Saturday, 26 May 2012

Sovereign Hill - Ballarat - Scotsburn


John Crook
Revisiting Sovereign Hill

Having spent half a dozen visits to Sovereign Hill in Ballarat, there were around two years between most recent visits. I never tire of strolling the streets of the 1851 gold fields. On this particular visit I had the opportunity to spend a night in the very comfortable Comfort Inn Sovereign Hill, the four-star property which places you just footsteps from the entry to the recreated gold town which is set on 25 hectares. The highlight of my stay was to participate in the Blood on the Southern sound and light show. This was a first class presentation. A visit to Sovereign Hill would be incomplete should you get really involved. Accommodation at the Comfort Inn, a roast dinner at the Charlie Napier Hotel, and then to a 90 minute presentation, which is an absolute knock-out. For accommodation telephone (03) 5337 1159. To book your visit to Sovereign Hill here are the contact points. Telephone (03) 5337 1100. Visit

There's much more

Whilst Sovereign Hill is he bg drawcard when visiting Ballarat, there is plenty more to include in your visit. Lake Wendouree welcomes you.- after a lengthy drought, it has again been returned to its original charm, go visit and take a walk around its perimeter. Either before, or following your walk, I can recommend a coffee, or lunch at Masons Cafe. Viv Mason offers seasonal organic product. Check the blackboard. This is one of those places where a return visit is on the cards. 'Tis good. Telephone (03) 5333 3895.

Back in the cbd

Yes, the cbd is next on my 'must visit' list, to visit the Art Gallery of Ballarat. This is the oldest regional art gallery of regional Australia. I visit whenever I can, even if only to pay my respects to what is still part of the original Eureka flag. What history! To contact the Ballarat Art Gallery telephone (03) 5320 5858. Visit

Sinclair of Scotsburn

If you are into wines, there are plenty of wineries, cellar doors and the like. I chose one on the outskirts of Ballarat, one which calls Buninyong 'home'. Mine host loves his very own Pinot, I spotted a Chardonnay. It was superb If I heard right, Mr Halliday thought likewise. I suggest that to get directions from Buninyong would be the wise thing to do. You could do no better than to have a coffee or a snack, at Espresso Depot. Part of early history and so friendly too. OK, here'es the drill.
Contact Espresso Depot onf (03) 5341 2677.
Contact David Sinclair of Scotsburn vineyard and cellar door. Telephone 0419 885 717.m

* Please note conditions may apply to these packages and prices are subject to change and availability. This information is provided as a guide only. Check with your travel agency. Block-out periods may apply.

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Monday, 21 May 2012

Egypt Special - China Southern Europe - Explora South America - Europe River Cruise - Christmas Europe -

David Ellis
21 May 2012

Howard Carter


BENCH International has released a deal offering $500 per couple off an Egypt itinerary to mark the birthday this month of Howard Carter (above), the man who discovered Tutankhamen's tomb nearly 100 years ago in the Valley of the Kings.

The package is a fully escorted 17-day tour departing on September 5.

The itinerary includes a four-night Nile River cruise with a visit to the West Bank in Luxor to the tombs of the Pharaohs and the romantic Valley of the Kings where Carter found the remarkable tomb in 1922.

The tour will travel with Bench's sales director Martin Edwards, as well as a local expert Egyptologist and take in major sites including Cairo's Pyramids at Giza, the history of the Mediterranean city Alexandria, a five-day cruise  along the River Nile combined with a three night cruise on tranquil Lake Nasser, along with key archaeological sites along the way and at Abu Simbel in Upper Egypt.

The new special price of from $5345 per person includes return air fares from Sydney and Melbourne with Etihad Airways, taxes, most meals, tipping and all sightseeing. The package is also available from Brisbane and Adelaide.

More details from Bench International at 1300-135-871.


CHINA Southern Airlines has announced great-value earlybird fares to Europe from $1370* to celebrate the launch of its new Canton Route.

Return economy fares from Melbourne and Sydney to Amsterdam start from $1370* and $1390* respectively, while return flights to Paris are priced from $1400* from Melbourne and $1420* ex-Sydney.

Return economy fares from Sydney to London via Guangzhou on China Southern's new Canton Route start from $1500*.

"These hot earlybird fares give Australians a taste of what is to come when we start flying three times a week to Heathrow via our hub in Guangzhou on June 5," said China Southern Regional Manager for Australia/New Zealand, Henry He.

"With only a brief stopover in Guangzhou, the Canton Route will take as little as 26 hours to connect Australians with the UK, which compares favourably with existing routes via Singapore and Bangkok."

The earlybird specials are on sale until June 7, 2012 for travel between September 1 and November 14, 2012.

