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Must see locations, events and places to travel and enjoy in Australia.

Top 5 Coffee Spots In Melbourne

The League Of Honest Coffee – With a name like that you can’t help but take it seriously and, predictably, its airy interiors have been attracting coffee aficionados in droves. It’s an offering from the same stable that gave java drinkers Padre Coffee South Melbourne Market and the Brunswick East Project. That’s an impressive lineage. Given the ample selection of single origin coffees, the coffee is expectedly great, to be downed with flaky French croissants. But if nothing else, go there to ogle their pair of custom-painted Slayer espresso machines, said to one of the world’s best.

Di Bella Coffee Roasting Warehouse – Di Bella is Australia’s leading coffee chain and their Melbourne Roasting Warehouse is a must-stop for every serious coffee drinker. Hidden away from the crush of Melbourne’s CBD, it’s set in one of the city’s oldest suburbs. The rustic interiors feature a giant roaster occupying centre stage and the eclectic menu pairs beautifully with their top-notch coffees. Just in case you can’t get thee to Melbourne, Coffee by Di Bella operates several cafes in Mumbai and Hyderabad (and hopefully expanding to other cities soon).

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Di Bella Coffee Roasting Warehouse

Ganache Chocolate – In an earlier avatar, Arno Backes, the proprietor of Ganache Chocolate, was a biker so passionate, he rode east from Germany and did not stop until he reached Melbourne. Here, he promptly grew roots and is arguably the top chocolatier in town. Helpfully, he has also toured South America in search of chocolate varieties. The cheerful Backes was in Mumbai recently, showcasing Melbourne’s cafe culture, and paired some of his creations with quintessential^ Australian Di Bella coffees (more about which below). At his Melbourne salon, exquisite pralines and truffles are made daily on site, not to mention a hefty Melbourne Freas Shake.

Mork Chocolate Brew House – The heavens must have smiled when Mork Chocolate, well known around Melbourne for supplying its delish dark chocolate drinking blend (cocoa content: 70%) to cafes around town, decided to set up its own retail venture. Now, you can sample their handcrafted speciality hot chocolate blends made with all-natural ingredients in a minimalist setting where the focus is purely on chocolate (so no coffee is served). There are two taps, however, one dispensing soda water infused with vanilla pods, the other sparkling chocolate soda. Amen. 150 Errol St, North Melbourne.

FERRIS WHEEL DINING – SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA

For a romantic dinner, couples can book a table for two in one of the cosy cabins of the Ferris wheel at Luna Park in Sydney. As the wheel turns slowly, diners enjoy a gourmet three-course meal while watching the sun go down. It’s a spectacular sight to see the harbour come alive with twinkling lights, as the brilliantly lit Opera House dominates the view.

Hosted by The Deck, a Sydney waterfront restaurant, the menu on the Ferris Wheel Dining experience showcases the region’s abundant fresh produce and seafood. Dishes like kingfish carpaccio or lobster primavera are included, but it’s the views spanning the skyline of central Sydney all the way from Harbour Bridge to Walsh Bay, that are the star attraction. Not surprisingly, the two-hour experience is a big hit, and has been the venue for many a marriage.

BUCCANEER ARCHIPELAGO, AUSTRALIA

Why go? It’s not easy to reach the Buccaneer Archipelago. This uninhabited scatter of around 1,000 islands is strewn off Western Australia’s Kimberley Coast – which itself is fairly inaccessible. You don’t accidentally pass through the Kimberley: this is the end of the road. And the Buccaneers are beyond it. Subsequently, they are almost flawless, fringed by white sands and mangroves, fuzzed by rainforest and teeming with critters – from crocodiles to fish, bats and birds. There has been some human interference, however: hikes onto the islands will reveal Aboriginal rock art daubed on cave walls and the burial sites of the pearlers who used to work these waters.

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Don’t leave without taking a dip at Silica Beach, shooting the horizontal waterfall in Talbot Bay, collecting and shucking oysters fresh from the rocks and keeping a lookout for dolphins and whales.

When to go: The dry season is May to October. Waterfalls are fullest April-May, just after the wet season. July-September is the best time for spotting humpbacks.

