117 best hotels in Australia based on customer feedback

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HotelCombined has released a list of the finalists in their first hotelier award for Australian hotels based on customer feedback.

The Recognition of Excellence Awards identifies the top, independent Australian hotels in each state and regional holiday area for outstanding customer satisfaction. Finalists are among the best hotels (by location) for customer service, with results compiled from detailed analysis of the website’s customer feedback.

The Awards are based on a range of criteria including:

  • Quality and consistency of guest reviews
  • Customer ratings
  • Absence of recurring or unresolved issues
  • Social media engagement on blogs, forums and social media posts

All of these hotels are placed within the top three percent of hotels worldwide.

Finalists and winners are representative of the highest standards in the industry, averaging 9.7 out of a possible 10 points – compared to the industry standard of 7.2.

The hotels are listed below by state:

New South Wales

NSW finalists, by region: Sydney

State Region Hotel name
NSW Sydney Adge Apartment Hotel
NSW Sydney Tara Guest House
NSW Sydney Darcys Hotel at Homebush
NSW Sydney Sydney Establishment Hotel
NSW Sydney Verona Guest House

 NSW finalists, by region: Central Coast

State Region Hotel name
NSW Central Coast Avoca Valley Bed and Breakfast
NSW Central Coast The Acreage Bed and Breakfast Central Coast

 NSW finalists, by region: Newcastle

State Region Hotel name
NSW Newcastle Brezza Bella Bed & Breakfast Newcastle
NSW Newcastle Stockton Beach Holiday Park
NSW Newcastle Newcastle’s Bed & Breakfast
NSW Newcastle Chaucer Palms Boutique Bed & Breakfast
NSW Newcastle Everton Apartments

 NSW finalists, by region: North Coast

State Region Hotel name
NSW North Coast Anchors B&B
NSW North Coast The Villas of Byron
NSW North Coast Santa Fe Luxury Bed & Breakfast
NSW North Coast Ballina Manor Boutique Hotel
NSW North Coast Beaches International

 NSW finalists, by region: South Coast

State Region Hotel name
NSW South Coast Snug Cove Villas
NSW South Coast Huskisson Bed and Breakfast
NSW South Coast Crystal Creek Meadows Luxury Cottages & Spa Retreat Kangaroo Valley
NSW South Coast Sails Luxury Apartments
NSW South Coast Kiama Harbour Cabins

 NSW finalists, by region: Snowy Mountains

State Region Hotel name
NSW Snowy Mountains Jindy Inn

 NSW finalists, by region: Blue Mountains

State Region Hotel name
NSW Blue Mountains Melba House
NSW Blue Mountains Edgelinks Country House
NSW Blue Mountains Katoomba Manor
NSW Blue Mountains Broomelea Bed & Breakfast
NSW Blue Mountains Valley of the Waters B&B Wentworth Falls

 NSW finalists, by region: Lord Howe Island

State Region Hotel name
NSW Lord Howe Island Capella Lodge
NSW Lord Howe Island Arajilla Retreat

 NSW finalists, by region: Hunter

State Region Hotel name
NSW Hunter A Room with a View Bed & Breakfast Hunter
NSW Hunter Nelson Bay Bed and Breakfast Hunter
NSW Hunter Thistle Hill Guesthouse Hunter
NSW Hunter Splinters Guest House Hunter Peaceful Palms B&B

Australian Capital Territory

ACT finalists, by region:

State Region Hotel name
ACT Canberra One of a Kind Apartments

South Australia

SA finalists, by region: Adelaide

State Region Hotel name
SA Adelaide Casavino Luxury Villas
SA Adelaide Bellevue Bed & Breakfast McLaren Vale
SA Adelaide Peppercorns Bed and Breakfast
SA Adelaide North Adelaide Heritage Cottages & Apartments
SA Adelaide Seawall Apartments Adelaide

SA finalists, by region: Adelaide Hills

State Region Hotel name
SA Adelaide Hills Amble at Hahndorf
SA Adelaide Hills Hahndorf Oak Tree Cottages
SA Adelaide Hills The Haus Studio Apartments

