Victoria Cheng, TV host/presenter and founder of tech and gaming portal SupNerd.tv, @victoriacheng
When did your love affair with Australia begin?
My first visit to Australia was as a teenager, and I had brilliant memories of the Great Barrier Reef back then. It made me fall in love with diving.
I’ve travelled to most parts of Australia now, but I went to South Australia (SA) for the first time in October 2019 to film a travel series with my co-host Justin Bratton.
What was most memorable about your South Australia trip?
Definitely the outdoors, but also the incredible number of wineries.
While neighbouring states have vineyards as well, the ones located in SA are incredibly creative and quirky. You can really see how the next generation has put a less traditional touch on the experience. One example is the family-owned d’Arenberg Cube winery in the McLaren Vale wine region, with an unexpected experience as you walk through the interior. I also enjoyed my visit to Down The Rabbit Hole – it’s very photogenic and hipster, with lovely rosé wines.
What must-do experiences in South Australia would you recommend?
Softfoot Alpaca Farm on the Fleurieu Peninsula was one of my favorite animal-related excursions. It spans 600 acres in Hindmarsh Valley, and we took a 4x4 to explore the estate and see purebred Alpacas from Latin America. It was a great way to experience Australian farm lifestyle. They also have an orphanage for Australian wildlife and I got to bottle-feed an orphaned joey. It was definitely not your average experience.
Monarto Safari Park, the largest safari park in the world outside of Africa, is a must-visit for the experience of getting to feed the lions. And for those who wish to spend a night, there are even glamping facilities that are currently being built.
A few other experiences I enjoyed are strawberry picking at Beerenberg Farm in Hahndorf, eating my way through Adelaide Central Market, driving through the rolling hills of Adelaide Hills, and getting to feed and snorkel with bluefin tuna at Victor Harbor!
If we only had time to spend three days in South Australia, what would your curated itinerary be like?
Day 1: Arrive at Bellwether Wines and spend a night under the stars while glamping. For something one-of-a-kind, you can book a stay in the Coonawara Bubble Tent. Yes, it is completely see-through (but they do come with privacy screens).
Day 2: The next morning, make your way to Mayura Station in Millicent for its famed, melt-in-your-mouth Wagyu beef. Continue your journey down to Cape Dombey in Robe and drink in a stunning cliffside sunset.
Day 3: Make your way to Adelaide – stopping first at Monarto Safari Park, before moving on to Adelaide Hills to spend your last day in the picturesque town of Hahndorf. If your flight the next day is in the late afternoon, you might even be able to fit in a spot of strawberry picking!
If you have more time, I recommend driving along Great Ocean Road from Victoria, then making your way through South Australia for the above recommendations. Plan your route from Limestone Coast, Adelaide, the Fleurieu Peninsula, Hahndorf and end at Victor Harbor.
Vickii Ma, food and lifestyle content creator, currently based in New York City, www.vickiima.com, @vickiima
When did you last visit Sydney?
It was in 2018 and my fourth visit. I did a road trip with girlfriends and we loved the dining scene – excellent bakeries, coffee spots and farmers’ markets.
What are some of your favourite places?
Mine are mostly food stops. Devon Cafe for brunch – try the salmon – and Black Star Pastry’s strawberry watermelon cake for tea. I also like Firedoor in Surry Hills, Bourke Street Bakery’s sausage rolls and Toko Sydney for an izakaya dinner and cocktails. Then there are Cuppa Flower, a cafe-florist, and The Grounds of Alexandria for brunch and petting animals.
If there’s time, also try horseback riding in Glenworth Valley or hit the Tyrrell’s Wines and Tempus Two vineyards in Hunter Valley for wine and cheeses. More favourites: the weekend farmers’ markets, Eveleigh Markets and The Rocks.
Ng Sock Peng, founder, mylovelybluesky.com, @sockpeng
Where have you been in Australia?
In 2004, I visited the Gold Coast. I have also travelled to Perth and Melbourne. In 2013, I did eight days in the Northern Territory and loved the idyllic environment and abundance of nature. It’s a welcome respite, whether you’ve been cooped up at home or are tired of staring at high-rises.