For more information call China Southern's national reservations line on 1300 889 628 during AEDST/AEST business hours, see a travel agent or visit .

*Fares are subject to conditions and availability. Prices include taxes correct at date of release.


SOUTH American eco-adventure company explora has started their 2012 season of operating a range of seven different specially-designed nomadic journeys for groups of up to six people who are generally experienced travellers seeking new experiences.

Known as travesias, the journeys travel for eight or 11 days through remote, little-known places, crossing country borders, trekking and staying overnight in a variety of places.

Typical of the eight-day journeys is one beginning in either San Pedro Atacama in Chile or Salta in Argentina, with the journey crossing the imposing Andes Mountains spending three nights in the Calchaqui Valleys, (the birthplace of pre-Columbian culture).

Others involve travel between San Pedro to Uyuni in Bolivia and Iquique in Chile or from Torres del Paine in Patagonia to El Chalten in Argentina.

The 11-day travesias operate from explora's Atacama and Patagonia lodges with travel to similar remote areas.

The travesias will be available from May until November and include travel in Toyota Land Cruiser vehicles, lodging in traditional, but re-modelled, houses and high quality explora camps with all meals and drinks and daily explorations with bi-lingual guides.

The explorations vary in price from around US$4900 per person twin share.

For more information see your local travel agent, email  or visit


CRUISING on the MS Johann Strauss between Amsterdam and Budapest next year with Travelmarvel comes with free return airfares if bookings are made before September 30 this year.

The lead-in holiday is the 15-day Classical Europe cruise, priced from $5895 which includes 14 nights cruising, 41 meals, complimentary local beer and wines with dinner, services of a dedicated Travelmarvel Cruise Director, airport transfers, all tipping and port charges included (saving up to $1710 per couple) and locally-guided small group shore excursions in every major port (the cruise stops to explore 19 cities, towns and villages).

The deal applies to all nine itineraries, including those with small group land journey extensions to Italy, the Dalmatian Coast, France, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Austria, Germany, Hungary, Slovakia and The Netherlands.

Details on 1300 805 493,   or travel agents.


EUROPEAN travel experts Beyond Travel have released a range of winter tours which include rail packages, fully escorted tours and itineraries in Finland which include Christmas with Santa in Lapland.

The escorted five day packages which travel from Munich through Bavaria and roundtrip from Frankfurt have guaranteed departures in December and can be combined  with a nine or 10-day rail package which takes in Bavaria and Austria or the tour of the Imperial capitals of Prague, Vienna and Budapest.

Prices start from $755 per person twin share and include transport, accommodation with breakfast and several sightseeing excursions.

The escorted tours start on December 5, 8 and 9 and the rail packages have daily departures.

Christmas with Santa is a five day package from December 23 and costs $1650 with special prices for children whilst an eight-day tour of Helsinki and the Arctic Circle costs from $1585.

For more details phone Beyond Travel at 1300-363-554 or email

Saturday, 19 May 2012

Sydney Seafood cooking classes - Moonta - Yorke Peninsula

Travel Briefs with John Crooke

Seafood Cooking is fun

The Sydney Seafood cooking classes is now offering new group discounts. For instance book a bench of six and only pay for five places. The offer also includes family groups, such as Mum and Dad and a couple of teenage kids. This is real bonding. Get the group together and check out which of the 'star' chefs may be available to lead you and the fellow members of your groupies. There are vacancies throughout the May – October program of classes. Contact the school on (02) 9004 1111.

Moonta - too good to overlook
Yorke Peninsula has never before featured in my travels. That is, up until now. It was but for one night but I was surprised with what I saw. Accommodation at Seagate, adjacent to the Moonta Bay Jetty. That in itself made for a wonderful introduction to the area. Thanks be to the old Scottish fisherman who took time out to show us how to 'clean' a tasty squid. What a friendly lot !

The Scots and Italians await
Every second person seeks you out and recommends a short drive out of Moonta, and to a real highlight, namely, the Coffee Barn Gelateria. It is a must, so take up their advice and head into a paddock, just out of town and come with a healthy appetite. Close hand is the Villa Martini B & B. You will not believe what you see people drive all the way from Adelaide for these amazing taste treats on offer. To check on their hours of operation telephone (08) 8825 2315. Jeanette (Scot) and Franco (Italian) invite you to check on their colourful South Australian business.

The Masons and the Methodists
These groups appear to have played key roles in the mining industry, which is Yorke Peninsula. The Cornish influence is in evidence. The regional museum is brilliant,- with a tourist train being one of the key drawcards. The area features a number of museums. Certainly my favourite. Check out the Moonta Mines Museum. Stay awhile.

Please note conditions may apply to these packages an are subject to change and availability. This information is provided as a guide, check with your travel agent. Block out periods may apply. 

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