Take the squad out for a long weekend of fitness, adventure and discovery. Together with a small group of no more than 10 hikers, this retreat invites you to a four-day journey through the most dramatic landscapes along the coast of Mt William National Park in north-eastern Tasmania. Read More
Must see locations, events and places to travel and enjoy in Australia.
Perfect for the fit-fam with a mix of personalities, Golden Door Health Retreat offers activities to suit every health, fitness and holiday goal. Set in the mesmerising wine country of the Hunter Valley, the girls can opt for zen-filled days practising Pilates, yoga and silent meditation, or sweat it out with gym circuits, one-on-one personal training and boxing – it’s entirely up to you (or them). Read More
From natural beauty to iconic architecture and just plain fun, Sydney has it all. Now, Sydney is an expensive city, but it also offers free attractions like the lovely Art Gallery of New South Wales and the Museum of Contemporary Art: feed your soul, people.
And, of course, you must visit the beaches: Bondi, Manly, Watson’s Bay, Bronte, Coogee… we say visit them all! There are also free walking tours with local guides, which is a nice way to interact with Sydney siders, as well as the simply gorgeous Bondi to Coogee Coastal Walk that’s about 6km of gorgeous views. You may also want to consider longer walks, like the Sydney Harbour Circle Walk, which clocks in at about eight hours.
A walk you must do is the Sydney Harbour Bridge Walk, which takes a maximum of an hour and gives you unparalleled views of the Opera House without having to pay for the Bridge Climb.
Then, the Royal Botanic Gardens, Barangaroo Harbour Reserve, and The White Rabbit Gallery, featuring Chinese art, are also great. Cross water for your supper by taking a ferry to Manly and have a great, cheap meal at Manly Wharf. Or contribute to education by getting a massage at the at the NSW School of Massage, which has cheaper rates for guinea pigs, err, massage clients.
If you’re in town from May 26 to June 17 2017, you must enjoy the eighth edition of the Vivid Sydney festival, a spectacular sound-and-light show at Sydney Harbour.
LEAVE ON A JET PLANE: Return flights start at 823USD from Mumbai and from 551USD from New Delhi.
VISA: 107 USD
GET AROUND: Sydney’s public transport system rocks, whether train, bus or ferry services. Get a free Opal card and access Sydney’s public networks, or buy a single-trip ticket for less frequent intercity travel. Plan your most expensive travel for Sundays when the maximum fare limit is AUD 2.50 – so you can basically go anywhere in the city for less than the price of a pint of beer! Avoid taxis like the many poisonous spiders they boast of having here.
STAY: Hostels- or ’backpackers’- are comfy and safe. We like Bounce Sydney, Sydney Harbour YHA, The Rocks, Eva’s Backpackers and The Jolly Swagman.
EAT AND DRINK: Sydney is utterly multicultural in cuisine, and, more importantly, affordable cuisine. The CBD (especially in Chinatown, Korea Town and Thai Town) is full of budget restaurants catering to the on-the-go businessman. Spring River’s is good for a cheap meal. Milk Bar by Cafe Ish does great chicken wings, and fab milkshakes.
Lentil as Anything is a unique not-for-profit restaurant that lets you “pay as you feel”. The Food Court at the MLC Centre has everything, from Mexican and sushi to salads and sandwiches, for 8USD or less. Get cheap on-the-go options from supermarket chain Woolworth’s and don’t forget the quintessential Aussie ‘barbie’ experience through coin-operated BBQ at Bronte Park; buy meat from the supermarket.
WHEN TO GO: The land Down Under has autumn from March to May and spring from September to November. These are the best times to travel: hotel prices drop by 25 per cent.
It takes a strong city to reinvent itself. When the recession forced Newcastle’s steel, coal, and copper industries to downsize or close, the city took a creative approach to the problem.
Novocastrians (as Newcastle, Australia, residents are known) channeled their artistic energies by developing Renew Newcastle and Newcastle Now, organizations that take run-down spaces and lend them as pop-ups for makers such as liners, writers, painters, and furniture designers. By showcasing its craftsmanship, Newcastle has positioned itself as a regional hub of innovation.
