Margaret River & Southern WA top Lonely Planet's Best in Asia Pacific list

Margaret River & Southern WA Tops Lonely Planet’s Best in Asia Pacific 2019 Global travel authority Lonely Planet has named Margaret River & Southern WA as the number-one Asian-Pacific destination to visit in the year ahead.

Expanded this year to include Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific, Best in Asia Pacific is Lonely Planet’s fourth annual agenda-setting list of the region’s 10 best destinations to visit in the next 12 months.

Announcing Margaret River & Southern WA’s top-ranking, Lonely Planet enthuses: “Take one look at Meelup Beach and you’ll wonder where it’s been all your life: the West Australian bush parts to reveal ocean the hue of a Bombay Sapphire bottle, which is typical of the coastline stretching from Margaret River to the state’s south. Beyond the sand, some of the country’s slickest wineries, breweries and restaurants lie between tracts of tall-tree forest and kangaroo-dotted farmland.”

Lonely Planet adds: “Locals have long felt their turf rivals the east coast travel trail; now, 17-hour direct flights from London to capital city Perth put it at Europe’s fingertips. Adding to the argument are coveted food and culture-amped festivals, from Gourmet Escape to Truffle Kerfuffle and Taste Great Southern. There’s also amazing surf, whales aplenty and DIY coastal hikes with paved sections, improving accessibility for all.”

“Asia Pacific has it all,” says Lonely Planet’s Media Spokesperson for the region, Chris Zeiher. “Its food delights the senses, its forests and seas teem with life, and its cities fizz with culture and creativity. Our experts have explored this vast region’s highlands, islands and everything in between to find the best places to visit this year.”

“From primate-filled jungles to mirage-like lagoons,” Chris says, “their recommendations reflect a part of the world increasingly determined to protect its most prized possessions at the same time as it charges whole-heartedly into the future.”

Lonely Planet’s Best in Asia Pacific 2019 is available online, with accompanying articles to each destination, at

1. Margaret River & Southern WA, Australia

2. Shikoku, Japan

“This somewhat off-the-beaten-path haven is finally being discovered by non-Japanese visitors, with an increasing number of international flights winging into the main cities of Takamatsu and Matsuyama.”

3. Bay of Islands & Northland, New Zealand

“Northland is the cradle of the country’s culture and history –both for the indigenous Māori people and for the European settlers who followed them. The two formally came together with the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi in the Bay of Islands, and 2020 sees the 180th anniversary of that key nation-building event.”

4. Singapore

“Singapore was one of the brightest stars in the 2018 movie blockbuster Crazy Rich Asians, and the Lion City is hipper and hotter than ever. 2019 offers a chance to participate in the city’s bicentennial, but also to celebrate more than 700 years of Singapore’srich, diverse history.”

5. The Cook Islands

“A visit to the Cook Islands, 15 tiny islets, far-flung over a swathe of the deep-blue, breezy Pacific Ocean, is bound to rejuvenate even the most jaded. And locals on the main island, Rarotonga, are welcoming visitors off an increasing number of international flights to their Polynesian paradise.”

6. Central Vietnam

“Hue’s vibrant cuisine showcases the city’s imperial legacy, while south in Hoi An’sstoried laneways, local dishes include fragrant cao lầu noodles. Seafood stars in nearby Danang, and the city alongside the Han River is becoming one of Vietnam’s most exciting urban destinations.”

7. Fiji

“From solar-powered resorts that serve locally harvested food to coral reef restoration projects and limited plastic usage, this vulnerable island nation has moved headlong into eco-tourism. October 10, 2020, will mark the island nation’s 50th year of independence, called ‘FijiDay’

8. Palawan, Philippines

“These are the heady days when new air routes and upgraded roads make it easier than ever to explore the dramatic seascapes and wildlife-laden jungles of the slender 400km-long main island (also called Palawan) before it inevitably becomes more developed.”

