Thursday, 28 October 2021

Auckland and the Scenic Rim grab global attention

New Zealand's largest city, Auckland, and the Scenic Rim region of Queensland are the only Australian and New Zealand destinations featured in the newly released Lonely Planet's Best in Travel 2022.

The book is the 17th annual collection of the world’s hottest destinations and "must-do" travel experiences for the year ahead, and features lists of the top 10 countries, cities and regions to visit in 2022. 

ChrisZeiher, Lonely PlanetSenior Director Trade Sale and Marketing, said Auckland deserved its place as the No.1 city destination. 


“This is an amazing recognition of Auckland and its surrounding attractions," he said. "Within the city’s boundaries there are 53 volcanoes, more than 50 islands, three wine regions and numerous beaches that make this a truly exciting and vibrant city.


“There is so much to discover or rediscover in Auckland and this recognition, especially now as people start contemplating travel again, places Auckland as the number one city on the map.” 

Auckland Mayor Phil Goff says: Lonely Planet’s promotion of Auckland as the best city in the world to travel to in 2022 is a fantastic acknowledgement of what Tāmaki Makaurau has to offer. It will give a real boost to Auckland’s tourism and hospitality sectors as they start to recover from the Covid-19 lockdowns and borders reopen.  


“It is also a reminder to Aucklanders and New Zealanders of the treasure trove of places and experiences we have on our doorstep. Seeing Auckland through the eyes of an international traveller is one way to understand how breath-taking, exciting, creative, and full of energy our region is.


“Knowing it is top of the list for travellers around the world, Aucklanders and New Zealanders have the first chance to explore and rediscover everything Tāmaki Makaurau has to offer.”


The book lists top five Auckland highlights including West Coast beaches, Hauraki Gulf Islands, Auckland War Memorial Museum, Auckland Art Gallery and volcanic cone climbs (top image).


Close Kiwi neighbours The Cook Islands - one of the world’s smallest countries – claimed the coveted spot as the No.1 country to seek out in 2022.


The Scenic Rim in South-east Queensland, meanwhile,  was named No.8 region in the world to visit.

Just an hour from Brisbane and 30 minutes from the heart of the Gold Coast, the Scenic Rim stretches from Canungra to The Lost World, Beaudesert to Boonah, Tamborine Mountain to Kalbar. 

It is home to the ancient World Heritage-listed Gondwana rainforests, historic national parks, charming towns and villages, adventure parks, farm stays, craft breweries, boutique wineries, ecolodges, tantalising gourmet experiences, world- class camping and glamping. 


“After bouncing back from the 2019 Black Summer bushfires with a raft of new attractions and a renewed focus on sustainability, the Scenic Rim in Queensland is primed to become of Australia’s low-impact tourism power players,” says Zeiher. 

“It’s such an untouched and diverse eco-based Australian destination. From the amazing food and wine to the incredible rainforest and bush walks and memorable places to stay, this is an unexpected pocket of Australia that has it all.”


Highlights of the region noted by Lonely Planet include Binna Burra Mountain Lodge and O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat, Australia’s newest Great Walk in The Scenic Rim Trail by Spicers, ecolodges Nightfall Wilderness Camp and Mt Barney Lodge as well as the six national parks.


The lists comprise:

Top 10 Countries: 1. Cook Islands, 2. Norway, 3. Mauritius, 4. Belize, 5. Slovenia, 6. Anguilla, 7. Oman, 8. Nepal, 9. Malawi, 10. Egypt.

Top 10 Regions

1. Westfjords, Iceland, 2. West Virginia, USA,  3. Xishuangbanna, China, 4. Kent Heritage Coast, UK, 5. Puerto Rico, 6. Shikoku, Japan, 7. Atacama Desert, Chile, 8. The Scenic Rim, Australia, 9. Vancouver Island, Canada, 10. Burgundy, France. 

Top 10 cities

Auckland, New Zealand, 2. Taipei, Taiwan, 3. Freiburg, Germany, 4. Atlanta, USA, 5. Lagos, Nigeria, 6. Nicosia/Lefkosia, Cyprus, 7. Dublin, Ireland, 8. Merida, Mexico, 9. Florence, Italy, 10. Gyeongju, South Korea

Thumbs up for Slovenia, Vancouver Island, Burgundy, Dublin and Florence, all among my favourite destinations. Thumbs down for Lagos. Seriously? 

Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2022: $27.99 is available at all good book shops 

Wednesday, 27 October 2021

Thai Airways opens up Phuket for Australians

One travel destination I simply cannot wait to get back to is Thailand.

Beautiful beaches, spicy seafood lunches on the sands, a glass or two of cold beer and maybe a massage or two.

Thai Airways today announced non-stop flights between Sydney and Phuket, Thailand’s premier beach destination, three times each week on Wednesday, Friday and Sunday from December 8.

Flights will depart Sydney at 9.30am and arrive in time for cocktails at 2.40pm.

Flights have also resumed between Sydney and Bangkok and from November 17: four flights weekly are scheduled.

Flights to/from Melbourne are scheduled to resume in April 2022.

Beyond Thailand, flights have resumed or will soon resume to Europe and Asia, including to destinations like London, Paris, Frankfurt, Milan, Brussels, Zurich, Hong Kong, Tokyo, Singapore and many more.

It is terrific to break a trip to Europe with a night or two in Bangkok.

Flights to India, Pakistan and Bangladesh will resume in January 2022.

From November 1, Thailand will allow Australian passport holders to travel to Thailand quarantine-free.

Stone the crows! Cannabis treatments are all the rage

Regular readers will recall Anantara Chiang Mai’s resort restaurant launching what it said was "a healthy and nutrition-rich cannabis-infused menu".

Now that same innovative hotel group is promoting a range of healthy spa treatments featuring cannabis products. 

As Thailand is preparing to reopen its borders to international guests, Anantara Spa has unveiled a Thai first addition to its signature treatment menu with the launch of cannabis-infused spa treatments.

Coinciding with the decriminalisation of certain elements of the cannabis plant, Anantara Spa is harnessing the restorative and anti-inflammatory compounds contained in cannabis and bringing the traditional healing properties of cannabis into modern wellness practices.

Rich in antioxidants, anti-inflammatory compounds and pain reducing properties, the medicinal purposes of cannabis have been brought back to the forefront of alternative therapies. 

Cannabis has been utilised across central Asia for centuries. 

Among the offerings are:
  • The perfect antidote to long haul flights, the Restful Slumber Journey including a cannabis-infused aromatherapy massage, cannabis salt-infused foot bath and a relaxing cup of CBD-infused tea.

  • After a day of sightseeing or adventures, the Cannabis Stress-Release Journey unfurls tense muscles knots using a cannabis herbal compress ball, or Luk Pra kob, which has been known in Thailand for centuries.

  • For top-to-bottom pampering, the Head to Toe Calming Journey combines a scalp massage with foot reflexology to melt away tension. 

The treatments are available at Anantara Spas across Thailand including the Anantara Siam Bangkok Hotel, Anantara Riverside Bangkok Resort, Anantara Chiang Mai Hotel and Anantara Bophut Koh Samui Resort (above).

For more information see

Tuesday, 26 October 2021

Winemaker does his bit to help homeless youths

Matt Burton from Gundog Estate is one of Australia's most talented young winemakers. 

Not only does he make excellent wines using Hunter Valley and Canberra-region fruit under the Gundog Estate label, he also collaborates with Seville Estate's Dylan McMahon for Yarra Valley wines under the Burton & McMahon brand.

It turns out Burton is also a winemaker of generosity, working with community partner Path 2 Change, an organisation aiming to break the cycle of youth homelessness in the Newcastle region. 

Over 1000 bottles of the 2019 The Lived Experience Shiraz were produced by Burton, who is donating 100% of profits to Path 2 Change. 

"With our usual fundraising and work experience activities disrupted by Covid-19, we needed to get creative," Burton says. 

The wine has a hand-drawn label symbolising the journey of young people from struggles with broken homes and families to support, freedom, and hope for the future.

"We are donating 100% of profits to Path 2 Change who will use these funds to support local disadvantaged and homeless youth," Burton says. 

“The past two years have been tough for us and most others in the region. But through our work with Path 2 Change, we know that disadvantaged and homeless youth are doing it even tougher. 

"Their needs have escalated significantly, and Path 2 Change now has more clients on their books than ever before.” 

