Follow the readers
Susan Kurosawa presents the blue-ribbon winners of our annual Travel & Tourism Awards
NCE again, we have been astonished at the number of votes received from readers for the short-listed nominees in our annual Travel & Tourism Awards. Voting coupons appeared on our website and in issues of Travel & Indulgence over a period of five weeks from November 15-16 to December 13-14 last year. This time, we added two categories, making a total of 17; the extras represented a split of ‘‘ under 100 rooms’’ and ‘‘ 100 rooms and over’’ in the hotly contested fields of best luxury accommodation and best resort accommodation.
As in past awards, there is a spread of winners across the states and territories but, sadly, no gongs this year for contenders in Northern Territory, ACT and South Australia. The state breakdown is: Tasmania 4, NSW 4, Western Australia 3, Victoria 2 and Queensland 2. No state locator has been given to winners of best adventure tour operator (Peregrine Adventures) and best tour operator (Abercrombie & Kent) as these companies have offices in more than one Australian capital city.
Voting was exceptionally close, especially in categories of best hosted accommodation and best adventure tour operator (a handful of votes separated the winners from the worthy runners-up) and, in the true spirit of diversity, the winner of best destination spa, Salus Spa at Daylesford, is part of The Lake House property, a Winners’ Circle member in past years in the category of best food experience.
Best Luxury Accommodation (100 rooms and over): The Observatory Hotel, Sydney. Accommodation at this swish hotel, which celebrated its 15th anniversary in 2008, runs from deluxe rooms to executive suites with marble bathrooms. 2007 winner and Winners’ Circle member: Lilianfels Blue Mountains Resort & Spa, NSW.
Best Luxury Accommodation (under 100 rooms): The Richardson Hotel, Perth, WA. This contemporary hotel, with 74 guestrooms and suites, was designed by London architect Terry Farrell. This was a new category for 2008-09.
Best Resort Accommodation (100 rooms and over): Cable Beach Club Resort, Broome, WA. The brainchild of Alistair McAlpine — the original contract was signed on the back of a beer coaster — the resort has just celebrated its 20th birthday. 2007 winner: Cable Beach Club Resort.
Best Resort Accommodation (under 100 rooms): The Byron at Byron Resort & Spa, Byron Bay, NSW. This relaxed resort, set on rainforest neighbouring Tallow Beach, offers 92 one-bedroom suites, some with spas. This was a new category for 2008-09.
Best Value Accommodation: Vibe Savoy Hotel, Melbourne. Located in a grand 1929 art deco building near bustling Collins Street, this pennywise hotel offers an exciting blend of old and new. 2007 winner: Vibe Savoy Hotel.
Best Hosted Accommodation: Crystal Creek Meadows Luxury Cottages & Spa Retreat, Kangaroo Valley, NSW. This rural spa retreat south of Sydney offers pampering spa treatments in four cottages scattered across the 6.5ha rural property. 2007 winner: Kims Beach Hideaway, Toowoon Bay, NSW.
Best Lodge Accommodation: The Lodge at Tarraleah, Tasmania. Built in the 1930s, the lodge, set on a Highland plateau, still retains much of its art deco feel but has been glamorously updated. 2007 winner: The Lodge at Tarraleah.
Best Family-Focused Tourism: Kingfisher Bay Resort, Fraser Island, Queensland. A magnet for families, this eco-friendly resort has four swimming pools, playground, child-friendly eateries and childminding facilities. 2007 winner: Sydney Wildlife World, NSW.
Best Eco-Wilderness Experience: Bay of Fires Walk, Tasmania. This four-day nature walk through spectacular Mt William National Park ends at the gorgeous Bay of Fires Lodge, where swimming and kayaking add to the adventure. 2007 winner: Bay of Fires Walk.
Best Adventure Tour Operator: Peregrine Adventures. One of the few operators in the world to specialise in tours to ice-bound destinations such as Antarctica. 2007 winner and Winners’ Circle member: Balloon Aloft, Hunter Valley, NSW.
Best Indigenous Tourism Experience: Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park, Cairns, Queensland. This popular complex, just 15 minutes from Cairns, includes dancing, cultural displays and a camp where visitors can try their hand at traditional activities. 2007 winner and Winners’ Circle member: Anangu Waai! Uluru, NT.
Best Heritage Tourism: Port Arthur Historic Site, Tasmania. This historic area, one of Australia’s most chilling and sacred grounds, has a unique place in the public imagination. 2007 winner: Australian War Memorial, Canberra.
Best Food Experience: Stillwater Restaurant and the Mill Providore, Launceston, Tasmania. Opened beside the beautiful Tamar River in 2000, Stillwater has grown into one of Australia’s favourite food destinations. 2007 winner: Stillwater Restaurant and the Mill Providore.
Best Winery Restaurant: The Restaurant at Voyager Estate, Margaret River, WA. Fine West Australian produce prepared by chef Nigel Harvey is served in an opulent dining room complete with chandeliers and old-world furnishings. 2007 winner: The Restaurant at Voyager Estate.
Best Destination Spa: Salus Spa, The Lake House, Daylesford, Victoria. This state-of-the-art spa overlooks waterfall-fed streams, with nine treatment areas over three levels, including treehouse-style cabins with Japanese tubs. 2007 winner and Winners’ Circle member: Mineral Spa, Pepper Springs Retreat, Hepburn Springs, Victoria.
Best Innovative Tourism Experience: Sydney Seaplanes Fly & Dine Experiences, NSW. This Rose Baybased operator serves up a bird’s-eye view of the coast before dropping off guests for an indulgent lunch at a choice of restaurants. 2007 winner: Sydney Seaplanes Fly & Dine Experiences.
Best Tour Operator: Abercrombie & Kent. A & K, which started life in 1962 offering exclusive African safaris, has since spread its wings with 60 offices around the world. Super-stylish travel experiences are offered across the seven continents. 2007 winner: Maeve O’Meara Gourmet Safaris.
Qantas Frequent Flyer Partner: Emporium Hotel, Brisbane. The Emporium, which opened in June 2007, offers luxury accommodation in the heart of the Queensland capital. No doubt its 24-hour business centre was a big vote winner in this special category, which was nominated and voted for by Qantas frequent flyers. 2007 winner: Sea Temple Resort & Spa, Palm Cove, Queensland.
Full list of finalists: www.theaustralian.com.au/ tandtawards. Additional reporting: Barry Oliver
Sacred grounds: Port Arthur Historic Site, Tasmania
Beach beauty: Cable Beach Club Resort, Broome
Family favourite: Kingfisher Bay Resort, Fraser Island
Eat and be merry: Stillwater Restaurant, Launceston
Top tour: Lord Howe Island with Abercrombie & Kent
Lap of luxury: The Observatory Hotel, Sydney
Top notch: The Richardson Hotel, Perth