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Sunday, February 25, 2018

Foods, Festivals and Facelifts

News Tidbits from the Northern Territory

The Northern Territory is set to turbo-charge its way into 2018 with an unprecedented $103 million investment to increase visitation; to stimulate the Territory economy by accelerating infrastructure and tourism experience development including the implementation of a Visitor Experience Enhancement Program which will provide grant funding for existing infrastructure and tourism businesses.

Earlier this month, the Northern Territory Government proactively released a $103 million tourism stimulus package aimed at attracting more visitors, creating more local jobs and putting more money into the pockets of Territorians.

Tourism is a cornerstone of the NT economy, supporting thousands of small and medium size businesses and 17,000 direct and indirect jobs across a range of sectors including tourism, hospitality, retail, arts and culture and transport. Starting immediately and rolling out over the next two financial years, the Tourism Stimulus Package will deliver an additional:
$26.57 million for targeted tourism marketing to better promote our attractions, roll out marketing campaigns with key airlines, target niche markets and lure lucrative business events.
$56.24 million for new tourism infrastructure and related tourism programs creating more memorable visitor experiences, particularly in our parks and reserves.
$20.78 million to further enhance existing festivals, events and other tourism experiences to cement the Territory’s reputation as a vibrant and exciting place to live, work and visit.

The $26.57 million stimulus injection to marketing is anticipated to generate a $345 million return on investment directly into the Northern Territory’s economy and support thousands of jobs. Major products include a new $9.9 million multi-purpose visitor centre at the George Brown Darwin Botanic Gardens; $12 million in funding to reinforce the Red Centre as a global mountain biking destination; $3 million to the NT Government’s Visitor Experience Enhancement Program (VEEP); $21 million to enhance NT events; a rejuvenation of Darwin’s CBD, and a major $1.9 million boost for military heritage.

Visitors planning a trip to the NT from this month onwards will have a new-fangled website to help organise their dream trip through Central Australia to the Top End. Tourism NT’s consumer website currently promotes more than 2,000 key tourism operator products - from Uluru all the way to Humpty Doo - in five languages including English, German, Italian, French and Japanese.

Easier navigation and a greater focus on travel articles and itineraries are just some of the innovations that Tourism NT hopes will help entice more visitors from ‘considering’ to the ‘planning’ and ‘booking’ phase. The site will also be hosted on a new cloud-based platform to improve load speeds during peak periods.

Darwin International Airport passengers caught a fleeting glimpse of the future of airport transport during a two-day trial of the autonomous EZ10 shuttle earlier this week. The self-drive shuttles, which seat 12, use the latest sensory technology to navigate along pre-defined routes. The trial was designed to highlight the ease of connectivity these vehicles can provide within an airport precinct by operating on a pre-determined continuous loop around the car-parks, terminal and hotels.

David Robinson, owner of Darwin Waterfront’s Hot Tamale Mexican-inspired tequila bar and restaurant, mixed it with the world’s best cocktail makers at the recent Global Patron Perfectionist Competition in Mexico. Robinson’s tropical-inspired creation, ‘The Last Frontier’, featuring squeezed lime, smoked pineapple and ginger tepache, patron and vermouth all served in a Collins glass with chipotle salt, catapulted him into the Grand Final.

Darwin’s George Brown Darwin Botanic Gardens will undergo a $9.9 million facelift, with a new multi-purpose visitor and event centre to be built there as part of the Territory Labor Government's record $103 million Turbocharging Tourism stimulus package. Minister for Tourism and Culture, Lauren Moss said the enhancements would mean better facilities for festivals and events at the iconic Gardens, creating an improved visitor experience and helping to lift Darwin's reputation as a great place to visit and live.

“George Brown Darwin Botanic Gardens is a stunning tropical destination, and this funding will make it even better - we want it to be a huge asset for tourists and locals,” Ms Moss said.

A filmmaker, textile artist, needle felter, painter, illustrator, writer, wood sculptor and a photographer have been selected to join The Territory Wildlife Park’s popular Artists in the Park program.

The initiative is designed to give the artists access to the Park’s amazing collection of flora, fauna and naturalist style exhibits, and to tap into the knowledge and experience of the Park’s highly skilled zookeepers and guides. Artists also have the opportunity to meet park guests, and participate in the Park’s markets and art exhibitions to raise awareness about threatened native species.

NT’s famous barra might’ve been jumping on to rods at the start of the Territory’s famous Million Dollar Fish competition in October, but so far the Million Dollar Fish has evaded capture.

Each October, 101 barramundi are tagged and released in Top End waters and keen anglers have until February 28 to bag the big one. One hundred fish are tagged with $10,000 prize tags and one with a whopping $1million. So far this season, thirteen eagle-eyed anglers have picked up a cool $10,000 each including a chef from Kakadu, a financial adviser from Humpty Doo and a Darwin-based boilermaker.

Improvements have recently been made to Florence Falls 4WD Campground at Litchfield National Park, upgrading the walking track from the campground to the plunge pools, sealing the access road, and completing upgrades to the campsites. The works are part of plans to make Litchfield National Park, which attracts more than 360,000 visitors per year, more accessible for the public.

