Travel Tips – Northern Territory with Mitch

Earlier in 2017 my partner and I travelled to the Northern Territory for two weeks of road tripping with another couple. We hired a 4wd from Darwin and set our sights a few thousand kilometres away in The Kimberley, along the rough and spectacular Gibb River Road.

I had never been further north than the Sunshine Coast nor further west than Moree. I don’t think I was alone having not travelled much in my native country and when I arrived in Darwin it felt like I had left Australia and was in another place. Perhaps it was because of the time taken to get to Darwin or maybe because of the extreme difference in heat and humidity. Darwin itself is a thriving, relaxed low-rise city. The coastline is basically all beautiful green space that overlooks turquoise water and offers a relieving cool breeze. This is where we spent our first evening sitting on a picnic rug sipping beers and watching the sunset. Sadly, we could not venture into the inviting water for a dip for fear of saltwater crocodiles.

Our road trip first took us south to the Litchfield National Park and to the small town of Adelaide River. Both were great icons of Australian bush and hospitality as we swam in water holes and camped at a farm station. Adelaide River has a surprising history as a World War 2 airfield and we joined thousands of people from all over the NT who gathered there for ANZAC Day.

We then headed south and west, for about 15 hours to the junction town of Kununurra. Here is one on of the best Aboriginal Art Galleries in the country and we spent many hours looking through amazing paintings from local artists. The landscape that surrounds Kununurra is nothing like I have ever seen, particularly on the east coast of Australia, or “where the sun comes up” as a few locals referred to it as.

We ventured south to the Purnululu National Park and started an overnight hike through the most amazing rock and valley formations that I have ever seen or imagined, called the Bungle Bungles. We walked for six hours into a valley that was created entirely from bee-hive like sandstone mounds that swept up the valley walls for hundreds of meters and filled your view in every direction. The whole time we walked, we saw no other people and camped on the sand next to a waterhole where it seemed as though you could see every star in the sky. I don’t think I have ever been somewhere quite so remote, so wild or so spectacular.

We reached the Gibb River Road 9 days after leaving Darwin (a few of those days filled with simply driving!) and enjoyed four relaxing days at an enormous station called El Questro. This station is used in the wet season as a working farm with thousands of cattle and as a tourist hub in the dry. We were lucky enough to arrive not long after the rain had subsided and so enjoyed many beautiful waterfalls amidst red rock valleys. There are also a number of running rivers where we tried our best to catch Barramundi – with no luck. The scenery was incredible and totally foreign to the Australian landscape familiar to me. I cannot wait to go back!

What’s On in February

Although the end of February also signals the end of summer, there is plenty happening throughout the second month of the year including Chinese New Year, Valentines Day and even and Undies Run (all in the name of charity of course) PLUS many more.

Newcastle

WHAT: Newcastle Lantern Walk
WHEN: Saturday 24 February 2018
WHERE: Honeysuckle Newcastle
INFO: https://www.lightupnewcastle.com.au/

Hunter Valley

WHAT: A Match with McGuigan
WHEN: Saturday 17 February 2018
WHERE: Crowne Plaza Hunter Valley
INFO: https://www.crowneplazahuntervalley.com.au/match-with-mcguigan

Sydney

WHAT: Lunar Lanterns
WHEN: 16 – 25 February 2018
WHERE: Circular Quay
INFO: https://whatson.cityofsydney.nsw.gov.au/posts/lunar-lanterns

WHAT: Valentine’s Day at Sydney Observatory
WHEN: Wednesday 14 February 2018
WHERE: Sydney Observatory
INFO: https://maas.museum/event/valentines-day-at-sydney-observatory-3/

WHAT: St George Open Air Cinema
WHEN: Various dates throughout February, check out their website for further info
WHERE: Fleet steps, Mrs Macquaries Point
INFO: http://www.stgeorgeopenair.com.au/

WHAT: Cupid’s Undies Run
WHEN: 18 February 2018
WHERE: Hyde Park
INFO: http://www.cupidsundierun.com.au/cities/sydney/ 

