Travels

  • Experience Southern Africa

    Here at Swain Destinations we have expert consultants who not only sell our destinations, but have visited and, in some cases, hail from those exact regions. One of these expert consultants is Smruti Smith. Smruti was born in Livingstone, Zambia and has been in the travel industry for over 18 years. She is one of Swain Destinations’ Africa specialists who is passionate about travel, meeting new people and learning about different countries and cultures. We’ve asked Smruti a few questions below to not only give knowledge on Africa itself, but also an insight into Smruti’s experience.

    Okavango Delta, Botswana | Photo Credit: Smruti Smith

    Okavango Delta, Botswana | Photo Credit: Smruti Smith

    What has been your favorite destination to visit?

    “Southern Africa captured my fascination and I must say that it is my favorite destination to visit. To narrow it down, because Southern African has many countries, I enjoyed South Africa, Botswana and Zambia the most.

    South Africa is truly a magical and diverse destination that is perfect for the visitor looking to explore wildlife safaris and get to know the local culture. Just north of South Africa is Botswana, an area that is one of the richest wildlife regions in all of Africa. Finally, Zambia is the land of the legendary African walking safari, the wild Zambezi River, breathtaking lakes and wetlands, a profusion of birds, abundant wildlife, and raw, pulsating wilderness, all in one friendly country.

    Southern Africa is my favorite destination because the people are just incredible. They are full of smiles and great hospitality. You feel welcomed from the minute you land. The culture, food, wine, sightseeing, and the amazing wildlife are what make these destinations unique.”

    Cape Town, South Africa | Photo Credit: South African Tourism

    Cape Town, South Africa | Photo Credit: South African Tourism

    Botswana | Photo Credit: Nile and Yangtze Sanctuary Retreats

    Botswana | Photo Credit: Nile and Yangtze Sanctuary Retreats

    Victoria Falls, Zambia | Photo Credit: Livingstone Adventures

    Victoria Falls, Zambia | Photo Credit: Livingstone Adventures

    Where did you stay?

    “I have stayed at many hotels in Cape Town, South Africa – Cape Grace, Twelve Apostles, One&Only and Table Bay. I highly recommend staying in the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront area as a first timer in Cape Town, as you easily have access to shops and restaurants. In Botswana, I stayed at all the Wilderness Premier camps. Then in Zambia, I stayed at the Toka Leya and the Royal Livingstone. All of my accommodations exceeded my expectations!”

    Exterior | Photo Credit: Cape Grace

    Exterior | Photo Credit: Cape Grace

    Twelve Apostles | Photo Credit: Leading Hotels of the World

    Twelve Apostles | Photo Credit: Leading Hotels of the World

    Lounge | Photo Credit: Toka Leya Camp

    Lounge | Photo Credit: Toka Leya Camp

    The Royal Livingstone | Photo Credit: Sun International

    The Royal Livingstone | Photo Credit: Sun International

    How was the food?

    “The food in Southern Africa is very fresh and nothing is processed. I love their seafood dishes! Any visitor must try Cape Malay food in Cape Town, along with typical South African Braai (which is known as BBQ in the United States). If you are a wine and spirit lover, I highly recommend Pinotage and Inverroche Gin. The cuisine found in Southern Africa did not disappoint!”

    Chocolate Lava Cake | Photo Credit: Cape Grace

    Chocolate Lava Cake | Photo Credit: Cape Grace

    Grilled Fillet of Beef | Photo Credit: Cape Grace

    Grilled Fillet of Beef | Photo Credit: Cape Grace

    Royal Livingstone High Tea | Photo Credit: Sun International

    Royal Livingstone High Tea | Photo Credit: Sun International

    Favorite Experience?

    “Being on safari has been the best experience by far. Staying in camps where you have no access to wi-fi is definitely an adjustment! I never thought I could survive without the internet or being in constant contact with my friends and family, but I highly recommend anyone who visits to disconnect. You want to embrace it all, and really become one with nature. It’s a truly reviving feeling. Although it’s hard, one can really appreciate the wildlife, people in the lodges, and your life slowing down for a moment in time.”

    Vumbura Plains, Botswana | Photo Credit: Smruti Smith

    Vumbura Plains, Botswana | Photo Credit: Smruti Smith

    Finally, what advice would you give?

