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Sunday 31 December 2023

Newcastle Food Month returns bigger than ever

Over three difficult years, Newcastle Food Month has become a major success story. And with travel now back to normal, the event will return in April, 2024, for its fourth edition.

The food festival will again feature the posh pop-up picnic Le Diner En Blanc Newcastle (above) with more than 1,000 guests again expected to frock up for the 2024 event to be held in a secret location on April 6.

The month-long program will kick off on the weekend of Easter 2024 and takes in the New South Wales school holidays as well as the Anzac Day break at the end of the month.

Among the highlights will be those that feature wine, beer, gin, whisky, cocktails, music and cheese.

Festival goers will be able to dine in hatted restaurants and enjoy degustations with French, Italian, Thai, seafood and cocktail themes.

Roundhouse at Crystalbrook Kingsley, The Flotilla and its new offshoot Vecina, Humbug, Harrisons, Jana, The Elementa, Foghorn Brewery and Modus will all be hosting events.

Plate Date also returns, with an anticipated 50 dining establishments offering a brunch, lunch or dinner, including a beverage for only $30.

“It’s exciting to see so many early entries into the program, and we are well ahead of where we have been in previous years in planning," says organiser Louise Maher. "There is already something for everyone who likes eating out, and on any budget.”

“Over the past three years we have enticed thousands of Novocastrians to dine out in our fabulous restaurants, and this will continue.

"Last year more than 80 businesses were involved in Newcastle Food Month and that’s a stat we are really proud of, keeping our economy focused on the great hospitality the region is known for.

"We are also committed to expanding our marketing and promotion into the Central Coast and Sydney to draw an increasing number of overnight visitors. In years to come we will turn our attention to the likes of Melbourne and Brisbane, to take advantage of our connections through Newcastle Airport.”

The program launch will take place on February 7. Keep an eye on

Lufthansa makes major investment in new aircraft

German airline Lufthansa is extremely confident about the future of the aviation industry, making a major investment in new planes.

The Lufthansa Group has announced the order of 80 new "highly efficient" short- and medium-haul aircraft and agreed on a further 120 purchasing options.

Lufthansa has signed for the purchase of 40 Boeing 737-8 MAX with 60 purchasing options; the purchase of 40 Airbus A220-300s for Lufthansa City Airlines and 20 purchasing options as well as purchasing options for 40 aircraft from the Airbus A320 group. 

Deliveries will be made from 2026 to 2032 with the cost of the firm orders totalling around $US9 billion. 

"With this aircraft order, we are accelerating the largest fleet modernisation in our company's history," said Dr Detlef Kayser, member of the executive board, fleet and technology: 

This increases our order list of around 200 aircraft to 280 – plus an additional 120 purchasing options for further state-of-the-art short- and medium-haul aircraft. 

"We are pleased that both Airbus and Boeing were able to convince us on all commercial and technological aspects. 

"In addition to this, the decision for the Boeing 737-8 MAX will also give us more flexibility for the procurement of short- and medium-haul aircraft in the future. The new ultra-modern aircraft offer our guests additional comfort. They are also quieter, more economical, more efficient, and emit up to 30 percent less CO2 than their predecessor models. 

"The order demonstrates our airlines' future viability and ability to invest, and it shows that we are living up to our responsibility to reduce our carbon emissions."

With a current fleet of more than 700 commercial aircraft, the Lufthansa Group says it is pursuing "a long-term fleet strategy focused on cost efficiency and reducing emissions". 

Saturday 30 December 2023

Unaccompanied child flown to the wrong airport

You'd expect airlines to take special care of unaccompanied children in their care.

Not always.

News emerged over the holiday that budget US carrier Spirit Airlines issued an apology after it put a six-year old unaccompanied minor on the wrong flight.

The airline admitted the boy was "incorrectly boarded", which is bulldust speak for "we stuffed up".

The boy, named Casper, was traveling from Philadelphia to be picked up by his grandmother, Maria Ramos, in Fort Myers, Florida, but instead arrived in Orlando, a city which is a four-hour drive away, Travel Mole reported.

Spirit Airlines apologised and offered to compensate Ms Ramos for the drive to Orlando. Which would seem the minimum they could do.

“I ran inside the plane to the flight attendant and I asked her, ‘Where’s my grandson? He was handed over to you at Philadelphia?'” she told a TV reporter.

The airline said: “We take the safety and responsibility of transporting all of our guests seriously and are conducting an internal investigation."

Spirit Airlines later said it had fired the gate agent responsible, US network ABC reported.
It is apparently not the first time an unaccompanied minor has been put on a wrong flight.

In 2019, a child was boarded on a United Airlines flight to Germany by mistake when he was supposed to be flying to Sweden, Travel Mole reported.

New wine label to pay tribute to family heritage

A new wine label in Margaret River sees Ian Wright following in his parents’ pioneering footsteps.

The new Wrights Vineyard is a brand steeped in Margaret River winemaking tradition and family heritage.

On 33 hectares between Cowaramup and the coast, Wright is building on his family’s 50-year wine history.

The Wrights family wine story began back in 1973, when Henry and Maureen Wright planted their first vines. Back then there were only a handful of people experimenting in winemaking in Margaret River.

Producing vintage port, white port, "Hermitage", cabernet sauvignon and a semillon/sauvignon blanc/ chardonnay blend, the family earned a favourable reputation from what is now Juniper Estate, and where the original vines still remain.

“I can now appreciate what hard work it was back then, given all the challenges that they had being pioneers of the wine industry," Wright says. "That’s what has made me more passionate about doing it. One of the things my father always said was, great wine is made in the vineyard. There’s no question that that’s absolutely correct.”

Ian made his first wine at the age of 15 - around 300 bottles in total. He went on to study wine at Roseworthy Agricultural College - the only winemaking course available in Australia at the time.

He managed a number of successful business ventures after graduating, but he was never able to shake his passion for wine. So, in 2020 he took the plunge and brought an established Margaret River winery that produced wines under the Clownfish and Cowaramup Wines labels to re-start the Wright family tradition.

“I felt as though I’ve never really left," he said. "It’s been a few years now since my parents passed away, however, and I really felt the urge and the need to continue their legacy in whatever way I could. So, this whole reincarnation of Wright’s Vineyard is to fulfill that dream.” 

Paying tribute to his family, Ian has created a one-hectare Heritage Block of chardonnay, cabernet sauvignon, shiraz, sauvignon blanc and semillon. These vines were grown from cuttings taken from the original 1973 plantings at Wrights Wines in Wilyabrup.

Ian has partnered with two stars of the industry, viticulturalist Colin Bell and Deep Woods' winemaker Julian Langworthy as he builds his business with the first wines to be released in 2024.

