The Hunter Valley is known for its decadent food experience and sumptuous wines – but perhaps not as renowned for its delicate high teas. It was a surprise to me to learn about the delightful high tea offered by the Peppers Convent in Pokolbin.
Peppers Convent is a gorgeous Victorian-style manor house surrounded by vineyards. Devonshire Tea and High Tea are served Wednesday to Sunday:
Traditional High Tea: $42 per person
London High Tea: $56 per person (includes a glass of Peacock Hill Sparkling)
Paris High Tea: $64 per person (includes a glass of Champagne Taittinger Brut Reserve)
I enjoyed the high tea with my book club. I’m not sure if a book was discussed, but the delicious food and wine certainly was. I really enjoyed that this tea offered a good variety of sandwiches and the “sweets” weren’t overly sweet. The price was also very reasonable.
Cucumber and Watercress
Smoked Salmon, Avocado and Salmon Roe
Curried Egg Salad and Spinach
(As sole vegetarian I was also given an extra plate of vegan sandwiches at no extra charge.)
Coconut Sago and Macerated Fresh Berries
Lightly Sweetened and Clotted Cream
House Made Jam
The ambiance at Peppers invokes the feeling of a bygone time filled with elegance and luxury. There is no need to rush, to eat quickly, to attend to other matters. There is just the beautiful light pouring through glass windowpanes, a stroll through the manicured gardens and a delightful afternoon filled with cake and conversation.
High tea at Peppers was the perfect girls’ outing. It’s a fantastic stand-alone activity, or you could do what we did, and have a weekend away with the high tea as the kick off point. After our delicious high tea we visited a few wineries, our tummies fortified with delicious cake and sandwiches. Me with a few of my book club gal pals below:
88 Halls Rd, Pokolbin NSW 2320 Get Directions Credit Card details are required to secure a booking. Cancellations within 24 hours of the reservation or in the event of a no-show, a $20 per person fee will apply.
This is one for the haters. The haters of boring museums, of dusty galleries, of stuffed animal corpses (how creepy is taxidermy?!). Jurassic World The Exhibition opened in Melbourne recently with its world premiere.
For the first time ever, you can get up close to dinosaurs that look so real that you might be tempted to make a run for it when they start roaring.
I don’t want to give too much away, so all I will say is this. The exhibition blends science and entertainment seamlessly together to make you feel like you have literally walked into Jurassic World, the movie. The set up, the technology and the realism is astonishing.
While the prime purpose of this exhibition is entertainment, you will also learn about the dinosaurs featured with clever little screens at each station, including Pachyrhinosaurus, Brachiosaurus and Tyrannosaurus.
“How life-like can these dinosaurs be?” I hear you ask. Imagine you are actually in Jurassic World and a T-Rex is chasing you and roaring it’s head off. That’s how real it feels.
The exhibition is a bit scary for littlies, but Cheese, who is 4.5 and extremely sensitive did not find it scary. She thought it was a bit loud, but wasn’t scared at all.
As well as the life-sized dinosaurs, I really enjoyed the elements of the exhibition that brought the movie to life, such as Hammond’s lab, where we saw eggs incubating, baby dinosaurs and a great interactive area for kids to design their own dinosaur, and the entry with its simulation of a boat taking visitors to Isla Nublar, home of Jurassic World.
The only constructive feedback I have is that the exhibition felt a bit short. Or, it could have been that the whole experience was so good that time just rushed by and it was over before we knew it, leaving us wishing it was starting again.
The exhibition is open until 9th October, 2016 . It is not coming to Sydney, so I highly recommend visiting if you have dinosaur fans in the family.
Jurassic World The Exhibition (until Oct 2). Melbourne Museum 11 Nicholson St, Carlton VIC Online
*Peak Pricing applies: Fridays, weekends & public holidays, Victorian Public School Holidays, and the first week of the Exhibition **Off-Peak Pricing applies: Monday to Thursday outside Peak Periods Tickets include entry to Melbourne Museum on the day of your visit.
Thank you to the Melbourne Museum for media passes to see the exhibition. All opinions are my own.
Travel with young kids can be an exciting adventure – but also a challenge when it comes to keeping small ones happy with their need for routine, early bedtime and plain food (white-bread-butter-thats-it-please!).