How to go: Cruises and sea safaris operate from Broome and Derby in Western Australia. Scenic flights also run from Derby. Helicopter and float-plane charters are possible.

Christmas Island, Australia

Why go? Discovered afloat in the Indian Ocean on Christmas Day 1643, this Australian territory – the summit of a submerged mountain – is closer to Indonesia than its motherland. It’s certainly tropical in feel, cloaked in rain forest and rich in endemic species. Foremost of these is the Christmas Island red crab – around 120 million of the crimson crustaceans live here. And once a year they make a mass migration from their forest burrows to the sea to breed.

Spurred by the phases of the moon, they sideways-skitter down cliffs, over rocks and across roads to reach the coast. It takes some luck with timing to catch them (though Parks Australia issues predictions), but there’s more to this island than its relocating crabs. The diving is superb (come November-April for whale sharks); the bird-watching raucous (80,000 seabirds nest here); and, with 63% of the island designated as a national park, the hiking is varied and pristine.

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From rocks to waves and vegetation, the Christmas Island is a fairytale-like spot for tourists.

When to go: Temperatures vary little (22-28°C year-round). Wet season is December-March. The red crab migration usually occurs November-January.
How to go: Flights to Christmas Island leave from Perth (3.5hrs) and Jakarta (1hr).

 Australia’s Nature Coast: Wildlife, Beauty And Lots Of Adventure

Australia’s Nature Coast is abundant in adventure and wildlife. Combining two of the eastern state of Queensland’s most diverse regions, the Fraser and Sunshine coasts, it brings together a number of unbeatable natural experiences including two UNESCO Biosphere reserves side by side and the unique encounters that goes with it – spot just-hatched sea turtles making for the ocean, a humpback whale courting, or the wompoo fruit-dove issuing its booming ‘wallock-a-woo’ call. The mix of national parks, rainforests, beaches and waterways ensure you’ll get an experience unlike anywhere else in the world, and now it’s even easier to get there thanks to the free nights on many of DialAFlight’s Australia’s Nature Coast itineraries.

The Fraser Coast – Uniting UNESCO-listed Fraser Island with the Great Barrier Reef, the Fraser Coast’s shoreline is fringed by rainforests and contains some of the planet’s biggest wildlife experiences. Humpback whales visit Hervey Bay between mid-July and November, when thousands migrate to frolic in this natural playground. Fraser Island offers visitors a fresh blast of adventure by land, air or sea, whether it’s an aerial tour over its sands, lakes and rainforests, cruising across the Great Sandy Straits wetlands or hiking Fraser Island’s Great Walk. The birdwatching here is as impressive as the scenery – you can spot over 350 species.

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The Australian beaches are the perfect spot for chilling, playing with family and even taking a ride by the boat.

Remarkably, the underwater wildlife is even more diverse: over 1,500 marine species live at the coral cay of Lady Elliot Island – including green and loggerhead turtles, manta rays and humpbacks – making it a Mecca for diving. Meanwhile on the 100km motor along The Great Beach Drive – taking in the Fraser and Sunshine Coasts – you’re likely to roll past kangaroos, dingoes and even the odd whale.

The Sunshine Coast – Boasting 300 days of glorious sol each year, it’s easy to see how this coast earned its name. From the rolling surf and secluded sands of Rainbow Bay, to the majestic Tin Can Bay -where you can hand-feed wild dolphins – it’s a postcard-perfect paradise. Australia Zoo allows you to meet Oz’s classic animals and see the crucial work done in its wildlife hospital. Nature experiences abound too. The Noosa Biosphere Reserve alone boasts 1,500 km sq of wetlands, sand dunes and water inlets. Then there’s the hinterland. Stretching through the UNESCO-listed-hills of the Glass House Mountains, you can discover many national parks here, as well as trying rock climbing, bush walking and abseiling. With adventure writ large over every metre of its length, Australia’s Nature Coast is the fulfilment of this vast land’s eastern promise.

Tasmania – Australia

In 2015, Tasmania opened the second stage of Australia’s premier coastal bushwalking experience, the Three Capes Track. This stage will take in some of the stunning sea cliffs of the Tasman National Park.

