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Category Archives: eco travel
Could you holiday up in the trees in one of these tree tents? I would be up there in a flash! Three talented UK based engineers and good friends put their heads together, and collaborated over a three year period to develop this very cool and innovative camping accommodation propped up high in the treetops. Inspired by the Yurt and teepee design, Jason Thawley (a mechanical and architectural engineer), Duncan Ritchie (a production and automotive engineer), and Alasdair Ritchie (an aircraft/ballooning engineer) wanted to introduce a low impact version, that could be used throughout the year for all
sorts of endeavours ~ recreation, research, conservation or education.
If I stepped inside one of these tree tents, I think you would almost have to prise me out of this cozy cocoon like structure. Inside this 3metre sphere are two suspended beds, and a lovely warming pot belly stove. Fear not those worrying about a fire inside your “tent”, as heat proof metal plates, an insulated flue and fireproof canvas will keep you safe and warm. And just in case this didn’t warm your cockles, the tent also features 100% wool winter thermal liner, allowing you to bunker down no matter what the weather is throwing at you from outside.
Suspended between 3-4 trees, the tree tent weighs 120kgs, but can support a further 250kg. It is made from locally sourced sustainably forested timbers, recycled aluminium and 100% Cotton Canvas. These tents may well be classified as glamping by traditionalists, although you will have to clamber down the ladder to attend to your ablutions ~ no ensuites here!
If you don’t quite have the finances to fork out 8,000 pound for a tree tent, you can try out the experience in the English woodlands at Red Kite Barn (4 hour drive from London), or at The Secret Campsite in East Sussex (tree tents opening May 2013). If anyone is lucky enough to try out a Tree Tent, please let us know in the comments field below. I will live vicariously through you!
Do you suffer from the affliction of looking for things that are right under your nose? For the past few months I have agonised over the right holiday destination for my family – travel overseas or explore my own backyard? I am so glad we settled on the latter, as ten days in the Top End was enough to recharge my batteries, lap up some warm sunshine, and without wanting to sound cheesey, get out in nature and truly appreciate it all.
For those of you not familiar with the “Top End”, it refers to the region in Northern Australia surrounding Darwin. In particular, our holiday focused on Kakadu National Park and Litchfield National Park.
There are a number of ways to get around the Top End, but we chose to hire a 4wd + Campertrailer, which for us was a winning combination. It let us set up camp at some very swanky campgrounds on the main tourist route, but also travel out to beautiful sites not accessible by 2wd or motorhome. Amongst a number of highlights, we climbed world heritage listed Ubirr Rock just before sunset and gazed over the Nardab floodplain as the sun sunk on the horizon. We walked around the base of Nourlangie and marvelled at the rock art, and caught a sunrise boat tour on Yellow River where we watched the wildlife wake up – a nature and bird lovers paradise!
Although almost shaken to pieces driving out on a heavily corrugated road out to Gunlom Falls (37km took 80mins!) it was worth every bump. After a steep climb up a rocky mountain, we came upon three tiered plunge pools – the third with a infinity edge which dropped off to a pool far far below. Up high we were happy to share the pools with a resident goanna and cute brown frogs, safe in the thought the local saltwater crocs couldn’t climb that high!
After Kakadu, we thought it would be hard to impress us further, but Litchfield National Park provided us with a smorgasboard of natural swimming hole delights every few kilometres! We splashed about in Florence Falls, kicked back in Buley Rockhole and took a heart stopping cool dip at Wangi Falls.
For anyone just considering the Top End for a holiday, stop thinking about it and do it! You will have a holiday to remember. Now back in Melbourne I’m slowly getting back into the swing of city living, but still have the holiday under my skin. I hope it takes a long time to wear off …
Today we bring to you one holiday destination that has knocked my travel socks off and shot straight to my wish list. The TreeHotel in Sweden not only offers a unique experience living in cool architectural rooms propped up high in the tree tops, but they have also been built with a view to preserving the surrounding landscape ~ sustainability is at its very core.
There is that little kid in many of us, who still marvel at treehouse designs – and now as a grown adult, the Treehotel very much appeals to the senses. It evokes a spirit of adventure, a sense of retreat, and being out amongst it all in nature. This is the kind of place where wheelie suitcases and city fashion wear are best left behind. In its place, a mini backpack packed with comfy clothes, a camera, walking shoes, and a good book should be suffice.
