Wine, Dine and Shine in South Australia

Barossa Landscape

South Australia has it all and combines these riches into regional bundles that are easy to manage, whether it means hubbing in Adelaide, sidetripping to Kangaroo Island, going on a mini-walkabout in the Flinders Ranges or heading into the scenic and quaint foothills of the local wine and food belt to taste what’s on the cutting edge of Australia’s culinary movement.

Adelaide gets much less attention from international visitors than it deserves. Its location in South Australia is 20 minutes from the beaches and Port Adelaide and at the same time 20 minutes from the hills of its celebrated wine country. With the Indian Pacific and Ghan rail lines at its doorstep, Adelaide makes a good starting point for travelers who want to head into the Great Red Center and onto the Northern Territory, or to the Western city of Perth. Similarly, Adelaide can be a terminus or starting place for rail trips to Melbourne and Sydney.

The town itself is a sleepy small city with plenty of attributes to be considered. The center of town is quite walkable with some 17 hotels within a few short blocks of each other, all buffered by open shopping promenades and markets, restaurants, museums and grand gardens. It was created in 1836 as a capital of the free British. Named for Queen Adelaide, the German consort of King William IV, the region saw an unusual influx of Germans to its shores, mostly fleeing persecution from the Prussian province of Silesia (modern day Poland). And they settled in the hills north of Adelaide where temperate climes created the perfect conditions for the blending of Cabernet Sauvignon and later, some the Australia’s most coveted Shiraz labels.

A bit of German history remains in such towns as Hahndorf, seen in the fachwerk buildings and cafes serving German fare. But folks roaming through the Adelaide Hills and the slopes of Barossa Valley are coming as much for the food as they are for the beauty. Australian is the fourth-largest exporter of wine in the world. It’s as big a part of the culture, as it is the economy and tourism. Visitors come for the kangaroos, the beaches and the wide-open spaces. But they also come for the wine.

Adelaide is surrounded by some of the country’s top wine regions: McClaren Vale, the Barossa Valley, and Coonawarra. In the Barossa, about an hour’s drive north of Adelaide, find what is considered Australia’s most famous winery: Penfolds, whose Grange, is possibly Australia’s most notable and expensive wine – pouring at a mere $125 a glass. The Shiraz (96%) and Cabernet Sauvignon blend retails at more than $400 a bottle.

For wine and food enthusiasts, a stop at Penfolds winery in Barossa is not only a must, it is a fun and unusual experience. The winery offers a laboratory where guests don white jackets, grab measuring flasks and bottles of Grenache, shiraz and cabernet and set forth to blend their own labels, getting messy and silly as the session wears on. The winery is often included on tours and group itineraries as a perfect icebreaker and one that allows guests to take home their own creations.

Beers is considered the Martha Stewart of Australia, although with a much more warmer appeal. She gained her fame in opening the Pheasant Farm Restaurant on the site, working magic with game and plying creative uses for her verjuice, which she sells by the riverful at her farm store on the same site. From her shop and restaurant she tapes shows and offers cooking demos of handpicked recipes. The stop is as popular with groups as it is with individuals, especially when cooking sessions are involved.

Travelers will find other attractions along the byways: Lyndock Lavender Farm, Jacob’s Creek Visitors Center, The House of Olives, the Barossa Farmers Market (Saturday mornings), Mengler Hill Lookout and the Williamstown Whispering Wall. It’s all put together through a South Australia Tourism concept called Barossa Butcher Baker Winemaker Trail, in maps and value card to highlight what the Barossa does with local ingredients. The trail leads to local wineries, bistros and dining venues and farm shops that offer intimate food and wine experiences and products made with traditional methods and ingredients. The trail provides a road not only to retailers and artisans, but also to special tours and gourmet themed programs, ongoing and seasonal. Brochures and maps can be found at visitor centers in Adelaide and Barossa.

