In a city like Sydney, where citizens are used to the daily dazzle of sun off the Opera House sails and the spectacle of watching the sun set on the commute home across the Harbour Bridge, it’s hard to make a splash. That’s what makes the Sofitel Sydney Darling Harbour so special.
Smack bang in the middle of Darling Harbour, the Sofitel was built from the ground up to fill the gap in the luxury downtown market and the locals are lapping it up. On a regular mid-Winter Saturday afternoon, when check in time rolls around you’ll see plenty of overnight bags rather than long haul holiday suitcases. The Sofitel is the new weekend getaway for locals and tourists alike.
And what is catching their eye? Well, first of all the 590 room property is hard to miss. At thirty five storeys high, the building stands tall above the rest of Darling Harbour, giving its rooms uninterrupted views out over the city and across to Western Sydney. Then there’s Sofitel’s internationally renowned knack for nailing French je ne sais quoi – here that’s impeccable service at every turn, extra touches like deep freestanding bath tubs and bath caddies with built in wine holders, or perhaps a full range of newspapers in the state of the art gym for early risers. The outdoor infinity pool might have something to do with it too. Perched on the fourth floor, the pool’s views out over the harbour make it popular year round, even in winter. Expect the poolside bar to be hopping in Summer.
So we know the Sofitel ticks quite a few boxes when it comes to Sydney hotels, it also excels at catering to Sydney’s foodie crowd. In a city where there’s a new restaurant, cafe or bar opening every night of the week, it takes serious muscle to make a name for yourself. Sofitel has done just that, with its Atelier by Sofitel restaurant. Oh, the attached champagne bar helps too. Start your evening with a glass of French bubbles – there are 12 different champagnes by the glass, from $25 all the way up to a glass of Krug for $99. After a tipple or two looking out over Darling Harbour, move across to Atelier, where you’ll be wooed by traditional French cooking techniques paired with fresh, local Australian produce. Opt for shucked oysters by the half dozen, or a substantial confit pork belly before moving on to Muscovy duck breast and celeriac or Black Angus rib eyes. Those who don’t mind sharing, and are extremely hungry, can try jumbo char grilled prawns or take on a mighty 1.6kg Black Angus tomahawk. Save room for dessert, where the pastry chefs certainly embrace the brand’s roots. Delicate creme brulee is served with passionfruit sorbey and almond biscuit, while the La Framboise berry tart almost too good to share.
After a peaceful night’s sleep high above the hustle and bustle of the city, head back down to Atelier where the space is transformed into a buffet breakfast that covers all bases. Try fresh nutella waffles, design your own omellette, quench your thirst with fresh fruit smoothies or check out the salad bar. There is absolutely no way you’ll leave hungry.
Whether you want to wine and dine or lay out by the pool, Sofitel Sydney is wooing over Sydneysiders one guest at a time.
Lisa was the guest of Sofitel Sydney Darling Harbour.
Source: Out There Starts Here | 7 Oct 2018 | 8:07 pmLow rate, no booking fee, 17,000 hotels, 30,000 destinations.
What’s roughly the same size as Singapore, had its own Ice Age and is just a few hours away from Australia? Trust us, you won’t guess because we’re talking about Lake Taupo.
Located on New Zealand’s North Island, four hours drive south east of Auckland, Lake Taupo is in fact the same size as Singapore. In actual fact, it’s the result of a super eruption from a volcano more than 20,000 years ago. The caldera is now home to Taupo’s famous trout, which were introduced to the lake in the late 1880s. Fishing for the trout is a drawcard year-round but there’s plenty of other reasons to spend a few days exploring the region surrounding the mighty lake. Here’s our top five:
1. Get out on the lake
It’s a must do. And not just because there’s no better way to get a real feel for the sheer size of it. The lake has lots of trout, with plenty of fishing tours available, but it is also home to the Mine Bay Maori Rock Carvings. These stunning 14 metre high carvings were created back in the 1980s with a mixture of abseiling, scaffolding and sheer grit of five artists who would carve in nothing but their speedos and safety goggles. Matahi Whakataka-Brightwell and his team spent four years transforming a large natural slab of rock face into a striking rendering of his Maori ancestor Ngatoroirangi. Hop onto one of Sail Barbary’s electric powered sail boats to see the carving in all its glory! Sail Barbary’s twice daily sailings spend two and a half hours out on the water, letting out the sails if the wind is up so you can cruise past the carvings. You can even try your hand at the wheel, or just settle in and enjoy the ride. The best part is, Sail Barbary lets you bring on board snacks or drinks – for morning sails grab jumbo-sized date scones and banana bread from Body Fuel Café in downtown Taupo. Afternoon sailings are a great time for a few drinks as dusk falls.