Upon arriving in Harads (100km from Lulea) visitors need to first check in at the owners Britta’s Pensionat, then take a 5 minute walk through the Pine Forest to reach one of the five treerooms – Designed around particular themes, you can live out a space adventure in The UFO, the funky Mirrorcube, roost in the giant Bird’s Nest, bunker down in the Blue Cone (but it’s red), or chill in the mod styled Cabin.
The sheer architectural feat of propping the treerooms 4-6metres high in the treetops up high is a feat in itself. But what is more impressive is the ecologically sensitive approach that has gone into the design of each that makes it truly shine. First and foremost, during construction (by local builders) no trees were damaged or chopped down, chemical free timbers were used, hydro electrics power the buildings, and low energy LED lighting are used throughout. Bathrooms are kept simple featuring just a water efficient basin and a combustion toilet (the Mirror cube boasts a freezing toilet!). To shower, you’ll need to hop skip it down to separate shower rooms. But this is what this holiday destination is all about – respecting nature, living in nature, and enjoying nature.
You can be as active or inactive as you please- you can go kayaking, fishing, horse riding and on forest walks in summer. Alternatively, in winter you can go dog sledding, participate in horse pulled skiing (!!!), go ice skiing, build your own igloo (yes truly) or simply sweat it out in the treetop sauna. All meals are taken back at the authentic 1930’s Britta Pensionat.
This is the place to rejuvenate, fill your lungs with fresh air, soak in the natural surrounds, and have a little adventure too. This is the kind of place I would dearly love to take my family to someday. Will let you know if I get to tick it off my wishlist ….. If you do first, please let us know!
Psst – Pop on over to the Treehotel Facebook page to view their AMAZING winter snow images
When most of us think of Far North Queensland (FNQ) in Australia, we think rainforest, reef, beaches, gorges, humid days and balmy nights. It is all that …and a LOT more. I was lucky enough to live in Cairns in the early 1990’s and discovered many treasures off the beaten track, and am delighted to find there’s another reason to go back. Late last year, EcoTourism Australia awarded Paronella Park the coveted Gecko Award, that recognizes outstanding excellence in sustainable tourism.
Situated just over an hour’s drive South of Cairns, Paronella Park is like discovering a hidden oasis in the desert..except that it’s more hidden castle in delightful lush rainforest.
The story behind Paronella is as captivating as the concrete moss covered buildings themselves. Put VERY briefly, a Spaniard named Jose Paronella purchased the 13 acres of scrub in Mene Creek in 1929 whilst on his honeymoon. Just six years later, it was opened to the public featuring grand open air staircases, reception centre buildings complete with dance hall (with giant mirrored ball of course), a theatre and refreshment rooms. Over subsequent years 7,000 trees were planted, a hydro electric generating plant installed, natural swimming pool tennis courts and children’s playground. All however has not been beer and skittles. Over the past 70 years, various natural disasters have struck – flood, fire, and three cyclones have proved challenging, but somehow Paronella with its’ old and now present owners Mark and Judy Evans, has faced those disasters, picked up the pieces and soldiered on.
Mark and Judy Evans have made Paronella Park their home for the past 9 years, and have embraced the legacy of founder, Jose Paronella in continuing to provide a special place for the public to visit. Since 2009 they have injected an impressive $450,000 into bringing the hydro-electric pump back to life which again provides all electricity to the park. Here, they share with us a little insight into their life at Paronella Park:
1. Tell us about how you first came across Paronella Park in the early 1990’s. We came across Paronella Park almost by chance. As a family, we had been travelling around Australia in a caravan for 18 months. We arrived in Cairns in late 1993 and were told about a “Castle for sale down the road”. It seemed interesting enough to at least drive down and take a look! What we found was very run down and overgrown, but we could see enormous potential. We purchased the Park just before Christmas that year and were greeted by a flood just a few weeks later – this was our introduction to life at Paronella Park, in the tropics.
2. What sustainable features have been implemented into Paronella Park since 1993? Initially, it was more about uncovering and repairing some of the sustainable features that the Park’s founder, José Paronella,had put in place back in the 1930s. José was a pioneer in Ecotourism – he planted over 7000 trees and plants, he used recycled materials in his building, he harnessed the waterfall to create hydroelectricity, and he used gravity to feed the fountains. Amazingly, things like José’s gravity fed fountain was almost still operational. We unblocked some piping and the fountains sprang back to life! Initially, the most significant project was clearing away many of the weeds that had taken hold throughout the gardens. This was a gradual task and remains an important part of our maintenance program.
