SOME days you just have to let the world come to you. Last week, I was back in beautiful Noosa on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast. I’ve been up there a lot lately, more by default than design, and what’s really cool is that every time I’m there, I discover a host of new things. On this trip, I stumbled across some cool international experiences in which you can indulge. Here’s five of my favourites.
New York, New York
If it’s graffiti grunge you’re seeking, look no further than Streets of Harlem Café, along Hastings Street. At first I thought this was a new entrant into the Hastings Street scene, but I am reliably informed this eclectic establishment has actually been there for about five years. Lord knows how I missed it. But I’m glad I found it this time. On an uncharacteristically wet and wild winter’s day, I slipped in here for breakfast. If you like a bit of edge with your eggs, this is the place. Oh, and if you want to know what the future holds, there’s even a clairvoyant upstairs.
(8 Hastings Street, Noosa)
Now this is a café I know has been along Hastings Street for forever and a day. And as kitsch and clichéd as it may appear, if you are looking for some of the finest people watching on the planet, pull up a perch at Aromas Noosa, order a smart latte, and do as the French do, and watch the world wander by. In fact, there’s plenty of French influence in Noosa, from the French Quarter to the acclaimed Sofitel Noosa Pacific Resort. I’ve wanted to stay in the latter since it first opened as the big, pink Sheraton 26 years ago. Now, it’s more subtle but the service is still five-star and the views out over the ocean are divine. For a truly international experience, indulge in the Thalgo Indoceane Spa Ritual in the Aqua Day Spa here, a treatment, which combines Mediterranean, Egyptian, Indian and Chinese influences.
Around this time every year, when the temperature drops in Brisbane, I start dreaming of a return to Bali. If you don’t have the time, or the money, to visit Indonesia right now, here’s the second best thing. As soon as you walk through the heavy, carved timber doors at the Ikatan Balinese Day Spa, you feel like you are Indonesia. Surrounded by statues and set in a tropical environment, you can choose from a variety of sublime spa treatments. I had the two-hour Warmth of Bali treatment which, among other things, involved my spa therapist scrubbing my body with chai tea. Among a long list of treatments you can select the Bali Getaway; Noosa Dua; and Kuta Time. But above all, go. You won’t regret it. http://www.ikatanspa.com
Blink and you’d miss this little slice of Italy tucked away in a quiet corner along Hastings Street. Which would be a great shame as Locale was one of the best dinners I have ever eaten. Outside, you’ll find a zippy Vespa. Inside the moody black interior is a menu of gold. I am not even really a risotto fan, but I will often choose a menu (and a destination for that matter) because I am enamoured by its description. In this case, the Organic Acquerello Carnaroli risotto, Fraser Island spanner crab, lemon and sea urchin butter, was the winner. You had me at sea urchin. A few steps up the street, and also a little hidden, make sure you check out El Capitano Pizzeria and Bar which ferments its organic sourdough pizza bases for 72 hours. Here, I encountered for the first time in my life, burrata cheese. It looks like someone has plonked a scoop of vanilla ice cream on your pizza, but in fact it’s a fresh Italian cheese made from mozzarella and cream which melts all over your topping. Died, I did, and went to heaven.
Having visited Sri Lanka for the first time about two years ago, I’ve since been fascinated by this distinctive cuisine. So it is such a delight to have celebrity Sri Lankan chef Peter Kuruvita call Noosa home for his namesake restaurant. Attached to the Sofitel Noosa Pacific Resort, Noosa Beach House Peter Kuruvita combines a relaxed setting with innovative dining. For breakfast alone, you could order the Sri Lankan crab omelette, while you’ll find the Sri Lankan snapper curry on the dinner menu. Kuruvita combines his exotic recipes with local produce such as Mooloolaba prawns.
