Archive for August, 2011

the melbourne sydney coastal road trip

the melbourne sydney coastal road trip

August 30, 2011  |  life, travel tips and tales  |  No Comments

People often remark that we’re lucky to have two of the world’s best cities separated only by a 75 minute flight. However, they may not appreciate the quality of the experiences offered by the coastal road journey between the two. You can do it in 12 hours hard driving, but if that’s the aim, take the Hume and do it in 9! Tackling the Prince’s Highway over two days is a better option, and even longer with side trips.

There’s plenty of information available about popular stopovers on this route, so this post focuses on some of the secrets, starting from Melbourne. The first secret is at Yarragon, which may be a little early for the first coffee.  However, it boasts an excellent art and craft gallery featuring many well-known Australian artists. It’s called Town and Country Gallery and is open 10 to 5pm daily.

On the way to Bairnsdale you can consider two paths off the beaten track. One is Walhalla – turn off at Moe – and immerse yourself in some gold mining history. The drive and scenery are spectacular as well, taking the return journey towards the Prince’s Highway at Traralgon. Walhalla – a sleepy town with 20 residents-  portrays life as it was in the gold rush when 4000 miners sought their fortune. There are plenty of quality B&B’s if you want to stay longer in the area.

The other detour to consider is the Heyfield turnoff after Traralgon – drive through Heyfield, Tinamba, Maffra and reconnect with the Prince’s Highway at Stratford.  It’s a pretty drive through dairy and grazing land and Maffra is considered to have one of the prettiest main streets in Victoria.

In the heart of East Gippsland, Bairnsdale on the Mitchell River, flags the turn off to Lakes Entrance. Enjoy one of the world’s great views as you climb down Brown Mountain to the point where the Gippsland Lakes meets the Tasman Sea at Lakes Entrance. Situated on the northern end of the ninety-mile beach, Lakes is a fishing village, tourist haven and focal point for surf and nature based activities.

As you journey on through Orbost (where there’s a good café on the eastern outskirts) to Cann River, you could dream about the splendid isolation and amazing fishing offered by places that are signposted on the way – idyllic coastal hamlets like Cape Conran, Marlo and Bemm River. You might even then be tempted to turn off the main road and see Mallacoota – Victoria’s eastern most town and surely its best kept secret. The town of 1000 people swells to 8000 regular holiday makers in the summer as people flock to the heart of the Croajingalong National Park. In my view, it is one of the most beautiful coastal settings in the world, combined with a wealth of experiences in which to become totally immersed.

Eden is always a good place to stop for a break – but you need to turn right and go to the fishing harbour at the east of the town. Great ocean views, the smell of salt water and fish, a good coffee, and even some reasonable fish and chips are available at this point. Further along the track, I strongly suggest turning off the highway at Pambula and taking the coastal drive through Merimbula and Tathra to Bermagui. You’ll miss Bega and the Bega Valley, but the track between Merimbula and Narooma is probably one of the most beautiful and unspoilt parts of the NSW coast. The 35km trek between Tathra and Bermagui is a good example, with turnoffs to incredible places like Bithry Inlet and a drive past Cutagee beach.

Bermagui is my town! A preserved and stunningly beautiful town of 3000 people off the main highway, Bermagui still has the fishing village feel. It’s the closest point of Australia to the Continental shelf, one of the reasons the fishing there is legendary.  There’s always a sheltered beach to be found, the golf course is excellent and there’s plenty to do. Climb Mount Gulaga, swim at the famous Blue Pool, check out Tilba and Cobargo, and dine at the delightful Il Passagio restaurant – after a glass of wine at the Horse and Camel – and check out accommodation options from Julie Rutherford.

Narooma is a pretty town with a famous golf course. It has become quite a retirement centre now. It boasts the best coffee on the entire trip at Montague Coffee on the northern outskirts of the town, just before the bridge. Bateman’s Bay (and suburbs) has become huge – partly due to its popularity with Canberrians. There’s a good local hospital and retail facilities, and some pretty little coves and beaches as you go south. Just north of Bateman’s Bay, there is a roadside café at a little place called East Lynne. You simply MUST stop and buy a family sized apple pie straight from the oven – or indulge in one of the pies and sausage rolls. Without argument, the best in Australia, and I’m not given to hyperbole!