9. Beijing, China

“Beijing is changing fast as the new decade approaches. In a bid to battle the smog, an eco-friendly bike-sharing scheme has launched, and the rapidly expanding subway is expected to reduce traffic congestion. High-speed links will soon race passengers to the extraordinary, Zaha Hadid-designed, starfish-shaped BeijingDaxing International, the world’s largest airport, which is slated to open later this year“

10. Cambodia

“The skyline of Phnom Penhis on the up, bringing sky bars and designer dining; the Southern Islands are generating a beach buzz thanks to new boutique and luxury resorts; colonial-era vestiges are under restoration in Battambangand Kampot; and in remote areas like Koh Kongand Mondulkiri, wildlife spotting is drawing visitors off-the-beaten track. New airlines are making connections between Siem Reapand the South Coastsmoother, with hydrofoils whisking people to the islands.”

To celebrate this year’s Best in Asia Pacific, Lonely Planet is giving visitors to the chance to win a tour of their choice to explore the region with G Adventures–the small group adventure travel specialists. There are over 250 tours to choose from across Asia and Pacific, and the winner will receive a $5,000 voucher from G Adventures to spend on their favourite, plus $4,000 towards two return flights.

Source: Lonely Planet

Thyme For A New Spa At Garden & Villas Resort, Italy

Garden & Villas Resort on the island of Ischia, off the coast of Italy, have extended their green thumb to the newly refurbished spa launching an herbal inspired spa menu just in thyme for the Italian summer.

The resort’s new spa features a wide range of body and face treatments, with signature treatments inspired by the natural essences from the resort’s abundant gardens. Highlights on the new menu include the range of Garden Massages using lavender, lemon or thyme along with the Mint and Rosemary Body Toning Treatment.

Each herb used has been carefully selected for their various healing properties: Lavender for its ability to reduce inflammation and minimise the ageing process; Lemon for its ability to boost energy levels and to improve digestion; Thyme to improve circulation and strengthen the immune system; Mint to reduce muscle aches and pains and Rosemary for it’s ability to heal the body.

Signature treatments are available in the newly refurbished spa which fittingly is built into a naturally formed cave on the grounds of the sprawling 3-hectare garden centric resort. Produce grown in the garden is mindfully used throughout Garden & Villas Resort’s menus in line with their zero-miles food philosophy so it is only fitting this same philosophy now carries through to the resort’s spa menu. In addition to herbal treatments, the new spa also features a thermal pool with jets to massage various body ailments.

Characterised by lush vegetation, Ischia is known as the Green Island with its huge parks, beautiful beaches, lush landscapes and breath-taking sunsets. The volcanic island is also home to over 100 thermal springs making it the ideal wellness destination. Garden & Villas Resort, located in the heart of Ischia, is home to nine villas housing the guest rooms.

To experience Garden & Villas Resort’s new spa, the resort is offering a Summer Dream package which includes an overnight stay and Buffet Breakfast, one dinner per person at Il Corbezzolo restaurant by the pool and one massage 30-minute massage per person. Prices start at €210 per person per night (approx. AUD 340 per person per night). * Subject to availability and conditions apply. Minimum 2-night stay required.

Getting to Ischia:
Ischia is a 90-minute ferry ride from Naples departing Calata di Porta di Massa to Ischia Porto and Casamicciola Terme. A quicker option is the ferry in Pozzuoli, which is closer to Ischia, or one of the hydrofoils departing from Molo Beverello in Naples to Ischia, Casamicciola and Forio.

Source: Garden & Villas Resort

Jetstar Pilot surprises mum on board: "Flying my parents for the first time"

Jetstar A320 Pilot, Raphael Leong (36), planned a surprise for his mum Rosalind (71) and his father Dennis (72).

Since starting to fly with Jetstar last year, he was always looking for an opportunity to be the pilot to fly them on their holidays. When he learned that his parents had decided to return from their holiday on Jetstar, he swopped flights and arranged for a special announcement.

Then he took the PA and made an announcement:

“Ladies and Gentlemen, A very good afternoon to all of you. This is your first officer speaking. My name is Raphael. We’d like to welcome you on board Jetstar Flight 3K78 to Singapore and this is a very special flight for me because my parents are on board”
“And this is the first time in my life that they will be on a flight that I’ll be flying. I don’t know if they know it yet but… Hi Pa! Hi Mum! Surprise! I love you.