    “If you are traveling to Africa for the first time, I recommend visiting Southern Africa. Making this your first stop gives you a little taste of everything Africa has to offer. To get the best experience, I would do 10 to 12 days, making stops to Cape Town, Safari and Victoria Falls. It’s hard to choose just a few places to visit, but these destinations are a must!”

    I was born in Livingstone, Zambia and have lived in the USA for over 30 years. I have been in the airline/travel industry for 18 years. I previously worked in the Airline industry, and for another Africa specialist company. I have always been passionate about travel, meeting new people and learning about different countries and cultures. When I am not working, I enjoy travelling with my husband, spending time with family/friends, and working out.

    August 28, 2017 • Africa, Interviews, Smruti Smith, Travels • Views: 3240

  • Lizard Island: An Idyllic Paradise

    Located 17 miles off the Queensland coast, Lizard Island Luxury Resort is the premier accommodation for experiencing the Great Barrier Reef. Being a resort on one of the world’s natural wonders, it’s the only accommodation promising coveted reef encounters and seclusion. Lizard Island offers direct access to the fringing reef, with vibrant snorkeling and scuba diving just a short boat ride away. The complimentary activities, crisp Scandinavian décor, and top-notch cuisine make Lizard Island an idyllic paradise and a must for those seeking beauty, relaxation, and luxury.

    Beach | Photo Credit: Lizard Island: Great Barrier Reef Luxury Island Resort

    Beach | Photo Credit: Lizard Island – Great Barrier Reef Luxury Island Resort

    Getting There

    A 60-minute flight from Cairns transports you to heaven on earth. Meanwhile, guests have a prime view of the turquoise waters and sprawling reef formations below. The runway is so close that it only takes a few minutes to reach the check-in desk. Within a half hour of landing, you can hop into the water and snorkel with giant clams and colorful fish.

    Diving | Photo Credit: Lizard Island: Tourism Queensland

    Diving | Photo Credit: Tourism Queensland

    The untouched nature surrounding the property creates an instantly relaxing environment. You’ll see the spider lilies that line the wooden walkways, and watch blissful butterflies and birds drift by. Then, approach the understated elegance of the 40 suites and villas, decorated with homey furniture, and a palette based on whites and creams, soft browns, and muted blues. The large glass sliding doors allow the natural environment outside to extend inside. Actually quite literally…I stumbled upon a lizard in my suite!

    With direct beach access, a spacious deck, and a cozy King-size day bed, the Beachfront Suite is my personal favorite room category. Finally, end the evening relaxing on the day bed with a glass of Sauvignon Blanc in hand, watching the sunset over Anchor Bay.

    Beachfront Suite | Photo Credit: Lizard Island: Great Barrier Reef Luxury Island Resort

    Beachfront Suite | Photo Credit: Lizard Island – Great Barrier Reef Luxury Island Resort

    Living Room | Photo Credit: Lizard Island: Great Barrier Reef Luxury Island Resort

    Living Room | Photo Credit: Lizard Island – Great Barrier Reef Luxury Island Resort

    Bathroom | Photo Credit: Lizard Island: Great Barrier Reef Luxury Island Resort

    Bathroom | Photo Credit: Lizard Island – Great Barrier Reef Luxury Island Resort

    Patio | Photo Credit: Lizard Island: Great Barrier Reef Luxury Island Resort

    Patio | Photo Credit: Lizard Island – Great Barrier Reef Luxury Island Resort

    Lizard Island Cuisine

    Salt Water is the only restaurant on site, serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The laid back eatery has views of the Coral Sea and the palm trees. All meals are incredibly fresh and focus on the island’s local resources. First, start with a plentiful breakfast including tropical fruits like dragon fruit and star fruit, as well as staple items such as eggs, bread, and house-made honey yogurt. Then, finish off with dinner that varies daily. The menu highlights the catch of the day, with a modern Australian flare and Asian fusion.

    Seafood Dinner | Photo Credit: Kathryn Fischer

    Seafood Dinner | Photo Credit: Kathryn Fischer

    Breakfast | Photo Credit: Kathryn Fischer

    Breakfast | Photo Credit: Kathryn Fischer

    Also included in the nightly rate is a “create your own” picnic basket. Lunch choices vary from sushi and king prawns, to cheeses and meats, and champagne, of course! After lunch, take advantage of the complimentary boat transfer to one of the island’s 24 beaches. You could also use a motorized dinghy to discover a sandy cove on your own. Lastly, end the day snorkeling with turtles and enjoying the solitude of an empty shore.