The popular Top End icon offers camping spots at Florence Falls, Wangi Falls, Sandy Creek, Surprise Creek and Walker Creek.

The Environment Centre NT has recently launched the quintessential field guide to animals in the Top End. Authored by Lindley McKay, the user friendly guide features more than 2000 images and a wealth of information on unique and rare wildlife, their habitats and conservation status. Australia’s Top End is home to an amazing array of wildlife, and many of Australia’s most iconic National Parks, so if a trip is on the cards, you won’t want to miss this.

Now in its fifth consecutive year, Tjungu Festival is set to return to Ayers Rock Resort at Uluru-Kata Tjuta on 26-29 April. This vibrant celebration of Australian Indigenous culture features music, dance, film, fashion, food, sport and more. This year, Tjungu will also include a special focus on Indigenous art and a performance by Australian country music favourite Troy Cassar-Daley.

The boutique-style Lost Camel Hotel will re-open its doors at Ayers Rock Resort in July this year following an extensive refurbishment program. The modern, mid-scale hotel is just twenty minutes from Uluru and boasts a mix of Aboriginal and urban themes - the perfect backdrop for any stay in Australia’s spiritual heartland.

The Northern Territory Library’s iNsTagrammers: the best in NT photography from Instagram exhibition will continue at the Araluen Arts Centre until mid-March.

Developed by curator Caddie Brain, the Alice Springs exhibition features the best snaps of local life from local cattle producers, remote midwives, teachers, ice-cream makers and artists, mums and mayors.

Photographers from all parts of the Northern Territory - including Central Australian artists Siri Omber @siri.omberg, Mayor Damien Ryan @damienjryan and Dave Nixon @dixon_nave - have each contributed their images to the exhibition which features stunning imagery of impossible landscapes, cheeky wildlife and unique Territory pastimes as well as powerful photojournalism.

From September, Ayres Rock Resort will host a transformational wellness weekend with popular life change facilitator Peter Bliss. The retreat is designed to empower participants to manage their emotions and master their mind with practical mindfulness workshops, silence survival strategies, intuition and intention tips, Qigong workshops, and guided meditations to enhance their lives. Set in the spiritual surrounds of Ayers Rock Resort and Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, the retreat runs from September 7-13 and includes a nutritious food program and a Field of Light Star Pass.

A must-see on any Alice Springs adventure, the Araluen Arts Centre has just released its artistic program for 2018. Beginning with the critically acclaimed Bangarra Dance Theatre, and including other flagship companies such as The Australian Ballet and Bell Shakespeare, the 2018 program is set to kick off with a flurry of activity in March.

Araluen will also present a number of touring exhibitions during the year, starting with Clay Stories, a touring exhibition of contemporary ceramics from a diverse from of artists such as Ernabella Arts and the Hermannsburg Potters. The Maruku Arts on Anangu story, law and culture exhibition as told through intricate punu carvings, artworks and artefacts; and Fecund: Fertile Worlds, an exhibition curated by Katherine based Clare Armitage will round out the year, alongside Kristian Laemmle-Ruff’s Woomera, and Michael Cook’s nationally celebrated Undiscovered.

The Red Centre’s award-winning Sounds of Silence dinner experience will notch up 25 years of operation this March. To celebrate, the team at Voyages Ayres Rock Resort are hosting a star-studded sunset event followed by a three-course bush tucker dinner on March 21.

To plan your Top End or Red Centre adventure visit:

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Ten Tips for Canada Travels in 2018

