Halcyon House in Cabarita: does it live up to the hotel hype?

IF THERE is one hotel that has been lapping up all kinds of praise both here and over *there*, well, it’s certainly this little Aussie one.

Halcyon House used to be a one of those old-school motels, nestled on the beach at Cabarita on the north coast of New South Wales — kind of half way between the Gold Coast and Byron Bay.

Cabarita may not role off the tongue like the Goldie or Byron but Australia’s newest and incredibly sleek boutique hotel, Halcyon House, is impressing all the right people.

The hotel was opened by Elisha Bickle and her sister Siobhan, the family buying Cabarita’s ‘Hideaway’ motel and morphed it into Halcyon House.

There is no question that Halcyon House is one of Australia’s most special beachside hotels. So good, it was recently awarded the 2016 Condé Nast Traveller ‘Hot List’ Award.

Only a select 60 properties made the Condé Nast Traveller Hot List Awards and represent not only the vanguard of the hotel world, but where travellers are headed to next.

The outcome of the list was that hotels have rediscovered the true meaning of the term design hotel; that ‘eco-friendly’ has come to signify something truly inspired; and emerging destinations have been put on the holiday map.

This former surf motel turned luxury hotel was one of Australia’s best kept secrets but now, the secret is out. Of their recent award, the Brisbane-based sisters always believed the hotel would hit the right note.

“Our vision was to create something that was completely different to what was currently being offered in Australia, a boutique hotel with a low key Australian feel,” says Elisha.

“A hotel which pairs the beauty of location, with relaxed understated elegance and intuitive service. Such an accolade in our first year of opening doors is testament to the team holding true and achieving this vision.” Siobhan adds.

The hotel may have only been open just over a year but its interiors — designed by Anna Spiro and Sydney-based architect Virginia Kerridge — are eclectic and feature groupings of vintage cameos, seascapes, mirrors and collected beachside paraphernalia.

So popular and ‘instagrammable’ has Halcyon House become, it has reached Pinterest and Insta fame as the ‘Halcyon Hang’.

One of the highlights of Halcyon turned out to be Mauro De Riso, the hotel’s general manager whose life has been spent in the world of hospitality including a long stint on Capri.

“I have spent several years working overseas in high-end properties and it is a privilege to now manage Halcyon House,” said Mauro, who even picked us up from Coolangatta airport in a super-duper Audi, before driving us for 20 minutes to Cabarita.

“The beachfront location, property size, access to incredible fresh produce and passionate staff all contribute to our ability to offer extraordinary and unique experiences for our discerning guests.”

Halcyon House has 21 individual suites, vintage furnishings and a poolside restaurant Paper Daisy under the helm of chef Ben Devlin, who was awarded the Brisbane Good Food Guide Young chef of the year in 2014.

When we visited, Ben had just started a new winter menu and it was seriously sensational (baby lobster anyone?) with local fish, meat, fruit and veggies his best working tools.

Previously, Ben worked at world renowned chef-owner René Redzepi’s Noma in Copenhagen.

The 90-seat dining experience at the restaurant is a celebration of Halcyon House’s unique part of the world and the relaxed setting worked just as well on the cold, windy, rainy night we had as it did the next day, when it was crystal blue and simply beautiful.

When it comes to room rates, they’re not cheap, starting from $550 for a King suite to $1400 for a two-bedroom suite. There is no question, Halcyon has had fantastic reviews — and it is a real occasion location — including a spectacular one from the renowned Mr and Mrs Smith travel site.

THINGS I LOVE:

• The way Halcyon House still has that 1960s “motel” kind of feel, but boy, the existing building has been beautifully and faithfully restored so it doesn’t look “untouchable”

• In a cool move for a beachside hotel, the walls of each room are entirely upholstered — each in a unique fabric.

• No two rooms are the same; textiles, antiques, art and furnishings have been sourced from all over the globe — from estate sales as near as Brisbane and as far afield as the legendary Brimfield antiques fair in Massachusetts

• The walk along the beach — which is right outside the hotel — takes you right up to the Cabarita headlands where you get a 360 degree view of the surrounding area and some brilliant swell and the odd whale or three. Sensational!

• When arrive at Halcyon House, you are greeted not with a cold towel or glass of champagne … but with some freshly made lemonade. (The Presecco comes after you’ve settled into your room.)

• Lastly and while it wasn’t poolside-sitting weather when we were there, the blue and white deck chairs and drinks cart make the whole vibe very relaxed and not at all “up itself” — a quality that fits in perfectly with a hotel that deserves all the accolades it has received.

