Where Wine Meets the Ocean in Margaret River

Margaret River, Western AustraliaWhen my boyfriend and I realised we weren’t having a white Christmas in Canada this past year, Alex suggested a trip to a more moderate weather destination in Australia instead (we were over Brisbane’s heat). Margaret River immediately came to his mind, as the one place in the Australia to experience everything this country has to offer: wine, food, beaches, hikes, etc.. When Alex and I started dating, he mentioned Margaret River as his favourite place in Australia; having not been to Western Australia then myself, I was curious why out of all the places he’s visited in Australia this was his favourite. He explained that Margaret River is where one of Australia’s premier wine regions meets one of Australia’s premier coasts. So with no questions asked, we were off to Margaret River for Christmas. Enough rambling, the following will explain more than enough and probably convince you to book your next trip to Western Australia.
Redgate Beach Escape, Margaret River, Western AustraliaStay
Redgate Beach Escape: I was lucky that my mother in law researched accommodation a few years ago during a short trip of hers to Margaret River, so I immediately knew the best place to stay (judging from her photos). Everyday, I couldn’t believe the sight we were overlooking. It seemed like I was staring into my favourite painting. The view alone is worth every penny (which is not as much as you would think), but the accommodation itself was perfect for us three. We knew it would be hard to eat out during the Christmas holidays, so we took advantage of the fully equipped kitchen and cooked up a few feasts during our stay. In addition, its location at the south end of the wine region was perfect for hitting as many wineries as we could fit into a day and visiting some additional sites south of us.Hay Shed Hill, Margaret River, Western Australia Howard Park Madfish, Margaret River, Western AustraliaEdwards Wine, Margaret River Western AustraliaSee and Do
Wine Tasting
Margaret River is probably the most unique wine region I’ve visited. It stretches 100 km along the coast and is only 27 km wide, sitting atop limestone caverns. I suggest booking a tour for the first day, just to get an idea of the region. We went on the Wine for Dudes Daily Tour, which offered a taste of the smaller wineries, along with a great balance of activities, from wine tasting and blending to food and beer. With door to door service and constant suggestions about more wineries and restaurants to visit, we couldn’t complain. Here are a few wineries worth checking out.
Flametree Wines: Upon entry, view the tree after which this winery gets its name. The cellar door is like a house from the Hampton’s, but the best part is the dessert wines.
House of Cards: This relatively new winery not only offers cheeky marketing with cool labels, but also vintages worth cellaring for years to come. Its cute boutique inside and the chocolate shop next door is an added bonus.
Hay Shed Hill: By far, this winery has the most selection of wines I’ve come across, which made tasting a bit of a marathon. But the vast selection of wines is only made better by the yummy restaurant on site.
Cullen Wines: This is one of Australia’s most famous wineries. With a traditional cellar door and full-bodied wines, it’s worth stopping by.
Howard Park MadFish: My new favourite winery! I liked every wine I tasted here, especially the sparkling wines. And the cellar door reminded me of wineries in Canada’s Niagara region.
Edwards Wines: A winery with a beautiful family history. This small winery offers great boutique wines in an intimate setting. The lawn games out back make you feel like part of the family enjoying a nice day.
Voyager Estate: Another one of Australia’s most famous wines, this cellar door is all about luxury. Modelled after a South African ranch house, you can sip wine, enjoy fine dining, or explore the grounds all day.
Leeuwin Estate: We chose this winery for our one fine dining experience during our trip and the food lived up to all the recommendations we received. Again, another famous winery, and because of that it was unfortunately busy with poor service.
