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15
Apr
0

Relax and rejuvenate at Gaia Retreat

Posted on in Check In: Review of the Month

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Ever wondered what it's like to go to a health retreat? We've previously compared two of Australia's best wellness retreats and you can read the verdict here. Our guide will help you decide which retreat is best for you.

Each year we arrange for a bunch of like-minded ladies to take some time out and escape to luxury at a wellness retreat and we opted to return to Gaia Retreat again with gusto!

Gaia Retreat is co-owned by Olivia Newton-John and long-time friend Gregg Cave and located in the Byron Bay Hinterland around 2 hours from Brisbane or 20 minutes from Ballina Airport. Gaia provided transfers as part of the package for our interstate guests, making access a breeze. The retreat is majestically poised on the highest point in the region and boasts a dramatic backdrop of undulating hills and green valleys that have a calming and transformational affect on all who visit.

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Gaia Retreat is quite simply heaven on earth and here's why. It's luxurious, delicious, relaxing, rejuvenating...it's total bliss.

It's easy to feel instantly relaxed at Gaia, from the moment you pass through the ornately carved wooden gates, meander through the lush gardens and check in at Kukura House, you know you've arrived somewhere special. Our tip, pack light you'll end up living in active wear, swimmers and wrapping yourself luxuriously in the batic robes all day, despite the stylish and luxurious surrounds the retreat is not pretentious, it's a no-make-up, wear-your-tracksuit-pants all-day kinda place, and we wouldn't have it any other way.

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Gaia has recently undergone a facelift including new soft furnishings in the main house and restaurant, fabulous hanging chairs on the verandah, new paths throughout the retreat and some upgrades around the pool & day spa area. Regular guests will notice the subtle changes, but it has still retained the same peaceful Gaia vibe.

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Gaia is a retreat where you can literally hand all the decision-making over to the staff and focus on reconnecting with yourself and nature. Prior to arrival you complete a wellness form outlining your health concerns and food preferences plus pre-booking your spa treatments. All that pre-planning allows for bespoke gourmet meals tailored to your dietary requirements and a handwritten card presented each evening outlining your personalised activities for the day ahead. It's this level of personal service that sets Gaia apart.

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Image credit: B. Billing

Daily 90-minute yoga restores the balance and the surprising highlight of the weekend's activities was the sound meditation session. Sound meditation you say? It is the practice of using ancient Tibetan instruments to clear your mind and bring you into a deep state of meditation. As the instructor musically plays the crystal bowls, then a hypnotic pan flute and then breaks into song, it's truly magical. I know it sounds all new age woowoo, but it's quite simply magical!

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We also participated in an art therapy class where we were encouraged to peacefully paint a rock inspired by the journey that lead us to Gaia and then sculpt two art pieces, one representing what is holding us back and the other about letting it go. It was an emotional journey for the group and an unexpected bonding exercise, which left us feeling lighter and focused.

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Between activities, lazing by the sun-dappled pool is the order of the day here. Our group alternates between reading by the pool, soaking up the sunshine and popping in to the day spa for endless heavenly treatments. We may never leave!

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One of the true pleasures of Gaia is the food, as each and every meal is nourishing, inventive and changes daily chosen by the chef. Breakfast is a buffet laden with seasonal fruit, muesli, smoked salmon, avocado, tomatoes and more plus an abundance of super food toppings to sprinkle over everything – bee pollen anyone? But wait, there's more...a delicious hot breakfast follows your buffet grazing, so leave some room. Organic coffee is available on request so you don't have to go without your caffeine hit. Lunch is a flavour packed salad or pasta dish of a million different ingredients you wouldn't have a hope of recreating at home despite being able to purchase a Gaia Cookbook. Dinner is the main event with three delicious courses by candlelight and you can order wine from an impressive organic selection.

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Whether your intention is to lose weight, detoxify, destress, get fit or maybe you just need peace and serenity to regain balance; Gaia provides everything you need to help you on your path. You'll feel comfortable here alone, with a friend or partner or with a small group. It's an inspiring and nurturing retreat in a peaceful setting. It's quite simply the most relaxing retreat you can hope to find, with everyone in our group vowing to return soon.

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Want to join our next Gaia Retreat Wellness Weekend? Email us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to express your interest and we'll notify you of the next getaway or contact us to create your own journey.

All inclusive packages including two nights accommodation, all gourmet meals and snacks, morning yoga and all scheduled activities, $250 spa voucher per room, spa gift pack and use of all facilities start from around $500 per person per night, twin share minimum 2 night stay.

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04
Apr
0

Go for Gold!

Posted on in Travel Tips

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With all eyes on the Gold Coast for the Commonwealth Games, we take a look at what's new and why the Gold Coast shines.

"The Goldie" has seen an incredible transformation ever since the news broke in 2011 that the city would host the 2018 Commonwealth Games. This was the catalyst for an influx of infrastructure projects, new glistening hotels, top-notch eateries and beautification of the glitter strip in readiness for games time. In short, the Gold Coast has never looked so good!

Dining and drinking
There was a time when the Gold Coast Highway was littered with 50's style motels and fast food chains, but times have changed, making way for a new wave of modern foodies. On the beach at Burleigh, you'll find one of the Gold Coast's brightest stars at Rick Shores. Overseen by Executive Chef Jake Pregnell, diners enjoy the bright, bold Pan-Asian menu overlooking the turquoise seas of Burleigh Heads Beach. Sound like heaven?

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Nearby, discover The Fish House and as the name suggests, you'll find the Gold Coast's freshest seafood at this fine diner. The beach house luxe interiors, efficient service and impeccable cuisine are only overshadowed by the dazzling views of Burleigh Beach.

In Surfers Paradise, you can't go passed QT's remodelled Japanese eatery Yamagen. In typical QT style, the fit out is bold and fun, the food inventive and delicious with a creative cocktail list to seal the deal.

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For brunch, our pick is Elk Espresso, a local institution that has been welcoming a mix of locals and visitors to its unassuming café in Broadbeach for years. It has recently moved into the hub of Broadbeach's Oasis Shopping precinct and can now boast beach views to go with your latte!

Shop til you Drop

Thanks to a $670 million renovation Pacific Fair, the Gold Coast's premier shopping centre is now a serious contender in the shopping stakes. Here you'll find high-end international brands such as Christian Louboutin, Chanel, Prada & Givenchy mixing it with popular chain stores such as H&M, Zara and Sephora. You'll also find Australian designers such as Aje, Sass & Bide and Manning Cartel flexing their fashion muscles.

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Sleep with Me
Gold Coast hotels have never been more sexy! Say goodbye to tropical print fabrics and wicker furniture of old and hello to luxury hotels with impeccable design and styling. The Star (formerly Jupiters Casino) has unveiled their new "six star" hotel The Darling which boasts an uber-chic rooftop lounge bar called Nineteen at The Star

The Island has taken the kitschy cool of the Gold Coast and amplified it to create a boutique hotel with modern accommodation, stunning rooftop bars and restaurants. It's luxe for less on the glitter strip.

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In Burleigh, you'll find a new beachside hidden gem with bespoke furnishings by designer diva Anna Spiro, of Halcyon House fame. The three bedroom Bon Sol apartment has swoon worthy interiors, complete with bar cart for mixing those beachy cocktails, umbrella optional. Also in Burleigh, book our favourite beachside abode, Bujerum Apartments.

Not to be outdone, there's newcomer the Ruby Collection; four towers on the site of the original Surfers Paradise Resort which will continue to change the face of the GC. The first 5 star tower will feature 230 apartments and 13 villas and is due to open in November 2018.

In the meantime, if you lust for laid back luxury with absolute beachfront location, then consider the chaming Dorchester on the Beach. Modern apartments, awe-inspiring views with professional service that just can't be beat.

Have you discovered the Gold Coast recently? What's your favourite find?

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02
Apr
0

Girls' Weekend in Melbourne

Posted on in Check In: Review of the Month

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Planning a girls getaway can be logistically challenging, firstly there's co-ordinating schedules to find a date everyone is available and then arranging the husbands and kids if you have families to wrangle, so you can enjoy a well earned break with your best girlfriends.

Deciding on the destination was surprisingly easy for our group of gals. Our wish list extended to shopping, dining, culture and relaxing in equal measure, so Melbourne easily won our vote. I sent a shortlist of hotels to the girls to consider and they unanimously agreed to book Ovolo Laneways, as it offered the best location – central city and surrounded by restaurants and bars and included a host of included extras like free minibar and free breakfast, so while it wasn't the cheapest option, it provided the best quality and value for our two night getaway.

After an early morning flight, our first stop in Melbourne was in search of COFFEE, surely an easy request in this coffee loving city...

Where we ate and drank

The European: off the plane and straight to the European, an old favourite and Melbourne institution. It's like being transported back to Italy, with dark interiors and bustling with efficient staff. The crumbed soft egg with asparagus soldiers was the pick of the brunch menu.

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Rice Paper Scissors: We didn't need to wander far from our hotel to find exceptional food, we simply headed around the corner to Rice Paper Scissors, which came highly recommended. We added our name to the waitlist and returned 40 minutes later to a meal that was worth waiting for! We were perched on a communal table and made friends with a fabulous couple who shared their wine – winning! Absolutely choose the 5 dishes for 2 people for $65 option with Betel Leaf with smoked scallop and crispy pork belly salad with fresh betel leaves and chilli caramel sauce a real standout.

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Punch Lane Wine Bar: a cosy wine bar neighbouring Ovolo Laneways, it is an ideal spot for cocktails and watching the comings and goings of laneway life.

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Self Preservation Coffee: an inviting and creative space on Bourke St surrounded by art and wine. Time permitting, I would have loved to return to this gem by night.

Archie's All Day: Hungry? Thirsty? Archie's has you covered with an inventive menu, friendly staff, cool tunes and cocktails – the perfect spot for a boozy brunch. I had the special - Roasted Pumpkin Hommus with pomegranate, almonds, freekah, haloumi, poached egg and Turkish bread, but every dish looked the goods. This was the kind of café you wished was your local.

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Alimentari: another neighbourhood diner you wished was in your 'hood. This deli has been in Fitzroy for 20 years and it's not hard to see why with quality Panini, wraps and scrumptious items from the deli cabinet.

Marion Wine Bar: after a day shopping in Fitzroy, the inviting setting of Marion's with its warmth and simplicity beckoned us in for a vino.

Bomba Spanish Tapas & Rooftop: Great atmosphere at Bomba, where we grazed on tasty morsels and enjoyed carafes of Spanish Spritz – Aperol, Casa Mariol Blanco, Soda, Lime and Orange. Ole!

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Siglo Bar: a great late night spot for cocktails with views of the floodlit columned façade of Parliament, the spire of St Patrick's Cathedral and the domes of the Princess Theatre. It's Parisian chic, but the waft of Cuban cigars from other patrons can be overwhelming at times.

Longsong: also worth checking out the converted horse stables above Longrain, which is now a new bar, it's a great space with exposed brick walls, soaring loft ceilings and original stable floors.

Osteria Ilaria: I do love sitting at the bar and watching the chefs work their magic right in front of your eyes. We sat, we drank and ate plate-fulls of tasty Italian morsels. Bliss!

Where we shopped

While Melbourne is like any other city, with all the major chain stores available, there is the allure and promise that you'll discover something special. We'd arrived during the Black Friday sales (observed on the Friday after USA Thanksgiving) which was fortuitous and I highly recommend planning that time for a future girls getaway and some pre-Christmas shopping.

While we browsed Burke Street Mall and Melbourne Emporium, we soon longed for something more unique and hightailed it to Fitzroy.

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Olga de Polga: Quirky vintage inspired fashion designed in Melbourne, featuring bold colourful creations.

Zetta Florence: beautiful stationery and homewares store embracing the fine art of letter writing and journals.

Leonard St: Quirky clothes designed by Amanda McCarthy featuring bold prints, colour and beautiful fabrics.

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The LAIR: a concept store originating in Newcastle NSW and now also in Melbourne featuring a curated collection of clothing brands.

Design Dispensary: Unique, designer homewares from boutique designers across the globe.

Where we stayed
Ovolo Laneways is ideal for a Melbourne girls' getaway, located within walking distance of Melbourne's best bars and restaurants, as well as an easy walk to Melbourne's major shopping precincts. We splurged on the two-bedroom, two-bathroom Terrace Suite with plenty of room for a party of 4. While we didn't touch the well equipped kitchen, we loved stretching out on the sunny private terrace with city views. We also loved the Ovolo freebies including free Grab n Go breakfast, free daily happy hour, free mini-bar, welcome snacks and more.

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So tell me, where's your favourite place to dine, drink and shop in Melbourne for a girls' getaway?

Ovolo Laneways
19 Little Bourke St, Melbourne VIC 3000
Book Ovolo Laneways here.

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24
Mar
0

5 Last Minute Easter Long Weekend Escapes

Posted on in Travel Tips

Easter is upon us and it's time to slip into the annual chocolate coma and indulge in all things decadent - Easter bunnies & hot cross buns before breakfast and oh so much laziness. Better than a weekend getaway, but not so long you need someone to water the plants, the 4 day long weekend provides a great escape and will surely cure all that ails you.

If the Easter break has snuck up on you, take inspiration from our Top 5 Last Minute Easter Escapes. Whether you're dreaming of a romantic getaway for two, family holiday or group getaway with friends, there's an ideal destination for you. We're sure the Easter Bunny won't mind hopping to Port Douglas to find you!

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1. Thala Beach Nature Reserve, Port Douglas
This privately owned, independent eco resort isn't just environmentally sensitive it's luxe too! Relax in peaceful bungalows, dine at onsite Osprey's restaurant and chill at the secluded beach. Sound like heaven? Book here.

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2. The Rise Noosa, Sunshine Coast
It's no secret we love Noosa and the Sunshine Coast for its beaches, boutiques and dining. The Rise Noosa has last minute two bedroom apartments available this Easter for $550/night (normally $800/night) this breezy and modern hilltop hideaway is generously proportioned to cater effortlessly for group getaways or family holidays and an easy stroll down to Hastings Street. Instantly bookable here.

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3. Menso South Bank, Brisbane
South Bank is the perfect spot to relax in Brisbane this long weekend, with a choice of restaurants and bars right on your doorstop. Take a city break at Menso South Bank Brisbane where it's still warm enough to take a dip in the rooftop pool this Autumn. Book now with Studio Apartments from $144 per night.

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4. H Boutique Hotel, Hunter Valley
How about a long weekend in the Hunter, sipping wines and dining out at award winning restaurants? Sound like a plan? H Boutique Hotel is super central to all the best wineries and makes the perfect base for your wine weekend. Book your Easter getaway here.

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5. Kudos Villas, Daylesford
Recharge your batteries in the spa capital of Australia and rejuvenate at Daylesford and Hepburn Springs. Escape to the romantic haven of Kudos Villas and their Kudos Fire Villa designed exclusively for couples featuring open fireplace, love seat and romantic spa bath. Book your Easter Escape to Kudos Villas here.

All options are instantly bookable with no booking or credit card fees. Subject to availability and minimum stay requirements may apply, check terms & conditions under listing details. For more options, simply search here by state, region and your preferred dates and go!

Where is your favourite Easter getaway destination? Do you prefer a coastal, country or city escape?

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14
Mar
0

Bendooley Estate Review

Posted on in Check In: Review of the Month

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My Instagram profile states 'lover of food, wine, travel & books' and so imagine my sheer delight to find a retreat that combines all my favourite things in one heavenly package! Say farewell to the city and hello to the ultimate escape to the country at the stylish Bendooley Estate.

Bendooley Estate located in the Southern Highlands, 90 minutes from Sydney has recently opened additional cottages to complement its existing Book Barn Cottage. The extra one, two and three bedroom cottages are the perfect luxury addition to the onsite offerings which include the iconic Berkelouw Book Barn, restaurant & bar, wedding venue and award-winning cellar door.

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The rustic luxe cottages are clad in sustainable Australian hardwood and are sympathetic to the environment, blending in to the landscape seamlessly and surrounded by natural bushland. Step inside though and you'll be greeted by luxurious interiors, whimsical colours, patterns and textures inspired by the UK's Kit Kemp (Firmdale Hotels) but with a firm focus on Australian design and style.

A charming nod to the Berkelouw Books heritage, each cottage is named after famous Australian authors – Norman Lindsay, Henry Lawson, Banjo Patterson, Patrick White and May Gibbs. I had the pleasure of checking in to the Norman Lindsay, a spacious one-bedroom cottage decked out in yellow & blue calming tones with bespoke wallpaper and contrasting upholstered bedheads and eclectic furniture.

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Be still my beating heart, the enormous bathroom boasting handmade floor tiles features a deep free-standing bath and Appelles amenities including 'bath caviar' for some serious soaking! Each cottage has been individually styled and I'd love to see more books sneak in to the holiday haven, particular from the namesake authors. No doubt, this is on the way as the cottages are still brand new and the team are still busily adding items and working out the service kinks.

I highly recommend you settle in and take advantage of the onsite catering options such as the Bendooley charcuterie board filled with cured meats, chicken liver pate, olives, cornichons and toasted Turkish bread. Add a selection of cheeses and some Bendooley wine and you have yourself the perfect night in

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Sleep soundly on the cloud-like beds and enjoy breakfast on the private veranda taking in the rural views. Breakfast is a simple continental affair featuring a baguette, condiments, homemade granola with yoghurt, seasonal fruit and orange juice. The room is kitted out with a wide selection of T2 teas and a Nespresso machine to keep you caffeinated and ready to explore the stunning Southern Highlands.

For weekend getaways, you're spoilt for choice with restaurants, cafes and boutiques all open for your dining and shopping pleasure. While I highly encourage midweek mini-breaks, you just need to plan a little more carefully as many restaurants in the region close on Monday/Tuesday.

While our one bedroom had a petite kitchenette, the two and three bedroom cottages are fully self-contained with well-equipped kitchens, separate living areas and wood fireplaces which are bound to be popular in the cooler months. The original two-bedroom Book Barn Cottage will also be completely refurbished to complement the new cottages.

