
Dream to reality: Fly direct from Sydney or
Melbourne to Sunshine Coast Airport. Stay at Outrigger Little Hastings Street,
Noosa. Four-day ‘‘bodibreak’’ from $1650 a person, twin share.

The experience: Savannah meets wetlands meets
lodge comforts.
Wake to a chorus of brolgas after a night’s sleep in an African-style tented
stay overlooking the 2000-hectare Mareeba Tropical Savanna and Wetland Reserve
the Atherton Tableland west of Cairns, in Far North Queensland. The Wildlife
Conservancy of Tropical Queensland spent 10 years developing the reserve.
Dream to reality: By car, it’s about a 90-minute
drive from Cairns or Port Douglas. Lodge stays from $229 a person a night, twin
share. Cairns-Mareeba train and bus services available. Transfers from Cairns
to the Jabiru Safari Lodge are available by special request.

The experience: Stylish digs deep in native
Winter and early spring bring forth flowering plants and orchids at the
spectacular Tanonga, a 100-hectare property on the Eyre Peninsula where more
than 25,000 native trees, shrubs, grasses and sedges have been planted to help
restore the land. It’s a robust landscape of incredible views, with two
architect-designed, self-contained lodges sitting among it.
Dream to reality: Regional Express flies daily
from Adelaide to Port Lincoln. Tanonga Luxury Eco Lodges are a 20-minute drive
from the airport. Lodge stay is $310-$340 a night. Minimum two-night stay.

The experience: At home on the edge of the wild
Corinna is a former goldmining settlement, its riverside workers’ cottages and
stores since renovated and an additional 14 retreats built to complement the
settler vernacular. On the southern side of the Tarkine – the largest temperate
rainforest in Australia – Corinna has rainwater on tap. While you’re there,
take a Pieman River cruise on the stunning Arcadia II, a 17-metre vessel made
of huon pine in 1939.
Dream to reality: Corinna is a three-hour drive
south west of Stanley or 90 minutes north of Strahan, on Tasmania’s west coast.
One-bedroom retreats from $200 a night for two people.

The experience: Corrugated-iron “bush
shelters”, courtesy of architects.
Self-contained studios insulated with sheep’s wool and decorated with found and
recycled materials form The Odd Frog, built on
4.2 hectares in Bright in Victoria’s north-east. It’s a solar-powered stay,
with grey water going to the orchard, walking and cycling tracks (including the
sealed Murray to the Mountains rail trail) nearby, and Bright’s shops a short
stroll away.
Dream to reality: Bright is about a three-hour
drive from Melbourne. Nearest airport is Albury, NSW. Studios from $150 a

The experience: No plastic, thanks, we’re
permaculture people.
Tucked between a sandstone escarpment and the Morton National Park, Kangaroo
Valley has National Trust-listed landscapes and village buildings, a
long-standing ‘‘no plastic bags in shops’’ policy, and tourism operators who
are upfront about their efforts to reduce their carbon emissions. About 1300
people live in the valley, and it’s
a badge of honour for many that there are no traffic lights in the area.
Dream to reality: Kangaroo Valley is a two-hour
drive south of Sydney.
FLEUR WOOD, Sydney fashion

The experience: Towns that let the tables do the talking. 
“Victoria’s Daylesford region is a foodie revelation All
we did on a weekend visit was eat. My favourite restaurant is Kazuki’s –
modern, Japanese-inspired bistro food. There’s beef and foie gras on the menu,
but it’s very light. It’s my kind of food and I wanted everything on the menu.
Wombat Hill House cafe, in the botanic gardens, is a great place to take kids
and the food is fresh, organic and healthy. We had lunch in the conservatory
and were struck by the delicious salads with fresh herbs and the local spring
water. I did manage to get to Hepburn Bathhouse and Spa and visit Lavandula, a
Swiss-Italian-style lavender farm for the signature lavender scones, of course.
It is really beautiful, a good place for a post-spa afternoon tea. There are so
many restaurants, yet there’s still an Australian country town aesthetic about
Daylesford. With a husband and young baby, plus restaurants and spa treatments
to experience, I didn’t have much time for shopping, but we took home some
home-made apricot and almond jam. So much of the food is local and organic and
there’s a real pride in growing and producing your own foods. It’s such a great
community. If it was just outside Sydney, I’d be there every second
Dream to reality: Daylesford
and the Macedon Ranges is north-west of Melbourne. Self-guided touring

This article originally appeared in Good
. Like Good Weekend on Facebook to get regular updates on upcoming stories
and events –

Source: Belinda Jackson, Good Weekend Magazine

Tea-leaf theif: Tease of the teas

Banyan Tree Seoul

Ok, so I put my hand up to souveniring interesting teas from any hotel I find myself holed up in.