    Beach Picnic | Photo Credit: Kathryn Fischer

    Beach Picnic | Photo Credit: Kathryn Fischer

    Activities on Lizard Island

    Other activities include scuba diving, fishing, paddle boarding, and glass-bottom kayaking. Other than that, you may stay on land and visit the Lizard Island Research Centre, go on a scenic hike, play a round of tennis, have a dip in the freshwater pool, indulge in a spa treatment, or practice yoga on the beach. Lizard Island Resort is perfect for those seeking an exclusive experience in paradise.

    Dinghy | Photo Credit: Lizard Island - Great Barrier Reef Luxury Island Resort

    Dinghy | Photo Credit: Lizard Island – Great Barrier Reef Luxury Island Resort

    Beach View | Photo Credit: Kathryn Fischer

    Beach View | Photo Credit: Kathryn Fischer

    Essentia Day Spa | Photo Credit: Lizard Island - Great Barrier Reef Luxury Island Resort

    Essentia Day Spa | Photo Credit: Lizard Island – Great Barrier Reef Luxury Island Resort

    Pool | Photo Credit: Lizard Island - Great Barrier Reef Luxury Island Resort

    Pool | Photo Credit: Lizard Island – Great Barrier Reef Luxury Island Resort

    Lodge Features:

    • 40 suites and villas located directly on the Great Barrier Reef
    • Restaurant highlighting fresh seafood and produce, unlimited non-alcoholic beverages
    • A selection of fine Australian and New Zealand wines, beers, and spirits
    • In-room mini bar, restocked daily with snacks, and beverages
    • Day spa, freshwater pool, gym, and tennis court
    • 24 private beaches with complimentary drop-off
    • Activities on land such as hiking, tennis, and nature presentations
    • Water activities such as kayaking, paddle boarding, snorkeling, and motorized dinghies
    • Books and games library
    • Guest lounge with internet access

    Though I was born and raised in Philadelphia, a city that values tradition, my path of life has been not so standard. I’ve lived on the East and West coasts of the United States, and have ventured over the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, studying food and wine in Italy, and working in the travel industry in Australia. Travelling across the globe has allowed me to recognize my true passion: helping others experience this beautiful, yet varied world that we live in. I have a wandering soul that continually urges me to visit new countries, meet new people, and learn new things; I love to adventure to faraway destinations, discovering unfamiliar cultures, and tasting their local cuisine.

  • Rustic Elegance – Wolgan Valley Resort

    Located in New South Wales, home to the World Heritage-listed Blue Mountains, sits Emirates One&Only Wolgan Valley. This lodge offers the rare opportunity to experience true luxury in a spectacular Australian bush setting. Surrounding by a beautiful backdrop, Wolgan Valley is the true epitome of luxury.

    Blue Mountains | Photo Credit: Destination NSW

    Blue Mountains | Photo Credit: Destination NSW

    Getting There

    About a 3 hour drive Northwest of Sydney, you’ll find the stunning luxury lodge of Wolgan Valley.  The drive is easy highway driving at first, before weaving into the mountains and past Katoomba.  The last part of the drive can be intimidating, as you’re winding on narrow roads down into the Valley.  We drove there in the dark, which I wouldn’t recommend for the faint of heart!

    Pathway | Photo Credit: Jessa Rachael Photography

    Pathway | Photo Credit: Jessa Rachael Photography

    Pool | Photo Credit: Wolgan Valley Resort & Spa

    Pool | Photo Credit: Wolgan Valley Resort & Spa

    Wolgan Valley Exterior | Photo Credit: Jessa Rachael Photography

    Wolgan Valley Exterior | Photo Credit: Jessa Rachael Photography

    Rustic Elegance – Wolgan Valley

    Once we arrived, my partner and I were collected at the car park and taken in one of the lodges 4WD vehicles up to the main lodge of the property.  Due to our late arrival, we immediately sat for dinner and were not disappointed to say the least.  The cuisine was absolutely world-class.  They have a tasting menu if your table is keen to commit, or an a-la-carte menu.  The first night we stuck to a-la-carte and then the second evening, went for the tasting menu.  Each dish was exceptionally plated and delicious.  After dinner, we were taken to our private villa.  Our villa had an open concept sitting room and bedroom, divided by a double sided fireplace; large bathroom, walk-in closet, and our own private heated plunge pool.  The feel was luxurious, but comfortable; we could have stayed there forever!

