Con­tribut­ing ed­i­tor Chris­tine McCabe pro­files con­tenders in the fi­nal three cat­e­gories in TheAus­tralian s 2007 Travel & Tourism Awards

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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.sher­a­­sort

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.silkyoak­

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.thes­

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.reef­

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.mir­va­cho­ 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.braza­

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.fre­

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.ori­on­ 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. 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.sea­

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.



ad­ven­ture that in­cludes pan­ning for gold and ex­plor­ing an old mine by can­dle­light.



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.aatk­ 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.­

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.gourmet­sa­

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.north­star­

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.ori­on­ 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.out­back­en­ 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

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