qualia is situated on the picturesque super yachts’ parking lot for the Whitsundays’ Hamilton Island.

The rich leave their boats moored on Hamilton so that maybe a couple of times a year they can play captain ‘big swinging dick’ and sail around the Whitsundays’ uninhabited islands.  They spend minimal time on the main island itself.  Their boats go unloved, but are well financed like their children.

Keith Williams managed to get permission to build a substantial airport during a time when the political landscape allowed that kind of thing. You can get a direct flight there from Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Cairns.

My first impression via the phone is that the island has no indigenous culture. A couple of questions on arrival establish this to be so. The locals on the island, for the most part, consist of boat hands, golfers, wedding photographers and hotel staff.  qualia has a reception at the airport gate.  Its concierge plucks your baggage off the conveyor belt for you.

I was a bit of an unwilling castaway.  I was in the mood for tunes, beach and open air uber chic BBQ (a style of restaurant sadly lacking from the limited dining options).  I’m not keen on holiday dictatorships, tourist friendly menus or tourists who dress like tourists.  Sometimes a revolution is necessary.  Stop wearing crappy clothing on holidays!!!  There.  I have said it!

A 6’4” surfer in a suit pried the hand luggage out of my tightly fisted hand as I surveyed the motley crew of people getting off our plane. Maybe it was the complete contrast to my fellow passengers, but it began to dawn on me: everyone on qualia’s staff is attractive.  My standards may have dropped with age, like my expectations.  Everyone, including the female gardeners, is young, gorgeous, fresh and sober looking.  I thought I was on set of a James Bond movie by the time we hit the stunning lobby.

The lobby overlooks the most pristine coastline and subtropical rainforest.  The check-in staff look pleasantly puzzled by questions that don’t fit into their welcome script, like where do the locals eat?

The hotel is gated off from the world.  There are not many guests and the ones they have are pleasant and well dressed for the most part.  No kids!  Not one!

On arrival you are given champagne and the keys to a golf buggy. A questionable combination. Loved it!  The buggy is used to get to your room, terrify the tourists and explore the rest of the island.


The restaurant is open air and has a spectacular vista.  Our waitress drawled out the most condescending welcome in an overly pretentious accent.  We braced ourselves.  This accent is applied when one intends to outclass the customer then gouge them.  Our waiter, on the other hand, was charming and a little more honest in disposition.  We went for the dinner package on booking and had high expectations.

We loved the main restaurant.  Australian wild life thrives on the expensive imported plants. The restaurant’s vista includes kangaroo, cockatoo, kookaburra and rosellas.

The food is fun and interesting.  The beachfront restaurant menu is not terribly exciting, but still a better option than anywhere else on the island.  Poolside, they serve the world’s best three times cooked chips.


The hotel has a complimentary boat drop off to one of the many uninhabited islands, leaving you on a secluded beach.  Book this on arrival or risk missing out. The hotel will pack you a picnic, drinks and an emergency phone. We jumped on the hotel’s speedboat and were left for a couple of hours of solitude.  I enjoyed having a skinny dip, running around nude, to the horror of my conservative hubby!

Rick took out one of the sail boats and I just fluffed around resisting the urge to Instagram everything.



Do’s and Don’ts

Do something at qualia spa because it is fabulous!

Do take a solo sail

Do go to a secluded beach with a picnic

Do try the chips by the pool

Do order a G&T

Do the degustation in main dining room with wine option

Don’t order the oysters at poolside restaurant, or anywhere on the island, unless you have drilled the waitress. There are three ways to present oysters on a menu:

  1. “Freshly shucked” means the apprentice chef or the fish monger in Sydney turned the little fellows over earlier in the line of service… maybe much earlier.
  2. “Shucked to order” is when chef leaves the little guys alone in their closed shell until you order them.  He then wedges the top of the shell off leaving the existing sea water and the oyster alone.  On arriving at your table the little guys will be clinging to their shell.  Hard to pull from shell and sea water salty! Perfection!
  3. “Shucked to destroy” is, well… when the oyster is all gloopy and yucky. Shucked and sloppily turned over.

Don’t drink and buggy drive.  Australian road rules apply to your buggy licence.



Fabulous stay!


