Travel

Sample the Flavors of Australia’s Gold Coast at This Seaside Bar Worth Traveling For

Sip playful yet refined cocktails in a sky-high hotel by the sea.

The Langham Hotels and Resorts
The Langham Hotels and Resorts
The Langham Hotels and Resorts

The Gold Coast of Australia is known for its stunning beaches and unfettered sunshine. Seriously, it’s almost annoying how perennially perfect the weather is here. While the city and surrounding area has long been a prime vacation spot for Australians, its appeal has only recently gone global. And with the opening of the Langham Hotel last June, the Gold Coast is proving it’s ready to receive-and woo-this newfound international audience.

The 339-room luxury property is built into the tallest of a trio of geometric towers stretching gracefully towards the sky. Together with the neighbouring residences, it represents the first major development directly on its area of coastline in over 30 years. The Langham’s bar manager Roman Devchich views it all as a most precious addition to the landscape… a “grand jewel,” if you will. So when Devchich was tasked with evoking that vibe in cocktail form, he knew exactly what to call it. It was just a matter of knowing what to put in it.

Photo courtesy of the Langham Gold Coast
Photo courtesy of the Langham Gold Coast
Photo courtesy of the Langham Gold Coast

“The Grand Jewel had to embody the Langham Gold Coast in every way,” he explains of the hotel’s hallmark beverage. “Our team came together collaboratively to curate the ingredients, and we landed on the Brookie’s London-style dry gin as a base. It gives a nod to our British heritage, but it’s also infused with native botanicals of Southeast Queensland. Beyond that we opted to apply a rosella syrup. It’s another local ingredient that also adds a hint of pink, which is a signature colour of the Langham brand.”

The drink is served chilled with diamond-shaped ice, in Nick & Nora stemware, topped with Taittinger Champagne. After preparation, guests at the Lobby Bar are treated to its theatrical presentation. Devchich affixes a berry-scented smoke bubble to the rim of the glass. The jiggly bauble hovers above the liquid until you come in for your first sip, at which point it bursts playfully before your eyes. “It’s a garnish that says we are here to have fun,” he adds. “But in the most opulent way possible.”This is perfectly representative of the setting: refined, yet relaxed. The drink is elegant yet approachable, its curious florality riding a whimsical wave of effervescence. It goes down easy in the hotel’s polished drinking parlour, which boasts white marble surfaces and extravagant bottles ascending six shelves of backbar. You wouldn’t feel out of place in a dinner jacket here. But there’s also an ocean breeze swirling through the space, facilitating boisterousness and curtailing aggravated self-seriousness. Sandy sneakers are a part of the unofficial uniform here, and gin is the unofficial spirit.

“I am a huge gin fan,” admits Devchich. “It’s extremely versatile and distillers can be very creative with it.” Another point in gin’s favour? “All of our cocktails feature locally-sourced ingredients to some capacity. In fact, the vast majority of our menu consists of ingredients from within 100 kilometres of the hotel,” he explains. “With gin, especially, we can introduce visitors to the incredibly unique flavours of our native botanicals.”

Studioaria
Studioaria
Studioaria

Take, for example, a drink in which Devchich combines lemon myrtle with Wildflower Signature Gin. The Gold Coast producer incorporates honey from the distillery’s backyard into its final blend. He balances out the subtle sweetness with an herbaceous element, courtesy of a yellow Chartreuse rinse. By and large, creations such as this are a welcome departure from competitors throughout town, many of whom seem content to play it safe. “Drink menus around the area mostly consist of your classic ‘vacation’ cocktails,” he warns. “But we’re now getting millions of tourists, domestically and internationally. So we are trying to show them how diverse and fascinating the Gold Coast region is in terms of spirits and liquors.”