SA finalists, by region: Barossa

State Region Hotel name
SA Barossa Barossa Pavilions
SA Barossa Whistler Farm B&B
SA Barossa Lanzerac Country Estate

 SA finalists, by region: Limestone Coast

State Region Hotel name
SA Limestone Coast Mid City Motel Mount Gambier
SA Limestone Coast Colhurst House
SA Limestone Coast Alexander Cameron Motel and Apartments

SA finalists, by region: Kangaroo Island

State Region Hotel name
SA Kangaroo Island Stranraer Homestead Bed & Breakfast Kangaroo Island

Victoria

VIC finalists, by region: Melbourne

State Region Hotel name
VIC Melbourne Hilltop Studios Margaret River
VIC Melbourne Caroline Serviced Apartments
VIC Melbourne Moulton Park Cottages
VIC Melbourne Woolrich Historic Garden Accommodation
VIC Melbourne Tuck Inn

VIC finalists, by region: Great Ocean Road

State Region Hotel name
VIC Great Ocean Road The Camperdown Mill – South West Victoria
VIC Great Ocean Road Farmhouse Flat
VIC Great Ocean Road Cape Nelson Lighthouse
VIC Great Ocean Road QDOS Arts Treehouses
VIC Great Ocean Road Warrnambool CBD Townhouses

 VIC finalists, by region: Spa Country

State Region Hotel name
VIC Spa Country Town View Guesthouse
VIC Spa Country Pendower House
VIC Spa Country The Manse

VIC finalists, by region: Peninsula

State Region Hotel name
VIC Peninsula Flinders Hotel
VIC Peninsula Mornington Bed and Breakfast

Queensland

QLD finalists, by region: Brisbane

State Region Hotel name
QLD Brisbane Alex Perry Hotel & Apartments
QLD Brisbane Emporium Hotel
QLD Brisbane Number 12 B&B
QLD Brisbane The Collingwood
QLD Brisbane NICHE Small Luxury Hotel Springfield Lakes

 QLD finalists, by region: Gold Coast

State Region Hotel name
QLD Gold Coast The Mouses House Rainforest Retreat
QLD Gold Coast Allisee Apartments Gold Coast
QLD Gold Coast Rainbow Bay Resort
QLD Gold Coast 2nd Avenue Beachside Apartments
QLD Gold Coast Ocean Sands Resort Gold Coast
QLD Gold Coast Ambience Apartments On Burleigh Beach Gold Coast

QLD finalists, by region: Sunshine Coast

State Region Hotel name
QLD The Sunshine Coast The Mirage Alexandra Headland
QLD The Sunshine Coast Coolum Seaside Apartments
QLD The Sunshine Coast RACV Resort Noosa
QLD The Sunshine Coast Sandy Beach Resort Noosa
QLD The Sunshine Coast Noosa Riviera Resort

 QLD finalists, by region: Whitsundays

State Region Hotel name
QLD Whitsundays Pinnacles Resort
QLD Whitsundays Mirage Whitsundays
QLD Whitsundays Coral Sea Resort Airlie Beach

QLD finalists, by region: Central Queensland

State Region Hotel name
QLD Central Queensland 1770 Getaway
QLD Central Queensland Emerald Motel Apartments
QLD Central Queensland Gladstone Central Plaza Apartment Hotel
QLD Central Queensland Empire Apartment Hotel Rockhampton

QLD finalists, by region: Tropical North Queensland

State Region Hotel name
QLD Tropical North Queensland Kookas Bed & Breakfast
QLD Tropical North Queensland Bellevue at Trinity Beach
QLD Tropical North Queensland Frangipani Bed & Breakfast
QLD Tropical North Queensland Balboa Holiday Apartments
QLD Tropical North Queensland On the Wallaby Backpackers Lodge

Western Australia

WA finalists, by region: Perth

State Region Hotel name
WA Perth Manuel Towers
WA Perth Durack House Bed and Breakfast
WA Perth Burns Beach Bed & Breakfast
WA Perth Lazy River Boutique Bed and Breakfast
WA Perth COMO The Treasury