I’d suggest to save up and give Halcyon a twirl. You’ll really, really like it.

Take a look at their website and you’ll certainly get the picture of what is a simply sensational and relaxed holiday playground.

Melissa Hoyer stayed as a guest of Halcyon House

This article was originally posted on news.com.au


OFFICIAL START OF THE GREATEST MOTORING ADVENTURE PEKING TO PARIS

Swiss watch manufacturer Frederique Constant is the official timekeeper of the 2016 Peking to Paris Motor Challenge, one of the most extraordinary journeys that you can do in a motorcar universe.

With its first edition in 1907, The Peking to Paris Motor Challenge is one of the oldest automotive challenges still running today. Bringing vintage sports cars together side-by-side, their route includes driving in some of the world’s toughest lands and requires the participants to maintain a demanding rally-time schedule.

On Sunday, organisers, partners, competitors and cars were all excited and reunited for the departure of this great adventure beside the breathtaking, Great Wall of China. An architectural marvel, where the first rally started 109 years ago.

Over 100 vintage sports cars and their crew lined up under the giant arch in front of the Great Wall: Bentley, BMW, Chevrolet, Fiat, Mercedes, Peugeot and Porsche; all the biggest names were represented by their most fabled models. All were ready and roaring with impatience to set off on the 13’000km road.

The 2016 route drives into the most adventurous region of Mongolia, the stunningly beautiful northern sector. It will cross Russia and the Republic of Belarus through long gravel farmland sections for Time Trials; and an exciting new route across Europe with closed-road mountain climbs in the Alps. The route was revised to allow the public from different countries to witness this great spectacle.

Sebastien Cretegny, Marketing and Sales Director of Frederique Constant Asia, took this opportunity to express his pride and happiness of being the official timekeeper of this legendary race. For Frederique Constant, sponsoring once again the Peking to Paris Motor Challenge was a logical way to encourage people around the world to follow their passion, just like the people participating to this great rally.


QANTAS GROUP COMPLETES $500M SHARE BUY-BACK

The Qantas Group has announced that it has completed the $500 million on market share buy-back announced at its half year results in February 2016.

Since 9 March 2016, Qantas has purchased 143,599,336 shares for a weighted average price of $3.4819.

Combined with the $505 million capital return and associated share consolidation completed on 6 November 2015, the number of ordinary shares on issue for Qantas Airways Limited has decreased by 12.6% since 30 June 2015. Upon cancellation of all shares purchased under the buy-back there will be 1,918,801,014 ordinary shares on issue.

In line with its financial framework, the Qantas Group has returned over $1 billion in surplus capital to shareholders in the last 12 months. A decision on future capital management initiatives will be made by the Board and announced with the Group’s full year results on 24 August 2016.


ETIHAD AIRWAYS OPENS WORLD LEADING FIRST CLASS LOUNGE AND SPA IN ABU DHABI

Etihad Airways has just officially opened its new flagship First Class Lounge & Spa at Abu Dhabi International Airport’s Terminal 3.

The spectacular new space showcases the airline’s commitment to providing unparalleled and aspirational hospitality experiences. And if we think planes are getting more and more advanced and attractive some of the airline lounges are looking just as good if not even better.

Inspired by the world’s most prestigious hotels, private members’ clubs and fine dining establishments, the lounge is an ultra-exclusive lifestyle environment which tells the airline’s acclaimed guest experience and hospitality story with unrivalled design, style and comfort, world class dining, and bespoke beauty and relaxation services.

The lounge features 16 unique zones designed to ensure that guests can relax, re-energise and be entertained in total luxury before boarding their flight. An à la carte restaurant, showcase bar, fitness room, cigar lounge, Six Senses Spa, Style & Shave hairdresser, nail bar, TV room, secluded relaxation room, prayer room and children’s play room ensure that all guests receive a highly personalised experience and intuitive service.

Peter Baumgartner, Etihad Airways’ Chief Executive Officer, said: “Our new First Class Lounge & Spa is the jewel in the crown of our new lounge offerings worldwide and represents the best of our home city of Abu Dhabi. It is a showcase of intelligent product design, innovation, ‎and superlative hospitality and service. This is not just a lounge but the ultimate airline hospitality experience and one which perfectly mirrors Etihad Airways’ evolution into the best airline in the world.

“Continuing our journey of innovation, this new dedicated First Class environment demonstrates our on-going commitment to developing world-class products as we continue to reimagine travel.”

