Friday, June 26, 2015

Popular Newcastle Precincts: Darby Street

Newcastle’s original eat street – Darby Street – has long been a fan favourite with locals in the know, and with fresh entrants into this popular precinct, there’s never been a better time to revisit, or discover, the delights of dining, and dawdling, on Darby.

With a rich food scene that’s quickly cementing the city’s reputation as one of Australia’s must-visit regional dining destinations, Newcastle’s gastro offering is split into sectors with delectable Darby Street in Cooks Hill renowned for its diversity, bohemian vibe and laidback style.

The area is home to more than 25 cool cafes and award-winning restaurants offering fine cuisine at friendly prices at venues offering relaxed al fresco dining, unique d├ęcor and cosy indoor retreats that invite you to spend an afternoon, or more.

And while it’s acclaimed as Newcastle’s original eat street, Darby Street has increasingly become famed for its eclectic mix of fashion, alternative music, homewares, second hand book shops and jewellery boutiques, with plenty of one-off finds. In fact, Darby Street is a haunt for up-and-coming designers of stylish urban wear for the young – and the young at heart. Pop into indie darling Honey Bee for fantastic fashion or lose yourself at Abicus, home to hard-to-find treasures from raw gear to retro vinyl discs and tapes.

Beyond fashion, Darby Street precinct is also home to Newcastle Art Gallery, featuring national and international exhibitions year-round, and several private art galleries where local artists in residence are often available for a chat, while photographic studios and quirky gift stores mean it’s easy to while away the day checking out the original works and innovative ideas of some of Newcastle, and the region’s, most talented creative professionals.

At the corner of Darby and Queen streets, the Hit the Bricks festival has turned otherwise empty walls into an open air art gallery, thanks to the creative flair of street artists from Newcastle and beyond in a clear visual sign of the city’s vibrant artistic scene.

Another fab find is community-owned Darby Lane, the laneway between iconic coffee institution Goldberg’s and the edgy and urban Depot on Darby which, as an initiative of The Darby Street Traders and Newcastle NOW in partnership with the Office of Student Architects, has been transformed into a vibrant and appealing space for locals and visitors who are loving the newly lit pathway, seating areas and creative wall art which inspire people to meet friends, pause and enjoy the ambience.

A serious challenger for the title of the country’s coffee capital, Newcastle boasts plenty of options for cravers of caffeine – and a number of them call Darby Street home. From colourful conversation, all-day breakfast, Campos coffee and perfect people watching at Frankie’s Place to high tea, sweet treats and fresh smoothies at Coco Monde Chocolateria or bold-flavoured, roast coffee in kitsch surrounds at Glee Coffee Roasters – there’s no excuse not to find the perfect grind.

For more on Newcastle attractions,
visit Destination NSW or Visit Newcastle websites

Monday, June 22, 2015

Creswick Woollen Mills - An Australian family dynasty

The Mill

Creswick Woollen Mills was founded in 1947 and is now the only coloured woollen spinning mill of its type in Australia.

The mill is located in Creswick, a small township approximately 120km from Melbourne, between Ballarat and Daylesford.

Over 50 Australian mills of this type have closed in the face of competition from cheap imports, but Creswick remains, employing people directly from the community and indirectly through its contractors and suppliers.

The privately owned company remains buoyant, in part, due to the development of a luxury consumer product range with a natural fibre focus. The Creswick mill has mastered the spinning and weaving of alpaca and woollen fibres. This range is complemented by an imported range of cashmere, cotton and merino.

Creswick’s continued success is attributed to ongoing research and innovation, as well as dedication to quality and an understanding that the Australian market appreciates exclusive designs and high quality.

The Family

When Polish migrant Paul Ryzowy wound wool around his first spool in 1947, he could not envisage the longevity of his coloured spinning mill.

Paul worked in the business until 2008 when he passed away at the age of 96. His grandchildren Boaz and Sharon Herszfeld are now at the helm of the company after learning the ropes under the watchful eye of their grandfather.

It is Paul’s tenacity which made an impression on all Creswick staff and is the lasting legacy of the Creswick brand.

The mill began its operation producing an array of blankets in the 1940’s, and then adapted to electric blanket fabric in the 1950’s. During the 1960’s it branched into fabric design for fashion items such as skirts and blazers and dressing gowns.

Embracing the reality of globalisation, Paul and his Grandchildren concentrated on streamlining and diversifying their operation by developing new products to compete with international imports while maintaining a commitment to Australian made.