Bendooley Estate has created the ultimate country retreat, allowing guests to soak up the beauty of the estate grounds in an incredibly luxurious and intimate setting.

Bendooley Estate
3020 Old Hume Highway, Berrima NSW 2577
Book Bendooley Estate here. One Bedroom cottage, midweek from $295 per night.

The writer was a guest of Bendooley Estate

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31
Jan
0

Hottest New Hotel Openings in 2018

Posted on in Travel Tips

This year is off and racing with a plethora of hot new hotels slated to open across Australia in 2018. Sure there are plenty of new hotels of the chain variety set to open in Sydney, Melbourne and Perth, but we have our eye for style on the boutique, unique and preferably independent.

Here are details of the most anticipated new hotel openings in 2018:

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The Darling, Gold Coast
The new luxury suite hotel currently taking shape at the front of the Star Gold Coast will be known as The Darling, while the existing hotel will now be known as The Star Grand.
The Darling (pictured above) will feature 57 luxury suites from 70 to 328 sqm in size, with butler service and the finest features. New signature bars and restaurants and of course gaming facilities will be the centrepiece of this luxurious six-star hotel. The Darling, opening early 2018.

The Tasman, Hobart
The Tasman will reside in an assortment of repurposed heritage buildings and will form a prominent position in Parliament Square, in a new design-led development set to revitalise Hobart's city centre. The Tasman will offer guests 128 luxurious rooms and suites featuring Georgian and Art-Deco design elements throughout. The Tasman is expected to open late 2018.

HSW/Art Series, Brisbane
All eyes are on Brisbane and the Howard Smith Wharves redevelopment (pictured below) transforming the riverside precinct into an exhibition centre, restaurants, cafes and 165-room luxury hotel. The hotel is being developed by the Deague Group, who recently sold management of their Art Series Hotels brand to Mantra, therefore a name for the new HSW hotel is yet to be confirmed.

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W Brisbane
The first internationally-branded five-star hotel to open in Brisbane's CBD in 20 years, the opening of W Brisbane will mark the re-entry of the iconic W brand into Australia. On track and due to open 15 March 2018, the 312 rooms and suites are located in a prime position overlooking the Brisbane River.

Emporium Hotel Southpoint, Brisbane
It's been a long time in the planning, but Emporium Hotel Southpoint is due to open mid-2018. Located in South Bank and featuring 143 luxuriously appointed suites, premium food & beverage options by acclaimed Brisbane chef Josue Lopez and spectacular 23m rooftop infinity edge pool and bar this will be a hotel launch not to be missed.

Felix by 8Hotels, Sydney
With a jetsetting Mad Men retro style, 8Hotels has just launched an airport hotel with a difference. Felix is a 150 room boutique hotel with a Penthouse boasting a 24-hour food shop, cocktail bar and outdoor cinema! 8Hotels is making a come back, with more hotels planned including Little Albion Surry Hills and another development in Pyrmont.

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Salt at Shoal Bay
We've been watching this new development with interest and delays have pushed back its opening date, but an opening is imminent this summer. The white washed styling beachside accommodation is directly opposite magical Shoal Bay beach and we can't wait to take a peek!

The Pub with Two Names, Ballarat
We got the scoop in February last year when we met artistic dynamic duo David and Yuge Bromley who had just purchased the Peter Lalor Hotel/Royal Highlander Hotel in Ballarat with plans to transform the pub into a boutique hotel. The development now known as 'The Pub with Two Names' is set to open in early 2018 in collaboration with Ballarat food and beverage operators Iain Gunn and Donatello Pietrantuono.

The Colony at Mandoon Estate, Swan Valley
Ok, technically it opened in December 2017, but it's still so shiny and new we had to share! The Colony (featured below) features 32 beautifully appointed rooms & suites, overlooking the historic Verdelho vines on the banks of the Swan River. This getaway is the perfect base to enjoy all Mandoon Estate has to offer including Wild Swan fine dining, casual dining, wine tasting and more. Coming to alluxia very soon...

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Cygnet Old Bank, Southern Tasmania
We first fell in love with this grand old Victorian building when it was the base for Cygneture Chocolates, now it has been restored and reopened as an elegant, stylish retreat in the heart of Cygnet. Cygnet Old Bank boasts three suites and complimentary breakfast served in the conservatory. Cygnet Old Bank B&B is just 45 minutes south of Hobart in the Huon Valley.

Spicers Guest House, Hunter Valley
The Guest House is currently closed for extensive renovations and luxury upgrades, ready to re-open as Spicers Guest House in the second half of 2018. If you love all things Spicers, you'll love this new retreat which is expected to boast new conference facilities, luxury room refurbishments, a beautiful new pool and enchanting wedding chapel.

The Calile, Brisbane
Designed by Richards & Spence Architects, The Cailile is taking shape in James Street. The luxury hotel will feature ground floor boutiques and eateries and 178 rooms and suites over seven stories. Sure to be popular with Queenslanders will be the glamorous pool, poolside cabanas, poolside restaurant, day spa, fitness centre and business centre. Plus the podium level with house a divisable function room for up to 300 guests banquet style and basement parking for 220 vehicles. Due to open Spring 2018 and managed by TFE under the TFE Hotels Collection brand.

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Riley, Cairns
Australian based Crystalbrook Collection will be opening the first of three new hotels in Cairns this year! The five star Riley (pictured above) will feature 311 rooms and suites, boast 4 restaurants and bars including a rooftop tower bar 42m above sea level. Guests will relax amongst 1,037 sqm of lagoon pool and private beach and be pampered in the day spa. The new 'Bailey' hotel will follow in mid-2019 and 'Flynn' in 2020.

Worth waiting for...
Jackalope, Melbourne
Last year's most anticipated opening went to Jackalope Mornington Peninsula and could now be superseded by its sister property Jackalope Melbourne, a 32 room designer hotel set to open on Flinders Lane in 2020.

Have we missed any fab new luxury boutique hotel developments set to open in 2018? Let us know below!

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24
Jan
0

2018 Hottest Travel Trends

Posted on in Travel Tips

Want to know the hottest destinations and trends in the Australian travel scene right now? We asked a team of experts for their picks for 2018.

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Winsor Dobbin - Travel Writer & Blogger

I think Australian travellers will continue to be adventurous - but with a bit of luxury thrown in. I see beach shacks and glamping as major trends - but with fridges, freezers and hi-tech barbeques.

We can expect travellers to continue to be impromptu; with more and more options people are willing to leave their destination and accommodation choices until the last minute - taking a risk they can still find something suitable but not wanting to be locked into arrangements too far in advance.

I see cool-climate wine regions in Victoria and Tasmania continuing to boom - tastes are changing and pinot noir is growing in popularity. Wine and food will continue to be major destination drivers.

As people work harder and have less leisure time they will be more willing to splash out on luxury experiences, particularly two- or three-night breaks away from the kids.

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Sarah Harrison - Traveller & Writer

I believe we're set for a greater emergence of affordable and accessible luxury travel that's more practical than it is pretentious – stylish but liveable accommodation, all-in-one packages that don't sacrifice quality, and allowing luxe lovers to choose more of what they want and less of what they don't. We'll see more creative offerings, collaborations and reward schemes that will benefit the astute traveller as hotels get more savvy with their approach to customer experience and digital marketing.

Improved diligence around sustainability, including sourcing locally, will create a feel-good win-win for everyone. It's a great year for building kudos and better experiences.

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Gwen O'Toole-Luscombe - Travel Writer

2018 seems to have quite a focus on solo travel. I don't think people hesitate anymore when it comes to venturing out and having an incredible solo travel experience. It seems more travel companies are targeting programs to the solo traveller. Another trend seems be travellers forgoing the 'visit as many cities and attractions in the shortest time period possible' style of travel to tick more boxes and instead are opting for actually staying put and having more immersive experiences. Less riding around on sightseeing buses to see it all and more staying put to fully enjoy and truly experience the culture and the food and local lifestyle of fewer locations.

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Lisa Holmen - Travel Blogger

Far North Queensland is likely to be one of the hottest travel destinations of 2018 as many make the epic road trip from Cairns to Cape Yorke. Destinations like the Great Barrier Reef and Port Douglas will continue to be popular but many travellers are seeing more remote locations off the typical tourist route. My tip for an indulgent weekender is Orpheus Island, a private island on the Great Barrier Reef.

I see slow travel and digital nomading becoming more popular in the future, as people are seeking more flexibility from office life and are pursuing the road less travelled. The van life movement is getting stronger. I am actually planning on renovating a van to a camper this year to travel throughout Australia!

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Rachel Bale - Travel Blogger

The well-trodden tourist trail in Western Europe isn't going to dry up any time soon. In fact, more visitors than ever before are pouring into Europe. What this has meant, however, is that many destinations are unbearably overcrowded. This has resulted in a visitor crackdown in some of Europe's most touristy cities, including anti-tourism protests, caps on numbers and even bans on selfie sticks. While it's hard to imagine that visitors will turn their backs on the likes of Italy, Spain and France, 2018 will see more visitors venturing to explore Europe's more under-the-radar destinations including Poland, Slovenia and Cyprus.

Locally, destinations like Rottnest Island in WA and the Fleurieu Peninsula in SA are on the hot list.

Thank you to our favourite editors, writers and bloggers for their trusted tips.

Image credit: Joseph Chromy, Pumphouse Point, Gaia Retreat, Silky Oaks, South Australia.

 

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Jan
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Last Minute Long Weekends

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Long weekends are made for mini breaks! Whether it's a city break, staycation or beach getaway, we have you covered with last minute availability and deals in your favourite destinations.

Across Australia, here's our pick for last minute long weekend deals:

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Queensland

Brisbane - Sage James Street from $159 per night

Sunshine Coast - Country House at Hunchy from $330 per night

Gold Coast - O'Reilly's Rainforest Resort from $179 per night

Southern Queensland Country - Potters Boutique Hotel from $169 per night

Whitsundays - Heart Hotel & Gallery from $200 per night (pictured above)

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New South Wales

Sydney - Veriu Broadway from $179 per night (pictured above)

Hunter Valley - H Boutique Hotel from $129 per night

Country NSW/Southern Highlands - Fitroy Inn from $250 per night

Blue Mountains - Moments Mountain Retreat from $299 per night

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Victoria

Melbourne & surrounds - The Blackman from $199 per night (pictured)

Mornington Peninsula - Arleston Cottage from $265 per night

Yarra Valley - 3 Kings Bed & Breakfast from $285 per night

Daylesford & Macedon Ranges - Blue Cliffs Retreat from $330 per night

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Australian Capital Territory

Canberra - Little National Hotel from $155 per night

South Australia

Adelaide & surrounds - 5 Rooms at Stirling from $310 per night

Tasmania

Hobart/Southern Tasmania - Villa Rochford from $345 per night (pictured above)

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Western Australia

Perth - Sage Hotel West Perth from $149 per night

North West/Broome - Mangrove Hotel Broome from $159 per night (pictured above)

Rates are subject to availability and minimum stay requirements and conditions may apply. Please review the terms & conditions of each property before booking. Rates are correct at time of writing but subject to change without notice.

 

 

 

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17
Jan
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Ovolo Hotels announces another Australian acquisition

Posted on in Travel Tips

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Last week we brought you the news that Hong Kong boutique hotel group Ovolo had acquired Emporium Hotel Brisbane and now Ovolo has secured the rights to manage Hotel Hotel Canberra!

The private sale between Molonglo Group and Ovolo includes the hotel and hatted restaurant Monster Kitchen and Bar. It is the first time Ovolo has not acquired the underlying real estate for one of its Australian hotels.

This move represents the Ovolo Group's continued aspiration to explore the hotel landscape and their interest in taking on additional management arrangements with other selected boutique hotels in the near future.

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"Ovolo has been well received in Australia and we are proud to bring our signature concept to the Australian capital. We believe this venture is the perfect alignment and are delighted to be associated with this property." said Girish Jhunjhnuwala, CEO of Ovolo Group.

"This marks an exciting time for Ovolo and we look forward to entering the Canberra market with this incredible asset." said Dave Baswal, COO of Ovolo Group.

Hotel Hotel burst onto the scene in 2013, created by Molonglo Group, an artisan focused property developer in collaboration with Australian and international designers and artists. The result was a carefully curated collection of artworks, objects and furnishings throughout the hotel, creating a hotel like no other.

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The property development and creative production house, Molonglo Group, will be working on a number of architecture, design, cultural and experimental projects in 2018; across Australia and internationally.

Ovolo Hotels will now operate in Hong Kong, Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Canberra, signalling rapid expansion for the company with three new hotels joining its portfolio in the last six months - Inchcolm, Emporium and Hotel Hotel.

Ovolo Hotel Group will commence managing Hotel Hotel from 1 March 2018.

You Might Also Like: Ovolo Acquires Emporium Hotel Brisbane

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Jan
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Halcyon House Day Spa

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Last month we were lunching poolside at Paper Daisy at Halcyon House and noticed some serious construction going on adjacent to the carpark. Curious, we peeked through the fence and saw glimpses of Anna Spiro design gorgeousness. We were reliably informed, this new project is the Halcyon House Day Spa which opened quietly in late December.

Halcyon Spa brings the signature Halcyon style to the new luxurious spa sanctuary, featuring stunningly appointed treatment rooms, a tranquil relaxation area, full amenity change facilities and a unique dome-shaped steam bath.

A boutique of carefully curated collection of lifestyle products including fashion, wellbeing and skincare items all available at the onsite shop, tempting guests with "must-have" items.

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Halcyon Spa will focus on your overall wellbeing with a holistic approach to uniting mind, body and spirit. Your personalised spa journey begins with products from iconic Australian skincare brand Sodashi.

From soul-soothing treatment rituals to restorative facial therapy, along with traditional beautifying services, you won't want to leave this tranquil seaside day spa.

Try the Halcyon Signature Radiance Facial to leave your skin feeling calm and hydrated as a result of layering Sodashi's finest plant essences. The treatment includes an indulgent facial massage and mask for 60 minutes - $150.

Did someone say Babymoon? If you're escaping the city for a last hurrah, try the Pregnancy Massage, a nurturing, safe and relaxing massage for mums-to-be. The 60 minute pregnancy massage is $155.

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Be poolside ready with a Halcyon Pedicure! This treatment begins with a revitalising foot soak and invigorating sea salt polish before your feet are buffed back into shape. 60 minute pedicure for $125.

Use of the shared steam bath is also complimentary for Halcyon Spa guests enjoying treatments of one hour or more. Halcyon Spa also accepts group bookings, making it the perfect idea for a bridal shower or girl's getaway.

Halcyon Spa is available for guests visiting for the day as well as in-house guests. We recommend a mid-week getaway or staycation to soak up the new Halcyon Spa.

Halcyon Spa at Halcyon House
21 Cypress Crescent, Cabarita Beach NSW e: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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Brunswick Heads Motel Review

Posted on in Check In: Review of the Month

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Of all the hotels we visited last year, there is only one we made a return visit to – Brunswick Heads Motel.

I'll admit it doesn't sound as glamorous as some of the other establishments you'll find on alluxia, however don't be put off by the "motel" moniker. What this "Motel" offers is impressive service, cool rooms and incredible poolside breakfast set in the relaxed seaside town of Brunswick Heads.

While many flock to Byron Bay for it's popular beaches and bars, if you want to experience the Byron of yesteryear, head 20 minutes north to Brunswick Heads for some retro-style beach town nostalgia. Don't be fooled by the laid-back locals and slower pace of life; this town is punching above its weight in the foodie stakes, with a plethora of great dining spots including the award-winning Fleet.

Fleet is a destination restaurant, a small 'blink and you miss it' bar seating just 14 guests. Given its reputation and calibre of food, the restaurant is in high demand with a waitlist up to 3 months in advance. Our hot tip; secure your reservation at Fleet first before booking your holiday in Bruns.

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While Brunswick Heads Motel's façade has had a full makeover, there is no hiding the motel style setup, think long row of rooms and parking out the front, but that's where the similarities end. You'll receive the warmest of welcomes and wait...I'm being escorted to my room and there's a welcome note and gourmet chocolates on arrival? This level of service is all due to the powerhouse team of Managers Emma Alcorn and Nick Johns, whose 5 star island resort background has been transplanted to this little coastal gem.

Inside, the basic motel room has been transformed into a tropical oasis with white gleaming walls and furnishings with a splash of colour from the tropical feature wall, palm tree print cushions and Tommy Bahama amenities. The bedding is of a superior quality so you're guaranteed a great night's sleep and with Smart TV and Netflix, you'll want to laze in bed all day.

But rise and shine you must, as the complimentary breakfast is not be missed! When you think free motel breakfast, you think square little packets of cereal and instant coffee, but that's a far cry from the gourmet offering served at Brunswick Heads Motel. Choose from a delicious selection of breakfast items such as Brookfarm Muesli, Sol Organic Breads or new items to the menu such as Sol Breads organic banana bread, Pepe Saya mascarpone, orange and cacau crumble or Byron Bay ham, Norco cheese, toasted sourdough, piccalilli on the side. All enjoyed poolside or delivered to your room with a side of Byron Bay Bun espresso coffee or Byron Bay Tea.

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The motel is fully licensed now too, so you can enjoy a beverage poolside in one of the shady cabanas and the minibar is fully stocked with quality, premium local brands. Other generous inclusions are free wifi, and complimentary hire of Stand Up Paddle Boards and Bondi Cruiser Bikes to explore Bruns.

Heading out to the beach, Nick stops me and shares some local advice by suggesting the gentle waters of Torakina Beach. He's right, it's just perfect; a small beach fringed by bushland and protected by rock walls with shady trees to laze under and calm waters to swim in. It's idyllic.

After some fun in the sun it's time to explore the town. It's a great spot to wander, with a selection of shops to browse including Mimi & Flo for some coastal boho style, Sunshine Trader for homewares and local artisan products and Fabulous Mrs Fox for something more eclectic. Afterwards, head to the iconic Hotel Brunswick; the real heartbeat of Bruns this pub is popular with both locals and visitors alike. It's more than just your typical country pub, located in the town centre it has a sunny beer garden with live music and is the perfect spot for a Sunday session.