Blue Mountains

WHAT: The Roaring 20s Festival
WHEN: 2 – 25 February 2018
WHERE: Hydro Majestic Hotel
INFO: http://roaring20s.com.au/

Bowral

WHAT: The Mill Street Feast
WHEN: 16 February 2018
WHERE: The Mill
INFO: http://themillbowral.com.au/

Venue Spotlight – Kirkton Park Hotel Hunter Valley

Kirkton Park Hotel Hunter Valley is conveniently located two hours from the CBD making it perfect for short business trips. Ensuring conference venues in NSW that cater to all of your needs, all rooms can access video conferencing facilities, AV equipment, electronic whiteboards, lecterns, microphones and wireless internet. Your conference room will be set with care and attention to detail with the comfort and requirements of your delegates in mind, including the provision of complimentary pads, pens, mints and water.

As one of the leading conference venues in Hunter Valley, NSW, Kirkton Park offer a wide range of delegate packages to suit the needs of your group. From small meetings to larger functions that require a little more room to move, you are sure to find the ideal solution.

Conference Capacity: 144 Cabaret

Number of Accommodation Rooms: 70

Special/Unique Venue FeaturesWines, views and a local muse.

Imbibe the Hunter’s finest wines at Kirkton Park’s unique meeting experience, the ‘Pop-Up’ Cellar door. Choose your setting within our 70 acres, to enjoy a narrated journey from Chardonnay to Shiraz. Whether a wine connoisseur or an intrigued novice, this unique experience will invigorate and inspire the winemaker within.

Continue your evening with dinner under the stars in our elegant Rose Garden. Joining you, a true Hunter local, who will ensure your Hunter Valley experience, is truly one to remember.  Feel part of the Hunter family and embrace the beauty that is Kirkton Park.

Testimonials:

It’s now back in the office after a wonderful few days in the Hunter! I can’t thank you enough for the exceptional conferencing experience enjoyed by all of our team. From the location, accommodation and delicious meals to the wonderful and attentive staff – it certainly is an experience we will all remember. The Hotel’s organisational skills and attention to detail really made our Staff Retreat a most enjoyable experience”

Angela Luck – Lovatts Media
September 2017 

“In terms of feedback, I really can’t express enough what a splendid experience we had at Kirkton Park. The property is of course beautiful and the rooms are very well appointed. Little touches like the flowers on the table at dinner and unique experiences such as the backyard bonfire went down so well with the delegates. But I think what impressed us most was the outstanding service – right from the first moment on arrival, when staff formed a line to hand out room keys and greet us, it was all very warm and welcoming.  I was pleasantly surprised that I only had to place a barista coffee order once and then my order was remembered every time we had a break, without me needing to ask or remind of my coffee type.  It was evident that the staff are hospitality professionals – providing friendly smiles and service on each and every occasion, excellent presentation and even the very little things, such as serving F&B with one arm behind the back, that are the marks of quality. As the meeting planner, all arrangements were very easy and executed according to plan. I would jump at the chance to return the group there again in the future and hope to make that happen.”

Liz Huband, Liberty International Underwriters
May 2017

Contact the Conference Team to discuss your next conference:
Website
Email: Rachel Swain
Phone: 02 4993 1309

Take 5 With Pinnacle – Phil

If you’ve ever wondered what makes a Pinnacle Team Events facilitator tick then you have come to the right place! Each month we will be taking 5 minutes to chat with each of our facilitators about their lives both inside and outside of work.

Lead Facilitator – Phil Hoffman

What I love about being a Pinnacle Facilitator:
Having a laugh and meeting new and interesting people.

My favourite Pinnacle team event to facilitate:
Trivia nights – It’s a great way to see people interacting with each other and having fun in the process. There is always that little bit of competitive edge as well.

Most embarrassing moment as a Pinnacle facilitator:
None yet – I’m the new guy.

My favourite hobbies are:
Any water sport and doing anything with my 2 boys.

What I’m listening to at the moment/podcast recommendation:
I am new to this podcast world, but I am currently working my way through Richard Fidler’s “Conversations”.