WA finalists, by region: Australia’s Coral Coast

State Region Hotel name
WA Australia’s Coral Coast Ningaloo Bed and Breakfast

 WA finalists, by region: Australia’s South West

State Region Hotel name
WA South West Prideau’s of Margaret River
WA South West Rosewood Guesthouse
WA South West Riveresque Hotel Margaret River
WA South West Bushy Lake Chalets
WA South West A Vintners Retreat Bed and Breakfast

WA finalists, by region: Australia’s North West

State Region Hotel name
WA North West Broome Town Bed & Breakfast
WA North West The Billi Resort
WA North West Bali Hai Resort & Spa
WA North West Moonlight Bay Suites
WA North West Blue Seas Resort

Northern Territory

NT finalists, by region: Darwin

State Region Hotel name
NT Darwin Darwin Waterfront Luxury Suites
NT Darwin Quest Berrimah Apartments
NT Darwin H 105 Mitchell Hotels & Apartments

Tasmania

TAS finalists

State Region Hotel name
TAS Hobart Apartments on Star Hobart
TAS Hobart Islington Hotel
TAS Hobart Corinda’s Cottages
TAS Coles Bay Freycinet Retreat
TAS Swansea Wagners Cottages

HotelsCombined (hotelscombined.com.au) is the world’s leading hotel price comparison platform.

Best plants for Brisbane’s weather

strawberry-watercolour

I attended a seminar on vegetable gardens presented by Tim Auld. He encouraged the group to brainstrorm the best plants for each of the seasons in Brisbane.

He explained that the traditional seasonal climates (spring, summer, autumn and winter) are mostly applicable to southern states of Australia. Queensland has a more temperate climate (sub-tropic) and further north have a tropical wet season (Dec – March).

Here’s the list of plants the group came up with:

Plants for the wet season (December to March):

  • ceylon spinach, choko, kang kong, melons, squash,  snake beans, sweet potato, taro and yams

Plants for a Cool temperate summer (April to August):

  • broccoli, carrot, garlic, lettuce, onions, peas, potatoes, radish, silverbeet, spinach, and tomatoes

Plants for a Mediterranean summer (September to November):

  •  basil, beans, beetroot, capsicum, chilli, corn, melons, silverbeet, and squash

The Ultimate List of Top Chocolatiers in the World

pexels-woman-mouth-teeth-sweets-37831

Here’s a list of some of the most famous producers of the world’s finest chocolate. MC means that they have been given the title master chocolatier.

My favourite chocolate is Camille Bloch. We had little squares of the Swiss chocolate as favours at our wedding.

Who is your favourite chocolate producer?

Austria

Belgium

Canada

France

Germany

Italy

Luxembourg

Spain

Sweden

Switzerland

United Kingdom

The United States of America

How to grow tasty tomatoes

Guest post by The Diggers Club

tomato tasting

About the Taste Test

The Diggers Club conducted a tomato taste test to see whether heirloom tomatoes could beat the supermarket hybrids. The taste test was held in February 2013 at the Adelaide Botanic Garden, with South Australian garden experts, and cooks and gardeners invited.

Supermarket hybrids are usually dwarf bushy varieties which are easier to machine harvest and are bred for long-distance shipping. Being dwarf varieties they are invariably low in flavour with short harvest periods. The tasty long-harvest period heirloom tomatoes are indeterminate, with lateral branches that continue to grow and therefore need support.

The seeds from these heirloom tomatoes bred in back yards over hundreds of years hold a continuous unbroken link to our history.

The Results

The top ten Diggers Club Tomato Taste Test results were all heirlooms:

Rank Variety Colour Size
=1 Hungarian Heart Pink Oxheart
=1 Jaune Flamme Orange Apricot
2 Tommy Toe Red Apricot
3 Black Cherry Purple-Black Cherry
4 Wild Sweetie Red Pea
5 Wapsipinicon Peach Opaque Apricot
6 Lemon Drop Lemon Grape
7 Ananas Noir Yellow/Black Beefsteak
8 Black Russian Black Apricot
9 Periforme / Granny’s Throwing Red Large pear
10 Purple Smudge Orange Beefsteak

We had three Italian Chef/food experts who rated Italian red heirloom Periforme the best, in preference to highly coloured heirlooms.

tomatoes in basket

Growing tomatoes

Tomatoes are easy to grow with 6 hours of sunshine per day in friable, well drained soil.

