Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Stephen goes to the South Coast

Its school holiday time and we pack up the kids and head to a caravan at Easts Beach just south of Kiama. This caravan is a family heirloom and one of our favourite holiday's, in this business I get to stay in a few fancy resorts and posh hotels but, a  week in the caravan is something we always look forward to.  But I digress, the South Coast of NSW is a great destination for your next conference or event, there are some first class venues, and a wealth of social, scenic and team building activities on offer.

Kiama and Gerringong are my favourite parts of the coast, but if you need the convenience and  energy of a big city Wollongong will be very satisfying.

7 Mile Beach - Geroa
There are some good restaurants in Kiama but being a fishing port we always get down to Kiama harbour and get some fresh seafood from the market. Delicious. And although we are not fishermen ourselves, a dear neighbour of ours at the caravan park regularly comes to our door with freshly caught flathead, he tells us that there are many great places for throwing in a line from beach, rocks, rivers and estuary's. If you are looking for  a social activity for your conference delegates there are several fishing charter vessels that operate out of Kiama Harbour.

Minnamurra - Budderoo National Park
Or maybe you just want to have some sweet dumb fun, release your inner child. I am happy to report I have spent time laughing like a loon at Jamberoo a water based fun park offering waterslides, swimming pools, mini golf and bob sleds. Another wondeful place to visit is the Minamurra Rainforest Centre in Budderoo National Park, just a  few minutes from Jamberoo and 20 minutes drive from Kiama. Budderoo National Park offers some short rainforest walks and is a great introduction to our amazing rainforests. The Kangaroo Valley, Geroa and 7 Mile Beach, Huskisson are some other destinations in the area that are well worth a visit.
Lawrence Hargrave Drive
Destinations like Wollongong, Kiama & Gerringong are all blessed with picturesque coastal locations and are less than 2 hours drive from Sydney Airport. The venues in these areas are well versed in the logistics of transporting delegates to and from Sydney Airport and can provide great assistance in making these arrangements. If you delegates are making their own way, trains are regular, roads are good and parking is inexpensive. And if your delegates are driving to the area, I suggest a detour along the majestic and much photographed Lawrence Hargrave Drive. If you have the time, the coastal road into Wollongong is well worth the drive.

Wollongong is the largest city in the area, 3rd largest city in NSW, and has a rich history and a lively culture to accompany its beaches and businesses. Novotel Northbeach Wollongong and The Chifley Wollongong are the 2 major conference venues in Wollongong and both enjoy great beachside locations. Wollongong is just on 1 hour south of Sydney.

Novotel Northbeach Wollongong

Illawarra Deck - Novotel Northbeach
Novotel Northbeach Wollongong is the largest of the venues boasting a ballroom that can seat 600 delegates along with a selection of additional rooms that can host smaller meetings, breakout groups and workshops. The huge amount of conference space here also makes Novotel Wollongong a popular choice for Exhibitions, Trade Displays and Expo's. This venue can also offer 'drive in' conference space making it a popular choice for car and truck companies. Novotel Northbeach Wollongong has also recently opened the Illawarra Deck, an area that is well suited cocktail functions, team building activities or informal dinners. Novotel Northbeach can also offer an on-site nightclub venue that can be used exclusively for your group if you want to kick on until the early hours. The restaurant at this venue enjoys a great reputation among locals and offers views and plenty of natural light. Accommodation at Novotel Northbeach is spacious and comfortable, suitable for both Holiday makers and business travellers. 

The Chifley Wollongong is the newer of the venues and just a few minutes walk from Wollongong City Centre with its shopping, dining and corporate offices. This venue is also right on the beach and sits next door to the Wollongong Entertainment Centre and WIN Stadium. The Chifley Wollongong has an inviting coastal contemporary feel, the accommodation is well equipped and comfortable offering good sized work desks with accessible powerpoints, internet access and foxtel business, movie and sport channels. The conference rooms are versatile with all but one room conveniently situated on the same floor. The ballroom can seat up to 450 delegates and each of the conference rooms can be easily divided into smaller spaces suitable for breakouts and work shops.