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Brunswick Heads is a nostalgic retro-style beach town worth exploring. With impressive dining, great beaches and a laid-back attitude, it's the ideal coastal getaway. A stay at Brunswick Heads Motel is a luxe for less experience that will have you coming back time and time again.

Brunswick Heads Motel – 2-6 Old Pacific Hwy, Brunswick Heads
Book online with alluxia for instant confirmation and no booking fees – from $139 per night including breakfast.

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Jan
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Ovolo acquires Emporium Hotel Brisbane

Posted on in Travel Tips

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2018 is off to an exciting start with the news Ovolo Group has acquired Brisbane's acclaimed Emporium Hotel!

This news follows Ovolo's earlier acquisition of The New Inchcolm Hotel & Suites, which is currently closed for renovations and reopening on 22 January 2018 after receiving its Ovolo makeover. The move marks another milestone for the rapidly expanding Ovolo brand, increasing its number of rooms on offer in Brisbane to more than 150.

As a group aimed at speaking to the ever-changing needs of the modern traveller through sleek interior designs, detail-driven comforts and an all-inclusive service, the addition of the Ovolo signature to Fortitude Valley continues to build on the area's vibrancy and style. 

CEO and Chairman of the Ovolo Group, Girish Jhunjhnuwala said: "The Emporium Hotel in Brisbane was an obvious choice for the brand given its incredible success to date, its boutique nature and appealing location in the Fortitude Valley retail and dining precinct. We are excited to take this fantastic property to the next level with Ovolo's signature luxury design interiors and all-inclusive hospitality concept."

Emporium Hotel founder and Managing Director, Tony John, of the Anthony John Group said; "For the past 10 years, the Emporium Hotel team has dedicated itself to providing an award winning, highly personalised, boutique hotel experience. However, we've decided the time is right to sell our Fortitude Valley property, allowing the team time to focus on the 2018 opening of our luxury boutique Southpoint Emporium Hotel."

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National Director of CBRE Hotels, Wayne Bunz noted this off-market transaction is a very positive sign for the market.
"The sale highlights investors growing interest in the Brisbane hotel market. CBRE continue to field investor demand for investment opportunities, with the Emporium Hotel sale negotiated in a record time of just four weeks."

Settlement of Ovolo's acquisition of Emporium Hotel is set to be finalised in April after which the hotel will undergo a series of refurbishment and rebranding that will transform it into a distinctly Ovolo hotel.

Founded by Girish Jhunjhnuwala in 2002, Ovolo Hotels has become one of Hong Kong's largest independent owner, operator hospitality firms, by providing business and leisure guests with the best in effortless living. The company keeps in touch with the modern traveller through award- winning interior designs, detail-driven comforts, focused all-inclusive service and cutting-edge ensuite technology, all done in Ovolo's signature style. A proud Hong Kong brand, Ovolo remains a family-owned and privately-operated business with a charitable core.

The company now runs four hotels and a service apartment in Hong Kong, and three hotels across Sydney and Melbourne including Ovolo Woolloomooloo, Ovolo 1888 and Ovolo Laneways.

You Might Also Like: Ovolo acquires Inchcolm Brisbane

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What’s New on Alluxia – Summer 2018

Posted on in Travel Tips

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If your new year's resolution is for more travel and adventure, then we have the inspiration for you! While school holidays are still underway, for many it's back to work and dreaming of your next getaway. Avoid the post-holiday blues by planning your next escape plan.

Here's our latest finds...

Queensland
The Island Boutique Hotel, Gold Coast – incredible transformation on the glitter strip (pictured above)
Currumbin Hill Beachhouse, Gold Coast – 3 bedroom holiday house with stunning GC views
The Country House at Hunchy, Sunshine Coast Hinterland – charming hosts and beautiful rooms at this hinterland B&B
Belles at Montville, Sunshine Coast Hinterland – a stylish hinterland retreat for couples
The Farmhouse, Sunshine Coast Hinterland – stylish hinterland B&B
The Bunyip, Scenic Rim – luxury and seclusion with stunning views

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New South Wales
The Beach Resort Cabarita, North Coast – affordable beachfront living
Brunswick Heads Motel, North Coast – fall in love with this luxe for less inn
The Ultimate Hamptons Beach House, North Coast – beautifully styled beach house
Turtle Bay, North Coast – 4 bedroom holiday house ideal for group getaways
Bathhouse Newrybar, North Coast – sprawling house with day spa facilities
Blackwattle Luxury Retreats, North Coast – secluded and romantic Hunter Valley getaway
Oceanview Terrace, North Coast – impressive tri-level house with stunning Newcastle Beach ocean views
Hampden House, South Coast – original house filled with charm and character
The COTTAGE, South Coast – simple and stylish and oh so Insta worthy!
Soul of Gerringong, South Coast – the coolest new addition to the coast (pictured above)
Blackwattle Luxury Retreats – secluded and romantic Hunter Valley getaway

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Tasmania
Villa Rochford, Hobart/Southern – open plan lodge on a picturesque olive grove (pictured above)

Victoria
Chocolate Gannets, Great Ocean Road – spacious villas and views for days
Lorne World, Great Ocean Road – unique and quirky with each room inspired by exotic destinations

South Australia
Karawatha Cottages, Fleurieu – self-contained cottages close to McLaren Vale wineries

Western Australia
Hougoumont Hotel – fun Fremantle hotel made from container ship!
Sage West Perth – modern meets heritage with style
Haven on the Park – self-contained artistic haven

Where would you like to make your escape to luxury?

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Jan
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Summer Beach Reads

Posted on in Travel Tips

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Summer holidays are the best time to relax, recharge and indulge in some quality holiday reading. Whether you opt for a challenging read or some 'lady literature' get lost in the romance of a book this summer.

Here's some recommended reads for the summer holidays:

The Dry by Jane Harper
This highly acclaimed book by Australian novelist Jane Harper was hands down our favourite book of 2017! This page-turning debut mystery is set in a small town hiding some big secrets. The followup 'Force of Nature' was just as gripping!

The Midnight Line by Lee Child
The latest novel by British writer Lee Child, 'The Midnight Line' is the twenty-second book in the Jack Reacher series. Reacher is still shaken by the recent horrors of 'Make Me' and now 'The Midnight Line' sees him on a simple quest for justice. An ideal beach read.

Parting Words by Cass Moriarty
Another fabulous Australian novelist, Cass' debut novel 'The Promise Seed' was also one of our favourites last year. Her latest novel 'Parting Words' tackles a great plot whereby three children must hand-deliver letters addressed to strangers from their father's past in order to collect their generous inheritance. Beautifully written and exploring the themes of loyalty, betrayal, grief and the importance of forgiveness.

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Distress Signals by Catherine Ryan Howard
This thriller is a great holiday read; just don't take it on a cruise ship! A debut novel that channels 'Gone Girl' and 'Into the Water' from acclaimed UK writer Catherine Ryan Howard. The book asks, "Did she leave, or was she taken?" and is a compelling murder mystery wrapped up in the cruise industry. Howard's followup novel "The Liar's Girl" is due to be released in early 2018 and we cannot wait!

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
A more challenging holiday read, 'The Goldfinch' tells the story of a young man who survives a terrorist bombing at an art museum – an attack that kills his mother. From there, he tumbles through a series of adventures that find him living in Las Vegas with his deadbeat father and later, involved in art forgeries. Soon to be a major motion picture with filming commencing in 2018!

The Scandal by Frederik Backman
Released in the US under the name 'Beartown' by best selling author of 'A Man Called Ove'. Midway through this book and totally hooked! 'The Scandal' is about a small town with a big dream and the price required to make it come true.

Are you on Goodreads? Have you set yourself a reading challenge and if so, how many books are you planning to read this year?

Looking for the best beach houses to relax with your beach reads? Check them out here. Also read our previous book recommendations here.

Image credit: Orogold
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Top 10 for 2017

Posted on in Travel Tips

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Just us, or did 2017 whiz by in a flash?

This year, alluxia celebrated 5 fabulous years of delivering luxury holidays and inspiration to travellers. We celebrated our birthday by giving away a brilliant prize thanks to Breeze Mooloolaba, Love Noosa and Wanderers Travel Co.

This year we also travelled to dozens of destinations around Australia unearthing hidden gems for you to enjoy and discover. We've added over 100 new luxury holiday houses and boutique hotels for you to love and book, all independently verified or inspected to ensure quality for our discerning guests.

Thanks for following and engaging with us on social media – we love it! We'd love to see how you're spending the summer break, share your travel adventures and inspiration by using the hashtag #luxuryfound so our community can follow along!

To wrap up 2017, here are the Top 10 most popular stories on alluxia:

#10 Aria Southbank Review
We discovered affordable luxury in Melbourne's Southbank.

#9 Hottest New Hotel Openings 2017
You heard it here first, all the hottest hotels opening in 2017!

#8 Alluxia Awards 2017
We reveal all the winners of the annual alluxia awards for excellence.

#7 Qantas Business Travel Awards
Our wrap up from the inaugural Qantas Business Travel Awards, including some alluxia favourites.

#6 A Weekend in Toowoomba
Toowoomba proved a popular choice for readers in 2017.

#5 Starhaven Retreat Review
Our little review of this hidden gem on the Bellarine Peninsula.

#4 Discover Brisbane with The Urban List Founder
We interviewed The Urban List founder, Susannah George to reveal all her favourite Brisbane haunts.

#3 Book Barn Cottage Review
Inspired to take a country getaway? Read our review of the charming Book Barn Cottage.

#2 Rhapsody Resort Surfers Paradise Review
Always on the lookout for something new on the Gold Coast, you devoured our review of Rhapsody Resort.

#1 Do Not Disturb – One Mamas Rock Star Weekend
You loved our guest post by alluxia's Saskia Moon, who spent the weekend at Ovolo Woolloomooloo's famous AC/DC Suite.

What would you like us to write and review for you in 2018? We'd love to hear your thoughts, whether it be a destination, roundup or review you'd like us to tackle, we're all ears.

We would like to wish you all a very happy and safe festive season and hope you continue to enjoy the summer holidays in style!

Sally & the alluxia team x

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Alluxia Awards 2017

Posted on in Travel Tips

As 2017 draws to a close, it's the perfect time to reflect on the incredible boutique hotels, holiday houses and unique escapes that have wowed us this year!

The annual alluxia awards celebrate the best of the best in each of our getaway inspiration collections. We hope you'll discover something new, or rediscover an old favourite and above all be inspired to travel in 2018.

Congratulations to the alluxia award winners:

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Best Regional Getaway:
Winner: Terragong 1858, South Coast
Kiama is one of Australia's most picturesque coastal towns and the most luxurious accommodation to be found in these parts is the hidden gem Terragong 1858. The NSW South Coast's premier bed & breakfast features just three guest rooms with impeccable styling and a host of indulgent inclusions. Guests are treated to evening drinks and canapés in the grand library lounge and decadent daily breakfast in the farmhouse kitchen.
Runner Up: Foy's Folly, Blue Mountains
Browse our handpicked collection of rural retreats and plan your regional getaway.

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Best City Break:
Winner: Magnolia on Kent, Brisbane
Live like a local in this newly renovated three-bedroom holiday house in inner city New Farm. Magnolia on Kent is breathtakingly beautiful, the owners have thought of every conceivable inclusion to make you feel at home; you won't want to leave.
Runner Up: Alex Hotel, Perth
Browse our handpicked collection of city breaks.

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Best Coastal Cool Getaway:
Winner: Ayindi, Byron Bay
Coastal cool beach getaways are our most hotly contested collection, but when we saw the renovation at Ayindi Byron Bay earlier this year, we knew we had our winner. This magnificent holiday house has been architecturally designed to take full advantage of the beach views and modern sophisticated interior styling seals the deal for the ultimate beach holiday.
Runner Up: 140 Mitchell at Mollymook, South Coast
Browse our collection of coastal getaways and make your escape to luxury.

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Best Winter Getaway:
Winner: The Blackwood Sassafras, Dandenong Ranges
Dandenong Ranges ticks all the boxes for a cosy winter getaway with charming villages, beautiful boutiques and romantic accommodation. The Blackwood at Sassafras raises the bar with superior interior design, open plan living, fireplace and indulgent deep soaking bath.
Runner Up: Rocky Hills Retreat, East Coast TAS
Browse our collection of winter getaways

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Best Romantic Getaway:
Winner: Hart's Farm, Mornington Peninsula
This unique getaway is the perfect couples retreat. Hart's Farm is a simple yet sophisticated hideaway overlooking an olive grove and a great base to explore the wineries of the Mornington Peninsula.
Runner Up: The Studio, Yarra Valley
Browse our full collection of romantic getaways and escape to luxury.

 

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Best Girls' Getaway:
Winner: The Island, Gold Coast
The Gold Coast is famous for fun and the newly renovated The Island Boutique Hotel offers plenty of fun with a wide range of food and entertainment options onsite including an epic rooftop bar, it's the coolest new venue on the coast!
Runner Up: Ovolo Laneways, Melbourne
Browse our full collection of girls' getaways and gather your friends!

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Best Gourmet Getaway:
Winner: Royal Mail Hotel, Grampians
This year, the iconic Royal Mail Hotel added new fine dining restaurant Wickens at Royal Mail Hotel putting it firmly on the map as one of Australia's top dining destinations. Chef Robin Wickens presents five and eight course menus that reflect locality and available produce growing in the hotel's kitchen garden.
Runner Up: Spicers Clovelly Estate, Sunshine Coast
Browse our collection of gourmet getaways and start salivating.

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Best Wine Weekend
Winner: Ridgemill Escape, Granite Belt
The Granite Belt is an under-rated wine region and well worth a visit for a laid-back weekend getaway. Stay on the vineyard at Ridgemill Estate in brand new cabins overlooking the vines and sip to your good fortune at having discovered this hidden gem.
Runner Up: Polperro Villas, Mornington Peninsula
Browse our collection of holiday houses and hotels that are perfect for a wine weekend.

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Best Luxe for Less Escape:
Winner: Brunswick Heads Motel
Don't be fooled by the "motel" name, this boutique escape is full of surprises with quality breakfast inclusions, free wifi and Netflix and use of Bondi Cruiser bikes to roam around Bruns.
Runners Up: Little National, Canberra
Browse our luxe for less collection and save.

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Best Pet Friendly Accommodation:
Winner: Alure Stanthorpe, Granite Belt
Alure Stanthorpe retains the position of top dog and best pet-friendly accommodation in Australia. The recent refurbishments are spectacular and your pampered pooch will also receive their own bathrobe, plush cocoon bed, food and water bowls, gift bag of toiletries and gourmet treats and a list of pet-friendly attractions and activities for an additional $50 per pet.
Runner Up: Larmont Sydney
View our handpicked collection of Pet Friendly Accommodation.

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Best Family Fun:
Winner: East Hotel, Canberra
With a dedicated Kids Studio, this kids cubby is kitted out with bunk beds, kids' play table, play rug, bean bags, loads of fun and games and the ultimate Xbox 360. East Hotel is also a great base to explore Canberra's plethora of museums and attractions.
Runner Up: O'Reilly's Rainforest Retreat, Gold Coast
Browse our family friendly accommodation and book well in advance to secure school holiday accommodation.

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Best Spa Getaway:
Winner: Mansion Hotel & Spa at Werribee Park
Just 30 minutes from Melbourne, relax and rejuvenate at Mansion Hotel & Spa. Surrounded by 10 acres of formal gardens this boutique hotel's day spa boasts eight treatment rooms, Guinot Skincare and Waterlily products and a beautifully tiled, traditional Hammam chamber. You won't want to leave.
Runner Up: Hotel Realm and Hale Spa, Canberra
Browse our collection of spa getaways and be pampered.

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Best Newcomer:
Winner: Jackalope Hotel, Mornington Penninsula
Jackalope Hotel burst onto the scene this year setting a new standard of luxury in Australia. With vineyard views, onsite cellar door, destination restaurant and rooms carefully curated with bespoke designer furnishings, art commissions and installations it has to be seen to be believed.
Runner Up: Spicers Potts Point, Sydney
Read about all the Hot new Hotel Openings for 2017 here.

Check out our list of award winners for 2016 here.

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Tasmania's most exclusive luxury retreat

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One of our favourite Australian boutique hotels has just announced the opening of exclusive new addition next month. Here's your first look at Pumphouse Point's new luxurious haven – The Retreat.

Pumphouse Point, Tasmania's most spectacular boutique hotel is famous for its luxury over water rooms at the pristine Lake St Clair in Tassies Western Wilderness.

Redefining relaxed luxury with 18 exquisite rooms split between the Pumphouse building on the lake or the charming Shorehouse building on the water's edge, the decision on where to stay just got harder with the addition of the 'The Retreat'.

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The Retreat is a private oasis hidden on the edge of the lake, surrounded by native bush providing privacy, seclusion and a new level of luxury at Pumphouse Point.

Designed with elements showcasing the lake's natural beauty, The Retreat includes locally crafted furniture, ceramics, bath products and two deep soaking tubs (one decadently under the stars) all combining to create a romantic escape for two.

Due to open mid-December, The Retreat will come inclusive of all food including farmhouse fare dinners (served either privately in The Retreat, or at shared tables in the Shorehouse dining room), an expanded larder brimming with the best local produce, wines and Tasmanian craft beers, ciders and spirits.

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Choose to hibernate in your luxurious surrounds or explore all Pumphouse Point has to offer from rugged mountain bike and bush walking trails, drift sheltered waters by row boat or simply relax in the Pumphouse and Shorehouse lounges and watch the changing mood of the lake as the weather rolls in.

Prices start from $1,275 per night available from 15 December 2017. Book Pumphouse Point at alluxia.com or contact us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for more.

Images: supplied

You Might Also Like: Pumphouse Point Review

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06
Nov
0

Hip Hood - James Street

Posted on in Roundup: Top 5, Top 10

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It's no secret we're big fans of New Farm's leafy James Street, it's our local 'hood after all. So we thought it was about time we shared our local knowledge with you. The sunny, tree-lined street is loaded with boutiques, cafes, bars and restaurants creating Brisbane's premier lifestyle precinct.