Essential information:

Population: 513,000

Foreign visitors per year: 1 million

Main town: Hobart

Language: English

Major industries: forestry, mining, agriculture, tourism

Unit of currency: Australian dollar (A$)

Cost index: entry to MONA A$20 (US$18.75), cheese plate at Jam Packed Cafe at Henry Jones Art Hotel A$16 (US$15), Bronze Pass for Port Arthur Historic Site A$35 (US$32.80), Attic Room at the Islington Hotel, Hobart A$395 (US$370)

Why go ASAP?

Wild and dramatic, cultured and quirky, isolated yet accessible – Australia’s island state, nestled comfortably at the southeastern base of Australia, is intrinsic to the nation’s story. Van Diemen’s Land (as Tasmania was christened by white settlers) was home to some of the first convict ships to land in Australia, and the tragic, harrowing and haunting tales of those arrivals permeate the state. The Port Arthur Historic Site, a former penal colony, serves as a beautiful and disquieting reminder of the region’s brutal past.

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The Port Arthur Historic Site

However, modern Tasmania has emancipated itself from wallowing in the past and adopted a fresh, hip and inclusive attitude sparked by the brilliant revival of its now super-cool waterfront capital, Hobart, and the development of an eclectic year-long events calendar.

Offering some of Australia’s most diverse, remote and wild outdoor experiences, Tasmania abounds in natural splendour. Whether it’s exploring the quiet, eerie grandeur of Cradle Mountain, bravely traversing the mighty Franklin River – home to the state’s dark forested heart, or stumbling upon the breathtaking beaches that make up the Bay of Fires, the state contains a lifetime’s worth of adventures.

In 2015, Tasmania opened the second stage of Australia’s premier coastal bushwalking experience, the Three Capes Track. This stage will link Denman’s Cove, opposite Port Arthur, with Cape Huay, via 35km of redeveloped walking track which take in some of the stunning sea cliffs of the Tasman National Park, where white-breasted sea eagles soar above the ocean. One of the largest projects of its kind to be undertaken anywhere in the world, once the third stage is completed the track will offer walkers a multiday bushwalking and boating experience which can be taken independently or with a guided tour operator.

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The Three Capes Track Map

Festivals &Events:

Mona foma (festival of music and art) kicks off Tasmania’s event calendar in style every January, when an Eminent Artist in Residence joins former Violent Femmes bassist, Brian Ritchie, in delivering Australia’s most eclectic cultural festival.

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Mona foma 2015

Brightening the darker winter months from April to August, the Lumina Festival umbrellas over 100 cultural, food and wine events.

Hungry? Hit Hobart’s waterfront across New Year’s Eve week for the Taste Festival and sample the Apple Isle’s best seafood, wine and cheese.

From around 29 December the sleek vessels competing in the annual Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race start arriving into Hobart’s Salamanca Wharf.

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Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race 2015

Life-changing experiences:

The diversity of offerings from Tasmania’s plate may require multiple helpings. Descend the spiraled staircase of Hobart’s uber-trendy subterranean MONA (Museum of Old and New Art) located in the belly of the Moorilla Winery to discover the treasures within.

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MONA (Museum of Old and New Art) – Moorilla Winery, Tasmania

Explore one of the world’s most significant temperate rainforests on a multiday trek through the Tarkine Wilderness. Watch sea birds take flight as you sea-kayak at dusk in Coles Bay (bordering popular Freycinet National Park).

Trending topic:

You can’t escape it – the debate over logging and the economy it supports versus the conservation and preservation of the pristine Tasmanian wilderness is a hot topic on the island. Everyone you talk to will have a strong and passionate opinion on the subject.

Regional flavours:

The Tassie food scene is a gourmet’s paradise, best exemplified by the diversity of produce found in the wilds of Bruny Island. The isolation and stunning coastal scenery of this island in the state’s southeast make it the perfect escape from the rat race, but it’s the artisanal produce that can be sourced here that elevates it to must-go. Whether it’s getting a frisky fill of oysters at Get Shucked Oyster Farm, downing a few glasses of pinot noir at Australia’s most southern winery, or gorging on freshly picked berries from the local berry farm, there’s no better place to taste Tassie on a plate.