  • Sow seed into Jiffy or Peat Pots 6 weeks before transplanting to minimise transplant root disturbance. All but dwarf varieties need support.
  • Being frost sensitive they need minimum 15 degrees C soil temperature for up to 21 growing weeks. Plant out at 1 metre spacing.
  • Heirlooms will fruit from January for 3-4 months in cool climates and all year around in hot climates, hence the ubiquitous supermarket ‘winter’ tomato!

Summary

The first eighteen varieties preferred were all heirlooms from Hungry, France, Italy, Russia and America, and seven of the bottom eight were red commercial varieties from the South Australian market. Since the 1993 taste test which was won by Tommy Toe, fourteen varieties were regarded as better than the garden standard Grosse Lisse.

Would you pay four hundred times the price of heirlooms to an overseas corporation when you can save your seeds and replant for nothing?

Guest post by The Diggers Club

Pannacotta recipe

pannacotta

Panna cotta is a traditional Italian dessert meaning ‘cooked cream’. I have attempted to make it before, but as I was trying to invent my own recipe with coconut cream – it didn’t turn out very well. I can reassure you that the below recipe does work and it’s dead easy. Vanilla pannacotta may be too bland for some people so think of it as a starting point and add other flavours or a berry sauce.

I didn’t have a vanilla bean, so instead, I used vanilla concentrated extract and vanilla bean sugar from Herbie’s Spices. The sugar has black flecks which are the vanilla bean seeds. If you have vanilla essence use 2 tsp to 1 tsp of concentrated extract (or twice as much).

Vanilla pannacotta recipe

2 Tbsp water
2 tsps gelatine powder
1 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped OR
1 tsp vanilla concentrated extract and 1 Tbsp vanilla bean sugar
1/3 cup icing sugar, sifted
500ml single (pouring) cream

  1. Place the water in a cup and sprinkle over the gelatine. Allow the water to be absorbed, which may take about 5 minutes.
  2. Place the cream, icing sugar, vanilla bean and seeds (or vanilla concentrated extract and vanilla bean sugar) in a small saucepan over medium heat. Bring to the boil, stirring occasionally.
  3. Add the gelatine and cook stirring for 1 to 2 minutes, or until the gelatine is dissolved.
  4. If used, pick out the vanilla bean pod.
  5. Pour the mixture into 4 x 1/2 cup capacity (125ml) lightly greased moulds.
  6. Refrigerate for 4 to 6 hours, or until firm.
  7. Remove the pannacotta from the fridge 5 minutes before serving. Remove from the moulds.

Serves 4

Minestrone recipe

minestrone

We both thought that this recipe was delicious and that we’d cook it again. We used kale which came straight from our garden. Some minestrone recipes contain potato and pasta, but this one contains neither. It’s a winter version so it contains vegetables you’d harvest from your garden at this time of year. It’s quite a chunky dense soup so you may like to add more stock or water at the end to give you the right consistency. I liked it chunky and dense.

Winter minestrone soup recipe

Adapted from River Cafe’s winter minestrone soup recipe. 

2 Tbsp olive oil
1 medium carrot, roughly chopped
1 large red onion, coarsely chopped
2 storks of celery, coarsely chopped
1/2 head of garlic cloves, peeled
250g kale, chard or cavolo nero, coarsely chopped
a handful of parsley, finely chopped
400g can peeled cherry tomatoes, drained of most of their juices
425g can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
500ml homemade chicken or vegetable stock
sprig of thyme or sage, chopped
freshly grated Parmesan
extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling

  1. Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan and slowly fry the carrots, onion and celery until soft and dark. This will take approximately 20 minutes.
  2. Then add the garlic and the parsley. Stir in the tomatoes and cook for a further 10 minutes or until reduced. 
  3. Add half of the kale leaves (or chard or cavolo nero), beans and the boiling stock. Bring to the boil then reduce the heat and simmer for 30 minutes.
  4. Add the remaining kale leaves (or chard or cavolo nero) and blanch briefly so they remain green and crisp.
  5. Stir in the thyme or sage and serve hot with Parmesan and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.
  6. Season with salt and pepper.