So, take note friends, here is our guide to the best of James Street.

King Arthur
With a focus on sustainable fresh produce and paddock-to-plate philosophy, you'll find quality fare at this neighbourhood brunch spot. Now serving Friday Night Dinners, read our review of these delectable dinners here.

Harveys
Harveys is an institution in James St. Recently renovated to provide shadier alfresco dining; it's the perfect spot to meet friends or clients in a sophisticated setting. We can't go past the Asian chicken salad with coriander, mint, peanuts, coconut and tamarind dressing.

Tinderbox Kitchen 
Tucked behind Harveys next to the Palace Cinema, Tinderbox Kitchen serves up wood-fired pizza and modern Italian cuisine in a casual atmosphere, ideal for pre-post theatre dining.

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Sixes & Sevens
One of our favourite watering holes for a Friday afternoon beverage, Sixes & Sevens is set in a beautifully restored Queensland cottage and spills out to the great outdoors taking advantage of Brisbane's balmy nights. The perfect spot to enjoy an Aperol Spritz or two!

Bucci 
Featuring a seasonally driven modern Italian menu by co-owner and executive chef Shaun Malone, the delicious menu is perfect for sharing. The adjoining bar also has an impressive wine list including a great selection of Australian and Italian wines.

Gerard's Bistro
Brisbane's highly awarded restaurant serves inventive Modern Australian cuisine with a Middle Eastern twist. Slip out the back and enjoy a nightcap at Gerard's Bar serving tapas, charcuterie and beverages in a cool industrial space.

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Cru Bar
Lounge around at Cru Bar and enjoy the cool breeze while sipping Champagne. The bar has an exceptional cellar tucked behind the restaurant where helpful staff can help you select the perfect wine to take home.

Farrier Bar
Farrier Bar & Supperclub caters to Brisbane's night owls and discerning drinkers and is open to 2am Thursday to Saturday. With a discreet entrance, this basement level bar is dark and mysterious and perfect for late night hangs.

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Where to Stay
Sage Hotel Brisbane is located smack bang on James Street adjacent to Farrier Bar, how convenient is that? Rooms are super stylish with loads of extra inclusions and the perfect spot to lay your weary head after a weekend of James Street grazing.

Browse our full range of Brisbane accommodation here. Book online for a Brisbane city break with no fees and best rate guarantee.

Which is your favourite eatery or bar in James Street?

Image credit: James St, Sixes & Sevens, Cru Bar

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05
Nov
0

Friday Nights at King Arthur

Posted on in Check In: Review of the Month

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King Arthur Café has quickly become a favourite brunch spot for Brisbane diners and now our favourite neighbourhood café is open for Friday night dinners!

The popular New Farm café is hosting weekly Friday dinners, featuring an inventive menu of small plates ideal for sharing and an all-Australian line-up of wine and beer.

King Arthur has maintained a farm-to-table ethos since opening in 2015 and has lead the charge among this conscious food movement in Brisbane.

"The idea of sourcing directly from farmers that we know has been engrained in our business model since the start," says King Arthur owner Mairi MacKinnon.

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King Arthur is MacKinnon's second café after opening the highly successful Merriweather with her business partner Josh Russell. She sold the South Brisbane café earlier this year, allowing more time to grow King Arthur and focus on its ideals and direction.

MacKinnon has spent the better part of this year planning, researching and fine-tuning what the dinner offering at King Arthur would look like and it shows. The menu is restrained; featuring a selection of share plates grouped as 'Meats', 'Veggies' and a couple of larger options.

We adventurously opted for the kangaroo tartare, cured egg with house brik pastry (see above) and we weren't disappointed, a beautifully balanced small plate to start our dining journey.

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The charcuterie featuring serrano, coppa, lardo, corned beef, duck pate, pickles and brik pastry was generously proportioned and ideal for sharing. The flaky brik pastry though was delightfully light but also impossible to spread the pate on and we requested a side of bread so we could tuck in with gusto.

The surprise of the night was the grilled broccoli with miso custard and enoki mushrooms, which was incredibly delicious. The miso custard was a granula type accompaniment paired beautifully with the broccoli and crispy mushrooms.

Once you start ordering a few shared plates, the upstairs romantic tables for two become impossible to hold your bounty and so we shifted to the larger communal table to spread out our feast.

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The petite wine list omits the regions so you'll need a little wine knowledge or ask for assistance, but I spotted a Mac Forbes Spring Riesling from Healesville that I've sampled on a previous trip to the Yarra Valley and it proved to be a delicious drop. The thoughtful beer and wine list takes a natural-leaning focus, meaning organic or biodynamic fruit, minimal intervention in the making process, and low-to-no sulphite additions.

The dessert menu has just one item, which should have indicated that it was not to be missed! But miss it we did. It just provides a reason to return to King Arthur Friday Nights for the strawberry cheesecake!

Come Fridays, the cafe's doors will stay open all day, transitioning into bar mode after the usual breakfast and lunch agenda wraps up 2:30pm. Drinks and snacks will run from 2:30pm, with dinner from 5pm.

King Arthur Café – 164c Arthur St, Fortitude Valley
Opening Hours:
Tues-Thurs 7am-3pm,
Friday 7am-late,
Sat-Mon 7am-2pm

The writer was a guest of King Arthur Cafe
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Oct
0

2017 People’s Choice Awards Event Wrap Up

Posted on in Roundup: Top 5, Top 10

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Above: Alluxia Founder Sally Scott and Australian Travellers Marcus Hurley

We recently attended the Australian Traveller Magazine 2017 People's Choice Awards, cheering on some of our favourite destinations and mixing with industry colleagues!

The event was held at the all-new Sofitel Sydney Darling Harbour with awards presented over a decadent long lunch with matched wines by Tyrrell's.

Uluru and the Northern Territory really scooped the pool with 5 wins including 'Ultimate Dream Experience' showing Australia's love of this iconic natural wonder hasn't waned.

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Above: Australian Traveller Founder Quentin Long introduces the awards

The Hunter Valley was a popular choice winning 'Favourite Regional Escape' and 'Best Food & Wine Region'. It's hard to argue with readers, we've visited regularly this year and still discovering plenty hidden gems in The Hunter!

It's no surprise, Great Ocean Road won "Ultimate Road Trip" with stunning coastal scenery, winding roads and delightful villages to stop at along the way, it's definitely a "must do" in Australia.

Sydneysiders can sometimes be guilty for taking the beauty of the Blue Mountains for granted, but AT readers voted it the "Cosiest Winter Destination" and "Most Romantic Escape".

Finally, which city would take out the coveted "Best City to Take a Break In"? Well, Melbourne of course! Victoria's capital has held the mantle for many years with its culture, shopping and laneway cafes high on the list of reasons to visit.

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A complete list of the winners can be found here and in the current edition of Australian Traveller Magazine.

Everyone was a winner on the day, as we all took home a rather epic goodie bag including gorgeous products from Appelles, Byron Bay Cookie Company, Corban & Blair, Tyrrell's Wine and more!

Thank you sponsors and thank you Australian Traveller Magazine xx

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29
Oct
0

Mansion Hotel & Spa at Werribee Park Review

Posted on in Check In: Review of the Month

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Approaching the awe-inspiring building of Mansion Hotel & Spa is like stepping back in time. The landmark hotel looms large in all its Italian stone glory, surrounded by manicured gardens and steeped in history. Mansion Hotel is just 30 minutes from Melbourne city, but feels a million miles away.

The light filled lobby is bursting with blooms and I'm offered a welcome drink on arrival. It's definitely the kind of lobby you can sit, sip, ponder and plan your weekend itinerary. The bar is also brimming with pink hydrangeas accompanied by bottles of Moet & Chandon Rosé, it's all rather tempting to indulge in some bubbles overlooking the manicured gardens.

My suite overlooking the grand entrance appears even more impressive as twilight strikes and the building positively glows at night, highlighting the impressive architecture. As I watch a couple cycle off, it feels like we've been transported to another era.

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Welcome bubbles from sister property Lindenderry and chocolate dipped strawberries are a nice touch and provide a sense of occasion. The room features an enormous king size bed, desk, lounge chair and ottoman. The overall ambiance is refined and appealing to the discerning traveller. The bathroom features a deep soaking spa bath and stainless steel vanity with plenty of indulgent Appelles amenities. The suites neutral tones of beige and dark wood complete the sophisticated look.

Take time to explore the 10 acres of formal gardens that are found on 135 hectares of Crown Land. The Werribee Park Precinct is also home to the largest rose garden in the Southern Hemisphere, so be sure you stop to smell the roses. You'll also find Victoria's largest picturesque Parterre Garden, a French style formal round symmetrical garden.

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A tour of the museum is a fascinating look at the past. The beautifully preserved house has an eerie feeling and I sneak in just before closing and have the house to myself. The grand staircase, the formal dining table set ready to entertain guests, it all feels rather ghost like and a magnificent restoration. Entry to the museum is free for guests of Mansion Hotel and Spa.

Unfortunately, a self-guided tour of the sculpture walk was a bit of a disappointment, with the sculpture park feeling a bit neglected and lonely. Perhaps I missed something, a printed guide or audio tour? It wasn't really explained on check-in in detail. I wandered around but struggled to be inspired by Karen Ward's 'Hut ' sculpture (pictured below) – art is subjective after all, but it just wasn't my cup of tea.

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Speaking of tea, high tea is more up my alley and Mansion Hotel & Spa host a sumptuous high tea every Sunday afternoon. T2 Tea and a lavish spread of sweet and savoury delicacies served fireside in the historic library in winter or on the Mansion's balcony during warmer months. Now you're talking!

Dining at Joseph's signature restaurant is an indulgent experience, located in what was once the Old Catholic Seminary overlooking the stunning formal gardens. The menu is comprised of tiny plates, small plates, large plates and sweet plates. I start with a small plate of Artichoke, cavolo nero chips, eggplant, pomegranate, nuts which is by no means petite. It's a perfectly balanced with the pomegranate providing a satisfying crunch.

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For main I choose the Risotto of grains, garden vegetables, zucchini flower and ricotta. The Homestead Community gardens were originally dormant until Parks Victoria saw potential for a refugee program. The Karen community has transformed the sleeping grassland into a kitchen garden full of colour, full of flavour and full of life. This association with the Karen refugees shows a great sense of community and environment, creating sustainable produce. The risotto dish is the perfect representation of this fresh, garden produce.

For dessert, it's hard to resist the Valrhona chocolate, sherry, coffee and flowers extravaganza (pictured above) – it's almost too pretty to eat! But I do, and the sorbet balances the rich chocolate for be a superb finish.

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Despite the divine dinner on offer, leave room for the morning's breakfast buffet, one of the most impressive hotel breakfasts we've seen for some time. There are trays and trays of salmon, cold meats and associated condiments, cheese plates, yoghurts and smoothies, cereal and fruit plus hot items all perfectly presented in small portions and replenished efficiently befitting the boutique hotel experience.

After all the grazing, you may choose to laze by the indoor pool or book in for a spa treatment. While the site was once host to St Joseph's Seminary, a spiritual retreat and college for the Catholic Church in Australia, it's a very different retreat and spiritual journey today. Relax in the luxe surrounds and be pampered rejuvenating mind, body and soul in the exclusive Day Spa.

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Mansion Hotel & Spa combines the heritage charm of a bygone era with the contemporary style and facilities you come to expect of a 5 star boutique hotel. Just 30 minutes from Melbourne, it's luxury within reach for romantic getaways and corporate retreats.

Mansion Hotel & Spa at Werribee Park
320 K Road, Werribee VIC 3030
Book Mansion Hotel here.

The writer was a guest of Mansion Hotel & Spa at Werribee Park
 
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10
Oct
0

Reducing Travel Stress for a “No Worries” Holiday

Posted on in Travel Tips

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Anyone who loves to travel will tell you (with much enthusiasm) that seeing the world is good for you. It's a great way to escape the doldrums of everyday life while also immersing yourself in a new landscape, new activities, and possibly even a new culture.

As it turns out, recent studies have shown there's scientific truth behind what we travellers have known all along: travel really is good for your body and mind. Travelling regularly reduces your risk of stroke, heart attack, diabetes, anxiety, and depression.

Best of all, the health benefits of travel are experienced from the time you start planning your trip and may last as long as weeks or months after you return. This is great news for anyone who loves to travel or is just in need of a getaway!

To fully enjoy all the mental benefits of taking some time off, you'll want to do your best to keep holiday stress at a minimum so you can have a worry-free mind. Here are some stress reduction steps to take while you're on holiday:

Protect your property

Before you leave, take some steps to protect your home while you're gone. Trust me, burglaries are the last thing you'll want to worry about while you're away.

Be sure all windows and doors are locked, alarms are set, smoke detectors are in working order, and appliances are unplugged. Ideally, you could also hide the fact that you are away by hiring a trusted pet sitter or house sitter. Knowing your home is properly cared for while you're away will allow you to relax into the holiday mind frame.

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Reconnect with nature

Unplug your laptop, turn off your mobile phone, and step outside. Notice the sounds of the birds in the trees. Kick off your shoes and feel the ground beneath your toes. Sometimes, it really is that simple!

If you're travelling in Australia, you'll experience breathtaking natural beauty. The geographic diversity offers something for everyone, whether you prefer to bushwalks in the Blue Mountains, view gorgeous waterfalls, relax by the ocean, or explore a Jurassic rainforest.

Prefer a hands-on experience? Try any of the following:

● Get up close and personal with koalas, kangaroos, wallabies, and other native species at many of the nation's petting zoos and wildlife refuges.
● Thrill seekers on both coasts have the chance to seasonally swim with sharks or whales.
● Snorkel or scuba dive in the Great Barrier Reef, the largest living organism on Earth, which is so big it can be viewed from outer space!

These are just a few of the countless ways to experience nature in Australia.

Find stillness.

We each have different methods for soothing our worries and calming our minds. For some, this could be a mean a cruise through Sydney Harbour or watching the sunset over the Twelve Apostles. For others, it might involve a meditation retreat or beachside yoga along the Gold Coast.

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Pamper yourself.

Studies have shown that acts of self compassion actually boost your confidence and mood. To reduce stress, anxiety, and depression, take some time to treat yourself (or a loved one) while you're away.
Plan a romantic weekend getaway at a chic boutique hotel, or book a solo stay at a bed and breakfast just steps from the beach. While you're there, why not splurge on champagne and a massage? Taking time to pamper yourself helps ease your mind, relax your body, and improve your relationships.

Leave it to the professionals.

As rewarding as it can be to plan holiday travel, organizing everything can become overwhelming. You can always work with a professional travel agent, tour group, or cruise line instead. They'll handle the little details for you so you can free up your time (and your mind) and truly go with the flow during your travels.

As you can see, there are plenty of ways to nurture yourself through travel. You deserve a stress-free holiday. So, go on. Use these ideas to plan a "no worries" trip that will leave you feeling refreshed, rejuvenated and will boost your health long after you return.

Travel contribution by Henry Moore

Henry is the co-creator of FitWellTraveler. The site blends two of his favourite subjects (travel and health) to provide readers with information about how to get the most out of both. Henry enjoys travel, running, cooking, baking and reading. He believes travel can change you, and good health preserves you. He combines both in his work on FitWellTraveler.

Image credit: Gaia Retreat, Lady Enid, Bells at Killcare
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26
Sep
0

Luxperience 2017

Posted on in Travel Tips

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Last week we attended Luxperience; an industry only event for bespoke luxury and high-end experiential travel. If you follow our Instagram feed, you'd think it was all Champagne, Canapés and fun in the harbour city and you'd be partly right, but there was a serious side to the event namely making meaningful connections.

We commenced with a Thought Leaders Forum and welcome function at Hilton Sydney. Tim "Rosso" Ross was back as MC, introducing the fabulous Lauren Bath, Australia's first professional instagramer and online tourism queen to share some important Insta tips.

The next 3 days were a blur of "speed dating" a series of 15 minute appointments with sellers from around the world. Here are our highlights, tips and news in luxury travel and what's hot in Australia right now!

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Mayfair Hotel
The stunning Mayfair Hotel Adelaide has revealed a brand new look for their Hennessy rooft-top bar. The popular Adelaide hot spot has opened a new glass-topped alfresco terrace complete with vertical garden and decadent underfloor heating. It's our pick for admiring the city skyline while sipping superior cocktails in style.
Book a stay at Mayfair Hotel here.

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The Anchorage
Our favourite Port Stephens retreat The Anchorage has undergone a $15m refurbishment including a major overhaul of their food & beverage offering. Check out the Hemingway's Bar with its sumptuous leather armchairs and elegant fireplace while you enjoy a premium whisky tasting. The Wild Herring Restaurant specialises in seafood and there are plenty of private dining options too. Accommodation rooms have been refreshed and there is an adults only pool coming soon...
Book a stay at The Anchorage here.

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Elements of Byron
Elements of Byron just keeps getting better and better with the resort about to double in size next month with the addition of 99 new villas! That's not all, the resort will feature revamped leisure areas including a new adults only 25 metre heated pool with swim-up bar – yes please! We can't wait to check it out! Learn more here.
Book a stay at Elements of Byron here.

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Penfolds
No trip to South Australia is complete without a trip to Penfolds cellar door in Adelaide or the Barossa to visit the home of Grange. At their Barossa Cellar Door you can 'Make Your Own Blend' and become a master winemaker for the day. Enter the winemakers' laboratory, don a white coat and get to work blending your own wine from Grenache, Shiraz and Mataro – just like Penfolds own Bin 138. The results are then bottled for you to enjoy! This brilliant Barossa experience is just $65.00 per person and we'll be including it in our upcoming Barossa Weekend Getaway! Register your interest at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

International

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Amatara Wellness Retreat
The jaw dropping Amatara Wellness Retreat is located just 45 minutes from Phuket International Airport in a quiet corner of an idyllic island. This flexible wellness retreat lets you choose what level of wellness or indulgence you choose and children are welcome at the retreat too.