Instead of just staying on the highway at Ulladulla, take a small detour through Mollymook which only adds ten minutes to the trip. If you’re hungry at Milton, stop at Pilgrims Vegetarian café for some of the best fare on the south coast. Once past Nowra, the traffic builds and the trip starts to become more of an ordeal. Then all of a sudden Berry snaps you out of thoughts that you’re in the outskirts of Sydney. It’s a pretty town with a famous sourdough bakery. It’s possible to turn off at Berry and take the home stretch through Kangaroo Valley and Bowral – it might add an hour to the trip, but it’s a beautiful drive. If you decide to go through Wollongong, there is still one more decision to take – stay on the Highway or take the much slower Grand Pacific Drive that now boasts a new road between Scarborough and Stanwell Park – what NSW claims as the answer to the Great Ocean Road (which is a huge over statement).  If time pressures prevail, this option can also be a day drive or return train trip from Sydney. I suggest the train.

Back in the big smoke, one thing is certain – you’ll be planning the next trip south to explore the many experiences that you missed due to the deadline. Melbourne to Sydney – or the reverse – with its myriad of tangents is really one of the great journeys of the world.

fine australian wines under $20

fine australian wines under $20

August 25, 2011  |  wine review  |  1 Comment


In early July, I published 30 great wines under $20. Some of those wines have now sold out so here’s a supplementary list (late August 2011) of 13 reds and 14 whites. Each and every wine represents excellent value for money.

James Halliday’s Wine Companion is normally a good source for value wines at this time of year, however, within days of the book launch, most of his recommendations in the “value list” had sold out or were on to the next vintage. This list provides a direct link to suggested wines at particular retailers – at the cheapest prices I could find. I make no apology for the fact that there is a strong showing from Dan Murphy’s (Woolworths, national), Vintage Cellars (Coles, national) and the privately owned Kemeny’s (Sydney) –  serious wine retailers with very competitive pricing; and Cloudwine (Melbourne), a brilliant boutique wine specialist stocking products that don’t show up in mainstream retail. Some other wines have suggested on line distributors. By the way, some of the listed products would not make the $20 cut-off point at recommended retail prices. Don’t you just love competition?


The best two sparklings are the ones on the original list – and still available. Try also

  • Dal Zotto “Pucino” King Valley Prosecco Non-Vintage $19.50 Cloudwine
  • Hardy’s Limited Cellar Release Yarra Valley Pinot Noir Chardonnay Pinot Meuniere 2008 $17 exclusive to Vintage Cellars. One of Ed Carr’s gems.


  • Dandelion “Wonderland of the Eden Valley” Riesling 2010 $20 Cloudwine
  • Moppity “Lock and Key” Single Vineyard Hilltops Riesling 2010 $15 topwineries


Chardonnay is still the king of white varieties, with some magnificent entries below:

  • Armchair Critic “Under and Over” Tumbarumba Chardonnay $13 Cloudwine – fantastic Chardonnay region
  • Plunkett Fowles “Stone Dwellers” Chardonnay 2010 Strathbogie $19.90 Dan Murphy’s
  • Moppity Vineyards Tumbarumba Chardonnay 2008. $19 Cloudwine
  • Mike Press Adelaide Hills Chardonnay 2010 $10 matesrates – almost sold out
  • Phillip Shaw “The Architect” Orange Chardonnay 2010 $19 crackawines – great wine from an emerging region

Other whites

  • Catherine Vale Hunter Valley Semillon 2009 $15  cellar door
  • Mount Pleasant “Elizabeth” Semillon 2005 $18 Kemeny’s – value!
  • Lenton Brae Margaret River Semillon Sauvignon Blanc 2010 $20 Auscellardoor
  • Catalina Sounds Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2010 $20 Vintage Cellars
  • Chain of Ponds “Amelia’s Letter” Pinot Grigio 2010 $20 Cloudwine


A big line up of fine, value, Shiraz entries – we are blessed in Australia!

