I can see what people have this on their bucket lists.
Helicopters flying through, azure waters overlooking the reef, a gentle sea breeze and nothing to do but relax!
Everything is stunning. The big details are stunning and what you expect (and do find) on instagram accounts of the rich n famous.
The small details have been carefully considered down to the tiny little flower and crudos.
For entree I start with the local caught Octopus served with caramelised cauliflower, pakis, green apple, coriander and black ink cracker. It melts in your mouth as you simultaneously struggle to take in the views.
The menu is generous with variety and all nationalities and preferences are catered for.
There is a very extensive vegetarian menu, one of the highlights of staying in such an opulent establishment.
The service is second to none and all the staff go out of their way to treat you to the experience of a lifetime.
Whether you stay on sight or visit for the day, this is a must if only for the views and experience.
If you would like to add this into a Bali getaway and join me on a retreat
It is on top of the hill surrounded by a big park (Parque de Urgull).
The walk up can be dramatic and step (there are stairs leaving from behind the old town near the boat harbour, or gradual if you follow the boat harbour round past the aquarium and head up.
Just follow your nose – heading up is the main goal and you will find many little tracks.
There is a secret bar that is open in Summer.
Once up the top you will have amazing views of San Sebastian and the surrounding hills.
Alternative options to climbing the hill
These are some other walking options that are more flat terrain for those with injuries or unable to climb a hill.
If climbing is too tricky there are many walks around San Sebastian.
You can head to the left of the bay towards the south and find the amazing art sculptures of Spanish Artist Eduardo Chillida called Peine del Viento. Also a romantic beautiful spot.
Or you can walk around the Parque to Urgull and head over to Zurriola beach and head back along the river with the trees and shade.
2. Pinxos in the Old Part of Town
This gastronomic delight should be on every foodies global tour.
Apparently San Sebastian has more michelin awarded restaurants than anywhere else in the world – but I think their pinxos are the stand out.
There are two famous cheese cake shops here.
Saint Telmos is my favourite has the best foie gras, blood pudding and iberian pork cheeks and grilled octapus.
Tintos (red wines) are awesome everywhere.
3. La Perla
This day spa (thermalogica) water treatment retreat is fantastic.
Right on the beach at Playa De La Concha, this magnificent building has great views from the far infared chairs. If you go between 130 – 4pm you can get a reduced rate for the two hours.
You can hire a towel and everyone has to wear the sexy blue cap.
Hot steam room, hot sauna, multiple spa pools, relaxation zones and a cold plunge pool. Definitely worth it if you like water and day spas. No need for bookings unless during busy season. Click here for more information.
4. Santa Maria Cathedral
This iconic landmark is found in the old city.
It is 3 euros to pass through but worth it if this is the only church you are going to. There is another up near Saint Telmo which is equally breathtaking and of a different era.
5. Ferry trip
For a small fee (7 euros when we went) you can jump on the ferry and go to La Concha. Here you can disembark for exploring, or in summer swimming and a drink at the bar.
Otherwise you can stay on the ferry and do the round trip.
It’s a great way to get a different aspect from the water.
There are so many sporting activities to do. Stand Up Paddling, swimming, sailing, bush walking, bike riding and more.
Simply walking along the promenade later in the day is wonderful as buskers line the wide pavement entertaining children and tourists. Grab an icecream and slowly meander long.
There is an art gallery, library with an exhibition hall beneath it, museum, aquarium and more.
It is the perfect place for a weekend or a week. Relax, drift and enjoy.
The paddock to plate, garden to plate philosophy of Harvest, saw it booked out for Oprah and her entourage in 2010 when she visited.
Since then, this once bakery, cafe has become a destination.
Now days the main highway bypasses the town and it’s probably best to put the address into your maps and understand you’ll be weaving a little bit through the country side before arriving.
You won’t be disappointed.
The township of Nearby is quiticential of most Australian towns in the northern rivers of New South Wales; a pub, a garage and a milk bar. Harvest has certainly put the town on the map and now the town boasts an art and homeware collective, an antique shop and a few other places to drift in and out of.
We didn’t make a booking (I strongly recommend you do) so we sat on the balcony. It was a rainy cold winter’s day but fortunately the heater on the deck and the food distracted from the cool.
We weren’t necessarily after a big long lunch, so settled on the carrots (grown on site) roasted in the oven with …
For main, I chose a burger which was OK. The produce was locally sourced but not abundant. I get it, it’s a fine dining restaruant.
My partner had the eye fillet which was also wonderful but served as it. You really need to order sides.
I was a little bit disappointed with the menu on this day but apparently it changes regularly depending on the seasonal foods and produce available.
To be fair we didn’t have a booking, the place was pumping with people streaming in regularly and was clearly very popular.