Closer in, the Adelaide Hills east of Adelaide presents a lovely drive through 19th century European villages and historic mining towns. Mount Lofty Summit has the views over Adelaide Plains, complemented by a shady botanic garden. Nearby Warrawong Wildlife Sanctuary has the potoroos, the platypuses, the bilbies, bandicoots and bettongs and, of course, kangaroos. Food lovers will want to visit Birdwood Wine & Cheese Centre for samplings of artisan cheeses and boutique wines, and have lunch at the Locovore Restaurant in Stirling, where only foods grown, made or distilled within a 100-mile radius are served. From the artsy village of Stirling it’s an easy drive to Hahndorf for quality crafts and galleries, and delightful cheeses. Beyond its nearly three dozen cellar doors, the area is dotted with a smattering of unusual finds: Fairyland Village in Lobenthal, the National Motor Museum in Birdwood, Melba’s Chocolate Factory at Woodside, the 54-foot-high rocking horse at Gumeracha … all about 20 minutes from the center of town.

Life is a Cabernet offers tailor-made tours from Adelaide into McLaren Vale, Clare Valley and the Barossa with great guidance from local wine and food lovers who are characters in their own right. Rates for customized private tours run $71 USD/hr, minimum four hours.

A Taste of South Australia provides full-day food and wine tours of the Barossa and McLaren Vale for apprx. $350 USD. It also offers comprehensive multi-day tours with car and driver and entrée to some exclusive spots. A very unusual option with plenty of appeal is the locally hosted dinner option that allows guests to enjoy a home-cooked gourmet dinner in the home of a local resident. Groups can reserve the local dinner option for $79 per person with a minimum of 8 guests (maximum 16) including transfers. Guests are asked to bring their own wine, however


To the Ends of the Earth…MV Orion

MV Orion

Ok, here’s remote: this continent only allows 100 people to be on it at one time – and that includes the dozen or so odd lots that live there on and off.

It’s not a hard riddle to answer but it is a steep challenge to become one of those 100.

Antarctica is closer than most people think – 4,152 miles from Chile, but only 3,394 miles from New Zealand as the crow flies. And that takes you to the shelf’s more isolated reaches of Cape Denison, the site of Sir Douglas Mawson’s untouched hut from the historic 1911-1913 expedition.

“It’s not just that this place is inaccessible,” says marine biologist Mick Fogg. “The fact is that more people have been to the top of Everest than have visited this historic hut and once you get there it’s like the explorers never left. Everything is exactly as it was a hundred years ago!”

Fogg is just one of the guiding lights aboard the MV Orion, an 106-passenger expedition yacht that plies the seas in search of the earth’s most remote places. It spends most of its time moving around the South Pacific – from Australia’s top end to Indonesia and Borneo to Papua New Guinea and south to New Zealand, Antarctica and the islands in between. It’s a zodiac-carrying vessel that drops anchor when an intriguing island is in sight and sends the rafts out to the beaches for exploration. It’s a green kind of trip that brings needed cargo to remote villages and islands along the way and allows passengers to get an intimate view of rarely seen cultures.

But it is also a luxurious vessel that passengers return to at the end of a hot and grueling day climbing through canyons in Arnhem Land in search of 15,000-year-old graffiti; or wandering still rainforests in search of endangered primates in Borneo; or seeking out the secrets of sake and vodka in Japan and the Russian Far East.

The Orion is a purpose built ship able to take on the earth and its challenges, but keeping a standard of luxury in place at all times. Only about 50 couples (and some rooms and suites can accommodate families) come aboard for the seven- to 21-night cruises. Rooms have ocean views, marble bathrooms, complimentary 24-hour room service, flat screen TVs, DVD/CD players, internet connectivity, a personal safe, hairdryer and a mini-refrigerator continuously stocked with bottled water. Even the smallest stateroom (175 square feet) has a view.

