Posts in the Stay category
What can you do with a city that was founded in the 20′s, transformed (high-rise style) in the 70′s, boomed in the 80′s and 90′s, but is now facing something of an identity crisis? For the many Australians who visited as kids, Surfers Paradise will always be a nostalgia-fueled experience. So it kind of makes sense, in an upside-down way, to do as QT Gold Coast has done, and create a hotel that actually embraces the time-warp factor. The funny thing is, this retro-styled haven is the most modern thing to have happened to Surfers Paradise in years!
Although the 1970′s exterior is like many in this city (read: cream concrete columns) the interior has been completely transformed with a bold makeover from Nic Graham + Associates. Clean lines, geometric patterns and above all COLOUR, recall such 1960′s trail-blazers as Alexander Girard and Herman Miller. The first two levels are devoted to several light-filled lounges, restaurants and bars which, thanks to a strong local following, enjoy constant liveliness. The guest-room decor is fresh and light-hearted, as a Gold Coast holiday should be, and accessories such as the cockatoo lamps and pineapple candle-holders have proven so popular you can actually BUY them!
At less than a year old, QT Gold Coast is the first venture of a burgeoning hotel chain that recently welcomed younger siblings Port Douglas and Sydney. It’s refreshing to see an up-market hotel actively engaging a youthful, fun-loving crowd. For us, a highlight was the DIY lemonade station delivered soon after arrival, which was just as quickly squeezed, mixed and slurped from our 21st floor balcony.
It wouldn’t be a real time-warp if I didn’t mention the hotel buffet (well, actually it’s been re-branded “The Bazaar”) which was a lot of fun, and more elegant than you might imagine. But no matter how good the food it takes a strong person to return to the table without a grossly mismatched selection of flavours occupying their plate. At one stage I may or may not have had pizza, chocolate fudge and lamb-shanks with a steamed pork bun on the side!
While I can’t deny that there are many genuine retro hotels in Surfers Paradise, for one with a swim-up bar and much nicer sheets, QT Gold Coast is hard to beat.
When people talk about wanting to get away from it all, more often than not a country day-trip is all they had in mind. While that’s all perfectly fine and good, for those who take their “hermit chic” aspirations seriously, this house is for you!
Welcome to the north-west coast of Tasmania, four hours drive from Hobart or a one hour flight from Melbourne. A holiday here is no mere re-location of your urban lifestyle; there are no fashionable restaurants, no Mona-style art galleries or trendy holiday villages. Instead, there are miles of wild beaches and super-green hills, farmers toiling the famous red soil, and very, very few tourists. It’s one of those rare areas that remains truly undiscovered, for better or worse.
For me however, this trip was actually a home-coming, having grown up in the area. Even so, I was looking forward to a new experience – a night’s stay at the whimsically named “Winged House“. In a race against the setting sun, we twisted our way through the back-roads of Table Cape, before finally catching our first glimpse of the house perched on it’s cliff overlooking the sea.
Designed by architect Richard Goodwin, this unique holiday home embraces it’s seclusion and welcomes the elements, which in this part of the world could mean anything! Floor to ceiling windows encourage contemplation, either in the lounge by the fireplace or from the deep bathtub at the opposite end of the house. Guests are supplied with local wine and Red Cow Dairy cheese, and these, combined with patchy mobile reception, mean there’s nothing for it but to really, totally, stop and enjoy. For more active types, there’s a rough-and-ready path leading down the hill, through the Tea Tree forest, over a stream and through the grass to the black basalt rocks that ring the coast-line. Giant, cup-shaped sponges, red anemones and pearl-like strings of seaweed are the reward.
Despite the comfort of bed, it’s worth rising early to catch the sun appearing over the horizon, casting its golden reflection on the water. If you’re inclined to explore further, the nearby village of Boat Harbour is picture perfect; it’s compact hillside collection of ‘shacks’ and crescent-shaped beach recalling Mediterranean gems, but without the crowds. Or, for a lesson in local history, venture into the rust-coloured Sisters Hills which play host to several Aboriginal caves and middens.
I may be biased, but I think this stretch of coastline is one of the loveliest in Tasmania and consequently, Australia. It’s amazing to me that such a place exists with only the locals to appreciate it, but that’s how they like it, and if you’re craving some solitude, that’s how you’ll like it too.
All pics by Sean Fennessy
Like many cities, Seoul is divided in geography and perhaps (a little) in attitude, by a river. The Han snakes through the heart of the city, and is integral to it’s identity. In vastly over-simplified terms, Gangbuk (north) is the older, slightly unruly sibling of shiny new upstart Gangnam (south). Naturally, south-side is home to the glamorous Park Hyatt, our destination for the day. We had come to try the hotel’s signature Bingsu (a shaved ice milk desert) at The Lounge restaurant, and to take a tour of this impressive boutique-style hotel, renowned for it’s pared-back, elegant style.
Above: Striking entrance to conference area. Below: Details from the Presidential Suite.
The Bingsu was good, but the hotel is exceptional. The tone is set when, following an ear-popping ride to the 24th floor lobby, the doors slide open to reveal incredible wraparound city views – an unexpected treat and reason to visit in itself. Designed by Japanese architecture firm Super Potato in 2005, and positioned high above a major thoroughfare, all guest-rooms have floor-to-ceiling windows capturing those buzzing city views. To balance this outlook, the style of the interiors is super simple and, if I may say so, even ‘zen’.
