Monday, January 20, 2020

Here's your Memphis music playlist

Known for its musical heartbeat, the city of Memphis is home to some of the world's most influential musicians. In recognition of the draw that the music of Memphis has for travellers, Memphis Tourism has this week launched a dedicated Music Hub, designed to help visitors find their perfect music experience.

Since no trip to Memphis would be complete without experiencing at least one aspect of the city's great music history, below is a list of essential experiences for music lovers:

Visit a historic recording studio

Memphis' music legacy is iconic, so it makes sense that the city has more recording studios than almost any other. The world famous Stax Records and Sun Studio are both crucial fixtures in the formation and history of American music, and both open to the public.

Pick up some local music vinyl

Hardcore music lovers have never lost their affinity for vinyl, but now that everyday music fans are again appreciating the joy of vinyl's distinctive sound, sales are on the rise. Memphis music stores including Shangri-La, Goner Records and Audiomedia Records all have sections dedicated not just to vinyl, but solely to Memphis music - which could see you find the best souvenir ever.

Dine at a musically historical venue

You may still want to wait in line to eat at the diner which Elvis frequented (The Arcade Restaurant), but if you make your way to Catherine & Mary's in Downtown Memphis, you'll be dining on elevated Southern American and traditional Italian cuisine at the site of the former home of the Red, Hot, & Blue radio show - the radio show was the first to play music from both black and white artists in a segregated Memphis.

Stay at the Central Station Hotel

With more than 3,500 vinyl records in the lobby - all with a Memphis connection, and a DJ playing Memphis themed playlist every night of the week, this is the perfect place to sleep for music lovers.

Take in some live music

Start at the bars, pubs and clubs of tourist hotspot of historic Beale Street, and then wander wherever your ears take you - and it won't be far. Memphis is home to an abundance of live music venues, festivals and listening rooms.

For further information about Memphis and to plan your trip:

Sunday, January 12, 2020

Experience Australia’s two Indigenous cultures

The Cairns & Great Barrier Reef region’s World Heritage areas are home to Australia’s two Indigenous cultures, which can be experienced on more than 80 tours during Queensland’s Year of Indigenous Tourism.

Dreamtime stories are woven throughout the land and waters of Cairns & Great Barrier Reef, the only destination where the culture of both the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are found.

Travellers have the opportunity to interact with these cultures when they explore the World Heritage Areas of the Wet Tropics rainforest and Great Barrier Reef, as well as the accessible Outback ­– all of which are found in the Cairns & Great Barrier Reef region.

Indigenous art, dance and storytelling reveal a history stretching back more than 40,000 years. Multifaceted cultural events bring Traditional Custodians of the land together for a display of dance, art, music and fashion, while cultural centres introduce the stories and traditions of Australia’s First Nations People.

Opportunities to interact with the Traditional Custodians are plentiful. Visitors can learn to hunt mudcrab with a spear, hear Dreamtime stories alongside ancient rock art, take part in the cleansing ritual of a smoking ceremony, and look for bush food in the rainforest. They can learn about Buda-dji, the carpet snake that created the Barron River where the Djabugay people live, and hear why the Quinkans are fearsome creatures for the Kuku Yalanji people.


Cooktown celebrates 250 years
Cooktown Expo 2020 is a regional showcase from July 17 to August 4, celebrating the 250th anniversary of the arrival of British explorer Lieutenant James Cook, who spent 48 days on the Endeavour River. His interaction with Cooktown’s Aboriginal people resulted in Australia’s first recorded act of reconciliation. Three key events showcase the region’s history – Reconciliation Rock Music Festival, Cooktown Discovery Festival and the Endeavour Festival.

Laura Aboriginal Dance Festival
Indigenous culture, song and dance are celebrated by more than 20 different communities at Laura, near one of UNESCO’s top 10 rock art sites, on Cape York Peninsula. The internationally recognised biannual celebration of Aboriginal culture attracts thousands of visitors to the traditional Bora ground, with the next festival taking place on 3-5 July 2020.

