Forget the winter doldrums. With a host of exciting openings and events happening in Australia and abroad, there’s no excuse for staying in or missing the fun. Take your pick from high-flying adventures in the Daintree to luxurious lodgings in London and South Africa and First Nations-inspired feasting at the Sydney Opera House.
Melbourne’s freshest festival lights up August
While it might seem as if there’s never a dull moment in Melbourne (Naarm), August can feel a tad quieter. But thankfully there’s a cure for that. The inaugural Now or Never festival kicks off on 17 August and for 17 days and nights it’ll bring heat, light and good humour to the southern capital (till 2 September).
Highlights include gigs in the World Heritage-listed Royal Exhibition Building spanning from R‘n’B singer Kelela to electronic music duo Autechre, 18 premiere events, more than 300 artists and even an art trail through the unloved Docklands area . Festivities continue day and night, from thought-provoking talks to 360-degree screenings in a domed cinema outside Melbourne Museum.
Peninsula Hotels debuts in the heart of London high society
After 35 years in the planning, the Peninsula London is poised to debut at Hyde Park Corner on 12 September. The hotel’s 190 rooms (and 25 private residences) sit behind an elegant façade of Portland stone that blends discreetly with its fancy Belgravia neighbours. Rooms start at a lordly 51 square metres with floor-to-ceiling views over London or the wisteria-crowned courtyard. Typically Peninsula, the accommodation is well specced with honey-onyx bathrooms, bedside controls and signature valet boxes. Exceptional dining includes the supercar-inspired Brooklands rooftop restaurant – with mod-Euro menus by Claude Bosi (Bibendum, Hibiscus) – and Chinese fine diner Canton Blue, a fever dream of willow porcelain and ceiling stars. Peninsula Afternoon Tea in the light-filled lobby will fast become a staple of London society.
It’s the newest way to see the world’s oldest rainforest. Tropical North Queensland operator Back Country Bliss has launched [Eds: May] its Unseen Daintree Heli Experience to immerse visitors deep into the World Heritage-listed Wet Tropics region. The full-day itineraries – for a maximum five guests – combine helicopter flights over the Jurassic jungle and back along the spectacular Pacific coast, landing at Yindilli Camp for a yarn and morning tea, a forest walkabout and barramundi lunch with Kuku Yalanji elder CJ and his wife Helen, followed by a leisurely snorkel drift down the Daintree River.
Indulge your wild side at South Africa’s vibrant new villa
Africa House is the latest lodge offering from The Royal Portfolio’s Liz and Phil Biden, South Africa's reigning monarchs of safari chic. Their six-bedroom former homestead emerged last month from a dazzling transformation, its interiors rich in African art, custom furnishings and bold, khaki-busting colour. Each bedroom has its own theme (hot pink and green, anyone?) with four-poster teak beds and lavish bathrooms, plus private bush decks. Elsewhere there are two bars, a horizon pool, gym and spa room. Dedicated staff arrange everything from gourmet meals to game drives, combining South Africa’s most qualified guides with surprisingly willing wildlife in the Thornybush Game Reserve, part of South Africa’s largest protected wilderness area.
Go native at the Sydney Opera House’s Hottest Restaurant
The most famous landmark of the Eora Nation, the Sydney Opera House, now has a restaurant that channels the city’s pre-colonial past. Bundjalung chef Mark Olive (as seen on TV’s The Outback Cafe) has just opened fine diner Midden in the western foyer where he marries native food and culture with contemporary techniques to create gourmet indigenous cuisine. On the plate, that means Sydney rock oysters with bush tomato and wattleseed vinaigrette, quandong-glazed chicken stuffed with warrigal greens, and strawberry gum panna cotta– all served with harbour and bridge views. Open for lunch and dinner daily; morning and high teas on Wednesdays and weekends.
Join the party at this grand old hotel in the Swiss Alps
What better excuse to escape to the Swiss Alps than a birthday party? Neo-Baroque beauty Grand Hotel Kronenhof turns 175 this year and, if you miss the gala long-weekend festivities (31 August to 3 September), there’s plenty else to celebrate including reimagined rooms by lauded French designer Pierre-Yves Rochon, summer forest concerts, horse riding through the Engadin valley and fondue parties in the hotel’s antique bowling alley. For the second year running, the Kronenhof will remain open throughout autumn into the peak winter season so guests can admire the changing larch leaves, best viewed from lobby windows framing the impressive Roseg Glacier.