The area is unquestionably diverse and fascinating from a geographic standpoint, too, a reality which becomes increasingly clear as you make your way higher onto the 20 stories worth of guest rooms stacked above the bar. Spacious rooms afford wide panorama. The view sweeps from the Pacific to the corrugated hills of Queensland’s aptly-named Scenic Rim. You can spend the night here for as little as $335 a pop in the summer months, which span late December to early April, when temperatures rarely dip below 67 degrees Fahrenheit. Not that you’ll experience anything under 50 during the winter months, either.

The Langham Hotels and Resorts
The Langham Hotels and Resorts
The Langham Hotels and Resorts

Regardless of the season that suits you, it’s now easier than ever for you to make the journey, since United Airlines just launched direct service between San Francisco and Brisbane. It’s the first American carrier to service the capital city of Queensland. And from the airport it’s only about an hour drive to the Gold Coast. Of course, that’s after a 14-hour flight across the Pacific…but it’s bound to make your first cocktail at the Lobby Bar that much more monumental. Besides, as Devchich is keen to point out, “a drink here is more than a drink, it’s an overall experience. More than a place to be seen; The Langham is the place that makes you feel.” So when that warm and fuzzy feeling takes hold, remember that it’s the drink, not the jet lag-we swear.

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Brad Japhe is a freelance journalist with a wicked case of the get-up-and-gos. He’s usually found at the junction of food, booze, and travel. Follow him on Instagram.

Travel

Ditch your Phone for ‘Dome Life’ in this Pastoral Paradise Outside Port Macquarie 

A responsible, sustainable travel choice for escaping big city life for a few days.

nature domes port macquarie
Photo: Nature Domes

The urge to get as far away as possible from the incessant noise and pressures of ‘big city life’ has witnessed increasingly more of us turn to off-grid adventures for our holidays: Booking.com polled travellers at the start of 2023 and 55% of us wanted to spend our holidays ‘off-grid’.  Achieving total disconnection from the unyielding demands of our digitised lives via some kind of off-grid nature time—soft or adventurous—is positioned not only as a holiday but, indeed, a necessity for our mental health. 

Tom’s Creek Nature Domes, an accommodation collection of geodesic domes dotted across a lush rural property in Greater Port Macquarie (a few hours’ drive from Sydney, NSW), offers a travel experience that is truly ‘off-grid’. In the figurative ‘wellness travel’ sense of the word, and literally, they run on their own independent power supply—bolstered by solar—and rely not on the town grid. 

Ten minutes before you arrive at the gates for a stay at Tom’s Creek Nature Domes, your phone goes into ‘SOS ONLY’. Apple Maps gives up, and you’re pushed out of your comfort zone, driving down unsealed roads in the dark, dodging dozens of dozing cows. Then, you must ditch your car altogether and hoist yourself into an open-air, all-terrain 4WD with gargantuan wheels. It’s great fun being driven through muddy gullies in this buggy; you feel like Laura Dern and Jeff Goldblum in Jurassic Park.  As your buggy pulls in front of your personal Nature Dome, it’s not far off that “Welcome…to Jurassic Park” jaw-dropping moment—your futuristic-looking home is completely engulfed by thriving native bushland; beyond the outdoor campfire lie expansive hills and valleys of green farmland, dotted with sheep and trees. You’re almost waiting to see a roaming brachiosaurus glide past, munching on a towering gum tree…instead, a few inquisitive llamas trot past your Dome to check out their new visitor. 

To fully capture the awe of inhabiting a geodesic dome for a few days, a little history of these futuristic-looking spherical structures helps. Consisting of interlocking triangular skeletal struts supported by (often transparent) light walls, geodesic domes were developed in the 20th century by American engineer and architect R. Buckminster Fuller, and were used for arenas. Smaller incarnations have evolved into a ‘future-proof’ form of modern housing: domes are able to withstand harsh elements due to the stability provided by the durable materials of their construction and their large surface area to volume ratio (which helps minimize wind impact and prevents the structure from collapsing). As housing, they’re also hugely energy efficient – their curved shape helps to conserve heat and reduce energy costs, making them less susceptible to temperature changes outside. The ample light let in by their panels further reduces the need for artificial power. 