Serves 2.

Best recipe: Trifle

Trifle

I was wanting to make something British to celebrate the arrival of the Royal baby boy. I’ve tried to make this trifle as traditionally as possible, but there is some debate about whether to add jelly or not to a trifle. I like the strawberry wobble, so it’s staying.

The British touches I have used are reminiscent of strawberries and cream at Wimbledon. My British mother-in-law sets the fruit in the jelly, so you could try that but leave a few strawberries aside to decorate the top of the trifle. This trifle is a celebration of all things British and seasonal for their summer time.

I’ve used mini Jam Swiss rolls for the cool effect it gives to the side of the glass bowl, but you could also use Madeira cake or Victoria sponge.

Congratulations Kate and William on your new baby boy. I wonder what he will be called? We have our fingers crossed for George.

British Trifle recipe

1 packet of strawberry flavoured jelly
150ml Madeira or sherry
250g Jam mini rolls, or Madeira cake or Victoria sponge
600ml pouring custard
1 punnet of strawberries, halved
300ml pure double cream
50g milk chocolate, grated (Green & Blacks

  1. Make up the jelly following the instructions on the packet. Place in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours to set.
  2. Cut the cake into small chunks and soak in the Madeira or sherry.
  3. Assemble the trifle, by layering the cake around the base of the bowl.
  4. Then add a layer of jelly, strawberries, and then custard. Repeat with the cake again and the other layers until finished.
  5. Whip the double cream with an electric hand whisk until it is firm but still floppy. Use cream for the final layer and decorate with some strawberries and grated chocolate.

 

Best recipe: Sirloin steak with Cafe de Paris sauce

sirloin steak

Cafe de Paris butter sauce was originally created way back in 1941 by Freddy Dumont for the restaurant of the same name, in Geneva. The original recipe remains a secret, so this is rumoured to be a close version. If you don’t have all the exact 25 ingredients, don’t worry just use what you have and the result will still be delicious. Although it is better to make the butter in large quantities, this recipe is cut down as much as possible. Use the butter on steak, baked potatoes, or under the skin of roast chicken.

The butter sauce will keep for about a week in the refrigerator or for several months in the freezer (wrapped in plastic).

Sirloin steak with Cafe de Paris sauce recipe

250g unsalted butter
3/4 Tbsp tomato sauce
1 1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp capers, well rinsed
30 g shallots, peeled and finely chopped
1 Tbsp of parsley, chopped
1 Tbsp of chives, chopped
3/4 tsp dried marjoram
3/4 tsp dried dill
1/2 tsp fresh thyme leaves
3 fresh tarragon leaves
a pinch of ground dried rosemary
1/2 to 1 small clove of garlic
2 anchovy fillets, rinsed
1 tsp good brandy
1 tsp Madeira
1/4 tsp Worcestershire sauce
a pinch of sweet paprika
a pinch of curry powder
a pinch of cayenne pepper
The zest of 1/8 a lemon
The zest of 1/8 orange
The juice of 1/4 lemon
Season with salt
1 sirloin steak per person 

  1. Leave the butter out so that it is at room temperature.
  2. Mix all of the ingredients together in a small bowl, pressing them together with the back of a fork or beat on low with an electric mixer. 
  3. Transfer the butter to a sheet of grease proof paper and roll into a sausage shape.
  4. Refrigerate and cut into discs as required.
  5. Preheat a frying pan or grill to high.
  6. Season steaks with salt and pepper. Spray with oil.
  7. Cook for 3 to 5 minutes each side for medium-rare or until cooked to your liking.
  8. Transfer to a serving plate. Cover with foil and set aside for 2 minutes to rest.
  9. Slice butter and place a disc on top of each steak.

Many servings.

 

Best recipe: Scrambled eggs

scrambled-eggs

When I say that this is an easy recipe, I really mean it. The trick to cooking moist scrambled eggs is to restrain yourself and let the eggs cook as long as the recipe says, which I found difficult as I don’t particularly like runny eggs. I secretly wonder if Bill Granger uses more cream than the recipe calls for in his restaurant. This recipe is very indulgent and I don’t expect you’d use cream every weekend.