3. What can visitors expect to experience whilst staying at Paronella Park? Visitors to Paronella Park can expect to experience a remarkable place, and to hear an amazing story. The wonderful thing about Paronella Park is that the majority of our visitors arrive not really sure what to expect, but always leave amazed and delighted at having discovered something special. We always encourage our guests to make the most of what Paronella Park has to offer. The day tour, the night tour, a 2 year return pass, and a night in our caravan and camping grounds are all included in the admission fee. If possible, it’s great to be able to take advantage of everything – it’s better value, and a better experience.
4. What do you see as your best achievement over the past 8 years at Paronella? To have suffered through a devastating Cyclone (Cyclone Larry) in March 2006 and to not only recover and reopen, but also to improve and enhance the Paronella Park experience as a result. The cyclone was a major setback but it also acted as a catalyst for a number of changes in how we operate our business. In the years that followed, we picked up several Queensland Tourism Awards, were voted the “Number 1 Must Do” in RACQ’s 150 must do’s campaign, restored the original 1930s era hydro electric system, re-built major infrastructure at the Park (including 6 new cabins and new amenities) and won the Ecotourism Australia GECKO Award for Ecotourism. We also had some of our busiest years ever.
5. What do you see as key issues for ecotourism in Australia? Lack of interpretation. So many ecotourism businesses have some great innovations in place, but don’t do enough to share their story with their guests. Interpretation and education is such an important element of ecotourism and is very often overlooked.
6. Can you give us a sneak peek into what’s planned for the rest of 2012? As always, we have plenty going on. Most importantly, there will be a continuation of major structural work following Cyclone Yasi (February 2011). This work is crucial as it ensures José’s work remains safe and structurally sound. We also have an exciting new project on the horizon. At this stage we can announce that it will include accommodation, food service, and a whole new visitor experience. More news on this soon!
7. Can you share with our readers a local MUST DO tip whilst visiting Cairns? A visit to Cairns isn’t complete without a trip down through the Atherton Tablelands, and to Paronella Park of course! Many visitors to Cairns, particularly returning visitors, are looking to do something different from the usual (the reef, the beach and the rainforest). There’s plenty of unique and interesting things to see and do for visitors willing to get out and explore a little.
An eco holiday does not have to stop at carbon offsetting your flight, and reusing the bath towels in your hotel. If you want to tread as lightly on the planet as you can next holiday break, The Green Travel Guide Australia 2011/2012 published by EcoTourism Australia will provide you with a great range of ideas – and they have generously provided State of Green with 5 copies to giveaway!
The Green Travel Guide is an easy read. Divided into chapters dedicated to each State, you can simply flick through to the State you wish to visit, then peruse the wide selection of eco certified businesses operating across that State. Eco tours, attractions and accommodation are all covered, and includes suggestions ranging from relaxing beach resorts to bird watching lodges, marine discovery cruises, aboriginal culture parks, and even organic restaurants to visit in the region.
Each of the businesses listed in the Guide includes an eco certification logo which are graded into three categories – Nature Tourism, EcoTourism and Advanced Ecotourism. Generally, the logo identifies those tourist operators that have committed to minimizing their impact on the environment, use resources wisely, help local communities and/or contribute to the conservation of the environment- all incredibly commendable!.
++ GIVEAWAY DETAILS ++
** If you want to purchase a copy now, we have also just commenced stocking The Green Travel Guide 2011/2012 online at State of Green – Happy Holidays!
Are you looking for a relaxing start to the New Year? Well I have a quick getaway for you! Tucked away in the rolling hills of Fingal (Rye) is the body re-charging Peninsula Hot Springs – and I was lucky to indulge in the experience on New Years Eve.
Attending the natural mineral rich thermal springs with 9 other family and friends in tow may not sound like the ultimate indulgence, but it truly offered something for everyone. With over 20 (!) different mineral bathing experiences on offer, plus a spa dreaming centre for those wanting a more personal pamper, the springs offer a wonderfully relaxing experience for young and old.
