Exploring Tasmania...Who is James Boag?

Sunday, February 28, 2010

James Boag beer has had some pretty racy ads over the years.

James Boag's Premium Lager is a European style lager brewed from the finest quality pilsener malts.  This beer is fermented at a lower temperature than most Australian lagers and employs an extended maturation period.  These combine with a mixture of kettle and late hopping to yield a crisp, pale lager that perfectly complements fine food.

You can experience a tour of J Boag and Son brewery in Launceston, Northern Tasmania.  James Boag commenced his brewing tradition on the banks of the Esk River in 1852.

During a tour of this brewery you'll see all the processes that produce this amber liquid.  At the end of the tour you can enjoy tasting four award-winning beers matched with King Island cheese.

In the spirit of exploring Tasmania, we have a six pack of this delectable beer to give away.

To enter, simply become a follower and leave a comment with your favourite holiday destination.  A winner will be drawn next week.  Good luck!


Exploring Tasmania...weeeeeeeeeeeee!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The last time we visited Launceston for the weekend, we stayed in a beautifully maintained Heritage listed, Victorian home called Ashton Gate.  It was close to the city centre and more importantly, the Boags brewery.

My husband was a little dubious about staying in B & B style luxury accommodation but after a weekend of being taken care of by Jennifer and John he didn't want to go home!

We had breakfast at Ashton Gate each morning and hit Stillwater and The Jailhouse Grill for dinner.

Stillwater.  Set in a beautifully restored 1830s flour mill.  The Tuna was to die for.

Our room.

As much as my husband wanted to spend the whole weekend at the Boag's Brewery, I convinced him to spend a day with me at the Hollybank Treetops Adventure.  

A bus picked us up from the B & B and took us to Hollybank reserve, which is only about 15 minutes from Launceston.  Hollybank is one of the earliest private plantations in Tasmania consisting of European trees.  They were originally planted to obtain wood for the construction of cricket bats (!).

The reserve is so tranquil and beautiful, and there were plenty of families enjoying the grounds.  I was almost sorry that we'd left the kids at home.  Almost.

We were there for the Canopy Tour.  I must confess I've developed a terrible fear of heights (something to do with the Stratosphere in Vegas) so seeing how high the platforms were made my knees knock a little.

The basic concept of the Canopy Tour is that they take tourists up into the forest canopy and you then traverse between treehouse-type platforms along steel cables. The platforms are built around tree trunks in the mid canopy of the forest, approximately 30m high.  You're kitted out in a harness with pulleys attached and slide along the cables from one platform to the next.

It's like being on a flying fox, but on a whole new level.

Ged and Tillsy, our tour guides, were very entertaining and quite good at dealing with scaredy cats like me.  The first few flights were pretty tame but I screamed like a banshee as I slid down the zipline (much to the amusement of the others in the group, little kids included).  

By the last flight, a 370 metre trip over the Pipers River, I was having a ball.  I thoroughly enjoyed the adrenalin rush of sliding above the forest.  The views from the platforms were stunning.

It's a 3 hour adventure and the most fun I've had!  If you're ever in the Launceston area and up for some fun, then make sure you try the Hollybank Treetops Adventure.  I definitely earned my bottle of James Boags that day.


Exploring Victoria....The Great Grape Road

Monday, February 22, 2010

At first when I heard about The Great Grape Road I laughed...who invents tours that involve driving and wineries?  I've never been a big fan of the taste and spit part of wine tasting.  Drink for effect not flavour has always been my philosophy!  

I'm joking (only slightly).

If you have a responsible adult with you, then the Great Grape Road touring route is a fantastic scenic circuit through the Pyrenees, Grampians and Ballarat wine regions of western Victoria.

This is the ultimate hedonistic experience.  Eat, drink, be merry.

This post will provide you with a general route and a list of all the vineyards that you can visit.  Each has its own cellar door opening times, but because there are so many available to you I'm sure the experience will be amazing regardless of what you visit.