    Picnic | Photo Credit: Wolgan Valley Resort & Spa

    Picnic | Photo Credit: Wolgan Valley Resort & Spa

    Private Dining Room | Photo Credit: Wolgan Valley Resort & Spa

    Private Dining Room | Photo Credit: Wolgan Valley Resort & Spa

    Living Area | Photo Credit: Wolgan Valley Resort & Spa

    Living Area | Photo Credit: Wolgan Valley Resort & Spa

    Suite | Photo Credit: Wolgan Valley Resort & Spa

    Suite | Photo Credit: Wolgan Valley Resort & Spa

    Activities Outside the Lodge

    In the morning, we awoke to a gorgeous view that had evaded us the previous day due to arriving after dark.  We were surrounded by stunning cliffs in the middle of a valley.  Outside of our villa was a beautiful rainbow, and a few kangaroos.  Breakfast boasted an array of buffet options such as granola, fruit, cereals, pastries, juices and breads.  There was a hot menu for order as well.  Then, we headed off to horseback ride on the property.

    Rainbow | Photo Credit: Jessa Rachael Photography

    Rainbow | Photo Credit: Jessa Rachael Photography

    Kangaroos | Photo Credit: Jessa Rachael Photography

    Kangaroos | Photo Credit: Jessa Rachael Photography

    Horses | Photo Credit: Wolgan Valley Resort & Spa

    Horses | Photo Credit: Wolgan Valley Resort & Spa

    A staff member drove us to the stables, discussed the basics of riding for those who were new to horseback riding, and paired us with a horse.  We embarked on a 90 minute trail ride through the property, and it was breathtaking.  Along the way, we spotted kangaroos, wallabies, and lots of bird life.  After our ride, we decided to tackle one of the properties numerous hiking and biking trails, spotting more wildlife along the way.

    After another exceptional dinner, we spent the evening relaxing and looking at the unhindered stars.

    Lodge Features:

    • 40 villas that accommodate travelers from single guests to family
    • Private pool with a deck surrounded by a garden of native plants and shrubs
    • Spa featuring many different treatments
    • In-room dining
    • Wifi throughout the resort
    • Access to onsite archery range
    • Access to onsite tennis courts

    As a graduate of Eastern University with a degree in Anthropology, I have always valued the experiences one can find in other cultures. I’ve spent time in Belize, Honduras, Mexico, Kenya, and backpacked across Western Europe seeing 12 countries there. I have lived in Sydney and used it as a base for travels across the country. I’ve also spent time in New Zealand; and my latest trip back was a luxury lodge tour across both islands, seeing first hand some of the most breathtaking accommodations and properties that New Zealand has to offer. With the passion and longing for every individual to experience at least one other culture in their lifetime, I have found myself at Swain; with the opportunity to bring this passion to life.

    August 14, 2017 • Australia, Luxury Lodges, Property Highlights, Sarah Herman, Travels • Views: 1455

  • Southern Ocean Lodge – Kangaroo Island

    Kangaroo Island in South Australia is brimming with native wildlife and natural beauty. While being Australia’s third largest island, roughly the size of Long Island, it only has a population of 4,000 people. Tucked in a corner of the island, on a rugged cliff facing the wild Southern Ocean, lies Southern Ocean Lodge.

    Kangaroos | Photo Credit: Exceptional Kangaroo Island

    Kangaroos | Photo Credit: Exceptional Kangaroo Island

    Getting There

    The drive from the airport to the lodge is about an hour long. Look out for wallabies, kangaroos, and koalas along the way because there are over 800,000 combined, so wildlife encounters are guaranteed. Then, out of nowhere, the polished iron gates of Southern Ocean Lodge appear. The whole property eludes a sense of exclusivity.  After passing through the secured gateway, it’s another 10 minutes up a bumpy road until you reach the lodge. It all feels very remote. The property is completely off the grid; it relies on solar power and rainwater. It doesn’t even have an exact address!