Following a quick cleansing shower in the modern well maintained change rooms, we wallowed in the warm waters of large outdoor communal pools, massaged our shoulders and aching backs in shallow bubbling spas, squeezed into small Japanese bathing tubs, walked (ok hobbled) down the pebbled reflexology walk, and even captured a few quiet moments contemplating the year gone by in the tranquil cave pool.
Whilst all the outdoor pools are public, a meandering path up the hillside leads to an “adults only” (16yr +) retreat – dotted with numerous hot and cold spring pools which offer an even quieter experience under the shade of the silvery Moonah gums.
The pool at the peak however, provides the most magnificent view across rolling hills that stretch into the distance and out to the bay. Stunning. But you may have to line up to literally soak in the view.
Each of the thermal pools display their temperature ranging from cold plunge pools up to a cooking 43 degrees. A quick dip in an icy plunge pool certainly got my blood pumping, before sliding back into the tranquil warm depths of the pool opposite. Ahhh…serenity now.
Let me just pen this for the record – Hobart is a happening place. There. It has been said. Over the last week I have shared with you just some of Hobart’s offerings, but today’s is the absolute clincher – the Museum of Old and New Art - or simply put, MONA. Opened in January this year, MONA is no ordinary museum experience. It delights, shocks, amazes and amuses and offers a good day’s worth of cultural and thought provoking entertainment.
Built into the cliff face at the Moorilla Winery on the edge of the Derwent River, MONA was funded by professional gambler / entrepeneur David Walsh who wanted to give a little back to the people of Hobart. He has injected a cool $AUD75 million dollars into the building of the museum, which alone is worthy of artistic status with its exposed stone walls, rooftop gardens, and breath taking views. Add to this his $AUD100 million collection that is on show for the public, and you have one very generous gesture - Did I mention it is free to get in?
Upon entry, visitors are handed headphones and the “O”, a touch screen device that provides written and audio information about the artworks as you walk around – there are no labels on the walls. The device updates as you walk around, and you can even contribute your own two bobs worth, voting whether you LOVE or HATE the piece you are viewing. Furthering the technical experience, your tour can even be emailed to you so you can re-visit your experience from the comfort of your lounge when back home!
David Walsh’s collection is eclectic and varied – half the fun is not knowing what will be around the next corner, let alone the next exhibit. You can see anything from Egyptian mummies, to contemporary art, take an abstract look into the workings of the human brain, and the mechanics of the human digestive system complete with interesting odours (to say the least!). You can even sit in a small room full of tv screens featuring everyday people belting out Madonna tunes. But I won’t say more – half the fun is the element of surprise and shock!
Capping off the MONA experience, is the hip wine bar located on the edge of the Moorilla vineyards. Fresh produce, Moorilla wine and Moo Brew beer made onsite made this the PERFECT end to our day out – even if we did have to sit outside on the verandah with the rain and wind blowing in – the wind-chill factor was -8 degrees on the day we were there but we hardly noticed it…..
The current MONANISM exhibition is on until 19 July (yes this week!), after which new works will gradually be introduced – Will be sure to visit on my next trip to Hobart.
OPEN Daily 10am-6pm
When visiting other cities it’s always handy to get a recommendation where to eat – and today we have just that. When in Hobart, be sure to include a visit to Ethos Eat Drink which opened in January this year – I was lucky enough to experience it last weekend!
Walking along Elizabeth St, it is easy to walk straight past the entrance. Housed within an old stable building that dates back to the early 19th century, entry is gained through the arched carriage way lit by old film drying reels, that leads to an open courtyard and then the restaurant. The charm of this place just begins here.
Salvaged and recycled materials used throughout the restaurant evokes a cosy, warm and relaxed atmosphere with a modern quirky twist. One wall is clad in hand sawn weatherboard dating back to the 1820’s, old drink bottles have been crafted into stunning chandeliers, and chemist bottles are re-used as vases, sugar and milk jugs.
Even Hobart’s first plumbed toilet is on display behind a glass screen.
The modern tapas style menu created by Iain Todd also aims to have a minimal impact upon the environment – it is full of local, organic and biodynamic produce, and served up on rustic plates and within old bottles (dessert).
Add this one to your itinerary NOW - its historical value, sustainable design aesthetic and great food earn it 3 big ticks from us!
8am – Late
100 Elizabeth St, Hobart