By Ellen Hill for Christian Fellowship Tours
Towering waterfalls, rugged Outback landscapes, ancient Aboriginal art and abundant wildlife. Discover the remarkable Kimberley Coast on the Christian Fellowship Tours (CFT) cruise of the West Australia area in August.
Tour passengers will see the most recognisable natural and manmade attractions of the Kimberley Coast during 10 escorted, unforgettable days cruising between Darwin and Broome.
In the north, discover the majestic King George River with its towering 80m twin falls and the mysterious Bradshaw paintings of Bigge Island.
Explore the Mitchell plateau and cruise the Kimberley’s “big’’ rivers before experiencing beautiful King Cascades, remarkable Montgomery Reef and the amazing natural phenomenon of the Horizontal Falls in the south.
With two landings most days by the unique “Explore’’ excursion vessel or inflatable zodiacs, passengers will have more opportunities to fully immerse in the spectacular setting.
Each evening, passengers will retire to comfortable accommodation with private facilities after dining together.
The tour will include a Christian tour leader throughout the entire trip, daily devotions and Sunday worship, a 10-day cruise, accommodation, most meals, airfare and transfers.
CFT managing director Jason Cronshaw, who will lead the tour, said: “Exploring the remarkable Kimberley Coast by small ship helps you grasp the majesty of the landscape and the awesomeness of our Creator’s handiwork by being amongst it.
“It’s such a privilege to be walk across the salt flats to view the wreckage of a US Air Force DC3 which crash landed on the beach during World War II and visit secluded spots not many other people get to see.’’
More than a leisure cruise, the Kimberley Coastal Cruise will be an opportunity to learn about the history, culture and landscapes of each location visited through on-board commentary, presentations and briefings.
Past travellers have come from varied backgrounds and churches, yet enjoyed the shared experience of travelling with likeminded people.
One said they appreciated the care and support they received on tour, while another enjoyed the bond they formed with fellow travellers.
“The drivers and tour leaders are always helpful especially for those who have physical or other issues or who travel alone.’’
Others also commented that travelling with CFT was an excellent way for single people, especially women, to explore the world in a safe group where they could make new friends.
Travellers on the Kimberley Coastal Cruise tour will have the opportunity to worship together on board the ship on Sunday and take part in the daily devotions for which CFT has become renowned.
The Kimberley Coastal Cruise tour departs from Sydney, Melbourne or Brisbane on August 1 and returns August 14.
Bookings and information: www.christianfellowshiptours.com or 1300 635 358.
- Christian Fellowship Tours is a commercial client of Deep Hill Media
By Ellen Hill for Leura Garage Photo: David Hill, Deep Hill Media
Begin the Christmas countdown early, get ahead of community festivities and unleash your kids’ creative side with lantern-making workshops at Leura Garage.
The award-winning funky eatery off the top of Leura Mall will hold three workshops in the lead-up to Leura Village Association’s December 15 Christmas festival.
With its polished concrete floors, wide benches, light-filled windows and interesting features, the former car garage will be the ideal workspace for children aged four to 12 to create their own lanterns.
Leura Garage owner and father-of-two James Howarth said: “My wife Anika has very fond memories of lantern parades from her childhood in Germany and our kids have also had lots of fun experiencing this wonderful festive community activity while visiting family over there.
“So we’re excited to be transforming our restaurant into a lantern-making workshop space – it’s going to be great fun for everyone.’’
“The lanterns will then be on display at 8pm on December 15 when the children will showcase their creations during the lantern parade in Leura.’’
Participating children will have the chance to win prizes from Leura Toy Store, Megalong Books and Teddy Sinclair.
The workshops would be an opportunity for parents to bond with their children, get into the Christmas spirit and gear up for the festivities, Mr Howarth said.
Lantern-making workshops will be held from 3pm to 5pm on November 28 and December 4 and 13. Cost: $10 per child (must be accompanied by an adult with maximum three children per adult) includes full lantern kit and drinks and nibbles. Proceeds will be donated to Leura Village Association and will contribute to its Christmas festival at 8pm on December 15.
Leura Garage, 84 Railway Pde, Leura, is open from 12pm til late seven days. Bookings (including for Christmas parties) and details: (02) 4784 3391, email@example.com or leuragarage.com.au/lantern.
* Leura Garage is a commercial client of Deep Hill Media
By Ellen Hill for Blue Mountains Attractions Group
From furry critters and underground caves to enchanted gardens, bushwalks for small people, cool art and Aboriginal culture, the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area is one big playground.