    With panoramic views of the bush and aqua sea, the great room at Southern Ocean Lodge invites the landscape inside. Coastal colors and recycled woods create a comfortable and relaxed environment. The young, international staff are friendly and welcoming.

    SOL Great Room | Photo Credit: Southern Ocean Lodge

    SOL Great Room | Photo Credit: Southern Ocean Lodge

    SOL Balcony | Photo Credit: Southern Ocean Lodge

    SOL Balcony | Photo Credit: Southern Ocean Lodge

    Exceptional Food & Wine

    The food and beverages at Southern Ocean Lodge are exceptional because the chef is proud to focus fully on South Australian cuisine. First, start the day with either a hot or cold breakfast, whether a warm bircher muesli to avocado toast with tomatoes. Then for dinner, enjoy the catch of the day, ranging from king fish, abalone, and octopus. Finally, there’s many desserts which utilizes native herbs and sweeteners, like local blue gum honey. The lodge also has a classic menu for picky eaters, which is nice if you’re not as adventurous. In addition, you can whip up a cocktail of your choice from the stocked open bar, or pour a refreshing glass of South Australian wine at any time of day.

    South Australian Cuisine | Photo Credit: Exceptional Kangaroo Island

    South Australian Cuisine | Photo Credit: Exceptional Kangaroo Island

    Cuisine from SOL | Photo Credit: Exceptional Kangaroo Island

    Cuisine from SOL | Photo Credit: Exceptional Kangaroo Island

    SOL Cuisine | Photo Credit: Exceptional Kangaroo Island

    SOL Cuisine | Photo Credit: Exceptional Kangaroo Island

    The Interior

    21 glass-fronted suites curve along the coastline. The wall-to-wall windows allow an unobstructed view of the dreamlike scenery. The bathrooms are spotless, and the view from the shower is particularly memorable. Aligned with the lodge’s local focus, the artwork in all suites is commissioned from Kangaroo Island artisans. Each suite is sophisticated, yet comfortable.

    Exterior | Photo Credit: Southern Ocean Lodge

    Exterior | Photo Credit: Southern Ocean Lodge

    Suite | Photo Credit: Southern Ocean Lodge

    Suite | Photo Credit: Southern Ocean Lodge

    Bathroom | Photo Credit: Southern Ocean Lodge

    Bathroom | Photo Credit: Southern Ocean Lodge

    SOL Exterior | Photo Credit: Southern Ocean Lodge

    SOL Exterior | Photo Credit: Southern Ocean Lodge

    Activities Outside the Lodge

    As for the experience outside of the lodge, there’s many opportunities to get immersed in the island’s natural attractions. Small group guided excursions are offered daily. Ranging from coastal walks to barbeques, the tours allow guests to encounter the wildlife with exclusive access and a touch of luxury.

    Lodge Features:

    • 21 luxurious suites with wall-to-wall, floor-to-ceiling windows
    • Restaurant with local fare, indoor and outdoor seating, and ocean views
    • Spa incorporating local traditions
    • Wine cellar featuring South Australian vintages
    • Plunge pool
    • Lounge with fireplace and panoramic views
    • Boutique with unique gifts and island mementos
    • Reference library stocked with books, DVDs, and CDs
    • Wifi throughout the lodge

    Though I was born and raised in Philadelphia, a city that values tradition, my path of life has been not so standard. I’ve lived on the East and West coasts of the United States, and have ventured over the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, studying food and wine in Italy, and working in the travel industry in Australia. Travelling across the globe has allowed me to recognize my true passion: helping others experience this beautiful, yet varied world that we live in. I have a wandering soul that continually urges me to visit new countries, meet new people, and learn new things; I love to adventure to faraway destinations, discovering unfamiliar cultures, and tasting their local cuisine.

  • Silky Oaks Lodge in Daintree Rainforest

    Queensland, also known as Australia’s “sunshine state,” is home to a 110-million-year-old rainforest—Daintree National Park. The park is a World Heritage-listed site and nestled on the edge is Silky Oaks Lodge. This lodge blends casual and contemporary design, amongst the most tranquil surrounds.

