SPA TREKS& TOUR TREATS
Contributing editor Christine McCabe profiles contenders in the final three categories in TheAustralian s 2007 Travel & Tourism Awards
BEST DESTINATION SPA EXPERIENCE
ABHealingCMineral■ DTheESpaFLeSpaAqua Day Spa, Sheraton Noosa Resort, Queensland: A member of the worldwide Starwood Spa Collection, Noosa’s handsome Aqua Day Spa features streamlined treatment rooms with state-of-the-art facilities and a luxurious Roman-style bath complex. The spa program is built on a sophisticated wellness philosophy, the Seven Pillars of Wellbeing, focusing not only on beauty but life balance and nutrition with a comprehensive treatment menu featuring La Prairie and Thalgo products. www.sheraton.com/noosaresort
Waters Spa, Voyages Silky Oaks Lodge, Daintree, Queensland: Winner of The Australian’s inaugural Best Destination Spa Experience awards in 2004 and 2005, this lovely retreat, located in the Daintree, continues to draw praise from international spa aficionados. Light and airy treatment rooms afford secluded rainforest views while massages and facials have a distinct Australian flavour featuring products made from indigenous plant essences. www.silkyoakslodge.com.au
Spa at Peppers Springs Retreat, Hepburn Springs, Victoria: Winner of last year’s Best Destination Spa Experience award, this facility combines the elegance of an art deco guesthouse with some of the country’s leading spa technology. Peppers Springs Retreat features European-made Soft Pak Float beds and three open-air mineral pools with garden views. The spa has a contemporary feel but the hotel reception areas are charmingly old world while guest lodgings include garden and spa rooms. www.thesprings.com.au
Sebel Reef House & Spa, Palm Cove, Queensland: Spearheading Palm Cove’s spa renaissance, this acclaimed retreat, tucked away in a stand-alone two-storey building in the grounds of historic Reef House, keeps it simple with only five treatment rooms and low-key plantation-style interiors that impart an immediate sense of wellbeing. A winning formula that combines some of the country’s best therapists with Australian-made products has won consistent praise from international visitors. Operated by Queensland spa impresarios Jeff and Carol Fleming, Reef House continues to set the pace with its innovative signature treatments. www.reefhouse.com.au
at Quay West Resort Magenta Shores, central coast, NSW: Nestled between Tuggerah Lake and the Pacific Ocean, 90 minutes from Sydney, this Mirvac property is golfing nirvana (recently named best new resort course in Australia) and elegant spa retreat. The purpose-built facility consists of five beautifully appointed treatment rooms (including a couples suite) complemented by a relaxing spa garden. Guests are accommodated in a series of studio rooms and open-plan villas with views of the golf course, lagoon pool or gardens. As well as the spa, guests have access to a modern gym, steam room and indoor lap pool. www.mirvachotels.com at Sofitel Mansion & Spa, Werribee Park, Victoria: Only 20 minutes from Melbourne and set in the English country house-like grounds of historic Werribee Park, the new look LeSpa at the recently refurbished Sofitel Mansion hotel is one of the slickest in the country. Featuring a Lancome
Prison Tunnels Tour, Western Australia:
Cape York Helicopter Safaris, Queensland: North Queensland’s longest established helicopter charter operator has bases in Cairns and on Horn Island, allowing easy access to northern Cape York and the Torres Strait. As well as charter and sightseeing tours, the company operates bespoke wilderness safaris visiting remote communities and deserted beaches and covering more country in a week than you could in a month by four-wheel-drive. Accommodation ranges from Aussie bush pubs to Robinson Crusoe-style digs on remote islands while fully inclusive heli-fishing charters allow guests to fish remote creeks for barramundi and saratoga. www.brazakka.com.au
Dubbed an extreme heritage adventure, and definitely more hands-on than perusing dusty historical documents and static displays in the safe confines of a museum, this innovative daily tour takes
COrionDRoyalvisitors below Fremantle’s historic convictbuilt jail to explore a labyrinth of tunnels hewn by former prisoners. Donning hard hats, headlamps and overalls, adventurers explore on foot, and then by replica convict punt, the many tunnels and flooded passageways beneath the prison. www.fremantleprison.com.au
Expedition Cruises, Tasmania Food & Wine Voyage: In March, the luxury expedition cruise vessel Orion visited Tasmania for a specialist food and wine voyage featuring guest chef Serge Dansereau and provedore Simon Johnson. Sailing from Hobart to Sydney via Port Davey and King Island, the ship played host to a range of food events, including wine, olive oil and chocolate tastings, dinners hosted by Dansereau and lively Tasmanian seafood feasts. The cruise is repeated in December and next year Orion also plans to take foodies to the Kimberley. www.orioncruises.com.au Botanic Gardens Cranbourne, Victoria: A division of Melbourne’s Royal Botanic Gardens, the 363ha Cranbourne site, 45km southeast of the city, represents a precious botanical ark of untouched heathland, wetland and woodland. Only a year old (opened May 2006) and already recipient of a national tourism and several design awards, Cranbourne’s striking Australian garden features 100,000 native plants across 15 landscape displays and exhibition gardens. The Boonerwurrung Cafe, with views over this new garden, offers a
ESydneymenu featuring indigenous ingredients; the gardens’ shop features a gallery showcasing local artists. www.rbg.vic.gov.au Seaplanes Fly & Dine experiences, NSW: As quintessentially Sydney as the Manly ferry, those plucky seaplanes buzzing above the harbour are a vital element of city life. A lucky few not only take to the skies for a bird’s-eye view of this postcardperfect city but enjoy a leisurely lunch at a range of restaurants, including the Cottage Point Inn in the Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park, Jonah’s at Palm Beach and the lovely Peats Bite on the Hawkesbury. (And in November the famous Berowra Waters Inn will return to the company’s inventory.) All tours end with a circuit of the harbour before landing at Rose Bay. www.seaplanes.com.au
Coast Wilderness Railway, Tasmania: Operated by the Federal Group, this memorable rail excursion has trainspotters reaching for their notebooks as it traverses wild rivers and about 40 bridges in one of Australia’s last pristine wildernesses. Once upon a time steam engines hauled copper, via a rack and pinion system on steeper climbs, from Queenstown through the rugged King River Gorge and on to Strahan, a journey of 35km. Now, after a 40-year hiatus, the historic trains are rolling again, hauled by what are believed to be the oldest fully restored working locomotives in the world, providing visitors with a wonderful
FWestbeauty studio, VIP suite complete with hamman (Turkish steam room) and private garden-view terrace as well as comprehensive spa cuisine menu and 17m indoor pool, this designer-smart retreat offers the added bonus of easy access to golf, an on-site winery and the State Rose Garden. Upgraded guestrooms feature the wonderful Sofitel MyBed.