The Global Goddess travelled as a guest of Tourism Noosa – http://www.visitnoosa.com
THIS travel tales begins where all good journeys should, back in my hometown of Brisbane at my temple of worship…the Regatta bottle shop. I don’t usually dash to the bottle-o just before I’m about to fly to another destination, but I have just learned that my next stop is BYO, I can’t bring any glass, and red wine is also forbidden. And so I find myself in a peculiar pickle, hunting for the finest chateaux cardboard that can be carried, along with my clothes, in a 20 litre dry pack.
I’m off to the Whitsundays as part of the first media contingent to return to the region after tropical Cyclone Debbie hit on March 28 causing an estimated billion dollars worth of destruction during the 36 hours it raged. The Category 4 cyclone, the worst since Cyclone Ada hit in 1970, destroyed 93 boats in Airlie Beach and took out the town’s electricity and water in some parts for up to 16 days. Both Hayman and Daydream Islands were extensively damaged, and will not reopen until 2018. Hamilton Island also sustained damage, but reopened a week after the cyclone. On the mainland at Airlie Beach, the Airlie Beach Hotel is closed, as are several other businesses.
On this journey I will spend two days and two nights at Paradise Cove Resort with Red Cat Adventures. This particular tour is called the Thrill and Chill package. But there are very strict rules attached to this tour. No glass and no red wine. No nail polish or nail polish remover. And finally, no bags with zippers. While on the island I also learn I am only allowed to have an ice cream if I agree to take a napkin first. I’m intrigued. What the HELL happens on this island? After all these years of travel, am I about to have my first Lord of the Flies encounter?
Paradise Cove, on the Australian mainland about 30 minutes by road, or the same time by boat from Airlie Beach, is owned by millionaire Jodee Rich and leased to Red Cat Adventures. And it appears the millionaire does not like spillages. Legend has it a backpacker once tipped nail polish on the floor there and then attempted to clean it up with nail polish remover, which made the situation worse. As for the bags with zippers, apparently zips carry bed bugs. And here I was blaming the backpackers.
On this particular tour I am surrounded by 17 backpackers who are young enough to be my children. Look, I like backpackers, I was one once, but I don’t like them enough to be stuck in a remote locale with them with only white wine in a pouch to console me. Luckily for me, I am upgraded to the “Dream Villa” in which Mr Rich stays when he’s at his resort. It is part African safari lodge/part Aboriginal art gallery with thousands of dollars of authentic Indigenous bark art on the walls. A wooden hippo is perched on the floor and there’s binoculars in an old-fashioned leather case and an ancient typewriter on a desk, which appeals to this writer. A free-standing bath stands in one corner of the yawning bathroom and in the other, a shower surrounded by glass, so that you can bathe with Mother Nature as your witness. On one morning, I am visited by a wild dingo.
The most comfortable king-sized bed in which I’ve ever slept is the centerpiece of the villa which also houses plush day beds inside and a gorgeous swing chair outside from which you can watch the sun rise over the ocean. And the best bit, I can only hear the sound of screaming curlews late into the night, my backpackers scattered somewhere else around this bush property, which sits in Woodwark
Cove. During the 2 day/2 night tour you’ll board the 12 metre, 600 horse power boat and take snorkelling trips to the likes of Hook and Whitsunday Islands. There’s a three-hour visit to Whitehaven Beach and on your last day, you’ll be taken to Langford Reef where some believe Lara Bingle infamously muttered “Where the bloody hell are you?” for an Australian tourism campaign.
While I silently mutter “What the bloody hell am I doing on this tour with backpackers?” in my head, the thing I love most about returning to Airlie Beach is that this town reignites the dormant backpacker in me as well. There she is, my 20-year-old self, who took off around the world with a 10kg backpack of clothes and a fistful of optimism. And this reminds me of a chat I had with a Balinese local years ago, shortly after the Bali bombings. I am always conscious of the “ugly Australian” who enters Bali, the one who drinks too much or packs their boogie board full of drugs, and so I continually check in with Balinese tourism operators as to how my fellow Australians are treating them. On this particular day, the Balinese man said: “We love Australians, when the Bali bombings happened you were the first tourists to return back.”