Blue Mountains Attractions Group president Louise Clifton said: “Australia’s first tourist destination has had a long time to perfect the visitor experience and the premier attractions of the Greater Blue Mountains cater for the whole family – not just adults and not just children.
“Everyone loves the adorable animals at Featherdale Wildlife Park, the exciting rides at Scenic World and the fascinating indigenous cultural experience at Waradah Aboriginal Centre is tailored to appeal to all ages, while other attractions are multi-tiered.’’
One of the world’s most spectacular cave systems, Jenolan Caves offers a range of guided tours from easy strolls through the Grand Arch to strenuous explorations of the underworld.
Children will be captivated by meeting their favourite Magic Pudding characters and exploring their gardens at Norman Lindsay Gallery & Museum while grown-ups sneak into the art gallery to view the famous paintings.
Everglades Historic House & Gardens and Blue Mountains Botanic Garden at Mt Tomah have open areas for children to let off some steam and run while adults wander the exquisite avenues. Both properties also have activity books for kids.
Like all the premier attractions in Leura and Katoomba, Blue Mountains Cultural Centre can be accessed easily via a vintage-style hop-on/hop-off Trolley Tours bus. Grown-ups will be wowed by the world-class artworks on display in Blue Mountains City Art Gallery while kids will be amazed at the interactive World Heritage Exhibition.
No trip to the Blue Mountains is complete without a visit to Scenic World where the young and the young at heart can experience the thrill of the world’s steepest passenger railway, walk on air on the skyway and take the cable car to the valley floor to stroll through ancient rainforest.
Stay overnight at Hartley Historic Site to fully immerse yourselves in colonial Australia (the Old Trahlee property sleeps six and has a cot for babies). Tour the courthouse, admire the artwork along the sculpture walk and the Kew-Y-Ahn Art Gallery. Visit metal artist Ron Fitzpatrick at Talisman Gallery where adults can browse the art and jewellery while the kids make their very own fire poker.
Families can refuel on any budget when visiting the Greater Blue Mountains. Myriad cafes, kiosks and restaurants including those at Everglades, Hartley Historic Site, Jenolan Caves, the Boiler House Café at the Hydro Majestic Hotel and Blue Mountains Cultural Centre serve the full gamut of treats.
Alternatively, numerous picnic spots in picturesque locations such as Euroka Clearing in Blue Mountains National Park Glenbrook entrance, Jenolan Caves, Wentworth Falls Lake, Hartley Historic Site and Everglades are ideal for home-brought fare.
The Greater Blue Mountains also has a range of other accommodation options suitable for families from caravan parks and self-contained cottages to upmarket hotels, guesthouses and B&Bs including St Raphael (The Convent) at Leura, The Mountain Lodge at Jenolan Caves and The Jungle Lodge at Blue Mountains Botanic Garden at Mt Tomah.
Go to bluemountainsattractions.com.au for information about where to stay and what to do in the Greater Blue Mountains region or visit the Blue Mountains Attractions Group Facebook page.
- Blue Mountains Attractions Group is a commercial client of Deep Hill Media
By Ellen Hill for Lithgow Tourism Photos: Ben Pearse and David Hill
The spirit of the late King of Pop will inject a thrilling spark into Lithgow Halloween `16 when hundreds of Michael Jackson fans take part in a dance-off in Main St on Saturday, October 29.
The national record bid for the greatest number of costumed people to dance to the song Thriller will be a highlight of the annual community festival.
Organised and hosted by Lithgow City Council, with support from local sponsors including Lithgow McDonald’s, Centennial Coal and Energy Australia, the event will again feature spectacular Vivid-style lighting displays and spooky decorations, the main shopping strip will be transformed into a fun-filled pedestrian zone with themed precincts, non-stop entertainment and a community Trick or Treat activity for children.
Lithgow City Council Tourism Manager Kellie Barrow said: “We do like to party here in Lithgow, especially when it involves themes and dressing up.
“But our parties are not exclusive: everyone is invited, everyone is welcome and everyone is catered for.’’
As in previous years, the family-friendly Lithgow Halloween `16 will include something for everyone, with a range of free community events in public spaces through to ticketed events at private venues.
“We’re proud of our history and what the council, local businesses and residents have achieved together in beautifying Lithgow in recent years and we want to share our town with visitors.’’
Ms Barrow encouraged locals and visitors to fully immerse themselves in the festival spirit and dress up for the occasion as a ghoulish zombie, monster, freaky vampire, fantasy character or loveable fairytale personality, goblin or fairy.