With Australian visitation to Canada rising exponentially each year, more Aussies than ever are expected to make 2018 the year they explore this diverse North American country. Read on for our top ten tips for planning bucket-list adventures in Canada this year.
  • Don't be fooled by unauthorised websites when you apply for your electronic Travel Authorisation (eTA). Use the official website to register for an eTA at a cost of $7 CAD. Beware of 'scam' websites charging up to $122 USD for the application. Australian citizens require an electronic Travel Authorisation (eTA) before flying to Canada.
  • Peak tourist months in Canada are July and August, when flights and accommodation are more expensive. Consider travelling outside peak season during autumn for spectacular foliage in Quebec and the Atlantic provinces, or winter and early spring for the ultimate winter wonderland.
  • Heading to Whistler? Make sure you experience the epic Peak 2 Peak Gondola and the new Peak Suspension Bridge, the tallest in North America, for mind-blowing panoramic views in every season. If you're there during winter, spend a day skiing or snowboarding with an Olympian, learning expert techniques, and hearing their stories of success. 
  • Head to the Maritime province of New Brunswick to witness the highest tides in the world at the incredible Bay of Fundy. Walk the ocean floor during low tide at the Hopewell Rocks or abseil down cliffs into the bay at Cape Enrage. Jump on a zodiac with Red Rock Adventure for a memorable Fundy Trail Tour, where you'll explore the longest stretch of coastal wilderness on the eastern seaboard, meeting seals and porpoises along the way.
  • For a true 'bragging rights' experience, road trippers can now drive the road made famous through the Ice Road Truckers television series. The 137-kilometre Tuktoyaktuk Winter Road, two hours from Inuvik in Canada's Northwest Territories, forms part of the famous Dempster Highway, allowing travellers to drive all the way from Whitehorse, in Yukon Territory, to the Arctic Circle in Northwest Territories on a sealed bitumen road, rather than sheets of ice!
  • Discover Banff Tours is now offering small group tours taking travellers from Vancouver to Banff and vice versa. This is a great option for those who catch the Rocky Mountaineer one way and would prefer to drive back rather than fly. It's also ideal for those wishing to explore the Rockies by road. The tour includes lunch in Revelstoke and accommodation at the Plaza Hotel in Kamloops. 
  • Who wants to stay in a conventional hotel when you can bed down in a house boat? From May 2018, visitors to Canada's capital city of Ottawa in Ontario can cruise the Rideau Canal on a state-of-the-art Horizon cruiser by Le Boat. Glide effortlessly through the charming downtown precinct, enjoying tranquil views of Parliament Hill the rolling green banks.
  • EdgeWalk at the CN Tower in Toronto holds the Guinness World Record for the “Highest External Walk on a Building” at 116 storeys high. This is an epic bucket-list attraction for thrill-seekers.
  • Visiting the east coast during summer? Get to know the salt-of-the-earth characters of Newfoundland and Labrador during the George Street Festivalfrom 26 July - 1 August 2018. George Street has been a magnet for musicians for decades and is famous for comprising two blocks of bars, pubs, restaurants – and nothing else.
  • If you're travelling to the US east coast, consider a road trip to Quebec. Make the 500-kilometre journey from Boston to Montreal via the picturesque Eastern Townships for an authentic French-Canadian experience. We're talking sparkling lakes, wineries, and chocolatiers, where the welcoming locals speak their native French.


Air Canada offers daily direct flights to Vancouver from Sydney and Brisbane. Additionally, Air Canada will commence year-round direct flights from Melbourne to Vancouver from June 2018. Direct flights from Sydney to Vancouver are also available on Qantas.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

How to rub shoulders with Manitoba's famous residents

They're dazzling, beautiful and permanently trending on social media.

Manitoba's famous inhabitants are household names, attracting travellers from around the world whose greatest desire is to merely stand in their presence.

Read on for the inside scoop on where to find seven of these wild celebrities. 

Polar bear: best viewing time July to November

Should you ever come face to face with these Arctic royals, you may wish to curtsy – and then back away quickly. In Churchill, you can safely view the largest land carnivore in the world from a tundra vehicle or from a fenced wilderness lodge. You can even walk among them with a guide or see them from on high during a helicopter tour.

Bison: year-round

Perhaps Manitoba's most iconic resident celebrity, the bison reflects the province's First Nations' heritage, still as relevant today as it ever was. These majestic beasts are the largest mammal in North America and can run up to 60 kilometres an hour. Riding Mountain National Park and FortWhyte Alive are ideal locations for a personal encounter with these famous giants. 

Belugas: July – August

Hearing the beluga whales sing their sweet 'canary' chirps and whistles is a spine-tingling moment. Thousands of white beluga whales congregate each summer in the mouths of the northern Churchill and Seal Rivers that empty into Hudson Bay. Jump in a zodiac for a closer look. Better still? Swim with the belugas! They're among the friendliest of whales and are just as curious about people as you are about them. 

Canada lynx: year-round

In Riding Mountain National Park cat-lovers might just be lucky enough to spy the elusive Canada lynx. Warning – these guys are paparazzi-shy so keep the camera ready to capture its gleaming eyes and over-sized paws.
Caribou: October migration season

Witnessing a caribou migration is the stuff of dreams. As the winter begins, Manitoba's boreal woodland, coastal, and barren ground caribou embark on an epic journey across the tundra. You'll be mesmerised by this incredible wildlife spectacle and the wild beauty of these creatures, resplendent with antlers and huge, kind eyes.

Arctic Fox

Arctic fox and hare – Year-round

There is something infinitely fascinating about snow-white foxes and bunnies frolicking in the chill, blending in with their surroundings, like cotton balls dancing on ice. Despite their small size, Manitoba's cutest creatures are widely sought after for their photogenic qualities. They're found year-round, but their coats only turn white when the snow begins to fall.
Bald eagle: May to September

Here's a tip for bird-loving travellers on the look out for the regal bald eagle: stay close to the water. The famous white feathered heads of the bald eagle will most commonly be spotted swooping near the rivers and lakes in search of fish. Try Whiteshell Provincial Park, Riding Mountain National Park or Pembina Valley Provincial Park.

Getting there

Air Canada has daily direct flights from Sydney and Brisbane to Vancouver, with connecting services to Winnipeg. Alternatively, VIA Rail, the national Canadian rail service runs from Vancouver to Winnipeg. The two-day journey spans British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan before reaching the Manitoba, the heart of Canada.

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