And so it is with the backpackers to the Whitsundays. Yes, there is some pain in this region, and there are some things to rebuild, but there’s still plenty of amazing things to do here. These fearless travellers, the backpackers, are the first to return. And for that, I can’t help but love them. Bed bugs and all.
Important footnote: Should you find yourself in a similarly dire wine predicament to that I have described above, I have just discovered there’s an excellent new alternative on the market. Tote Wines has launched premium wine pouches in an easy to chill, easy to carry, 1.5 litres. The launch range includes a 2014 Barossa Valley Shiraz and a 2016 Eden Valley Sauvignon Blanc with a Barossa Valley Rose set to launch in the coming months. http://www.totewines.com.au
The Global Goddess travelled as a guest of Tourism Whitsundays http://www.tourismwhitsundays.com.au and Tigerair Australia. Tiger has released $33 fares each way between Brisbane and Whitsunday Coast Airport and $66 each way between Sydney and Whitsunday Coast Airport, until sold out. http://www.tigerair.com.au Whitsunday Transit offers transfers to and from the airport http://www.whitsundaytransit.com.au
THE waterfall gushes like a South Pacific socialite and indeed, that’s precisely how I feel, lounging in this crisp, private pool, replete with my own bodyguard to ensure no one interrupts my island idyll. I am on assignment for Luxury Escapes, Australia’s fastest growing online travel holiday business. And this delicious destination in which I find myself is Fiji’s luxurious Namale Resort & Spa, on the remote northern island of Savusavu.
I exit the waterfall with what I imagine is all the elegance of a mermaid, dine on prawns and sip champagne with Mother Nature as my only companion, before sashaying back to my villa, Rosi, one of 19 beautiful bures on this yawning 212ha property. What I didn’t know before checking in, is that not only is this resort owned by renowned motivational guru Tony Robbins, he was meant to be on the island at the same time as me.
I glance at the full-sized pool table in my villa lounge room, and picture asking Tony over to sink some balls and shoot the breeze. I can imagine Tony saying something profound such as “The path to success is to take massive, determined action” while I would razzle dazzle him with a few of my own motivational quotes such as “Always use butter first if you are going to make a Vegemite sandwich” or, equally inspirational “Never date a Brisbane bloke” Tony, you’re welcome.
In Tony’s absence I easily entertain myself on this expansive property, which boasts an activity centre, fitness centre, tennis court, 9-hole golf course and two swimming pools. Impressively, it also houses Fiji’s only bowling alley, affectionately known as the Kava Bowl and at which I initially thought I was being taken for a traditional kava ceremony. Bit early, even for me, I thought to myself, and was relieved when I realised it was, in fact, a bowling alley. Plonked in the middle of the South Pacific. There’s also an indoor golf simulator here, more than 700 movies and an indoor basketball centre. In short, there’s plenty to do on a tropical rainy day.
Namale’s other claim to fame is that in terms of actual size, it is home to the largest day spa in the South Pacific with the Valeni Sasauni Spa Sanctuary measuring 10,000 square feet. It is here, nestled among the cliffs overlooking the Koro Sea, that I indulge in a 75-minute Ultimate Fusion Massage combining soft tissue, Swedish, and hot stone therapies while listening to the waves crash against the rocks outside. Afterwards, I shower naked outside. Again, Fijian fishermen, you’re welcome.
There’s also plenty of active outdoor options and I join the boys from the dive centre one sunny Sunday afternoon and we board the Namale Pearl anchored in Savusavu Harbour and head out to the Lighthouse Reef. Here, we drop anchor, slip into Fiji’s famed warm waters and spend a sublime hour snorkelling with tropical fish, turtles and black and white tipped reef sharks. It’s enough to work up an appetite which is just as well as there is nothing The Global Goddess loves more than an impressively-stocked bar and canapés before a multi-course dinner served with local produce. Yes, this is an all-inclusive resort and I mingle with the other guests, before we sit down to the nightly entertainment, which introduces us to local culture through the employees and their families from the two neighbouring villages. With a staff to guest ratio of 3:1, you’ll never feel alone here, unless, of course that is your wish.