What was the last book you read?:
Peppa Pig and the Big Red Train.

Favourite holiday?:
Cape York. I took my 8 year old son and Father-in-law on a massive road trip for 3 weeks with my parents in tow.

Have you ever had a nickname?:
Bozo

I am frightened by _____ :
Snakes

Favourite movie of all time:
I’m a bit of a Marvel nerd. (Avengers, Iron Man, Captain America etc)

First concert I went to:
Michael Jackson

If you could live anywhere, where would it be?:
Sunshine Coast QLD

What makes you angry:
People who embarrass and abuse others in an effort to make themselves look good.

What makes you laugh the most:
Friends

What song would you sing at karaoke night?:
The Gambler – Kenny Rogers

What’s on in January

With Summer in full swing it’s time to dust off the swimmers, sunscreen and mozzie repellent! It is officially festival season!

Newcastle

WHAT: Surfest
WHEN: 20 January – 25 February 2018
WHERE: Newcastle
MORE INFO: http://www.surfest.com

Sydney

WHAT: Sydney Festival
WHEN: 6 – 28 January 2018
WHERE: All over Sydney! Check out their website to plan your visit.
MORE INFO: www.sydneyfestival.org.au

WHAT: Yabun Festival
WHEN: 26 January 2018
WHERE: Victoria Park Camperdown
MORE INFO: http://yabun.org.au/


South Coast

WHAT: Illawarra Folk Festival
WHEN: 18 – 21 January 2018
WHERE: Bulli Showground
MORE INFO: http://www.illawarrafolkfestival.com.au/
WHAT: Sunset Cinema Wollongong
WHEN: From 27 December 2017 – 10 March 2018
WHERE: Wollongong Botanic Gardens
MORE INFO: https://www.sunsetcinema.com.au/wollongong

And if you’re in the mood for a road trip we would suggest checking out the annual Parkes Elvis Festival!

WHAT: Parkes Elvis Festival
WHEN: 10 – 14 January 2018
WHERE: Parkes, NSW
MORE INFO: http://www.parkeselvisfestival.com.au/

Travel Tips – New Zealand with Will

New Zealand is an adventurers paradise. The best way to experience the amazing wilderness and spectacular landscape of New Zealand is via one of their famous Great Walks. The NZ Department of Conservation (DoC) manage and maintain New Zealand’s nine Great Walks. The “walks” are premier tracks that pass through diverse and spectacular scenery. From native forests, lakes and rivers to rugged mountain peaks, deep gorges and vast valleys…there’s a Great Walk for everyone! Great Walks tracks are well formed and easy to follow. While most people prefer to explore on their own terms, guided trips offer a bit more comfort. Great Walks are accessible from major towns that are well serviced by local operators and accommodation and transport providers.

The Great Walks are:

  • Abel Tasman Coast Track
  • Heaphy Track
  • Kepler Track
  • Lake Waikaremoana Great Walk
  • Milford Track
  • Rakiura Track
  • Routeburn Track
  • Tongariro Northern Circuit

 

Happy walking!

Venue Spotlight – Crowne Plaza Newcastle

Located only 2 hours drive from Sydney, with air access to all capital cities, Newcastle provides an eclectic mix of entertainment, boutique shops, art emporiums, fabulous restaurants and cafes alongside a lively working harbour surrounded by spectacular swimming beaches. With its desirable views of the harbour, Crowne Plaza Newcastle offers the ultimate in relaxation and exploration whilst meeting your every need to create productive days.

Enviably positioned on the iconic Honeysuckle harbourfront, Crowne Plaza Newcastle is a welcoming and connected hub in the midst of the foreshore promenade, acknowledged in Tourism Hunter’s Hall of Fame for meetings and business tourism, Crowne Plaza Newcastle will make you feel welcomed from the moment you arrive.

Our dedicated  and experienced staff are ready to design a uniquely tailored event that best suits your needs. We believe our perfect location, world class beaches and gourmet produce can stimulate better thinking, eliminate distraction and immerse people in inspiring experiences.

