THE very first thing I learned when I moved to Brisbane almost 20 years ago is that the city is divided into two tribes. Those who live north of the Brisbane River, and those who live to the south. So distinct is this demarcation you could be talking about the Scottish and the English. Turns out I’m a true northerner through and through and, with some shame, admit that in two decades I’ve never ever stopped to explore the south, rather giving it a cursory glance on my way to the Gold Coast. But this all changed on the weekend when I was given the opportunity to “cross the river”, pause, and reflect on what the south has to offer. And what I discovered was that the south has soul in spades. Just as the human body has 7 chakras, here’s 7 ways you can discover the spirit of the south side.
1. Back to the bush
Redlands IndiScapes Centre is Australia’s first environmental centre for indigenous plants, and I’m stunned to learn it’s been here for 15 years and I’ve never visited. Which is my great loss, as this 14.5ha site is home to 14 demonstration gardens, more than a kilometre of walking tracks, an environmental information centre and a 600-year-old Tallowwood tree. The good news is that 55,000 visitors a year have discovered this bush beauty which hosts a range of events all designed to acquaint Brisbane residents with native plants. Bush Care Extension Officer Travis Green is passionate about this patch and works with 300 volunteers who plant 20,000 trees in the Redlands region each year. Make sure you stop for a bite in the breezy tea garden café where you can sip on lemon myrtle ice tea while eating native bush tucker.
2. Red, red wine
Regular readers will know that The Global Goddess is rather partial to a drop of wine, or three, and I am more than happy to support local wine makers, all in the name of story research and robust good health, of course. Sirromet Wines at Mount Cotton is one of Queensland’s stunning success stories, clocking up more than 780 national and international awards. Opened by businessman Terry Morris in 2000, this gorgeous property overlooks southern Moreton Bay and produced 640 tonnes, or 500,000 bottles, of wine last year. A highlight of a visit here is the timber antique wine press which dates back to 1793 and hails from the Austrian Hungarian Empire. Around 3500 people a week flock here to sample the 10 varieties of wine on offer, look longingly at the 3000 wines from around the globe in the Morris family cellar (or that could just be me), and dine in the winery’s signature restaurant Lurleen’s, lovingly named after Terry’s wife.
3. Body and Soul
A relatively new entrant to the south side, Body and Soul Spa Retreat at Mount Cotton uses products derived from Australian wild flowers in its spa treatments among this Aussie bush setting. Visitors are first asked to choose an essential oil based on which smell most resonates with them and which corresponds to either fire, water, earth or air. Retreat owner Gail Keith says the process is about balancing the “whole person” so that “you function in your whole life a lot better”. On this particular day I discover I have a strong water element, described as sensitive, intuitive and creative. And my two-hour treatment ironically includes a Goddess Youth Infusion Facial with collagen and hibiscus flower. A cup of tea brewed from native Australian flowers is offered at the end of the treatment, and my water element and me practically float on to my next appointment, looking 10 years younger, of course.
4. Into the woods
Water dragons skip over the lily ponds playing a salacious game of catch and kiss as I sit (rather enviously I might add) on the deck of my charming cabin among the scribbly gums and iron bark trees at Mt Cotton Retreat and Nature Reserve. While the seclusion is seductive, what I really adore is the fact this property has embraced the environment with both hands. Not only is this retreat certified under the internationally recognised Ecotourism Australia, they have established a 20ha private nature refuge which includes three relatively untouched eco systems and more than 75 bird species. Birds on this property have actually been formally identified and registered in the Australian Bird Atlas and in 2011, this retreat created Boom-Ber-Pee (which means koala in the language of the local Minjerribah people) a private nature reserve which protects endangered regional ecosystems and koala habitat.
5. Sit with yourself
I’d heard that the south side had a Buddhist temple but I was unprepared for just how big and beautiful the Chung Tian Temple at Priestdale actually is. The hum of Buddhist chants blends with the intoxicating sounds of silence on this 90ha bushland property which opened in 1992. The City of Logan is home to 215 nationalities and this is one heartening example of the multiculturalism this part of Brisbane embraces. A Bodhi tree, grown from a cutting of the original plant under which Buddha is said to have found enlightenment, is on this site which hosts a number of buildings and temples. Guests who give advance notice can participate in an ancient tea ceremony by donation and in which you’ll learn about the 5 different types of tea – green, red, oolong, yellow and white. In this intricate ceremony Tea Maker William Zhao will explain that tea must be drunk slowly. Even better, William believes red wine is a good for you as tea. I knew it.
6. There’s a bear in there
Another startling fact about the City of Logan that I learned on the weekend is it is home to more than 900 parks and more than 80 per cent of this city is considered “green”. Which makes it the ideal corridor for wildlife to inhabit. Turns out koalas are also huge supporters of the southside, and a really restful place in which to experience these Aussie icons is at the Daisy Hill Koala Centre. Set within the 435ha Daisy Hill Conservation Park, which, by the way, makes an ideal spot for a picnic, a handful of koalas are housed in this environmental and education centre. Now, call me un-Australian, but I’m one of those people who think koalas are a little dull. They sleep for an inordinate number of hours each day, smell a little, are pretty hairy and when they do wake, are pretty scratchy. A little like my ex-husband. But that all changed when I met Harry, the 8kg male, who sprung to life during my visit and struck this sensational pose.