  • Maglieri McLaren Vale 09 Shiraz $17 Top Wineries
  • Rock Bare McLaren Vale Shiraz 09 $17 Grays on line
  • Tar and Roses Heathcote Shiraz 2009 $13.90 Dan Murphy’s  
  • Dandelion “Lionheart” Barossa Valley Shiraz 2009 $20 Vintage Cellars  -( note: showing $23.99 on line but seen at $20 in store).
  • Chapman Grove “Dreaming Dog” Margaret River Shiraz $16 Crackawines
  • Leasingham Bin 61 Clare Shiraz  $18 Dan Murphy’s – an old favourite


  • Wynns Black label Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon2008 $19.99 Kemeny’s – smart price
  • Celestial Bay Margaret River Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 $16 Cloudwine – mellow
  • McWilliams Mount Pleasant “Jack” Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon $16 Nick’s Wines

Other reds

  • Leasingham Bin 56 Clare Cabernet Malbec 2008 $16.90 Dan Murphy’s
  • Hidden Label NZ Central Otago Pinot Noir 2008 $20 Kemeny’s (from the 8th state of Australia)
  • Kalleske’s “Clarry’s” Barossa Valley Grenache Shiraz Mataro 2010 $19 Cloudwine
  • Schild Estate Barossa Valley Grenache Mouvedre Shiraz 2010 $15 ANZ wines

Enjoy! Now, what have I missed? Please post other gems known to you.

inspiration and longevity from gardening

inspiration and longevity from gardening

August 23, 2011  |  environment, knowledge, life, main blog, motivation  |  4 Comments

I’ve just come in from an exhilarating day in the garden – made myself a vegetable plot from redgum railway sleepers – and feel motivated to post something about gardening.

Creating and/or maintaining a garden, whatever the size, nurtures the body, mind and spirit. For many people, their garden is their sanctuary, for others like me, gardening can inspire and energise.

Gardens can make us happy, heal us when sad or depressed, and help us understand profound truths about the relationship between ourselves and nature. As we journey through the seasons, the pattern of birth, bloom and decay sheds light on the mystery of being human” Albert Camus

The life and death cycle in the garden is an analogy with life itself. It provides a sense of wonder at what nature can provide. For children, seeing a pea in a pod, a bird feasting on a flower, or tasting a home grown tomato, adds a whole new dimension to our consumer and supermarket driven society. For adults, a garden can be a total escape from the things that bother us, such as technological intrusion, or unfulfilling lives…..and there’s nothing like whipping out the back to find a fresh herb to add flavour to any dish.

Eileen Campbell writes in her delightful little book, “The Joy of Gardening”, “We’ve somehow become divorced from the natural world and seem to be on a headlong course to destroy the planet one way or another. Gardening isn’t a panacea for the problems of the world, but maybe by creating our own little bit of paradise, we can make a difference. Gardening nurtures qualities like patience, optimism, trust, discipline and attention – which can ultimately help us live a fulfilled and happy life

 I was lucky to have been brought up with soil under my finger nails, enjoying the products of an extensive home vegie garden, the taste of home grown fruit and learning to appreciate the beauty of native plants. For those to whom gardening is new, don’t be intimidated by the prospect. It’s highly accessible and possible for everyone to become involved – from single room apartment balconies to sweeping arboretums.  There’s even a trend towards green walls and roofs in residential and commercial buildings. They give a sense of tranquillity, connect the inside with the outside and help the planet by turning carbon dioxide into oxygen.

 The community garden  concept is also becoming popular around the world. Community gardens bring people together, generate fresh food and flowers, and operate on a shared work load principle. If there’s nothing in your local area, why not approach the council or park management authority to kick one off?

So, to the unconverted I suggest you get involved. While great gardens show a sense of flair and artistry, there are no rules – it’s simply a matter of getting on the court and playing. The web is full of guidance on vegetable gardening , growing herbs and even a helpful site which collates 50 blogs covering many types of gardens.

Sowing seed, watching life emerge, weeding, pruning, harvesting and clearing, give a rhythm to life and transcend time. It’s also therapeutic for the body and mind. Active gardening contributes to longevity (my unproven hypothesis) – through fresh air, sunshine, peace of mind and exercise. As the garden you have created and developed becomes part of you, then you become part of it.