Due to their low environmental impact, they’re an ideal sustainable travel choice. Of course, Tom’s Creek Nature Domes’ owner-operators, Cardia and Lee Forsyth, know all this, which is why they have set up their one-of-a-kind Nature Domes experience for the modern traveller. It’s also no surprise to learn that owner Lee is an electrical engineer—experienced in renewable energy—and that he designed the whole set-up. As well as the off-grid power supply, rainwater tanks are used, and the outdoor hot tub is heated by a wood fire—your campfire heats up your tub water via a large metal coil. Like most places in regional Australia, the nights get cold – but rather than blast a heater, the Domes provide you with hot water bottles, warm blankets, lush robes and heavy curtains to ward off the chill.

nature domes port macquarie
Photo: Nature Domes

You’ll need to be self-sufficient during your stay at the Domes, bringing your own food. Support local businesses and stock up in the town of Wauchope on your drive-in (and grab some pastries and coffee at Baked Culture while you’re at it). There’s a stovetop, fridge (stocked as per a mini bar), BBQs, lanterns and mozzie coils, and you can even order DIY S’More packs for fireside fun. The interiors of the Domes have a cosy, stylish fit-out, with a modern bathroom (and a proper flushing toilet—none of that drop bush toilet stuff). As there’s no mobile reception, pack a good book or make the most of treasures that lie waiting to be discovered at every turn: a bed chest full of board games, a cupboard crammed with retro DVDs, a stargazing telescope (the skies are ablaze come night time). Many of these activities are ideal for couples, but there’s plenty on offer for solo travellers, such as yoga mats, locally-made face masks and bath bombs for hot tub soaks. 

It’s these thoughtful human touches that reinforce the benefit of making a responsible travel choice by booking local and giving your money to a tourism operator in the Greater Port Macquarie Region, such as Tom’s Creek Nature Domes. The owners are still working on the property following the setbacks of COVID-19, and flooding in the region —a new series of Domes designed with families and groups in mind is under construction, along with an open-air, barn-style dining hall and garden stage. Once ready, the venue will be ideal for wedding celebrations, with wedding parties able to book out the property. They’ve already got one couple—who honeymooned at the Domes—ready and waiting. Just need to train up the llamas for ring-bearer duties! 

An abundance of favourite moments come to mind from my two-night stay at Tom’s Creek: sipping champagne and gourmet picnicking at the top of a hill on a giant swing under a tree, with a bird’s eye view of the entire property (the ‘Mountain Top picnic’ is a must-do activity add on during your stay), lying on a deckchair at night wrapped in a blanket gazing up at starry constellations and eating hot melted marshmallows, to revelling in the joys of travellers before me, scrawled on notes in a jar of wishes left by the telescope (you’re encouraged to write your own to add to the jar). But I’ll leave you with a gratitude journal entry I made while staying there. I will preface this by saying that I don’t actually keep a gratitude journal, but Tom’s Creek Nature Domes is just the kind of place that makes you want to start one. And so, waking up on my second morning at Tom’s —lacking any 4G bars to facilitate my bad habit of a morning Instagram scroll—I finally opened up a notebook and made my first journal entry:

‘I am grateful to wake up after a deep sleep and breathe in the biggest breaths of this clean air, purified by nature and scented with eucalyptus and rain. I am grateful for this steaming hot coffee brewed on a fire. I feel accomplished at having made myself. I am grateful for the skittish sheep that made me laugh as I enjoyed a long nature walk at dawn and the animated billy goats and friendly llamas overlooking my shoulder as I write this: agreeable company for any solo traveller. I’m grateful for total peace, absolute stillness.” 

Off-grid holiday status: unlocked.

Where: Tom’s Creek Nature Domes, Port Macquarie, 2001 Toms Creek Rd
Price: $450 per night, book at the Natura Domes website.

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