Book any wellness package for a minimum 5 nights and your flight to Phuket from Australia is complimentary (conditions apply). Packages start from $3,700 pp twin share for stays between now and 25 December 2017. Contact us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to learn more.

Thanks to the Luxperience team for arranging a spectacular event for us as a hosted buyer. We'd also like to thank our accommodation hosts Swissôtel Sydney and flights by Virgin Australia.

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Sep
0

October Long Weekend 2017

Posted on in Travel Tips

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Labour Day is an annual public holiday that celebrates the eight-hour working day, so how should we celebrate this victory for workers...by not working!! Hoorah!! Labour Day is just around the corner for most states and here are our picks for the best way to reward your hard work with a long weekend in paradise:

City Breaks
Melbourne – The Blackman
Canberra – Hotel Realm
Sydney – Ovolo 1888
Perth – Alex Hotel
Brisbane – The New Inchcolm Hotel
Adelaide – Mayfair Hotel

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Romantic Getaways
Hunter Valley – H Boutique Hotel
Gold Coast – QT Gold Coast
Southern Queensland Country – Potters Boutique Hotel
Port Douglas – Thala Beach
Fleurieu Peninsula – Birks River Retreats
Launceston – Highfield House
Mornington Peninsula – Aquabelle Apartments
Melbourne & surrounds – Mansion Hotel & Spa at Werribee Park

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Family Fun
Margaret River – Smiths Beach Resort
Broome – Mangrove Hotel

Browse by destination or by getaway inspiration with alluxia and book online with no booking or credit card fees. The Labour Day Public Holiday is on Monday 2 October for NSW, ACT, SA and in QLD it's the Queen's Birthday Public Holiday.

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17
Sep
0

Alluxia 5th Birthday Prize Winner

Posted on in Travel Tips

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Thanks to everyone who entered our Sunshine Coast Beach Escape, we were overwhelmed with the number of entries and we're pleased to reveal our lucky winner is...

Jan Aalto from New South Wales

Jan has won The Major Prize includes Two (2) nights' accommodation in a two-bedroom apartment at Breeze Mooloolaba, a Henschke Heaven welcome hamper from Love Noosa and a Wanderers' Travel Co Venetian Passport Travel Clutch. Voucher is not transferable or redeemable for cash. Booking subject to availability. Voucher must be presented on arrival.Valued at $1,199.

Congratulations to our winner and thank you for our generous partners Breeze Mooloolaba, Love Noosa and Wanderers Travel Co.

Missed out, but would love a relaxing break at Breeze Mooloolaba? Book Breeze Mooloolaba on alluxia.com 

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14
Sep
0

5 Reasons to Visit Mooloolaba This Weekend

Posted on in Travel Tips

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Mooloolaba is often overlooked for it's glitzy cousin Noosa or earth mother Maleny, but this Sunshine Coast gem offers fun in the sun all year round! Here are 5 reasons to mooch around Mooloolaba this weekend.

1. The beach beckons
Top up on a dose of 'vitamin sea' and step out onto the pure white sand of Mooloolaba Beach! The sun and sea are wonderfully restorative, leave the city behind and breathe in the salty sea air, soak up the ocean views and warm weather and clear your mind. Mooloolaba Beach is considered the safest beach on the Sunshine Coast, patrolled daily and safe for swimming.

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2. Graze along Mooloolaba Esplanade
When it comes to eating out, you're spoilt for choice in Mooloolaba. Start your day with brunch at local favourite The Velo Project. With a focus on supporting local farmers and local suppliers you'll find simple fresh food and artisan espresso to keep you caffeinated for a day of adventure. Graze at Gainsbourg, open breakfast, lunch and dinner for casual seaside eats. Plus don't miss Spice Bar for spicy Asian share plates, cool cocktails and sea views.

3. Resort life
Organise a hamper and have indulgence delivered to your door by Love Noosa! Arrive in style with a chilled bottle of Champagne, gourmet platter or BBQ pack for your arrival so you can kick back, relax and enjoy the luxe life from your resort balcony. Bliss!

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4. Cruising the coast
Take a tour with Whale One, with spectacular whale watching cruises available during whale migration season. Half day tours available including door to door transfers. Otherwise, all year round enjoy a sunset cruise taking in the majestic Mooloolaba canals as the sun sets over the Glasshouse Mountains.

5. Be pampered
When you've had enough sand, sea and sunshine, head to the Salt Caves and experience a deeply relaxing massage using organic warm oil, combined with salt therapy, in a unique and tranquil setting. Himalayan salt has long been known for its anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties, so it's pampering with purpose!

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More information: Looking for where to stay in Mooloolaba? Check out Breeze Mooloolaba.

For your chance to win a two night escape at Breeze Mooloolaba, hamper from Love Noosa and leather goods from Wanderers Travel Co enter here.

Image credit: Breeze, Velo Project, Love Noosa
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Sep
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New Veriu Central Sydney opening in November

Posted on in Travel Tips

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Hot on the heels of the opening of Veriu Broadway, the Veriu crew announce a new 110-room hotel located at the gateway to Surry Hills, scheduled to open in November!

Veriu Central will be a $15 million conversion of the heritage listed 'Wentworth House' and will remain true to the character of the building combining old world elegance with contemporary style. Just as Veriu Broadway captured an industrial warehouse feel, Veriu Central will embrace characteristics of its turn of the century architecture.

"One of the foundations of the Veriu brand is to incorporate the unique elements of each building and provide guests with a different experience each time they stay in one of our hotels," said Rhys Williams, Director of Veriu Hotels & Suites.

The new hotel will add to the thriving inner city dining scene offering five quality restaurant and bar venues onsite. It's city chic location will also make it a popular choice with the Surry Hills fashionistas.

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Guests will be invited to check in at The Drawing Room, an eclectic and modern interpretation of a classic 1920s design, that combines the traditional hotel lobby space with a vibrant bar and eatery. The original heritage building boasted an opulent drawing room in the roaring 20's, created for entertaining guests with music, intellectual debate, drinking and laughter. Veriu's, The Drawing Room, is designed to evoke the same feeling of conversation, frivolity and recreation all with a generous dose of style and decadence. An all-day grazing menu will be available through to late night drinks at the art deco style bar.

Celebrated Sydney hospitality experts, Applejack Hospitality – famous for outlets such as The Butler Potts Point and Bondi Hardware – have provided the creative framework for The Drawing Room and two other venues: Harry's Dumpling House and Harry's Singapore Chilli Crab, which will offer Asian street hawker style food and craft beers, both accessible from the hotel lobby.

Established modern Australian restaurant, Nel, will also become part of the Veriu Central dining precinct. The unique bunker-esque style venue has become a popular favourite for locals since opening in 2015 and offers a degustation menu that changes every six weeks to enable Australia's best seasonal produce to be showcased.

Basket Brothers café will be your go-to breakfast, brunch or lunch venue for guests offering all the staples – great coffee, and a menu described as 'next level comfort food'. We can hardly wait!

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Veriu Central's 110 rooms and suites will all offer luxury bedding, LED TV's, minibar and in room safe. The spacious Wentworth Suites will boast kitchenette facilities including microwave and coffee pod machine.

The signature Veriu complimentary 'explorer bikes' will also be on offer, encouraging guests to discover the surrounding Sydney villages of Surry Hills and beyond. Other standard complimentary offerings common to all Veriu properties, include a welcome drink, WiFi and in-room tunes via Smart TV technology.

Veriu Central, 75 Wentworth Avenue, Surry Hills – due to open November 2017.
Veriu Broadway, 35 Mountain St, Ultimo – is open now and available to book on alluxia here.

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Ridgemill Estate Open Day

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Keen to explore the Granite Belt and learn more about Queensland wine? This weekend, Ridgemill Estate is opening the doors to the winery for their first ever open day! So grab your wine loving friends and head to the country!

We had a sneak peek earlier this week to see and experience all the exciting changes happening at the winery. Our hosts, Michelle and Martin took us on a tour of their winery estate including the vineyards, future conference centre and additional new luxe cabins.

I mean who doesn't want to escape to the country and wake up overlooking the vines? Ridgemill Estate have made it even easier to enjoy winery life by adding an additional four new cabins, bringing their stable of cute cabins to eight.

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Each self-contained cabin features a real wood burning fireplace and complimentary bottle of Ridgemill Estate wine to enjoy fireside. Plus, you'll receive continental breakfast provisions and coffee machine/pods to prepare breakfast in your sunny kitchenette to get you started for a day of wine tasting or exploring the great outdoors.

The open day on Sunday 10 September will allow visitors to enjoy good food, fine wine and live music on the cellar door deck or perhaps explore the winery estate.

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Meet Peter McGlashan, Ridgemill Estate's entertaining and talented winemaker and taste their extraordinary selection of wine. Our favourite from tasting was the "Joshua's Pup" Shiraz Grenache and the 2017 Rosé, both cellar door releases. Better still, with any purchase of a six bottle wine pack purchased on the day, receive a complimentary Ridgemill Estate wine decanter.

Also, for every bottle of wine purchased on the day, punters will receive an entry in an exclusive draw to win a two-night stay at Ridgemill Escape Luxury Cabins!

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So book your weekend getaway at Ridgemill Escape with alluxia, pack a picnic blanket and soak up the sunshine and cool country air in the gorgeous Granite Belt this weekend!

Ridgemill Estate Open Day – Sunday 10 September 10am-3pm
218 Donges Road, Severnlea QLD

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Sep
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Father's Day Gift Vouchers

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Looking for a great Father's Day gift? Celebrate Father's Day with a gift voucher from alluxia to allow your Dad to enjoy a midweek getaway in style or luxury weekend away at his leisure. Alluxia travel gift vouchers are the ideal gift for that special person in your life and a great way to show your appreciation. Let the recipient choose the getaway that suits them best from over 400 luxury accommodation providers in your favourite destinations.

Email us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. anytime up to and including Sunday 3 September 2017 and we'll process payment and issue an email voucher for you to send or print out. You simply nominate the value for the gift voucher and vouchers are valid for 12 months, subject to availability at time of booking. Perfect for last minute gift giving.

Give the gift of travel this Father's Day!

Image credit: Pinterest
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Mantra Acquires Art Series Hotel Group

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In a move that has shocked the tourism industry, Mantra Hotel Group has announced their acquisition of the Australian-owned Art Series Hotel Group for approximately $52.5 million from current owners Deague Group.

The acquisition will see seven luxury hotels added to Mantra Group's portfolio. The seven hotels are:

· The Cullen, Prahran, Melbourne VIC
· The Larwill Studio, North Melbourne VIC
· The Olsen, South Yarra, Melbourne VIC
· The Blackman, St Kilda Road, Melbourne VIC
· The Johnson, Spring Hill, Brisbane QLD
· The Watson, Walkerville, Adelaide SA
· The Chen, Box Hill, Melbourne VIC (which is currently in the final stages of construction and is set to open in November 2017)

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Arts Series Hotel Group transformed the Australian hotel market when it launched in 2009. Each hotel is inspired and dedicated to Australian contemporary artists, infusing the namesake artist's works and personality throughout the hotel to create unique art-inspired experiences.

With original artworks and prints adorning the walls and halls, the multifaceted art inspired experience is complete with dedicated art channels, art libraries, art tours and art utensils on supply. Glass bottomed pools, private outdoor decking areas, state of the art gymnasiums, massive communal spaces and boutique conference and events spaces complete the picture.

Will Deague, CEO, Deague Group said;

"Over the past decade we have been deeply passionate about growing the Art Series Hotel Group around Australia and hosting millions of art inspired experiences for guests. We are very proud of what our team has achieved and are excited to hand over the brand to Mantra Group who will build the brand to future success."

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Mantra Group have confirmed it will be business as usual for Art Series Hotel Group. All agreements with namesake artists remain unchanged and the new owners will focus on fostering new relationships with artists for future hotel properties.

There are currently two new hotels in the pipeline, including The Chen in Box Hill which is in the final stages of construction (by Deague Group) and will be opened by Mantra Group in November 2017, and a luxury six-star property which is set to open at Howard Smith Wharves in Brisbane in late 2018.

All Art Series properties, with the exception of The Schaller Studio Bendigo and Howard Smith Wharves will form part of the proposed transaction with Mantra Group.

Settlement of the 'Art Series Acquisition' is expected to be completed in late 2017, subject to closing conditions customary for an acquisition of this nature.

Do you love Art Series Hotels? What do you think about the news?

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Gourmet Getaway News – Yamagen at QT Gold Coast

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Oh what a night! Last week we were treated to delicious morsels and free-flowing Champagne at the launch of Yamagen at one of alluxia's favourite hotels QT Gold Coast.

Yamagen; already a hero of the Gold Coast dining scene for over 30 years, has just re-opened its doors with a sleek new look.

Yamagen has been carefully designed to ensure the overall dining experience is more than just a culinary journey. Designer Nic Graham was tasked with reimagining a traditional Japanese izakaya – or casual eating house – with the added objective of 'upping the ante' on an expanded bar component in keeping with the hotel's upbeat holiday vibe.

Naturally, QT's design DNA of quirky contemporary fusion became the defining road map, and the result is an invigorating blend of "east meets west" urban street style, pop-culture kitsch, and Japanese fishing village charm.

"What is great about QT is that it allows us to play within the boundaries of what is a strong cultural eating style and aesthetic deeply rooted in tradition to a dramatic and somewhat irreverent effect while still honouring its history," said Graham.

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The new look was unveiled last week with more than 400 invited guests sampling the new menu. VIP guests included Amber Heard, Kris Smith and Tim Robards who were only too happy to snap a few selfies with guests. The fabulous event also featured Japanese dancers, musicians and drummers and the after party kicked on at the Stingray Lounge until the wee hours.

With an all-star culinary team at the helm including Executive Chef Adam Lane, Yamagen blends old school kitchen samurai skills with new school chef innovation. Yamagen reinvents a traditional Japanese izakaya with a stylish and innovative twist. Spanning three unique spaces Yamagen's culinary journey has been carefully crafted with some of the finest Japanese chefs.

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"I love the lightness and delicacy of Japanese cuisine, and I really enjoy the
challenge of mixing ingredients that you wouldn't usually think of putting together – finding the perfect balance of flavours is what keeps our work exciting," said Lane. "I am thrilled to be bringing this to Yamagen and we will constantly be innovating to bring new and exciting dishes to the menu – Yamagen will always excite and challenge the palate."

Seating up 76 guests, the innovative menu includes Sashimi Tacos and Ura Maki Rolls. Table-seki is the restaurant's main dining area and the best place to take advantage of the full Yamagen experience. With dishes such as Terryaki Chicken with crispy skin, local warrigal greens, charcoal roasted leeks in a house made teriyaki glaze to Crispy Pork Belly with nashi pear, wasabi, watermelon radish and smoked vinegar. Our favourite was the Sashimi Tacos with salmon and spicy tuna, yuzu avocado, warm sushi rice, sesame, watermelon radish and house spicy mayo. Yum!!

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Adding to the experience is Yamagen's exclusive sushi counter, led by Mitsuo Yoshino. Here, guests experience an authentic omakase – a stream of market fresh sashimi and sushi, as well as delicate share plates, like Yellowfin Tuna Tartare – expertly selected by the chef.

The dining experience also extends to the bar, where Yamagen melds classic cocktails with modern Japanese inspiration, using unique Japanese ingredients such as sudachi (Japanese citrus fruit), gyokuro (shaded green tea), yuzu bitters (citrus), shiso leaf (Japanese style mint), matcha (ground green tea) and Sake.

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Jordan Melling, QT Gold Coast's Bars Manager, has also curated one of the most extensive range of Japanese Whisky in Queensland (65 - including Yamazaki 25 Y.O., Hibiki 30 Y.O. and Hakushu 25 Y.O.) and adds to the whisky drinkers experience through hand-chiselling ice blocks ensuring premium purity and a slower melt time.

Yamagen is stylish and innovative Izakaya dining that will transport you to the vibrant back alleys of Tokyo, so get ready for the hustle and bustle!

Yamagen is open for dinner six nights a week from 5.00pm Tuesday – Sunday.
Book a stay at QT Gold Coast at alluxia here.

Images: Supplied
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Jul
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Gourmet Getaway News – Wickens at the Royal Mail

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                                                                                         Robin Wickens, The Royal Mail Hotel new restaurant site. 

Dining destination The Royal Mail Hotel is set to get a makeover this year, adding a new fine dining restaurant to the mix.

The Royal Mail Hotel currently offers guests luxury accommodation, a two-hatted restaurant, wine bar and casual bistro in the tiny town of Dunkeld, a scenic 3-hour drive from Melbourne.

The owners are set to create a bold, new restaurant on the site, opening in October 2017. Fully committed to Dunkeld and the project, Executive Chef Robin Wickens has put his name to the new fine diner – Wickens at the Royal Mail.

The new restaurant will take advantage of the natural surroundings and feature views of Mt Sturgeon. Lead by architect Nicoholas Byrne of Byrne Architects, the Melbourne based design studio has promised to "capture the essence of Dunkeld, the Grampians and the rich history of the Royal Mail Hotel while ensuring the restaurant blends into the property's grounds and the broader Victorian landscape," Byrne said.

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The floor to ceiling windows and views to Mt Sturgeon and Mt Abrupt have shaped the overall design concept and create a feeling of dining in nature. By working closely with the restaurant team, Byrne Architects have created a structure that clearly conveys the connection between the restaurant, the natural environment and its local bounty that is featured in Wickens' dishes.

"The garden and the seasons are key elements in determining the dishes we create, and from October the new dining space will add to the overall experience; making an even stronger connection between the land and the dining table." said Wickens.

By incorporating a range of beautiful and locally-sourced materials that speak to the heritage and landscape of the Royal Mail Hotel, the space will deliver a sense of unadorned, simple elegance, letting the awe-inspiring setting of Mt Sturgeon and Mt Abrupt demand attention whilst highlighting the important work of Robin and his team in the kitchen.