    Silky Oaks Suite | Photo Credit: Jessa Rachael Photography

    Silky Oaks Suite | Photo Credit: Jessa Rachael Photography

    Getting There

    Located 90 minutes north of Cairns and just 20 minutes from Port Douglas, Silky Oaks Lodge is in the heart of the Daintree Rainforest.  The drive is easy and beautiful, as Captain Cook highway leads the way up the coast.  Set on the Mossman River, this lodge provides an immersive rainforest experience while still pampering you with the finest luxury amenities.  Upon arrival, my partner and I were greeted with welcome cocktails at a table for two. While overlooking the Mossman River, we went over our itinerary for the next two days.  We enjoyed our welcome cocktails while our treehouse was being prepared.  Chilled wine, a handwritten note, lit candles, and soft music greeted us as we walked in, and a sense of peace immediately flooded us.  Each treehouse has a large outdoor porch with a hammock, and all the amenities you could wish for.

    Silky Oaks Lodge | Photo Credit: Silky Oaks Lodge

    Silky Oaks Lodge | Photo Credit: Silky Oaks Lodge

    Suite | Photo Credit: Silky Oaks Lodge

    Suite | Photo Credit: Silky Oaks Lodge

    Jungle Perch | Photo Credit: Silky Oaks Lodge

    Jungle Perch | Photo Credit: Silky Oaks Lodge

    Activities Outside the Lodge

    We spent nearly all of our time outside, taking advantage of every recreational activity the lodge had to offer.  First, we got a picnic backpack from the kitchens and hiked a gorgeous trail that ended at a huge flat rock with a rope swing into the river. Then we kayaked and swam in the natural-looking outdoor heated stone pool. We also went on a sunset bike ride through the corn fields outside of the rainforest.  You name it, Silky Oaks has it.  After the end of an active day, we made our way back to the main lodge for dinner.

    Billabong | Photo Credit: Silky Oaks Lodge

    Billabong | Photo Credit: Silky Oaks Lodge

    Pool | Photo Credit: Jessa Rachael Photography

    Pool | Photo Credit: Jessa Rachael Photography

    Unforgettable Dining Experience

    The Treehouse Restaurant – one of Northern Queensland’s premier dining experiences, is a unique open-sided restaurant that features unobstructed rainforest and river views set above the trees.  The food was exceptional, focusing on seafood given its close proximity to the ocean.  The menu showcases the freshest local produce and Australian wines.  There are a-la-carte options, or you can pre-book your dinner for a two or three course option.  I highly recommend booking at least the two course option, as you’ll want to take advantage of the world-class food the lodge has to offer.  After dinner, it was time to turn-in for the night, falling asleep to the sounds of the rainforest and flowing river.

    Treehouse Lobby | Photo Credit: Silky Oaks Lodge

    Treehouse Lobby | Photo Credit: Silky Oaks Lodge

    Jungle Perch Dining | Photo Credit: Silky Oaks Lodge

    Jungle Perch Dining | Photo Credit: Silky Oaks Lodge

    Treehouse Restaurant | Photo Credit: Silky Oaks Lodge

    Treehouse Restaurant | Photo Credit: Silky Oaks Lodge

    Lodge Features:

    • 50 treehouses and riverhouses with a balcony and hammock, outdoor table and chairs
    • Restaurant with sensational rainforest and river views
    • Spa offering rejuvenation through healing waters
    • Outdoor, natural-looking, heated stone pool
    • Jungle Perch positioned over the Mossman River, providing views of the Daintree Rainforest
    • Air conditioning, ceiling fans, fully stocked mini bar and a turn-down service every night

    As a graduate of Eastern University with a degree in Anthropology, I have always valued the experiences one can find in other cultures. I’ve spent time in Belize, Honduras, Mexico, Kenya, and backpacked across Western Europe seeing 12 countries there. I have lived in Sydney and used it as a base for travels across the country. I’ve also spent time in New Zealand; and my latest trip back was a luxury lodge tour across both islands, seeing first hand some of the most breathtaking accommodations and properties that New Zealand has to offer. With the passion and longing for every individual to experience at least one other culture in their lifetime, I have found myself at Swain; with the opportunity to bring this passion to life.