Namale Co General Manager Nowdla Keefe says despite his fame, Tony has not branded the resort in his name, as he prefers to adopt a low-key approach to the former coconut plantation which started out as his home, 27 years ago.
“He would bring family and friends and they would open up for him and then close the resort but then it got to the point where they decided to keep it open,” she says.
“His intent is that everybody experiences what he experienced when he first came to Fiji. It’s about disconnecting from the world and reconnecting with yourself. A lot of the staff have been here a long time, 70 per cent come from of the two neighbouring villages and they feel like it is theirs. The service you experience comes from the heart.
“He’s very congruent, he walks the talk and the staff love him.”
Can you picture yourself in this pool? Check out this great deal with Luxury Escapes
Guests are encouraged to leave a piece of themselves at the resort and are invited to inscribe a stone with their name, which will be placed at a locale of their choice upon departure. And instead of tips, guests have the option of donating to the Namale Staff Appreciation Fund; The Namale Education Fund; and/or The Namale Medical Fund; which all support the local villages.
One of the absolute standouts of a stay at Namale is its private dining options and apart from my waterfall experience, there’s also a surprise dinner option. On my last night I am whisked away in the dark, and deposited on a beach under the stars. At my table for one I’m served locally-caught lobster and fine Australian wine. Just when I think things can’t get any better (and that I am becoming very good at romancing myself), out of the bushes pops a Fijian man with a guitar. He proceeds to strum 10 stirring love songs. And I am reminded of another Tony quote “We can change our lives. We can do, have and be exactly what we wish” And right now, on this remote Fijian beach, under a moon as round as a coconut, that’s precisely here.
The Global Goddess was a guest of Namale Resort & Spa. This post is sponsored by Luxury Escapes whose travel packages are personally tested by one of their expert travel team. Her opinions remain her own.
I’m flying to the Cook Islands today on assignment for 10 days. I’ll be back just after Easter with some more pics and words on my incredible adventure where I’ll be snorkelling and sailing these beautiful waters, interviewing the only female chief of one of their tribes, participating in a traditional bush beer ceremony with the men, staying in a brand new eco retreat, going on a cycling storytelling tour and visiting some of their most remote islands. I can’t wait to meet these beautiful people.
Photos and travel courtesy of Cook Islands Tourism http://www.cookislands.travel
I AM driving north of Brisbane to Bundaberg on my latest travel writing assignment when it strikes me that I am also on a personal pilgrimage. So caught up am I in the possibility of finally having the chance to experience the turtle hatchlings at Mon Repos on the Southern Great Barrier Reef, that I have temporarily forgotten my strong links to this regional Queensland town.
It’s been nine long years since I’ve been to Bundy, the birthplace and childhood home of my ex husband, and to where we would retreat each year to visit his family. And now I am returning. Alone. The ghosts of the past first hit me as I’m driving through Childers, when I glance at the façade of the old Palace Backpacker Hostel. In 2000 it burned down, killing 15 young backpackers. I remember that day well, I was the Tourism Reporter on the Courier-Mail and wrote a story about backpackers to this destination, mapping their rite-of-passage along the Queensland coast. How they used Childers as a place to stop, pick fruit, and make money before heading north to the Whitsundays. A bunch of young adults brimming with life and hope. Dead. That’s the thing about being a news reporter. Often it’s months, and in this case years, when beyond the adrenalin of a breaking news story, you finally have time to reflect on what it actually means. In my car I slow down, glance at the building, now an art space and memorial to the backpackers, and keep driving.
This is a blog about new beginnings, courage and resilience. I drive north through a series of summer storms, arriving in Bargara mid afternoon. The sun is shining and I head straight for a swim at the Basin, a tidal pool at the beach. Under the warm blue sky with fish at my feet and the ocean crashing against the rocks, I’m feeling cleansed. There are no ghosts here.
