The West Australian
(N)ICE ANTARCTICA DEALS
PETA MURRAY hops on a pushbike to plot a path from big wineries to more niche offerings
Australian adventurer Greg Mortimer founded Aurora Expeditions in 1991 and has led more than 80 expeditions to Antarctica. And as this great Aussie company celebrates its 30th anniversary, it has launched its Antarctic 2022-23 summer season itineraries.
It is planning the biggest number of trips Aurora Expeditions has operated in one Antarctic season. There are 26 departures on its two state-of-the-art, purpose-built expedition ships, Greg Mortimer and Sylvia Earle.
There are plenty of add-ons for 2022-23, including snorkelling, diving, ice camping, Shackleton’s Crossing, ski touring, kayaking and snow shoeing. Aurora was the first company to offer kayaking, and diving in Antarctica, and ice camping (with no tents).
The season begins on November 7, 2022, and there are earlybird deals of up to 30 per cent off. 1800 637 688 and auroraexpeditions.com.au
G’DAY TO EL QUESTRO
Another Aussie icon, El Questro, on the east end of the Gibb River Road in the East Kimberley, is back in Australian hands. The G’day Group has bought the property from Delaware North, a US company. Born in WA, the G’day Group has 47 holiday parks in WA, among nearly 300 across the country.
El Questro has been closed since the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak but will reopen on April 1. Matthias Beer, formerly of Longitude 131 and Eco Beach, is the new executive chef and busy recruiting for 50 roles.
In WA, the G’day Group is also planning:
■ $14 million for a splashpark which will be free for the community to use, along with more accommodation at Discovery Parks Bunbury Foreshore.
■ $12m for expanded tourism facilities and accommodation at Discovery Parks Woodman Point.
■ $19m in a tourism precinct at Discovery Parks Coogee Beach. It will open up the prime beachfront land to locals and tourists with a resort pool and modern cabin accommodation.
■ $9m upgrade for Discovery Parks Broome, with modern cabin accommodation and a resort pool overlooking the beach.
■ $3m upgrade for Discovery Parks — Port Hedland improved tourism facilities and modern cabin accommodation.
G’day Group has also bought Kings Canyon Resort in the NT from Delaware North.
DOWNHILL DASH AT THREDBO
Thredbo is planning to release ski season passes and seasonal programs in late March . . . so get ready for the rush. It will be followed by lift passes, rental and lessons during April. thredbo.com.au
FEELIN’ THE SUBI VIBE
Vibe Hotel Subiaco opened late last year and we’ve spotted a nice one-night Subiaco Staycation package with a night in a deluxe or premier room, a $100 credit in Storehouse Restaurant, overnight parking for one vehicle, checkout at 12pm and two complimentary coffees from St Marks Road Co, from $299 per night per couple for stays from Monday through to Saturday. 13 86 42 and vibehotels.com (Perhaps add a show at The Regal Theatre. regaltheatre.com.au)
Festivals on the Coral Coast . . .
■ A new festival, Shore Leave, is being held in Geraldton from May 6 to 9. It will feature West Australian seafood, and local culture and adventures. shoreleave.com.au
■ And the first food and music festival on Post Office Island in the South Group of the Abrolhos Islands, 60km off Geraldton, is on April 17 and 18. There will be two long table lunches, with Anna Gare and Guy Jeffreys cooking local seafood, accompanied by WA wines and musicians. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0428 915 565 for prices and arrangements.
STRETCH OUT TO ESPERANCE
Wellness on the South Coast . . .
■ Melisa Rowe will run a (mini) Yoga Festival in Esperance on March 27 from 1pm to 8pm. Melisa says: “People are wanting to find more time for themselves, they’re prioritising themselves. About half of those coming on retreats are solo travellers and half come with a friend or partner, and they are all ages, from 25 to 70.”
■ Body Pulse Pilates run their first retreat at Esperance Chalet Village from April 28 to May 2. “We’ve had quite a bit of interest in the retreat already and all going well, we plan to run more retreats,” says Lisa Nicolson, owner of Body Pulse Pilates.
Esperance Visitor Centre on 1300 664 455. australiasgoldenoutback.com/ esperancewellness
DAM GOOD PICNIC SPOT
On they way to Dwellingup for a couple of days, reader and contributor Gary Tate went to North Dandalup Dam for a lunch break. Under the stone dam wall is a beautifully maintained picnic area with facilities. But Gary added that a harmonica player’s “magical music” filled the valley.
He says: “After a few well-played tunes and having finished our lunch, we congratulated the nice lady musician and continued on to Dwellingup for two days of wonderful bird and Murray River scenic photography.”
From time-steeped villages to seminal cellar doors and sun-drenched vines to distinct Barossa climes, here’s how you can discover South Australia’s most acclaimed wine region on your own two wheels.
ANGASTON TO NURIOOTPA (7KM)
My other half is looking decidedly out of sorts. “These aren’t electric bikes,” he mutters accusingly.
“No, but they are top-quality road bikes,” I counter, my encouraging smile met with a withering glare.
Further dissent is suspended as we approach the old Angaston railway station, official start of the 40km Barossa Bike Trail. Constructed in 2010 after rail services ceased, the Barossa Trail links six townships and is the longest dedicated cycle path through wine country in Australia.
After a final adjustment of helmets, we take off on smooth bitumen tracing the former rail corridor between steep embankments. A gradual descent (cue small smile from the other half ) sees us sailing past dusty-green olive trees and rows of twisted grape vines harbouring the occasional rabbit while an army of schoolchildren pedalling by in a hail of “hellos” causes a huddle of galahs to lift in a Mexican wave of alarm.