Redgate Beach, Margaret River, Western AustraliaRedgate Beach, Margaret River, Western AustraliaRedgate Beach, Margaret River, Western AustraliaRedgate Beach, Margaret River, Western AustraliaBeaches
Redgate Beach: A secluded beach with beautiful varying landscape at the southern edge of the wine region. The rough water here has a permanent rip that is dangerous if you don’t know what you’re doing. Be warned, so it’s best to walk along the main beach and swim in the protected rock pools (that made me feel like the mermaids in Peter Pan).
Hamelin Bay, Margaret River, Western AustraliaHamelin Bay, Margaret River, Western AustraliaHamelin Bay, Margaret River, Western AustraliaHamelin Bay, Margaret River, Western AustraliaHamelin Bay: Located south of the wine region, this beach not only offers expansive beach and calm water, but also the opportunity to touch wild stingrays. This was one of the highlights of my trip; as I first saw a large round shadow slowly creep toward me in the shallows, only to stop at my feet for food. At first, it was terrifying (some of the rays were bigger than me, note the above photo), but after a few tries I easily pet a handful of stingrays. The stingrays frequent the boat ramp, looking for scraps from the local fishermen. If you’re lucky, a fisherman might give you some scraps to feed to the stingrays. Just be aware of their stingers, which came out when a few got anxious for food, almost beaching themselves (like the one above).
Mammoth Cave, Margaret River, Western AustraliaMammoth Cave, Margaret River, Western AustraliaMammoth Cave, Margaret River, Western AustraliaCaves
Here’s a quick geology lesson, limestone + water = caves! This is the case in Margaret River with an assortment of caves south of the wine region. When my geologist boyfriend suggested touring some caves, I pictured something like a caveman’s home. How wrong I was, the $20 entry fee was well worth it!
Mammoth Cave: We visited this cave since it was the closest and offered self guided tours. Both my mother in law and I were injured, so an easy tour seemed best. This surpassed all expectations; I should have known with a name like “Mammoth”, it was huge! The cool temperature inside and vast stalagmites/stalactites displays made me not want to leave.
Jewel Cave: Our wine tour guide recommended this cave, as it is the biggest tourist cave in Western Australia. I have a feeling it puts Mammoth Cave to shame. So if you’re a bit more mobile, head down to this cave for a guided tour of its four massive chambers.
Voyager Estate, Margaret River, Western AustraliaMargaret River, Western AustraliaVoyager Estate, Margaret River, Western AustraliaEat
As I mentioned earlier, we ate in most days. There are grocery stores, along with any other shops you might need in Margaret River and other towns in the region. But if you don’t feel like cooking up a storm, these restaurants are worth trying.
Wills Domain: A fellow Canadian expat recommended this restaurant to me, who insisted this was her favourite stop in Margaret River. Unfortunately we ran out of time to visit, as the restaurant is only open for lunch, serving a tasting menu.
Olio Bello: The region is also perfect for growing olives, so it is no wonder you’ll find Australia’s best olive oil here. Try their many organic extra virgin olive oils, gourmet condiments, and beauty products.
La Scarpetta Trattoria: Another recommendation from our wine tour guide, this restaurant is known for the best Italian food in town. Located in a heritage-listed guesthouse, the food and atmosphere are perfect!
Voyager Estate: As mentioned before, this is the ultimate for fine dining in Margaret River.
Leeuwin Estate: Refer to winery recommendations above.
Margaret River, Western AustraliaGo
Getting to Margaret River is a bit of a trek, but well worth it. It is easy to fly to Perth from any of Australia’s hubs. From here it is easiest to rent a car at the airport and drive three hours south to Margaret River. It is a relatively easy drive along one highway, but it is good to take a break in Busselton and see the famous Jetty. While in Margaret River, getting around by car is easiest, so pick a designated driver for each day.Redgate Beach Escape, Margaret River, Western Australia