Conference Capacity: 6 Meeting Rooms, the Grand Ballroom can cater up to 240 guests in a theatre set up style.
Number of Accommodation Rooms: 175 Suites
Special Features: Harbour Terrace
Connecting delegates with the iconic and tranquil harbourside setting, the Harbour Terrace provides a unique environment for delegates to relax and interact leaving them inspired and enhancing productivity and focus throughout the day. The unique outdoor setting is ideally suited to a morning yoga session for delegates, helping to set the tone for a creative day ahead. Or take in the sights and sounds of the Harbour as your delegates connect during an evening cocktail reception. Combine this unique setting with the finest region produce for a truly unforgettable evening.
Testimonial: “I would choose Crowne Plaza Newcastle again, the day went smoothly and Crowne Plaza was even able to accommodate our team activity facilitators, the planning of the event was an easy process, phone and email response very quick and nothing was to hard or too big of a problem, a great option for short or multiple days for business meetings.”

Contact the Conference Team to discuss your next conference:
Website
Email: Rachel Swain
Phone: 02 4907 5059

Take 5 With Pinnacle – Lincoln

If you’ve ever wondered what makes a Pinnacle Team Events facilitator tick then you have come to the right place! Each month we will be taking 5 minutes to chat with each of our facilitators about their lives both inside and outside of work.

Pinnacle Founder & Director – Lincoln Amidy

What I love about being a Pinnacle Facilitator:
I love being able to challenge behaviours and impacts within teams. All in the quest to help them be the best they can be

My favourite Pinnacle team event to facilitate:
Project pipeline followed by a Development Debrief

Most embarrassing moment as a Pinnacle facilitator:
Splitting my Pants on stage in front of 150 people

My favourite hobbies are:
Fitness, Beach with kids and Dirt bike Racing

What I’m listening to at the moment/podcast recommendation:
Lots of Meditation. Great app called Insight timer

What was the last book you read?:
The Ideal Team Player, Lencioni

Favourite holiday?:
Anything with my kids. Fiji

Have you ever had a nickname?:
Missing

I am frightened by _____ :
Sharks

Favourite movie of all time:
Pulp Fiction

First concert I went to:
Hunters and Collectors

If you could live anywhere, where would it be?:
Newcastle

What makes you angry:
People not taking responsibility for their actions

What makes you laugh the most:
My kids having fun

What song would you sing at karaoke night?:
Throw your arms around me- Hunters and Collectors

Food & Wine Picks for December

The end of the year is fast approaching which can only mean one thing… Silly season!
See our picks below for Christmas food & wine events happening in your area:

Newcastle

WHAT: Collective Christmas Party
WHEN: Saturday 16 December 2017
WHERE: The Edwards Bar
MORE INFO: alamodeevents.com.au/upcominevents/christmasparty

Hunter Valley

WHAT: ‘Tis the Season Christmas Dinner
WHEN: Sunday 10 & 17 December 2017
WHERE: The Verandah Restaurant
MORE INFO: http://www.verandahrestaurant.com.au/events-%26-tours/

WHAT: Christmas Lunch at Restaurant Botanica
WHEN: Monday 25 December 2017
WHERE: Spicers Retreat Hunter Valley
MORE INFO: Bookings Essential
https://spicersretreats.com/blog/events/region/hunter-valley-nsw/

WHAT: Christmas Day Luncheon
WHEN: Monday 25 December 2017
WHERE: Estate Tuscany
MORE INFO: http://estatetuscany.com.au/eat/christmas-day-2017/

WHAT: Christmas Eve Dinner, Christmas Day Lunch & Dinner
WHEN: Sunday 24 & Monday 25 December 2017
WHERE: Crowne Plaza Hunter Valley
MORE INFO: https://www.crowneplazahuntervalley.com.au/dining/dining-specials-and-events/festive-celebrations-hunter-valley/http://estatetuscany.com.au/eat/christmas-day-2017/

WHAT: Christmas 5 Course Al La Carte Lunch
WHEN: Monday 25 December 2017
WHERE: Circa 1876
MORE INFO: http://www.convent.com.au/events/escarpment-group-christmas-celebrations