By early evening I am standing in the dark with a group of strangers at Mon Repos, wondering if I’ll have the chance to finally witness the baby turtles hatch on this, the last night of the season. Just 10 minutes after opening there’s a sighting and on this balmy beach night we wander in the dark and experience not one, but two clutches, both numbering in their hundreds. The rangers say this is the best outcome all season.
We form a human channel and the rangers shine a light from the nest to the ocean for the hatchlings to begin their life journey. You want resilience? Consider this. Just one in 1000 of these babies will make it to adulthood. And 30 years later, against all odds, the females will return to this very beach to lay their own eggs. In the dark I feel something crawl up my leg. It’s a rogue hatchling. Its beauty makes me cry. Later, back at my resort, I research the spiritual meaning of turtles: longevity, endurance, persistence and continuation of life.
The following day I snorkel with a green turtle off of Lady Musgrave Island. A 1.5 metre reef shark circles below me but I have nothing to fear. I hover over the turtle for the longest of times. Observing her feeding and resting on a reef cleaning station. I smile into my snorkel about my insatiable love of reptiles. Salty and sated, later that night I dine with Shane and Pascaline, the owners of the new Zen Beach Retreat in which I am staying. The theme of new beginnings recurs.
Shane, Australian, and Pascaline, French were living and working in Vietnam when they decided to swap their stressful, high-profile jobs for a different existence.
“We went back to Australia and went for a beach drive to try and find a block of land. I wanted to have something on the sea and it had to be hot,” Pascaline says.
“Some of the properties were stunning but there was not love there. We kept heading north. Shane stopped at Bargara Real Estate and saw this. We went walking and thought ‘what a great beach’. Both of us looked at each other and said ‘it is fantastic’.”
The couple opened the retreat in early March, after extensive renovations of this former 1970s Bargara beach motel.
“We will be offering health activities and corporate activities and finding a balance in between. In particular it’s about balancing the corporate wellness of the team,” Shane says.
“I found a lot of companies are losing their way, the way to innovate and keep their team motivated.
“What we’ve got here is a recovery treatment and corporate retreat.”
The property, which can sleep a total of 22 people including the couple’s beachfront home, boasts four themed suites – Executive, French, Asian and Oriental/Middle East. Each suite has been furnished with tasteful artifacts from the couple’s travels around the world.
“It is about creating an experience where people recover from the busy day-to-day life,” Pascaline says.
“It’s about having a guide to relax and building packages with different partners in the area such as nature, food, wellness and sports.
“We have a brand that is Zen. We want you to embody happiness.”
Happiness. I spend the next few days looking at Bundy through a different lense. I join Bundy Food Tours, a new tour which showcases the incredible innovation of the hardy farmers who have worked these fields for generations. There’s that resilience again. Even at the iconic Bundaberg Rum Distillery they’ve launched a new Blend Your Own Rum Experience. For the first time I visit Lady Elliot Island. There’s more turtles. More resilience. And I dine in new restaurants, all embracing food direct from the paddocks to their plates.
On my drive home I pause in Childers at the new Cane Fire Cheese House selling regional produce. I decide it’s time to embody the courage of the turtles and finally visit the Childers Backpacker Memorial. One of the volunteers accosts me at the door and explains the horrific events of that night. I listen, deciding against telling her I know the story all too well. She says the deliberately-lit fire, which saw Australian Robert Long jailed for murder, put Childers on the map for “all the wrong reasons”. I silently disagree. On the night of the fire, and for weeks and months afterwards, the locals opened their doors to the survivors and their families and embraced them as if they had lost their own children. And now they are immortalised in these walls. Forever part of this region’s fabric. On the drive south I think again about the turtles and their meaning: longevity, endurance, persistence and continuation of life. Bundaberg, well she has these in spades.
The Global Goddess travelled as a guest of Bundaberg North Burnett Tourism – http://www.bundabergregion.info To stay at the Zen Beach Retreat go to http://www.zenbeachretreat.com