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Key design elements of Wickens at the Royal Mail include:

• A winding bush trail through the native gardens that connect the hotel and the new restaurant
• A vertical garden lit from behind to create a mysterious and inviting entrance to the arrival lounge, from which the silhouette of the dining room can be seen through a fine, timber screen
• Australian hardwoods, sheepskins and sandstone sourced from Dunkeld's local quarry to create a raw and pared-back sense of luxury that highlight the Royal Mail Hotel's agricultural roots.
• A pre-dinner arrival lounge that is connected to the dining room by a wine corridor where approximately 400 local and international wines from the hotel's award-winning cellar will be on display.

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The restaurant will be open as usual in the meantime.

Wickens at the Royal Mail Hotel will open in October 2017; 98 Parker Street, Dunkeld, VIC

Check availability and book Royal Mail Hotel here on alluxia.

Images: supplied
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21
Jul
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Best Lamingtons in Australia

Posted on in Roundup: Top 5, Top 10

Celebrate National Lamington Day on 21 July and indulge in a little Aussie tradition.

Folklore has it that these delectable treats were originally created after the Governor of Queensland, Lord Lamington's chef was called upon at short notice to feed unexpected guests. Using only the limited ingredients available, Lord Lamington's chef cut up some left-over French vanilla sponge cake, dipped the slices in chocolate, set them in coconut and the rest is history.

The question is where to find THE best Lamington in Australia and do you prefer retro desiccated coconut or hipster-shredded coconut? Lamingtons come in all shapes and sizes, cream filled, plain, the options seem endless.

Here's where you'll find some of Australia's best Lamingtons:

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Jocelyn's Provisions, Brisbane QLD
A Brisbane institution, Jocelyn's Provisions Lamington's are made with their famously moist butter cake with a hint of orange zest. These beauties are then dipped in chocolate and a smidge of raspberry and rolled in coconut! Yuuum
Jocelyn's Provisions – Shop 11, Centro on James, 46 James St, Fortitude Valley QLD

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Bourke St Bakery, Sydney NSW
This neighbourhood bakery has grown from humble beginnings in Surry Hills to become a much-loved Sydney staple. Their Big Big Lamingtons are something to behold, four layers of génoise sponge, homemade raspberry jam, Callebaut dark chocolate and coconut. These are in high demand on Australia Day!
Bourke St Bakery – various locations including 633 Bourke St, Surry Hills NSW

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Candied Bakery, Melbourne VIC
In Victoria, you'll find Candied Bakery an Aussie bakery with an American twist and a dash of European influence. Their lamingtons have a modern twist with oozy jam centre and a dusting of toasted coconut.
Candied Bakery – 81a Hudsons Rd, Spotswood VIC

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LusciousKiki Cakes, Sydney NSW
Famous for Lamingtons, their lamington menu changes with the season and uses fresh, real flavours. Owner Kirin Tipping creates lamingtons in creative variations such as Strawberry Shortcake, Choc-Hazelnut Bliss and Ruby Red Velvet Lamingtons!
LusciousKiki – 16 Sydneyham Rd, Brookvale NSW

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Wild Baker, Perth WA
Located in South Fremantle, visit this bakery and experience something a little bit wild, like their pimped up Lamingtons with Armagnac poached cherries and mascarpone cream.
2/390 South Terrace, South Fremantle WA

If you're inspired to try your hand at making Lamingtons, here's Donna Hay's recipe for simple, delicious Lamingtons.

These treats are brilliant for Australia Day too. Did your favourite Lamington bakery make the list? Share your favourite bakery, we'd love visit them all!

Book your foodie city escape with alluxia by browsing our handpicked collection of city breaks

Images: Bakeries own.

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Jul
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Dior exhibition in Melbourne

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Looking for an excuse for a Melbourne getaway?

The House of Dior: Seventy Years of Haute Couture is the next blockbuster exhibition to showcase in Australia's fashion capital from 27 August – 7 November 2017 at the National Gallery of Victoria.

Featuring more than 140 garments designed by Christian Dior between 1947 and 2017, the never-before-seen exhibition is not to be missed. Exclusive to Melbourne, the exhibition narrates the rich history of the fashion house, including Christian Dior's early influences, insights into the Dior atelier workrooms, the role that accessories have played in expressing the complete Dior look and the milestones of its six successive designers following Christian Dior's sudden death in 1957.

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The House of Dior explores the story of the fashion house through a series of themes, featuring works by the seven designers who have played key roles in shaping Dior's renowned fashionable silhouette: Christian Dior, Yves Saint Laurent, Marc Bohan, Gianfranco Ferré, John Galliano, Raf Simons and Maria Grazia Chiuri.

Highlights include examples from Christian Dior's iconic spring 1947 New Look collection, magnificent displays of Dior's signature ball gowns and evening dresses, as well as designs from the inaugural couture collection of the House's first female head designer, Maria Grazia Chiuri.

Dior's unique and longstanding affinity with Australia is also examined, including the historic Spring 1948 fashion parade at David Jones, Sydney, where models wore fifty original creations by Christian Dior. This was the first complete Dior collection to be shown outside of Paris.

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"The exhibition will invite Australian and international audiences to discover some of the most significant couture designs of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. The exhibition will be a celebration of Dior's most landmark moments and designs, including their iconic 'New Look' silhouette, which revolutionised women's fashion in the 1950s, through to the present-day contemporary aesthetic. We are also delighted that 68 years after the historic Dior fashion parade at its Sydney store, David Jones is once again helping Australia celebrate the House of Dior, as the exhibition's Principal Partner," said Tony Ellwood, Director, NGV.

The House of Dior: Seventy Years of Haute Couture is the biggest Dior retrospective ever held in Australia and is accompanied by a dynamic program of talks, tours and events. Our favourite way to enjoy exhibitions at NGV is by heading to the curated NGV Friday Nights program, featuring live music, food and performances.

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The House of Dior: Seventy Years of Haute Couture is on display at the National Gallery of Victoria from 27 August – 7 November 2017.
Open daily from 10am-5pm. Admission fees apply.

Don't miss the opportunity to see this incredible exhibition and stay at one of Melbourne's best boutique or art inspired hotels, browse our Melbourne accommodation here.

Images: Supplied by NGV
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Jul
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Your first look at Spicers Potts Point!

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The eagerly awaited opening of Spicers Potts Point has finally arrived as the luxury boutique hotel opened its doors in inner-city Sydney with style and panache, bravely launching with an industry party on its opening day – who does that?

If you've been following our Instagram account, you'll see we took a pre-opening sneak peek while the final touches were being made. We can confirm the impeccable styling, quality and personalised service you have come to expect from Spicers Retreats has been infused into this new city hotel.

Set in a trio of terrace houses dating back to 1873, the multi-million dollar development boasts 20 luxury hotel rooms that provide relaxed inner-city accommodation for travellers, whilst offering access to some of Sydney's best cafes, bars and restaurants just moments from your door.

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Owner of Spicers Retreats, Jude Turner, said she was thrilled to launch the property saying, "Spicers Potts Point has been a delicate restoration-project for my team and I."

"Marrying the preservation of historical features of the property, with modern finishes and amenities throughout has been of utmost importance for this project and I believe the execution of this speaks for itself."

Guests at the retreat can expect to be taken on a journey by the history of the building and surrounding Potts Point area, while taking comfort in the three-storey extension that allows for expansive rooms, a new reception bar and a garden courtyard for enjoying breakfast.

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Our favourite element of Spicers Potts Point is the evocative artwork adorning the walls of the boutique hotel. Sydney artist Martine Emdur's underwater art graces the rooms and a large-scale painting in the garden courtyard is simply breathtaking. Emdur's work features submerged models plunged in the water creating a subterranean theatre. The prints are a bold choice in the boutique hotel's room and it works. We believe the inspiration came from Jude Turner herself who admired Emdur's work in one of the Terrace houses prior to purchasing and then commissioned more for the transformed hotel!

The other significant artwork spotted at Spicers Potts Point is the commissioned works by Brisbane's Jan Manton Art Gallery artist Keith Burt. Burt's art is moody and captivating against the white washed walls and contrasts with the light, modern interior design by Rowena Cornwell who has worked on other Spicers properties.

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The launch of Spicers Potts Point Retreat adds to the group's existing New South Wales portfolio of properties, including Spicers Sangoma Retreat, located in the foothills of the Blue Mountains and Spicers Vineyards Estate, located in the Hunter Valley.

"We have long-dreamed of having an urban offering in Sydney to round-out our existing New South Wales retreats, and I'm pleased to officially open this to the public," Mrs Turner said.

A Queen Room at Spicers Potts Point from $359.00 per night, inclusive of breakfast.  For more information or to book a stay, visit Spicers Potts Point on alluxia.

Images above supplied by Spicers Retreats. Here's some snaps from our sneak peek pre-opening tour!

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Spicers Potts Point guest lounge with artwork by Keith Burt. 

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Spicers Potts Point sunny breakfast terrace...I could sit here all day! IG @alluxia

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Deep soaking bath in the Victoria Terrace Suite and Martine Emdur artwork. IG @alluxia

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Alluxia Winter Getaway Prize Winner

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Thanks to everyone who entered our Weekend Winter Getaway, we were overwhelmed with the number of entries and we're pleased to reveal our lucky winner is...

Simon Joyce, Sydney

Simon has won two nights' accommodation at Hotel Realm staying in a Realm Suite, Buvette Bliss package including mini Moët & Chandon on arrival, two-course meal at Buvette Bistro, undercover parking, WiFi, in-room movies, access to pool & gym and late checkout of midday. Plus a weekend Truffle Hunt at Turalla Truffles as part of The Truffle Festival - Canberra Region. Valued at $700.

Congratulations to our winner and thank you for our generous partners Hotel Realm and The Truffle Festival - Canberra Region.

Missed out, but would love a relaxing break at Hotel Realm? Book Hotel Realm on alluxia.com before 31 July 2017 and mention "Winter Getaway" in the comments and receive a complimentary bottle of wine on arrival. Read more about the Canberra Truffle Festival experience here.

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You Might Also Like: The Truffle Festival - Canberra Region

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Jun
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Qantas Business Travel Awards

Posted on in Roundup: Top 5, Top 10

Oh what a night! Last night we were privileged to attend the inaugural Qantas Business Travel Awards with some of our favourite Australian boutique hotels and tourism operators.

The event kicked off at Olio Kensington Street, a stunning venue within the Kensington Street precinct in Chippendale. The Mumm Champagne was flowing as Qantas Travel Insider Editor-in-Chief Kirsten Galliott announced the winner, as voted by a panel of judges including Neil Perry.

Congratulations to the following #alluxiaapproved winners:

Best Hotel Winner: COMO The Treasury

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Best Boutique Corporate Retreat: Spicers Peak Lodge

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Best Meeting Room: Foxtrot Room, The New Inchcolm Hotel & Suites

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Best Large-scale Corporate Retreat: Elements of Byron

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We couldn't agree more with these standout Australian boutique hotels. See all the winners of the 2017 Qantas Business Travel Awards here.

Thanks to Medium Rare and Qantas The Australian Way for a spectacular evening! Pictured below are David Jones from Elements of Byron and Sally Scott with the award for The New Inchcolm Hotel.

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Jun
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The Truffle Festival – Canberra Region

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This coveted fungi certainly has an air of mystery about it and if you're a foodie then the Canberra Truffle Festival just might be for you.

Now in its ninth year, The Truffle Festival – Canberra Region is the first and largest festival of its kind in Australia. Each year from June to August more than 250 events are held across the Canberra region, highlighting the French Black Winter Truffle. Events range from truffle hunts, degustation dinners, cooking classes and more.

Explore the Canberra region's foodie trail and discover the capital's epicurean secrets.

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Start your truffle adventure with a Truffle Hunt & Cook Adventure at Turalla Truffles. A little over 30 minutes from the city, join Damian Robinson, his family and adorable Jack Russell dogs for a Truffle hunt followed by cooking the spoils and enjoying a long lunch.

It's a fun and fascinating experience; leisurely learning about the Truffle process from the humble beginnings of inoculated trees, to training the pups to forage for truffles to tasting the delicious delicacy in a variety of ways.

Rug up against the winter chill and follow Turalla's trio of truffle dogs Eight Gecko and Frisbee through the truffière as they sniff out whether the truffle is ready to harvest. On our visit, we joined 3-month-old Gecko on his first Truffle hunt and witnessed the cute pup find his first truffle. Cuteness overload!

Returning to the warmth of the farmhouse for the most incredible Truffle Brie and some of Damian's fiery Truffle infused vodka! My favourite of the courses was the Truffle mushroom dumplings with Truffle cream and shaved Truffle.

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Now that you're educated about all things Truffle, enjoy a winter wine tasting experience at Mount Majura Vineyard. Taste a flight of three wines matched with Truffled Brie. The Flinders Estate Brie is decadently creamy and layered with fresh truffles accompanied by apple and thyme paste, organic honey and walnuts. Our flight included the 2015 The Silurian Sparkling Pinot Noir Chardonnay, followed by the 2016 Chardonnay and finishing with the incredible museum release of the 1999 Pinot Noir.

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Continue your wine journey with wine tasting at Collector Wines. This cellar door experience can be found in the cute town of Collector, where winemaker Alex McKay presents wine of style and distinction. Don't miss Some Café next door for a coffee pit stop, with the best brew by a country mile serving perfect Allpress Espresso and a tempting counter of delectable bites. Better still; book in to Some Truffle Dinner a festival highlight with a 6-course degustation featuring Turalla Truffles and Collector Wines.

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When wine is not enough, try Truffle infused beer! Bentspoke Brewing Co.'s master brewer Richard Watkins has created a specialty truffled beer called Silverback created by packing the onsite "Hopinator" infuser with truffles and botanticals including cumquats, cinnamon, juniper berries, cloves and vanilla. The result is a delicious dark, malty beer worth a trying and the brewery is a fab spot to visit and conveniently located in Braddon.

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Not truffled out yet? Enjoy a pre-dinner drink at QT Canberra's Lucky's Speakeasy Bar and partake in a Truffle Negroni. This unique cocktail is available only during the truffle season and is a perfectly balanced concoction consisting of truffle infused Bulldog gin, Carpano Antico Formula, Campari, Orange Twist, Black Truffle Salt and Campari dust.

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Indulge in a Truffle Degustation at Canberra institution Benchmark Wine Bar. The bustling restaurant has a brigade of female chefs led by French head chef Mathilde Pomies serving up generous comfort food perfect for winter in Canberra. The highlight of the four-course menu with matched wines was the 6 hour braised beef cheek with truffle mash potatoes & mixed greens. At $89pp or $119 with matched wines, it's great value and you won't go hungry.

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When you've officially eaten and drunk everything truffle, retire in comfort at Hotel Realm. The boutique hotel is the flagship of the Realm precinct, which also includes the Burbury Hotel, Little National, various restaurants including Buvette Bistro and the new and impressive Hale Spa. Our Realm Suite was generously proportioned with cloud-like king bed and luxury ensuite bathroom with deep soaking bath. The separate spacious lounge room opened out to a large balcony and the kitchenette included a microwave, Nespresso coffee machine and fully stocked minibar and T2 teas. Loved the Smart TV with complimentary movies on demand, Foxtel and free WiFi ideal for relaxing and falling in to a Truffle food coma.

There are plenty more events to discover at The Truffle Festival – Canberra Region, so check out the full schedule on their website and get planning your truffle escape from June-August. To celebrate, we're also giving away a Winter Weekend Getaway with a Truffle Twist thanks to The Truffle Festival, Turalla Truffles and Hotel Realm. Enter now or book your winter escape to Hotel Realm here.

Do you love Truffles? Are you planning on heading to The Truffle Festival - Canberra Region this year?

The writer was a guest of The Truffle Festival and Hotel Realm.
Images: IG @alluxia
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Top 10 Australian Winter Getaways

Posted on in Roundup: Top 5, Top 10

Winter is here! Embrace the crisp mornings, sunny days and cosy evenings that winter brings and visit Australia's favourite winter destinations.

We're your experts in luxury travel and we've scoured the country to find the most romantic winter getaway accommodation, from cosy hilltop hideaways to cool city stays, we've personally inspected this selection of boutique accommodation and can verify the quality and unique nature of these hidden gems.

Here's our Top 10 Australian Winter Getaways to help you make the best winter escape plan.

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1. Blue Mountains, NSW
Alluxia Pick: The Hydro Majestic
After a multi-million dollar renovation, the grand dame of the Blue Mountains has been exquisitely restored and is once again welcoming guest to the spectacular Blue Mountains region. Celebrate Yulefest and all the charm of Christmas in July with festive degustation menus at Hydro Majestic. Retreat to art deco inspired accommodation and all the grandeur of a bygone era.
Check availability and Book Hydro Majestic here.

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2. Western Wilderness, TAS
Alluxia Pick: Pumphouse Point
Tasmania's premier wilderness retreat, Pumphouse Point offers unique Lake St Clair accommodation to engage the senses and embrace winter in the wilderness. Celebrating the dark, mythical and cold, Pumphouse Point is 'painting' the Pumphouse red for the Dark MoFo Festival. Settle in with a glass of wine by the fire and drink in the spectacular views of Lake St Clair and surrounding mountains.
Check availability and Book Pumphouse Point here.

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3. Canberra, ACT
Alluxia Pick: Little National
Winter is the perfect time to visit Canberra and enjoy the annual Truffle Festival – Canberra Region. Embrace those overnight chilly temperatures and snuggle in to the cosiest boutique hotel you'll ever find at Little National. Perfectly compact with efficient planning and generously proportioned sleeping spaces that have character and sophistication, you'll feel you're in a cocoon of cool.
Check availability and Book Little National here.

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4. Daylesford & Macedon Ranges, VIC
Alluxia Pick: Saltus Luxury Accommodation
Retreat to the spa capital of Australia and be pampered in Hepburn Springs with a luxurious stay at Saltus. Spacious, contemporary villas with open fireplace, deep soaking baths for the ultimate in romance at this adults only retreat.
Check availability and Book Saltus Luxury Accommodation here.