Drawing on the wealth of knowledge from Paul, the energetic Creswick team bring fresh, new, creative ideas to the business driving the dynamic company forward into a new era in the textile industry.

  • Creswick Woollen Mills is the fastest growing regional tourism attraction 
  • Over 120,000 visitors have enjoyed the experience in the past 12 months
  • New Tourism Development Finalist in the RACV Victoria Tourism Awards
  • Strategic Partner of Ballarat Regional Tourism and Daylesford Macedon Ranges Tourism

From historic working machinery, through to friendly Australian alpacas, Creswick Woollen Mills caters to everyone as it celebrates 68 dynamic years of operation.

Visitors to Creswick Woollen Mills are invited to help us celebrate Australian manufacturing and surround themselves by the enormous range of Natural Fibre products, the largest selection offered in Australia. Journey through 68 years of the Creswick Woollen Mill experience: from its rustic manufacturing beginnings to its luxury boutique nature fibers offering now available.

A visit to the Creswick Woollen Mills includes -
- An interpretive self-guided tour of the interactive tourism experience ‘A Very Fine Yarn’ historic machinery witnessing the marvel of fibre spun into luxury product.
- Feeding the friendly Alpacas on the viewing deck and posting photos on social media

“We want people to spend time looking and learning” CEO Mr. Boaz Herszfeld said. ”This is not a museum, but a working plant with real life people making real life products."

The Creswick Woollen Mills has opened an extended viewing area for visitors. "We see a fantastic future for the Creswick Woollen Mills site combining tourism and niche manufacturing. The purpose is to provide both our regular and new visitors with a unique experience at the last remaining coloured spinning mill in Australia" he said.

“The thirst of the general public to see manufacturing occurring is incredible and I guess that stems from the perceived lack of manufacturing in Australia. As part of a friendly country town we've been able to open our doors to the public and achieve so much.”

About Creswick Woollen Mills:

Founded in 1947, Creswick Woollen Mills is now the only coloured woollen spinning mill of its type in Australia. Creswick Natural Fibre products are designed for optimum comfort and are available all around the world. Ranges include Alpaca Blankets, Cashmere & Possum Knitwear, Merino Accessories and Wool Personal Protection Blankets used by the CFA & RFS. Creswick Woollen Mills is proud to celebrate 68 years of continuous manufacturing in Creswick, a small township approximately 120km from Melbourne, between Daylesford and Ballarat.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Australian Stories - June 2015

News you can use
Australia is home to the world’s best restaurants
Four of Australia’s best restaurants - Attica, Quay, Sepia, and Brae - have been named in the prestigious S.Pellegrino World’s 100 Best Restaurants list, as judged by 900 of the world’s leading chefs, restaurateurs and food media this week. Melbourne restaurant Attica was ranked number 32 for the second consecutive year, while Sydney’s Quay jumped up to number 58. Sydney restaurant Sepia and regional Victoria’s Brae restaurant both made their debut on the list at number 84 and 87 respectively. Additionally, Sepia was crowned the Fastest Rising Restaurant award. Find out why the world is talking about these great Australian restaurants here.
Bedarra Island's new products
Bedarra Island in Tropical North Queensland has introduced a range of new products for the upcoming season. After the resort unveiled a sleek new helicopter to give guests the option of direct heli-transfers from Cairns, it also revealed its eighth villa, The Beach House. This absolute beachfront, split-level villa complete with a plunge pool has been designed and styled to match the barefoot luxury ethos of the private island. Other new additions this season include private scuba charters, private fishing charters and a SeaLegs amphibious boat tour. 
Penfolds launches world-class wine experience
Penfolds has unveiled the redevelopment of its spiritual home, Penfolds Magill Estate, to deliver a world-class wine and visitor experience through the new Cellar Door and Magill Estate Kitchen. The Magill Estate Cellar Door provides a luxurious and refined retail experience with comfortable private and open-plan spaces. The Cellar Door is dedicated to wine education through storytelling and meaningful artefacts like the Penfolds Ampoule. Magill Estate Kitchen is a ‘sister offering’ to the awarded Magill Estate Restaurant, providing guests with an accessible, casual dining environment and a grazing menu built on local and fresh ingredients.
Noosa Long Weekend Festival
The Noosa Long Weekend Festival will grow from 10 to 13 days to accommodate an expanded program this year. The line-up includes a special one-off performance by Opera Australia, an evening with the Queensland Ballet and David Williamson's new play Dream Home. The 2015 Noosa Long Weekend Festival will feature more than 75 events at various locations around Noosa including literature events, forums, live music, theatre performances, interactive art, films, cabaret and supper clubs.
Snow resorts are ready
The snow season has officially kicked off at ski resorts across Victoria and New South Wales. A Snow Victoriaholiday offers accommodation for varied budgets and all inclusive package deals for the budget conscious. Victoria's alpine resorts include Mt Buller, Mt Stirling, Mt Hotham, Falls Creek, Lake Mountain, Mt Baw Baw and Dinner Plain. New South Wales has Thredbo, Perisher, Jindabyne, Alpine Way, Charlotte Pass, Mt Selwyn and Canberra. All resorts offer self-contained apartments, hotels, lodges and bed and breakfast properties.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