A fellow crew member filmed the moment and shared the video internally…

The funniest part is when he realized that his mum was actually in the toilet when he made the PA, so she missed it, but could still hear his son’s voice from there.

Raphael’s mum and dad were really proud and happy for him, and the video is getting great feedback from everyone at Jetstar.

Source: Jetstar

JackieO’ Beach Club and JackieO’ Bar – a Mykonos favourite for summer 2019 opens

JackieO’ is one of Mykonos’ leading hospitality, entertainment and nightlife brands boasting two properties on the island; JackieO’ Beach Club and JackieO’ Bar. Launched in 2008, JackieO’ Bar is located in the bustling Mykonos Town and offers a chic, cosmopolitan venue to have pre-dinner drinks or dance until sunrise on the trendy Paraportiani waterfront. JackieO’ Beach Club, launched in 2013, sits above dazzling turquoise waters at the west end of Super Paradise Beach and features a 170-seat restaurant helmed by Greek celebrity chef Christoforos Peskias, large open bar, swimming pool & jacuzzi, lounge areas, beach with sunbeds and a boutique shop.

Both venues were founded by husband and husband duo Michalis Sigounas and Carsten Stehr who have created an iconic Myconian brand that is not only hugley popular among the island’s loyal LGBTQ+ travellers, but a mainstay favourite among Mykonos’ international jet set.

JackieO’ Bar was the first venue to be established by Sigounas and Stehr and boasts two floors and terrace overlooking the picturesque old port with marvelous sunset views. With the motto ‘From sunset to sunrise in style’, the bar offers a late-night venue with an extensive selection of cocktails and shots by superstar mixologist Giannis Bakos to ensure guests a good time. JackieO’ Bar is also home to nightly drag shows from 1:30 am that have become a Myconian staple and draw visitors from across the island on a daily basis.

Over on Super Paradise Beach, Jackie O’ Beach Club is an all-day venue that has the space to tailor to guests’ needs – whether they are to dance, eat, shop, socialise or sunbathe. The beach club hosts a regular programme of international DJs, events and festivals throughout the year as well as sunset drag shows starring JackieO’ resident Priscilla every night at around 7pm.

Inspired by its surroundings, JackieO’ offers a minimal aesthetic defined by a muted colour scheme and the sensual curves of the island. The curvacious loops and arcs that make up the beach club were hand-sculpted by co-owner Carsten Stehr using traditional Cycladic white washed cement and stone. The Jackie O’ Beach Club offers some of the best views in Mykonos, with the Jackie O’ flag overlooking the Aegean Sea being one of the most Instagrammed spots on the island.

The beach club is also home to the JackieO’ boutique, which sells a stylish and eclectic mix of international brands including Armani, Ron Dorff,  Yoji Yammamoto sun glasses, Balmain hair products, Ileana Makri jewelry, Depot male cosmetic products and Minas jewelry to name a few. Local brands sold at the boutique include Issi- Athens and Tunika stola, and JackieO’ frequently collaborate with up-and-coming Greek designers to showcase their work to a wider audience. For the 2019 season, JackieO’ boutique is hosting a Neil Barrett pop-up store. The boutique also sells JackieO’ branded merchandise including clothes, accessories and home products.

Helmed by Executive Chef Christoforos Peskias and located within the beach club, Jackie O’s Restaurant boasts some of the best food on the island. Peskias blends traditional Cycladic flavours with a fusion of eastern and western cuisine to create something spectacular. Menu highlights include JackieO’ Sea Urchin Salad, “Super Paradise” Lobster Linguini and Myconian cheese-cake with honey caviar. Gluten free, vegetarian and vegan menus are also avaliable.

JackieO’s venues are also great places to hold events; across the properties there is the possibility of privatisation of areas on the beach, pool, jacuzzi and restaurants. Most uniquley, JackieO’ Beach Club is home to a private beach chapel built by the owners that is avaliable to book for weddings and christnenings. The restaurant offers set menus for groups of over 15 that are perfect for brithdays, anniversaries, bachelor parties and weddings.