Cairns Indigenous Art Fair
More than 600 Indigenous visual and performing artists from communities throughout mainland Queensland and the Torres Strait Islands showcase their diverse cultures and artistic wealth at this prestigious annual event. CIAF is on 10-12 July 2020 and includes an ethical art marketplace, fashion show, cultural performances and free family activities.

Winds of Zenadth
Torres Strait Islander culture, including traditional dance with extraordinary headpieces, is on show at Winds of Zenadth, a bi-annual event where people from across the Torres Strait Islands gather to revitalise and preserve their language, art and ceremonies. Dates are being finalised for 2020. More information will become available

Yarrabah Music & Cultural Festival
This free event south of Cairns features an impressive line-up of Australian musicians along with food stalls, local art, rides and cultural experiences. The festival is built upon the legacy of the Yarrabah Brass Band, which since 1901 has played a pivotal role in the community’s musical identity. The festival will be held on 10 October 2020. More information will become available at:


Jarramali Rock Art Tours
Explore one of UNESCO’s top 10 rock art sites in the world with a Traditional Custodian to see paintings dating back tens of thousands of years. Kuku Yalanji guides tell the story of the ancient Quinkan rock art and join you at a camp overnight in Cape York.

Mossman Gorge Centre
A traditional smoking ceremony welcomes you to Kuku Yalanji country at Mossman Gorge Centre. Join a Traditional Custodian on a Dreamtime walk to learn how their people sustained themselves in the world’s oldest rainforest.

Discover the Torres Strait
The history, arts and culture of the Torres Strait are uncovered on a bespoke tour with Torres Strait Eco Adventures. Guide Dirk Laifoo shares his local knowledge on tours to Waiben (Thursday Island), Muralag (Prince of Wales Island) and Ngarupai (Horn Island). The region has a rich World War II and pearling history entwined with the local Torres Strait Islander culture.

Dreamtime Dive & Snorkel
Step back into the Great Barrier Reef’s Dreamtime with Indigenous sea rangers on a day tour to two spectacular outer Great Barrier Reef sites, incorporating the legends passed down by Traditional Custodians over thousands of years.

Walkabout Adventures
Traditional Custodians show how their ancestral lands are the source of Dreamtime stories and songs in a tour for just 11 people. Learn about bush foods and medicines, hunting, Aboriginal history, culture and beliefs, and experience the Indigenous connection to country.

Tjapukai Aboriginal Culture Park
Traditional Custodians have created a performance depicting the rainforest culture of the Djabugay people, while modern technology and live performers deliver the Djabugay Creation story. Join interactive hunting and bush food demonstrations and a night-time fire ceremony. 

Pamagirri Aboriginal Experience, Rainforestation Nature Park
Watch a ceremonial dance in the rainforest and see traditional hunting and gathering techniques before learning to throw a boomerang. Join the Dreamtime Walk along the Rainbow Serpent boardwalk for an insight into ancient Aboriginal beliefs.

Mandingalbay Ancient Indigenous Tours
Take a boat ride across Trinity Inlet to an environmental reserve at the base of Grey Peaks National Park where you are welcomed with a smoking ceremony. Enjoy dinner with authentic Indigenous dancing and entertainment. Other tours include an eco cultural tour and bush camping overnight on Indigenous lands.

Flames of the Forest
Discover the magic of the Dreamtime and dine on tropical regional produce beneath the rainforest canopy. Kuku Yalanji performers immerse you in storytelling, didgeridoo and song lines of the ancestors.

Yagurli Tours
Experience the Dreamtime stories of the Gangalidda-Garawa people under the brilliance of a pollution-free night sky on Australia’s largest salt pans or see the crimson magic of an outback sunset on a river cruise, observing the unique wildlife of the Gulf Savannah country by dusk. There is also a tag-along tour and fishing option.