In a nod to what was Wrights Wines' signature drop, Ian plans to reinvent their sought-after white port from original chardonnay and riesling vine cuttings.

Visit to learn about the reincarnation of Wrights in Margaret River.

Image: Ian and Yuka Wright, provided.

Friday 29 December 2023

How solo travellers can save themselves thousands

Being a single traveller is not always easy. And is often expensive.

Single supplements can add thousands of dollars to the cost a tour, or cruise.

That's why solo travellers might want to take a look at some Summer Sale offers from Wendy Wu Travel that can be booked until February 29, 2024.

Wendy Wu Tours has waived waived single travel supplements on selected tours and dates completely, with other tours offering a 50% discount off the regular single supplement price.

There are also savings for couples of up to $1,100 per trip twin share.

Simon Bell, managing director for Wendy Wu Tours Australia, says, “We are really excited to launch this year’s Summer Sale at a time when leisure travel from Australia remains robust thanks to the resilience and eagerness of consumers to prioritise overseas travel in 2024.

“While it’s clear that Australians don’t want to give up their travel plans, many of us are of course still looking for ways to save right now. This makes events like our summer sale more popular than ever, because when combined with the all-inclusive nature of our tours, the value we offer is hard - if not impossible - to beat.”

Bell said that destinations like Japan and south-east Asia continue to be as popular as ever with Australian travellers and, in addition, China and India have seen a sharp increase in forward bookings as increased airline capacity into these markets has piqued interest for travel to these destinations in the new year.

Best sellers include tours to Japan, China and, more exotically, to Borneo and Bhutan.

For more information call 1300 727998 or book online at

Anyone for glamping in the northern Thai hills?

Fancy a Thai holiday with a difference? 

The community-focused Visama Mae Chan luxury tented camp in the hill country of Chiang Rai, northern Thailand, opened earlier this month. 

The new project, with 10 luxe tents, aims to deliver a "holistic and immersive" holiday experience combining cultural and nature activities and high-end northern Thai culinary fare, much of it organic and sourced on an adjacent farm. 

There are fully-equipped luxury tents in four categories.

Each accommodation category has a hill tribe name such as “Akha”, “Yao”, “Lahu”, and “Lisu” and range in size from 48 to 80 sqm, including a 12 or 20 sqm veranda. The largest tents have two bedrooms, making them suitable for families.

Amenities include air conditioning, phone, espresso machine, French press coffee pots, wifi, rain showers, safety deposit box, refrigerator, his and her bathrobes and slippers, bathtub and 24-hour concierge. 

Activities such as pottery, painting, foraging, private picnics, arts and crafts workshops, cooking classes with Lanna-Thai recipes, discussions with guest speakers, tree planting, body and mind sessions, and spa and wellness experiences will be central to the lodge’s activities offerings – as will private trips to heritage attractions such as the opium museum, Doi Mae Salong, and Chiang Rai’s aesthetically stunning White Temple.

“What sets Visama Mae Chan apart is our ability to fill multiple-day immersive experiences that leave an unforgettable impression on guests, the local community and the environment,” said lodge co-founder Mark Remijan.

Chef Suphannat ‘Miu’ Amnuayrit and his culinary team have crafted a menu based on both traditional Lanna cuisine of northern Thailand, nutrition-rich international comfort foods and local specialties. 

A resort highlight will also be The Ambalama, a fireside gathering place for storytelling and talks by authors and historians.

The property also has a community purpose. It will support the neighbouring Friends of Thai Daughters foundation, which seeks to prevent child trafficking by empowering girls from hill tribe communities.

Visama Mae Chan will also host a farmers’ market once a month that will be open to the public. A proportion of the income from the market will go towards the hill tribe foundation, as will income from tree planting activities that the lodge will offer to guests.

“We aim to provide direct income, vocational training and sustainability benefits to the local community,” said Christopher Stafford, co-founder of the lodge. 

“Visama Lodge will also proactively involve itself in nature conservation and the promotion of local Lanna culture,” he said.

Twelve additional luxury tents will be added to Visama Lodge in 2024.

“Visama Mae Chan is a holistic experience,” said Stafford. “We give guests the opportunity to learn from northern nature and culture, embrace the art of living well, and at the same time give back in a meaningful way to the local community.”

The property is a 40-minute drive north of Chiang Rai international airport and sounds like a fascinating destination. 


Thursday 28 December 2023

Meet Tasmania's brand-new cellar door restaurant

Craigie Knowe is the oldest vineyard on Tasmania's East Coast - first planted with vines back in 1979.

It is also the location of Tasmania's newest vineyard restaurant, which opened just before the new year. 

Vigneron Glenn Travers reports that chef Anthony Fiori will be serving up Mediterranean-influenced cuisine to accompany Craigie Knowe's handcrafted wines.

Flora’s features Med-inspired dishes using local Tasmanian produce.

The menu will showcase lamb raised on the historic estate and some vegetables grown on the property.

The food line-up will be finalised shortly. But for the opening think starters like antipasti platters, saffron arancini balls, a trio of dips with bread, or fresh local oysters.

Mains will include orange and brandy-braised duck leg, lamb and coconut curry, and blue eye trevalla on a carrot puree.

See for full details.

A world of culinary talent to descend on Melbourne

The Melbourne Food & Wine Festival returns in 2024 with a program that will include 300 events across the city and beyond.

The festival, one of Australia's leading gourmet events, will run from March 15-24.

The event will kick off with the return of some festival favourites, including the World’s Longest Lunch to be led by superstar chef Andrew McConnell (Gimlet, Cumulus Inc, Cutler & Co, Supernormal) and the World’s Longest Brunch with new-wave Indian food champions Harry Mangat (Biji Dining), Helly Raichura (Enter Via Laundry) and Mischa Tropp (Toddy Shop).

“We’re thrilled to be back in 2024 with a truly special program," says Anthea Loucas Bosha, CEO of Food + Drink Victoria, the not-for-profit parent company behind MFWF.

"From the king of Melbourne hospitality, Andrew McConnell, leading the World’s Longest Lunch to three of the state’s best proponents of new-wave Indian cooking taking the change on World’s Longest Brunch - that’s just the first two days of the festival.

“Our Global Dining Series has been supercharged this year, with a breadth of talent from around Australia and the world coming to Melbourne for a series of one-off dinners, collaborations and residencies.

"Our final weekend has us back at our festival home, Fed Square, where Melbourne’s best bakers and patissiers will be on show.

"Melbourne is always one of most dynamic places to eat and drink, and for 10 days in March Melbourne will be the world’s eating and drinking capital.”