7. Food, glorious food
Until now, when I thought of dining on Brisbane’s south side, I thought of the huge proliferation of excellent Chinese restaurants which pay homage to some of the first migrants to the area. But this is a region which is thriving in a number of foodie fields. From The Berry Patch at Chambers Flat to the Global Food Village at Woodridge, the NT Fresh Cucumber Farm and Riverview Herbs, there’s a range of dynamic producers doing some great stuff here. Let’s not forget the Beenleigh Rum Distillery for a bit of liquid gold, Carcamos Gourmet Caramel Apples, Poppy’s Chocolate, and last, but not least, the unusually exotic Greenbank Mushrooms – where oysters and shiitake mushrooms are grown from a log, like potted flowers. I was gifted one of these beauties and can’t wait to see what springs from its soil. Day of the Triffods or dinner on Tuesday, who can tell?
The Global Goddess explored the south side and Brisbane’s back yard as a guest of Brisbane Marketing. To discover the south side’s soul and awaken your seven chakras, go to http://www.visitbrisbane.com.au
POISED TO PARTY IN PHUKET
One of the Global Goddess’ favourite places on the planet is Phuket. I love the beaches, the bars, the vibe. I’m not talking the crazy Patong part, but other parts of the island which embody the Thai’s verve for life, without bumping into southern-cross tattoos on every corner. This year, I was lucky to go to Thailand not once, but three times and twice to Phuket in which I explored the emerging beach club scene. One of my favourite places is at XANA in the Laguna Phuket precinct which is kicking off the official start to Phuket’s high season with a Carnival party on December 14. Hang out in this stunning beachfront location with its 35-metre pool (there’s even chairs in the pool on which to relax), state-of-the-art sound system and a food and cocktail menu (does anything beat a lychee martini?). XANA’s onsite accommodation Angsana Laguna Phuket is also offering 30 percent off room bookings throughout Carnival. http://www.xanabeachclub.com
THE BEST OF BRISBANE
For those of us not heading overseas this summer, a new Brisbane Marketing campaign is designed to remind us of all of the great reasons to take a break in Brissie during the summer holiday season. This innovative campaign reminds Brissos of their own backyard with beautiful destinations such as Moreton Bay, Redlands, Logan, Ipswich, the Lockyer Valley, Scenic Rim and Somerset all just a short drive away. Think Brisbane, think boring? Think again. Locals and visitors can spot dugongs in Pumicestone Passage, hot-air balloon over the countryside, or camp on the white sand of North Stradbroke Island, among a swag of summer experiences. And, just launched this week, Brisbane’s award-winning hotel The Emporium is paying homage to the European Summer through a new cocktail menu promising a glimpse of the Amalfi Coastline, sunset at Cannes, and a cliff top at Santorini. There will be classics with a twist, summer punch mixes, gin specials, this Pavlova martini (pictured below) and Emporium favourites. The Global Goddess is thirsty already. http://www.brisbanemarketing.com.au and http://www.emporiumhotel.com.au
HEY MR TAMBORINE MAN
Still on the subject of Queensland (it’s hard to get The Global Goddess off of this), gorgeous Mt Tamborine, in the Gold Coast hinterland, has just welcomed its first six-star accommodation with Skylodge – an exclusive luxury residence. We’re talking modern timber, glass and linear steel, to maximise the views down the valley, and all those quintessential Queensland features like wide verandas, a corrugated iron roof (which makes the most divine sound when it rains) and weatherboards. The lodge is designed for joint stays with friends (did someone say girls’ weekend?) or families, and even couples can hire a single room. You can also order private yoga classes, in-house massage, a serenading violinist and a personal chef on request. The whole lodge costs just $1800 a night and boasts two suites. http://www.skylodge.com.au
BEST SPA NONE
Environmental advocates EarthCheck have just released a global spa standard which outlines 12 benchmarks which should be followed by those wishing to meet an internationally-recognised standard. These include: water consumption; energy consumption; water saving; water source; water sent to landfill; waste recycling; community commitment; community contributions; paper products; treatment and cleaning products; pesticide products; and staff wellness. Given the growth in the spa industry in the past 15 years, Taking off her face mask and putting on her green hat for a minute, The Global Goddess reckons it’s important to main standards to support sustainability. And did you know, the word spa originates from the Latin salus per aquam which means “health through water”. I’ll drink to that. http://www.earthcheck.org
SPEAKING OF SPAS
While we are still speaking of spas, The Global Goddess would like to shine the spotlight on one in which she’s been interested for a while. AYANA Resort and Spa Bali was the international resort destination selected for filming of America’s Next Top Model. While she is neither a top model, nor American, The Global Goddess reckons this secluded resort, perched on cliffs above Jimbaran Bay, looks pretty spectacular. There’s 290 rooms and 78 private pool villas and I believe some innovative spa treatments here. And another language lesson: AYANA actually means “place of refuge” in Sanskrit. Any day now. Any day. http://www.ayanaresort.com