Local cellar door experiences range in style from sophisticated tasting rooms to barrel-side tastings in underground tunnels.  Remember, this is a hedonistic road trip...it's all about eating and drinking.

Winemakers are keen to share their experiences and their produce.  These people put their blood, sweat and tears into producing their wine.  It takes months and sometimes even years to produce a wine that you are proud to put your name on.  Indulge them.  Enjoy.  Appreciate the craftsmanship that goes into making a single bottle of vino.

Most cellar doors have adjacent cafes that allow you to indulge in a great drop then taste some of the local produce.  Think great local cheeses and other mouth watering snacks.

The scenic countryside around Ararat, Buangor, Great Western and Hall Gaps is home to outstanding wineries such as Seppelt's and Best's Great Western and newer vineyards such as Mt Langi Ghiran and Montara.

Grampians wines are known for their strong berry flavours and soft tannins.  Just surveying the vineyards while you taste the local drop is a memory you can't replace.  

Fratin Brothers Vineyard

Grampians Estate

Kimbarra Wines

Montara Winery

Mount Langi Ghiran

Norton Estate Wines

Seppelt Great Western

The Gap Vineyard

After leaving the mountainous terrain of the Grampians, the Great Grape Road swings east toward the soaring Pyranees, a splendid backdrop for a tasting at the region's excellent wineries.

The rich purple berry flavours of the region's cabernet sauvignon and shiraz offer hints of mint and eucalyptus.  It's chardonnay sauvignon blanc show soft stone fruit flavours and a refreshing acidity.  It's amazing how within such a small distance, there is such a large variety of delectable wines to savour. 

Amherst Winery

Berrys Bridge Vineyard

Blue Pyrenees Estate

Counterpoint Vineyard

Cullenya Winery

Dalwhinne Wines

Dogrock Winery

Eurabbie Estate

Jardine Wines

Kara Kara Winery

Mount Avoca Vineyard

Neds Vineyard

Peerick Vineyard

Pyren Vineyard

Pyranees Ridge Vineyard

Quoin Hill Vineyard 

Redbank Winery

Shays Flat Estate

St Ignatius Vineyard

Summerfield Wines

Taltarni Vineyards

Warrenmang Vineyard Resort

Wimmera Hills Winery

From the Pyranees, the Great Grape Road swings south to the nine wineries of Ballarat region, where the climate is ideal for chardonnay and pinot noir.  The long growing season here produces complex and subtle wines - flint and citrus in the chardonnay and spice and rich berry character in the pinot noir.

Captains Creek Organic Wines

Eastern Peake

Gold Fields Winery

Michael Unwin Wines

Mount Beckworth Wines

Mount Buninyong Winery

Mt Coghill Vineyard

St Anee's Vineyard

Whitehorse Wines

This drive takes around 3 days.  If you have the time, take a few more days and indulge.

The list of vineyards is amazing.  The girls at Luxury Oz Stays can suggest some great accommodation to rest your weary head after all that vino.  Or even find you a driver so you can indulge in the lap of luxury.

Once again folks, eat, drink, be merry.

You only live once.

Thank you to  http://www.visitvictoria.com for the great information.


Stories from the Suitcase...Bali

Friday, February 19, 2010

It's Friday, ladies and gentlemen and it's time for you guys to share your travel stories.  We want to know the good, the bad, the ugly.  Let others know if you found your dream destination or if your holiday turned into a nightmare.  Just drop us an email to share your stories from the suitcase!

This week Hayden revisits his first trip to Bali.

1. Destination?

Bali.  We flew Jetstar from Darwin to Denpasar.  It was a short flight.  The airport in Denpasar is a bit overwhelming.  Make sure you have some US dollars to pay for your visa (about $20).  Our host at our Villa organised for us to skip the queues and got us past customs in about 2 minutes. 

2.  Where did you stay?

We stayed at a Luxury Private Villa called Villa Hening.  It's in Jimbaran Bay and overlooks Benoa Harbour.  It had a great pool, jacuzzies, a spa (which the wife took full advantage of), private theatre and fitness centre.  It'd be a great place to take a bunch of friends there (which we plan to do).

