Local treats; global destinations

From a trip down the coast and a Hunter festival to experiences around the world, travel editor Winsor Dobbin looks at what is news.

A weekend venue for all the family

Melanie Horner used to be a leading travel publicist, working for Destination NSW. She learned a thing or two along the way and is now a hospitality entrepreneur who has just opened her third South Coast holiday property – Uma on Werri.

Newly built as a dedicated holiday property, it joins two other popular South Coast holiday properties, Mandala and Sundara beach homes, in the portfolio. Uma on Werri is designed for large family groups. It has seven bedrooms, each with their own bathrooms, and is located in a quiet pocket of Gerringong, across the road from Werri Beach.

The house has been styled by Jessi Eve, a South Coast-based interior stylist. Guests can pop across the road for an ocean dip, surf, a sunrise beach run, or an early morning headland walk along the Gerringong to Kiama coastal walk.

The brief for Uma was for a “barefoot luxury experience”. So, think multiple indoor living and entertaining spaces, al fresco entertaining, and saltwater pool.

Built over two storeys, the property offers both upstairs and downstairs lounge room spaces. The kitchen adjoins the dining space with long table seating for 14 guests, then flows out via sliding doors to a large entertaining terrace. 

For families, there is a kid’s playroom with a hand-picked selection of books, games, and toys. 

“We wanted to create the ideal beach house so that friends and families can come together in our living and entertaining spaces and create precious holiday memories,” says Horner.

“Thoughtfully designed, spacious, private spaces for guests to retreat and refresh at the end of each day was also key to our brief.”

Accommodation features six king-size beds, plus a bunk room made up of one queen bed/king single. 

Bookings can be made at www.umaonwerri.com

A time go for Broke

The 20th anniversary of the Little Bit of Broke festival will be even more special given it coincides with the bicentenary of the tiny Hunter Valley hamlet. To be held from Friday, March 15 to Sunday, March 17, the weekend promises wine, food, farm gate produce, live music and lots of fun.

A Festival Kit includes festival entry, a keepsake tasting glass and tasting tokens to which you can add dining, experiences, events, workshops, extra tastings and even transport, all bookable online. There will be a record number of festival offerings with 17 locations from which to choose.

From dining in a hatted restaurant, picnicking with alpacas, sunset wines and tunes, there are plenty of choices. Wineries involved include regional star Margan, Nightingale Wines, Whispering Brook, Winmark and Krinklewood. The program has just been announced and tickets are on sale now at brokefordwich.com.au.

A hop-on, hop-off bus service will enable festivalgoers to park their cars at the Festival Hub in the heart of Broke and take the shuttle to different destinations. The Festival Starter Kit begins at $35 per person with four tastings included, while the Festival Super Kit includes eight tastings for $50.

* Kids enter for free as they do not require a Festival Kit which includes wine tastings that are reserved for over 18 years only.

An African paradise

Nowhere does gourmet tourism better than South Africa’s Cape Winelands region. It is a region where stylish luxury is de rigueur if you have cash to splash.

One of the prestige addresses in Franschhoek is La Residence, part of the Royal Portfolio group and a 16-suite boutique hotel that has just undergone a complete refresh.

It is somewhere that is on my bucket list. I will race you there.

Expansion plans include the opening of a new wine tasting barn in February, and a flagship family villa towards the end of the year.

Tucked away from the main hotel, all five Vineyard Suites now each have Mediterranean-style pools with large outdoor entertainment areas and mountain views.

“Revitalising the design at La Residence was an opportunity to breathe new energy into the hotel, ensuring our guests continue to enjoy a unique and luxurious experience,” said founder and co-owner Liz Biden.

“Our commitment to creating an environment of comfort and splendour is reflected in every aspect of the property’s fresh, new look.”

La Residence’s dining experiences have also been enhanced with chef Gregory Henderson offering interactive South African cooking courses that include collecting and using La Residence seasonal farm products such as vegetables, herbs, honey and lavender.

Other food experiences include personalised cookery demonstrations at the Chef’s Table in the dining hall, afternoon teas inspired by the seasons, La Residence cheese and wine pairings and picnics set up in the estate vineyards

For further information please visit www.theroyalportfolio.com

Room rates are seasonal and start from ZAR 8,700 ($695) per person sharing, including breakfast, full mini bar and complimentary shuttle service to Franschhoek town centre.

La Residence forms part of The Royal Portfolio that also includes The Silo Hotel on Cape Town’s V&A Waterfront, Birkenhead House in Hermanus and Royal Malewane in the Greater Kruger National Park.

A very different experience

They do things a little bit differently in Lithuania.

While other countries might promote their amazing architecture or fabulous wines, the good folk of Vilnius highlight their cherished pink soup and festival of massed choirs.

A very chatty email landed recently from Go Vilnius, the official tourism and business development agency of the capital city.

They are keen for visitors to enjoy a giant slide into a bowl of cold pink soup during Pink Soup Fest, or enjoy tens of thousands of folk singers and dancers at The Lithuanian Song Festival.

They also have a very cheeky G-Spot promotion (“Nobody knows where it is, but when you find it, it’s amazing”).

The Vilnius Pink Soup Fest is on June 8 as thousands of Lithuanians and city guests will celebrate their affection for a cold beetroot soup, the most popular Lithuanian summertime dish, mainly made from boiled beetroots, cucumber, and kefir.

Dozens of partners, including restaurants and bars to museums, will offer various versions of the pink soup, pink-infused coffee, beet-flavoured desserts, tours, exhibitions, and workshops. 

The event’s purpose is not only to taste the iconic Lithuanian soup but to celebrate all things pink. Last year, over 15,000 people, many dressed up in pink, joined the festival, taking part in a sliding competition and other attractions.

The Lithuanian Song Festival, meanwhile, is a once-in-four-year opportunity to witness a massive concert of hundreds of choirs and thousands of people singing at once on a huge open-air stage.

This year, the Festival will be celebrating its centenary, marking a century of the Lithuanian nation coming together to celebrate the country’s cultural heritage through dancing and singing. 

The festival holds deep importance due to its role in preserving Lithuania’s national identity during times of Soviet occupation, which is why it was dubbed the “singing revolution.” Expect around 40,000 singers, and dancers, alongside an audience of over 300,000.

The local tourism folk assure me that “Vilnius is fast establishing itself as a gastronomic hotspot”.

# The European Commission announced Vilnius as the winner of the 2025 European Green Capital Award, recognising the city’s ability to integrate sustainability efforts with the well-being of its residents.

See more of Winsor’s travel stories at www.gourmetontheroad.com