Jackie O’ Beach Club boasts a private pier with tenders offering a free transfer service to collect and drop off boats too large to approach the pier. Food can also be delivered to boats anchored in the bay or moored at the pier; making JackieO’ Beach Club the perfect spot to stop and enjoy world-class cuisine, great music and a fun crowd.

Sustainability is also at the core of the JackieO’ ethos with many initiatives in place to make both properties as close to zero waste as possible. JackieO’ does not use any single use plastic instead opting for biodegradable PLA straws, 100% recycalable cups for use on the beach and eco-friendly packaging for takeaway food. In addition to this, both JackieO’ Bar and JackieO’ beach club have solar panels installed and sustainable water systems in place to reduce water waste.

Source: JackieO’

Mt Mulligan Lodge opens in outback Queensland

The Northern Escape Collection has expanded with the recent opening of Mt Mulligan Lodge in remote Far North Queensland. The luxury outback lodge is situated on a secluded, entirely private 28,000-hectare heritage site, offering boutique accommodation in the shadow of majestic Mount Mulligan.

Guests staying at Mt Mulligan Lodge will be able to experience the spirit of the North Queensland back-country through a captivating landscape with indigenous significance dating back 37,000 years. The expansive property bears the marks of the historic gold and coal rush and in its current operation, as a working cattle station, the pastoral history of Australia.

Northern Escape Collection’s Owner, Chris Morris, said he was thrilled to welcome Mt Mulligan Lodge to the family. “Mt Mulligan Lodge was the missing link for the Northern Escape Collection. Our guests can now experience Queensland’s iconic reef, ancient rainforest and rugged outback in one seamless journey,” Mr Morris said.

The majestic Mount Mulligan dominates the surrounding landscape; the conglomerate and sandstone tabletop mountain boasts a spectacular 18 kilometre escarpment that towers over the surrounding Australian eucalyptus woodlands. Mt Mulligan Lodge lies beneath this undiscovered landmark with views overlooking a sparkling weir and is an all-inclusive luxury property accessible via a 35-minute scenic helicopter flight from Cairns or a 2.5-hour 4WD adventure from Cairns.

Ensuring an intimate escape, the lodge accommodates just 16 guests at any one time and features three different room types, a beautifully designed main pavilion for guest meals and relaxation, an infinity pool and sunset bar. Each guest room at Mt Mulligan Lodge is also assigned its own electric buggy to explore the sprawling property with ease.

A range of experiences have been designed to make the most of the rugged outback territory.  Mt Mulligan Lodge offers guided tours of the goldfields including a demonstration of Australia’s oldest operating gold crusher at Tyrconnell, exploration of the historic Mount Mulligan coal mine and abandoned township, ATV adventures discovering the history and beauty of the region, chef-prepared gourmet picnic hampers, wildlife spotting, sunset drinks overlooking the escarpment, stargazing, hikes around the southern face of Mount Mulligan, barramundi fishing in the weir, scenic helicopter flights and the chance to experience the day-to-day operations of a working cattle station.

Mt Mulligan Lodge offers a light, contemporary and daily-changing menu that showcases a bounty of locally-sourced, caught and freshly-grown seasonal fare. The menu puts a flavoursome twist on outback living, featuring a tasting plate of kangaroo tataki, miso cream, tea-soaked egg, wasabi granola and hearty mains such as grass-fed Bushy Creek beef, charred peppers, manzanilla olive, lemon myrtle, smoked chimichurri. The cellar has been crafted to ensure harmony between cuisine, climate and environment featuring iconic and boutique wines from Australia’s renowned wine regions.

Ongoing conservation is at the heart of Mt Mulligan Lodge’s philosophy. As part of continuing endeavours to safeguard the environment, the lodge runs on solar power and 100% recycled water, sources ingredients from local producers and sustainable farms, and adopts sustainable building design methods. AUD $50 per guest is also donated to the Northern Escape Collection’s Reef Keepers Fund, aimed at protecting and preserving the Great Barrier Reef.

Source: Mount Mulligan