My Sun Safety Dream Team

Sun Safety ProductsI know this might be a few months too early for my northern hemisphere readers, but think of it as a little escape from the cold or something to look forward to. Summer is finally winding down here though (it’s been one of the hottest summers on record) and I thought I would share what’s helped me get through. With my recent diagnosis, I couldn’t help but make adjustments to my sun protection. I was recently reminded again, with the removal of a precancerous mole, of how important it is to do what you can to guard yourself from the damaging rays of the sun. Here is my sun safety dream team!

Sunglasses
Vogue was right, my dermatologist told me, “The bigger, the better”. Unbeknown to most people, our eyes are susceptible to melanoma as well, so invest in a good pair of BIG sunglasses.

Aruba Aloe Very Water Resistant SPF 30 Sunscreen
First of all, SPF 30 is a minimum, along with waterproof protection. I’ve tried expensive and cheap sunscreens, but this gem from the small island of Aruba is my all time favourite. It spreads evenly, smells great, and doesn’t react with my sensitive skin. I know it’s hard to come by with shipping only to Canada and USA, but if you know anyone vacationing in Aruba, ask them to do you a favour and pick some up for you!

Dermalogica Sheer Tint SPF 20 Moisturizer
This is another all time favourite product of mine. It moisturizes perfectly for the day, along with evening out skin tone with a bit of tint. Perfect for underneath SPF makeup.

Zinke Stick
Zinc sticks remind me of sunny days on ski hills as a kid, where we would paint each other’s faces with neon colours. But I’ve since learnt that zinc sticks have come a long way from those days, sold in tan and clear, it’s a necessity for parts susceptible to burn, like your nose.

Dermalogica Total Eye Care SPF 15
We often forget about the sensitive skin around our eyes, but remember melanoma doesn’t discriminate. Along with sun protection, this product depuffs and brightens for those tough mornings.

Aruba Aloe Lip Balm with SPF 15
We also forget about our sensitive lips. We must remember that lip-gloss and lipstick don’t usually have SPF in them. So slather a bit of SPF underneath.

Wide Brim Hat
Not only does a wide brim hat keep the sun off your face and shoulders, but it keeps you cool as well.

Extra Notes

  • Cover up. Gone are the days of spaghetti strap tank tops. I find myself wearing mostly T-shirts and long sleeves, and when swimming, at the pool, beach, where ever, I wear an SPF 50 sun shirt for added protection.
  • Stay hydrated. When I first moved to Brisbane during the beginning of summer, I would get light headed from the sun. My boyfriend told me to take a bottle of water with me where ever I go, as my body wasn’t accustomed to the heat. I still don’t think I’m accustomed to THIS heat, so I still bring a water bottle with me everywhere I go.
  • Be aware. Know the strength of the sun throughout the day. Do outdoor activities first thing in the morning or in the evening when the sun is least strong. Walk on the shady side of the road, even if it’s out of your way. I go so far as to find slivers of shade when waiting to cross the road and never sit at the tables in the sun at restaurants during the day.

What are your favourite sun safety products and tips?

4 Items to Reconsider when Packing

Over Packing TipsWe’ve all been there, five minutes to go and we’re sitting on our suitcase as we use all the strength we have to pull that zipper shut. It’s an all too familiar reality that I’m sure we wish we could all avoid. “But how”, you say, “These shoes go with this dress and I can only wear this outfit with that scarf”. Well I think I’ve found a solution to this familiar problem. At the end of my trips I’ve noticed there are usually four items in my suitcase that I never got around to using. I thought by keeping these items to a minimum, I could lighten my load. Keeping my travel mantra of versatility, style, and quality in mind, eliminate over packing the following items.