Guests include Garima Arora bringing the food of Gaa, her Bangkok post-Noma take on Indian food, while Sarah Cicolini brings her trattoria Santo Palato from Rome to a pop-up in North Melbourne, both open for the length of the festival.


Hanoi-based Sam Tran brings a taste of Gia to Aru, Dan Hong (above) goes sweet-casual at Pidapipo and Neil Perry brings a taste of his Margaret restaurant to Omnia.

Andrew McConnell said: “Melbourne Food & Wine Festival is one of the most important events in the calendar. MFWF is crucial to continuing and reinforcing Melbourne’s reputation as the cultural and gastronomic capital of Australia."

There will be a range of events at Fed Square (all heavily sponsored).

Tickets for the 2024 Melbourne Food & Wine Festival go on sale Thursday, February 1. See

Wednesday 27 December 2023

How what we eat can affect how we sleep

The foods we eat can play a major role in the way we feel over the holidays, says a leading sleep nutrition expert.

With processed food (47%) and takeaway (38%) sitting at the top of the ‘go-to’ foods Australians consume when feeling stressed, Olivia Arezzolo has warned of the ripple effect diet can have on sleep and overall health when good nutrition goes out the window during stressful or busy periods.

New data from the global nutrition and food tracking app MyFitnessPal reveals that one in six (60%) Australians admit to sleep being the number one aspect in their lives impacted by stress.

Attempting to get more sleep was also listed as the biggest priority (42%) for Australians during stressful times.

50% of Aussies admitted they turn to sugary or high-fat snacks during late night hours at least once a week.

This could have negative consequences for sleep as respondents who did this were also more likely to state their sleep quality had worsened over the past year (40% compared to 20% average).

“Sleep is intrinsically linked to the food we eat, so it’s not surprising to see that sleep is suffering the most during busy and stressful times, such as the holidays,” says sleep expert Arezzolo, who has a Bachelor of Social Science (Psychology), Certificate in Sleep Psychology and a Diploma of Health Science (Nutritional Medicine).
“While it’s unrealistic to expect that the majority of Australians will completely cut comforting foods off their diet, knowing which snacks to incorporate and eat more of, can make a significant difference in getting a good night's rest.”

She has shared her five top snacks to encourage blissful sleep: kiwi fruit, banana and strawberry smoothie, a can of tuna or fatty fish, a handful of almonds, and sour cherry juice.

So I guess peanuts and pinot noir do not make the grade.

MyFitnessPal’s recently launched ‘Sleep’ app integration has been created to help users more easily keep track of how their food choices impact their sleep - giving them insights into their ‘wellness trifecta’ in one place.

By presenting users with sleep cycle information using data from connected sleep devices (such as Apple Watch or FitBit), alongside their food diary, users can see how their nutritional choices are impacting their sleep and overall well being.

Alongside its new sleep integration, MyFitnessPal is offering members a free ‘Eat Right, Sleep Tight’ plan that aims to help users break the cycle of exhaustion with a five-day plan that addresses meal timing, hydration, and a bedtime routine for a restful, restorative night’s sleep.

To learn more visit

Note: I have not tried this app and am not advocating it. 

Image: Serafima Trushnikova, 

Samui resort recognised for its environmental efforts


The environment is a key selling point for hotel properties in Asia and the Banyan Tree in Koh Samui has just become the first hotel in Thailand recognised at the highest level for its eco-friendly achievements. 

The beach resort has been given Platinum Certification by EarthCheck, which is billed as the world’s leading scientific benchmarking organisation for sustainable tourism.

The award of EarthCheck’s Platinum Certification marks 10 years of hard work by the resort in 10 key performance areas: Greenhouse Gas Emissions; Energy Efficiency; Management of Freshwater Resources; Ecosystem Conservation & Management; Social & Cultural Management; Land Use Planning & Management; Air Quality Protection; Wastewater Management; Solid Waste Management; and Environmentally Harmful Substances.

Although other hotel chains have received similar accolades from EarthCheck at a group level, Banyan Tree Samui is the only stand-alone resort or hotel to be recognised with Platinum Certification. 

"Banyan Tree Samui's achievement in receiving the EarthCheck Platinum Certification is a landmark moment in sustainable tourism in Thailand,” said EarthCheck CEO Stewart Moore. 

“This certification reflects not just a decade of commitment to environmental stewardship, but also a dedication to social responsibility and economic sustainability.”

Banyan Tree aims to reduce consumption rates through improved efficiency and adopting new technology or practices. Energy, carbon emissions, water use, and waste production are closely monitored, measuring progress against context-specific industry baselines and best practices, established in collaboration with EarthCheck.

Led by a marine biologist, the resort’s sustainability team offers guests “green” activities such as a nature trail with bird-spotting, guided snorkelling tours to the resort’s very own coral reef, and the opportunity to join an on-site tree-planting activity.

Guests can also join a plethora of cultural activities including Thai cookery classes, Thai boxing, Thai language lessons or a visit to an elephant sanctuary.

“Caring for the environment is in our DNA,” said Thepsuda Loyjiw, the resort’s sustainability manager.

“Banyan Tree was founded with the core value of driving sustainable development. We see sustainability in terms of not only the environment, but also the local communities in which we operate.”

Banyan Tree Samui recently funded the rebuilding of a local school that had been destroyed by a tropical storm. 

Following in the footsteps of its elder sister resort, Banyan Tree Krabi, which opened in 2020 on the Andaman coast, is also looking at achieving recognition by EarthCheck. 

Banyan Tree Samui opened in 2010 and is an 88-key all-pool villa resort. The 38-acre property is rich in flora and plant life, and its private beach is flanked by coral reefs.

To learn more about Banyan Tree Samui’s sustainability efforts, see

Villas at Banyan Tree Samui, each with a private infinity pool, start from $US585 per night.

Tuesday 26 December 2023

Margaret River has a new dining destination

Heading for Margaret River?

A new restaurant with a positive pedigree has opened its doors on the main street of the township.

The former owners of now closed Arimia Estate - Evan Hayter (above) and Ann Spencer - are behind the new venture.

Described as "the next incarnation of Arimia, but distinctly different,” the 35-seat eatery will be open for dinner Wednesdays to Saturdays.

What will stay the same is growing and sourcing high-quality, local, organic produce "from suppliers who cared deeply for the land" including high-end West Australian ingredients like abalone, Waygu beef, marron and uni (sea urchin).

The food offering is primarily à la carte with a "trust the chef" set menu also available.

Menu listings are sharp and to the point: carrot and seaweed, perhaps, crab salad, brioche and caviar or 
Wagyu, lardo and cabbage (below). 

Or maybe bbq butterflied whole prawns, squid and sobrasada sauce; saffron risotto, poached mussels; or dry-aged pork chop, sumac aioli. 