She also urged everyone to take part in the Australian record attempt for the largest number of costumed people to dance to the Michael Jackson song Thriller.
“The record currently stands at about 500 people. Let’s beat it!’’
She recommended visitors stay overnight in the area to fully explore the surprisingly diverse range of scenery, dining options and activities available in Lithgow and surrounds including the Back to Hartley event at Hartley Historic Site on the way to Sydney on Sunday, October 30.
- Lithgow Tourism is a commercial client of Deep Hill Media and Headline Publicity
By Ellen Hill for Lithgow Workies Club Photos: David Hill
The oldest registered club in NSW will unveil the newest facelift among its state peers when Lithgow Workmen’s Club Motel is officially opened on Saturday, March 19.
Renowned media and sporting identity Mike Whitney will be guest of honour at the event.
Providing excellence in service, entertainment and leisure for almost 130 years, the Lithgow & District Workmen’s Club (known fondly by locals as “The Workies’’) is the oldest registered club in NSW.
Founded in 1887, the Workies has grown to more than 10,500 members with its backbone entrenched in the strong community ties of Australia’s first industrial hub – Lithgow, just west of the Blue Mountains at the gateway to the NSW Central West.
Despite being the original stalwart of the state, the Workies boasts the newest club refurbishment in NSW.
A $6.5 million injection has resulted in major upgrades to the club including a new 36-room 4-star (self-assessed) motel with two disability access rooms, a refurbished showroom, conference centre, new restaurant, an art gallery and more.
Motel guests can access myriad first-class club facilities such as a kids’ centre, eateries and conference facilities via the Long Wall Gallery featuring local artworks just one minute from their rooms.
Club general manager Geoff Wheeler said the club’s top notch facilities catered for visitors from “across the world, across the state and across the road’’.
Already an established leader in quality entertainment, dining, functions, weddings and conference facilities in the Lithgow region, Mr Wheeler was confident the improvements would further elevate the reputation of Lithgow Workie’s Club.
“We’re more than just a club.
“The new motel, facilities and Esk Restaurant means motel guests, conference groups from around the country can focus on business and bridal parties on the joy of their wedding while we look after everything else during their stay with us.
“Lithgow has a rich history, is surrounded by beautiful country and has a friendly and growing community.
“The Workies is proud to have played a major part in the life of Lithgow for almost 130 years and is looking forward to being at the coalface as the area strengthens and grows as a tourist destination.’’
The motel will open for general bookings on Monday, February 29.
The official opening of the new motel and associated works will kick off with the official opening with Mike Whitney in the new showroom from 7.15pm.
The evening will be rounded off with spectacular entertainment from Australia’s “Queen of Soul’’ Lisa Hunt and her band in the revamped showroom. Tickets: $20.
Lithgow Workies Club Motel, Tank St, Lithgow, is now open for bookings. Go to www.workies.com.au or phone (02) 6350 7777 to book and for more details.
* Lithgow & District Workmen’s Club is a commercial client of Deep Hill Media and Headline Publicity
By Ellen Hill Photos: David Hill
From magical adventures among history and making your own fire poker to thrilling mysteries and gourmet delights, frazzled parents and bored kids can holiday at home in the Blue Mountains these holidays.
Take your pick from this list of local activities:
Talisman Gallery, Hartley Historic Site, Hartley: make your very own fire poker in an authentic blacksmith’s forge under the tutelage of expert metal artists Ron Fitzpatrick and Steve Cunningham. Sessions will be held from 10am to 12pm and 1pm to 3pm from December 26 to 29. Cost: $15 includes materials and tuition. Participants must wear closed in shoes. Bookings essential: Ron 0407 723 722.
Hartley Historic Site, Old Bathurst Rd (just off Great Western Hwy), Hartley: Soak up the atmosphere of one of the best examples of colonial Australia when you picnic among the 17 historic buildings, wander the Kew-Y-Ahn sculpture walk and visit the Kew-Y-Ahn Art Gallery, the only dedicated Aboriginal art gallery in the NSW Central West. Cost: Free. Details: (02) 6355 2117 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Everglades Historic House & Gardens, 37 Everglades Ave, Leura: Children can learn about heritage conservation and the natural environment at one of the most enchanting historic properties in the region through the My Adventure at Everglades program. Activities include matching, drawing, colouring, identifying component parts, labelling and drawing from their surrounds along with counting, exploring and contemplating. Entry: $13 adults, $8 concessions, $4 children, National Trust members free. The children’s activity books cost $10 and $5 per subsequent book. Bookings and information: (02) 4784 1938 or email email@example.com.