Located a hundred miles north of Sydney, Newcastle is Australia’s seventh largest city. The revitalization has colored the city with the cultural vibe of Melbourne and Sydney, but with a fraction of their population. “Newcastle has this sense of discovery about it,” says local Rachel Svenson. “There are lots of places to discover just by wandering.”With golden beaches, smart galleries, and organic eateries, Newcastle is drawing both residents and tourists back to the city’s center.
ORGANIC? CHECK. LOCAL? CHECK.
Newcastle’s restaurants and cafes reflect Novocastrians’ active lifestyles, broad tastes, and laid-back attitudes.
The popular Blue Door cafe, located in the historic Fred Ash building, prides itself on “simple food, done well,” like spiced butternut pumpkin and ricotta fritters and fried buttermilk chicken burgers. Located in a restored warehouse with timber floors and art deco details, the Grain Store Craft Beer Cafe pairs Australian craft beers with new takes on old favorites: battered barramundi, crab burgers, and slow-cooked brisket subs. For those who prefer surf over turf, the waterfront Merewether Surfhouse cooks up seafood dishes like yellow fin confit and flathead fillets.
LIVE LIKE THE NOVOCASTRIANS
For a beach stay, the Caves Beachside Hotel offers an oceanfront collection of suites, villas, and townhouses. Terraces for Tourists are designed to help visitors live like locals, with fully furnished apartments and houses set in the historic East End of town, an easy walk from Newcastle’s city center. Nestled in the central business district, the Lucky Hotel is quirky and affordable, with on-site entertainment like courtyard movie screenings, live music, and poker nights.
From top left:, eclectic decor at the Lucky Hotel, and breakfast at the Blue Door café
BEACHES, BIKES, AND BRIMMING COCKTAILS
With Newcastle’s generally sunny weather and long stretches of beaches, residents don’t shy away from outdoor activities. The Bathers Way Coastal Walk is a three-mile historical and scenic hike, leading from Nobbys Headland past heritage sites that make up Newcastle’s history. Or stop by one of Inter bike’s 24-hour, swipe- and-ride bike share terminals, and pedal out to the Merewether Ocean Baths, the largest open-air ocean baths, or public pools filled with seawater, in the Southern Hemisphere. Wrap up the day with kayaking or a cocktail in the revived industrial Honeysuckle area, now a harborside hot spot of restaurants, bars, and public spaces.
PARADISE FOR ETSY ENTHUSIASTS
The Emporium is Renew Newcastle’s revamp of a former department store building, packed with distinctive shops like Jodie Louise Millinery, COY Studio’s handmade leather goods, and With Love Bree-Lacey’s vintage-inspired clothing. Darby Street features more than a hundred independently owned businesses and boutiques, like Cooks Hill Books & Records and fashion destination Abicus, and is also stocked with plenty of eateries to help you fuel up for more shopping. Keep an eye out for Sunday markets at the Newcastle Showground, such as the Newcastle Farmers Market and Makers Market, where you can find everything from quilts to spices to produce.
UM, ADELAIDE – NOT YOUR TYPICAL AUSSIE TOURIST DRAWCARD.
The state capital of South Australia doesn’t often hit world headlines, but with this perennially popular world-music festival it steals the show.
WHAT’S WOMADELAIDE ALL ABOUT?
If you can beat it, strum it, blow it, shake it, dance to it, sing with it, then you might find it here. This is a festival that showcases a staggeringly broad variety of music from all over the world. Over the course of its four days, festival-goers get treated to such a diverse selection of musical styles they’ll feel like they’ve been on an international tour of tunes.
Here’s a sample of the eclectic acts that have previously been on show: Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Peter Gabriel, Gil Scott Heron, Fat Freddy’s Drop, Miriam Makeba, and the Master Drummers of Burundi. There’s dance, rock, pop, jazz, folk, country, classical and genres that you’ve never even heard of before. The whole melange of musical tastes combines to create a warm and inclusive vibe of festival revellers who are open-minded and ready for the next big world-music thing.
I DON’T WANT TO GO ALL LITERARY ON YOU, BUT THAT’S A POEM NOT A FESTIVAL.
Nice one, nerd. But yes, this winter music festival has Wordsworth to thank for its name. Make no mistake though; the genuine splendour of this festival is all about top international and local acts making their way to the spectacularly beautiful, far north New South Wales coast.
I WAS THINKING IT WAS A HIPPY GET-TOGETHER.