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5. Hunter Valley, NSW
Alluxia Pick: Lilies Luxury Retreat
Ideal for two couples travelling together, this two-bedroom cottage has a central lounge area with fireplace and overlooks a tranquil lake. It's a luxurious base from which to explore all the Hunter Valley has to offer this winter.
Check availability and Book Lilies Luxury Retreat here.

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6. Southern Queensland Country, QLD
Alluxia Pick: Spicers Hidden Vale
Just one hour from Brisbane you'll find sophisticated country style at Spicers Hidden Vale. Choose a luxury suite with a fireplace and book in for dinner at onsite restaurant at Homage for an indulged winter menu and settle in for cosiness to the max!
Check availability and Book Spicers Hidden Vale here.

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7. Southern Highlands, NSW
Alluxia Pick: Book Barn Cottage
The Southern Highlands is at its best in winter, with misty mornings and crisp sunny days. Stay at Book Barn Cottage, with its cosy fireplace and curl up with a book from the vast selection on offer. Better still, venture to onsite bookstore Berkelouw Book Barn, taste wine at the cellar door and dine at the divine restaurant – there is really no reason to leave Bendooley Estate.
Check availability for Book Barn Cottage here.

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8. Yarra Valley & Dandenongs, VIC
Alluxia Pick: The Gallery Olinda
Head to the hills this season for a cosy winter getaway in Victoria's Dandenong Ranges. The Gallery is a contemporary retreat for two with a reading nook, beautiful bath and warming fireplace for the ultimate romantic winter getaway.
Check availability and Book The Gallery Olinda here.

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9. Barossa Valley, SA
Alluxia Pick: The Louise
Bold Barossa red wines and winter just go together and there is no better place to stay than The Louise. The Barossa's premier resort has sophisticated suites with fireplaces and complimentary chocolates and Port on arrival. Dine onsite at Appellation with a menu focused on locally sourced seasonal produce.
Check availability and Book The Louise here.

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10. Mornington Peninsula, VIC
Alluxia Pick: Lakeside Villas at Crittenden
Cosy up in these luxury stand-alone villas on the vineyard lake at Crittenden Estate in Victoria's Mornington Peninsula. With fireplace, deep soaking baths and some red wine, Lakeside Villas ticks all the boxes for a winter getaway in style.
Check availability and Book Lakeside Villas at Crittenden here.

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Regional Flavours South Bank

Posted on in Travel Tips

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City meets country at Regional Flavours South Bank, a celebration of regional produce from the greater Brisbane region. It's a chance for city folk to bask in the winter sun, stretch out for a picnic and try some of THE best regional produce.

We recently previewed what's in store for next month's Regional Flavours, which returns to South Bank - 15/16 July and met with some of producers, creators and artisans of our region.

Just 90 minutes from Brisbane you'll find 9Dorf Farms, a burgeoning farm who have diversified their property from pasture raised poultry, beef & pork to include aquaculture including Barramundi, Jade Perch and Murray Cod. 9Dorf Farms are 4th generation family owned business who are passionate about sustainable farming and producing ethically raised animals. Touring the farm with owner Bronwyn Neuendorf is a real treat; Bronwyn is an impressive and inspirational farmer leading the way in modern farming in the region. Want to learn more about where your produce comes from? You can tour the farm on the 1st Sunday of the month for just $16 for adults.

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From paddock to plate we then arrived at popular Brookfield café Wild Canary. Enigmatic chef, Glen Barratt is a big supporter of local farmers, sourcing local ingredients and utilising their own kitchen garden where possible to reduce food miles. You'll find 9Dorf Farms eggs and other ingredients starring on their seasonal menus.

Seek out Glen Barratt at Regional Flavours, alongside producers and food ambassadors from regions including Lockyer Valley, Sunshine Coast and the Scenic Rim. Glen will be joined onstage by Paul West (Moreton Bay Region Advocate), Peter Wolfe (Sunshine Coast Food Ambassador), Matt Gollinski (Gympie Food Ambassador) and Poh Ling Yeow (Logan Food Ambassador) all flying the flag for Queensland on the Queensland Taste stage.

Alongside the celebrity chefs and cooks will be 'Marketplace', where more than 80 farmers, wineries and small food producers will set up shop, allowing interaction between producers and punters.

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Our pick is to enjoy a leisurely lunch at River Quay where you can indulge in gourmet dishes prepared at pop-up restaurants stalls. Let us whet your appetite with a preview of what's on offer so you can plan your culinary adventure:

The Jetty – Chipotle braised Darling Downs Beef Brisket Slider
Popolo – Bolognese with braised Darling Downs wagyu brisket, strozzapreti and Parmesan
Stokehouse Q – King prawn taco with avocado and kale
River Quay Fish – Queensland fish and chips
Aquitaine Brasserie – Pork belly & Raclette Croque-Monsieur, Kingaroy pork belly ham, raclette cheese, wholegrain mustart béchamel and sautéed leeks.

This is just a taste of what's in store, with plenty more celebrity chefs and food pop ups available. See the Regional Flavours website for all the details and make you plan so you don't miss a thing.

Regional Flavours returns to South Bank, Brisbane 15/16 July from 10am-5pm, with free entry.

Enjoy a mini-break and at our favourite Brisbane boutique hotels – book online at alluxia with no booking fees.

The writer was a guest of Regional Flavours. Image credit IG @alluxia
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More to Elements of Byron

Posted on in Travel Tips

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Alluxia favourite Elements of Byron is set for a relaunch in October with expanded leisure, accommodation and education offerings.

With nature and conservation remaining at its heart, Elements of Byron's fifty acres site will be relaunched with a dozen new and revamped leisure areas including a new adults only 25 metre heated pool with swim-up bar and new childrens' playground. The 850,000 litre signature lagoon pool within the central leisure precinct has been heated in time for the cooler months and this area is being expanded with a new timber play space.

A new Eco Education Centre will provide a hub for the local community and resort guests to learn about sustainable living including food production. The Centre will be 100% solar powered and include productive market gardens that will provide food for the resort's restaurants.

The resort recently hosted the inaugural 'Byron Bay Fine Food & Beverage Festival' which we hope becomes a regular fixture on the foodie event calendar.

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Executive Chef Simon Jones recently joined Elements of Byron to head the culinary team. Jones trained under Raymond Blanc in Oxfordshire, England and later worked as Head Chef at Marco Pierre White's infamous one Michelin starred L'Escargot in London. "I looked at Elements of Byron and saw the huge potential" said Jones. Guests will be able to choose from five dining outlets including the private Beach Club on the sands of Belongil Beach, which will reopen permanently by Christmas.

Late last year, we were privileged to receive a hardhat tour of the new villas being crafted within an entirely new section of the property surrounded by forest and creek. 99 villas are being constructed, 68 of which represent an entirely new concept in resort accommodation. These 111m2 fully serviced two-bedroom deluxe beach houses are intended as homes away from home for families and small groups seeking inspiration from nature. Guests will unwind in outdoor rooms with fireplaces and soak up the elements in verandah bathhouses in self-contained villas with full kitchens and laundry facilities.

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Wellness activities continue to expand, with complimentary guided rainforest and guided bird, beach and history tours the throughout the week. Charming onsite stables are a hub for forest or beach horse riding and the range of complimentary activities includes daily yoga classes, tennis, an outdoor fitness circuit, indoor gym and fire pit Fridays.

And in what is believed to be a world first, through separate not-for-profit Byron Bay Railroad Company the owners of Elements of Byron are delivering a solar powered two-carriage train to link Byron township with the burgeoning North Beach precinct. Byron residents and visitors will be able to ride the heritage train along the 3km coastal track. Further information can be found at byronbaytrain.com.au

So many exciting new additions! Does this inspire you to plan your next escape to luxury at Elements of Byron?

Book your next Elements of Byron getaway on alluxia, with best rate guarantee and no booking or credit card fees.

Images supplied.
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Ovolo Group acquires Inchcolm Brisbane

Posted on in Travel Tips

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We've heard whispers for weeks and now we can finally reveal that Ovolo Hotels has acquired The New Inchcolm Hotel & Suites Brisbane from Brisbane businessman Peter Flynn reportedly for $16.5 million.

The New Inchcolm Hotel & Suites is Brisbane's premier boutique hotel, with 50 exquisitely appointed rooms and suites. The award-winning Thomson's Reserve Restaurant and Socialites Bar dominate the ground floor, plus elegant event space and private dining at the rear of the hotel.

The New Inchcolm Hotel is popular for both corporate and leisure travellers with it's mix of stylish rooms and suites. Ideal for special occasions, the hotel offers eight "rock star" style Loft Suites and the heritage style MacArthur and Thomson Suites.

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This acquisition signals Ovolo Hotel's first foray into the Brisbane market. The Inchcolm will join the impressive collection of Australian hotels including Melbourne's Ovolo Laneways and Sydney's Ovolo 1888 and Ovolo Woolloomooloo.

This addition of a Brisbane based hotel marks Ovolo group's continued expansion within the ANZ region – an effort is being led by Ovolo Hotels Australia COO, Dave Baswal and Acquisitions & Development Manager, Raphael Antonini. While the Inchcolm is recognised as a true 5-star hotel, Mr. Baswal and Mr. Antonini have confirmed plans for an Ovolo makeover – aligning the Brisbane hotel with the brand's contemporary approach to both design and all-inclusive hospitality.

Ovolo Hotels officially takeover on 24 August 2017 with the Ovolo makeover and rebranding expected to be revealed in late 2017. In the meantime, it's business as usual and you can book a stay at The New Inchcolm Hotel & Suites here.

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What's on in June

Posted on in Travel Tips

Farewell Autumn and Hello Winter! Embrace the cooler months with getaways to your favourite wintery destinations. From foodie festivals across the country, to the winter solstice celebrations in Tassie to flexing your sporting prowess in Port Douglas, there's something for everyone this month.

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The Truffle Festival – Canberra Region 
June-August 2017
As the weather cools, Canberra comes alive with truffle events across the region with the annual Truffle Festival from June to August. The Truffle Festival boasts more than 250 events across the Canberra region highlighting the French Black Winter Truffles. Events range from the hands-on truffle hunts and forages to indulgent degustation dinners in venues across the city.

Relish Fraser Coast 
3 June 2017
Visit Queensland's Maryborough for Relish Fraser Coast, a gourmet experience showcasing regional food and wine. Marybourough's heritage streetscape and riverside parks serve as the picturesque backdrop for a foodie celebration of local delicacies including mouth-watering Hervey Bay scallops and Fraser Island prawns.

Negroni Week 
5-11 June 2017
Negroni Week kicks off on 5 June as a celebration of one of the world's great cocktails. Your favourite bars and restaurants will be mixing up Negroni variations for a great cause such as OzHarvest here in Australia. If that's not enough, there's also World Gin Day on 10 June and World Martini Day on 19 June. Cheers!

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Dark Mofo, Hobart
8-21 June 2017
Tasmania's premier winter festival is back, delving into centuries-old winter solstice rituals, explores the themes of light, dark, birth, death and more in a heady fortnight of festivities. Often controversial, Austrian artist Hermann Nitsch show was cancelled and then tickets reissued following protests. Be invigorated by a packed program of art, food, film, music, light and noise at Australia's most exciting and edgy festival.

Adelaide Cabaret Festival 
9-24 June 2017
The Adelaide Cabaret Festival kicks off on the Queen's Birthday long weekend, and continue for the month of June. With Artistic Directors Ali McGregor and Eddie Perfect back for 2017, expect a great line-up of local and international artists spanning comedy, theatre, burlesque and dance there's sure to be something for everyone.

Sea & Vines Festival, Fleurieu Peninsula
10-12 June 2017
Celebrating 25 years, The McLaren Vale Sea & Vines Festival celebrates the culinary and winemaking traditions of South Australia's Fleurieu Peninsula over the June long weekend. With over 35 events on offer, from intimate degustation dinners with winemakers and chefs to structured winery tours, there's something for everyone.

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Winter Wine Weekend, Mornington Peninsula
10-12 June 2017
Another celebration over the June long weekend is Winter Wine Weekend in the Mornington Pensinsula. Comprising of the Winter Wine Fest at the Red Hill Showgrounds, punters will have the opportunity to taste around 200 premium wines from 47 wineries matched with a special menu created by local chefs and cheesemakers. Otherwise, explore the region with over 48 local cellar doors participating in activities and events.

Ironman Cairns 
11 June 2017
It's a postcard setting; competitors start with a swim course at Palm Cove and then embark on arguably the most spectacular bike course in the world. Competitors race up the Captain Cook Highway hugging the coastline from Cairns to Port Douglas. Then competitors transition into a run along the stunning Cairns boardwalk, with the race finishing in the heart of the city. The picturesque setting is ideal for competitors and spectators alike and ideal destination for a long weekend.

Daylesford Macendon Harvest Festival 
16-25 June 2017
Daylesford Macedon Produce Harvest Festival is a biennial celebration of the harvest. The festival showcases the region's best growers, provedores, chefs, restaurateurs and vignerons over 10 days of events and activities. Visitors should look out for Daylesford Macedon Produce farm gate signs and stop in to meet passionate producers, growers and those serving exceptional local food & wine.

Create an event into a long weekend, browse our handpicked collection of luxury Australian accommodation by selecting the state and region from the homepage.

Are you planning to head to any of these events? We'd love to hear your travel plans!

Images: Truffle Festival supplied, Negroni Week, Winter Wine Weekends
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Noosa Food & Wine Festival Wrap Up 2017

Posted on in Travel Tips

 

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As the sun sets on Noosa Food & Wine Festival, we declare the event the best yet and ponder whether the best is still yet to come?

Packing our bags for every weather eventuality, the forecast was for a significant rain event to hit the coast for the weekend. Refusing to let this news ruin our mood, we hit the road and made final preparations to welcome our guests to alluxia's Noosa Food & Wine Weekend!

Guests arrived at their leisure on Friday and checked in to their villas at The Rise Noosa. The Rise continues to be a winner for our guests with spacious, luxurious apartments within walking distance to the Festival village; it's absolutely ideal for groups. Guests were treated to cheese & wine on arrival and their fridge stocked with breakfast goodies procured from Vanilla Food at Belmondos Organic Market.

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We headed down to the festival village for The Woods, only to find the event cancelled. After a day of constant rain, it was an excellent decision by the organisers and with it came the announcement that tickets could be used anytime over the weekend and opening times extended. Hoorah! The cancelled event didn't dampen our spirits and we settled in to neighbouring bar, Miss Moneypennys for cocktails and shared plates.

Saturday morning we woke to clear skies and the arrival of Alana our yoga instructor from Balance Noosa for our own private poolside yoga practice. It was a beautiful way to start the day and a way to balance out all the food, wine & indulgence to come...

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With the sun shining, we were all keen for the main event – The Best of Movida on the Beach, under the Tipis on beautiful Noosa Main Beach. Details had been under wraps in the lead up to the event, but we were confident the organisers would deliver a top-notch event. We weren't disappointed with Frank Camorra and team delivering ten courses of Movida classics with matched wines by Mandala Yarra Valley. Incredible food, elegant wine, the sand between your toes and the stunning backdrop of Noosa Main Beach made for a memorable day!

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Highlights from Frank Camorra's menu included the Lake Wapengo oysters with sea grape and finger lime dressing and the goat cheese and pepita crisps were absolute standouts on arrival and indicated the high standard of cuisine to come. Who doesn't love a croquette? Movida's leek and mahon cheese croquette was rich and oozy and was followed by the whimsical presentation of kinder egg filled with manchego cheese and truffle. Finishing the event on a high note with the dish of the day, coffee and rum ice cream with espresso granita, Catalan foam and candied Australian macadamias. Oh my!

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Ushered out of the tipis to make way for the next event, we strolled down buzzing Hastings Street and popped in to Noosa Beach House for espresso martini's to revive us ready for the next round of events!

To The Woods we go! The festival village in a new location at the Noosa Woods Parklands proved a massive hit with some of Australia's best wineries represented, plus food trucks, cheese tasting and incredible DJ's keeping the crowds entertained into the evening. We kept close to Miss Moneypennys Aperol Spritz bar for sunset drinks by the river.

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With the festival under new direction in 2017, Festival Director Maria Crews and team have created an epic event with two festival villages at its heart, The Woods & Noosa Main Beach. Both locations and multiple venues along Hastings Street and greater Noosa welcomed over 120 chefs and winemakers and we're confident the event will continue to grow from strength to strength...if you have the stamina!

We'll definitely be back for Noosa Food & Wine Festival, follow our Travel Events and register your interest to attend by emailing This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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Inhale. Exhale. Escape to Hale Spa

Posted on in Travel Tips

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Move over Gaia Retreat, there's a new name in resort-style day spas hitting the wellness scene in Australia and the location might just surprise you...

Our nation's capital is now home to Australia's newest luxury health retreat. Doma Group has completed a $3 million refurbishment of the Brassey Hotel, creating a luxury health retreat in the Realm precinct.

Hale Spa comprises over 1,000 square metres of fitness inspiration and pure body indulgence now available to guests staying at Hotel Realm, Burbury Hotel and Little National Hotel.

The day spa features a cave-like spa pool, infrared saunas, nine treatment rooms including a couples suite and segregated female and male steam rooms. Linger a little longer in the lounge with fireplace and views onto an internal courtyard with calming water feature for guests to enjoy before, during or after treatments.

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It's not all about pampering, with a focus on fitness and wellbeing part of the Hale offering. The well-equipped gym has a general fitness area, free weights room, group training room, Pilates/Yoga studio and spin studio. If you'd rather escape and breathe in the crisp Canberra air, there is also an outdoor gym area and a landscaped running track around the perimeter.

Whether it's fitness or relaxation, your total health and wellbeing is the priority at Hale Spa. The team at Hale aims to educate and provide a holistic approach, which delivers strength, flexibility, core strength, aerobic and anaerobic fitness.

The gym and spa have been designed to be stylish spaces set amongst beautiful gardens, a sanctuary for guests to escape from their daily lives.

The health and wellness message has made its way into the Realm Precinct restaurants too, with Buvette, Chairman and Yip, Lilotang, Ostani and Maple & Clove all displaying a "H" symbol next to dishes approved by Hale nutrition experts.