Blue Mountains Mystery Tours: Shiver in ghoulish delight at deliciously dark tales of the rich and sometimes bloody history behind the ruggedly beautiful landscape of the Greater Blue Mountains as you explore haunted buildings, abandoned cemeteries and other bereft locations. The experience can be tailored to suit children during the day or, for the more daring adults, conducted at night for spine-tingling effect. Cost: from $75 to $200 per person, includes all fees and charges. Bookings and details: phone 0418 416 403 or (02) 4751 2622, email firstname.lastname@example.org, website bluemountainsmysterytours.com.au or Facebook.
Blue Mountains Chocolate Company, 176 Lurline St, Katoomba: Treat yourself to the ultimate sweet indulgence with a visit to this scrumptious venue. Just minutes’ walk from the world-famous Echo Point Lookout and Three Sisters rock formations, the shelves are dripping with an extensive range of luscious hand-made goodies. Sip a hot chocolate drink melted over a romantic candle and nibble on a luxuriant cake while watching the in-house chocolatier create mouth-watering decadence.
Locals and visitors to the area can also take advantage of longer days to explore their own backyard by taking to one of more than 400 bushwalking tracks through the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area; hunt for tadpoles or dip their toes in fresh alpine waters at one of the many watering holes, waterfalls and lakes.
Those looking for a more urbane pastime can trawl the eclectic shopping strips for unique post-Christmas bargains and indulge in leisurely dining at one of the numerous cafes and restaurants, each with their own special flavour.
Check out the spectacular painted panorama of famous Australian destinations at Aitken’s Panorama in the Round at Glenbrook; try a takeaway food box filled with wholesome rustic mountain food from Vesta Blackheath (open Christmas Day); the new summer menu of regional delights at Leura Garage; dine where local identities gather at the legendary Victory Café at Blackheath and enjoy breakfast at any time of the day; and be sure to recharge the senses with a visit to Dry Ridge Estate Wines in the magnificent Megalong Valley to stock up on local wines and take in a gulp of pristine air and the soothing sight of rural countryside.
* All businesses mentioned are commercial clients of Deep Hill Media and Headline Publicity
By Ellen Hill for The Sebel Hawkesbury Resort & Spa Photos: David Hill
It could be the tinkling water features dotted around the property. Maybe it’s the sweeping lawns of the golf course or the subtle fragrance from the day spa floating on the breeze.
It’s probably all that combined and then some which makes The Sebel Hawkesbury Resort & Spa a perfect getaway venue.
The location is an instant winner: on the edge of the historic town of Windsor at the foothills of the world-famous Blue Mountains.
Just an easy 45 minutes’ drive from Sydney CBD and 60 minutes from Sydney airport, its close enough for a spontaneous romantic rendezvous, girls getaway, corporate retreat or wedding party. Book a mid-week stay for total tranquillity.
Enter the driveway of the only 4.5-star hotel in the Hawkesbury and Nepean region and nestle into the embrace of luxury.
With white leather lounges, the pristine lobby sets the tone: light, bright and airy with an ever-present sense of quiet and serenity.
Actually, there’s white everywhere. Goodness knows how they manage it but everything is spotless, from the crisp bed linen in the 105 rooms and suites to the highest corners of the numerous arched corridors indoors and out, which is just as well given the number of bridal gowns which sweep through them.
Set within 8ha of manicured, landscaped gardens, The Sebel Hawkesbury Resort & Spa has been built around the historic barracks and is now a series of buildings connected by indoor and outdoor covered corridors.
It has eight formal and five informal meeting spaces, a kiddies playground, an indoor heated pool and several dining options including the light-filled Gazebo Restaurant with huge breakfast buffet, the formal Harvest Restaurant and Barracks Bar for casual drinks, light lunch or snack and a game of snooker.
For those seeking to stay on top of their physical game, there is a gym with spa/sauna and aerobic and weights exercise equipment; two floodlit tennis courts; an on-site 9-hole golf course and 18-hole championship course next door.
Wander the rose-lined paths and come across the quaint 100-seat chapel, a perfect place for heavenly nuptials.
The ultimate bliss is a visit to the Villa Thalgo Day Spa. With 16 treatment rooms, an indoor heated pool, six-lap hydrotherapy exercise station, steam room, two hydrotherapy spa rooms, a couples room, blitz shower, a Vichy shower room, indoor and outdoor relaxation area and a host of half-day, full-day and even multi-day programs using the famous French Thalgo marine product line, it is a holiday destination in itself.
