Gourmet treats

As Australia re-opens, travel editor Winsor Dobbin unveils some fun new wine and food experiences.


Just as the 2022 harvest hit, Hunter Valley winemakers De Iuliis launched two new tasting experiences.

Winemaker and owner Mike de Iuliis has good news so far, saying the fruit grown on De Iuliis’s own Lovedale Road, Talga Road and Steven vineyards is looking “fantastic”.  And at cellar door, the De Iuliis team have doubled down on their estate and premium wine tastings with the new DeWine and Hunter DeLuxe Experiences that take wine lovers into the heart of the winery to discover some insider secrets.

“Being able to open our winery doors to showcase the passion, innovation and craftmanship that goes into our winemaking is exciting,” says Mike. “We love being able to connect with guests in an authentic and unique way.”

The daily bookable experiences will run throughout the year, with February the best time to visit as guests can experience vintage 2022 as harvest rolls in.

Visitors can join one of the De Iuliis team on a winery tour and then experience a wine and cheese tasting using local producers Hunter Belle and Hunter-grown wines.
For details see www.dewines.com.au 

And talking of the Hunter, no matter how many hotels, guest houses and B&Bs open there never seems to be enough accommodation on busy weekends. 

A new luxury house for hire, capable of sleeping up to eight people, adds to the options on offer from Hunter Valley Stays. 

Acacia House is a 120-year-old four-bedroom traditional timber house featuring high wooden ceilings in the hamlet of Branxton, which boasts a pub, butcher, bakery, café, general store, golf course and public pool, all within walking distance of the property. 

It is just a short drive to the delights of Wine Country Drive and the famous vineyards of Pokolbin, Lovedale, and Rothbury for some gourmet tastings. Described as being “packed with character” Acacia House has been designed as an escape for groups of friends and families, including four-legged family members. 

An outdoor undercover terrace has a large dining table, barbecue, and pizza oven, while the garden has an outdoor hot tub and a hammock. There is also a games room with pool table, Pac-Man arcade game, Smart TV, PlayStation 2, dartboard, selection of board games, and outside basketball hoop and trampoline. A separate bathroom is also located in the games room.

Tariffs from $1000 per night (Thu-Fri, Fri-Sat, or Sat-Sun) or midweek from $750 per night. 
See https://www.huntervalleystays.com.au/hunter-valley-accommodation/acacia-house


You expect overwater bungalows in the Maldives, but they are a rarity in Australia. 

Novotel Sunshine Coast Resort recently unveiled updated guest rooms and overwater bungalows, refreshed resort pool precinct and lagoon beachfront plus a new Pilates studio. As part of the refurbishment, Novotel has updated its architecturally-designed over-water bungalows with a modern coastal theme and – for the first time in 30 years – introduced two new, elevated accommodation categories: Grand Overwater Bungalows and Deluxe Overwater Bungalows.

The Grand Overwater Bungalow has three king bedrooms and two full bathrooms, with an additional Queen sofa bed on hand for larger groups. 

There are also two outdoor patios offering views across the lagoon. Designed for couples and small families, the new 1.5-bedroom Deluxe Overwater Bungalows feature a king-sized bed and en-suite, complete with a soaker bathtub.

Formerly known as the Novotel Twin Waters Resort, prices start from $199 while Overwater Bungalow room rates start from $409. See https://www.novotelsunshinecoast.com.au


There is something special about sharing a holiday with the whole family – including furry friends. 

It is even more special when you are staying in a beach shack just 50 metres from the ocean, waking and falling asleep to the sound of the waves. 

Dog lovers visiting Tasmania should jot down the name of Sandpiper Ocean Cottages, where well behaved dogs are not only allowed but welcome. 

Sandpiper Ocean Cottages are located just 8km north of Bicheno on the East Coast of Tasmania right on Denison Beach, which is often completely deserted. 

You are a 30-minute drive to Freycinet National Park and iconic Wineglass Bay, while the Bay of Fires is an hour to the north. 

Set on four acres of coastal gardens, each cottage at Sandpiper is private, spacious, and well equipped for a stay of however long you wish.

There are some lovely touches like tea, coffee, biscuits, breakfast provisions (including eggs from the family hens and local jam). 

There is also a mini bar with wines from McLean Bay (grapes grown just down the road) and Thorne Clark “Sandpiper.”

A private trail takes you the two minutes down to the beach, where you can walk barefoot for miles on the white sands, swim safely or fish from the beach.

Sandpiper Cottages charges a flat $10 fee for each dog, and each cottage has its own gated deck. Pooches are welcome inside (though not on the beds) but are not allowed to roam free on the property due to the local wildlife. The beach, however, is a different matter. Seagulls beware.

Sandpiper Cottages have beach gear (chairs, umbrella, boogie boards) to share. Dusk and dawn bring out the local pademelons, quolls, devils, wombats, and deer.

Just down the road the delightful holiday village of Bicheno has shops, community garden galleries, the “must visit” Farm Shed East Coast Wine and Gin Centre, Blue Edge Bakery, Food and Brew, the Sea Life Restaurant, or the Beachfront pub.

Wander over to The Gulch and enjoy fish and chips or crayfish from Tasmanian Coastal Seafoods or the Lobster Shack.

Take a glass-bottom boat ride or fish from the pier, take a Bicheno Penguin Tour or Devils in the Dark Tour. Or just explore the many coves and beaches.

There are several cellar doors close by: Pop into Freycinet Vineyard for a bottle of delicious dry riesling, Devil’s Corner, Spring Vale, Gala Estate, Milton, or Craigie Knowe, with its own on-site patisserie. Book direct on www.sandpipercottages.com.au/ for guaranteed best deals.


Woodend is a small town in regional Victoria located halfway between Melbourne and Bendigo in the Macedon Ranges, and it has a new drawcard with the opening of The Rock and Wombat bar.

This stylish looking spot is displaying premium local wines, spirits, and brews.

The Rock and Wombat Bar is located in the landmark Victoria Hotel, helmed by innovator Emily Blades. 

The list features cocktails including Moscow Mules, French-style martinis, and the specialty Victoria Cocktail. 

The dog-friendly Victoria Hotel has slaked the thirsts of locals since 1861.

The ‘Rock’ refers to the nearby Hanging Rock formation and the ‘Wombat’ to the furry natives that populate the region. See www.thevictoriawoodend.com.au/

See Winsor’s work at www.gourmetontheroad.com