Sydney

WHAT: Red Christmas Party
WHEN: Wednesday 13 December 2017
WHERE: Daltone House Darling Island
MORE INFO: http://www.doltonehouse.com.au/event/red-christmas-ball/

WHAT: Christmas Fare
WHEN: Thursday 14 December 2017
WHERE: Hyde Park Barracks Museum
MORE INFO: https://sydneylivingmuseums.com.au/events/christmas-fare

WHAT: Christmas Eve Dinner, Christmas Day Lunch & Dinner
WHEN: Sunday 24 & Monday 25 December 2017
WHERE: Intercontinental Double Bay
MORE INFO: https://www.icsydneydoublebay.com/home/whats-on

WHAT: Christmas Day Lunch
WHEN: Monday 25 December 2017
WHERE: Fratelli Fresh
MORE INFO: http://www.fratellifresh.com.au/whats-on/christmas-celebrations/

WHAT: Christmas Day
WHEN: Monday 25 December 2017
WHERE: Q Station Manly
MORE INFO: http://www.qstation.com.au/uploads/5/4/5/5/5455544/qs_xmas_2017_flyer_v2_web.pdf

Southern Highlands

WHAT: Christmas Lunch
WHEN: Monday 25 December 2017
WHERE: Milton Park
MORE INFO: http://www.miltonpark.com.au/whatson/milton-park-christmas-lunch

WHAT: Christmas Day
WHEN: Monday 25 December 2017
WHERE: Peppers Craigieburn
MORE INFO: https://www.peppers.com.au/Portals/3/PDF/Property/PeppersCraigieburn/Christmas-Day.pdf

WHAT: Christmas Feast
WHEN: Monday 25 December 2017
WHERE: Peppers Manor House
MORE INFO: https://www.peppers.com.au/Portals/3/PDF/Property/PeppersManorHouse/Peppers-Manor-House-Christmas-Feast-2017.pdf

WHAT: Christmas Buffet Extravaganza
WHEN: Monday 25 December 2017
WHERE: Gibraltar Hotel
MORE INFO: http://www.gibraltarbowral.com.au/news/christmas-lunch

WHAT: Christmas Lunch
WHEN: Monday 25 December 2017
WHERE: Biota Restaurant
MORE INFO: https://www.southern-highlands.com.au/events/whats-on/christmas-day-lunch-biota

South Coast

WHAT: Christmas Lunch Extravaganza
WHEN: Monday 25 December 2017
WHERE: Novotel Wollongong Northbeach
MORE INFO: http://novotelnorthbeach.com.au/What-s-On/celebrate-christmas-by-the-beach.html

WHAT: Christmas Lunch
WHEN: Monday 25 December 2017
WHERE: Sebel Harbourside Kiama
MORE INFO: http://www.sebelharboursidekiama.com.au/events

Travel Tips – Spain with Lincoln

One of the most amazing countries that I have ever travelled to is Spain. The culture and the country itself is all about diversity and passion. From the countryside to the cities the place oozes differences and fun. Food, music and siestas being the most memorable of those. For me the cities of Barcelona, San Sebastian and Madrid are amazing places and you could spend weeks in each of them exploring and getting off the well-travelled tourist path.

The two stand out memories for me are Tossa De Mar and the festival of La Tomatina.

Tossa De Mar is a quiet beach side village that we stumbled across when travelling in 1995. Amazing locals and the beach itself was almost as good as our Australian wonders. We spent 2 weeks here and the time flew by. Picturesque and very welcoming locals.

The festival of La Tomatina is held in a village called Buñol just outside of Valencia. You may have seen this on TV and as it shows it is absolute madness. The buildings are covered in plastic and large semi-trailers squeeze through the crowd and unload the tomatoes into the street. Then the fun begins and it becomes the largest food fight in the world. Goggles must be worn and the friendly fire ensues for 2 hours or so. Upon completion you are sticky but smiling and laughing with the locals and the tourists. The streets are then cleared and washed. Another hour after you would not have known it had even happened.

If I had the opportunity again that’s where I would go and do it all again.