BEST INNOVATIVE TOURISM EXPERIENCE
adventure that includes panning for gold and exploring an old mine by candlelight.
BEST TOUR OPERATOR
AAATBFantaseaKings: This highly successful touring company has more road kilometres under its belt than most travellers have had hot buffets. The company’s history stretches back to the beginning of organised tourism in this country. Established as Pykes Tours early last century, before merging with other pioneering companies to form Australian Accommodated Tours, AAT continued its diversification with the purchase of outback tour operator Bill Kings Australian Adventure Tours. In the 21st century, AAT Kings operates premium and low-cost escorted coach tours, camping adventures, four-wheel drive safaris and small group adventures in Australia and New Zealand. www.aatkings.com Cruises, Queensland: The largest day cruise operator in the Whitsundays, eco-certified Fantasea Cruises runs a fleet of high-speed catamarans to the Outer Great Barrier Reef and throughout the islands. Moored inside Hardy Reef, the company’s Reefworld pontoon offers visitors the chance to snorkel and swim in the fishrich waters or view coral from semisubmersibles and a comfortable underwater viewing chamber. Guests can even sleep over to enjoy the reef after dark. The company also operates tours to resort islands, daytrips with
CMaeveDNorthEOrionFOutbackthe maxi yacht Ragamuffin and cruising aboard the new luxury MV Fantasea Ammari. www.fantasea.com.au
O’Meara Gourmet Safaris: Founded by author, broadcaster and copresenter of the popular television series Food Lovers Guide to Australia Maeve O’Meara, this highly regarded company began life as a small Sydney-based outfit specialising in touring the various food villages of the city. It has grown to include a variety of Australian and international safaris, each designed by O’Meara and noted for their focus on authentic food experiences guided by chefs and home cooks alike. Food safaris are available to Kangaroo Island, Margaret River, Tasmania, Vietnam and the Greek Islands. www.gourmetsafaris.com.au
Star Cruises, Kimberley, Western Australia: The award-winning adventure cruise ship True North is best known for its Kimberley journeys, but the vessel also cruises the Top End, Papua New Guinea, Sydney, the Hawkesbury and South Australia, where cage diving with sharks, even a Port Lincoln tuna rodeo, are on the agenda. Able to explore the upper reaches of shallow river systems, the purpose-built True North is equipped with a helicopter and six expedition boats, allowing passengers to plan their own excursions. Cruises may be adventure oriented but the food is refined: tuna sashimi in Port Lincoln, oysters in Coffin Bay, freshly caught barramundi in Kakadu. And for those who prefer lunch al fresco, why not a heli-picnic? www.northstarcruises.com.au
Expedition Cruises: The success of this Australian-owned and operated expedition cruise company is evidence of the growing popularity of this style of travel. Combining elements of adventure (the hitech Orion has an ice-strengthened hull) with five-star luxury that includes staterooms with ocean views, flat-screen televisions and marble bathrooms, this company knows how to take the edge off the great outdoors. On board life is luxe all the way, with a day spa and fine food and wine (Serge Dansereau is consultant chef). Shore excursions are varied, from four-wheel-drive touring to seaplane flights, as are the destinations, with New Zealand included for the first time next year. www.orioncruises.com.au Encounter: Outback Encounter’s managing director Drew Kluska oversees an innovative travel program offering bespoke journeys across remote Australia using the best accommodation, whether private homesteads, up-market bush camps or luxury island resorts. A series of signature Australian Journeys is complemented by wish list special-interest tours: a DC3 flying safari, diving with great whites or a rather more sedate wine-appreciation odyssey. Central to all tours is the chance to meet local characters and expert guides and naturalists. For those with flexible budgets, Outback Encounter can also charter jets, hire yachts and provide access to some astonishing private retreats.
www.outbackencounter.com These are the final categories in
2007 Travel & Tourism Awards. Winners will be announced on November 16 at the official awards ceremony at Novotel Twin Waters Resort on the Queensland Sunshine Coast. For booking details, see the coupon below.
Best foot forward: Top-to-toe pampering at the Sebel Reef House & Spa, main picture; right, from top, North Star Cruises; West Coast Wilderness Railway; Sydney Seaplanes