Just over 30 minutes south of Wollongong, or 90 minutes south of Sydney we find Kiama and The Sebel Harbourside Kiama, this is a unique conference venue partially housed in the, heritage listed, original Kiama School House. The Assembly Hall in this late 1800's building features high ceilings, plenty of natural light and can seat up to 90 people. The accommodation is of a high standard with many rooms offering balcony's and the hotel can offer some apartment accommodation with views of the Harbour. This is a venue that is well suited to smaller boutique events. We have booked several conferences into this venue and always received positive feedback

The School Room - The Sebel Harbourside Kiama
Superior Balcony Room - The Sebel Harbourside Kiama
Another 10 minutes down the road and we come to Gerringong, still within the ever popular 2 hour drive from Sydney. The Mercure Resort Gerringong, this is another elegant boutique conference venue that is ideal for a small conference or executive retreat. The Resort features 2 pools (one of them just for Adults ) a conference room with natural light that can seat up to 200 people, but just 50 accommodation rooms which is why I say it is well suited to smaller conferences. The secret treat at this Conference Resort is the Restaurant which is run by the former chef at Cafe Sydney, a man who wanted a change of pace, relocated to the idyllic coastal village of Gerringong and picked up a job at Mercure. The food here is very good! The accommodation is spacious and offers facilities that business travellers will appreciate. There are also interconnecting rooms with kitchenettes that will be good if your delegates are travelling with their families.

Pool - Mercure Gerringong
Meeting Room - Mercure Gerringong

In conclusion, the South Coast of NSW offers meeting planners a great selection of destinations and venues along with ample opportunity for team building and social activities. These venues are far enough from the big smoke to get some separation from the office, but close enough for access and transfers to be relatively easy, these locations are well within the oft requested 2 hour drive from Sydney CBD. Conference organisers may even find that the lower prices in the regional destinations compensate for the extra costs associated with transfers. These are some venues that are ideal for residential conferences and executive retreats. So use my experience and contact us for more information and quotes. 

Monday, 17 September 2012

Conference Venues in Adelaide

They let me out of the office again.....

We've started working with and recommending conference hotels in Adelaide so thought I'd better get down there are have a look around.

I flew out of Sydney and only had a short delay before departure, but I am pretty happy in airports and on planes so it never bothers me too much. Airports are one of the few places that I can still justify having MacDonalds for a snack.  Just under 2 hours later, I'd almost finished the crossword puzzle and we landed in Adelaide. I've been told a few times that Adelaide is the 20 minute city, and this is a great notion for conference organisers, just a 20 minute dive from the Airport to the City, just a 20 minute drive from the City to the Beach and not much more than 20 minutes walking from A to B in the city centre. Then there are also the Adelaide Hills with scenery, wineries and Hahndorf the old German village just 30 minutes from the CBD.

I headed out to Glenelg to visit The Stamford Grand Adelaide, this is an lovely traditional hotel overlooking the Ocean, at right at the end of the Tram line from the city. The place reminded me a bit of a few other beachside locations and venues that I have visited and I love 'em all. There is something quite special about being by the Ocean. I was lucky enough to get a  room with beach views and in addition to the great views the room was spacious and the bed was comfortable. Stamford Grand has a ballroom with big high ceilings and a terrace that looks out over the beach, the conference rooms offer plenty of natural light. I often think that natural light with views in a conference room can be a double edged sword (I tend to gaze wistfully at the view rather than pay attention to the teacher) but a place where you can enjoy a morning or afternoon tea break with a view of the Ocean is a godsend, genuinely refreshing, and Stamford Grand offers this in spades. Stamford Grand also offers the ability to drive a car into the ballroom .....without being arrested!
Stamford Grand Adelaide - Evening View
Stamford Grand Adelaide - Accommodation
Glenelg is a lively beachside suburb plenty of bars and restaurants within an easy walk of the hotel and I enjoyed some excellent fish and chips at one of the local cafes. There is also a beachside walkway that will take you several kilometres along the coast, very attractive for an early morning run or a late evening stroll.

The next day was wall to wall Hotel visits......

Rydges South Park offers a smart venue overlooking parklands on the southern fringe of the Adelaide CBD, the highlight here (apart from the wonderful staff) is the Skyline Conference Centre, this is a flexible space on the top floor of the building complete with its own bar, toilets, lounge area and with an abundance of natural light and lovely views. The space splits into 3 sections and can accommodate around 30 people cabaret in each section or well over 100 if the space is opened up. This is a venue that offers some great prices (including free parking and in room Internet access) and is well suited to small and medium sized events.