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Get Shucked Oyster Farm – Tasmania, Australia

Most bizarre sight:

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Cascade Brewery – South Hobart, Australia

The gothic grandeur of Australia’s oldest continually functioning brewery, the Cascade Brewery in South Hobart, never fails to draw a gasp on first sight. Ominously stretching towards the sky, it’s a structure that suggests the setting of a terrifying horror film rather than the reality, the Willy Wonka-esque home of one of Australia’s favourite adult brews.

5 Things To Do in Melbourne – Australia

Australia’s second-largest city is the home of culture, with great shopping, art and indie venues set against a beautiful backdrop

Part of Australia’s charm is that it is a relatively new country and, as such, its cities have changed in tune with the pace of modern life. This is especially true of Melbourne where you can shop in independent boutiques, hop to the beach for sunbathing, then catch the hottest local band at the coolest live music venue all in one day.
If you’re going down under to see out the winter with some warmer weather, take in these five highlights on your Australian adventure.

1. Scan the city from the Eureka Skydeck

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Watching Melbourne from the Eureka Skydeck

If you’re looking to get an idea of the city’s layout from above, there’s no better place to do it than from the Southern Hemisphere’s highest viewing platform. Take it one step further by venturing out to The Edge: a box made entirely of glass that looks directly down onto the city.

2. Explore the city by foot

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Walking on Centre Place – Melbourne

Unlock the real secrets of Melbourne by roaming the side alleys and laneways by foot. Here, you’ll discover everything from the irresistible aromas of good coffee and gourmet outlets that tempt you to Degraves Street and Centre Place, to the funky boutiques and stores around Little Collins Street. There’s no way of knowing what’s around the corner until you uncover it for yourself!

3. Delve into Australia’s artistic side

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National Gallery of Victoria – Melbourne

From the grandeur of the National Gallery of Victoria to the humble showcase of emerging artists at the alternative public art space Mailbox 141, Melbourne is a treasure trail for art. You can also scope out innovative new photographers at the Centre for Contemporary Photography and see daring conceptual work at the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art.

4. Experience the Great Ocean Road

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The Great Ocean Road – Australia

The price of hiring a car to drive on the Great Ocean Road will be repaid tenfold with some of the most amazing scenery and sunsets you’ll ever see. Stretching over 150 miles, the route offers staggering vistas.

5. Rock out to some local live music

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Prince Bandroom – Melbourne

Melbournians love their music gigs, so plan to take in a few bands while you’re out here. Haunts include the Prince Bandroom, ensconced in the Prince of Wales Hotel, and Howler, the trendy warehouse-turned-live-entertainment space.

WHERE TO STAY:

Beer Can Regatta in Darwin

Trust the Australians to make the best out of a potential environmental problem into a kickass festival to be enjoyed by the masses. The Darwin Beer Can Regatta was born out of an attempt to clean up litter in and around Darwin, when co-founders of the festival, Lutz Frankenfeld and Paul Rice-Chapman had the idea of using discarded beer cans to build a working, motorised boat.

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A competition boat made of beer cans

Since 1974, the Darwin Beer Can Regatta has been a local and international favourite with festival goers for the spectacle of beer can boats floating in Port Darwin at Mindil Beach. The competition has seen some remarkable can-struction of boats that range from one to 12 metres in length. Races last through the morning and even see children taking part with soft drink can boats. On the beach, join in drier fun with sandcastle building, tug-of-wars, iron person competitions, novelty hat contests and thong (flip flops) throwing competitions.

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The Mindil Beach is full of spectators watching the boats race

Adding to the festival atmosphere is the Mindil Beach Sunset Market. Food is the main attraction here and hail from far-flung corners of the world. Find quality Asian cuisine, as well as South American and European fare. Apart from food, the market also has a number of stalls dedicated to local handmade goods, ranging from jewellery, clothes, and even Aboriginal artefacts.

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A stand at The Mindil Beach Sunset Market

Make sure to make your way to Darwin’s national parks too. Litchfield National Park and Kakadu National Park require a drive out but the wildlife and splendid scenes of nature are unparalleled to anything else in the Top End.

