A few years back, several cities commissioned several artists to create statues of cows that would be placed around said cities in strategic spots. As pedestrians wandered around, they could see the differently designed plaster bovines and marvel at the varying artistic accomplishments. As pop art goes, it was pretty cool, and certainly great for conversation.
Taking their cue from that endeavor, Tourism Australia commissioned Australian artists to decorate plaster kangaroos, and the statues were placed throughout the ATE trade show floor. (They're automatically cooler than cows, because they're kangaroos.) Here's hoping they make their way onto the streets of the cities so pedestrians can enjoy them as well.
So! As promised, here is the state-of-the-States of Victoria and Tasmania... and some updates from a few Australian hotels.
Victoria & Tasmania
Melbourne is, understandably, the hub of Victoria’s tourism scene, but there is plenty to do beyond the city. Emma Miller of Tourism Victoria pointed out that sports travel is big in Melbourne, especially for golf. Wildlife fans can watch the penguins on Phillip Island (they can even take night-vision goggles to see them run around at night), visit a koala sanctuary or see fur seals on a beach. And after all that wildlife, the Yarra Valley wine region has some good vintages, Miller added.
A full forty percent of Tasmania (www.discovertasmania.com) is World Heritage protected, making it an ideal destination for nature fanatics. It’s also the one place in the world where animal lovers can see the Tasmanian devil in its natural environment (and, for the record, the Devil is becoming increasingly endangered due to a contagious cancer). A new golf course is due to open on the Barnboogle Dunes, a new museum dedicated to both classic and contemporary art (aptly named MONA—the Museum of Old and New Art) will open in January with a $200 million collection, and several new hotels and spas are in the works.
The Hotels: Part One
One of those new hotels opened just as ATE got started. Saffire is a high-end new property on Tasmania’s east coast. The main building looks either like a stingray or a gentle wave on a lake, depending on one’s perspective. The property has 20 suites that face Great Oyster Bay and the Hazards Mountains. Cool touch: The three-room spa mixes sapphire dust into its products.
The Windsor is the last five-star Victorian hotel in Melbourne, says General Manager David Perry. (It was built in 1883.) In those years, it has managed to remain unique and hold on to its old-fashioned style. “Major brands are in danger of becoming homogeneous,” Perry said. “A buffet is nice, but you’re not supposed to serve yourself. You’re supposed to have everything you want brought before you ask.” The orange juice at the hotel, he adds, is genuinely fresh-squeezed, and the tea they serve is their own unique blend. A renovation will launch in April 2012, and though details are mum at the moment, Perry did say that they will be adding a new tower and removing a wing that was added in the 1960s.
Kate Fowler, director of sales at The Langham, Melbourne, says that travelers have affairs with Sydney, but want to marry Melbourne. The hotel is on the north side of the city, close to the main shopping and nightlife hubs. (Fowler recommends Fiona Sweetman for shopping tours.) The hotel, she says, was designed to be a Victorian mansion, and today eschews modernity in favor of classic elegance and plenty of outdoor space. (The one concession to modern styles is the hotel’s Melba Restaurant, which focuses on local seafood.)
In the Blue Mountains, the Lilianfels Resort and Spa is an 85-room property 90 minutes from Sydney by car or train. The resort has a day spa with outdoor treatments, and just completed a soft refurbishment. Next door is its sister property, Echoes, a 14-room contemporary property aimed at families and couples. Guests of one property can cross-dine at the other, just to keep things fresh.