An old boyfriend taught me his secret to scrambled eggs. He used the lowest heat possible and combined half a glass of milk to each egg and then cooking them for at least half an hour. Yawn. I much prefer this quick recipe!

Chef Bill Granger says, always use a non-stick pan with a wooden spoon for best results and easy cleaning. Don’t over-stir – think of these as folded eggs rather than scrambled. The eggs should have the texture of soft curds. It’s best not to cook more than three portions in one go as you will overcrowd the pan and the eggs won’t cook as well. For larger numbers, cook in two pans rather than one.
Perfect scrambled eggs – BBC GoodFood

Scrambled Eggs

Adapted from Perfect scrambled eggs by Bill Granger

2 eggs, organic
1/3 cup pouring cream
10g butter, organic
pinch of salt

  1. Add the eggs and cream to a bowl and mix together with a whisk. 
  2. Heat a non-stick pan to high and melt the butter.
  3. Pour in the egg mixture. Allow the egg to cook and fold them in with a wooden spoon when they have set on the outside edge.
  4. Repeat this until the egg mixture has just set, and just moist. They will continue to cook slightly when they have been turned out.
  5. Season with salt and serve with some hot buttered toast.

Serves 1.

Best recipe: ANZAC biscuits

ANZAC biscuits

The original ANZAC biscuit recipe is easy to find online, but I decided to go with a moist and chewy ANZAC biscuit recipe as that’s how I prefer them. The original biscuits were hard, as they had to last the journey across the sea to the men fighting in Europe. Most recipes share the same ingredients and just vary the amounts. Curtis Stone in his latest cookbook, “What’s for Dinner?” calls them “Oatmeal Coconut Butter Cookies”!

I guess I could have waited until ANZAC day to make these, but I thought they’d be simple to make and something good to start learning to cook with.

My first problem was that I don’t own any baking trays, so I had to use a roasting tray. Then it took about 20 times to start the gas powered oven – I hope it’s not on its way out!

I mixed together all the dry ingredients, but the brown sugar left lumps, so it took about five minutes to squish them against the side of the mixing bowl. Then I moved on to the wet ingredients. It was taking a long time to pour the CSR golden syrup from the squeeze bottle into the measuring spoon.

Matt said “You know you can take the lid off of that.”

“Now you tell me” I replied. “I’m nearly finished!”

“Well, you need to work on your muscles.”

I combined the dry and wet ingredients and then popped the biscuits in the oven. In the meantime, I decided to do the washing up. I hate washing tongs, wooden spoons and plastic containers, and this load had all three! The stupid timer stopped with four minutes to go. Fortunately I noticed.

The first batch was a little under done and one of the biscuits crumbled apart as I slid them onto the wire cooling rack. I reread the instructions and saw that I was supposed to let them “Stand on trays for 5 minutes” but I missed that step. The second batch had a distinctive home-made look about them, but they are still not brown enough! The third and final batch were just what I was looking for in an ANZAC biscuit.

ANZAC biscuit recipe

1 cup rolled oats
1 cup plain flour*
2/3 cup brown sugar
2/3 cup desiccated coconut
1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda*
125g butter, organic
2 tablespoons golden syrup

  1. Preheat oven to 160°C. Prepare baking trays by lining three of them with baking paper.
  2. Combine all the dry ingredients – oats, flour, sugar, coconut, and bicarbonate of soda – in a bowl.
  3. Place butter, syrup and 2 tablespoons cold water in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir for 2 minutes or until butter has melted.
  4. Combine the dry and wet ingredients by stirring the butter mixture into oat mixture.
  5. Roll level tablespoons of mixture into balls. Place on baking trays about 5cm apart. Flatten slightly with the back of the spoon.
  6. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until light golden. Stand on trays for 5 minutes.
  7. Then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Variations

I made my biscuits wheat-free by swapping the 1 cup of flour and bicarbonate of soda, for one cup of Melinda’s Gluten-Free Goodies Self Raising Flour. To make them gluten-free swap the oats for quinoa flakes.