  1. Makeup
    Yes, I want to look good in travel photos as much as any other girl, but five different eye shadows and three lipsticks isn’t going to help that. Choose samples sizes of your makeup and stick to what you wear regularly when at home. Even think about what makeup isn’t truly essential, remember multipurpose and simple works best. And for those eye shadows, hunt down a compact palette, small enough to hold your favourite shades.
  1. Shoes
    I know, I know, it’s probably the biggest female dilemma when packing, what shoes to pack. Sometimes you probably wish you could take an extra suitcase just for your shoes. One day, when we’re all rich and famous this might not be so impractical, but for now we must pack only our most practical/versatile shoes. But this doesn’t mean packing orthotic support shoes. Luckily in this day and age Birkenstocks and runners are in style, taking you from touring to trekking. And stick to neutral colours, like black and white, so your shoes will match with any outfit. For warmer trips, I only travel with black flip-flops, nice white sandals, black/white flats, and black runners, while during the winter I swap the sandals for ankle and knee-length boots.
  1. Scarves
    It’s easy to get carried away with scarves while packing; they seem harmless to pack because they’re usually very versatile. But chances are you’ll only end up wearing one scarf, two max, while abroad. Stick to your favourite, like my trusty black sarong, that will match with anything and can be used day or night. And keep in mind scarves make great souvenirs, so pick up a local scarf on arrival to help blend in with the locals and spice up your usual outfits.
  1. Bras
    If you’re like me, you have one bra to go with one dress, and another to go with another dress, and so on. Essentially though, you could get away with one nude bra with adjustable straps for an entire trip. So before your next adventure, stock up on versatile bras, that transform to strapless, racer back, etc. I like these affordable bras in neutral colours with adjustable straps, along with a good sports bra, you’ll be ready for anything.

