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Lifestyle : NSW Tourism Awards 2011
1HERSA1 V008 8 SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 20, 2011 THE SUN-HERALD travel nsw tourism awards special report Camping on easy street Feeling rather decadent, Megan Johnston indulges in a spot of glamping -- and it's all just a hop, skip and a jump from the CBD. Trip notes Where Tandara Luxury at Lane Cove River Tourist Park, Plassey Road, North Ryde/Macquarie Park. 1300 729 133, www.lcrtp.com.au. Getting there From Sydney's central business district, drive north of the Harbour Bridge along the freeway to Epping Road. Turn right on to Delhi Road, then left on to Plassey Road. How much Sunday to Thursday, $390 a night for two people; Friday or Saturday $450 a night. Price includes two bottles of organic wine, breakfast basket, tea and coffee facilities, mini-bar of soft drinks, cable TV, parking, bicycles and vehicle entry to the national park. The air smells sweet with the scent of the bush. I SWEAR I was meant to be camping. At least, that's what I've told family and friends. Why, then, am I sipping on organic wine and lounging on my own private deck, all while cocooned in plush bathrobes and slippers? It must have something to do with the trend towards glamorous camping, or glamping for short. Only a short jaunt from the CBD, Lane Cove River Tourist Park has branched into lavish lodgings with Tandara, its ''luxury camping experience'' and the winner of best new tourism development. Strictly speaking, you could consider Tandara a tent, though a pavilion might be a better way to describe it. Fenced off in a secluded nook, the venue combines the beauty and tranquillity of nature with the convenience of a fancy hotel room, complete with bath tub, twin showers, electric blankets and a king-sized bed (draped, of course, in a delightfully romantic mosquito net). There's wi-fi and cable television, too, in case you aren't completely entranced by the valley views towards Lane Cove River. For just enough eco-cred, there are also organic toiletries and native landscaping, which is home to a bandicoot or two. I arrive after a rainy morning, when the air smells sweet with the scent of the bush. One peek around my new lodgings reveals a sleek interior fitted out in luxury safari style, with polished floorboards, timber furniture and stone surfaces. Outside, sun lounges, couches and shade-cloths scatter the deck. My stay begins with an easy roll down to the river. I strap on a helmet, grab one of the complimentary bicycles and push off into the bush. It's not the fanciest bike, but it's comfortable and I'm hardly in the mood for strenuous activity. I lazily explore the riverbank then make my way back to the tent where I try a glass of the complimentary wine and spend a languid afternoon reading and relaxing. My companion arrives in the evening, just in time to grill some fat king prawns we brought to cook on the private gourmet barbecue. We munch through the tangy flesh as we watch the evening entertainment: possums clambering over trees. Wrapped up in swathes of mosquito netting, we're lulled to sleep by chirping insects and awoken the next morning by cackling kookaburras. Breakfast is extravagant -- pastries and croissants on a shiny platter -- with a pot of loose-leaf tea. The rest of the morning is spent soaking in a mountain of bubbles. We're hardly roughing it, but who needs to know? The writer was a guest of Lane Cove River Tourist Park Other finalists, new tourism development New attractions . . . left, Sculptures in the Scrub; the ex-HMAS Adelaide. Savannah Visitor Plaza and free access area, Taronga Western Plains Zoo Re-opened a year ago, the newly redeveloped free access area, including the Savannah Visitor Plaza, offers a sneak peek at what's on offer at Taronga Western Plains Zoo. It's a one-stop- shop to buy tickets and souvenirs. Children can go wild in the safari- themed playground or view the primate islands, which are home to ring-tailed lemurs, spider monkeys and black-and-white ruff lemurs. taronga.org.au. Sculptures in the Scrub, New England Also a finalist in the indigenous tourism category, Sculptures in the Scrub are the latest addition to the Warrumbungle landscape. Perched on the edge of a cliff overlooking Dandry Gorge north of Coonabarabran, this permanent outdoor display tells a story about local Aboriginal history and culture. The artworks are made from bronze, stone and stainless steel, with the largest creation standing up to 3.5 metres tall. They took four artists --- Col Henry, Brett Garling, Ken Hutchinson and Badger Bates --- four years to make in collaboration with Aboriginal elders and local young people. Corowa Whisky and Chocolate Venue, Riverina Corowa Whisky and Chocolate began two years ago in an old flour mill. Abandoned for almost 40 years, this handsome heritage 1920s building was bought for $1 from the shire council and renovated. It now houses a coffee shop, function rooms and a chocolate-making area. Pre-packaged chocolates, some made on site, are also for sale and, if all goes to plan, whisky will soon be made and sold on the Riverina premises. www.corowawhisky.com. Ex-HMAS Adelaide Artificial Reef, Central Coast Scuttled off Avoca Beach near Terrigal in April, the Ex-HMAS Adelaide has found its final resting place as an artificial diving reef. About 2500 dive permits have already been issued. In its busy former life as a navy frigate, the ship was put to work during the 1990 to 1991 Gulf War, in peace-keeping operations in East Timor in 1999 and 2006 and throughout the Arabian Gulf in 2001 and 2004. hmasadelaide.com. Trainworks, Thirlmere Just south- west of Sydney, the historic town of Thirlmere is home to a large slice of rail history. At Trainworks, visitors can explore an old railway station and station master's cottage, the biggest collection of rolling stock in Australia and highlights of the main exhibition building, including a prison van and an 1866 steam locomotive. For kids, a steam or diesel train ride on Sundays is a must. trainworks.com.au. Eco Extreme, Jervis Bay, South Coast The latest addition to the fleet of Dolphin Watch Cruises, Eco Extreme Jervis Bay is a 14-metre rigid inflatable offering a quick way to explore the more secluded parts of the bay, which is home to seal colonies, penguins, dolphins and birds. The boat zips visitors out to sea to watch migratory whales and, with special bow-loading stairs, is also a quick and comfortable way to visit remote beaches. jervisbayextreme.com.au. Clarence River Way Project, North Coast This tourism program aims to promote the Clarence as one of the nation's great river experiences. Funded by the federal, state and local governments and run by the Clarence Valley Council, it encourages visitors to tour the region, which takes in towns such as Yamba, Maclean, Iluka, Ulmarra and Grafton. The plan highlights local culture, landscape, history and community. ''We're aiming to promote the adventure side of the river as well,'' Clarence Valley mayor, Richie Williamson, says. clarence.nsw.gov.au.
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