Gardens also provide the chance to learn things (I’m still trying to learn how to make compost like my mother in law!) We’re increasingly being challenged to understand concepts like water use efficiency and growing plants without artificial chemicals.  You’ll find that experienced gardeners love to share their secrets with aspiring gardeners – tips like planting a passionfruit vine above a bullock’s liver, or keeping your orchids in part shade. Many of them have also grown to understand the garden as an ecosystem and have learnt about integrated pest management and the importance of soil condition. It’s a great conversation opportunity across generations.

The glory of gardening: hands in the dirt, head in the sun, heart with nature. To nurture a garden is to feed not just the body, but the soul. Show me your garden and I’ll tell you what you are” Alfred Austin

australia's corporate blindspots

australia’s corporate blindspots

Inspiring case studies about Asian market penetration, leadership in technology and global excellence in sustainability programs, show what Australia is capable of. However, across the ASX 200 and beyond, we tend to lag in some game-changing areas. While it’s risky to generalise, I believe that corporate Australia tends to underestimate three important strategic themes:

  1. Fully understanding the impact of China on a number of fronts – as it shifts from a low cost manufacturing base to the biggest consumer market in the world; as it moves from a user of technology to a creator of technology (2.2% of GDP in the next five year plan on R&D); and as the need for primary resources (minerals and food) continues to grow. Geoff Raby, retiring Australian Ambassador to China, said that the one thing that surprised him most about his time in Beijing, was how few CEO’s and Chairs of Australian companies paid him a visit.
  2. Treating environmental and sustainable challenges as opportunities rather than impositions. There are many ASX 200 companies with lengthy annual sustainability reports, however few demonstrate genuine belief that environmental responsibility and growing profitability are not mutually exclusive. We desperately need a mindset shift from compliance and complaint, to realism and possibility.
  3. Recognising the value of leading rather than lagging in embracing digital technology-based innovation. Although there is variation in responsiveness within the sectors, media and retail are two sectors which have been caught asleep at the wheel. Is this an age related phenomenon – as older people are in positions of responsibility? How many senior executives and directors have you heard pass off Twitter as being frivolous, rather than seeing its potential as a primary source of focused information? Yet I know many savvy over 60’s behaving like digital natives. No, it’s not age per se; it’s about mindset, openness to change and awareness.

In a global context, Australia business has performed relatively well in the last decade, supported by resources based economic growth, a sound banking and legal system and excellent corporate governance. After the GFC, some observers have suggested that this same good governance has trended towards risk aversion and consequent inertia.

As the world is turned on its head by the digital revolution, major shifts in the global economic balance, and the need to resuscitate an environmentally struggling planet, there is no room for board and executive risk aversion in these areas. While being in the “late adopter” or “laggard” group may not have threatened company survival in the past, today’s environment calls for a positioning as “early adopters” at worst, and “innovators” at best.

Peter Williams, CEO of Deloitte Digital, goes even further in suggesting that any board of directors or group of managers who are not moving fast to understand and harness changes that technology is delivering – social media, cloud computing, mobile devices and data – is abrogating its responsibility to deliver leadership and governance.

Over the next ten to twenty years, the future of Australia will be fall into three main areas – primary resources (minerals and food); the service economy, and the knowledge economy. Julian Cribb believes that by 2050, our economy could be 70% knowledge based. In China last month I saw evidence of the emerging demand for our capabilities in disciplines like urban planning, agricultural science, energy, information technology, architecture, engineering, water management and medicine. We have a long way to go to understand the scope and shape of that knowledge economy, let alone create it. The building blocks exist, but success will depend on the ability of corporate (and political) Australia to gain insights and show leadership in the three areas that we underestimate.

What can we do? CEO’s need to get on the court and play – go to China and understand the market and people. Get immersed in the new technology – as ABC CEO Mark Scott does, personally sending 140 relevant tweets a week. He knows the medium and can talk the language because he has become involved. Shift from a mindset of lobbying Government about regulation, to one of understanding which way the wind is blowing and putting up the spinnaker. Get rid of dead wood on boards – people who are reluctant to change and enjoy peer group support for their scepticism. Much focus is given to gender diversity on boards – we need some mindset diversity as well! It’s not too late but we need to act quickly.