I will be pitching stories based on all the amazing experiences I had while I was there, but to give you a little taste of what is to come, I thought I would post a brief rundown of my itinerary. That way, you can take a look at all the activities I was able enjoy, and get a feel for what kinds of stories I will be coming out with over the coming weeks and months. Any questions? Just let me know. Otherwise, enjoy!
Monday, November 2
We departed LAX on V Australia, and were upgraded to their unparalleled business class section, with seats that reclined all the way to make flat beds! My other favorite features: the tons of movie selections on the entertainment system, a great little wine list from which the attendants poured me a flight of every wine to try (!), and ceilings that are lit up with twinkling stars like the southern hemisphere sky at night with constellations like the Southern Cross.
Disappeared while crossing the International Date Line...
Wednesday, November 4
After our arrival in Brisbane, and another 5-hour flight on Virgin Blue to Perth, we finally made it to our destination, the beautiful 74-room Richardson Hotel & Spa in the West Perth district of the city.
That night, we were treated to a gourmet dinner at the hotel restaurant, Opus, which is one of the highest-rated eateries in the city thanks to Chef Todd Cheavins' exotic menu.
Thursday, November 5
After a morning spent learning about Aboriginal culture and local flora in Perth’s Kings Park with Greg Nannup of Indigenous Heritage Tours, we stopped by Cottesloe Beach on the way to lunch at the Little Creatures Brewery in Freemantle. Once we’d had our fill of homemade pizzas and kangaroo skewers, we took the “Highway to Hell” tram tour of the city, highlighting the early life of ACDC front man, Bon Scott.
Then it was time for a quick coffee on Freo’s “Cappuccino Strip” before a fancy dinner at Must Winebar and a splash of bubbly at its upstairs Champagne Lounge. Before dinner’s end, I was off to one of the city’s only gay bars, the Court Hotel to meet with one of my editors for a nightcap, then spent another night at the Richardson. Friday, November 6
Today, we took the ferry to Rottnest Island, learning about the history and inhabitants on the Swan River on the way to the nature playground 19km off the coast. We had an enormous seafood lunch at Aristos Waterfront Restaurant before spending the afternoon bicycling around the island, taking dips in the fairly gelid Indian Ocean, and finding families of quokkas (adorable rodent-like marsupials) to pet.
The evening found us having a quick drink and making new friends at Pure Bar in the swinging Subiaco district, or “Subi” as locals call it, before calling it an early night.
Saturday, November 7
This was an early, early day, as we left the hotel at 6:30am in order to drive to Rockingham on the coast and go swimming with the dolphins there thanks to the fantastic dive guides at Rockingham Wild Encounters. They were so knowledgeable about the creatures, and we really lucked out to find a huge pod of them just hanging out right off the coast, waiting for us and ready to frolic. It was a truly wondrous experience watching these animals in their native habitat, and definitely one of the highlights of the trip.
Then it was a couple more hours driving past Bunbury and Dunsborough into the heart of the Margaret River Valley to our amazing hotel, the Injidup Spa Retreat. The 10-villa resort is situated on cliffs overlooking the Indian Ocean, where you can see whales frolicking in the surf. One of the most amazing places I’ve ever stayed…which is only right for a spot whose name means “Place of Love” in the local Aboriginal dialect.
But we didn’t have too much time to enjoy the individual sun decks and plunge pools (or the complimentary sparkling wine), because soon it was time to head over to the larger sister resort, the Smiths Beach Resort for a drink at the Bouzy Champagne Bar, and a huge, delicious dinner at Bathers Restaurant.
Sunday, November 8
I made a quick cappuccino in my villa this morning before hitting the spa for a combo facial and foot massage. The spa at Injidup uses Sodashi products, which are made in Perth from local, organic ingredients, and I have to say, the Men’s Karma After Shave Mist is one of the best-smelling spa products ever!
After a quick cleanup…and some mimosas with everyone on my deck, it was time to hit the Margaret River wine trail in a classic 1955 S1 Bentley with the inimitable Nola Gaebler of Lifestyle Margaret River.
Our first stop was the oldest winery in the area, Cullen Wines, where they grow their grapes biodynamically. Then we headed to a newer boutique entry, Cape Grace Wines, before hitting one of the region’s best known wineries, Vasse Felix, for a wine pairing lunch with Michael Whyte.
By the end of the afternoon, we were all so tired, we barely made it north to the Quay West Bunker Bay Resort for a quick sunset dip in the ocean, some pool time at the main lodge, and a quick take-home pizza (and ghost stories on the drive home!).
Monday, November 9
Alas, our time at Injidup had to come to an end some time, but at least we had a Bushtucker Tour to look forward to that morning. Along with our guide Kris, we canoed a ways up the Margaret River mouth, spotted local wildlife, learned about the region’s flora and Aboriginal inhabitants, and concluded with a picnic of exotic local foods including emu, witchetty grub (which I was the only one who ate!), bush limes, and other sundry savories.
On our way to the stalagt-acular Ngilgi Caves, we stopped by the Margaret River Chocolate Company for a few nibbles, then made our way to the luxurious Cape Lodge for our next night’s accommodation.
Continuing with our pattern, we cleaned up in a rush, then headed to the restaurant at the resort for a cooking class with the genial chef, Tony Howell, where we learned to make that night’s meal (the menu changes nightly, so it really is a unique experience).
We returned to the restaurant for a fabulous tasting menu that night, and soon, we were all so sleepy from the good food and wines (including the Cape Lodge’s own label wines, a Mosswood Cabernet, and a stellar Cabernet Sauvignon from Fraser’s Gallop Estate).
Tuesday, November 10
We breakfasted at Cape Lodge, then hit the road to check out the Paul Rigby Gallery on the way to Pemberton to see the Gloucester Tree (though we didn’t have time to stop there). A few miles down the road, we stopped in Manjimup to visit the Wine and Truffle Company, which is now the third largest producer of French black truffles in the world. We met the truffle-hunting dogs, and then had a quick lunch (truffle honey-glazed duck for me) before hitting the road again for the long drive back to Perth.
Several punchy hours (and one great human bagpiping session) later, we finally made it to the Sheraton Perth, for one last evening of drinks and fine dining.
Wednesday, November 11
And finally, it was time to head back to Los Angeles, so we re-boarded Virgin Blue at the Perth airport for our first leg back to Sydney this time, stopping by the newsstands to buy some trashy magazines, then watching one of the Harry Potter movies on the way across Australia.
In Sydney, we found out we’d been upgraded to business class on V Australia again (thank you!), and quickly made our way to the international terminal and into the Malaysia Air Golden Lounge for a quick refreshment before our flight.
Then back aboard V Australia and settled in our seats for a glass of Moet Chandon 2000 champagne before takeoff, and a lovely dinner before settling in for a good night’s rest. The only hiccup was that my seat did not recline, so the flight crew obligingly gave me the three-seater in row 5 to myself. Meaning, I still got my business class bed, but they were able to pull the curtains around me and make a little private cabin in the sky for me to enjoy my flight. I didn’t see another soul until I woke up the next morning and we began our descent into LAX.
Ah, Australia, what a wonderful first visit. I cannot wait to go back again and explore even more of WA, especially the gorgeous north around the wild Kimberly and the coast of Broome. Until then…g’day!