Let me tell you: there is nothing worse than checking in to a
no-holds-barred hotel or villa, complete with hefty price tag, then finding miserable, cheap tea and  nasty instant coffee in the room. It’s
like lining the bins with plastic Coles bags. Yet hoteliers do it
time and time again.

If I want tea, I want the real McCoy. Little leaves floating and ultimately drowning in piping hot water, a cute strainer and a pretty cup and saucer. Right now, a white ceramic teapot sits on the desk, and my office is perfumed with freshly brewing Earl Grey tea.

Recent notable exceptions include Sentosa Villas in Bali, which had not only sachets of Balinese coffee but also some pretty special peppermint leaves and great Earl Grey and the Banyan Tree Seoul, for its tea pyramids of silk, cocooning lavender earl grey. Mind you, they did offer to charge me $6 to have milk delivered to the room. Lucky it’s drunk black. 

Recently, at the gorgeous Eclectic Tastes cafe in Ballarat, I was served
a pot of tea, complete with nana-knitted tea cosy and a strainer that I
just couldn’t work out. It was a rubik’s cube for tea drinkers. It was

A tea drinker from my teenage years, I’ve just realised why I stopped
ordering tea in cafes so many years ago – because I got sick of being
charged $3 for a cheap, tannin-stained mug filled with hot water and a
20-cent bag. At least coffee looks like it has a bit of work put into
it. At least, that’s what the psychology grads – sorry, baristas – tell us.

Eclectic Tastes, 2 Burnbank St, Ballarat (03) 5339 9252

Fare to remember: Brisbane on a plate

Street art, Burnett Lane

Big names, big tastes and serious coffee define Brisbane’s dining and cafe scenes.

With seafood leaping from ocean to plate, and
forests of tropical fruits, you’re not going to starve in Brisbane, people.  

Beautiful and breezy, River Quay, on Southbank, is the
city’s newest open-air restaurant strip. Fast
becoming a local’s fave, Brisbane restaurateur Andrew Baturo’s Popolo is just the ticket for family
Italian: big plates made to share – the veal cutlet is a winner – or small
tastes that let you snack and watch the beautiful people jog the riverbanks in
very tight shorts. Order the Kingaroy sucking pig, fast becoming Popolo’s
signature dish, just to spite them. 
The other big-news resident on South Bank is Melbourne’s Stokehouse, which now has a Queensland
cousin, and chef Tony Kelly has brought ‘The Bombe,’ a frozen white chocolate
parfait, to a new wave of adorers. Bar aficionados are making a beeline for the
Stoke Bar’s more laid-back tasting plates and signature cocktails. The views
here are pure Brisbane: river, cityscape, mangroves.
Harajuka Gyoza, Fortitude Valley

At the
other end of the budget, you’ll have to elbow the locals out of the way at
Japanese newcomer Harajuku Gyoza,
which has a devoted following for its Kirin on tap and grilled duck gyoza. It
doesn’t hurt that the Fortitude Valley winner is cheap for snacking – a plate
of five gyoza will set you back $8 – and it’s definitely cheerful, with walls
of Jap-pop kitch and plenty of shouting. 

Locals will tell you they’re torn
between Harajuka Gyoza and the hipper Brunswick
, another new opener, also serving fried and steamed dumplings, also
$8 a plate, but with cocktails for grown-ups, rather than easy-going beer
steins. Open til late, late, late on weekend nights, it’s a pleasant
alternative to the 1am kebab.   