Day time can be a breeze eating out with kids abroad – it’s easy to find kid-friendly cafes or grab a croissant to go. But what do you do at night time, when you would usually be at home, serving plain pasta and a single strawberry at 6pm, with the kids down by 7:30pm? We have found dinner time to be one of the bigger challenges of travelling with a little kid, and I wanted to share some tips that have worked for me, as well as a good friend of mine, Leah from the Kid Bucket List, who has travelled extensively with her two kids around the world, too.
When we became parents and started travelling I quickly learned that all the little shortcuts and insider tips we utilised during our travels as a couple didn’t transfer across to family travel.
Skipping meals and walking all day; throwing in a late night adventure and totally winging our accommodation is a thing of the past and has required a total reframing of our travel expectations.
When we travel to new time zones we try to quickly follow the typical routine from home. We plan for three meals at fairly consistent times and bedtimes, although a little flexible at each side, are usually set at around 8pm.
With double rooms often (well, always) cheaper than 1 or 2 bedroom suites, we often find ourselves sharing a bedroom. With bedtime at 8pm for the kids this does mean tv is off as soon as their heads hit the pillow. T and I make use of headphones and our individual devices. Not really the perfect set up, but I do read a lot of books on our trips!
If the kids are tired, we’re also partial to dining in our room. Not room service, but ordering at a local cafe and taking it home. We’ve enjoyed awesome pizza, sushi, tacos and even parmigiana from the little table in our room. I also stock up on lots of snack food within the day or two of arriving anywhere so they’re at hand. Full tummies make for happy kids.
Tweaking the way you travel when kids arrive and you’ll find it is the greatest adventure of your life!
My tips for eating out when travelling with kids:
Eat out all together early: If we aren’t jetlagged, we dine together at around 6pm near hour hotel and make sure we have snacks for later for if we get hungry.
Book an airbnb, apartment or suite with a separate bedroom: This is my fave way to travel as it means we can get some basic groceries and make meals for our very fussy child at night and either make food for us, too, or get takeout once she’s asleep and shut in another room.
Get a room with a fridge: This is critical for us! See the next point.
Stash plenty of snacks in the room: I always visit a supermarket when we are staying somewhere longer than a few nights and stock up on basics my fusspot daughter will eat, like yoghurt pouches, bread, cheese, butter, cereal and milk. The long-life milk cartons are a particular life-saver. If we have any late-night food emergencies then we know she will always have something she can eat. I’ve even been known to take Vegemite from home in those small sachets that you get from hotels because they make anywhere in the world taste like home.
Bring disposable Tupperware: I like to grab food during the day that my daughter will eat, like bread rolls, a croissant, bagel etc, and store it in either a disposable Tupperware container or ziplock bags so when it comes to bedtime, I have something on hand that she is guaranteed to eat that is still relatively fresh.
Do you have any more tips for making dinner time easier when travelling?
Melbourne is home to excellent food, particularly of the sweet kind. I didn’t have to look far to find these five delicious sweet desserts and sweet treats in Melbourne. While there are countless other amazing places to find handmade chocolates of exquisite desserts, these five are all in Melbourne’s CBD, making them easy to stop by if you’re only in town for a short visit.