Thala Beach Nature Reserve Resort
Meet Kuku Yalanji elders who share stories of culture, history and Aboriginal tradition at an eco stay on a private headland between Cairns and Port Douglas. Learn about bush tucker food from traditional hunter-gatherers.

Yarrabah Arts & Cultural Precinct
The Yarrabah Arts Centre, Menmuny Museum and a rainforest boardwalk are part of the Arts and Cultural Precinct showcasing local culture, history and art including pottery, woven baskets and textiles.

Janbal Gallery Painting Workshop
Learn traditional Aboriginal painting techniques and see Brian “Binna” Swindley and his mother Shirley’s works depicting Dreamtime stories, Kuku Yalanji life, the animals of the Great Barrier Reef and the World Heritage-listed Wet Tropics Rainforest.

Adventure North Australia
Meet the custodians of the world’s oldest rainforest to try traditional fishing and gathering techniques from the Kubirri Warra clan and discover traditional soap, bush food and ochre paint on a rainforest walk at Mossman Gorge.

Culture Connect
Join a guided tour or private charter to traditional country in the World Heritage Daintree rainforest and the tropical savannah country of Cape York. Experience festivals and events on the Indigenous cultural calendar from a unique perspective.

Down Under Tours
Experience Aboriginal culture with a trip including Mossman Gorge Centre and their Dreamtime Walk, Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park’s shows, and Rainforestation Nature Park where the Pamagirri Aboriginal Dancers explain Aboriginal culture.

Indigenous Art Centres
Remote art centres can be found at Aboriginal communities throughout Cape York. You can see the renowned camp dog carvings of Aurukun’s Wik and Kugu people, the ghost net weavings from Pormpuraaw, and the internationally acclaimed work of Lockhart River’s Art Gang.

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Northern Territory: Come down to Earth

Uluru is one of the most spiritual places on earth, with every lizard track in the ochre-red soil, every nuance of light, and every nook and cranny of the rock itself catching your eye and impacting on your senses.

From the mournful notes of the didgeridoo, played around the fire on a distant sand dune as an appetiser to the incredible gourmet experience that is Tali Wiru, the feeling of place is omnipresent, with the stories of the dreaming coming to life as vividly as the 60,000 light stems creating the Field of Light do; an experience that moves some people to tears.

If you’re looking for instant gratification, Kakadu may elude you. Carved and sculpted over countless eons, the prehistoric vistas of this UNESCO World Heritage site are ancient even to those who have lived there for tens of thousands of years.

Vast marshy wetlands surrounded by stark sandstone cliffs have withstood the test of time and stand proud, oblivious to your presence. The sight of a massive grazing brontosaurus would not be out of place in this otherworldly landscape.

Today you can tour these timeless monoliths with an indigenous guide, learning some of the mysteries and stories of the Dreamtime and discover the myths behind the stunning frescos painted by the ancestors.

Easily visited during the day from either Darwin or Katherine, scenic Litchfield National Park is ideal for either long or short stay visitors with picnic facilities for day visitors and camping options for long-stayers who can’t get enough. Bring the family and swim, hike or fish in these tranquil surrounds.

You don’t have to go after nature in the NT – it comes to you. Spending time “glamping” at any one of the superbly appointed safari camps or coastal resorts is an experience only the NT can deliver. Two examples include Murwangi and Groote Eylandt.

Heat comes in a range of sights and flavours in the Northern Territory. There is even the odd blazing light show at sunrise and sunset. Darwin’s wet season delivers plenty of water to Australia’s thirsty Top End, and in conjunction with these downpours is nature’s own atmospheric spectacular in the form of awe-inspiring lighting and tummy-rumbling thunder. Unless you’ve seen Darwin in nature’s grip, the power of the tropical storm is hard to imagine.

