GLAMP AMONG THE GRAPES
Many of us who love the idea of sleeping in the great outdoors but refuse to pitch a tent or haul a camper trailer have been seduced by glamping. They might be made of canvas but when they come with the comfort of real beds and bathrooms, floor rugs, and even luxuries such as hot tubs, tent is too basic a word to describe the plush, often uniquely designed accommodation on these sites. They’ve popped up from the beaches to bush in the past few years, a trend that shows no sign of slowing.
Two of the newest deluxe sleepouts are in vineyards. Balgownie Estate Bendigo, in Central Victoria, has just launched 15 luxury tents with queen-size beds and decks from which to survey the surrounding vines or watch the sun set with a glass of wine. The winery’s restaurant is open for meals. Prices per tent start from $205 a night. Next month, the winery is also launching suites in the on-site homestead.
In Queensland, Sirromet Winery southeast of Brisbane is set to open an 18-tent glamping site in May. Sanctuary by Sirromet’s airconditioned, safari-style tents will have private balconies floating above the landscape, creating a “treehouse” effect. There will be 15 couples’ tents, two for families and one bridal suite, with rates from $280 to $480 a night (minimum two-night stay). The sites are the first stage of the Sanctuary development with approval for 55 in total. On completion, Sirromet will have invested more than $10 million into the new tourism infrastructure. BALGOWNIEESTATE.COM.AU, SIRROMET.COM
SWIM WITH WHALES
Majestic Whale Encounters, known for humpback swimming holidays in Tonga, is launching its first Queensland adventure next year, this one with dwarf minke whales on the Great Barrier Reef. The June 2019 launch is timed to coincide with dwarf minke whales’ annual migration to Ribbon Reef north of Cairns, where guests, accompanied by a marine biologist, can swim with the whales. The 10-night deal includes a seven-night cruise and three nights at Silky Oaks Lodge in the Daintree, plus a trip to Daintree Rainforest and Cape Tribulation. Prices start from $7588 twin share. MAJESTICWHALEENCOUNTERS.COM.AU
SWEETER FOR SINGLES
An international hotel group, which includes Sydney’s Tank Stream Hotel, has set up new services designed to help solo travellers reach their dream destinations in comfort and security. The program from the St Giles hotel group – which has hotels in London, New York and Malaysia – includes a microsite highlighting “solo-friendly” restaurants, bars, entertainment and tours; special packages, a dedicated concierge and welcome pack.
It’s good news given that when launching its new Solo Travel Handbook last month, travel publisher Lonely Planet said many lone travellers’ needs weren’t being met by the travel and hospitality industry despite evidence that more people were choosing to holiday by themselves. Criticisms ranged from the charging of expensive single supplements and lack of choice in organised excursions, to being seated in the worst spot in restaurants. Lonely Planet said the profile of the lone traveller, rather than being a young backpacker, had changed substantially in the past few years, crossing age groups, backgrounds and gender.
For solo travellers who want logistical support and the comfort of company, adventure tour company Intrepid Travel has specific trips on its 2018 roster. Destinations are as far flung as Peru or India, and as close as Bali. Intrepid regional director Brett Mitchell says solo travel is popular right now and a great way to connect with yourself and a destination.
Bicycles and tourism go together, especially on the alpine peaks and roads of pedal-popular northeast Victoria. The region now has another destination cycling event, the first High Country Women’s Cycling Festival from April 20-22, a Brightbased festival designed to involve more females in cycle tourism. The feature event is the 72km Buffalo Women’s Ride on April 21. HCWCF.COM.AU
Astro-tourism is a growing trend, whether it’s chasing solar eclipses or photographing the Northern or Southern lights. The latest destination wanting to highlight the clarity of its night skies to travelling astronomy enthusiasts is Pitcairn Island. Known as the home of the Bounty mutineers and their descendants, the remote Pacific Island, 500km from its nearest populated neighbour, has launched a campaign to be recognised by the International Dark-Sky Association as a Dark Sky Sanctuary. The honour, granted to conserve sites with exceptional or distinguished starry nights, has only been granted to three locations so far: Great Barrier Island in New Zealand, and remote sites in New Mexico and Chile.