MAKE IT HAPPEN

  • This year’s Darwin Beer Can Regatta will be held on 17 July from 10am to 5pm at Mindil Beach. Participating as a spectator is free.

  • Qantas (qantas.com) flies direct from Singapore to Darwin International Airport daily. Malaysia Airlines only flies direct from Kuala Lumpur thrice weekly. To get to Mindil Beach, rent a car from the airport to make the hour-long drive. There are various international car rental chains available, including Avis (from US$62 per day) and Hertz (from US$101 per day).

  • For immediate access to Mindil Beach, stay at SKYCITY Darwin. The beachfront hotel and resort is just a short walk from Mindil Beach Sunset Market and near the city centre. Onsite facilities also include spectacular pools, fine dining restaurants and a casino (from US$153 per night for Deluxe Room).

QT Sydney: Australian Historical Atmosphere Crafted In Luxury

WHAT IS ITS AESTHETIC APPEAL? Carefully crafted within the city’s historic Gowings and State Theatre buildings, QT Sydney takes design to the next level, infusing a heady blend of Gothic, Art Deco, and Italiante influences throughout its interior. Heavily inspired by its external architecture and theatrical heritage, the QT Sydney fuses cutting edge technology and quirky contemporary design to bring out the dazzling alter ego in you. Expect opulent, over-the-top features such as luxurious bath tubs, gilded gold accents, and baroque-inspired prints. You can even bring back a touch of QT flair by purchasing designer items from Qtique, the in-house gallery gift shop, which carries such quirky items as a cockatoo-shaped lamp and inflatable watermelon beach ball.

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BEYOND ITS BEAUTIFUL WALLS? A boutique accommodation in the middle of Sydney’s CBD, QT Sydney is only a hop and a skip from iconic attractions such as Hyde Park, SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium, and the Sydney Tower Eye & SKYWALK, the latter offering staggering 360-degree panoramas of the surrounding cityscape. Also known for its award-winning restaurants, be sure to check out Sydney’s critics-favourites Aria, Quay, and Nel while you’re in town.

O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat Villas & Lost World Spa

A magical getaway in southern Queensland at O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat Villas & Lost World Spa

Nestled in 20.000 verdant sub-tropical hectares of ancient Gcndwana rainforest in the Lamington National Park, just behind the Gold Coast, you’ll find the award-winning O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat Villas & Lost World Spa. This magical place has beckoned travellers from all over the world since it first opened its doors in 1926. On a serious quest for indulgent “us time” we could think of no better location to spend a two-day romantic sojourn.

ROOM FOR TWO

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After a late Friday afternoon check-in at the main retreat we were directed to an enclave of 48 private, luxurious eco-villas, each offering a rainforest or valley view. With fresh, modern and comfortable decor, a full kitchen and double bedroom with en suite, our villa was a luxurious home away from home. We made a beeline for our balcony (complete with Jacuzzi) to savour the glorious sunset as we enjoyed complimentary chocolate-dipped strawberries and sparkling wine.

TASTE TEMPTATIONS

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The O’Reilly’s Mountain Cafe

The retreat’s main dining room is the heart of the resort. Here, guests can indulge in hearty country breakfasts and delicious dinners prepared by the head chef and his team. The O’Reilly’s Mountain Cafe is the place to enjoy lunch, while The Rainforest Bar (open daily from 4pm) serves light dinner and/or pre-dinner drinks.
For something truly spectacular, be sure to pre-arrange a sunset outing to Moonlight Crag: a specially built cantilevered deck overlooking the Lost World and western McPherson Ranges. We looked out, mesmerised, glass of bubbles and camera in hand, as yet another magical sunset took our breath away. It was truly a perfect prelude to the exclusive candlelit degustation dinner that awaited us back at the retreat.
We were on a high as we recounted the day while attacking with gusto a delectable assortment of small meals, our favourite being roasted duck-leg confit with herb risotto and citrus glaze. Each dish was paired with a matching wine, and the meal ended with an indulgent chocolate dessert.