The Three Myths of Travel Insurance

SureSave, a leading provider of traveller assistance and insurance, reports that over 60 percent of Australian travellers are unsure exactly what they are covered for when it comes to travel insurance. To ensure travelling customers get the most out of their policies, SureSave is lending its advice to its network of agents to eliminate common travel insurance myths once and for all.

Michael Callaghan, General Manager at SureSave

Michael Callaghan, General Manager at SureSave, said:

“We’re passionate about reminding agents that it’s essential for travellers to know exactly what a policy covers them for. While it’s reassuring to see that over the past two years the number of travellers purchasing insurance in Australia is up by almost 10% - to 71% in 2015 - many travellers are still unclear about certain elements of travel insurance. It’s true that not all travel insurance policies are created equal, but there are some common factors across most reputable policies that travellers should be aware of.”

SureSave’s Top Three ‘Debunked’ Tips

Myth #1 – “If I buy my travel insurance at the same time as I book my holiday, I need to purchase an extra-long policy and pay more…”

It is a little known fact that, in many cases, if travellers purchase a travel insurance policy at the time of payment for their holiday, they’re covered for a range of events prior to travel.

“We’re still seeing that close to 40% of Australian travellers choose not to purchase their insurance at the same time as booking their holiday plans, leaving them at risk of unnecessary disappointment and financial loss before travel. There’s always a chance something could go wrong between the time of booking a holiday and actually departing, so taking out a policy sooner rather than later just makes sense.”

“Many travellers fear that they’ll pay higher premiums if they organise their insurance when they start booking their holiday plans, when in fact, that’s not the case, because the premium is based on trip duration. The earlier they book their travel insurance, the better, and it’s not necessarily more expensive,” says Michael.

Will you be covered in a scooter accident overseas? (Jakarta Post)

Myth #2 – “I don’t need travel insurance - I’m just going on a short trip and the country I’m visiting isn’t risky.”

Regardless of the duration of a holiday, or the destination, travel insurance is a non-negotiable part of preparing for travel.

“Travelling uninsured should never be an option. It doesn’t matter where you’re heading to, or how long you’ll be away for, you never know what can happen. The perceived ‘risk’ of a country is irrelevant - travel insurance claims come from a range of events or situations that are out of our control, so it’s always important to be covered,” says Michael.

“When you consider that without travel insurance, getting home from overseas can cost tens of thousands of dollars - it’s a risk you don’t want to take. Being offloaded from a cruise in Europe with pneumonia can exceed $50,000, and we’ve seen costs just shy of $1 million when a traveller on a motorcycle was hit by a drunk driver. For those who travel regularly, it might be a good idea to opt for an annual policy. It might cost a bit more upfront, but then you can ‘travel easy’ with peace of mind, knowing that your insurance is designed with travel safety and assistance in mind, and you’ll be in safe hands if you do need help.”

Common: Pickpockets can leave you without valuable travel documents like passports

Myth #3 – “I booked my trip using my credit card, so I don’t need to buy travel insurance.”

Travel insurance is often included as part of a credit card package, however, this can be risky if there are any grey areas regarding cover.

“Over 12% of Australian travellers rely on insurance from a credit or debit card or bank, however, the likelihood is that they’re often not aware of what is actually covered. Many ‘free’ or ‘complimentary’ policies can be risky as they may not provide medical cover, only cover the holiday components that were paid for using the credit card or cover the cardholder but not the whole family. My advice is to check the PDS of your policy properly, and check it again, to ensure that it covers everything you need. You can’t put a price on your health and safety, so if you aren’t satisfied, purchase a policy that provides a full range of coverage to meet your needs. You won’t regret it.”