This is a hotel that gets the details right; the decor is modern and streamlined while subtly referencing a more traditional Korean style. The (amazing!) Presidential Suite features beautifully carved wooden screens and carefully selected Korean antiques sitting alongside otherwise modern pieces. Plus, it has the world’s most dramatic bathtub which is basically giant, hollowed out boulder! Moving downstairs, the darkly ambient ‘Timber House’ bar, besides boasting an impressive whiskey menu, serves almost as an informal museum. The walls, which at first glance appear merely textural, soon reveal artfully arranged collections of ceramics, antiquated farming equipment and even preserved pumpkins. It’s a clever way to combine history and design without being overly precious about it. Add in a crazy sky-high pool and two excellent restaurants and you’ve got yourself a fancy-pants hotel that somehow manages to function as a relaxing retreat, even with those views serving as a constant reminder that you literally have one of the world’s coolest cities at your feet.
Above: View from lobby.
Above: The Timber House bar.
Above: Pool on the 24th floor.
Above and below: The Presidential Suite.
Below: The Lounge restaurant / Pat Bingsu.
The Park Hyatt is certainly a high-end hotel, although standard rooms are reasonably priced. If you want to splurge for a couple of nights this is a good option, and if not you can always drop in for some Bingsu and watch the world go by.
All photographs by Sean Fennessy, except the final pair courtesy Park Hyatt hotel.
Being the design nerd that I am, I’m head over heels for the Lost & Found temporary hotel room that’s happening in Melbourne right now. Alas, as a local I don’t have much reason to stay there, and anyway, reservations are by ballot only. But oh, I must mention, if you’re lucky enough to be selected it’s free – no kidding!
Now in it’s second year, the room has been set up in the airy space above Captains of Industry cafe (I could do a whole other post on their ‘Knuckle’ sandwich) where it has been filled with the very best Melbourne has to offer in terms of design, art and other treats. Here’s the roll call: Grandfathers Axe, Aesop, ffiXXed, Utopian Slumps, Monsieur Truffe, Mud, Dedece, Thonet, Cecilia Fox, Cibi, Daniel Barbera, Plumm, Mr Kitly, Living Edge, Humble Vintage, Magnation, World Food Books, Shelley Panton, St AlBans, Nicholas Gardner, Dalzotto, Yarra Valley Dairy, Dawn Press.
The hotel room was created and curated by Right Angle for Tourism Victoria. I think it’s great to see the government backing such an original and cool idea, don’t you?
Now all that’s left to do is look at the pretty pictures.
*Photos by Warwick Baker courtesy Tourism Victoria
After a 90 minute drive from Hobart through bushland, country towns and finally, the winding coastline of eastern Tasmania, we arrived at Avalon. This glass enclosed, designer retreat is no secret to locals, and has been quietly doing it’s thing for around five years now (and picking up a bunch of awards in the process). Designed by architect Craig Rosevear, it makes an instant impression, perched on a headland overlooking Great Oyster Bay with the rolling shapes of the Hazards visible in the distance. It’s the kind of place where you don’t feel the need to go anywhere because the view is so compelling, but if you want to, the nearby sea-side town of Swansea and Freycinet National Park make excellent diversions.
The day we visited the weather was overcast, with temperamental showers blowing through from time to time. The sea was grey, the sky was grey, and the manager, Alison, kindly lit the fire for us. That’s the best thing about Avalon; the way the wild exterior and the modern interior meet.
Later on, we wandered down a narrow, worn track to the secluded beach at the base of the hill. If you want to, there are wetsuits and boards provided to guests, but we were content to scramble over rocks and admire the washed-up shells.
Avalon sleeps six, provides a fully stocked kitchen and, impressively, you can even summon your own private chef if the mood strikes (they don’t keep him in the cupboard or anything – he’ll drive over from Swansea!)
Avalon also have a sister property, Rocky Hills Retreat, which is hidden up in the hills nearby.
*All photography by Sean
This is the first in a semi-regular series of hotel feature posts called ‘Stay’, where we’ll share with you our favourite hotels and their neighbourhoods. While we’re not opposed to the occasional splurge, we think that a memorable hotel doesn’t need to be expensive or trendy – it just needs a certain character, a story, or an interesting location. Generic will not do!
With this in mind, we’ve dug into the archives to share a visit to Life Heritage Resort in Hoi An, Vietnam.
Hoi An is an historic river town near the coast in central Vietnam. It’s a very popular tourist destination, and if you have an aversion to mass-tourism you could be forgiven for a certain wariness about visiting. But actually, it’s delightful.
There are heaps of excellent restaurants serving region-specific dishes and several well-regarded cooking schools. Hoi An is also known for its tailors (which I made very good use of!) and certain parts of town are world heritage listed, being some of the only surviving pre-war architecture in the area. Add to this its proximity to beaches and other day trips like My Son and you have a well-rounded destination. But then again, if you want to do nothing, Life Heritage is a pretty good place to do it.
Above: River journey and lesson at Red Bridge cooking school
The resort was was modern, clean and comfy, and located right on the river near town. There were complementary bikes, a big pool with cocktails on hand, an airy cafe (Austrian themed, randomly) and complementary massages. Despite my intentions, some serious time was spent reading magazines by the pool, and I didn’t even feel guilty. Life Heritage has stated that their respect for the environment leads them to design resorts that blend, rather than contrast with the environment. It was undeniably serene, but I would encourage them to take this environmental focus further and reduce the huge amount of plastic water bottles that they provide guests with.
I think though, that despite the indulgence of the hotel, my favourite memory is of riding bikes around smaller residential streets of the town at dusk. As tourists we were (understandably) a constant target for hawkers, but on my bike I felt anonymous. Most houses had their doors and windows open, and we could see whole families and neighbours lounging around on any available surface, absorbed in the world cup on tv.
*All photos by Sean & Jess