  • Six Must-Do Food Experiences in Australia’s Gourmet Capital

    Lake House dining room and wine cellar

    Dining room and wine cellar | Photo credit: Lake House

    Melbourne is brimming with culinary experiences and has plenty on offer to satiate an appetite of any size. Whether dining like a local down the city’s laneways and hidden alleys, seeking out the latest spot for brunch or the best cup of coffee in town, or indulging in a many-course fine-dining degustation, the city is home to more must-visit restaurants and cafes than one could ever see in just one visit – even locals struggle to fit them all in! Victoria’s love of food extends beyond the state’s capital and sampling the local produce in the Yarra Valley, Mornington Peninsula or further afield is a popular pastime for locals and visitors alike. And it is no surprise with so many regional restaurants serving instagrammable meals overlooking equally photogenic views. To make the most of a visit to Melbourne food aficionados should aim to tick off the following six must-do food experiences:

    Fine dining Melbourne style
    Australasia’s number one restaurant and ranked 33 on the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list, Attica is a must-visit for anyone serious about fine-dining. Here, chef Ben Shewry creates beautifully balanced, modern cuisine integrating native Australian ingredients wherever possible. The focus is on sustainably developed produce, and dishes include rarely-used plants and herbs foraged from the adjacent garden as well as from broader Victoria. From the Lilly Pilly and Illawarra plum pine used in signature dessert The Native Fruits of Australia, to saltbush leaves, marron, native peppers and nuts, the flavours of Attica sing Australia. Shannon Bennett’s Vue de monde on the 55th floor of the Rialto Tower takes diners on a journey with its innovative cuisine and spectacular setting. The menu has French influences but is steeped in Melbourne’s history and uses primarily Victorian produce and indigenous ingredients. Kangaroo, marron, wallaby and native herbs are all regular fixtures on the menu which also offers diners a high-end take on the classic Australian Lamington. The restaurant’s dramatic decor sees traditional white table cloths replaced with kangaroo leather, curtains made of 100% Victorian wool and chairs crafted from old telegraph poles, making for a uniquely Australian setting. The experience is topped off with spectacular views over the Melbourne city skyline and Port Phillip Bay.

    Lake House dining 2

    Fine dining experience | Photo credit: Lake House

    Laneway eating
    Some of Melbourne’s best eating and drinking can be found in and around the city’s labyrinth of interconnecting laneways. Unmarked doors, sets of stairs, or what looks like a no through road, are all likely to lead to a favorite local dining haunt. The city’s original laneway tapas bar MoVida, perennially popular Chin Chin, Tonka, Cumulus Inc. Brooks of Melbourne, Coda, Izakaya Den and Supernormal are just some of the names to look out for. The laneways are also central to Melbourne’s cafe and bar culture with rooftops and basements offering more hidden secrets and surprises – from Japanese tea houses to Chinese dim sum diners, coffee grinders and speakeasy style cocktail bars and everything in between. Those unsure of where to start can take a tour with the likes of Hidden Secrets Tours, Melbourne Food Experiences or Melbourne Walks to discover the city’s cafe culture, specialist coffee, cocktail and bar scene and plenty more besides.

    Melbourne-Food&WineMFW_822-575

    Laneway eating |Photo credit: Melbourne Tourism

    Coffee and breakfast like a local
    Melbourne has long been regarded as the coffee capital of Australia and is one of the leading cities for coffee in the world. Since the first espresso machines landed on Victorian soil in the 1950s, the city’s reverence for the bean has continued to prosper. The emergence of specialist roasters has contributed to an obsession with new ways of brewing and the origin of coffee beans. Whether it is a hole in the wall coffee joint in the laneways, or a quick coffee on the go – Melbourne has a cup to suit every taste with some favorites including Traveller, Cup of Truth, Seven Seeds, Dukes, The Sensory Lab, Auction Rooms and Dead Man Espresso. Tours and interactive experiences offer the opportunity to understand the history and culture that has fueled this city-wide obsession – try coffee cupping sessions with Seven Seeds, or a full-day coffee roasting session at Market Lane Coffee. Hand-in-hand with Melbourne’s coffee obsession, eating out for breakfast or brunch is a huge part of Melbourne life, on par with dinner as a social occasion and opportunity to sample artisan produce from around Victoria. Favourite breakfast haunts include St Ali, Industry Beans, Pope Joan, Proud Mary, Top Paddock, and Cumulus Inc. At these locations and more, Melbourne’s multi-cultural heritage, innovation and produce are presented on every plate – from fancy pressed lamb belly to Baba ghanoush, fresh fig and caper currants; from potato cheddar waffle to smoked brisket, zuni pickles and sour cream.