Path 2 Change Chief Executive Officer Jennifer O’Sullivan said: "Young people are also experiencing increased mental health challenges and are at a higher risk of suicide due to isolation, in addition to already being disconnected from family and social supports. 

"Our young people are requiring more support than ever during this time.”

Gundog Estate formed a partnership with Path 2 Change back in September 2018, and since then the boutique wine producer has supported the charity's work through fundraising at wine club events and at Gundog’s two cellar doors.

The one-off wine is available for sale at $35 a bottle and in six packs for $210 online or from the Gundog Estate cellar doors.


Hawaiian Airlines to return to Australian skies

Hawaiian Airlines will resume its five-times weekly service to Sydney from Honolulu in December, the airline has announced. 

Hawaiian halted the service at the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic in March 2020.

Hawaiian will restart Sydney flights on Tuesdays and Thursday through Sunday starting from December 15, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser newspaper reported.

"We are thrilled to reconnect Hawaii and Australia and have been encouraged by the public's response to Australia's national vaccination program," said Andrew Stanbury, regional director for Australia and New Zealand at Hawaiian Airlines. 

Only Australian citizens and permanent residents are currently permitted to enter Australia but Australians able to travel overseas.

“Hawaii is a hugely popular holiday destination for Australians, and we know many people have been keenly waiting to take a Hawaiian vacation,” Stanbury said. 

“We are looking forward to safely welcoming our guests back on board to enjoy the authentic hospitality we know our guests love and have missed.”

This latest restoration of Hawaiian service follows an announcement from Governor David Ige last week that starting November 1, Hawaii would welcome back vaccinated travellers. 
In addition to non-stop flights o Hawaii, the carrier’s extensive US domestic network allowing them to travel to 16 US mainland gateways – including new destinations in Austin, Orlando, and Ontario, California. 

Hawaiian will continue to operate the SYD-HNL route with its 278-seat, wide-body Airbus A330 aircraft. 

Glass House takes out Tasmanian wine list honours

Hobart eatery The Glass House on Brooke Street Pier took out the honours at the second annual Tassie Wine Stars event this week.

The waterfront venue, which describes itself as "a dining bar", was crowned the 2021 Judges' Choice Tasmanian Wine List of the Year at the celebration of all things Tasmanian at Tamar Ridge cellar door in Rosevears.

The Glass House is known for elegant cocktails, Tasmanian-inspired shared plates and 280-degree water views.

The wine list includes sparkling wines from House of Arras and Belbonne; table wines from Stargazer, Kate Hill, Domaine Simha, Stoney Rise, Marco Lubiana and Tolpuddle, as well as benchmark pinots from Two Tonne, Small Island, Hughes & Hughes and Apsley Gorge, as well as a range of interstate and imported standouts.

I was honoured to be one of the judges.

The award event brought together Tasmanian wine producers, local wine trade and hospitality representatives along with visiting interstate wine trade guests.

The Old Bank of Geeveston in the Huon Valley took out the 2021 Tasmanian Wine List of the Year - Regional Venue , while Tasmanian Food & Wine Conservatory in Sassafras was awarded the 2021 People's Choice Tasmanian Wine List of the Year, as voted by Tasmanian wine lovers.

Wine Tasmania CEO Sheralee Davies commended the 2021 Tasmanian Wine List of the Year winners as well as each of the finalists.

"Tasmanian hospitality operators have experienced a very challenging year," she said. "To have such a strong and diverse list of finalists demonstrating their unwavering support for our local wines is outstanding, and we thank them all.

"These awards are all about recognising and rewarding venues that are doing great things to support local wines - it’s not about having a big wine list or only Tasmanian wines on the list, but about having a focus on Tasmanian wines, appropriate to the individual venue's size, location, style and cuisine."

At the same event, the VinØ ("vin zero") Program Awards recognised the sustainability practices of two wine producers.

As part of Wine Tasmania’s VinØ Program, which helps wine producers measure, improve and report their sustainability and management practices, two awards were announced at the event.

Southwood Wines in Kellevie, east of Sorrell, was announced as the VinØ Program Most Improved Producer while Waterton Hall in the Tamar Valley is the VinØ Program Champion of 2021.

The VinØ Program is a comprehensive, user-friendly resource, focused on key areas of vineyard and winery management including soil health, biodiversity, waste and water management, biosecurity and emissions reduction.