Canberra is slowly shifting its all business attitude to become a sought after short break destination particularly for Sydneysiders, with Canberra within easy reach for a weekend getaway. Boasting a plethora of top-notch restaurants serving incredible food and wine, the annual Truffle Festival growing in popularity, Floriade and blockbuster gallery exhibitions and you have all the ingredients for an indulgent escape.

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All 'hale' Canberra's premier health retreat, Hale Day Spa

Book an Inhale.Exhale.Escape package at Hotel Realm Canberra and enjoy:

* Overnight accommodation
* One hour signature massage at Hale Spa and a glass of Champagne
* Access to Hale Gym plus complimentary use of Hale Spa facilities including the plunge pool, sauna and steam rooms on the day of treatment
* Overnight secure parking
* Late checkout until midday
* Free movies
* Free WiFi

From $489 per night. Book Inhale.Exhale.Escape package at Hotel Realm here.

Have you been to Canberra lately? Ready to book a weekend getaway?

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Images: Hale Spa supplied
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Aria Southbank Review – Affordable luxury with style and substance

Posted on in Check In: Review of the Month

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There are plenty of apartment style hotels to choose from in Melbourne's Southbank, but Aria Favourite rises above the pack by offering more than you expect with 24 hour reception, daily housekeeping and stylish suites you won't want to leave!

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The Hotel
Inspired by art, Aria commissioned four local artists to create bespoke artworks throughout the hotel. From the moody style of Jeremiah Locke, the quirkiness of Alexandra Ethell, to bold geometric designs by Louise De Weger and the colourful Kirsten Jackson you're bound to find an artwork to suit your mood.

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The Room
My one-bedroom apartment is light, bright and decked out in minimalist Scandi style. The walls are adorned with artwork by Kirsten Jackson, my favourite of the four featured artists. The apartment is huge (over 62sqm) and thoughtfully laid out with a well-equipped full kitchen, coffee machine, microwave, oven, stove top, dishwasher and full size fridge but sans minibar. The open plan lounge and dining room is filled with comfortable and colourful furnishings, plus a work desk and free WiFi and balcony overlooking the city. Now let's talk about the bedroom...the cloud-like beds are superb, promising a good night's sleep. I discovered they are a super quality AH Beard King Coil mattress which had me Googling local retailers the moment I got home! The all white bathroom featured a shower over bath and a huge showerhead to wash away all the cares of the day. If you're staying a little longer, there is a handy in-room laundry with washer and dryer. Honestly, you could happily move right in!

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Stepping Out
Located in City Road Southbank, you're just a moments walk to the Melbourne Convention & Exhibition Centre, Crown Casino Complex and Southbank restaurants. Conveniently there is a Woolworths Supermarket located next door to stock up on your breakfast essentials and goodies if you opt for a little self-catering while you're in-house. Next door is also a Budget/AVIS office if you're hiring a car to explore Victoria. There is also a neat little list of "Favourite Places" in the room, which details the hotels recommended local cafes and restaurants such as Chez Dré Patisserie Boulangerie. On a beautiful sunny Sunday, we headed to Southgate for brunch with Little Miss Melbourne at P.S. Bar Kitchen, the downstairs more casual eatery from Pure South Dining, which specialises in showcasing the best of Tasmanian produce and strong Giancarlo Coffee to kickstart your morning Melbourne style.

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The Verdict
From the moment you arrive to the light, bright lobby and cheery staff you're ready to make this hotel your home. Well-equipped apartments with dreamy beds and bespoke local artwork seal the deal. There is currently some construction occurring opposite (midweek only), but hey this is a major city, so you have to expect some level of noise. It didn't disturb our weekend adventures and Aria Favourites is a great base to explore all the Melbourne has to offer.

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The Essentials
Aria Favourite Southbank, 285 City Road, Southbank VIC. Rates from $169 per night One Bedroom and $229 Two Bedroom including Free WiFi. Parking is just $17 per day.
Book Aria Favourite Southbank here.

The writer was a guest of Aria Favourite Southbank.
Image credit IG @alluxia
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A Weekend in Toowoomba

Posted on in Roundup: Top 5, Top 10

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Toowoomba is emerging as the go-to destination for Brisbanites keen to escape the hustle and bustle of the city, reconnect with nature and enjoy a country getaway. Just 90 minutes from Brisbane, discover the hidden secrets and laneways of Toowoomba

Heading up the range, you begin to relax, slow down and breathe deeply, ready to immerse yourself in the delights of the country. And there are so many delights to enjoy! On our recent visit, we discovered Toowoomba is a low-key hipster haven; a town filled with cool cafes, impressive street art and culture.

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Stay
Potters Boutique Hotel
Toowoomba's newly opened boutique hotel oozes country hospitality with modern, contemporary style and relaxed luxury. Located in the CBD near Grand Central Shopping Centre (they even have H&M) and walking distance to the boutiques, shops and cafes on Ruthven Street, it's a great base to explore all Toowoomba has to offer. Spacious, well-appointed rooms boasting cloud like beds and king size pillows seal the deal.

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Play
Felton Food Festival
Love food & wine? Then make Felton Food Festival a must-visit on your annual foodie calendar. The event is held annually in March, designed as a way to authentically experience country life and meet the makers, growers and farmers in an epic one-day festival. The festival kicks off with a Twilight Dinner, this year hosted by celebrity chef Alastair McLeod and Costa Georgiadis, followed by a day featuring plenty of cooking demonstrations, market stalls and entertainment to enjoy and soak up the warm country hospitality. This family friendly festival has free entry or voluntary donation to support the local community. No doubt the festival will continue to grow from strength to strength.

Street Art – First Coat Festival
It's impossible to miss the incredible street art splashed across the buildings and laneways of Toowoomba. They're the work of First Coat Festival, an annual showcase of contemporary art transforming public spaces and engaging the community. Download the app and explore the town and its 50+murals. Don't miss First Coat Festival on 19-21 May 2017 for the unveiling of the newest works.

Cobb & Co Museum
Those that appreciate a bit of history will love the Cobb & Co Museum. Cobb & Co Museum is home to the National Carriage Collection and focuses on horse-drawn vehicle and heritage trades. But there's more to the Museum than its namesake, with an aboriginal gallery, hands on workshops, touring exhibitions and a café, it's a great choice for families with young kids.

Toowoomba Farmers' Market
Held every Saturday from 7am-11am in its new home of the Walton Stores, Toowoomba Farmers' Market is a market that advocates for the farm, the grower, the producer and the artisan whilst promoting education and awareness. Bringing together more than 60 stallholders selling everything from preserves, fruit, veg, wines, bakery items, meats and artisan goods.

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Eat
The Finch Cafe
The Finch Café resides in a grand heritage building on the main street featuring high ceilings, timber floors, banquette seating and a eye catching finch mural on the café's rear wall, keeping a watchful eye over its patrons. We feasted on Toowoomba's best Banh Mi rolls, sweet potato fries and pork tacos for lunch and would head back for more in a heartbeat. Also serving excellent Fonzie Abbott Espresso to keep you caffeinated.

Ground Up Espresso
Hidden down a colourful laneway emblazoned with street art you'll find a café serious about its coffee. Serving arguably the best coffee in Toowoomba, the friendly and talented baristas use premium Toby's Estate beans for the perfect brew. For brunch, expect to see menu items such as Eggs Benedict and medley of fresh tomatoes on sourdough.

Red Bench Cafe
Toowoomba isn't short on good coffee and Red Bench Café serves Single Origin coffee and old fashioned baked goods, baked fresh on site. Owner and head barista Matt Skelton honed his skills working Melbourne's café scene before returning to his hometown. You'll spot the little red bench outside at the corner of Margaret and Mary Streets.

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Drink
Preston Peak Winery
Take a detour up the mountain to Preston Peak Winery and be rewarded with stunning vistas and an exceptional range of cool-climate wines. The picturesque winery dazzles as a wedding venue (hello brides) and makes for a very pleasant afternoon sipping wines and indulging in a gourmet cheese platter. Bliss.

Muller Bros
Head to Toowoomba's first open air rooftop bar for sunset drinks, after hours ales or Saturday Night Lights – live music under the stars each week. On our visit, the packed rooftop was pumping out the urban tunes of XY Latu (https://www.facebook.com/xy.latu/) with the crowd dancing under the moonlit sky on a magical warm Autumn night into the wee hours.

Have you been to Toowoomba recently? What hidden gems did you discover?

The writer was a guest of Felton Food Festival. Image credit: Sally Scott - alluxia
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Apr
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World Book Day April 23

Posted on in Travel Tips

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Did you know today is World Book Day? World Book Day is celebrated annually on April 23 and originally created by UNESCO to promote reading and publishing. It's a great day to celebrate the love of reading and the glorious written word!

If you've been smart enough to create a long weekend to coincide with ANZAC Day, then now is a great time to curl up with a book on holidays and indulge in the relaxing pastime of reading a great novel. So take time today to find a spot in the sun with a cup of tea and spend the day reading.

Here's our pick for the best long weekend reads for World Book Day:

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Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty
While Big Little Lies by Australian author Liane Moriarty was first published in 2014, it's receiving plenty of buzz of late thanks to the TV miniseries adaption by HBO starring Nicole Kidman and Reese Witherspoon. Big Little Lies follows the lives of three women and tackles the themes of schoolyard scandals, married lives, ex-husbands, friendship and the dangerous little lies we tell ourselves just to survive.

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Me Before You by JoJo Moyes
Just a word of warning, this one's a tear-jerker, so probably best to curl up and read in a quiet corner rather than being caught out poolside or on an aeroplane, tears streaming down your face. It's the story of Lou Clark who is stuck in rut with an ordinary life and a steady boyfriend, who takes a job caring for the wheelchair-bound Will Traynor. Will had an active life before an accident left him wheelchair-bound and this charming story shows the unexpected joy that Lou brings to Will's life in surprising ways.

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The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
It may take longer than a long weekend to finish this epic novel (at a whopping 771 pages) that follows the life of Theo Decker over a number of decades. It begins when thirteen-year-old Theo miraculously survives an explosion in a New York art gallery that kills his mother. The story unfolds as this lost soul moves in with a wealthy family, then his father in Vegas followed by an antique dealer in New York eventually leading Theo into the underworld of art. It is a story of loss, obsession, survival and self-invention and you'll either love it or hate it.

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One Summer in Venice by Nicky Pellegrino
After The Goldfinch, you'll be needing a light holiday read! One Summer in Venice tells the story of Addolorata Martinelli who escapes her family and business for summer alone in Venice. She begins to construct a list of the ten things that make her happy, makes new friends and rediscovers herself. With a beautiful Italian setting, it's the perfect holiday read.

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The Promise Seed by Cass Moriarty
I had the pleasure of meeting Brisbane based Cass Moriarty (no relation to Liane Moriarty) recently after reading her beautiful debut novel. It's the story of an elderly man and the unlikely friendship that forms with his 10-year-old neighbour. They mystery at the heart of the novel is cleverly unravelled and keeps you wondering until the end. A wonderful novel and we can't wait to read Cass' next novel called Parting Words due for release in August 2017.

Looking for a hotel to cosy up to? A couple of our favourite boutique hotels with book themes are Ovolo Woolloomooloo (pictured above), Tryp Brisbane and Spicers Balfour - you can get lost in their little library.

Which book are you reading and loving at the moment?

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Apr
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Adelphi Review – Sweet Success & First Impressions

Posted on in Check In: Review of the Month

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Everybody knows the importance of first impressions. But how many times have you entered a store, restaurant or hotel only to be ignored and overlooked? Far too often in the hospitality industry we encounter negative first impressions and mediocre service. Not so, when alluxia recently checked in to Melbourne boutique hotel, Adelphi on Flinders Lane.

They say our first impressions are formed in the seven second window upon first meeting someone. This means hotel staff need to act quickly in order to make a brilliant first impression on check-in.

Arriving at the Adelphi Hotel, I stopped for a moment to gather my luggage and before I even had a chance to move, a friendly and enthusiastic Adelphi team member swooped upon me and whisked my luggage upstairs before I even had a chance to think about awkwardly navigating the stairs before me. This exceptional welcome continued in the lobby, with more smiling team members who ushered me to the lobby's communal table, offered me a welcome drink (a coffee thank you very much) peppered me with questions about my stay in Melbourne and distracted me with general pleasant banter that I barely noticed that the formalities of check-in and pre-authorisation of credit cards had been completed. There was genuine warmth in their welcome that's hard to train and comes from strong leadership, empowerment and culture.

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After that fantastic first impression, quite frankly anything could have gone wrong with my room and I wouldn't have cared! Of course it didn't, everything was thoroughly perfect. My room was a very sweet suite indeed – a Flinders King corner suite with the sun streaming in and the bustling city street below.

The warm welcome continued with personal message scrawled on the mirror and lots of fun extra inclusions. The décor is like a liquorice allsorts of colour, but it works! Black and white chevron carpet, lolly pink couch and textured fur throw rug on the bed complete the designer look and making it the world's first dessert themed hotel.

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Tasty temptations are included in your stay, a lolly jar full of goodies such as nuts, jellies, and chips all locally sourced and replenished daily. The complimentary minibar is filled with juices and waters to keep you happily hydrated.

The list of inclusions continues with complimentary WiFi, latest release movies and local phone calls to keep you entertained and connected. You'll need all your will power to resist the tempting treats and entertainment with the movies proving a total distraction when there is work to be done! There's also a Lavazza Amodo Mio coffee pod machine if you're desperate for a coffee, but this is Melbourne and I'm out to explore.

I wander just a little further along Flinders Lane to Cumulus Inc, Andrew McConnell's famed all-day eating house. Midweek it's buzzing with business people caffeinating before work and I prop up at the bar to order breakfast. I'm presented with a petite menu with a few well-crafted items and I opt for the indulgent Shakshouka – baked eggs with roasted peppers and shanklish. Service is swift and professional and the perfect cup of Single Origin Coffee House Blend #7 is delivered with efficiency.

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The following morning I opt for breakfast in-house at Adelphi, the mood lighting, which is ideal for the evening Om Nom's dessert bar offering, feels at odds with the early breakfast hour. Service in the restaurant is a low point, with staff indifferent and not as attentive as their front office counterparts. The 63-degree egg, grilled asparagus, smoked salmon and sourdough toast with burnt butter and sage was a pleasant light breakfast option.

Adelphi Hotel was previously famous for its cantilever swimming pool which was ahead of its time when the boutique hotel was conceived in the early 90's. After a change of ownership and the hotel's refurbishment in 2013, further plans are now afoot for a makeover of the iconic pool deck and it will be interesting to see how they transform the rooftop haven.

For now, Adelphi is a small hotel big on service, presenting enticing temptations at every turn from the delicious Om Nom signature desserts, eye catching Liquorice All-Sort stools and the sweet smell of lollies in the lobby – it's a feast for the senses.

Have you stayed at Adelphi Hotel? Tell us about your experience.

Adelphi Hotel
187 Flinders Lane, Melbourne
Book at Adelphi Hotel here.

The writer was a guest of Adelphi Hotel.
Images: IG @alluxia or supplied.
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Qantas WiFi in the Sky

Posted on in Travel Tips
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The decision whether to work or relax on your next flight just got a whole lot tougher.

On Friday 7 April, Qantas flicked the switch on its new free inflight Wifi service. Qantas passengers on Wi-Fi enabled planes will be able to work online, reply to emails, stream live sport or catch up on the latest shows and films – oh the dilemma!

Originally intended to roll out "Sky-High WiFi" in February, however the popular carrier delayed the launch due to "stability issues" with the satellite-based service. Fair enough, it sounds like a technical feat and testing of the new technology is still underway.

The Qantas WiFi trials will take place on a Boeing 737-800 jet (aircraft registration VH-XZB if you must know and emblazoned with the WiFi symbol, so keep your eyes peeled) which will service the popular east coast routes between Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane and the odd east-west crossing to Perth, which will satisfy the business traveller.

The airline is undertaking a three-month trial to 'beta test' the service for travellers to assess traffic loads and other real-world factors. Following the testing phase, installation of the new technology will be carried out across the 80 strong domestic fleet of Airbus 330s and Boeing 737s expected to be completed by the end of 2018.

Will you know in advance whether your Qantas flight will offer "sky-high WiFi"? It's unlikely Qantas will promote the service in advance due to the operational need to swap aircraft between routes, so it will be pure luck if you hit the jackpot in the coming months.

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This Qantas sky-high WiFi is a game changer; I once accidently booked a flight on Melbourne Cup Day and was mid flight while the race that stops the nation was being run, oblivious to the outcome in the sky. Imagine now, I'd be able to make a bet online, watch the race live and then boast about my win on social media all before I landed!

While you still can't use your 'phone' to actually make calls, I'm not sure how they will police people using WiFi to Facetime their friends and loved ones, and what about the constant sound of pings and notifications from phones around you? The times of being blissfully uncontactable while you embark on your voyage will soon be a thing of the past. Maybe we can look forward to changes to the inflight video to include online etiquette?

How it works, make sure you've downloaded the relevant apps before boarding and once you're underway, connect your laptop, tablet or smartphone to the WiFi hotspot and then voila! Free WiFi!

Some of the initiatives by Qantas to enhance the inflight experience include complimentary access to thousands of newspapers and magazines via PressReader as well as Foxtel, Netflix and Spotify coming on board to provide content in 2017. Passengers will be able to access Foxtel, Netflix and Spotify on their personal devices after logging into the plane's inflight WiFi. While these are normally a paid subscription service, passengers will have free access on and off the aircraft for between 3 days and one month after their Qantas flight (Note – both Netflix and Spotify require customers to sign-up to a subscription to access the free trial). Foxtel and Netflix both have huge catalogues, so there will be no shortage of entertainment on board.

For frequent flyers and business travellers, Wifi will be a godsend, but for others, it may seem like the last place to escape the online world and relax uninterrupted will be gone forever.

Are you looking forward to free inflight WiFi on Qantas or prefer the peaceful solitude of plane travel? We'd love to hear your thoughts, so message below!

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