Byron - The Farm 4_S1w

I have always thought of male surfers, collectively, as a bunch of pricks… until I sat down and had a meal at Three Blue Ducks.

Mark Labrooy, Daren Robertson, Chris Sorrell, Jeff Bennett and Sam Reid-Boquist connected though their love of beer, food, snowboarding and the surf.

Although I am sure they drag sand through their homes and are painful in many ways, they have managed to break the ‘bimboy’ surfer stereotype I had fixed strongly in my jaded head.

What a collaboration! The boys started their partnership with Three Ducks Café in Bronte.

Chefs and co-owners, Darren Robertson and Mark Labrooy, both have fine dining pedigrees.  Darren earned his stripes in Michelin-starred Gravetye Manor and Mark in Tatsuya’s Sydney.

I love regional cooking!

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When you think of “farm to table” I hadn’t imaged having a Bond Brown chicken brush against my legs under the dining table.

Nor had I imaged finding pig ear schnitzel on the menu. Delicious by the way!

They only use local spray-free seasonal produce.  This presents a challenge when onions are out of season.  Most of the ingredients are grown on site!  If you take a stroll you will see English Large Black pigs used for Sundays’ open spit roast.

Scottish Highlanders, Murry Greys, Herefords and Black Angus were seen chomping away on grass.

The small menu has integrity.  Don’t be surprised if you walk away a vegetarian or with their cookbook.   We opted for the cookbook.

The other owners all bring a specialty to the table in one way or another. Chris Sorrel is  co-owner, barista and jack-of-all trades.  He is known as the ‘King of Cappuccino’ (wherever that is) and refers to the afternoon as ‘arvo’, translators.

Sam Reid-Boquist is co-owner and front of house.  Once the limelight was directly on the maître d’.  Their charisma and ability to remember your name was the draw card to most good restaurants.  These days, people are mostly drawn by the chefs.  I’m guessing this does not faze Sam in the slightest.

Jeff Bennett, co-owner, is a beer enthusiast. You will find an amazing selection of beers on tap behind the bar alongside a modest selection of stunning cocktails.

There are multiple businesses being run on the farm. You won’t be bored!

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The first most striking, unpretentious feature is their kid friendly attitude. Check out “Farm Kids” holiday workshops and other awesome activities for kids.

The stunning bakery is called “The Bread Social”, makes stunning artisan breads and real croissants.  The florist is called “Flowers at the Farm” (this is the florist we used for our wedding) and the “The Produce Store” sells local produce.

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Our wedding. Why Byron Bay?

In the early 90s,  Byron was my destination of choice.  I was drawn by the surf couture, with next to no money and even less common sense.  My friends and I would jump into my canary yellow car and make the 14 hour pilgrimage from Sydney.

Trying to fit into the permaculture was a struggle though.  I was still mildly brainwashed by fast food chains.  I crossed the border with a KFC burger in one hand and a Diet Coke in the other.

I was met with snobbery by my nouveau hippy friends as I struggled to determine what exactly a lentil was and why no one had any Ketchup.

These same people successfully won a protest against McDonalds setting up shop in the village.  A legacy that still stands today.  Byron is one of the only vibrant towns in the modern world where you will not see the golden arches.  Ronald was sent packing, not only by the picket lines, but by a mayor with an eye for a useful loophole.  I can’t say how exactly Jan Barham and her friends pulled off what the rest of the country has not been able to do.  Something to do with not allowing drive through food service.

Not feeling the love in activist circles.  You’d think I would have gotten along better in the cannabis counterculture, but no.  I was, and still am, a ‘wannabe’ hippy.  Never made it to the big time! My underarm hair never got past a stubble.  My hair was never braided by tree fairies and I never ran around a campfire naked.

Byron has an effect on you.  It’s the feeling that you are returning home.  You somehow feel a little closer to God and are more spiritually aware.

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The Byron at Byron Resort and Spa

The Byron at Byron is nestled in dense rainforest.

The hotel was built with the collaboration of Gerry Harvey, his wife Katie Page and hoteliers: John and Lyn Parche.  For American readers, Gerry Harvey is a very popular big cheese with a lot of wacky big cheese buddies.

The previous plans for the site had no sympathy for the location and, like Ronald McDonald, the developers were sent packing. Byron Bay would have lived happily ever after in the ‘too hard basket’.