The only Village Thalgo Day Spa in Australia, it is the largest day spa in Western Sydney yet feels comfortingly intimate.
A visit to The Sebel Hawkesbury Resort & Spa is luxury travelling at its best – without the hassle of a long-haul flight.
The Sebel Hawkesbury Resort & Spa is on Hawkesbury Valley Way (Richmond Rd), Windsor. Bookings and details: (02) 4577 4222, email H8799@accor.com or go to sebelhawkesbury.com.au.
Words by Ellen Hill Photos by David Hill
IT might be the smoky aroma of the air, the hypnotic flame, the warmth on your front and cold on your back. Or it might be that in the flame-tinged darkness, you feel safe that no one can fully see you. It might just be the bottle of red that makes you congenial, loosens the tongue and makes you believe these people look familiar. You’re probably never going to see them again anyway.
There’s something about a campfire that causes your most intimate secrets to start flowing in a trickle before coursing out into the night air for all to hear.
You see the newcomers, the ones sitting apologetically in the shadows, legs crossed, nervously nodding and smiling towards the jokes and conversation. They’re the ones who twitch with a start when a stranger asks them where they’re from, and they answer in the most basic terms _ “Germany’’ or “the UK’’.
When pressed, they might reluctantly give their city _ “Sydney’’ or “Amsterdam’’.
They can’t help themselves. They take the bait, and before they know it the newcomer is haughtily defending the intelligence of their neighbours, the righteousness of democracy, the freedoms of their country, the weather in their land. They start crowing about how their country’s contenders wiped the pool at the Euro Song Contest this year and Ugg boots are back in fashion because of their top supermodel.
The old hats have broken another one in and sit back in smug satisfaction. Relaxed chatter and banter continues.
The campfire routine can happen anywhere.
A few years back, my husband was lolling sleepily on the deck chair next me while our son played in the pool. “Is he still alive?’’ asked an unfamiliar voice.
It wasn’t long before his wife was also chipping in saucy tit-bits about their life, family and travels. I don’t think their daughter would have approved of their proud naming her as the head of a particular government agency. “Hasn’t changed, though,’’ her proud dad boasted. “She’s still the same as she was as a girl.’’
At a communal breakfast at an obscene hour one morning, two young chaps struggled to find English words to ask where the milk could be found. It then seemed rude to take our meal to the opposite end of the room, so we plonked ourselves next to them and made mental notes of the best attractions in northern Italy while they politely ignored our seven-year-old’s table manners.
We spent the first three days of our Outback holiday trying to hide the fact that our son had contracted the highly contagious although usually harmless Slap Cheek virus. The poor child’s inflamed cheeks and ears were hard to disguise, but we managed to convince a chemist to hand over some flu relief without divulging our secret until another woman spotted the condition and loudly announced by the flickering light of a campfire that her daughter had been sick with the same thing the week before.
We first met the Belgian fellow around a campfire at an Outback station where he was bravely holding his own while being interrogated about Belgian’s cosy relationship with Zimbabwean tyrant Robert Mugabe by a less educated camper.
While asking for change for the washing machine in the foyer of our next destination, we were pleasantly surprised by an excited bellow in our direction. The Belgian had inadvertently followed our tracks and turned up at the same place, son in tow.
We gleaned much interesting trivia about wild and exotic destinations on the other side of the world from this pair during fleeting sightings in the next two days.
The campfire routine can happen in the most unlikely of places and you don’t have to leave home to test it out.
Try rolling your eyes at the nearest motherly looking woman in the shopping queue when your child announces loudly they’re busting for the loo – again. She’s bound to throw a knowing nod and wry smile your way and tell you her third child also needed to pee exactly 15 minutes before the movie finished on cheap Tuesdays and the ushers used to have the door already open in preparation.
Dramatically throw up your hands and pull a face in exasperation when two elderly people with matching shopping trolleys stop suddenly in the middle of a crowded footpath and loiter for a long-winded conversation about how poor the food is at the retirement village. You’re bound to bridge a generation gap with someone wearing a mohawk, earrings all over their head and a t-shirt that reads: “Even my mother hates me’’.
And if you mutter loudly
The fruit and veg doesn’t taste like they used to'',The boss may as well just give my pay straight to the bank’ or “Oil companies are like bushrangers”, you’ll have an immediate new group of friends.
These fleeting meetings with new people have many benefits: you meet lots of interesting people and learn fascinating trivia, you realise the world isn’t such a dark place after all, and if it is at least you’re not alone.