The bonus: it is less than five hours from Singapore and the time difference is 90 minutes.
What’s a great three-day itinerary of the Northern Territory?
Day 1: Rent a car at the airport for a two-hour self-drive to Kakadu National Park, the biggest in Australia, for some hiking. There are gorgeous sights along the route.
Day 2: Enjoy the waterfall and catch the sunrise from Yellow Water Billabong.
Day 3: Take a city tour of Darwin and visit Rapid Creek Market, Crocosaurus Cove, Stokes Hill Wharf and Mindil Beach Sunset Market.
Daniel Goh, certified wine specialist and editor, Spirited Singapore, @spiritedsg
You’ve visited Western Australia many times for work and leisure. What keeps you returning?
The idyllic setting and slower pace of life. There’s also great wine and other excellent produce within reach, and beautiful beaches for surfers.
My first trip to Margaret River was in 2016 when my wife and I attended the Margaret River Gourmet Escape on our annual vacation. In 2019, I swung through Swan Valley and Margaret River on the way to the Great Southern for a business trip.
What is one must-see in Western Australia?
Busselton Jetty, 150 minutes south of Perth and 49km from Margaret River, is the longest timber jetty (1,841m) in the Southern Hemisphere. If you love beer, the taproom of award-winning brewery Rocky Ridge Brewing Co with 25 taps is close by.
You’re a wine expert. Any recommendations?
One of the most eminent wine producers in Margaret River, Voyager Estate makes some of the finest chardonnay and cabernet sauvignon in the Western Australia winemaking region. Think beautiful, sprawling estate, well-kept vineyards you can stroll through, a well-stocked cellar door, plus an award-winning restaurant.
Another is Sittella, one of Swan Valley’s more progressive wineries with a modern approach to winemaking that respects tradition. It makes a mighty fine verdelho, one of the classic white grape varieties in the Swan Valley, and great shirazes. But what makes Sittella worth visiting is its excellent sparkling chenin blanc produced with the champenoise method and fortified wines.
What’s a good spot for beer?
The Little Creatures Brewery in Fremantle. Besides being a fully-operational brewery, it also has a massive dining hall with a huge open kitchen churning out excellent wood-fired pizzas and fabulously fresh seafood. Walk your meal off along Fremantle’s scenic wharves.
If one had only three days in Western Australia, what would you suggest?
A wine adventure! Upon landing in Perth on Day 1, head to Swan Valley’s The Colony in Mandoon Estate, a full-service accommodation within the winery that’s also home to Homestead Brewery. It’s a great spot from which to explore the region.
Besides Sittella, stop and sample the pours at Sandalford Wines and Riverbank Estate Winery. To satisfy a sweet tooth, there’s Mondo Nougat and Margaret River Chocolate Company.
Day 2: Head to Busselton after breakfast and stop at Bunbury Farmers Market for local produce and snacks. Aim to arrive in Busselton in time for a scenic lunch at The Goose Bar & Kitchen and leave time to explore Busselton Jetty.
Next, head towards Margaret River to your next accommodation: the rustic Riverglen Chalets on the edge of town.
Day 3: Make sure this falls on a Saturday because that’s when the Margaret River Farmers’ Market opens in a field packed with booths peddling all sorts of local produce, from fresh vegetables and deli products to delicious confectionery and other baked goods. I recommend you hunt down the creme brulee tart from the Margaret River Bakery’s stand.
Start your wine journey from here. I recommend wineries like Voyager Estate, Leeuwin Estate, Cullen and Vasse Felix. For more boutique operations, I like Fermoy Estate and Woodlands Wines. And, if you love craft beer and Aussie-inspired beer food, The Beer Farm, Cheeky Monkey Brewing Co and Colonial Brewery Co are great options.
On the return drive to Perth the next morning, drop by Caversham Wildlife Park before your flight home.
Karen Ashley Ng, entrepreneur, renzze.com, @renzze
You are now based in Melbourne because of Covid-19 travel restrictions. What do you like most about it and the Victoria region?
