Getaways

Getaways Trump Jewellery In The Gift Stakes

Forget the old saying ‘diamonds are a girl’s best friend’ when it comes to meaningful gifts – a recent survey has revealed that what Australians really want is a surprise, spontaneous trip away.

Booking.com revealed that a “surprise trip away” tops the list of most meaningful gifts (54 per cent), followed by a night out at a fancy restaurant (16 per cent). Just 8 per cent of participants listed jewellery or a watch as their most sought-after gift.

Three out of four people (76 per cent) said a spontaneous trip would put the romance back in to their relationship, with nearly three quarters of female (74 per cent) and 60 per cent of male respondents saying they wished their partner would plan a surprise getaway for no reason.

However, with a whopping 80 per cent of respondents agreeing that spontaneous travel boosts their happiness levels and makes them feel excited (74 per cent), what stops us from making those last minute holiday plans? Pepijn Rijvers from Booking.com said: “We know that our customers want to be able to enjoy a quick getaway without the preamble of a laborious booking process. In fact, more than 50 percent of bookings globally are made within 48 hours of travel, which is why we created the Booking Now app… The perfect room is just two taps away, so with this kind of technology at your fingertips there’s no better time to book a spontaneous trip.”

With over 690,000 accommodations available at the tap of a button via the Booking Now app, you can easily surprise your loved one with a spontaneous break whenever the moment takes you.

Where To Indulge In An Eco-Luxe Getaway This Winter

Eco-luxe travel is a growing trend across the globe and according to Booking.com, Australian’s are the most eco-conscious travellers in the world.

RELATED: Holiday Like A Celebrity: 5 Top Luxury Locations

More aware of our environmental impact than ever but not prepared to forgo on luxury, modern travellers are being lured by destinations that are offering a balance between high-end comfort and eco-sensitivity, and with winter the perfect time to plan a weekend away and cosy up in luxury accommodation, Booking.com has shared it’s top-rated eco-destinations in our very own backyard, which remain high on luxury but low on impact.

  1. Saffire-Freycinet, Coles Bay, Tasmania

Surrounded by untouched woodland overlooking East Tasmania’s Coles Bay, the Saffire was designed with the environment in mind. Taking its inspiration from the pink granite of the Hazards mountains, the white beaches, sapphire water and grey-green of the native bushland, the lodge is designed to connect with the surrounding environment to create a relaxing and rejuvenating experience.

With the views ever changing from its spacious luxury suites, Saffire’s ethos is to protect and restore the natural ecosystem around it.

Enjoy fresh regional food at the restaurant, a cooking class with the lodge’s award-winning chef, or a wine tasting by the open fireplace for the perfect winter escape.

  1. Tanonga Luxury Eco Lodges, Charlton Gully, South Australia

Nestled into bushland on the Eyre Peninsula of South Australia, the Tanonga Luxury Eco Lodges are solar-powered, self-contained villas perfect for an exclusive and intimate experience. The ideal destination for a winter weekend away, each secluded villa features a fireplace and private terrace with panoramic views.

Populated by kangaroos, emus and over 100 different bird species, you’ll enjoy magnificent views, walking trails, local wine, fresh, gourmet food and have an endless list of outdoor activities at your fingertips.

  1. Qdos Arts Tree Houses, Lorne, Victoria

Surrounded by the native bushland of the Great Otway National Park, Qdos offers unique Japanese-inspired, tree house accommodation just a 15-minute walk from the beautiful Lorne Beach. Perfect for couples looking to relax and recharge, the retreats offer peaceful bush views from their private balcony, and the sculptural garden is a haven for birds and wildlife.

The property boasts an art gallery with rotating works by local artists, and the restaurant features a constantly changing menu, with all seasonal produce grown organically on site.

  1. Thala Beach Nature Reserve, Oak Beach, Queensland

Set on over 140 acres of native forest and boasting a private beach, Thala Beach Nature Reserve is an eco-friendly wildlife retreat. A secluded sanctuary nestled on a coastal headland, the property offers magnificent views of the sparkling Coral Sea and is conveniently located within 10 minutes drive of Port Douglas or just 45 minutes from Cairns.

With the Great Barrier Reef and Daintree Rainforest nearby, the boutique timber bungalows offer ocean, mountain or forest views, where you can relax on the private balcony and enjoy the native birds and wildlife, or take a dip in the natural swimming pools formed by granite boulders and waterfalls.

Nature tours at the reserve include tree planting, stargazing at an outdoor observatory, beach discovery, wildlife walks and bird-watching tours.