Byron Bay has a long history of celebrating the alternative lifestyle, so you may well be exposed to a number of free-spirited forms of fun. And a good helping of vegetarian food to boot. But the music spans both mainstream and alternative rock/pop – the kind of headlines you expect to see at the world’s top music festivals.
HANG ON… FAR NORTH NSW? THAT SOUNDS… ISOLATED.
It’s not an urban festival, no doubt. But factor in the pristine natural environment, awesome beaches and a line-up that has seen artists like Coldplay, Kanye West and The Strokes make the trek, you’d be crazy to not have this gig on your music festival bucket list.
Marie Bailey never met the grandmother who finally made it ashore on Norfolk Island in 1856 after a gruelling month at sea.
By the time Marie was born on 28 November 1926, by now a second generation Norfolk Islander, her gran had been dead four years.
Yet it’s her grandmother’s impressive migration story – and the story of 193 people who travelled with her from Pitcairn Island to Norfolk – that Marie, now retired, spent a lifetime retelling as one of Norfolk’s earliest tour operators.
Not only is it a family story dear to her heart, says Marie, during my three-day hosted tour of Norfolk, it’s also a story that gives outsiders a window into the latest chapter of Norfolk Island’s rich social history.
Wine in your belly, stars in your eyes
The quokkas are everywhere on Rottnest Island, and so is their pellet-sized poop. Crushed and smooshed by the various vehicles and footfall, some have even flattened under the weight of tourists laid out, sun-tanning on the green. The poop, that is, not the adorable creatures.
A few months before this trip, two men were charged with abusing a quokka that they’d caught. On camera, one of them was seen kicking and flinging the terrified animal about. But it’s not a recent thing. The ’70s and the ’80s were filled with stories of “quokka soccer”, according to the guide on the bus tour. During the years when Rottnest was used as a prison for Aboriginal men under the racist colonial administration, qnokkas were game meat for consumption. Our ride around the island, relatively shielded from the blazing sun outside, revealed several quokkas hiding under the shade of low shrubbery And the tourists hunting them for an Instagram picture.
Beautiful as the island is, all sparkling azure seas and stark landscape of brushes across the land, it all gets pretty depressing after a bit of history and seeing the thin, patchy fur of the quokkas caused by tourists feeding them junk for a selfie. On the ferry ride to Fremantle, I chat with an older lady who regales me with stories of her travels, changing my earlier impression of the island. She’s been visiting Rottnest since 1965 and has choice words for the quokka abusers: “Ten minutes in a pen with dingoes as sentence. Good luck!”
The island is best experienced over a couple of days, according to her, and as far away from the day-trippers as possible. Perhaps another time.
On the road
Perth is the place you go to retire. Or so the Singaporean cliche goes. We landed in the capital of Western Australia at the tail-end of the Easter holidays, with shops shuttered and streets empty. Three days later, in Fremantle, it is no different. A quiet city greets us on our ferry from Rottnest, a ghost town of shops already closing up for the day and people going home. It is the third biggest port after Melbourne and Sydney, but doesn’t quite feel like it. We’re a long way from Singapore, five days by boat, to be specific.
The capital has its charms, of course. Perth city with its beautiful, colourful graffiti that lifts up the drab, squat buildings. Peeling posters advertising delights, which you could never publicly advertise in Singapore, are plastered on buildings sandwiched by Asian restaurants of different cultures.
The crisp, fresh air of King’s Park and the moderate bustle of Elizabeth Quay reveal more of the city’s inhabitants of the Swan Valley, including a lavish encampment for the rich by the river aptly dubbed Tuscany on the Swan. Settled in 1829, Fremantle is touted as the “best preserved 19th-century port streetscape in the world” by the tourism board of Western Australia.
Historic buildings housing trendy gigantic H&M in an old post office in Perth City, are practically de rigueur in Perth.
And Fremantle, in particular, has that aplenty. We have a hearty breakfast, the start of many more of this Australian institution, at Moore & Moore cafe, which operates out of the 177-year-old Moore building. A promenade through the streets to meet our ride reveals many more of the quirky bookstores and the cool eateries that populate the city, with plaques proudly carried on the building’s facade explaining its history.
We finally meet Gloria Mischewski of Perth Luxury Tours, our driver for the rest of the trip. Jovial and utterly hilarious, this Kiwi grandmother has many years of expert driving all over Western Australia. It’s a long drive, about three hours, to our stay for the next two nights in Margaret River. Western Australia is massive, and the best way to really experience it is to be on the road with several pit-stops along the way.