Producing about 20 per cent of Australia’s wine, the Barossa Valley is home to more than 80 cellar doors from boutique vineyards to large-scale producers. While we plan to stick to more intimate wineries, our arrival in Nuriootpa (Nuri to the locals) sees us facing off with one of the legendary “Barossa Barons” and it’s only fitting that we pay homage.
One of Australia’s oldest
winemakers and purveyor of the Barossa’s heritage-listed Grange, Penfolds dates back to 1844 when doctor Christopher Penfold first planted grapes for “medicinal” purposes and boasts some of the oldest continuously producing vines in the world. With a 50ml sip of the 2016 Grange priced at $50, we settle for the Baby Grange, a cabernet shiraz stored in the prized Grange oak barrels and highlight of the tasting selection.
NURIOOTPA TO TANUNDA (6KM)
From Penfolds the bike path beckons south buoyed by brilliant red roses. Kaesler and its signature shiraz The Bogan capture our curiosity and we stop in at the Halliday-high-fived winery skirted by a 60ha sea of vibrant vines.
Taking on the 130-year-old plot in 1999, veteran vintner Reid Bosward named The Bogan in honour of his western Sydney roots. Defying its tongue-in-cheek moniker, the old vine shiraz proves a sophisticated drop best sipped on the cellar door’s deck between friendly sniffs from Coop, the winery dog.
The sun is slipping west as we reach Tanunda, founded in 1848 by German settlers and modern-day heart of the Barossa. The village pub offers accommodation and, with a balcony overlooking main street, is the perfect place to enjoy a bottle of today’s loot.
Next day we gingerly get back on the bikes, a little saddle-sore from yesterday’s 13km ride. Today’s Barossa Farmers Market means some backtracking but is a worthy detour offering an eclectic mix of local produce from Fenton
Farm pickles to Steiny’s mettwursts, shiraz sauces and artisan breads.
Fortified with coffee and a warm pastry, we’re ready to tackle the main artery of the Barossa wine region, Seppeltsfield Road. The 10km road begins with a slow ascent, just enough to test the gears (and the other half’s mettle). Two kilometres brings us to the end of his humour and Whistler Wines, a family-owned vineyard set among the gum trees.
Whistler’s vines boast impressive ancestry being cuttings from Penfolds’ hallowed Grange vineyard and all is forgiven as we sample the biodynamic Next Gen Range, easy-drinking reds with names like Get in My Belly and Shiver Down my Spine.
Back on Seppeltsfield Road, passing cars grant us a wide berth and we figure the locals must be well-versed in looking out for tipsy cyclists. Neatly braided grape vines lace the route to Two Hands, a boutique cellar door named for its hand-nurtured crop. Set in a quaint stone cottage nestled among the Western Ranges, tastings here come with a masterclass on climates, clay soils and a complimentary wine glass.
Shadows are lengthening as our tyres turn for Tanunda and our thoughts to food.
Award-winning eatery Musque is filling fast but we opt instead for a freshly cooked pizza at Mia across the road which, piled with plump local olives, wins accolades all round.
TANUNDA TO LYNDOCH (14KM)
Next morning we skim through the sleepy streets of Sunday Tanunda. South of town, the Barossa Range unfurls as we ride past fields of snugly coiled hay bales patrolled by peregrine falcons in search of prey.
At Krondorf Road, we peel off the bike trail to visit Grant Burge, a fifth-generation Barossa vigneron whose forefathers began winemaking in 1865. By now surprisingly adept at drinking before the yard-arm, we take the tasting flight where the undisputed star is the sparkling shiraz cabernet served with sweeping views of the Southern Barossa.
Bubbles are just the lift we need for the downhill glide to Rockford Winery, housed in an original 1850s settler’s cottage and producing unique wines like Alicante Bouschet, made from red-fleshed grapes, on equipment from the pioneering days.
Returning to the bike path, an abrupt turn sets us pedalling along the banks of the North Para River. Hitting the hilliest section of trail, we are treated to panoramic vineyard vistas, majestic river red gums and the splash of spring wildflowers as steep climbs and sharp switchbacks test thigh muscles and get the cardio cranking.
From Jacob’s Creek, site of the Barossa’s first commercial grape plantings, the track snakes through thick-stumped vineyard before dropping to the hamlet of Rowland Flat. Five kilometres on, the ironstone Holy Trinity Church guides our blessed downward trajectory into Lyndoch, the oldest town in the Barossa.
LYNDOCH TO GAWLER (14KM)
The afternoon heat is rising as we tackle the last leg of the Barossa trail, hugging the disused rail line through farmland and cattle country. A kangaroo reclining under a gum tree pricks curious ears as we fly past, our legs egged on by the promise of cold beer at the Sandy Creek Hotel.
Pulling in at the old sandstone pub, we drink a well-earned pint on the veranda joining a bunch of grizzled bikers, their shiny machines glinting in the sun.
With 7km to go, we strap on helmets for the final time and set off through fields of waving wheat. Rural landscape morphs into suburban estate before an exhilarating descent into the riverside town of Gawler.
We’re met by Barossa Bike Hire owner Louis who seems genuinely impressed that we finished the 40km ride. As for my recalcitrant cohort, I recently caught him googling high-performance helmets and sizing up lycra pants. Electric bikes? They’re for amateurs.