We had a great time having drunken parties with some Japanese guests, surfing in the pool.

Our room was right next to that Bali hut and that's where we ate breakfast everyday, right next to an awesome infinity edge pool overlooking the whole valley.

Our room had its own outdoor tub and luxury shower.

No pokey hotel room here!

It was a bit strange to have staff at your beck and call 24 hours a day at first, but we got used to it pretty quickly.  The villa was only 15 minutes from the airport and 10 minutes to Jimbaran Beach and Nusa Dua shopping complex.  The good thing was the staff organised all our transport, recommended the best places to eat.

3. What time of year did you travel?

We went to Bali in February.  The weather was pretty hot and occasionally there was a light shower (which was actually refreshing).  Most days were spent in the pool.

4. Who did you travel with?

My wife.  It was our wedding anniversary.

5. How did you get around?

We had a driver from the Villa drop us off if we wanted to get anywhere then made our way back in Taxis.  Apparently you should only go in the blue taxis with birds on them because all the others are dodgy.

All the balinese get around on scooters.  It's really freaky seeing 3 people piled onto a scooter.  They're a bit mad with the road rules, but it all seems to work.

We decided to be rebels though and took a walk through the suburbs.

That's a cow in the bushes.

These poor dogs are everywhere.

6. Food?

We took full advantage of the restaurant at the Villa.  I seriously nearly ate every single item on the menu.

We also tried a few restaurants on the beach in Bali.  Our favourite was this outdoor restaurant with red furniture, weird food and a pool.  

In between cocktails we'd have a swim.  It was a bit expensive though.  There were cheaper Asian style places to eat that had great food and cold beer.

Jimbaran Bay seafood restaurant was awesome as well.  Really fresh fish.

It was weird to see rice on offer in their KFC and McDonalds.

7. Trip Highlights?

We visited the monkey forest and that was pretty cool.

Sitting in the private theatre and watching about 20 dodgy DVDs while getting room service was definitely a highlight.

We had fun shopping in the markets and bought a bunch of cheap knock offs like Billabong shirts and shorts, sunglasses and the wife bought a few hand bags.

The furniture and historical places are visually spectacular, too.

8. Trip low point?

The poverty.  Outside of the rich area where we stayed you can see that people are really struggling.  The open sewers in the streets were also gross.  We saw an old lady just squat and pee into the gutter right in the tourist strip in Kuta.

Seeing all of the neglected dogs roaming the streets was pretty bad too.  The wife just wanted to feed them all.  

Getting hassled by every single local trying to sell you something got irritating after a while too.  You try to be polite but they don't take no for a answer.

9. What would you like others to know about your destination?

We only explored a really small part of Bali.  I know there are beautiful destinations all over the island but we just wanted a relaxing trip away. 

It also really threw us how poor and dirty the country is.

If you want a really relaxing holiday rent a private villa.  It's luxury accommodation but it's not expensive and the service is impeccable.

Next time we plan to stay there, explore other areas of the island and go surfing.


Exploring Tasmania...Enter the Caveman...

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Ever since I watched 'The Descent' on DVD I've wanted to try caving.

You know, for the adrenalin rush of descending into the earth and exploring the subterranean alien environment.

Not for the monster at the end of the movie.


I want the adventure without the danger, thanks!

Luckily, there's plenty of places that cater to a novice like me and have been tried and tested to make sure there are no monsters lurking in the shadows.

These caves are the perfect destination to visit if you're staying in North West Tasmania.

Head to Mole Creek Karst National Park.  It's approximately 40 minutes from Deloraine (which holds the worlds oldest working craft fair) but can be a great day trip if you're staying in Devonport or Cradle Mountain.

Mole Creek Karst National Park protects deep limestone caves of superb stalactites, stalagmites and columns, glow worm displays, subterranean streams and cathedral caverns.

