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John Rozentals checks out the week’s travel bargains.

September 7, 2020 Travel Deals No Comments Email Email

Is it a bird? Is it a plane? Or is it… the first-ever hot air balloon to fly across the Snowy Mountains from Thredbo? Those looking up on August 26 were gobsmacked to see not one, but two hot air balloons in the alpine sky.

The two multi-coloured bobbing hot-air balloons were the brainchild of Balloon Aloft, a hot-air-balloon operator from Canberra.

With approval from National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) and Kosciuszko Thredbo (Thredbo), the hot air balloons departed Thredbo and floated across the Kosciuszko National Park down the Crackenback Valley towards Jindabyne.

Craig Farrell of Balloon Aloft said the idea was a result of a long-held desire to fly a balloon over snow; a very unusual experience in Australia. After a few discussions with a fellow Canberra balloonist about the most scenic place to launch they chose Thredbo, then researched the best conditions for the flight.


 The Outback by the Sea Festival: bringing blues to Karumba.

The 10-day Outback by the Sea Festival, celebrating the legendary barramundi and live blues music at the Les Wilson Barramundi Discovery Centre in Queensland’s Karumba, will be held September 25 to October 5.

Activities include market stalls, guided Barramundi feeding tours, workshops, performances and more.

Pamper your dog at Crystalbrook’s Surry Hills Little Albion.

Calling all furry friends — Crystalbrook has launched the ‘Plush Pup Package’, complete with a doggie butler, stylist and day-spa experience, at Surry Hills Little Albion, Sydney, from September 1.

The pooch pampering will begin on arrival with bakery treats followed by a day of exploring Surry Hills.

The hotel’s ‘A pup’s ultimate guide to Sydney’ will ensure guests hit all the best dog-friendly parks, cafes and bars on offer.

And treat your pup to a trip to Dogue Bondi for a styling session and be fitted for the latest in dog accessories and apparel.

And there’s plenty more in the package which starts at $995.


 Howard Park’s Wine Chapel: four private tasting experiences.

Howard Park’s Wine Chapel in Western Australia is again hosting private wine and culinary experiences for discerning wine-and-food lovers.

The program was launched earlier this year but put on hold due to covid-19 restrictions.

Guests can again sip and sup their way through four private tasting experiences In the luxurious surrounds of the winery’s private Wine Chapel.

Howard Park is known as West Australia’s house of sparkling so what is claimed as Margaret River’s only méthode-traditionelle tasting experience will be a must for bubbles lovers.

Marron is one of the region’s most sought-after local delicacies and Howard Park has paired the freshwater crustacean with other delicious native foods, matched with a generous array of its wine, for a Bacchanalian-inspired feast provided by a private chef.

Phone 08 9756 5200 or visit

 contemporary elegance.

Sofitel Auckland Viaduct Harbour will reopen in spring after an extensive makeover that combines its French luxury and art-de-vivre heritage with contemporary elegance.

Overlooking Waitemata Harbour, the hotel has been a preferred destination for celebrities, politicians and guests since 2012. The hotel’s makeover program is testament to its commitment to uncompromising service and elegance.

The refurbishment of all facets of Sofitel Auckland Viaduct Harbour, including lobby, reception, bar, café, restaurant and Sofitel Spa, is underway.

New to the hotel will be the addition of Sofitel’s Club Millésime, comprising an elevated range of privileges, services and rituals for the discerning traveller, including a lounge retreat.


 Nazuna Kyoto Tsubaki St: a luxury contemporary ryokan.

Kyoto, Japan’s former capital with over 1200 years of history, is home to traditional townhouses, (known as Kyo Machiya) a symbol of Kyoto’s unique lifestyle culture refined over many generations.

In the modern world of changing priorities many Machiya were demolished and lost, but in Kyoto City efforts are being made to preserve and extend the life of remaining Machiya, recognizing them as valuable cultural assets.

The Machiya is often called an “eel bed” because it has a long depth, and inside, a room runs along the street, and there is a courtyard and a backyard.

Nazuna Kyoto Tsubaki St is a luxury contemporary ryokan, opened earlier this year.

The property was developed by renovating an entire L-shaped alleyway of Machiya buildings dating back over 110 years.


 American Queen: a fully working, six-deck recreation of a classic, steam paddlewheeler.

Put on your dancing shoes and rock ’n’ roll down America’s iconic rivers of rhythm on a new music-themed river cruise from Louisville to Memphis aboard an authentic steamboat paddle-wheeler as part of a new, all-inclusive cruise package offered by the American Queen Steamboat Company and Cruise Traveller.

The ‘Music of the 50s and 60s’ river-cruise package begins in Louisville, Kentucky, in August next year and travellers can save up to US$1800 per couple if they book by September 30.

After a free night’s accommodation in Louisville, guests will board the 417-passenger American Queen — a fully working, six-deck recreation of a classic, steam paddlewheeler — as it travels south along the Ohio and Mississippi rivers with music and onboard events celebrating the best of the 50s and 60s.

Highlights of the cruise include the birthplace of Abraham Lincoln at Brandenburg, the distillery-filled city and historical mecca of Owensboro, and the musical metropolis of Memphis, home to the King of rock ’n’ roll, Elvis Presley.

The cruise ends in Memphis where a new, optional,  end-of-cruise city stay package costing US$699 per person twin-share, offers two nights at Memphis’ iconic and historic Peabody Hotel, including daily breakfast.

The eight-night  package includes a night’s accommodation pre-cruise, the seven-night river cruise, guided, hop-on-hop-off shore excursions, locally-inspired gourmet meals, wine and beer with dinners onboard and also gratuities onboard, and is priced from US$2235 per person twin-share.

Phone 1300 680 374 or visit

NOTE: Potential travellers should check the status of individual events and establishments with regard to the coronavirus outbreak.

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