Established in 1915,Haighs is Australia’s oldest chocolate retailer. The fourth generation, family owned company has locations around the country, with its flagship store located Melbourne’s historic Victorian building, The Block Arcade. Haighs are renowned for their high quality chocolate and related products. I can’t go past their Aprichocs (apricot covered by delicious chocolate) and their trademark chocolate frogs. Yum. Haighs, Shop 7-8 The Block Arcade, 282 Collins Street, Melbourne
This new store specialises in locally-made Australian confectionary and premium chocolate. Their specialities include chocolate shards with salted caramel, chocolate-covered raspberry lollies (so good!), and hand-made Turkish delight. Kids will love their “pick and mix” section, where you can choose your own lolly and chocolate mix. Chocamama, 6 Degraves St, Melbourne
I’ve been a convert of Doughnut Time for a while now. They are best know for their crazy doughnut flavours like maple bacon and nerds, as well as their funny names: the “Veruca Salt”, for example, is their salted caramel doughnut. Doughnut Time hand-dip their doughnuts in small batches so they are always super fresh. At $6 a pop they’re not cheap, but they sure are good! Doughnut Time, 5 Degraves St, Melbourne
Hopetoun Tea Rooms
Lovers of tea and cake have been lining up for a seat in this tiny tea salon since it opened in The Block Arcade in 1891, when it was set up for the Victorian Ladies Work Association. The tea room is a throw back to world of elegance and grace, with white China, delicate teas and exquisite cakes. We had a slice of pavlova and vanilla slice and they were perfection. Hopetoun Tea Rooms, The Block Arcade, 1-2/282 Collins St, Melbourne
Koko Black CBD
A Melbourne-based family-owned business, Koko Black are chocolatiers who produce premium handmade, chocolate and gourmet desserts. As well as being a chocolate store, Koko Black is also a chocolate-focused cafe, serving up baked treats, a sweet degustation and high teas. While you can choose from their 7 locations across Melbourne, the CBD store on Collins st is very convenient. Koko Black, 52 Collins Street, Melbourne
On our recent visit to Melbourne, we stayed at the Novotel Melbourne on Collins. It was our first time in the city with Cheese, and we since our plans for the long weekend were hitting up museums and galleries, we wanted to stay somewhere central, family-friendly and comfortable. The Novotel Melbourne happily ticked those boxes for us, and we really enjoyed our stay.
The Novotel on Collins has a superb location if you want to be right in the centre Melbourne. Located on trendy Collins Street, it’s very close to the art gallery, museums, Botanic Gardens, the MCG, Federation Square, the theatres and shopping. The location was absolutely perfect.
We chose a room with two double beds and it was the perfect size for our family of three. The hotel very thoughtfully provided us with a large crib incase we needed it. The room had a great little nook in the wall where the crib fit in perfectly.
Our room was larger than I’d expected, with plenty of space and a massive desk which we used for putting all of our computers and Cheese’s toys on.
The room also featured a large modern bathroom, free in-room wifi, an LCD flat-screen TV, a mini bar/fridge and tea and coffee making facilities. Our room overlooked the glass atrium of the currently-being-renovated Collins Lane fashion and retail centre.
I found our room to be extremely clean and neat, with bright, fresh paint on the walls and spotless linens. The bathroom was similarly spotless with plenty of big fluffy towels.
We were on floor 7, which is the same level as the gym and pool. We probably experienced a bit more foot traffic as a result, but not much.
Our booking included breakfast, so each morning we dined at the Lane Cafe on Level 6 – the same floor as reception. Breakfast was a tremendous buffet affair, with all manner of fruits, cereals, hot food and pastries on offer.
The egg station, where you could order eggs in any manner you liked, and the fresh juicer machine were popular, as was the “Popcakes” machine with the kids – a fab little machine that you can use to make your own pancakes with the push of a button.
While we didn’t order room service, I did notice that the Novotel Melbourne on Collins has a large menu to choose from, including food that kids will actually eat like toasted sandwiches, pizza, hamburger, fish and chips and spaghetti bolognaise at reasonable prices. The kids’ meals ranged from $9 to $12 which is pretty standard for most restaurants.
We found the staff at the Novotel Melbourne to be extremely friendly and welcoming. They made quite the fuss over Cheese, enjoyed (or seemed to enjoy!) chatting with her at breakfast, and really made us feel like valued guests. We saw a lot of other families with kids of all ages in the hotel, so it seems that we were not the only ones who thought that the Novotel was an ideal hotel to stay in with a family.
In the lobby, right near the check in desks and concierge, was the most fantastic electronic games table. The table had four different age options, so preschoolers through to adults could enjoy games tailored to their age group. The table proved very useful at times when a wait was in order – what a fun idea to place it in the lobby to keep kids (large and small!) entertained.
Please note that the hotel is currently experiencing renovations out the front and underneath. St. Collins Lane, underneath the hotel, and the entire front of the Novotel, are being renovated to become a premiere shopping destination that I imagine will be a fantastic draw for future hotel guests.
We didn’t mind the scaffolding, and were only woken once out of three mornings with building works at 8am in the morning. I had a look on the site and saw that the works are scheduled from 7am – 7pm, Monday to Friday and from 7am – 3pm Saturday. The only noise we heard was at 8am on the Saturday. Monday morning, not a peep! The development was due for completion at the end of first quarter (which is now) and I don’t have an update on when the new completion date is. Other that this one loud morning, we had an excellent stay at the hotel, and really, renovations can’t be helped. I imagine this one will be worth the pain when the new centre underneath opens up.