2. Hit the trails
Mountain bikers flock to the well marked trails that run around the shore of Lake Taupo. There’s more than 200 km of trails to choose from, with options for all skill levels. Set out from Kinloch, the small township 15 minutes drive due west of Taupo, for a scenic cycle along the lake before heading up into the bushland. The trails offer glimpses of the lake through the trees. Kinloch Club, the ultra modern and uber luxe lodge high on the rolling hills above Kinloch offers guests mountain bikes for the day, and also the option for a pick up in their Range Rover from town if guests bite off more than they can chew on the trails.
3. See Huka Falls
It’s not too often that you can stand right over the top of a waterfall and watch water thunder past just below your feet. The wide Waikato River narrows down to just 15 metres at Huka Falls, with the water funneling down an 11 metre drop at a whopping 220,000 litres per second. Walk across the bridge and marvel at the might of these falls, before walking across to the other side of the river bank and down to other lookouts that look back up at the falls. For a proper up-close vantage, hop aboard the Huka Falls Jet. The jet boats run every day of the year except Christmas, almost every half hour, churning up the river with 360 degree spins and wild turns. They go right up to the rapids at the base of the falls, you’ll feel the spray on your face and the thunder in your ears. It’s not to be missed and something you won’t get to do anywhere else. The jet boat ride lasts around half an hour, taking you racing up and down the river, past water birds, around tree roots and riverbanks. The spins are just a small part of the fun, with your guide slowing down to provide a history of the area and the river’s uses in powering hydro electric dams. The jet boat base is just a couple of minutes drive down the road from the falls, right next door to the Huka Prawn Park. That’s right, the Prawn Park is where fresh water Kiwi prawns are raised. Guests can go in and try their hand at ‘fishing’ for prawns, or head straight to the popular restaurant for big plates of prawns by the river.
4. Tee off
The North Island’s rolling hills were made for golfing. Okay that might not be strictly true, they need a bit of pruning and shaping, but you’ll find one of the country’s best courses just back from the lake. In the hills outside of Kinloch, the Kinloch Club’s Jack Nicklaus-designed course has more than 15 greens keepers even in the winter months, keeping the sprawling Par 72 eighteen hole Championship course in shape. Set aside four to five hours for your game, which has been known to challenge even the pros. Don’t forget to stop of the course’s designated photo spot, where the views down to Lake Taupo are second to none. The Clubhouse on site has a reputation for supersized cookies and slices of cakes, refuel after a morning out on the greens. Guests staying on site at the Kinloch Club can access the driving range free of charge – spend an afternoon with a bucket of balls perfecting your swing.
5. Bliss out
If the Kinloch Club’s golf course has been designed to challenge and test your skill at each hole, The Lodge has been designed at every turn to entice you to snuggle up by a fire with a glass of wine. Literally. There are fireplaces in almost every room in this modern day castle. Perched at the top of the hill above the clubhouse, the lodge’s white façade is dotted with large windows that look out to the dramatic panorama below. With a minimalist, almost fort-like exterior, it’s hard to know what to expect when you walk in the door. It certainly isn’t floor to ceiling windows with day beds right up against the glass, dramatic chain mail chandeliers and hanging globe lights, luxurious fur throws, modern leather arm chairs and lounges, and enormous fireplaces. This is no ordinary lodge building. A series of lounge areas, each with a different view out to the lake and the golf course, a sub level day spa you want to curl up in and never leave, and a restaurant with an open kitchen and raised platforms for tables right up against the window so you’re torn between that mesmerizing view and the magic over at the stoves. And that’s just the lodge. The freestanding villa suites dot the grassy hillside below the lodge, arranged to each have a view out to the lake. They are faultlessly modern, yet comfortable, with wood fireplaces, sleek lounges, big comfy beds and freestanding baths. Evening drinks in the lounge, the mini bar and breakfast are all included – little touches like freshly baked cookies, spiked hot chocolate delivered in flasks at bedtime, turn down truffles and little pots of Manuka honey from the lodge’s sister property Treetops Rotorua are the very extensive icing on the cake.