In times
past, southerners would gnash their teeth and swear there wasn’t a decent
coffee past the Qld border, but Brisbane’s caffeine scene is a-buzzing. In the
city, Brew burrows underground into Burnett
Lane, a service lane that’s suddenly gone hip, thanks to local efforts to
fashion a laneways culture. Brew’s studenty sofas belie series caffeine intent:
not content with its single origin coffees, it’s now serving cold drip and siphon
coffee to go, in what’s fast becoming the chic strip of the city. New
neighbours on the lane, which runs parallel to Queen St Mall, include The Survey Co Bistro for classic dining
in edgy surrounds.
are the the drive-through
cafés by Brissy roaster Merlo, which
churns out its daily-roasted private blend to loyal locals who zip through,
arms outstretched for a hit. Its hour-long Coffee Appreciation brekkys and brunches lets you peek
at roasters, sample a few beans and get some expert advice on the best in home
brewing.  Classes are held at its five
torrefaziones. Don’t know what a torrefazione is? Better turn up.
amongst the vintage shops and seriously fabulous restaurants on Woolloongabba’s
tiny uber-block on Logan Rd, you kinda wish Pearl Café was your local. With smooth brews and a counter of fresh
cream cakes from the upstairs kitchen, Pearl’s also finessing its charcuterie
table and private dining room. The clientele is bronzed and beautiful, yet the
mood is Gallic, so order up with the French toast for a calorific start to the
day, and delude yourself that your gentle amble home will work it off.
River delight
salty and naughtily buttery, chef Ryan Squires’ grilled sweet corn parfait with
caramel popcorn and tarragon is worth the trip north. The Queensland lad, who’s
cut it in the world’s top kitchens, now has a riverside home at Esquire and his charcoal grill is
working miracles. Time-poor degustation devotees already know about the new lunchtime
pre-fixe three dishes for $35 in the pared-down Esq; a fine-dining bargain (145
Eagle St, CBD,
Aria, Eagle St Pier, CBD, 
Brew, Burnett La, CBD,
Brunswick Social 367 Brunswick
Street, Fortitude Valley
Canvas, 16 Logan Rd, Woolloongabba,
Harajuka Gyoza, 394 Brunswick St, Fortitude Valley,
Merlo drive-through, 104 McLachlan St, Fortitude
Valley, 78 LaTrobe Tce, Paddington,
Ortiga, 446 Brunswick St, Fortitude Valley,
Pearl, 28 Logan Rd, Woolloongabba,
Popolo, River
Quay, South Bank,
Sidon St, South Bank,

Source: Sun Herald newspaper

Morning glory on ANZAC Day

“Where’d you get those badges?” I heard a little girl ask an old fella today.

“They’re war medals, love!” he said, pointing to the string of metal hanging from his chest.

For my foreign friends, today was, of course, Anzac Day, where Australia remembers its war dead. Sort of like 6 October in Egypt, but less glory-obsessed.

There was a good turnout at my local cenotaph, the memorial found in every town commemorating the local sons and daughters who have died for their country. There was a respectable showing of old blokes with their pressed trousers and medals, some smart older ladies with set hair and nice hats, and quite a lot of young teens wearing what most likely was their great-grandfathers medals and slouch hats. A few blokes with plenty of tatts and shaved heads had the look of Vietnam veterans about them, and amongst the flags was the banner for the Royal Australian Regiment, Second Battalion, which has served in Malaya, Borneo, Korea and Vietnam.

I remember being hauled off to Anzac Day parades when I was a kid, so it was the first time for the Jackson junior to get a dose. Admittedly, she’s a little too young to understand, but she kept quiet during the Last Post and the hymns, curled up against me in the baby carrier.

Later, as we walked away, we passed a very tall old Scottish man, leaning on his walking frame. The cheeky baby pulled a face at the old soldier. “I wish someone’d carry me,” he said, and trundled down the hill to the RSL (Returned Soldiers’ League) hall to play two-up.

Right wavelength: Heron Island

Turtles viewed from the island’s quasi-submarine

“INFANTS are just hand luggage,” a travel veteran told me before the
arrival of a Jackson jnr. “Take them to all the posh restaurants before
they can walk, and travel.”

“Families should stick to holidays in Queensland and stop
inflicting their kids on the rest of us during long-distance flights,”
sniped a chorus of online travellers. Snipers, we took your advice.

wary of the many evil eyes cast by business travellers on a red-eye up
to Brisbane and onward to Gladstone, the first family holiday is to that
bastion of family holidays, north of the border.

Heron Island is a coral cay 72kilometres off the coast of
Gladstone. It’s a two-hour ferry journey or, if you’re flush, half an
hour in a chopper.