In a culinary sense, the region’s “beer and barra” reputation has morphed into condensation-laced cocktails on the waterfront and Greek-spiced seafood alongside hot and sour fish at the city’s hottest Vietnamese, Chow, or industrial-chic Korean barbecue at urban sweetheart Little Miss Korea. The city moves en masse to sunset-gilded Mindil Beach every Sunday to gossip in deck chairs and dip spoons into green pandan pudding or rocket-topped pizzas, woodfired right here in the markets. While locals have been spoiled by local freshness from Darwin’s multiple markets for ages, the restaurants are now working together in co-ops, with new-generation ideas on how to keep ingredients local and food miles low. From Alleycat Patisserie’s hipster cronuts to Eat at Martin’s vibrant vegetarian creations, Darwin has added new soul and eagerness to its gastronomic offerings. Then there are the Hanuman restaurants in Darwin and Alice Springs.

Elsewhere, Tasting the NT is a dining experience you can’t have anywhere else. Sampling the natural foods of the indigenous people is a window to their rich and ancient culture that has sustained them for thousands of years while empires in the rest of the world have grown and crumbled many times over.

Ayers Rock Resort has launched a new Bush Tucker Trail that takes guests on a journey of Indigenous flavour discovery as they try signature dishes incorporating bush ingredients at every restaurant throughout the Resort. Experience flavours such as Lemon Myrtle, Kakadu Plum, Bush Tomato and Wattleseed in a range of meals. In addition to menu items, a number of Bush Tucker cocktails have also been developed.

Then there’s Parrtjima - a Festival in Light - the first authentic indigenous light festival of its kind in the world. It features Australia's biggest-ever light show installation, with more than 2.5km of the MacDonnell Ranges being illuminated as part of the event. The contemporary and traditional indigenous art will light up Alice Springs. A featured installation will be a series of large illuminated 1950's-style circle skirts featuring the watercolour artwork of Lenie Namatjira, granddaughter of renowned artist Albert Namatjira.

New Zealand: Best of business destinations

Words: Roderick Eime

Sure, New Zealand has some of the greatest scenery, best wines and friendliest people, which is why holding a business conference or convention there makes perfect sense.

What’s more, the New Zealand Government is serious about making the ‘Land of the Long White Cloud’ an increasingly compelling destination with annual budget stimulation directed specifically at bolstering international business events over the coming years.

New Zealand, sometimes referred to by its evocative Māori name, Aotearoa, has numerous existing conference and convention venues, as well as proposed new venues including a $402 million New Zealand International Convention Centre (construction due to begin in December 2015) in Auckland, which will be capable of accommodating 3500 people, plus newly opened convention centres in Christchurch and Queenstown.

Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch regularly host high-level, international conferences and major national events, but even smaller centres like Queenstown and Rotorua should not be discounted thanks to their excellent offerings of both accommodation and outdoor activities.

Let’s take a closer look at each of these cities and see what’s on offer.

In the premier city of Auckland, which captures 70 per cent of all international arrivals to New Zealand, the larger venue options range from ASB Theatre in Auckland’s Aotea Centre to the huge Claudelands Events Centre in Hamilton, half way down the road to Rotorua on the North Island. The new Viaduct Events Centre is ideally placed within a vibrant, modern precinct and able to seat 1200 delegates in a banquet setting. Auckland Town Hall, the Civic Theatre and the versatile SKYCITY complex should all be considered when planning any event.

Auckland also presents a wide range of out-of-hours, break-out and pre- and post-conference options that allow delegates to inject some quality leisure and enrichment into what may otherwise be a gruelling schedule. Sailing on Auckland Harbour, cruising in the scenic Hauraki Gulf or touring the Twin Coast Highway to the Northland region into dense forests, fringed by golden beaches are just some of the choices.

At the base of the North Island is Wellington, the political capital of New Zealand and hometown to acclaimed filmmaker, Sir Peter Jackson. Served by major international carriers like Air New Zealand, Qantas, Virgin Australia and Jetstar, the international airport is an easy to navigate hub, a short distance from the city centre.