However thanks to this unique meetings of the minds and Gerry’s check book we can all have the opportunity to perch ourselves in the treetops… like anti-logging protesters… but in lux accommodation.  The sensitivity of the hotel, set inside this spectacular site, will make you completely relaxed and happy.

It’s unpretentious, sophisticated and really well managed.

With Byron on Byron, it was a million times easier to plan our beach wedding, the reception for 60 people and the accommodation for our family than other hotels we tried.  We also had another 60 guests with special needs in the form of RHOM TV crew.

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The Spa

The couples’ rainforest massage was like no other.  I had expected the normal dark spa room, scented oils and the Benedictine Monks on iTunes shuffle.

Instead, you are taken outside, through the maze of elevated pathways to a netted room in the middle of the rainforest!  The chatter of Australian native birds in the breeze through the trees lets you take the leap into complete relaxation.

You feel a little closer to God when you are in Byron.

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Bali 4

We recently had reason to be in Bali.

Not my first choice of a holiday destination for a long time.

Cashed Up Bogans (better known as CUBs in Indonesia) have, to me, affected the natural biodiversity of the island.  An invasive class of badly dressed tourist who trampled her shores, have paid in beads for her land and who now arrogantly take her hospitality for granted.

Rick had a conference to attend and I needed to step away from the vortex of sub-celebrity fruitless follies consuming my psyche.  We traveled with a group of friends who had all independently booked their flights.

There are plenty of ways not to do or get to Bali!

At the risk of insulting your intelligence, go online and find a “direct” flight to Denpasar Bali.

This can be challenging! Do not shop around for your fare if you are not completely lucid. You could end up on a 14 hour trip to a destination that is only 6 hours away.  If you’re travelling from Australia, go to www.jetstar.com and pop in your desired dates.  Buyer beware!  Don’t shop by price, shop for a direct flight. Don’t be put off having to fly Jetstar my fellow city hopping airline snobs. Jetstar International is Qantas in cheap clothing. Jetstar has a fleet of sound planes with deliberately ordinary service.  Brilliantly marketed as a discount airline, you may be treated like a sheep, but you are relatively safe on their sleek new aircraft… Not that you will feel it when you’re part of a mile high seat sandwich.

If you are lucky enough to find a direct flight in business class, click on it and praise the lord.  That goes for you too atheists! 

Rick booked the Sofitel Nusa Dua.

Sofitel’s concierge met us at the airport and drove us to the hotel. The airport transfer will make all the difference if you are on the red eye. Dazed and confused after a long fight will leave you open to hustlers on arrival. Denpasar airport is full on! The CUBs who have tread this path before you have not left the locals with a whole lot of loving.

Be safe, book the hotel transfer!

Sofitel Nusa Dua is sublime!  We relaxed immediately. Rick swung in a chair suspended from the ceiling and we both quietly surrendered to the snail pace of our good willed Balinese hosts.

Rick booked a luxury room with plunge pool.  The room was smaller than we anticipated.  We shrugged it off because it was beautifully decorated and I could swim to the pool bar.

Sofitel has a reputation for pricing the bogans out by setting their room rates just a little higher than the competition.  I’m not sure if this is true, but we found the pool and restaurants tranquil.

Bali 2

Book a car for the evening, it’s like $25 per hour, penny pinchers. Have your driver take the Bali Mandara Toll Road to shop and to dine.

A ‘must do’ restaurant is Sarong.

I am back in love with Bali!

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Bali 3


Port Douglas 1a_S1wRick and his friend Graham recently hosted their annual AUSCRS conference here.

The location is sublime!

The hotel has had a complete refurb.  A diva who never gets old, just more work.  The Mirage has just had a $40 million guzzle from the fountain of youth. This superstar has shaken off her pastel pink 80s chic past.

The hotel put the small town of Port Douglas on the map. The Mirage had a scandalous youth thanks to business man, Christopher Skase.

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The resort is known for its sprawling lagoon pools, crocodile friendly golf course, rain forest setting and box jellyfish inhabited surf.

Don’t swim at the beach, no matter what time of the year or what locals tell you. You can get stung by a box jelly fish or eaten by a crocodile any time of year.