The Perfect Taste of Tasmania in Hobart

Bruny Island, TasmaniaA little while ago I brought you along on my journey around Tasmania and I promised you more from this epic Australian state. Well I’ve kept my promise and want to share with you everything there is to know about travelling around Tasmania’s capital, Hobart. Not only is Hobart itself a great little city to explore, but also, its central location along the Southern Coast offers access to some of the world’s most beautiful places, and trust me, I’m not exaggerating.
Bruny Island, TasmaniaStay
The Henry Jones Art Hotel: This boutique hotel is an attraction in itself. Originally a successful 19th century jam factory overlooking Hobart’s harbour, it was transformed into a tasteful, modern space, which blends world-renowned art with luxury accommodation, definitely worth the splurge.
Truganini Memorial, Bruny Island, TasmaniaSee and Do in Hobart
Museum of Old and New Art (MONA)
MONA and Hobart have become synonymous since MONA first opened in 2011. It is the largest private museum in Australia and houses the largest private art collection in the Southern Hemisphere, courtesy of David Walsh. From antiquities to modern art and everything in between, your senses will overload as you creep through the labyrinth of galleries buried in the cliffs of Berriedale peninsula. I’ll try not to get too museum geeky, but this progressive museum exposes us to what museums will be like in the future. An experience to say the least, even if art isn’t your thing. The easiest way to get here is by the MR-1 Fast Ferry from the Hobart’s harbour, a 30-minute journey for $20 return.Salamanca Market, Hobart, Tasmania Salamanca Market
This is one of Australia’s most famous markets. Every Saturday 300 stalls line the historic, Salamanca Place, overlooking Hobart’s harbour. Here you’ll find mostly local artisans and antiques, along with a few food and produce vendors. It’s definitely worth planning your schedule around this market.Cascade Brewery, Hobart, Tasmania Cascade Brewery
Take a short drive to South Hobart and tour around Australia’s oldest brewery, founded in 1831 on the banks of the Hobart Rivulet. Not only is the beer good and the history rich, but the bar itself, nestled under Mount Wellington, is a beautiful setting for patio drinks on a sunny day.
Richmond, TasmaniaSee and Do Surrounding Hobart
I think this is the best aspect of Hobart, natural beauty and rich history at your fingertips, all within an hour drive of Hobart.Richmond, Tasmania Richmond
A 30-minute drive northeast of Hobart, you’ll find this historic town full of charm on the Coal River. Grab an Australia meat pie from the famous Richmond Bakery and wander down to the banks of the Coal River to see Australia’s oldest bridge still in use. It’s hard to take a bad photo in this town when antique shops, museums, and tea rooms occupy 19th century buildings. And on the way, visit one of my favourite Australian vineyards, Frogmore Creek Winery, to try their premium selection of Coal Valley wines.Bruny Island, Tasmania Bruny Island
Located within an hour drive southwest of Hobart, load your car on the ferry from Kettering, to explore this majestic island for the day. This island has a bit of everything, gourmet food, beautiful beaches, and epic bushwalks. It’s fun to drive around, explore the rugged coast, and visit the cheeseries along the way. Speaking of cheese, take a 10 minute detour past Kettering to try my favourite cheese from the source at Grandvewe Cheeses. Specialising in sheep cheese products, you can’t go wrong with their award-winning Sapphire Blue.Grandvewe Cheeses, Tasmanaia Port Arthur
Like I said in this post, there are a lot of spots worth checking out along the way, but the historic site of Port Arthur is a great day trip to familiarise yourself with Australia’s convict history.
Port Arthur, TasmaniaEat
Surprisingly, this small city at the edge of Australia is a foodie’s dream come true, as most produce is locally grown and restaurants pioneer truly unique dining experiences.
Pilgrim Coffee: The best coffee in Hobart.
Pollen Tea Room: If coffee isn’t your thing (like me), this cute spot serves it’s own loose-leaf teas and gourmet hot chocolates.
Machine Laundry Café: Yes it’s a café inside a laundromat, but it’s not what you think, serving some of the best breakfasts in town amongst retro furnishings.
Pigeon Hole: Another great breakfast spot, with an ever-changing menu, using seasonal, local produce.
Daci & Daci Bakers: A great bakery for breakfast or lunch with Ottolenghi vibes.
Mures Lower Deck: While in Tasmania you must try fresh, local seafood, so head here to get classic seafood meals.
Sweet Envy: The best place to find sweets of any kind, so much so they’ve released their own cookbook.
Jam Jar Lounge Café: Located atop Battery Point, this lounge is inviting with a mix of Japanese tapas and Australian wine in a jazz setting.
Small-fry: This is my sister in law’s favourite restaurant, as they’ve redefined the dining experience, serving unique food in an intimate setting with the chef and barista creating in front of you and a handful of other people. They’re famous for their doughnuts, along with providing an immersive dining experience. For example, some dishes are served with an iPad full of classic cartoons for you to scan through while you enjoy your meal.
Ristorante Da Angelo: For the best Italian in town head to this classic eatery.
Capital: The new kid on the block, which is quickly becoming the go-to restaurant in Hobart.  The space was once Marti Zucco’s restaurant, one of the first restaurants in North Hobart. It has since been converted into an industrial style with a lot of non traditional Italian dishes, including three cheese beet root gnocchi, yum.
Ethos Eat Drink: Like everything else in Hobart, this restaurant is full of history, in the converted stable yard and carriageway of the Old Hobart Hotel. Come here for the modern set menu and wine pairing from Sommelier, Alice Chugg.
Garagistes: Ranked as the best fine dining restaurant in Hobart, this unique, industrial style restaurant serves modern Japanese, using local wagyu beef among other delicacies.
Preachers: A cute little pub with outdoor seating on picnic tables, bean bags, or a bus.
Capital, Hobart, TasmaniaGo
Like I said in this post, it’s easy to fly to Hobart from Australia’s hubs. On arrival, I suggest renting a car to easily access Hobart’s beautiful surrounds. But once in Hobart itself, most places are easy to walk to, especially around the harbour, Salamanca, and Battery Point.
Bruny Island, TasmaniaCapital photo by Graziano Di Martino and for source click on photo/link.

 

Go To – Tote

ToteMy travel mantra combines versatility with style and quality. So when it comes to lugging around extra belongings, I choose my trusted Envirosax tote. First of all, it’s lightweight, as I prefer this version to the heavier canvas bag alternative. It is also compact, rolling up into a tiny burrito. And the cute pattern usually matches with most outfits. I use this tote for anything from a beach bag to a shopping bag, it’s even assisted me when my luggage was a bit overweight. Bonus, it’s machine washable and dries quickly. Is there anything this tote can’t do?! Well it’s also affordable and durable, with over five years of use it still looks new!