The photos below were all taken within a 15 minute radius walk of the hotel. As you can see, it’s incredibly central.
Novotel Melbourne on Collins
270 Collins Street Melbourne, VIC Australia 3000
Tel: +61 396675800 novotelmelbourne.com.au
We received a media rate when we stayed at the hotel, which means we received a small discount off our room price. We were not required to write a review or share our experience in any way. All opinions are our own.
A tip off from a friend led us to seek out the Ian Potter Foundation Children’s Garden, in the heart of Melbourne’s Royal Botanic Gardens.
The Royal Botanic Gardens are a gorgeous place to visit in their own right – set over 38 hectares, the gardens are an oasis of peace in the busy centre of Melbourne.
The Ian Potter Foundation Children’s Garden was opened in 2004, designed to encourage children to get their hands dirty and express themselves through play. The gardens are carefully planned to allow children to run free and wild within a contained environment. The gardens are gated so kids can’t escape, which also means you can really let them explore without worrying that they will do a runner when you lose sight of them for a moment!
Children enter the garden and embark on a journey through a jungle, a bamboo forest, a kitchen garden and creek bed. There are mazes, rocks to climb, characters to meet and an ancient Grandmother tree to explore. A wide variety of plants are set around the garden to give kids the opportunity to discover the delights of nature in their play, and to spark curiosity in the world around them.
The gardens have a clean bathroom right outside the gate, and a cafe a few metres away.
The Ian Potter Foundation Children’s Garden
Royal Botanic Gardens, Birdwood Ave, Melbourne Hours: 10am-sunset Wed-Sun (closed during term time on Mon & Tue). 10am-sunset 7 days a week during Victorian State School holidays and all public holidays. http://www.rbg.vic.gov.au Get directions
Japan is one of my absolute favourite countries to visit. The culture is exquisite, the people welcoming and the cities and scenery spectacular. Like I said, already a huge, raving fan. I last visited Japan when I was footloose and fancy free, way before little Cheese came along. I can’t wait to take her back to experience this beautiful country, particularly a city called Niseko, in the Hokkaido precinct.
Niseko is renowned among ski and snowboarders for having the best ski terrain in Japan. Set amongst snow-capped mountains, and close to hot spring resorts (AKA onsen), this is a town that is majestic to visit any time of year.
While Niseko is known for its snow, it’s actually an ideal holiday location for all seasons – particularly for active families like mine. If you’re thinking of visiting Japan this year with your kids, consider adding Niseko to your itinerary, and enjoy some of these eight family-friendly activities. If you want even more ideas on planning your trip, you can check out Vacation Niseko.
Winter is peak season in Niseko for a very good reason. If you’re a snow bunny, this is the time for your family to visit and enjoy sports such as snow tubing and sledding. Families with kids aged three and over can enjoy these exhilarating winter sports at Hanazono Adventure Park, located at Hanazono 308, accessed from Hirafu village via frequent, free Hanazono shuttle buses.
You can’t visit Japan without enjoying their regional dishes. Take kids to visit Hokkaido’s famous dairy, Milk Kobo, serving locally made ice cream, yogurt and milk, plus vegetarian dishes. They have cute souvenir shops, too. Milk Kobo can be accessed via the Niseko United Shuttle bus and is open year-round except Dec. 31st and Jan. 1st.
Summer water sports
Niseko sits on the twisting and turning Shiribetsu river, which means summer is filled with exhilarating water sports. Get on the river in a 2-person inflatable kayak for a Ducky Tour, or enjoy a relaxing rafting tour. Older kids can try SUP – stand up paddleboarding. It’s very easy to learn and a fun way to explore the river.
PURE Nature Activity Centre
When you’re staying in the mountains, there’s going to be a lot of nature to be had. If you want to really get out and enjoy the scenery, visit the PURE centre at Niseko Village for a wide range of family-friendly activities, including mountain biking, ziplining, horseback riding and hot-air ballooning. Tree Trekking particular looks amazing – kids can walk among the trees on a network of ziplines, nets and ropeways.