“The approach will be seasonal, refined dining… but the mood will be darker, more intimate,” says executive chef Hayter.

“Guests would come back to Arimia because it stood for something”, says Spencer. “Evan is deeply passionate about where his ingredients come from - how they’re grown and reared, and ensuring they’re sourced from like-minded producers who share our values.

“We forged a unique partnership at Arimia, and overcame a lot of challenges. de’sendent is the evolution of an important story, and represents our determination to share our dining philosophy with the world.” 

On the spelling of de’sendent, Hayter said that Arimia was a mash-up of Spencer’s daughters' names but was often misspelled.

“We’ve continued that tradition by deliberately misspelling de’sendent. The apostrophe’s just to mess with people.” Hmm.

The venue will be adults only and will also be available for private dining/exclusive use subject to availability.

Reservations at

Monday 25 December 2023

TrailGraze shows off some of Tasmania's gourmet roads less travelled

Tasmania's north-west can sometimes fly under the radar when it comes to gourmet experiences.

The annual TrailGraze festival, which puts a spotlight on some of the region's best offerings, aims to right that wrong and will be back in April 2024.

Presented by Tasmania’s Tasting Trail, the annual, weekend-long event celebrates the producers of north-west Tasmania and will return for the third year running from April 19-21.

Local produce includes fruits, nuts, cheese, meats, seafood, condiments and confectionery, wine, cider, craft beer and spirits.

The event this year features a one-off opening night dinner featuring TrailGraze ambassadors Palisa Anderson and Lilly Trewartha and drinks expert Mike Bennie.

“Our venues and producers have really upped the ante this year - there will be so much to eat, drink and experience along Tasmania's Tasting Trail,” says Tasting Trail chair Scott Dornahuf of Christmas Hills Raspberry Farm.

“Get your family and friends together and block out this weekend in April. You'll want to hit the road and enjoy as much as you possibly can.”

Local tourism operators are supporting the event

“TrailGraze is set to bring the north west region to life over this exciting event in April” says West by North West CEO Gabriella Conti.

“Our Tasting Trail producers have elevated their offerings to bring the essence of their produce directly to you, for an unforgettable weekend.”

To stay updated on the latest event information and announcements head to the TrailGraze website at

Sunday 24 December 2023

How to combine your vacation with doing some good


Forget being lazy by the pool with a cocktail in your hand. 

One leading international hotelier says more and more travellers are looking for "compelling experiences" as part of their vacation experiences. 

Community involvement, protecting the environment and wellbeing will be key elements of travel in 2024 says Alma Resort Cam Ranh’s managing director Herbert Laubichler-Pichler, who has spent his entire career in the travel industry. 

Laubichler-Pichler says he and his team had created compelling experiences for 2024 to encourage holidaymakers to volunteer alongside the resort workers and give back to local communities in Vietnam. 

For example, guests can spend a morning with volunteers who cook meals and feed disadvantaged school children after class in a nearby community.

“Some holidaymakers like to kick back by the pool, and that’s perfectly fine, but we understand others are keen to bring extra depth to their trip in a kind-hearted way,” he said. 

“We’ve organised some half- and full-day volunteering opportunities for guests and staff. You get a real sense of the local community and feel rewarded doing your bit to help.”

Alma is in the process of implementing what is believed to be Vietnam’s most ambitious solar power project, installing 4470 solar panels totalling 23,290 square metres on the roofs of its 196 pavilions, two V-shaped towers housing 384 suites, lobby lounge and utility building. 

The solar power system will fuel between a quarter to 35% of Alma’s energy needs, depending on occupancy dictated by the low and high seasons.

The resort is also part of the “End Plastic Soup in Cam Ranh” campaign, attracting volunteers to collect plastic from Long Beach to be upcycled. 

Laubichler-Pichler says wellness tourism will continue to be a huge focus for the travel industry in the post-pandemic era. 

Alma’s Le Spa will soon roll out an array of wellness experiences including new wellness retreats and journeys up to three days long encompassing spa therapies, singing bowl meditation, power yoga, health drinks and more.

Not for me, but a nice idea. 

In a bid to be more sustainable and self-sufficient, Alma this year unveiled its own on-site herb garden, nursery garden and chicken farm, providing fresh produce and eggs served at Alma’s restaurants. 

“Our resort has started running complimentary guided garden tours to equip guests with handy tips on how to nurture their own veggie patch and look after chickens,” said Laubicher-Pichler. 

“Alma is also planning to roll out cooking classes by the garden, where guests pick, clean, and cook their own healthy meals.”

The resort’s Asiana restaurant is set to offer a vegan menu and vegan buffets in 2024.

“There are so many things hotels and resorts can do in the new year to not only boost the guest experience and guests’ health but also help the community and protect the environment; we hope to set a good example and encourage other hotels to take a leaf out of our book so that the hotel industry is a genuine force for change,” Laubichler-Pichler said.

Alma is situated on Vietnam’s emerging Cam Ranh peninsula fronting Long Beach and has 30 hectares of land. See

So you really like playing games? Sydney is calling

So you like playing games?

Head to Sydney where Australia’s first Immersive Gamebox has opened its doors.

I'm not the demographic, but Immersive Gamebox is described as "an unforgettable immersive gaming experience which is great for families and friends".

The experience is "like VR only without the bulky headsets".

Suitable for groups of 2-6 players, players apparently pop on a visor and use their body as the game controller.

There are currently 11 augmented reality adventures, including Squid Game based on the hit Netflix show, Angry Birds, PAW Patrol, Shaun the Sheep, Ghostbusters, Ticket to Mars and the Alien Aptitude Test.

“We’re thrilled to officially open Australia’s first Immersive Gamebox experience in Darling Harbour," says Richard Dilly, General Manager at Merlin Entertainments.

"We have loved watching the guests explore the new gaming spaces - from a family day out to date night and groups of friends looking for a unique activity in the heart of the city; each game offers a fun and exciting new challenge."

Will Dean, CEO and co-founder of Immersive Gamebox, says: “We are incredibly excited to be launching our first venue in Australia. We're thrilled to bring friends, families, and co-workers together in a gaming format that transcends borders.

"By collaborating with the world's top content studios, we've curated adventures that place connection and collaboration at their heart."

Located at the Merlin Entertainments site next to SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium and Madame Tussauds, Immersive Gamebox tickets are available online now at SEA LIFE, Sydney, Australia | Immersive Gamebox

For more information see

Saturday 23 December 2023

A weekend Tassie date for lovers of cool-climate wines

Anyone who loves cool-climate wine and has been planning to visit Tasmania should put the weekend of March 1-3, 2024, into their diaries. 