Our first outside Perth is the Bunbury Dolphin Discovery Centre. A purely non-profit, it’s been devoted to dolphin research and conservation since 1994. It is in the process of refurbishment, to better serve the needs of the community with a larger venue and more space for visitor education about the pods of over 200 wild bottlenose dolphins living in and around Koombana Bay. Set to be completed by 2018, the centre, nonetheless, continues to operate as usual with the high-light of its activities being a cruise.
Barely a moment out at sea, and we spot a mother and her calf swimming away from us. The day is bright, sunny and beautiful, and soon enough, we spot more dolphins frolicking in the sea. A group of (human) father and sons stands on a rock wall fishing for salmon, attracting much attention from the seagulls, the dolphins and the humans aboard the viewing vessel. A little while later, we sight the spectacle that we’ve all been unknowingly looking for: dolphins surfing. Not on boards, of course; they ride the waves, leaping out and into the surf as the surge propels them forward. They’re hamming it up for the spectators in rapt attention with our cameras out. There’s a small boat with tourists having a little swim out at sea, and one dolphin appears fixated on a man who’d earlier jumped off the boat to greet the dolphins. Man and cetacean curiously inspect each other at a respectful, safe distance.
Many miles later, we are back on the road again to Busselton. Its historic jetty is the main attraction here. Built in 1853, it is the longest wooden pier in the world, stretching almost 2KM out into the waters of Geographe Bay.
We have a quick lunch and I taste kangaroo for the first time at The Goose. I’m not sure I like its gamey nature, but after crocodile in Zimbabwe, it’s certainly not the worst meat that I’ve ever tasted, and at least, it’s definitely the healthiest, according to a range of experts.
A train ride takes you to the Underwater Observatory, with sights of the endless blues of the seas and charming seagull resting points along the length of the jetty. It is Australia’s greatest artificial reef with a diversity of more than 300 species of marine life that you can observe from the Observatory. Lucky ones spot a sea lion amongst the colourful corals curiously peeking into a window at the human gawkers. A pod of dolphins bids us farewell with a couple of leaps as we ride the train back to firm ground.
The sun is setting as we make our way to Margaret River town. A blaze of oranges, reds and purples peeks out through gaps in the dense forest as dusk starts to take over. The beauty of the scene prompts our guide in Margaret River, Brianna Delaporte of Australia’s South West tourism, to do a detour just to catch the sunset.
We make it just in time to Grace- town’s North Point where we watch the skies in silence. “Look! There are so many dolphins surfing!” An enthusiastic member of the team gesticulates excitedly at the sea where a group of surfers is riding the last waves of the day. Perhaps it is the magnificence of the scene—or the long day that we’ve had—for in a fit of beauty-drunk exhilaration one could possibly mistake humans riding boards as dolphins. If you squint enough, anyway.
The Wardandi people consider this area a sacred site, where the gifts of their creator god Ward an in the form of whales would come to shore during the right season. It’s not difficult to imagine why; the breath-taking environment inspires respect.
Art festivals are aplenty, but this one uses the entire city as the canvas for creative minds and expression. Sydney’s annual Vivid festival commandeers iconic buildings, talented artistes and international musicians for an almost three-weeklong extravaganza in the Antipodean winter.
At Vivid Sydney, art, technology and commerce intersect to great effect — think outdoor lighting sculptures, installations, cutting-edge contemporary music and a spilling forth of ideas that would give the Renaissance a run for its money. This (mostly) free public exhibition invites anyone and everyone to come have a look-see. The event is divided into three categories, Vivid Light, Vivid Music and Vivid Ideas, each featuring creative minds from around the world. In Vivid Light, expect an eye-popping display of ‘light art’, as lighting artists, designers and manufacturers from around Australia and the world come together to transform Sydney’s urban spaces into a wonderland of illumination.
At Vivid Music, it’s all about the rhythm. With venues like the iconic Sydney Opera House making their way onto the programme, you can expect an eclectic array of live performances and earworm-worthy musical collaborations. At the heart of it all is Vivid LIVE, a cutting-edge musical show that takes place at the iconic Sydney Opera House itself.