Measuring approximately 1,700 m², and boasting expansive views of the airport, the new facility is open round-the-clock for the exclusive use of guests of The Residence, Etihad First Class, Etihad Guest Exclusive, Etihad Guest Platinum members (plus one guest), Etihad Airways Partner (EAP) airline First Class guests, EAP ‘Invitation only’ members (plus two guests) and EAP equivalent Platinum members (plus one guest).

Shane O’Hare, Etihad Airways’ Senior Vice President Marketing, said: “We are reimagining service and hospitality. Whilst this physical environment is truly remarkable, we have placed special emphasis on creating an aspirational luxury lifestyle space in line with our legendary inflight service offering. The result is the finest airline lounge and spa experience in the world.”

Guests of The Residence enjoy the exclusivity of their own private space discreetly located adjacent to the main lounge entrance. The secluded area boasts a dedicated Savoy-trained Butler, custom-made Poltrona Frau Italian leather armchairs and sofas, its own shower room stocked with a range of Acqua di Parma products, a prayer room, and private dining.

Guests of the First Class Lounge & Spa will be attended to by a number of expertly trained staff – all of whom have undergone a rigorous selection process. The lounge features a General Manager, Concierge, Maître d’Hotel, Savoy-trained Butlers, chefs and mixologists among its highly trained lounge team.

The cigar lounge provides a choice of nine premium brands including Hoyo de Monterray, Cohiba, Bolivar, Montecristo, Arturo Fuente and Romeo Y Julieta from its own humidor. Each has been expertly matched with a number of whiskies and cognacs.

The Six Senses Spa comprises three treatment rooms with shower facilities. First Class guests can enjoy a complimentary treatment, while guests in The Residence are offered two complimentary treatments.

In keeping with a focus on health and wellbeing, the Relax & Recline area features a large video wall made up of 27 individual screens, soothing sound and lighting, and is furnished with six Poltona Frau leather recliners. The fitness room is equipped with state-of-the-art Technogym treadmills and cross trainers, and male and female washrooms and showers.

The Style & Shave area is staffed by talented barbers offering a suite of hair and shave services, including one complimentary express treatment and a shoe shine service. The nail bar provides hair and nail services, including nail art, and one complimentary express treatment.

The new facility adds to the airline’s expanding collection of 14 Premium Lounges including those recently launched in Melbourne and New York, in addition to Premium Lounges in Abu Dhabi (Terminals 1 and 3), Sydney, Frankfurt, London, Manchester, Dublin, Paris, and Washington DC. At Abu Dhabi Airport, Etihad Airways also operates a dedicated Premium Lounge within the unique US Preclearance facility, and a Premium Arrivals Lounge. A new First and Business Class Lounge at Los Angeles LAX airport will follow in the coming months.


ETIHAD AIRWAYS UNITES INNOVATION WITH HOLLYWOOD GLAMOUR FOR VIRTUAL REALITY MOVIE

Etihad Airways has released its highly anticipated 360-degree virtual reality film starring Academy Award-winning actress, Nicole Kidman. This marks the first time a Hollywood actor has starred in a fully immersive virtual reality movie.

The five-minute feature, titled ‘Reimagine’, is a major coup for the national airline of the United Arab Emirates, and immerses its viewers in a fully experiential journey following Nicole Kidman through one of its new Airbus A380s flying between New York and Abu Dhabi.

Etihad Airways collaborated with the Barbarian Group, a subsidiary of Cheil Worldwide, and the creative digital production company MediaMonks to produce the film. The feature was directed by the renowned husband and wife directing duo Anthony Atanasio and Valerie Martinez. The film used pioneering filming techniques to ensure a seamless production with no warping or stitches, achieving unrivalled VR results.

Ola Björling, MediaMonks’ Global Director of VR, said: “As the most multidisciplinary medium there is, virtual reality relies more heavily on craft and execution than anything that has gone before it. We believe the display of artistry in every facet of this production is setting a new benchmark for live-action VR.”

The Virtual Reality film will be available at vr.etihad.com from 15:00 Australian Eastern Standard Time today (27 May) and will be followed by an updated version in stereoscopic sound on 17 June. To guarantee the full experience, viewers will need to download the Oculus VR app at vr.etihad.com and view the film using a virtual reality headset, such as Oculus Rift or Google Cardboard. Viewers will also be able to watch the film as a 360 degree video on YouTube.

On 29 May, Etihad Airways will host a red carpet premiere and roundtable discussion for ‘Reimagine’ at its headquarters in Abu Dhabi. Tune in on Facebook Live via the Etihad Airways Facebook page at 18:00 Australian Eastern Standard Time to take part and pose your questions to some of the key players behind the film.