Some of the best wine producers in southern Tasmania will open their doors for the 2024 Southern Open Vineyards Weekend.

This annual celebration encourages wine enthusiasts to explore the offerings of over 35 vineyards sprawled across southern Tasmania.

The Southern Open Vineyards Weekend includes the Derwent Valley, Coal River Valley, the Huon Valley/D’Entrecasteaux Channel, and the south-east region, including Hobart and surrounds.

The weekend highlights tastings, vineyard tours and visits to facilities that are sometimes not open to the public at other times of the year. Think producers like Stargazer, Sailor Seeks Horse or Trial Bay Estate, or the swish new Bream Creek facility at Marion Bay. 

Several of the venues will offer live entertainment ad food pairings to match with wines.

"This event represents a unique opportunity to connect with our local talkent growing and making wine, as well as celebrating and discovering amazing Tasmanian wines," says event manager Greer Carland, who grew up on the Laurel Bank vineyard and now makes her own wines under the Quiet Mutiny label.    

Stay tuned for the forthcoming release of event details, where the complete line-up of participating vineyards, activities, and special events will be revealed.

For further information and updates, you can visit the Southern Open Vineyards Weekend Website.

Redfern to get a hip new boutique hotel

Inner city Sydney is about to get a hotel with a difference with the Eve Hotel Sydney located between two of the city's most upwardly mobile suburbs; Redfern and Surry Hills.

Located in a labyrinth of lively laneways connecting the two suburbs, the new hotel will be operated by TFE Hotels and is developed and owned by TOGA Group – both headquartered in Sydney.

Designed by Surry Hills based architects SJB, the Harbour City’s newest 102-room boutique hotel is part of the new Wunderlich Lane lifestyle precinct, at the centre of Toga Group’s Surry Hills village.

Set on the site of Sydney’s original Wunderlich Ltd factory on the Redfern side of Cleveland St, the precinct’s inner-city vibe will feature boutique shopping, al fresco dining and design-led commercial and event spaces.

“We have a prominent address at the crossroads of Surry Hills and Redfern and a location full of rich history,” said Toga Group Managing Director and TFE Hotels chairman Allan Vidor.

“Our team are very much looking forward to sharing our version of Sydney hospitality by offering a genuine and vibrant experience.”

Described as an "edgy boutique" hotel, The Eve is scheduled to open in September 2024. It will have a rooftop pool and bar.

For more details see

Friday 22 December 2023

New hotel in Singapore will have 989 rooms


They like to do things in style in Singapore - like a proposed new 989-room hotel.

The Mercure ICON Hotel will be Singapore's latest landmark hotel.

Accor, the largest international hospitality group in Middle East, Africa & Asia Pacific, has announced a landmark deal with Worldwide Hotels Group, the largest hotel operator in Singapore, to create the world's largest Mercure hotel, which is set to open in the first quarter of next year.

The deal follows an agreement between Accor and Worldwide Hotels Group to also open a Novotel Singapore property.

“We are thrilled to expand our working relationship with Accor, who are a strong partner for us," says Carolyn Choo, CEO of Worldwide Hotels Group,

"With Mercure ICON Singapore City Centre, we will continue to create exceptional guest experiences for the informed, cosmopolitan traveller.”

Located on 8 Club Street, Mercure ICON Singapore City Centre will be positioned between Chinatown and the CBD, and will be directly connected to two stations: Chinatown and Telok Ayer.

The hotel promises a range of dining options and a landscaped pool deck and indoor gym. It will also feature EV charging car lots.

“It's an honour to continue our partnership with Worldwide Hotels Group with the signing of Mercure ICON Singapore City Centre,” said Garth Simmons, Chief Operating Officer for Accor's Premium, Midscale & Economy Division in Asia.

“Mercure stand as gateways to exploration, igniting a sense of local discovery from the very moment guests step through the doors." Oops. He's gushing.

"Being locally inspired is at the heart of the Mercure experience, where each of our hotels boasts a charming character reflective of its neighbourhood.

"Located in one of the most happening neighbourhoods in Singapore, and with a wealth of world-class exceptional experiences, the hotel demonstrates our shared commitment to providing genuine hospitality experiences.”

Winemaker wants you to drop an ice cube into a glass of his wines

It's OK to drop a cube of ice into your glass of wine on a warm day, one leading winemaker says. 

But not all wines - just fresh, crisp white wines. 
"Some wine enthusiasts might scoff, some may question me, but once you try it this summer, I bet you'll be on board." says veteran winemaker David Lowe, formerly of the Hunter Valley and now based in Mudgee at Lowe Family Wines. 

"What am I referring to you? Popping a large ice cube in your glass of white wine this summer. 

"Now, I'm not claiming this is a new trick, and there's plenty of wine out there where if you add an ice cube to it, yes it will chill it, but in doing so it also compromises the structure, flavour and alcohol of the wine through dilution. 

"What I'm banging on about, after much experimentation, is that I have found two varieties that are not diminished when I put an ice cube or two in the glass: ansonica (also called inzolia) and vermentino, both from the 2023 vintage.

"The ice chills the wine, whilst keeping the same aroma and intensity of colour, and the taste is just as good, maybe even better. If you're a non- believer, I challenge you to grab a bottle."

Of course, it just so happens that Lowe makes an ansonica and a vermentino that he would very much like to sell to you. 

But it is also a reminder than wine snobbery can also be foolish and self-defeating. 

Thursday 21 December 2023

Transport minister issues warning to Australia's major airlines

Australian transport minister Catherine King has slammed the on-time failures of the country's two biggest airlines: Qantas and Virgin Australia.

King said the latest BITRE On Time Performance (OTP) report, for November, confirmed what many Australians would expect "with the lowest average on time statistics by airlines in over a year".

Small fry Bonza and Rex led the way for the month with on time performances of 73.9% and 70.5% respectively, while Virgin Australia was the worst performer for the month, with only 54.3% of its flights arriving on time.

Qantas saw 66.3% of its flights arrive on schedule.

"Across all airlines, last month’s average on time arrivals figure of 64.1% was significantly lower than the long-term average performance of 81.1%," King said in a statement.

The on time departures figure of 65.9% was also significantly lower than the long-term average of 82.3%.

Cancellations were at 3.7% for the month, compared with the long-term average of 2.2%.

"Given these very disappointing results, it is no wonder that so many Australians remain fed up with our major airlines," King said.

"Like all Australians, the Government wants an aviation sector that supports our nation’s way of life and this means services need to be reliable, competitive and affordable.

"That's why we have committed to delivering an Aviation White Paper, expected to be released in mid-2024, to set the scene for the next generation of growth and development across the aviation sector.