Ships sale with a cadre of specialists and natural history buffs on board, and seminars, both on and off the ship, are in constant activity. For its size, the ship still fits it all in – the gym, the spa, the library, the boutique, the salon, the bars, the restaurants, the observation lounges and the lecture hall. No, there is no Vegas-style show on this trip. Just the dry stuff of scholars and travelers. Also, not everything is included with the tariff. Many excursions are, and many are not. Similarly, spirits and fine wines can be purchased on board. Massage treatments start at around $70. Internet runs around $30 an hour.

Excursion rates tend to run on the high side, starting at around $10,000 per couple for the bottom category stateroom on a seven-night expedition through the Great Barrier Reef, for example. But inventory sells out quickly and the company is launching a sister ship next May: the all-suite Orion II, which will make its maiden voyage on a 24-day cruise from Vancouver to Japan before making a home in Southeast Asia and focusing on Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Japan’s Inland Sea and Indonesia.


Top 10 Reasons to have a Destination Wedding

Barcelo Maya Palace Wedding Gazebo

1. Save Money – Traditional wedding can cost several times the amount of a destination wedding 

2. Do Something Different – Forgo a typical wedding in favor of a unique and memorable experience 

3. Have the Best of Both Worlds – Combine your wedding and honeymoon into one beautifully planned celebration 

4. Crowd Control – Bring along the whole family for a fun celebration, or make it just the two of you 

5. Stress-Free Planning – Your Travel Consultant will work directly with the resort’s wedding coordinators 

6.  Perfect for Second Marriages – Scale it down the second time around and go somewhere special to wed 

7. Neutral Setting – Instead of getting involved in potential family drama, choose a neutral setting 

8. So Much to See and Do – With the many on-site activities at resorts, plus off-site fun, your guests will keep busy 

9. Celebrate Longer – Traditional weddings last 5 hours while a destination wedding fun can go much longer 

10. Expand on a Theme – Incorporate your love of the beach, the snow, your heritage, or something else special to you 

When you are ready to get started planning your beautiful Destination Wedding, give us a call at 310-722-3099 or send us a email at Info@carterelitetravel

 We are certified Destination Wedding and Honeymoon Specialists, so we treasure each and every bride we have the opportunity to assist in making their wedding a dream come true! 

Destination Wedding and Honeymoon Specialist Certificate

The Red Center & Outback

The Red Center & Outback

Every year, millions of people visit Alice Springs to experience “the real Australia.” Everyone from backpackers to luxury travelers visits this town to walk among the native palm and gum trees, and to see first-hand one of the world’s most beautiful and most rugged terrains.

But no worries about having to rough it while in Alice Springs! The pioneer town has evolved into “the capital of the Outback”, a thoroughly modern small city (population about 25,000, 17% Aboriginal), with first-class resorts, excellent dining, golf, shopping and many art galleries.

While convenient and attractive, however, the modern amenities pale in comparison to the allure of the Outback, the Australian frontier that was once just as wild as the American West.

Visiting Ayer’s Rock is an absolute must when you’re in Alice Springs. Known as Uluru and considered sacred by the Aboriginal tribes that have inhabited the land for more 20,000 years, this massive sandstone formation is the Outback’s answer to the Grand Canyon.

Climbing the rock is a sacrilege to natives, so sign up for a base tour or trek to get a close-up look at the natural springs, caves, and ancient rock paintings.

Other nearby sites of interest include the sand dunes of the Simpson Desert, the hiking trails and ghost towns of the MacDonnell Range, and the domed rock formations of Kata Tjuta.

Central Australia lies in both the heart of Australia, and the hearts of Australians. It holds one of the most culturally significant icons of Aboriginal and Australian culture, Uluru/Ayers Rock, as well as the true Outback spirit that makes this country great.

Some of our suggestions:

*Crowne Plaza Alice Springs

* Aurora Alice Springs

* Voyages Alice Springs

* Voyages Longitude 131

Give us a call today to book your vacation escape to The Red Center and Outback at 310-722-3099 or email us at

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