To book, visit Booking.com or download the Booking Now app

Foodie Breaks: 6 Delicious Weekends Away

There is nothing more satisfying than escaping the city life on a Friday afternoon for a weekend of pure gourmet food and wine indulgence. Think fresh local produce markets, cute cafes, cooking classes, boutique wineries, long lunches and evenings of fine dining at some of the county’s best restaurants. Louise Ryan from lastminute.com.au recommends her top gourmet weekend getaway destinations, all just a couple of hours from most Australian capital cities.

Killcare, NSW

Just 1.5 hours’ drive north of Sydney, is the sleepy seaside village of Killcare, home to award winning luxury retreat, Bells At Killcare.

This boutique property is also a gourmet hot spot thanks to its award winning onsite restaurant, Manfredi at Bells, the brainchild of Italian-born Stefano Manfredi, one of Australia’s most celebrated and influential chefs.

The irresistible menu is based on authenticity, simplicity and freshness, changing seasonally and inspired by the produce grown in the estate’s vegetable gardens.

For those who want to practice their MasterChef skills, Bells also offers cooking schools, hosted monthly by Manifredi at Bells chefs. Walk away from your weekend escape with new skills to try on friends and family, having served up anything from fresh pasta from scratch to traditional Italian stews or winter ragu.

Bells at Killcare, NSW

Margaret River, WA

Only three hours’ drive from Perth, Margaret River is not only wine heaven, it’s also a gourmet foodies paradise. That’s double the reason to visit!

Spend your weekend wining and dining where the vineyards meet the sea. Many wineries have their own restaurants, providing picturesque settings for a long lazy lunch.

It’s also worth hitting up the Margaret River Farmers Markets (held every Saturday) and making your own picnic filled with fresh produce and local delicacies. To make your weekend a truly indulgent feast, spoil yourself and stay at (or at least visit) Cape Lodge.

Resembling a chateau in the South of France, this retreat is the ultimate weekend escape. The Cape Lodge Restaurant is the jewel in its crown, with an impressive stash of coveted awards including being voted in the top ten in the world for food in the Conde Naste Traveller’s Gold List.

Cape Lodge, Margaret River, WA

Barossa Valley, SA 

Hit the open road and head one hour out of Adelaide to the picturesque Barossa Valley where you can blissfully wine and dine your days away.

Visit the Barossa Farmers Markets. Held each Saturday from 7.30am, you will be able to get a taste of the regions freshest produce. Hot tip – spoil your tastebuds by trying some of the handmade artisan cheese – delicious!

Amongst the many wineries, there is so many top, quality restaurants in the Barossa, including the intimate Hentley Farm restaurant, located amongst the vines in elegant restored stables. Hentley Farm also just got named Winery of the Year at the 2015 Australian Wine Companion Awards, so make sure you visit the cellar door for a drop of vino.

Barossa Valley

Sunshine Coast Hinterland, QLD 

When dreaming of a getaway in Queensland, usually a coastal beach style escape comes to mind. However, for a foodie weekend, the Sunshine Coast Hinterland is one of Queensland’s best kept secrets.

Pay a visit to Woombye, the Sunshine Coast’s first major settlement near Nambour’s Big Pineapple, now the site of a thriving farmers’ market.

Stay at the ultra luxurious Spicers Peak Lodge beautifully located on a mountaintop, a world away from reality. For the ultimate in weekend indulgence visit the lodge’s chef hatted restaurant The Peak, where you’ll feast on locally produced, fresh seasonal dishes, matched with regional wines. 

Spicers Peak Lodge Restaurant

Mornington Peninsula, VIC

Just a couple of hours out of Melbourne, the Mornington Peninsula is a gourmet hotspot crammed with over 200 wineries and an abundance of delicious restaurants and local food produce outlets. From fresh strawberry picking, to breezy beach town cafes, to high-end hatted restaurants – the region has it all.

If you’re after something a bit special and want to treat a loved one, stay at Woodman Estate and try the breathtaking seven course degustation dinner. Set in a classic country hotel, the dinner showcases excellent local produce with high-end culinary flair and skill.

The Yarra Valley may be the first choice for wine tasting in Victoria, however the Mornington hinterland is a very pleasant surprise, especially when it comes to the regions pinot noir and chardonnay varieties. Our top winery picks include Foxeys Hangout, Montalto and Red Hill.

Woodman Estate

Mudgee, NSW:

Mudgee is very quickly making a name for itself as one of NSW top food and wine destinations. The area is known for having some of the freshest produce in NSW, with their specialty being locally grown honey, olives, hazelnuts and venison prosciutto.Yum!