The last piece of this creative triumvirate is Vivid Ideas, an annual celebration of creative ideating, innovation and community.
You’ll find everything here from technology to star t-up culture and animation, VFX and lighting.
SYDNEY CRAFT BEER WEEK
Sydneysiders are serious about their beer. Dead serious. So much so that they dedicate a whole 10 days to the city’s largest celebration of cold ones towards the end of the year. The Sydney Craft Beer Week (SCBW) features more than a hundred events across the city with unique brews, feasts fueled by beer, guests from around the world, classes and more.
NEW YEAR’S EVE AT THE ROYAL BOTANICAL GARDEN
Sydneysiders love bringing in the new year at one of the Royal Botanical Garden’s New Year’s Eve party areas. You can choose from the family-friendly Lawn With The View, right next to the glorious Sydney Opera House, a dining experience at Midnight At The Oasis, where you can eat as much as you want before you make those new year’s weight-loss resolutions, or the colourful night market at The Point, where you can indulge in some retail therapy before the clock strikes. There is also a vintage circus-themed event, and adults-only parties where you can leave the kids at home for a night of live jazz, funk, soul and reggae beats.
NIGHT NOODLE MARKET
Revel in the sights, sounds and smells of an Asian hawker market in October, as you sample delicious food and drinks and enjoy a fantastic line-up of entertainment. The dragon dancers are the highlight of the show, complete with acrobatics, dance and lights.
This city stands before me, waiting to be explored, and I can’t wait to see how Sydneysiders spend their days in this laid-back seaside city. Luckily, I have Michael Treacy, a true-blue Aussie mate with a penchant for Bollywood tunes to show me around. He knows the Sydney beyond the Opera House and Darling Harbour – a Sydney that will have us eating Nutella out of syringes, gawking at Newtown hipsters, hunting for basement bars down dark alleyways, and exploring the city’s quaint suburbs – all while listening to DJ Waley Babu on loop.
7AM: Start your day with coffee and breakfast at Single O – a tiny, grab-as-you-go deli bang in the middle of the busy business district. The creamy, ultra-smooth flat white with hints of vanilla is the perfect pick-me-up for your weary, jet-lagged self. To accompany your drink, grab the Brekkie Box, which includes perfectly-poached eggs on toast, with spice-roasted pumpkin, labneh, almonds, spinach, and a pickled onion salad. If you’re not that hungry, try the famous banana bread with espresso butter.
8AM: From the Single O, head to Circular Quay to catch the 8.40am F1 ferry for Manly. The journey takes about 30 minutes, which is best whiled away feeding the seagulls any leftover banana bread!
9.30AM-3.30PM: Make your way down to the main street of Wentworth, which leads to the sands. The beach vibe is palpable almost immediately, thanks to the sun-kissed locals, bustling surf shops, and stream of live music. Many visitors don’t make it past Manly Beach, and who can blame them, when there’s a bunch of hot surfer dudes on display? If you do manage to tear your eyes away, a short 1.8km walk will take you to Shelly Beach; an emptier cove with crystal-clear waters. The waters, part of a marine reserve, hide a submerged motorbike wreck eight metres from the shore, and are perfect for snorkelling.
If snorkelling isn’t your thing, embark on the 10km Manly to Spit Bridge Coastal Walk. The well-signposted walk will have you criss-crossing through bushland, past some of Sydney’s most pristine beaches, bays and inlets. If you want to cool off along the trail, take a dip in the inviting blue waters of Reef Beach.
Once you’ve had your fill of the beach, grab a well-earned lunch at Manly Fish Café. Ask for a takeaway and enjoy your fish and chips at a picnic table by the beach. Don’t be bullied by the shamelessly vicious seagulls, who will stop at nothing for a place at the table and a bite of your meal. If only they said please…
4.30PM-7PM: Take a ferry back to Circular Quay and make your way to Mrs Macquarie’s Point (1.6km via Macquarie St) for a beautiful evening view of the harbour. There is an open-air cinema here in the summer – our winter, remember? – but it’s a little difficult to focus on the film with that gorgeous skyline behind the screen.
7.30PM-10PM: To complete your perfect day, how about dinner with Heisenberg? Think less meth, more bacon, a short 3km taxi ride from Mrs Macquarie’s Point. Burgers Anonymous on Oxford Street churns out a mean Breaking Bad-inspired Heisenburger.