The gardens are uplifting and worth strolling through, as much of the product served inside is from their own garden. A fully functioning bakery is out the back and you can see the guys in action as well as having their own bee hives.
The importance of bees and pollination of crops a very topical conversation piece in the Northern Rivers. On this ocassion food was 4/5, service 5/5. WE will be back to see if we can give them the 10/10.
You know when you hear mixed revues about a restaurant, rather than inspire it tends to make you pause to race there? This was my response to Balboa. A silly trap that I have fallen into before which only has lead to denial of a wonderful Italian restaurant boasting very good food.
The purpose built Balboa Italian situated on the Gold Coast Highway in Palm Beach opened only a few years ago.
Sporting a healthy clientele and return customers because of their pizzas, (they look amazing), the pasta (apparently the gnocchi is to die for) and the al la carte.
I was super impressed by the table service which in a country like Australia is often lacking.
We order an Italian chardonnay – I’m not sure that is was a true chardonnay but a delicate light white, more like a chablis from France. Perfect for our meal.
Scallops for entree which were delicious, light and tasty.
The calamari salad also delicious and could be a meal in its own right. Light, tasty healthy.
For mains we share the lamb shoulder which is delicately served on a bed of puree, beans and tomatoes.
We accompany this with the house made potato chips and aolii and broccolini.
The cocktails are wonderful and my partner orders an old fashion which is served with the smoke trapped inside the glass.
I can highly recommend it. Service 5/5, food 5/5 overall 10/10.
When you receive an invite to have dinner at a pub in the middle of nowhere (well for city folks), you have to say yes, but later go “why?”
It’s a long drive, someone has to drive, what is the food going to be like etc etc.
Let me reassure you that Rudd’s Pub is iconic and very much worth the effort from where ever you are coming from.
It has a typical Aussie bar at the front and the staff are awesome as well as swift. People say g’day and want to meet you, which isn’t always the case in cities.
The pub has massive history and was originally built in 1893.
Its big claim to fame was the writing of many of the series of the radio series called Dad & Dave which was broadcast on Australian radio from 1937 – 1953. You can read a little more about the series here.
The food is great and what Aussies would call good “pub grub.” The meals are cooked out the back by the owners so whilst yummy may take a while if you have a large group. I suggest putting your food order in early if you are hungry and having a couple of “bevvies” with the locals while it is cooked up.
The menu is quite extensive and includes gluten free options and all the great pub favourites of steaks, chicken parmies and bangers + mash. I am told the rissoles are great as they are home made and home made Aussie rissoles are awesome.
There is accommodation out the back so you can stay on your travels through, a nice venue room for parties and events and lots of memorabilia on the walls to check out.
Synonomous with healthy eating, beach side dining and long standing awards and reputation is Coolangatta’s Japanese favourite, OSushi.
Whilst this restaurant has a sushi train it is far from just a sushi joint. The place has an extensive hot menu too offering many styles of Japanese dining, including the popular poke bowls, udon noodle bowls, sashimi and other styles.
The layout is simple and welcoming. The happy bustling staff make your experience memorable as well as high quality food.
Position opposite the main beach at Coolangatta beside the Cooly pub it draws a diverse crowd. Lunch time vacay goers can stagger off the beach, and score a great snack. Night time diners can have a myriad of choice. Either dining at the sushi train or sitting outside with the sea breeze gently cooling the evening.
On this night we have kingfish cerviche. The fish is fresh and the tastes infuse well on my palette.
For mains we share a sashimi platter with comes with seaweed salad. I look sashimi and the salmon is buttery and fresh.
The best thing about this restaurant aside from the great food, friendly staff and ideal location, is that is serves a variety of alcoholic beverages at reasonable prices.
Overlooking the charming area and suburbs of Devonport it Mt Victoria. Set up as a battalion base in the wars it now serves as one of the best, unadulterated views of Auckland.
The Signalman’s House is on the way up and truly breath taking. For it’s colonial style, it’s obvious connection to yesterday and it’s current purpose of offering writers a retreat. Being a writer I am totally in-love with the idea of a haven. A place to write whilst being frivolous and overlooking the harbour.
You can’t drive all the way to the summit any more but you can walk, hike or stroll. Ie foot is the only way. Up the top you will be greeted by sweeping views to the east, north and west. To the south you have iconic views of Auckland although you need to veer past a few trees.
You can have a picnic on the old forts, while watching the clouds jump and jive overhead.
Or you can share a chit chat with an old mate reminencising over times of old … waxing lyrically about childhood while your feet dangle over the edge of the old fortress.
Exploring is lot of fun which is what makes this the perfect afternoon trip for a family or lovers or solo travellers.
2. Visit the Devonport library
Well blow me down, I have visited many libraries around the world but this library is amazing.