When you want a break from the great outdoors, indoor rock climbing will keep the kids busy for hours. A great activity that the whole family can enjoy, or you can sit back and enjoy a coffee from JoJo’s Cafe while the kids scrabble up the rock faces on their own at the Niseko Adventure Centre.
The whole family can clip on a harness and fly on a 200 metre zipline, 10 metres above the mountain. The zipline runs year-round at Hanazono Adventure Park, located at Hanazono 308. It is accessed from Hirafu village via frequent, free Hanazono shuttle buses. Participants must be over 100 cm and below 100 kg. The zipline experience lasts roughly 30 minutes.
The perfect opportunity for your kids to learn how to ski from expert instructors. Vacation Niseko will arrange it all for you, and ensure your child is booked into the correct class at NISS, their premier ski school. Kids aged 3-6 yrs can join the Tic-Tac Kids Club for a full-day program in Hanazono, a large area with three magic carpets and minimal hill traffic, making it a safe place for little ones to learn the basics. Classes are limited to 6 kids. Older kids can join the Yuki full-day program (7-14 yrs), where they will explore the slopes around Hanazono and Niseko with their instructor. Yuki groups are separated into skiers and boarders, and are limited to 8 participants.
Doumu Glass Gallery
A cultural experience I would love to explore is glassblowing, which the Shiribeshi region is renowned for. Glassblowing artist Kazuo Ikeda is known for his elegant and simple glass work, with his shop located near Hirafu in Higashiyama. At the Doumo Glass Gallery you can attend a sandblasting workshop and create your own Japanese-style glass or beer mug.The Doumo Glass Gallery is close to Milk Kobo, making them a great pair of activities to do together. Both are easily accessed via the Niseko United Shuttle bus.
Where to stay:
Choose from a range of accommodation from apartments to townhouses, depending on your budget. The most expensive time to visit is winter. In the off season, accommodation is a fraction of the cost, making it a fantastic option for a summer, autumn or spring holiday. Check out your options at Vacation Niseko.
Niseko is a two-to-three hour drive from New Chitose Airport, just outside of Sapporo. While it is an international airport, most international visitors will need to fly into Tokyo or Narita and catch a flight from there.
Every jet setting kid needs a passport – or two, if you’ve got dual nationality like little Cheese does!
As she was born in New York, her first passport was actually an American one, at four weeks of age, followed by her Australian one, at three months of age.
Yes, we were planning our first overseas flight with her pretty much from birth. At three months of age she jetted off to San Francisco, followed by Australia a month later. A little world traveller from the get go.
What I had underestimated about the whole process was how hard it was to get passport photos of an infant that would conform to the required standards! You know the standards your photos need to have? Head in a certain position, expression just so, hair just so – well, kids, even babies, have the same requirements. This is particularly tricky with babies, as they need to be held for photos, and the person holding the baby cannot appear in the photo. Argh!
Getting passport photos taken the first time around was a very difficult process, requiring the person who took them for us at a local pharmacy in Brooklyn to re-shoot them over and over and over again until we got them just right. It was painful and stressful and we all felt like having a good cry afterwards.
Taking Cheese around the world with her passports and baby photos in them has gotten entertaining of late, as she no longer looks like that squishy baby in the front. Her passports are both up for renewal so it’s finally time to retake the photos.
This time around, we went to Australia Post for her passport photos. They have instant photo-taking services in around 1300 of their Australian retail outlets, making the process that much easier for everyone involved.
The Australia Post staff have all taken many, many passport photos of children and babies, so they know all the tricks to getting the shot right the first time, with minimal stress for the whole family.
We were able to drop by one afternoon to our local Australia Post and quickly have photos taken for Cheese’s American and Australian passports – it was great to get the photos taken all in one go, and to have the Australia Post staff print them to the correct specifications for each passport.
What you need to know about getting your child’s passport photos taken at Australia Post:
There’s no waiting around. The photos are ready in minutes.
You can have the photos taken and organise your passport application during the same
With experts taking the photos, there’s no need to worry about whether or not they will meet the strict requirements. If you submit your images to the relevant authority within the necessary timeframe and for some reason the photos aren’t accepted, you can take them back to the same post office and they will replace them at no cost.
They’ve gone digital
As well as the instant photos you will receive printed, you can also buy a digital copy of your photo for use in online applications.