SureSave offers something travellers need more than ever before: World Assistance. SureSave provides assistance to cover travellers before, during and after their travels.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Classic Cruising Vanuatu


David Ellis

GOOD news from Vanuatu is that with the coming of our winter, one of the best full-day adventures out of tropical little Port Vila is once again up and running after the devastation to the tourism industry of Cyclone Pam in March.

We're talking about an outing aboard the historic 23m (75ft) ketch Coongoola for a day's sun, sand, swimming, snorkelling and barbecuing at one of the cutest little havens this island paradise has to offer – and with maybe a local Tusker beer or three tossed in to avert dehydration

Coongoola was out of action for a month after the stout little vessel suffered some minor damage as she hid behind an island in Vila Harbour  during the fury of 250kph winds (one gust 320kph/198mph,) and while Mother Nature replenished the white sands of the delightfully-named Hapi Tok Beach that she visits and which Pam's mountainous seas had partly washed-away.

But once again visitors to Port Vila can now revel in this magical day's outing that begins with mini-bus pick-ups from Vila hotels, and a picturesque 40-minute drive out to Coongoola's anchorage in Havannah Harbour, famous for its role in 1942's Battle of the Coral Sea.

Relax aboard with morning tea of French buns and tea or Vanuatu coffee on the way across to tiny Moso Island where Coongoola's owner, Owen Drew has run a voluntary  turtle conservation rookery for the past eleven years, breeding, tagging and releasing into the ocean over 1,100 highly-endangered Hawksbills in that time.

In return for a donation, passengers can name a turtle – and have their own email address added to its tag so anyone coming across it in the future can let them know where its wandering…

After the turtles its onwards again aboard Coongoola, this time to Hapi Tok Beach on Moso's uninhabited rain-shadow side – a haven exclusive to Coongoola's guests for a few hours of swimming the electric-blue waters, snorkelling over rainbow-coloured coral reefs, maybe dozing in sun or shade, and partaking of an expansive barbecue and accompanying table-load of tropical salads… with beer and soft-drinks available via an honesty-box.

And as lunch ends thousands of now-tame fish splash, right on cue, into the waters off the beach for guests to wade amongst and finger-feed with the left-overs…

Finally when it's time to head homewards Coongoola's sails go up (depending on the winds,) fresh fruit platters are offered aboard – and playful dolphins often leap around the yacht's bow as she heads back to Havannah Harbour.

Owen Drew says Coongoola was one of the few yachts in Port Vila to survive Cyclone Pam, over 50-plus other vessels foundering in the huge seas and record winds – including his shared-ownership 13m day-outing trimaran, Sea Spray.

"Coongoola was built by old-school shipwrights who made things to last," Drew says.

Even so, Cyclone Pam's winds were so strong one 16mm steel bolt on a mast fitting simply snapped, and a 32mm (1.25inch) "unbreakable" polyester rope attached to one of several anchors tore apart.

In reality Cyclone Pam proved just another chapter in Coongoola's colourful life that began when she was built in 1948 for a Toowoomba businessman to make a business trip to South Africa.

Later, with a professional crew, he, his wife and two children spent 15 months on a world cruise, and in the 1960s under new owners Coongoola became the radio "mother ship" for the Sydney-Hobart yacht fleet.

The British Government later bought her for use in the-then British Solomon Islands, eventually abandoning her in the 1970s without a thought to her captivating history. She was rescued in dilapidated condition by dive and charter fishing  operator, Drew – even her twin masts having been cut off to give more deck space for cargo.

Owen Drew painstakingly removed an extraordinary 27 coats of paint that had simply been slapped one on top of the other, got hold of new masts, replaced rotting timbers and put her into his dive and fishing fleet.

He also used her in a 4,800km survey of the islands, before sailing off to Vanuatu for a new life there.

Coongoola's day out is presently on special at AU$120pp (current exchange rates,) including transfers, turtle rookery visit, snorkelling equipment, morning and afternoon teas, and barbecue lunch; drinks are additional. Details travel agents or

[] HAPI Tok Beach with fresh new sand washed up by Mother Nature after Cyclone Pam largely denuded this picturesque little haven.
[] PART of the beautiful coral reef off Hapi Tok Beach.
[] COONGOOLA's owner, Owen Drew still enjoys taking the helm on quality-control trips aboard the ketch.
[] COONGOOLA as one-time "mother ship" for the Sydney-Hobart yacht fleet.
(All images:

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