Obviously, with the city being the seat of power, it is well served with modern convention and meeting facilities ranging from contemporary and hi-tech, like the benchmark Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, to the more traditional such as the historic Wellington Town Hall and Michael Fowler Centre, both venues linked by a convenient footbridge.

Despite a modest population of around 400,000, Wellington is a spectacularly located city with a dramatic mountain backdrop and wide picturesque harbour. There are plenty of activities and attractions right along the foreshore including museums, restaurants and retail to occupy visitors and provide a refreshing recess. The iconic red cable car is just one attraction that must be experienced. Major accommodation offerings are all within an easy stroll, in fact, you can walk from one end of the business district to the other in under 20 minutes.

Delegates can enjoy gourmet tours right in the city centre or venture a little further out to the countryside where Wellington is embraced by thriving wine districts like Wairarapa just an hour north of the CBD. Nature lovers will enjoy the Karori Sanctuary Experience where, among other highlights, visitors can see the famous flightless Kiwi that is inextricably linked to the folklore of New Zealand.

Also on the North Island is the famously volcanic city of Rotorua, a tourist destination long enjoyed by generations of New Zealanders and internationals alike. Situated around the shores of its stunning namesake lake, this and other nearby lakes and rivers enable a range of aquatic activities like day cruises, hiking, picnicking, fly-fishing and jet-boating.

Prime venues like the lakeside Rotorua Energy Events Centre and the central Rotorua Convention Centre are ideal for several hundred guests with the exciting Skyline Rotorua, perched imperiously atop Mt Ngongotaha, an ideal secondary venue for a climactic banquet dinner or impressive cocktail function.

Beyond the city, delegates can enjoy a relaxing round of golf at some of the best courses in New Zealand or adrenalin sports such as whitewater rafting, snow skiing, zorbing or even a breathtaking plunge on the massive Swoop super swing. But it’s the geothermal attractions and their connection to Māori folklore that have made a name for Rotorua. A spectacular show is made of an indigenous feast under the stars at Te Puia thermal reserve, the whole proceedings set against a magnificent flood-lit geyser. 

Across Cook Strait is the larger, but more sparsely populated South Island, renowned for spectacular mountain scenery and some of the world’s best cool-climate wines. A big call certainly, but after sampling some of the stellar Pinot Noir and Riesling on offer, few coming away disputing this claim.

The centre of tourism on the South Island is Queenstown, located in a spectacular alpine setting on the shore of beautiful Lake Wakatipu, this casual yet cosmopolitan city is a firm favourite among conference and event planners who cater for up to around 1500 people. Again, air links are regular and frequent with international flights arriving directly into the airport just a short distance from the city.

Most of the meeting venues are those within the world-class hotels, lodges and resorts sprinkled around the township and wider Wakatipu Basin where the encircling Central Otago region is best known for award-winning Pinot Noir and Chardonnay wines.  Such proximity to attractions and activities like golf, adrenalin sports and skiing, make Queenstown a ‘slam dunk’ for organisers looking to inject ‘wow factor’ in their event. Venues including the spectacular Skyline Queenstown, perched atop Bobs Peak and offering panoramic views of Lake Wakatipu and the Remarkables mountain range, are just too easy a choice.

Any mention of South Island locations should not overlook Christchurch, Canterbury district’s glorious ‘Garden City’. Yes, the city took a blow in the 2011 earthquake but has been vigorously rebuilding ever since and bending over backwards to attract tourists and businesses back to this classically British-styled city.

Also a major international gateway, Christchurch Airport has a surprising number of overseas routes including Korea, Singapore, Malaysia and Australia.

With its expansive Botanic Garden and many Gothic Revival buildings by architect Benjamin Mountfort, the city has the distinct character of a large English country town. Venues here are like none offered elsewhere in New Zealand and allow planners to construct distinctly memorable events within such venues as the Air Force Museum or International Antarctic Centre where guests can don heavy polar attire and experience, first hand, the sensation of visiting the deep Antarctic.