Given you’re in wine country, dine at one of the regions top wineries. Pipeclay Pumphouse is nestled in the beautiful, Robert Stein winery. With a paddock to plate philosophy, the menu is inspired by locally grown, free range produce. You can easily a long, lazy spend afternoon of grazing at this local hot spot.

After a long day of delish food and wine, retreat to any of the towns cute B&Bs, cottages or boutique hotels.

Mudgee

For more information or to plan your next gourmet escape visit www.lastminute.com.au

Savvy Travel Tips With Adventure Expert Bec Brown

Bec Brown is no stranger to an epic adventure. Her typical week could be discussing whether to enter Tibet from Nepal or China, oohing and ahhing as a client shows her pictures of the surreal beauty of Halong Bay in Vietnam she’s just returned from, or tailoring  a round-the-world journey spanning Peru, Iceland and Kenya. As team leader at My Adventure Store in Paddington NSW for five years, Bec has seen and heard it all and has sent more than 2000 clients on adventures of a lifetime. So who better to answer our travel questions?! 

Women are notorious for overpacking. What are your clever packing tips?

You need to keep in mind that overpacking is the enemy of purchasing new things! I actually try to pack as little as possible because if I need something I didn’t bring it’s a great excuse to buy it locally.

How can women stay safe while on the road?

Common sense is your friend. Keep your wits about you – make sure you know how to read the map of the city you are travelling in so if you are lost you can get yourself home. Dress like a local – if they don’t show you their shoulders, knees, cleavage, etc, chances are they don’t want to see yours! And always take two forms of currency (eg. card and cash).

Hot tip: Learn a few handy phrases in the local language such as ‘help!’

Say we want to organise a short break with our girlfriends, where would you recommend?

For a short break close to home it is hard to go past Tassie! The fresh produce makes for amazing food and wine, you can get your culture fix at the mind-expanding MONA and take time to talk to the locals. Simply put, they are lovely.

Feel like visiting a whole other world? How about Tokyo? A city full of the unexpected and it’s easy to get around. It really has it all. Want to visit ancient shrines? You can. Want to shop up a storm? You can. And people-watching at Shibuya Station has never been so fulfilling.

Hot tip: Stay in a local Ryokan as opposed to a hotel for the experience and great value for money.

We’re seeing a rise in destination weddings. What are your tips for planning an overseas wedding?

Arrive early so that all the paperwork can be done locally. Visit the venue before the big day to meet your wedding planner. Get your travel agent to scout out your accommodation as well as alternatives options to cater for everyone’s budget.

How about honeymoons? What are the big trends for Aussie newlyweds this year? 

Stunning lodge safaris in Africa are all the rage. Everyone wants to get WILD!

What are some of your personal favourite destinations? And where are you travelling this year?

This year, I have had the pleasure to get to the Red Centre. If you haven’t been there, go now! Uluru is such a special place to visit. I now have an overwhelming sense of pride for what is in my own backyard.

Turkey is the melting pot of Asia, Europe and the Middle East and by far one of my favourite destinations. From cosmopolitan Istanbul, to the ruins at Ephesus, down to the stunning coastline and the caved city of Cappadocia, you will be enchanted and awe-struck.

For your ultimate adventure, My Adventure Store are offering you a head start with a $10k travel voucher! Enter now

To book your next adventure with Bec, call 1300 308 946.

Cute Date Ideas for a Lazy Weekend

Sometimes, after a crazy, stressful week, you just want to put on your comfy sweats and collapse by the time Friday night rolls around. We all need a lazy weekend once in a while to recharge and refresh. But what if you still want to have a fun date? Here are some cute date ideas for a romantic, lazy weekend.

Book a night at a romantic Bed and Breakfast
A relaxing, romantic B&B is the perfect destination if you’re looking for a lazy weekend. Try to find a B&B with a crackling fireplace or a jacuzzi tub for two. You can venture out of your room for dinner if you want, or ask your host to send up a cozy supper for two to your room. Forget sightseeing, just be open and spontaneous and do whatever feels right.

Linger over brunch
Whoever invented brunch is a genius! It’s the perfect meal for a lazy weekend date. You can sleep as late as you want and then head out a decadent brunch whenever you feel like it. Unlimited mimosas are a must (but make sure you avoid a hangover!).

Movie marathon
Head to the cinemas for a movie marathon. Perhaps you can pick one movie and he can pick another, or you can choose a theme: adventure? Rom-coms? Documentaries? IMAX? Popcorn and snacks are essentials.