A TOAST TO THE PAST
Contributing editor Christine McCabe unveils finalists in three more categories in TheAustralian’s 2007 Travel & Tourism Awards
BEST HERITAGE TOURISM
Stockman’s Hall of Fame and Outback Heritage Centre, Longreach, Queensland: Founded by outback artist and stockman Hugh Sawrey as a memorial to the explorers, overlanders and settlers of remote Australia, this popular heritage centre has attracted more than a million visitors to Longreach since it opened two decades ago. Five themed galleries and various interactive exhibits tell the story of outback settlement; you can even tuck into stockman’s stew and damper in the cafe. An important aspect of the centre’s operation is the curation of the library’s collection of manuscripts, letters and poetry, helping to preserve the stories of the nation’s rural past. Open daily (closed Christmas Day).
War Memorial, Canberra: This impressive national monument, regarded as one of the finest in the world and winner of The Australian’s 2006 Best Heritage Tourism award, stands majestically at the head of Canberra’s Anzac Parade. The memorial houses 20 galleries featuring a range of changing exhibitions and encompasses one of the world’s finest collections of military artefacts, documents and media. The Hall of Memory, housing the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, is detailed with a sixmillion-piece mosaic. The Discovery Zone allows children a hands-on experience, crawling through a World War I trench or climbing aboard an Iroquois helicopter. Admission is free and the memorial is open year round (closed Christmas Day).
Parliament House and National Portrait Gallery, Canberra: Home to the federal parliament from 1927 to 1988, Old Parliament House has become a popular stop on the Canberra cultural trail, offering visitors a glimpse into Australia’s political past as well as the chance to enjoy the popular National Portrait Gallery. Visitors are able to experience the clubby, history-laden ambience of this well-loved parliament building while taking behind-the-scenes tours of the chambers and prime minister’s suite. The portrait gallery has a second site at Commonwealth Place that focuses on contemporary portraits. www.oph.gov.au/ www.portrait.gov.au DPort
Arthur Historic Site, Tasmania: One of the country’s leading historical attractions, and past winner of The Australian’s heritage tourism award, the Port Arthur site has been sensitively curated to offer an absorbing visitor experience with guided tours of the Isle of the Dead, the site’s archeology and, during summer, the charming historic gardens. With its impressive convict-built ruins and park-like setting, the former penal settlement can be explored in several ways: through the interpretative gallery, after-dark ghost walks and luxury catamaran cruises. Self-guided audio tours feature re-created witness accounts of aspects of 19th-century life.
Exhibition Building, Melbourne: The first building in Australia to be awarded World Heritage listing (together with the surrounding Carlton Gardens), this magnificent Melbourne landmark is one of only a handful of key 19th-century exhibition buildings to survive anywhere in the world. Completed in 1880 for Melbourne’s first International Exhibition (and venue for the opening of the first commonwealth parliament in 1901), the building’s carefully restored and opulent interiors are today the setting for trade fairs and cultural events. Daily tours of the galleries and Great Hall are available.
Rocks Walking Tours, Sydney: Australia’s longest established guided walking tour company has been offering visitors an insight into the birth of European Australia for almost three decades. Incorporating Historic Sydney Walking Tours, it provides the city’s only daily service and has received consistently excellent reviews from overseas and Australian visitors. A team of handpicked, enthusiastic and knowledgeable guides leads visitors on a lively ramble exploring some of Sydney’s oldest buildings, embellishing the experience with colourful tales of larrikins and rogues. Tours are also available of the Sydney Opera House, Royal Botanic Gardens and Circular Quay.
BEST FOOD EXPERIENCE
Long Weekend, Queensland: Established in 2001 by playwright David Williamson, his wife Kristin and former Berlin Philharmonic violinist Brett Dean, the acclaimed Long Weekend is a 10-day festival of theatre, writing, art, music and food. Taking advantage of Noosa’s village-like atmosphere, the gourmet element of this broad-ranging festival includes a variety of events, many celebrating regional produce, anything from a progressive seafood meal along the Noosa boardwalk to a gala dinner prepared by the town’s best chefs accompanied by arias from visiting Opera Australia artists. Details of the 2008 festival (July 4-13) will be available in the new year.
Restaurant and the Mill Providore, Launceston, Tasmania: A must for any foodie visiting the island state, the acclaimed Stillwater Restaurant is owned and run by former viticulturists, Chilean-born Rod Ascui and his Canadian wife, Kim Seagram. The riverfront setting, in a restored 19thcentury flour mill, is stellar, but chef Don Cameron’s food is even better and the sixcourse tasting menu comes highly recommended. A new wine bar has been recently added. Above the restaurant, the Mill Providore and Gallery stocks a huge selection of Tasmanian goodies, making it the perfect one-stop shop for visitors planning a picnic on the Tamar.
Australia, South Australia: Celebrating its 10th anniversary this year, the nation’s largest food and drink festival gets under way this weekend (today to October 20) in Adelaide with a two-day feast on the banks of the Torrens. Brainchild of Ian Parmenter and David Evans (and today owned and managed by Events South Australia), Tasting Australia has gone from strength to strength and this year includes a huge variety of dinners, structured tastings and farmers markets together with cooking classes, a writers festival, regional culinary competition and the announcement of the Le Cordon Bleu World Food Media Awards. Visiting international chefs include Madhur Jaffrey, Antonio Carluccio and Rick Stein.