Whether you want to curl up by the fire, feel the wind in your hair or hear the mighty roar of rushing water, take the time to see Taupo in all its glory.
Expedia compensates authors for their writings appearing on this site, such compensation may include travel and other costs.
Source: Out There Starts Here | 6 Oct 2018 | 12:21 amLow rate, no booking fee, 17,000 hotels, 30,000 destinations.
The wonderful world of Walt Disney has captivated the hearts of kids both big and little for generations. If you ever sang along to Under the Sea when you were young, or perhaps more recently spent a road trip with the kids requesting How Far I’ll Go the entire way, you’ll know what I mean. The magic of Disney seems to know no bounds. And that’s just the movies. If you haven’t been to Walt Disney World, you’ve only seen the tip of the iceberg. What I am really talking about? Here are 5 things that take this all-ages holiday to the next level:
1. It’s a world, not a park.
Let’s clear something up. You won’t be flying all the way to Florida for just one day. Walt Disney World is comprised of six different venues – four theme parks and two water parks. Think of it like the entire fun-seeking Gold Coast. Each theme park is a world of its own, with separate sections. Take Magic Kingdom. You’ve got Fantasyland, Tomorrowland, Adventureland, Mainstreet, Frontierland and Liberty Square. And of course, Cinderella’s Castle. Each land has its own rides, restaurants, displays, characters and of course, shops. The brave will take on more than one park in a day. The sensible will dip in and out, ideally spending at least one day at each park. From now until the end of the year, Expedia has a great buy 4 get 6 day passes – to be used right up until 31st December 2018. That will give you a few extra days up your sleeve for free, letting you have all the time you need to check out Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, Epcot, Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon.
2. You can ride on the back of a banshee
Gone are the days when Walt Disney World was just about Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck. High tech machinery and millions of dollars goes into creating state of the art experiences. Inside Animal Kingdom, you’ll find the otherworldly Pandora, the world of Avatar’s floating mountains and luminous rivers painstakingly recreated by Disney’s Imagineers. The Flight of Passage is a true sensory experience, where you’ll literally ride on the back of a banshee, soaring over Pandora, swooping under trees and over oceans.
Step into Pandora – The World of Avatar at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, where you can ride on the back of a banshee. Image by Kent Phillips and walt Disney World
3. Skip the queues
Savvy travellers will book their tickets, but won’t wait until they arrive to work out which rides they want to go on. Fast passes are your best friend when it comes to making the most of the experience. Each ticket is preloaded with three FastPass+ selections, which can be booked in three months before your entry date. Make sure you book your three passes close together, because once all three have been used, the allocation resets and you can use them on three more rides, and so on, throughout the day. Download the app in advance so you can allocate your passes in the park while you’re on the move. If you want to check out the newest rides, make a beeline for Hollywood Studios, where Toy Story Land has just opened – the Slinky Dog Dash roller coaster is a big hit for kids of all ages! Don’t forget to book in your FastPass+ though!
Check out the brand new Slinky Dog Dash roller coaster at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Image by Matt Stroshane and Walt Disney World
4. Wine and dine
That’s right, Walt Disney World has alcoholic beverages. Pick up a Himalayan Ghost frozen cocktail after riding the Everest rollercoaster inside Animal Kingdom (you might need it if you spot the Yeti!) or head into Animal Lodge where the fine dining Jiko – The Cooking Place has a world renowned collection of South African wines to choose from. In fact, it’s the largest collection of South African wines in the country. Now, the Mickey Mouse waffles and Dole Whip ice creams might be the most famous food items on the menu, but Walt Disney World has plenty of fantastic restaurants, even inside the parks. Beauty and the Beast fans will want to prebook their table at Be Our Guest Restaurant well in advance of their visit – make sure you save room for the famous “Grey Stuff” dessert. For something a little more nostalgic, grab a table at the Hollywood Studios Sci-Fi Dine-In Theatre. Table is a loose definition – you’ll sit in car-shaped booths eating burgers and drinking shakes while watching old school movies on the big screen.