Melbourne is a vibrant city with a soul, amazing art and culture. Whether it’s the sophisticated, curated art at the National Art Gallery (NGV) or the ever-changing graffiti art in Hosier Lane, there is always something reflecting the diversity of culture.
Victoria’s culinary scene is an explosion of choices for foodies. The exceptional skills of the chefs, the quality of fresh local produce and access to one of Australia’s finest wine-growing regions allow for a never-ending supply of inspiring meals.
Of course, as the Coffee Capital of Australia (and maybe the world), the coffees here are delicious, too.
Finally, I can’t tell you what I love about Victoria without gushing about the immense beauty of the untouched bushland and coastline. I have one of the world’s best beaches on my doorstep!
From iconic bayside strips to secluded coves, there is always a strip of sand to wow your socks off any time you need a breather. For those hunting down a good trail, world-class national parks like Wilson Promontory and the Grampians, or the Yarra Ranges, offer a multitude of terrains, misty waterfalls and clifftop views. In Victoria, there’s a road trip waiting for you every weekend.
Tell us more about your favourite places in Victoria.
Melbourne’s Brighton Bathing Boxes have been a part of the bayside landscape for over 100 years. The vibrant hues are a wonderful backdrop for photographers and travellers, and couples’ wedding photos.
For art aficionados, the NGV is a must-go. Founded in 1861, it is the oldest public art museum in Australia that regularly hosts blockbuster exhibitions and has one of the world’s finest art collections. On the ever-popular NGV Friday Nights, special events feature music, bars, dining and late-night access to feature exhibitions.
If you happen to be in Victoria in March, make a day trip to the gold town of Ballarat and stop by the sunflower fields on Dunnstown Road on the outskirts. The one million blooms are bound to brighten your day. At AU$2 each, cut some to go.
Another iconic heritage landmark, the inner-city Queen Victoria Market is 140 years old. The locals love to shop there as much as tourists do. For those who love discovering fresh, seasonal and speciality produce, this is your mecca.
I love making my poke bowls and purchase my sashimi from fish stalls here. You can also find many unique products, great coffee and food, souvenirs and clothing. During summer and winter, the market becomes an eclectic night market (only on Wednesdays) after 5pm.
Family and friends visiting Australia always ask for recommendations on where to see animals native to Australia. While there are many zoos and animal sanctuaries that are really fun, Churchill National Park has free-roaming kangaroos and wallabies.
To forget about city life, take a leisurely hike to Trig Point Lookout and bask in nature. Along the way to the peak, keep your eyes peeled for native wildlife that tend to show up in greater numbers (and are thus easier to spot) at dusk or dawn.
What would the perfect three-day itinerary be like in Victoria?
Day 1: Start with breakfast at Lune Croissanterie for the world’s best croissants. Then explore the many lanes and alleyways filled with graffiti art. Stop for coffee at Dukes Coffee Roasters before a day at NGV or enjoy a picnic on a small boat down the Yarra River. The choices for dinner in the city are endless. I recommend a meal at Attica or Tipo 00.
Day 2: Bag a bird’s eye view of Yarra Valley from a hot air balloon before a hearty champagne breakfast when you land. Spend the afternoon picking fruits – depending on the season, it could be cherries, strawberries or apples – or visit one of the 70 wineries in the region. And stop at Yarra Valley Chocolaterie for some sweet treats.
Day 3: Welcome to Mornington Peninsula. Start your morning with yoga at Hot Hut. Then drive to Pt Leo Estate to explore the outdoor sculptures. Enjoy lunch at the award-winning Laura restaurant. Make your way to Cape Schanck to appreciate the sweeping views of the rugged coastline.
By late afternoon, check into the Mornington Peninsula Hot Springs, Victoria’s first natural hot springs and day spa centre with thermal pools of varying temperatures, saunas and private bathing areas.
I recommend the topmost pool at sunset to catch the sun going down. It’s an especially calming way to end the trip.
Sunetra Biswas, travel blogger and content creator, Globetrotting Su, @globetrottingsu
What do you like most about Sydney?
While living in the US, I always wanted to visit Sydney. After I relocated to Singapore in 2018, I planned my first trip – a five-day vacation. Sydney is very reminiscent of my New York life.