They’re internationally compliant
You can get compliant passport photos taken for UK, USA and New Zealand passports, too. Just be sure to tell the staff member taking the photos as each country has different guidelines. They may do other countries’ passport photos as well, but you’ll need to confirm with the post office.
Pricing and payment methods
It costs $16.95 for a set of high-resolution full colour photographs, printed on quality gloss paper, or $19.95 for a printed set and an emailed digital copy.
You can pay with cash, MasterCard or Visa, or by EFTPOS.
Please note: You’ll need two identical ID photos for an Australian or British passport application.
If you’re on the go (and, ahem, on your phone) all the time like I am, this great travel app from Webjet is going to make your holiday planning and booking so much easier. The app enables you to search for flights, hotels and car hire and then book them, all in the one app.
I do most of my travel research on my trusty phone, so I really enjoyed using the app to quickly find the best deals within my budget when planning out upcoming Hawaii trip. I found the app to be fast, very easy to use, and also very thorough. It had all of the options I needed to filter choices with when booking a family holiday.
The smart app knows what destinations you’re looking for and auto populates with the correct airport.
Select the number of adult and children.
Your options are presented in an easy-to-read manner.
Sort by departure time, airline, price, stops or duration.
You can also select filters from the bottom of the screen to refine your search by airlines or stops. I prefer “no stops”.
The date selector is easy and intuitive. Vastly easy to navigate than many hotel websites!
The hotel booking tool is similarly easy to use. The selection criteria makes it easy to find hotels when travelling with kids.
The hotel lists come with TripAdvisor ratings that you can click through to read.
Sort hotels by recommended, price, star rating, hotel name, special offers, or, my favourite, TripAdvisor review scores.
Using the filter button at the bottom allows you to select hotels matching a particular rating ot TripAdvisor review score.
Choose the map view to see hotels in the area you would like to stay. Zoom in and out for more detail.
Clicking on the hotel will bring up its location, price for your dates, star rating and TripAdvisor review.
Click on the hotel for further information. I won’t be staying here!
Select to view the price by “per night” or “total price”. I prefer “per night” as I find it easier to compare various hotels this way to see which gives me a better deal.
All your options are listed when you select the hotel. Choose your room type.
Total price and your dates for review.
Pay directly within the app.
Next – car hire. I love how easy this app makes it to book your hotel, flight and car hire all at once.
A variety of cars can be selected.
Sort by car price, company name, car type or make.
Filter by car type or make.
Choose to see the price “per day” or “total”.
All the info you need. How many people its fits, how many bags, info on the shuttle bus from the airport to the car hire, price for the duration, what’s included for your price.
Choose your extras – all of your family needs are here!
Pay within the app.
I really enjoyed the ease with which this app made researching and booking hotel, flights and car hire.
Sydney’s beaches often get all the attention. It’s easy to see why – they’re glamorous, hip and all over Instagram. Head an hour south out of Sydney, however, and you’ll find beaches that are just as beautiful, but without the crowds.
Austinmer Beach is one such beach. It’s one of Wollongong’s most popular beaches, located 25 minutes north of Wollongong’s CBD and under an hour south of Sydney. It’s an easy drive south, too. The beach is located off Lawrence Hargrave Drive, with a large, free carpark and cafes lining the road opposite.
Local families love Austinmer Beach, particularly the fenced in playground (sadly no shade cloth) that has plenty of activities for kids of a variety of ages. The rock pools are a major draw for this beach, too.
Located at the south end of the beach, they attract children and adults alike with their amazing ocean life. We spotted fish, a crab, sea snails, an anemone, and some freaky looking creatures that none of us could identify.
Also at the south end of the beach are two large ocean pools.
Where to eat:
An old-school fish and chips shop that makes fab lentil burgers and delicious fish and chips at a reasonable price. Shell’s Diner: 106 Lawrence Hargrave Drive, Austinmer. Hours Mon-Thurs 7:30am-4pm Fri-Sun 7:30am-8pm
Austi Beach Cafe
A wide variety of breakfast and lunch options, plus gelato and afternoon tea. We highly enjoyed their fresh, warm scones. Austi Beach Cafe: 104 Lawrence Hargrave Drive, Austinmer. Hours: Mon-Fri 8:30am-4pm Sat-Sun 8am-4:30pm