Rydges South Park - Skyline Conference Centre
Hotel Grand Chancellor on Hindley is a good quality city centre conference venue that offers some great prices, this is a venue that is close to nightclubs, bars and restaurants so if your delegates are interested in some nightlife this is a good choice. 


When I visited the facade caught my attention, it looks a bit like an old Theatre and seemed to hint at a rather small venue, however once inside the space really opened out and the venue offers a large ballroom that can seat 400 people, recently refurbished accommodation and an attractive pool deck that would be a great space for cocktail functions or BBQ's

If you are looking for a well priced and conveniently located venue in Adelaide Mercure Grosvenor Adelaide might be the right choice. This one is situated on North Terrace, across the road from the Railway Station making it very easy for delegates to access. North Terrace is typically the domain of 5 star hotels, but Mercure offers well priced facilities and comfortable 4 star accommodation, in addition to the 4 star rooms they have a 3 star 'Economy Room' that is small, but fresh and clean (see picture below), and that they can offer for around A$100 /night depending on availability and size of your group. The conference space at Mercure Grosvenor is all on one level and I found it to be full of character with high ceilings and stained glass, giving the space a warm, old world executive feel.

Mercure Grosvenor Adelaide - Economy Room
Mercure Grosvenor Adelaide - Meeting Room
 At the other end of the chronological spectrum we find Novotel Rockford Adelaide, I stayed overnight in a room that had iPad, apple TV, wireless internet, stylish modern interiors and most importantly a great shower and very comfortable bed. This venue is sleek, contemporary furniture, hard shiny surfaces, elegant subdued colours with splashes of red, brand new comfortable modern conference chairs. The property also offers a stylish on-site restaurant and a delicious breakfast buffet (I love a good breakfast buffet and would happily choose to stay in a hotel based on the quality of their breakfast pastries - my 9yo daughter bases all her hotel assessments on the quality of the pool) and luckily, Novotel Rockford Adelaide also has a great rooftop pool with a deck that is a popular venue for cocktail functions.

Novotel Rockford Adelaide - Rooftop Pool
Novotel Rockford Adelaide - Accommodation
Novotel Rockford Adelaide - Conference Room

I did visit a few other properties in Adelaide, the new Crowne Plaza was probably the highlight of them but this may've been because i had a fantastic homemade biscuit and excellent coffee at the cafe next to the hotel and was in a good mood :).

Of course if you have any questions or would like to consider a conference venue Adelaide get in touch with me and I will make some suggestions based on your requirements and budget. I look forward to hearing from you.

Friday, 3 August 2012

A Weekend of Fine Food at Peppers

I've stayed at a few Peppers properties over the years and always enjoy my time with them, the accommodation is always stylish, practical and comfortable, the facilities are always well maintained and the staff have always treated me and the family well. Peppers usually do not have massive conference centres and heaps of meeting rooms, but the conferences I've attended at a Peppers property have always been memorable, there is a boutique atmosphere that makes you feel a bit special. However, one thing that I always love at Peppers is the food, I don't mind a good feed and Peppers has consistently satisfied me.

So I thought I'd share this with you. Peppers Hotels & Resorts hold a series of food and wine related events in destinations around the country. There is one coming up in the Southern Highlands of NSW on 17th and 18th August.

Peppers have 2 properties in the Southern Highlands of NSW; Peppers Craigieburn and Peppers Manor House. Just 90 minutes drive from Sydney and situated in some of the states most picturesque countryside these 2 boutique hotels offer a great week-end getaway, executive retreat or intimate conference venue. On the week-end of 17th and 18th August they are joining forces to host 'In Season at Peppers' a week-end of great food and wine. There are 3 events spread over the week-end

Peppers Craigieburn

Accommodation at Peppers Craigieburn
An Evening of In Season Grazing Delights with Peppers 
7pm Friday 17 August at Peppers Craigieburn
$55 per person
Executive Chefs Warrick Brook of Peppers Craigieburn and Twan Wyers of Peppers Manor House, will showcase local produce at this exclusive market stall event with an emphasis on winter vegetables. Wander from stall to stall grazing on the gourmet delights of the Southern Highlands and getting to know our local producers, whilst sipping a selection of the regions world class cool climate wines.