Beyond the city, the wider Canterbury district offers superb touring and sightseeing in the lush countryside that includes the rich Waipara region, home to yet more of New Zealand’s famous wines. Skiing at Mount Hutt is less than two hours by road and the famous TranzAlpine is quoted by many experts as one of the top railway journeys in the world. The little satellite town of Methven even offers hot air balloon rides where dawn breaks majestically over the surrounding farmlands in an awe-inspiring spectacle.

Anyone who’s never visited New Zealand might be inclined to suspect some overzealous description of these locations, but be assured that once visited, the veracity of these claims is quickly verified. What’s more, New Zealand is serious about attracting your MICE business and dedicated staff are on hand to guide you through the planning process.

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

How to Celebrate NYE in NYC

New Year's Eve is a defining moment in New York City, serving as a beacon for the world as people collectively reflect on the previous year and welcome the next. As more than one million visitors prepare to celebrate across the five boroughs, the City's hotels and attractions are ready to welcome the next decade in only-in-NYC fashion.

Below is a roundup of Times Square activities, hotel parties and New Year's Eve events throughout NYC that will emphasise the City's reputation as the most iconic destination to ring in the new year.

Times Square

While the iconic Ball Drop is certainly the centre of the festivities, visitors can celebrate the holiday days in advance of the event viewed around the world.

Seven-foot tall numbers "2" and "0" will be displayed in mid-December and available for a pre-NYE photoshoot in various Times Square Plazas until they are hoisted atop One Times Square as celebratory décor, the week leading up to the big event.

On December 28, from 12-1 pm, locals and travellers are invited to enjoy Good Riddance Day at the Broadway Plaza in Times Square where bad memories are eliminated via a giant shredder.

From December 1-29, visit the Wishing Wall in Times Square Plaza to share your hopes and dreams for 2020, which will be dropped as confetti when the clock strikes midnight. Electronic wishes can be submitted here or on social media using #ConfettiWish.

The nearly 6-ton ball, covered with 2,688 Waterford Crystal triangles, is capable of lighting up the night from One Times Square, with more than 16 million different colours.

Dick Clark's New Year's Rocking Eve will broadcast the Times Square festivities globally with the help of performances by superstar performers (to be announced) and host Ryan Seacrest.

Global viewers can also visit, and to watch the annual event.

Can't-Miss Hotel Bashes

The Times Square Edition is celebrating its first New Year's Eve in five-star fashion with a three-party extravaganza including ticketed events at 701 West, The Paradise Club, and The Terrace Outdoor Rooftop and Gardens. Each celebration includes dinner, open bar, and a world-class DJ/live music. At 701 West and The Terrace, guests will have access to the hotel's outdoor porch with views of the Time Square ball drop.

The New York Marriott Marquis will celebrate by hosting a party with 360-degree views of the ball drop that includes a red-carpet entry, luxury dinner buffet & dessert bar, specialty cocktails, open bar, and VIP access to the patio overlooking Times Square.

The Moxy Times Square is ringing in the modern-day roaring 20's with a unique brand of fun with an event at the Magic Hour Rooftop. The "urban amusement park" is the largest indoor/outdoor all-season hotel rooftop bar in NYC and features five distinct areas including a lounge, outdoor garden, gallery entrance and outdoor putt-putt course with an adult carnival vibe.

The Peninsula New York's Salon de Ning will be transformed into a chic, dome-covered, penthouse where guests will enjoy a cocktail party with open bar, live music and plenty of dancing, as well as temporary popup Chalet de Ning.

The Pierre, A Taj Hotel, is ringing in 2020 with dual celebrations including two dinner parties featuring prix-fixe menus, live jazz music and midnight champagne toast at its signature restaurant, Perrine and a more casual celebration featuring dancing, open bar, raw bar, DJ and more at the Two E Lounge.