5. Sleepover safari
After a big day in the parks, and a big meal at the Jiko Place, the last thing you’ll want to do is leave the majestic Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge. Like staying inside a supersized safari lodge, this is the hotel when you really can have an overnight safari, without leaving your room. The wings of the hotel look out upon wide range animal enclosures so you might wake up to see zebra eating their breakfast right outside your balcony.
Whether you want to see all the shows, hop on every ride or just dip your toes in Walt Disney World, there’s never been a better time to go. Take advantage of Expedia’s buy four and get six day passes so there’s never a reason for the ‘my parents never took me to Disney World’ scenario! Check it out here.
Wake up with the animals at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge. Image by Walt Disney World
Source: Out There Starts Here | 30 Sep 2018 | 9:09 pmLow rate, no booking fee, 17,000 hotels, 30,000 destinations.
I’ve found New Zealand’s best kept secret. It’s not a movie set or a bungee jump. Or a wine. It’s a golf course. Considering I don’t play golf, this is a pretty bold statement. I am in fact more interested in what’s sitting above the golf course, but for many it is a major drawcard too. I’m talking about The Kinloch Club. New Zealand’s only Jack Niklaus-designed Signature Links course is home to a luxury lodge that certainly stands out from the crowd.
First off, The Lodge at the central lodge building is perched dramatically on the edge of the rolling hills high above the course and from the outside resembles a medieval castle that’s been given with a very modern whitewash. Architect Andrew Patterson took a few design cues from the property’s namesake Scottish Castle but has catapulted the structure into this century. From the distance, its stark and box-like exterior is quite imposing. Stroll up the drive, peer through the ‘gangway’ and you’ll soon realise this luxury lodge is anything but stark or boxy. Patterson and interior designer Virginia Fisher have come together to create a truly remarkable space.
A series of common lounge areas are connected by high ceilings, dramatic floor to ceiling windows, stunning lighting, leather couches, cowhide rugs and fox fur blankets. There’s copper, gold, silver, velvet, slate – design features border right on the edge OTT but it all works. Snuggle up in front of one of the many wood burning fireplaces with a glass of local wine and you will most certainly agree. There’s almost too many places you’ll want to settle in, whether it’s on a window seat/day bed that’s right up against the glass or the low seats perched right at the corner window, or the table for two sitting on a raised platform in the restaurant – they’re all equally grand spots to take in sweeping views of the manicured course below and the great Lake Taupo beyond.
The restaurant in particular is an excellent spot to spend some time. You’ll be marveling at much more than the view, with a team of chefs dedicated to taking the best of New Zealand’s bountiful produce to your plate. Many guests opt for a room rate that includes a degustation, strolling from pre-dinner drinks across the hall to the large dining room for a five course feast. Start with freshly baked ciabatta and a carrot and ginger soup, before moving on to the likes of cured salmon or smoked potato gnocchi. Mains often feature a meat from sister property Treetops Rotorua’s own livestock – think slow cooked Angus with roasted root vegetables and a glass of Martinborough pinot noir. Chocolate and peanut butter ‘bars’ are a sweet finish, and if you don’t have room for the cheese plate, the highly attentive team will send it straight to your villa fridge, perhaps for a late night treat.
Returning to your villa at the end of an evening to a flask of spiked hot chocolate and handmade truffles by the bed are the icing on the cake. The villas are much more minimalist than the lodge, taking laid back luxury to new levels. Think handmade New Zealand rugs, oak floors, deep freestanding bath tubs, high tech wood burning fireplaces and just a touch of tartan. The freestanding villas contain one and two bedroom suites, along with one bedroom junior suites. Tiered down the hillside, each is positioned to ensure it has a view to envy.