The park is best known for two richly decorated caves open to the general public, but it's 1, 345 hectares contain 300 caves and sink holes in all.  Although visiting the caves should be high on your agenda, don't miss the opportunity to take a walk through the beautiful forests in which these caves occur.

You'll have the opportunity to explore Marakoopa and King Solomons Caves on a guided tour - they've recently celebrated 100 years of public visitation (and lost no one...yet).  Picnic shelters, free barbecues  and toilets are located close by.

There are several guided tours run at different times throughout the day from 10 -4 for the general public. If you are an experienced caver,  a knowledgeable guide can lead you through one of the region's wild caves, not open to the general public.

The two tours of Marakoopa and the tour of King Solomons are quite different, but each tour takes approximately 45 minutes (tickets for the caves need to be bought at the central office which is about 600m prior to the entrance).


This cave was  named after an Aboriginal word meaning 'handsome' and is characterised by a superb glow warm display, which is well worth the effort.

The Underground Rivers and Glow Worms is an easy tour for all age groups and fitness types.  Visit the lower chamber with its sparkling crystals, reflection pools, stalactites and stalagmites.  Listen to the underground streams and wander down abandoned river passages.  

The Cathedral Gardens and Glow Worms tour requires a reasonable level of fitness.  The large cavern known as the "Great Cathedral' is not to be missed. 'The Gardens' feature delicate formations and beautiful colours.


It's a compact cave system with elaborate geological formations, including stunning calcite crystals known as King Solomon's Diamonds.  The cave has high scientific and conservation significance and is home to a number of threatened plant and animal species.  It is a dry cave, with no stream running through it.

Awesome!  Great way to experience some of the caves in Tasmania without going extreme.

Once you've visited the caves, you can play tourist in the Mole Creek area. 

Hit Stephens Leatherwood Honey Factory for a jar of leatherwood honey.  Or pay a visit to the Tasmanian Wildlife Park and Koala Village for an up close encounter with a Tasmanian Devil.


Exploring Victoria...Inspired by the Winter Games...

Monday, February 15, 2010

The 2010 Winter Olympics Games are currently underway in Vancouver, Canada (currently Australia has one silver medal, woot woot!)

I don't know about you but for those of us sweltering in the Australian summer, the images of all the supporters frolicking in the snow and more so, the fairytale Whistler resort...

makes me yearn for a skiiing holiday with the family.  Such a fairy tale setting!  Makes me want to pack my suitcases and grab the next flight to Canada. 

Until I realised I'd have to spend 22 hours on a plane.  With my children.

Um...maybe not. 

Time to check out what's available in good ol' Oz.

We took the kids on a snow trip a few years back and it was one of the best family holidays that we've had.

Although there is great skiing in New South Wales too, I think Victoria offers a better variety of snow fields and the snow is within easy access of Melbourne.  Whether you're a beginner or a pro, or simply want to throw a few snowballs at the kiddies, there are plenty of options to satisfy your inner snow bunny.  

We chose not to stay on the actual resorts (it can get pretty pricey), but picked a few different destinations so that we could drive around and explore the region.  That way we had the option of hitting the ski fields for a day and then relax doing other activities the next.  Snow is lots of fun but it can also be wet, miserable and cold.  Keep your options open!

Basically, the higher the mountain, the better the snow quality and the more chances of there being snow.

The Yarra Valley and Dandenong Ranges let you enjoy some of the best cross-country skiing in the country, tobogganing, snow play and alpine landscapes at Melbourne's closest snow fields.

In Gippsland, Mt Baw Baw and Mt St Gwinear offer the chance for you to enjoy skiing or snow boarding.

The High Country has some of Australia's most beautiful and accessible alpine regions.  Mt Buller, Mt Hotham, Falls Creek, Mt Stirling, Lake Mountain and Dinner Plain give you a variety of destinations to choose from.  

You just need to know what sort of activities tickle your fancy and let someone recommend the best destination and accommodation.

PS.  And if you're not a fan of snow, the Australian Alps are great to explore in summer too!

Time to check the medal count, Go Australia!


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