"This will include consideration of how we can better protect the interests of consumers, whether that be a stronger ombudsman model or other measures implemented in overseas jurisdictions.

"As Australians gear up to travel for Christmas and the holidays, the Government will be keeping a close eye on the performance of all our major airlines."

Image: Louis Loizou, 

Why we need to re-think our relationship with food

Australians need to re-think their behaviour when it comes to wasting food, a leading expert says.

Entertainment, parties and eating out are all in vogue as we approach the holiday season, but more mindfulness is needed to avoid edible leftovers being binned.

“We all like to cook, buy and take large amounts of food in this festive season, both as hosts and guests and many people think it is better to have too much food than not enough," says Dr Bhavna Middha, Research Fellow, College of Design and Social Context at RMIT University.

“But our shared practices need to be put under scrutiny, as they can often lead to extravagant food waste.

“Food waste is an endemic issue in Australia. A total of 7.3 million tonnes of food are wasted in Australia per year, which has significant environmental consequences.

“Reducing food waste could save the average family between $2,200 to $3,800 per year.

“But merely informing householders about food waste is not an adequate strategy to bring about change in everyday routines and activities.

“Here’s where we can start to improve our contribution to food waste:
# Stop over-catering: we need to rethink how much food we supply and to accept that the food should be finished or suitably distributed by the end of events.
# Limit bulk-buying: structural issues such as price gouging by supermarkets as well as how everyday convenience is constructed through bulk buying needs to be investigated to determine how bulk buying is reduced beyond special times.
#Understand food longevity: we need a better understanding of what kind of food ages well or badly in storage and use foods before they reach their recommended best before dates.

“Additionally, many of us don’t particularly know how long to keep leftovers in the fridge if we do want to save them for later.

Our research found that 17% of fridges in Australian households were too cold or too warm for food storage. This means that the food we buy and store, fresh or leftover, is prone to wastage, especially if the fridge is inefficient.

“These findings point to larger questions of relationships between food provisioning, eating and refrigerators and how these (mis)connections may be contributing to global food waste.”

Bhavna Middha's research focuses on exploring everyday shared practices around food, waste and energy in the context of sustainable consumption.

Image: Bernardo Dadic, 

Enjoy a favourite wine in a can

We don't drink wine the way we used to. 

Wine lovers will have noticed that they can now purchase wines in all manner of alternative packaging; including pouches and flat-plastic bottles. 

Wine in cans is also becoming increasingly popular but don't expect to find your Penfolds Grange or Henschke Hill of Grace in a can any time soon. 

Cans are, however, very handy for any "drink now" wines and perfect for picnics, or a day at the beach. 

One of Australia's highest profile wines, Turkey Flat's Grenache Rosé, has just been released in 250ml cans - and the Barossa producer is excited by the innovation. 

The winery describes its slimline cans as offering "sustainable sophistication". 

"This exciting release not only showcases the timeless charm of Turkey Flat's Rosé but also underlines the winery's commitment to sustainability, convenience, and responsible drinking," owner Christie Schulz says. 

The key features of the new-release cans are: 

#. Eco-friendly packaging: contributing to a reduced environmental footprint. The lightweight and recyclable cans align with the winery's commitment to responsible practices and eco-conscious choices.

#  Convenience meets sustainability: Portable and easy to handle, the cans cater to on-the-go moments. 

#. Responsible drinking advocacy: The portable and portioned nature of the cans facilitates moderation, ensuring that consumers can savour the moment responsibly.

#. Preserving the rosé experience: The can format safeguards the flavours of Turkey Flat Rosé, ensuring freshness and quality remain intact. 

Turkey Flat 2023 Rosé cans are now available for purchase through the Turkey Flat website and Turkey Flat cellar door. See You'll pay around $8 a can. 

Jacobs Creek, with its Le Petit Rosé Spritz, and Paxton Wines, with its low-alcohol NV Silver Sands Rosé, are other producers releasing pink wines in a can for summer, along with Tempus Two with its spritzes in a can. 

Wednesday 20 December 2023

Chic new accommodation just a stroll from the Tasmanian wilderness

Mount Field National Park is one of Tasmania's most exquisite destinations.

It is also one of the best-kept secrets on the island state despite being located less than an hour from the capital city of Hobart.

Visit midweek and you can have exquisite rainforest walks and views of spectacular waterfalls virtually to yourself.

While tourists flock to Freycinet National Park on the east coast and the Cradle Mountain National Park in the north-west, the many charms of Mount Field remain largely undiscovered.

With its several spectacular waterfalls, and abundant wildlife, a short walk through stands of some of the world's tallest hardwood trees and Tasmanian eucalypt rainforests leads to spectacular three-tiered Russell Falls (above).

There are few spots on the planet where the air is so fresh and clean and the  area has been protected for its natural beauty since 1885, when it was set aside as Tasmania's first nature reserve. It used to be home to the now extinct Tasmanian Tiger, or thylacine.

Mount Field National Park was founded in 1916, making it, along with Freycinet National Park, Tasmania's oldest national park.

Mount Field is part of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area, so there is no accommodation inside the park, but just outside the gates you'll find the beginnings of an exciting new accommodation project..

The first stage of Mt Field Retreat opened a few weeks ago with a collection of comfortable self-contained pods.

The complex is the work of Greg and Rachel Power and their children, who also operate Waterfalls Café and Gallery in the national park visitor centre

There will eventually be 12 pods, a conference and training centre and seven luxury villas as part of the complex, which is a terrific base from which to explore the Derwent Valley and further afield.  

The pods are all impressively decked out with a king-size bed and plush sofa bed, kitchenette with stove top and dishwasher, and a shower that delivers plenty of hot water.

There are plenty of power points and USB slots and some colourful artworks on the wall. There are also TVs in both the lounge and bedroom, along with Netflix.

Make sure you bring plenty of food with you, however. The nearest supermarket is a fair drive away and the local pub only serves dinner from Friday nights onwards.

You can grab breakfast and lunch just a short stroll away at Waterfalls café - where you can expect hearty country flavours.

The National Park Hotel, also within walking distance of the pods, is a classic Australian country pub with friendly locals, a pool table and picnic area. 

The decorations include an axe that once belonged to Tasmanian champion woodchopper David Foster and pictures of long-forgotten local Aussie Rules teams.

Canoeing, trekking and cycling options are right on your doorstep here and guests might spot a platypus in the Tyenna River or endangered eastern quolls scurrying through the undergrowth.

Rates range from $250-$303 a night and in winter the slopes of the Mount Mawson ski field are just a short drive away.

Book direct for the cheapest rate at
  • # The writer was a guest of Tourism Tasmania an Mt Field Retreat.