Kitchen Table at Aria, Sydney: Aria has taken in-kitchen noshing to new heights with a small, purpose-built dining room situated within the busy kitchen of this acclaimed East Circular Quay restaurant. The elegant Kitchen Table affords guests a bird’seye view of the frenetic activity while they tuck into an eight-course tasting menu featuring some of chef and Aria co-owner Matthew Moran’s signature dishes. Diners can chat with the chef preparing their meal while dedicated wait staff match wine to food, ensuring an intimate experience of one of Australia’s finest restaurants.
Tan’s Unlimited Cuisine Company, Melbourne: Stephanie Alexander describes Tony Tan’s cooking as masterly. Roving chef and bon vivant Tan maintains a hectic life leading world food tours while running his popular cooking school in Melbourne, where a year-round schedule of classes features guest chefs and food experts. Tan is a passionate traveller and his cooking classes reflect his diverse culinary interests, but if you can’t find something to suit from the Unlimited Cuisine Company’s jampacked schedule, he is happy to tailor a class for you. Tours this year include an 11-day foodies romp across Spain.
and Truffle Co, Manjimup, Western Australia: Seven years ago a group of food and wine lovers from across Australia set out to establish the largest trufferie in the southern hemisphere. They chose the fertile soils of Western Australia’s Manjimup and planted 13,000 truffle-inoculated hazelnut and oak trees as well as grape vines. Their first truffle was unearthed in July 2003. Today visitors to the Wine and Truffle Co can taste a range of premium wines, enjoy truffleinfluenced dishes in the gourmet cafe and during winter join in the hunt for this mysterious prince of fungi. (Bookings for the last are essential as numbers are limited and the season is relatively short.)
BEST WINERY RESTAURANT
Mill, Adelaide Hills, South Australia: Tucked away in the leafy Adelaide Hills, a 20-minute drive from Adelaide, this famous winery-restaurant has become a South Australian landmark. Shopfront for Petaluma Wines (now owned by Lion Nathan) and the refined food of chef Le Tu Thai, the restaurant and cellar door are set within the converted surrounds of a soaring 1860s flour mill complete with working waterwheel. The restaurant is located within a cosy atrium attached to the tasting room but in summer everyone sits on the dappled deck listening to the cooling splash of the water wheel, dubbed Old Rumbler by locals.
Alps at Strathlynn, Tamar Valley, Tasmania: Forming part of the Ninth Island Vineyard’s handsome cellar door, this glass-fronted restaurant offers long, luscious views over vineyards, mountains and the broad sleepy Tamar. Daniel Alps and his team turn out a small but perfectly formed menu drawing on the Tamar’s exceptional produce. Pipers Brook and Ninth Island wines are available by the glass while the cellar door has a tempting gift shop. Cooking classes featuring dinner with matched wines are available.
Verandah, McLaren Vale, South Australia: Perched on high with broad views over the bald hills and rolling vineyards of the southern vales, 45 minutes from Adelaide, this lovely restaurant is the perfect luncheon spot. The food of chefs Peter Reschke and Nigel Rich draws extensively on the vale’s rich produce store of olives, fruit, cheeses and seafood (the ocean is a cork’s pop away). Wines come courtesy of the adjoining cellar door, where in winter visitors gather around the open fire to quaff Stump Jump, Lucky Lizard and other quirkily named d’Arenberg Wines.
Bimbadgen Estate, Hunter Valley, NSW: Located a two-hour drive north of Sydney, Mediterranean-inspired Bimbadgen has sweeping views of the Hunter. Combining food and wine into an integrated, world-class attraction of great charm, the contemporary cellar door is complemented by the acclaimed Esca restaurant, where modern Australian cuisine can be enjoyed seven days for lunch while drinking in the long views. An interesting seasonal menu features tasting plates matched with estate wines.
Restaurant at Montalto Vineyard and Olive Grove, Mornington Peninsula, Victoria: This modern, glass-walled restaurant commands romantic views across vines, olive groves and wetlands together with a collection of striking modern sculpture that forms part of an important annual competition. Inspired by summer holidays in the south of France, John and Wendy Mitchell and daughter Heidi established this impressive Mornington estate as an antidote to the industrialised food industry. The emphasis is on local and organic, with Wendy’s vegetable garden and orchard providing the restaurant with everything from herbs and berries to 20 varieties of potato.
Restaurant at Voyager Estate, Margaret River, Western Australia: Situated in the lovely Margaret River, the handsome Cape Dutch-style Voyager cellar door is almost as famous for its ravishing rose gardens as it is for its wines. The restaurant, too, is highly regarded, a formal dining room proving the perfect venue for visitors to tuck into local Margaret River specialties. The tasting plates are popular and may include twice-cooked duck or blue swimmer crab and fish mousse cigars. The cellar door also features a comprehensively stocked gift shop.
www.voyagerestate.com.au Next week: Best Destination Spa Experience, Best Innovative Tourism Experience, Best Tour Operator
Good taste: Clockwise from main picture, Stillwater Restaurant, Launceston; Discovery Zone at the Australian War Memorial; Stockman’s Hall of Fame; the Kitchen Table at Aria