    Coffee cups at a South Terrace cafe,Fremantle

    Coffee for two | Photo credit: South Terrace Cafe

    Ultimate Yarra Valley indulgence
    A hot air balloon flight at sunrise is the best possible introduction to Victoria’s premier wine growing region. Global Ballooning enables early-risers to float serenely over the Yarra Valley’s stunning scenery of rolling vineyards, lush green pastures and story-book forests and land in one of the Valley’s flagship wineries, such as Domain Chandon or Rochford Estate to enjoy a champagne breakfast with local sparkling and artisan produce. The birthplace of Victorian viticulture, the Yarra Valley is Victoria’s premier wine region home to more than 80 world class wineries producing award-winning cool climate wines and 60 boutique cellar doors, making it the perfect destination for an intimate wine tasting or behind-the-scenes experiences. Big producers such as De Bortoli and Yering Station sit alongside specialist boutique wine makers who are quietly making a name for some of the most interesting and brave blends and varietals in the country. In addition to wine, the region now produces a growing selection of craft beers and cider showcased through the Yarra Valley Cider and Ale Trail.The region is dotted with farm gates and artisan producers including dairies, chocolataries and organic produce. This sophisticated, romantic and decadent food and wine region is within an hour’s drive of Melbourne can be enjoyed on a private tour or a self-drive itinerary.

    visionsofvictoria1350522-305

    Hot air balloon over the Yarra Valley | Photo credit: Victoria Tourism

    Mornington Peninsula – an adventure for the senses
    The Mornington Peninsula has it all: abundant produce, boutique wineries, food trails, farm gates, golf courses, galleries, picturesque villages, diverse landscapes, beautiful beaches and coastal views all in one compact area, just one hour from Melbourne. It is one of few wine regions in the world that overlooks stunning coastline, with cool ocean breezes influencing the boutique cool-climate Chardonnays and Pinots for which the area is renowned. The Mornington Peninsula has more award-winning restaurants than any other part of Victoria with Port Philip Estate, The Long Table, Montalto, Terminus and Ten Minutes by Tractor all offering menus that feature local produce for a completely immersive dining experience. Visitors can get even more hands-on with fruit picking, mushroom foraging or classes in handmade sausages, wood fired pizzas or chocolate making. The ‘Wine, Food and Farmgate’ trail and map makes it easy to discover dozens of wine, food and farm-gates throughout the region and Horseback Winery Tours offers a unique way to explore the vineyards.

    Continental Hotel - Sorrento

    Enjoying the view and a glass of wine | Photo credit: Mornington Peninsula Tourism Board

    Dine and stay at Brae
    Australia’s only regional restaurant to be included in The World’s 50 Best Restaurants, recently announced at number 65, Brae in the Otways serves up contemporary cuisine with a commitment to seasonal produce. Award winning chef Dan Hunter creates a daily menu that reflects the best of the hillside property’s extensive organic gardens. Each day, the highest quality ingredients are carefully selected from Brae’s on-site organic fruit and vegetable garden, local farms and ethical, sustainable producers from Victoria and beyond. Native ingredients on the menu include coastal bone fruit, ruby salt bush, muntries, quandongs, fingerlime and pepperberry, plus local and sustainably caught black lip abalone, southern rock lobster and sea urchin. The Birregurra property, one and a half hours from Melbourne, has recently added six new luxury accommodation suites so visitors now need not worry about transport to and from their indulgent degustation. The spacious suites have been constructed with sustainability in mind, using recycled materials, solar energy, harvested rainwater and a worm farm waste water system. Each suite accommodates two adults and features a star-gazing skylight, sitting area with turntable and record collection, and private outdoor seating with views to the rolling hills of the Otway Ranges. Guests can take a morning stroll in the garden, catching chefs and gardeners at work, and enjoy an in-room, house-made breakfast of organic, wood-fired sourdough bread, pastries, preserves and seasonal produce harvested from the property and nearby. It is easy to extend a visit to Brae, with many nearby activities such as platypus spotting by canoe in Lake Elizabeth, the Otways Fly Treetop Walk, and exploring the Great Ocean Road and Bellarine Peninsula.

    Article courtesy of Visit Melbourne– Official site for Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.

    November 9, 2016 • Articles, Australia, Destinations, Travels • Views: 2201