Aside from being an architectural designer master piece it offers peace.
Peace and an open air outlook over one of the most amazing bays in the world.
It’s inspiring and has all the literature greats at your finger tips… all for free… waiting to be indulged.
I whittle away a few lustful moments reading the local rag and absorbing the view.
Whilst not a “tourist” attraction I sincerely hope you visit this space. Especially if you have never been to a library before!
3. Walk along the foreshore
This is one of the oldest, loveliest foreshore walks in New Zealand.
Beautiful trees, spaces, play grounds, picnic areas and Elizabeth House, make this a beautiful lazy afternoon walk.
Grab a photo with your family – a real keep-stakes as the back ground of the azure waters of the harbour and the sky line of Auckland subside away. Truly beautiful.
4. Lunch at the Esplanade Hotel
The Esplanade Hotel is such an iconic landmark. Built in 1857 the interior is everything you would expect from a timeless building.
We rock up on a Sunday and have the bowl of mussels done in white wine garlic and cream. Yes you guessed it! Something I will travel back for again and again and again. Especially at the end of the pier if the ferry from Auckland. It the perfect romantic escape and boys… it has a fire side!
5.Visit an art gallery
Despite everyone assuming art is for the rich or eccentric art is an expression. There are many art galleries in davenport and all worth a Casual wander through. There are too many to name and in my personal (artist) opinion, sometimes it is better to waltz through art galleries than it is to visit one. See where your heart takes you.
It’s a typical Auckland winter’s spring day – cold, wind, rain, sun!
All the seasons every hour.
We head off to explore west of Auckland and the local wineries.
There is a lot to see and some really good wines, some lovely experiences, including the historic The Riverhead and the west coast of NZ.
The Riverhead is a restaurant location dating back to the 1850s.
Beautifully preserved it buildings and location offer a warm vibe.
The pub is great for a NZ wine, craft beer and game of pool. A fire side welcomes everyone, the staff are friendly and their is plenty of space and low noise so you can chat. You can sit outside with their warm heaters in winter so many options.
The restaurant has a very good reputation but we felt it feel a little short of it’s price and reputation. The staff weren’t the best and the food whilst restaurant standard wasn’t abundant. We gave it a 4/5.
I lovely little winery near Kumea. Worth a stop over and as the lady says their “chardonnay is the stilettos of wines”.
Hunting Lodge winery
I really like this winery – open, classy and two price levels of wines. Really good food and friendly staff. I highly rate Hunting Lodge.
The wines are great and there are two eating options – casual (perfect for families and kids) or the five star restaurant.
This is an absolute must. Only 45 minutes from Auckland the coastline is radically different to the east coast.
Wild and rough and some how exhilarating. The sand is speculedwith dark ebony sand and cobalt blue. I haven’t seen anything like it anywhere else in the world. It’s an artists haven.
Follow the beach around the cliff and you will discover something really amazing. It is a gull colony and it truly breath taking. While watching birds navigate their landings, I felt like I was in a David Attenborough show. Amazing.
Perched about 20 minutes via car from the ferry at Waiheke is Stonyridge Vineyard. It is a magnificent looking vineyard and in summer boasts a vine wrapping all around the main building. It reminds me of a vineyard I once visited in Corsica.
I have been here before so going back was for the wine and ambiance.
What we discovered is that most vineyards on Waiheke charge (what I would call, a small fortune) to do a taste sampling. Some charge $10 for 3, others $15 for 3 premium. Guard your wallet because whilst they are guarding their cellar door so you don’t drink down their vats for free, you will be paying quite a lot more for the privilege of drinking a Waiheke grown wine.
On this day we are very fortunate to have Nathan as our bar tasting man. Entertaining and a whizz at wines we learn a lot about the local wines as well as New Zealand wines.
The wines here, like everywhere else on Waiheke, are expensive. But you have to expect it… don’t be surprised.
After sampling some wines we settle on a nice crisp Riesling and venture into the restaurant for lunch. In summer the outdoor area pumps. It’s referred to as the yoga deck which is kinda suitable as it has views spanning over the vineyard and to be honest I don’t know if they do yoga there or not, but it would be a perfect venue.
The restaurant is fine. Vineyard style, with a good menu but rich prices. We chose to share two entrees and a main.
Our entrees prawns and fish cerviche are good and our main is rib eye fillet, with mashed and jus.
We love our food so don’t want to put it down but it feel short somehow. As I type I feel bad writing. It was OK – to great but just not spectacular.
Obviously it is better than cafe food and a pub meal but when you pay $44 for steak I think one should expect 6 star.
I would give the experience this time 3.5/5. The food 4/10, the wine tasting with Nathan 5/5 but the service unfortunately only 3/5.