At Party on Park Avenue at the Loews Regency Hotel, guests will enjoy a night of glitz and glamor in a stylish suite on Manhattan's Upper East Side complete with a 3-hour open-bar cocktail reception, hors d'oeuvres and champagne toast at midnight.

The Hilton Garden Inn Staten Island , situated in the heart of protected woodlands, is hosting its annual New Year's Eve Gala with a "Roarin' 20's" theme this year in the picturesque Nicotra's Ballroom, complete with 10-piece band.

Festive Events

The only casino in New York City's five boroughs, Resorts World Casino, will celebrate at Bar360 with a night of concerts that includes a performance by Bronx native Judy Torres and a Black and White Ball hosted by Chef Garfield and Deejay Roy. Guests are also encouraged to explore the casinos 4,200 slot machines and 1,300 electronic table games.

Visitors are invited to ring in the New Year with Brooklyn Borough President Eric L. Adams at the 40th edition of The New Year's Eve Fireworks Celebration at the historic Grand Army Plaza in Prospect Park. The family-friendly event is a free, authentic way to celebrate with locals and travelers.

For a beautiful, unobstructed view of the NYC Skyline coupled with an extravagant fireworks display over the Hudson River, take a ride on Circle Lines New Year's Eve Cruise along the New York Harbor from 9 pm to 1 am. A DJ and midnight toast complete the event that is 21+ to drink, 18+ to enter.

2020 TCS NYC Marathon hopefuls and running enthusiasts are invited to participate in the most festive qualifying race of the year at the NYRR Midnight Run. Registered runners and plus ones will gather at Bethesda Terrace in Central Park for a four-mile race that starts at the stroke of midnight with a beautiful fireworks display.

In The Bronx, families can enjoy a visit to the Bronx zoo, where the Holiday Lights festivities will take place from 5-9 pm, or explore the Holiday Train Show at the New York Botanical Garden, where model trains zip through a display of more than 175 NYC landmarks made out of plant parts, including One World Trade Center, Empire State Building and Statue of Liberty.

The Coney Island Polar Bear Club New Year's Day Plunge is free with prior-registration and kicks off at 1 pm at the Stillwell Avenue boardwalk entrance. Participants are invited to enter the New York Aquarium complimentarily after the plunge to warm up.

Monday, December 16, 2019

How to explore every day with Lonely Planet's new book.

Lonely Planet's new book, Explore Every Day, features 365 daily prompts designed to refresh your life – including the following:

You can find this wonderful piece of street art in Melbourne. Where? (R Eime)
  • Admire the next piece of street art or graffiti you see as if it were hanging in an art gallery.
  • Think of one small environmental change you could make and act on it.
  • Buy a fruit or vegetable you’ve never eaten before.
  • Quick: name the first country that comes to mind. Find a film from that country and watch it. Write the review.
Have you seen this American film?
  • Spend one full minute really, truly feeling the weather.
  • Ascend to the highest point in your town (buildings count).
The highest point of which famous South Australian port? (R Eime)
  • Learn a word from your region’s indigenous culture or some local slang.
  • Breathe in for four seconds. Exhale for six.
  • Spend one full minute really, truly feeling the weather.
  • Empires were built – and destroyed – over the search for aromatic spices. Research where in your town you can find dozens available instantly (health-food and international stores often have large spice sections).
  • Give yourself a full 10-15 minutes to browse through and deeply inhale as many spices and herbs as you can. Choose one that tickles your fancy yet is totally unfamiliar to you and buy it (saving you the 200-year-long journey to attain it).
Can you name these spices? Have you smelled them? 
  • Find a recipe that incorporates the new spice and cook it.
  • Draw a map of your town. For extra credit: Find a willing partner, give yourselves three minutes each to draw, then compare results afterwards. What stood out for each of you?
  • Get dressed up and conduct a photo shoot with a friend.
Halloween is the perfect opportunity for a fun family portrait (Lithgow Mercury)
  • Which neighbourhood in your town is most different to your own? Spend an afternoon running errands there.
  • Many world-famous universities (UC Berkeley, Cambridge, the Sorbonne) offer free courses online. Sign up to one and learn Shakespeare, Roman history or opera.
  • Go on a mural walking tour. Describe your favourite mural.