The early bird catches the worm, at least when it comes to golf, so serious golfers are up early to tee off with the sun, although more leisurely guests can pop down to the Club House to use the putting greens and driving range free of charge at any time. That’s after an a la carte breakfast – pastries, waffles, eggs, you name it. If golf isn’t your sport, grab one of the lodge’s mountain bikes for a ride down to the lake and around its leafy shores.
Whether you want to spend a few days by the fire, soaking up the view, or out exploring with a castle to come home to, The Kinloch Lodge should be on your bucket list now.
Source: Out There Starts Here | 27 Sep 2018 | 1:13 amLow rate, no booking fee, 17,000 hotels, 30,000 destinations.
The Formula 1 2018 Singapore Airlines Singapore Grand Prix was another epic event. Stewart Bell looks beyond the racing line for the action.
Australian racer Daniel Ricciardo may have had a tough time at the Formula 1 2018 Singapore Airlines Singapore Grand Prix, unable to improve on where he started in sixth; while Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton dominated from lights-to-flag, for his fourth victory at the famed city-state.
But, thousands of Australians still left Singapore’s Marina Bay Street Circuit on Sunday night happy, following an action-packed weekend at F1’s original night race – with this year’s event celebrating its 11th edition since 2008, and second-highest ever attendance with more than 263,000 people.
And it’s a trackside party Ricciardo knows all too well, despite the result, given family and friends regularly take the short flight from Perth.
“It’s definitely established itself on the calendar, everyone knows it, being the original night race and the real spectacle night race,” the 29-year-old said.
“I think the way the city gets around the race is really cool. I’ve had family and friends come to it and they’ve only ever said good things, so it’s a good one and for me, I embrace the challenge. I love street circuits period. But knowing that one is such a physical challenge as well is always fun.”
Away from the track, which featured F1 along with competitive sportscar series’ Ferrari Challenge Asia Pacific and Porsche Carrera Cup Asia, fans were treated to incredible live performances from 27 acts this year, featuring headliners Martin Garrix, The Killers, Liam Gallagher, Jay Chou, Dua Lipa, and Simply Red.
And each night, the Padang Stage, at the back of the Circuit Park – parallel to the short straight between Turns 9-10 – boomed as almost 60,000 fans danced and sang to some of the world’s biggest artists playing out. The Killers even invited a fan onstage to play the drums, and he delivered as the crowd went wild.
Along with fans enjoying the view from one of the 12 grandstand options, there was another – albeit more famous – Aussie in the Formula 1 Paddock Club, with Neil Perry’s Rockpool restaurant making its event debut at the world-renowned superluxe hospitality precinct.
Perry’s first experience was a hugely busy one, with the 61-year-old pulling 20-hour days as he, and his team, sought to keep ahead of the thousands of meals served daily – in a super VIP area that also comprised Nobu, Hong Kong-based bar and restaurant Stockton, and international powerhouse Como Cuisine.
There was another debut happening further down the pit straight with new VIP party precinct Twenty3, its name from the final turn where it’s located.
And it had to be seen to be believed, with Twenty3 housed over 3,000sqm with three five-star restaurants, four bars, a 10-metre long dessert bar and, to top it off, a two-storey nightclub known as the Apex Lounge – complete with a kinetic light installation, which was specially brought in from Germany.
But, you didn’t need a VIP pass to enjoy the event in Singapore, with families and kids young and old getting their hearts racing with interactive activities such as the Pit Stop Challenge, perusing the support race paddocks or getting behind the wheel of a race simulator for a few laps of the Marina Bay Street Circuit.
Ricciardo may not have broken his Singapore Grand Prix duck as yet, returning next year in Renault colours, but the thousands of Aussie fans who were on the flight home still had smiles and memories to enjoy for years. It’s a mega event, and one worth planning a trip to for 2019.
The FORMULA 1 2019 SINGAPORE AIRLINES SINGAPORE GRAND PRIX will be held from September 20-22*, with tickets available at singaporegp.sg at Super Early Bird prices with up to 33 per cent savings.
*Subject to FIA World Motor Sport Council approval.
The post Singapore Shines at the Formula 1 2018 Singapore Grand Prix appeared first on Out There Starts Here.
Source: Out There Starts Here | 25 Sep 2018 | 8:17 pmLow rate, no booking fee, 17,000 hotels, 30,000 destinations.
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