I love its amazing food scene, abundant nature in beautiful botanical gardens, epic views of iconic landmarks, close proximity to amazing beaches, and an overall relaxing and happy vibe. It’s a fabulous city with so much to offer every traveller.
What did you discover in Sydney?
The amazing architecture of Sydney Opera House. There’s a guided tour of this famous landmark to understand the intricacies of this artistic building.
Sydney has so many amazing beaches to surf and swim in. The famous Bondi beach with its Bondi Icebergs pool is a must-visit.
Visit the Royal Botanic Garden Sydney and Mrs Macquarie’s Chair, an exposed sandstone rock cut into the shape of a bench in Sydney Harbour. The garden is home to so many varieties of plants and flowers and offers an amazing walk with great views overlooking the harbour.
To enjoy uninhibited views of the Opera House, Sydney Harbour Bridge and the beautiful harbour city, take the picturesque 30-minute ferry ride to Manly Beach. Manly, a suburb in the northern part of the city, has amazing nightlife and beautiful coastal walks that should not be missed.
Lastly, a short day trip to Blue Mountains is ideal for captivating views of sandstone cliffs, forests, canyons and waterfalls. This region is particularly famous for the views of the Three Sisters, an unusual rock formation especially during sunset.
Nur Hazirah Jamaludin, brand communications strategist at HalalTrip.com
When did you first visit Melbourne and what was so enjoyable about that trip?
In 2019, for our graduation trip, my friends and I wanted a destination that’s laid back and has good weather. Being students, we also wanted a place that wouldn’t bust our budget. We felt Melbourne was the ideal destination because it’s easy to navigate our way using public transport, has plenty of accommodation options, attractions and, of course, fulfils the “great vibe” criteria.
Which five go-to places would you recommend in Melbourne?
We booked our Airbnb accommodation in St Kilda and it is one of the best neighbourhoods to stay in and explore.
It is close to many attractions in Melbourne, and is a great way to get a taste of Australia’s laid back culture while enjoying vibrant attractions such as Luna Park – an old-school carnival-style theme park with the wackiest rides – weekend markets, seasonal events and small indie shops, and riding a bike along the beach. In St Kilda, it almost feels like every day is the weekend.
If you are on a road trip in Victoria, Mansfield Zoo is worth a visit. It has lions, camels, kangaroos and reindeer, some which roam freely around the zoo.
Queen Victoria Market is a must-visit to experience the Melbourne culture and indulge in the local food scene.
If you fancy the arts, check out Hosier Lane with its graffiti scenes within the alleyways.
And while I’ve never tried glamping in Melbourne before, I think it’s an experience that anyone should try while there. It’s a great way to be surrounded completely by nature without compromising on comfort.
What is one tip you’d like to share with fellow Muslim travellers?
While Melbourne increasingly has more halal restaurants and halal options now, I would definitely recommend booking self-catering accommodations because it’s a lot easier to manage your meals. It may take some time to work your itinerary around getting groceries when you first arrive, but it helps to know that you don’t always have to be on a lookout for halal restaurants.
Another tip I have for Muslim travellers is to have instant gravy mix on hand. These are helpful for when you need to prepare quick meals with basic ingredients you buy from the store such as milk, water, rice and noodles.
We were lucky to be staying in a neighbourhood where the Coles supermarket there offered kosher meat to meet the local community’s needs.
If you could curate the ideal three-day itinerary in Melbourne, what would it look like?
Day 1: Explore the city in the free tram zone, where you can board and alight anywhere in the zone – very wallet-friendly. Visit the Queen Victoria Market and check out the local produce, homemade soap bars, souvenirs and clothes. Try the fresh oysters (less than AUD$5 for a large one).
Also, make sure you get there early enough to wait in line at the American Donut stand. End your day with dinner at Betty’s Burger, which has Muslim-friendly options like the Betty’s Burger Classic. If you want chicken, have it grilled, as the batter used for fried chicken is not halal.
Day 2: Wake up early and go to the beach. There are rows of shops with unique souvenirs. For lunch, there is a whole stretch of halal dining options in the suburbs of Coburg and Brunswick.
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