Silo art is a big deal in rural Australia (Mike Osborne)

Reproduced with permission from Explore Every Day, © Lonely Planet 2019,

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Summer sights at NSW's Lake Macquarie

Lake Macquarie is a hotspot for silly season hangouts, where visitors can enjoy the sand, sea, sun and so much more! Although known as a year-round destination, Lake Macquarie is in its prime during the warmer months. Only 90 minutes north of Sydney, it’s the perfect weekend destination for anyone looking for a festive season escape.

With plenty to see and do, it’s hard to know where to start, so here are some of the top spots to visit in Lake Macquarie this summer:

Santa’s Spot: Speers Point Park

On 8 December, catch the Lake Mac Carols in Speers Point Park and enjoy an evening of fireworks, entertainment and special guests (including the one and only Santa Claus!) in the countdown to Christmas. During the day, Speers Point Park will keep the kids entertained for hours with a top-notch variety playground – featuring a flying fox, water play and a bike circuit with two intersecting tracks. There’s even a huge fenced dog park for the fur baby that’s sure to get tails wagging!

Serene Spot: Gap Creek Falls

The Watagans Mountains are always a firm favourite for nature lovers, dotted with a myriad of walking trails, lookouts and campgrounds. Wander from the Gap Creek picnic area at the end of Bangalow Road through lush rainforest, past regal red cedars and a massive Illawarra flame tree, to the majestic Gap Creek Falls. Featuring a sheer 40-metre drop over a cliff face, the beauty of the falls will help you to reconnect with, and get back to nature.

Swim Spot: Belmont Baths

Belmont Baths is the perfect spot for a splash during a sunny weekend. Recently reopened at the end of last year after a $850,000 renovation, the Baths now feature a new jetty (perfect for practicing big splash bombs), a large, netted swimming area, a brand-new amenities block, change rooms and foreshore landscaping. If all that swimming gets your tummy rumbling, just a short walk down the road you’ll find Deck 56, known for its stunning lake views and fresh, delicious cuisine.

Secret Spot: Glenrock State Conservation Area

Escape to Glenrock State Conservation Area and enjoy your breathing space in this secret hideaway. This place is nature’s playground, and if you pay it a visit, you’ll soon understand why. Enjoy beach activities, bushwalking, mountain bike riding, hang gliding and horse-riding, all while feasting on spectacular coastal views along the way. Spanning over 500 hectares, this stunning landscape boasts headlands, beaches, rainforests and the picturesque Glenrock Lagoon.

Safe Spot: Caves Beach

Lake Macquarie’s iconic Caves Beach and its extensive network of sea caves and rock pools are ideal for low-tide exploration. Crawl through tight holes, hang out in shady caves or soak up the sunshine on the beach’s sandy shores. Home to the Caves Beach Surf Life Saving Club, a kiosk, bathrooms, barbeques and picnic tables, it’s easy to see why Caves Beach is a firm family favourite.

Sensational Spot: Lake Macquarie Sand Islands

Is your idea of heaven bobbing around beautiful blue waters, hopping from one white sandy island to another? And no, this is not Fiji we are talking about – it’s lovely Lake Macquarie. The Lake Macquarie sand islands are a firm favourite with the locals and it’s easy to see why. Whether you explore by boat or choose to swim, just clock onto island time and get lost in the tranquillity.

It’s easy to see why Lake Macquarie is a favourite for family, friends, adventurers and anyone in between. To learn more about what’s going on in Lake Macquarie this silly season and find where to stay when you visit, please visit:

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