Adelaide to get new luxury skyscraper hotel

Adelaide will soon be home to a luxury Westin hotel in a new city skyscraper.

Marriott International this week signed an agreement with Australian property developers Freemasons South Australia and Northern Territory and Pelligra Group to introduce the first Westin hotel into Adelaide in late 2026.

The Westin Adelaide is set to be the second Marriott International property in South Australia, following the opening of Marriott Adelaide Hotel in mid-2024.

“This is an exciting and unique partnership that will not only honour the rich heritage of a historic building, but also mark our commitment to enhancing the city's hospitality offering”, said Richard Crawford, vice president of Hotel Development for Australia, New Zealand and Pacific at Marriott International.

“The project's strategic location in the CBD and the retention of the iconic heritage building will be key ingredients for the distinctive positioning of a hotel that will have global pedigree”.

Situated at 254 North Terrace in the CBD, the 236-room new-build hotel aims to preserve the historic Freemasons building and its iconic façade while seamlessly integrating a modern 33-storey building to be known as Keystone Adelaide Tower.

The plans outline the hotel's presence across 19 levels within the contemporary tower, alongside a Freemasons Hall and Grand Lodge, retail outlets, office tenancies, rooftop restaurant and observatory.

The development will offer convenient access to Parliament House, Rundle Mall retail and entertainment strip, with Adelaide Casino, Festival Centre, Riverbank Precinct and Lot Fourteen redevelopment all within walking distance.

Alongside its 222 premium room and 14 suites, the Westin Adelaide will feature a sky lobby, restaurant, lobby lounge, cafe, fitness centre, swimming pool, day spa, 700 square metres of event and meeting space, and an exclusive Executive Club Lounge.

“Marriott International delivers an incredible brand in Westin, a fantastic team, and a loyalty program we feel will help millions of people discover our beautiful home of Adelaide," said a representative for the Freemasons South Australia and Northern Territory.

"Our organisation is incredibly proud to partner with such a prestigious hotel company, and the Pelligra family, in delivering the Keystone Adelaide Tower.”

The new hotel will be the fifth Westin property in the Australia Pacific region, joining Westin hotels located in Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth and Fiji.

Sean Hunt, area vice president for Australia, New Zealand & Pacific at Marriott International. said: “We are very confident that our close to 200 million Marriott Bonvoy members across the world will gravitate to The Westin Adelaide as their new hotel of choice in a city that has very strong demand drivers for both business and leisure travel.”

Tuesday 19 December 2023

And then there were two: Arras enters Langtons classification

Leading Tasmanian sparkling wine producer House of Arras has earned a spot on the latest edition of the Langtons Classification - Australia's most respected market guide for fine wines.

The House of Arras E.J. Carr Late Disgorged Methode Traditionelle was this week recognised alongside 99 other wines in the newly released eighth edition of the Classificaton.

The only sparkling wine in the previous classification was niche favourite Rockford Sparkling Black Shiraz, which retained its spot. The Arras wine is the only traditional sparkling wine to make the list.

In fact, the E.J. Carr Late Disgorged is the first Tasmanian sparkling wine to appear in the Langtons Classification since it launched in 1991.

“Every winemaker knows a spot on the Langtons Classification is no small feat," said House of Arras chief wnemaker Ed Carr.

"We are incredibly proud that the E.J. Carr is recognised amongst such a distinguished list of producers and wines.

“The E.J. Carr represents the very best of what we do, and this new accolade emboldens us on our mission to prove that the finest sparkling wine in the world can be made right here in Tasmania.”

The LangtonsClassification is the most respected secondary market guide to fine and luxury Australian wines. The Classification comprises the most sought-after Australian fine wines based on their strong track record at auction.

The new edition has evolved to only two classification titles - ‘Classified’ and ‘1st Classified’ - with House of Arras joining 18 other new wines that have joined the ranks.

The new recognition caps off another successful year for House of Arras following the acquisition of the sparkling brand by independent Australian winery Handpicked Wines.

The House of Arras E.J. Carr Late Disgorged 2007 release is now available from select fine wine retailers, the House of Arras Cellar Door in Tasmania and online from for an RRP of $266.

For more information about the eighth edition of the Langtons Classification, visit

Aperol to serve up some tennis refreshment

You know summer has arrived in Australia when the tennis season opens.

And you know summer is here when all the bright young things start ordering Aperol spritzes.

The two will come together throughout the tennis season with Aperol announcing it has signed as an official partner of Tennis Australia for 2024 and the next four years.

Starting with the United Cup in late December (it sounds important but it is a glorified exhibition), through to the Brisbane International, Adelaide International, Hobart International, and finally, the Australian Open in January, Aperol has signed on the dotted line.

“We are back!' says Simon Durrant, Managing Director Australia at Campari Group. "Campari is thrilled to announce that Aperol will be bringing a slice of Italian culture to the Australian Open in 2024.

“The Australian Open is the biggest event in the Australian summer calendar, and with Aperol Spritz being the drink of the summer, this is the perfect partnership. Boasting one of the biggest sporting crowds in the nation, we’re excited to spread the Aperol joy across a terrific summer of tennis.”

Aperol will be "activating" at a number of bars on the ground at the Grand Slam of the Asia-Pacific. That means flogging some booze.

“We are excited to welcome the tennis fans at the Australian Open to our bespoke bar, Terrazza Aperol, to experience summer in true Italian style. In what promises to be a lot of fun for tennis fans, Aperol Spritz will also be available throughout the many bars across Melbourne Park,” said Durrant.

Here's a link:

Australian airlines must do better, CHOICE demands

Australians are sick and tired of shoddy service from airlines, consumer group CHOICE has revealed.

A new survey of almost 9000 supporters has found 40% of respondents had a flight cancelled or delayed in the past 12 months.

My experience indicates a much higher level of delays - and a lack of concern from the carriers.

“As we head into the Christmas season, a huge number of people will be relying on flights to visit family and friends," says CHOICE Senior Campaigns and Policy Advisor Bea Sherwood.

"Unfortunately, our survey of almost 9000 people from across the country has found consumers still face a number of difficulties when dealing with the aviation industry.

“Our survey found two in five respondents had their flight cancelled or delayed in the past year - and this does not bode well for the upcoming busy Christmas and New Year period when airports will be flooded with travellers flying to visit loved ones.

The survey also found: 63% of respondents who had a flight cancelled said there was no reason provided for the cancellation, and 65% said they found the cancellation process somewhat or very hard.

Of those who pursued a refund for a flight cancellation, 47% received it within a month. Others faced significantly longer wait times, with 20% having to wait over six months for a refund.

Meanwhile, 85% of respondents who had a flight delayed were not offered accommodation or meal vouchers.