Set in heavy rain forest, somehow this hotel has not been taken back by the wilderness. You should avoid being taken by the wild life who live within it.

The crocodiles are the real deal so stick to the pool and don’t be crocodile bait.

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Port Douglas Sheraton 6_S1wAll of that aside, this is one of the most relaxing places in Australia to holiday. It’s warm and really pretty. The hotel buffet is beautiful for breakfast and lunch.

We like to book a poolside cabana and chill.  Hit Salsa in Pour Douglas for dinner.

Charter a boat out to the Great Barrier Reef or take one of the diving tours.  Visit the crocodile park and Mossman Gorge.





Gamble BreauxHead down to the Port Douglas wharf at around 4 pm when all the boys get off the sport fishing boats, single ladies.  Like the saying goes: “there are plenty of men in the ocean”.

Port Douglas Barbados Bar 2_S1wThis is a really relaxing place to have drinks with girlfriends or your man. Have a bucket of local prawns and a bottle of champagne.

Make sure you book a table because it gets quite hectic after 4 pm.

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Port Douglas Salsa 4_S1If you can get past the cheesy signage, this is the best place for lunch or dinner in Port Douglas. Just ask the locals! Salsa is set inside a traditional Queenslander home with open shutter windows, leadlight panels, amazing food and cocktails. This restaurant has a reputation for being consistently good. Ask about the special cocktail and fish of the day. Salsa overlooks the seaside church sinners.

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Head Chef, Goran Zonai, and his team serve state-of-the-art dishes that won’t leave you homesick for good food. The menu features well-presented and superbly cooked local produce.


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Rick and I visit Hobart at least twice a year.

Hobart is one of Australia’s best romantic weekend getaways thanks to the amazing food and The Museum of Old and New Art (MONA).

Take MONA’s ferry, the MR-1 and splurge on a ticket to the Posh Pit!  This ticket will include canapés, Moorilla Estate wine and their designer beer, Moo Brew.

The ferry is gorgeous! Kitted out with an ultra groovy interior and has plenty of mojo building ambience, lovers!

This trip would get the panties off Queen Elizabeth’s bronze statue, playboys!

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MONA is set on the edge of the Derwent River and part of the Moorilla Estate Winery. The winery produces stunning cold climate wines and Moo Brew beer.

Entering the Museum is surreal! Check your coat, grab a headset and take the lift to what feels like the centre of the earth.

I suggest you set aside a couple of hours to make your way through the 2000 or so artworks.

This Museum is a sexy, architectural artwork in itself. Chiseled into a sandstone pit, you feel completely engaged with the artwork.

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When you eventually surface, make your way to the Wine Bar restaurant for lunch.  It’s upstairs, just outside the Museum. DON’T miss this step!

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I love the story behind MONA almost as much as the ferry ride from Hobart to her doorstep.

MONA is privately funded by David Walsh. Walsh describes his Museum as a “Subversive adult Disneyland”. Yep, that sums it up, however kids love it also!

Walsh is a mathematician who developed a gambling system that funded his eccentricity, represented in his museum, winery and hotel.

Dreamy?!  Sorry, gold diggers! This too cool for school, straight nugget is taken, fattened up and seems to have an eco position on his personal grooming ritual. Poo!

I would still rank David Walsh as one of the top 10 most interesting Australians to have a meal with.

Go to MONA’s website for all the info and Google for all the gossip!


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Tasmania has amazing Pacific oysters.  Her clean, cold waters are abundant with sea life.

The first thing I like to do when I arrive in Tasmania to shake off my travel hangover is to head straight to Fish Frenzy for a Pinot Gris and a dozen Pacific oysters.

I love this restaurant for casual, picturesque recharging.

Avoid the array of other fish joints on the wharf like Jacqui Lambie.

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The Islington Hotel is arguably the most sophisticated, boutique hotel for a brat-free weekend in Hobart.  I would rank this hotel number one for canoodling newlyweds.  A home away from home. Stunning rooms, quirky art and amazing dining room!

Every inch is warm, unique and luscious. That’s not to say it’s dated minimalist. This hotel is contemporary and edgy.

Take whatever gets your fire started and laze around for three days in bed.

5 minute taxi drive from the centre of Hobart.  Extremely private and gated off from the world, rock stars!

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