To read more, click here

Well I’ll be burgered. Shopping Australia Day

It’s that time again when we celebrate sunburn, sand in your swimmers and all things beetroot.

Yes I know most of you are still reeling from Christmas and New Year’s, and the first hot cross buns have already appeared in the supermarkets in preparation for Easter, which doesn’t appear till 8 April.

But in between, we still have Australia Day, on 26 January. I remember an Irish colleague marvelling at his first Australia Day barbie in rainy, wintery Dublin. “We had beetroot burgers!” he reported back to the rest of the Dublin newsroom, eyes wide with astonishment. Oh, the culinary heights. Australian theme bars the world over (most notably London’s notorious Walkabout pubs) break out the Men at Work and Ganggagang records and the cricket and tennis are on.

This year, the Aussie Day theme seems to have gone into overdrive in the homeland. Building on the 2011 Christmas must-have decoration, reindeer antlers for your car, you can now replace them with car-safe Aussie flags. Forget that American ‘respect for the flag’ thing, our flag also appears on paper plates and serviettes, swimmers and dresses, tins of beetroot, inflatable thongs, singlets, and of course, eskies and beer coolers.

Hot, or what?

You can buy raw burgers moulded in the shape of Australia (yes, Tassie is attached), or savoury biscuits in Aussie bbq meat lovers flavour. Lamingtons, those all-Australian cakes, are on special, as are ANZAC biscuits and flag-emblazoned Nutri-Grain (IronMan food).

I nearly gave the award of most useless Australia Day object to the disposable nappies emblazoned with our Union Jack and stars, but the winner is… an Australian Flag car mirror sock, free when you buy slabs of beer from a leading supermarket. Yes, car mirror socks – you know, a sock for your car’s side mirror. Total must-have.

Have a Happy Australia Day, wherever you are.

Cheap and full of cheer

Rejoice, oh disorganised work slaves! Bargains still abound for those who don’t book their summer holidays a year ahead.

Everything about Malaysia screams “bargain” and it’s all
done so nicely. Getting to Kuala Lumpur is cheap, thanks to respectable
Malaysian budget airline AirAsia, and the shopping is fabulous, with
Chrissy sales making it even better (psst, and heaps cheaper than
Singapore). You can snap up a city five-star hotel for as little as $100
a night but for a cheap, authentic experience, try a home stay in a
kampong (village) house with a local family, eating home cooking and
experiencing the culture. The government-monitored initiative costs from
$27 a day. In January, the holiday islands of Penang and Langkawi are
starting to dry out from their November deluge but new hotels are
keeping the competition fierce – check out the new Four Points by
Sheraton on Langkawi and Penang’s new Hard Rock Hotel.,,

Others on the budget radar include Singapore, Tahiti, Hawai’i, Cambodia, New Zealand and our own Cairns is on sale, too.
Click here to read more.

Cairns pulls at the heartstrings

Cairns lagoon. Skin cancer central, but does have some shade!

On a busy corner of tropical Cairns, I could see OK Souvenirs, Koaland and Louis Vuitton. Then I got trampled by a Japanese tourist group. A woman outside my hotel window smoked rolled cigarettes and spat tobacco and invectives at passers-by, the hotel concierge went AWOL while I was trying to haul baby, pram and bags up the front stairs, and it was hot, humid and heavy. Cairns, I was quite prepared to hate you.

But the next morning, I’d softened. The concierge had materialised at the Cairns Hilton, which has just had a $6 million renovation. The streets were full of cute open-air cafes and restaurants and locals and travellers were splashing happily in the lagoon, a clear water pool in the middle of town. I liked the notices pinned telling you where to take baby flying foxes that have fallen out of the trees above, and the primal squeak of a hundred furry little bodies hanging from the branches like over-excited black fruit.

Flying foxes, just hanging out in Cairns.

Then, there was the discovery that the Hanuman restaurant in the Hilton is of the same family as the legendary Darwin Hanuman, and I was unnaturally thrilled to learn they even do bento, basically upmarket take-away, comprising two perfect curries, rice and some rather exciting pickles.

Pulling out of the harbour on a boat turned toward Fitzroy Island, I could smell the massaman curry and jasmine rice, and the prospect of enjoying it on a tropical island seemed pretty damned good. Cairns, welcome back into the heart.