“The fact that people continue to experience such significant difficulties with air travel is simply not good enough," says Sherwood. "Our survey found people are feeling frustrated as flights continue to be delayed and cancelled, often without reason or sufficient warning.

“To make matters worse, many customers do not receive satisfactory refunds or compensation when their flight is delayed or cancelled. For those who do actually end up receiving a refund, they often have to fight tooth and nail with the airline for months.”

CHOICE has been advocating for reform to the aviation sector for many years, and together with the Consumers’ Federation of Australia have recently made a submission to the Federal Government’s Aviation Green Paper, calling for new airline specific consumer protections.

These protections include the establishment of a new independent travel and tourism industry ombudsman scheme, minimum compensation arrangements for delayed or cancelled flights, clearer rights for refunds, and minimum requirements for travel credits.

“CHOICE looks forward to the Federal Government’s final Aviation White Paper," says Sherwood.

"We hope it will set out a clear plan to strengthen consumer protection in the aviation industry. Sensible reforms such as an independent ombuds scheme will ensure people no longer have to deal with the emotional, financial and logistical hardships so many travellers have experienced over the past few years.”

Image: Antony Trivet, Scopio. 

Monday 18 December 2023

Bali still beckons for Australian tourists

Indonesia, and Bali in particular, remains the favourite vacation destination for Australians, followed by the USA and New Zealand, the latest Bupa Travel Insurance data reveals.

Long-haul flights to the UK, along with closer destinations Thailand and Fiji, are also popular.

The travel insurance data, based on Bupa customers' travel cover, also reveals lost luggage and lost or stolen personal items are among most frequently claimed items, followed by medical and hospital expenses and claims associated with interrupted travels plans including travel delays, alternative transport, cancellation fees and lost deposits.

Affordability and the party islands in Indonesia, like Bali, make it a top holiday hotspot for those aged under 20 while those aged between 40 and 50 are opting to relax in Fiji and Thailand.

But the data also shows Aussies continue to enjoy exploring their own backyard with Australia coming in fifth of countries visited.

The 21-25 age group are the most frequent flyers to the US for its bright lights and Hollywood appeal, while Japan and the Philippines are most popular for those aged 56-65. I'm amazed more Australians are visiting the Philippines than France. 

Bupa General Insurance general manager Shannon Orbons said the data showed Aussies of all ages were keen to explore the world and travel, especially after not being able to do so during the pandemic.

“When you’re on holidays sunning yourself on a beach, walking through New York City or skiing your way through New Zealand, your travel insurance can be just as important as your passport as it can cover you for those unexpected moments,” he said.

“While we often think ‘that won’t happen to me’, holidays don’t always go according to plan with cancelled or delayed flights, lost baggage, or even a car or motorbike accident that may put you in an international hospital.”

Orbons said medical cover was one of the main reasons people took out travel insurance as the Federal Government does not cover overseas medical bills.

“When you’re on holiday, you want peace of mind you’re covered when something goes wrong, and not left with a hospital bill of up to tens of thousands of dollars,” he said.

The travel data also shows that currently, holidays between six to 10 days were most common followed by two-week vacations, and most people took out travel insurance two weeks before flying out or even just the day before.

The top 10 holiday spots are: Indonesia, US, New Zealand, UK, Australia, Thailand, Fiji, Singapore, Japan, Philippines.

The most frequently claimed items: luggage and personal items, medical/hospital expenses, cancellation fees/lost deposits, travel delays, alternative transport expenses.

Value will be a key driver for hotel guests in 2024

Hotel guests will see getting value for money as one of their primary travel drivers for 2024, an industry insider predicts.

Extending work stays with play, and re-creating the comforts of home in-room, will also be major trends as rising living costs may take high-end or extended travel off the agenda for many, says Craig Hooley, Chief Operating Officer of Minor Hotels.

Hooley, whose responsibilities include Oaks Hotels, Resorts and Suites says that as a nation of committed travellers, the brand is noticing many Australians would rather adapt their travel plans than give them up altogether.

Savvy operators will tap into this mindset and adapt to guests’ changing travel preferences, not just by offering deals, but by incorporating added value through partnerships with aligned brands, offering accommodation options for larger groups who can share costs, or encouraging leisure stays to be added onto work trips to save on flight costs, says Hooley.

“Simple things such as a weekend staycation in your own city, a road trip to a regional destination, or a coastal escape with family and friends are the key ingredients to a happy getaway, which is all about taking a break from the rigamarole of everyday life - and feeling like you’re getting great value for money," he says.

"That is something Oaks delivers with our spacious accommodation, value-add partnerships with familiar brands such as Foxtel, Menulog and The Coffee Club, and in-room kitchens, laundry facilities, and living spaces.”

While locals are still keen to get away despite the rising cost of living, value for money is influencing the way we travel, with guests carefully weighing up location, seasonal deals, loyalty program benefits and additional value-add items, such as in-room kitchens to save on the cost of eating out, in-room streaming rather than pay-per-view movies, and quality in-room coffee to avoid the pricey morning café run.

With hybrid working increasingly entrenched, travellers are adding extra days to work trips to save on purchasing airfares or are choosing to work from a holiday destination then explore after hours or on the weekend.

Again, while the bleisure concept isn’t a new one, it’s gaining traction with the skyrocketing work-from-home culture.

Pretty in pink. Meet Australia's first dedicated rosé wine brand


Rosé wines are rarely the focus when a new wine brand is launched. 

But instead of being an afterthought, rosés are front and centre of the new Paddington Lane range of wines, which features three different styles of rosé. 

Paddington Lane is the latest brainwave of the team at Fourth Wave Wines, which is behind several popular labels, including Little Giant and Elephant in the Room. 

The new rosés stand out from the crowd with eye-catching bottles that I have no doubt will do post-drink duty as candleholders. 

The three new releases are all from the 2023 vintage so share a freshness while offering different flavour profiles.

No.1 is described as "Dry Rosé - crisp and refreshing" and is a blend of grenache and cinsault grapes from the Fleurieu Peninsula. 

No.2 is "Savoury Rosé - savoury and textured" and is a combo of Riverland sangiovese and nebbiolo. 

No.3 is "Soft Rosé - soft and slightly sweet" and is a blend of merlot and cabernet Franc from the Limestone Coast. 

In simple terms, No.1 is pale and very dry, perky and full of verve. Think Provence. No.2 is lively and little more complex, and No.3's slight sweetness makes it perfect for beginners but it also has some nice palate grip and brisk acidity. 

Paddington Lane is being touted as Australia's first specialist rosé brand. And with the wines retailing for around $20-25 a bottle, they certainly offer good value.

Get some friends around, taste them blind and see if you can guess which is which.