Peppers Manor House
Peppers Southern Highlands Hosted Food Trail 
10am Saturday 18 August 
$90 per person 
Join us for a personally guided tour hosted by Peppers and FoodPath. Travel to the gorgeous Montrose Berry farm and enjoy a guided tasting of their products including jams, fruit pastes and berry vinegars. Visit Studio Restaurant at Exeter and savour a delicious two course lunch including a glass of wine. Explore Joadja Winery, while you enjoy a guided wine tasting then sample a variety of local cheeses.

'In Season at Peppers' Degustation Dinner 
7pm Saturday 18 August at Peppers Manor House 
$150 per person including wine
In association with Gourmet Traveller, hosted by Nick Stock from Gourmet Traveller WINE Peppers Manor House will present a five course degustation menu with an emphasis on winter vegetables, prepared by Executive Chefs, Twan Wyers of Peppers Manor House and Warrick Brook of Peppers Craigieburn. Cool-climate wines are matched to each dish by Nick Stock from Gourmet Traveller WINE, who will engage and entertain guests with his experience and expertise.

To Book call us at M-Power on 02 9318 2361 or email to

.. RECIPE ..

.....  not sure if they will cook this one in the Southern Highlands, but here is a recipe supplied by Reuben Radonich, Executive Chef at Season restaurant, Peppers Salt Resort and Spa. We tried it at home and it was very tasty.

Butternut Pumpkin and Witches Chase Goats Cheese Tortellini, Burnt Sage Butter, Roasted Pine Nuts and Beetroot Chips.

.... authors note: If you dont have a pasta making machine, don't stress about rolling out your own tortellini, Wonton wrappers/skins from the local Asian grocer work just fine. Witches Chase Goats Cheese is apparently delicious, but any goats cheese will be OK.

Serves 6


Pumpkin filling (4 per serve)
750g butternut pumpkin, peeled and diced
½ onion, diced finely
2 cloves garlic, crushed
Pinch of nutmeg and ground cinnamon
Salt and pepper
500g Witches Chase goat’s cheese

10 eggs
1kg plain flour
1tsp olive oil

Burnt sage butter and pine nuts
100g organic butter
½ bunch sage, torn
50g pine nuts


Pumpkin Filling
Roast pumpkin for 15-20 mins until just tender. 
Sweat off onion and garlic. 
Toss with pumpkin and spices.

Make a well in the flour. 
Add eggs and olive oil and combine. 
Kneed together to form a dough and rest for 30 minutes. 
Roll thin sheets of pasta (No6) using pasta machine. 
Cut with round cutter and place a tea spoon of pumpkin filling and a tea spoon of goat’s cheese in the centre of the pasta disc. 
Brush outer edge with egg wash and fold to now make half moon shape. 
Press firmly to ensure edges are sealed tight. 
Join the 2 tips of moon to make tortellini shape. 
Place in simmering salted water for 6 minutes, strain, ready to serve.

Burnt Sage Butter and Pine Nuts
Heat pan.  
Add butter and pine nuts. 
Brown butter and nuts. 
Add sage and toss with cooked tortellini. 
Serve by garnishing with beetroot chips, shaved grano padano parmesan cheese and micro herbs.

Thursday, 7 June 2012

Finding A Conference Venue

"We need to have a conference, maybe on a Wednesday next month, can you find a venue for us ?" and with that, the boss heads off to lunch leaving you thinking, huh, what, umm, geez......maybe I should have a glass of wine, why is that guy wearing a scarf in summer, those dumplings were amazing, ummm, huh, shit, did he say conference? When, where... Shit .... What now?!

Well, there are a few things that might help, and we will start with the big ones....

Where do you want to be? Do you want something that is close to your workplace, or would you rather have your delegates well away from the distractions of home and office. Are your delegates arriving by car, bus, train or plane - will you need to be near an airport or train station? 

Don't discount suburban destinations, a majority of your delegates may live in these areas. Avoiding peak hour commute, city centre traffic and parking may be a bonus, delegates will arrive on time and unstressed.

Don't discount regional destinations as being 'hard to access', you may be surprised at the frequency of flights into some of these locations. for example, Conference venues on the NSW North Coast in Port Macquarie, Ballina and Coffs Harbour are all serviced by several flights every day from Sydney.

If the delegates are all locals, or if you really want them to get to know each other you may want a resort style venue where they never have to leave the property. If the delegates are from overseas or interstate maybe you'd prefer a city venue where they can get out and experience the local attractions. In the city centre scenario you may lose some delegates, shopping, sightseeing or drinking may entice some delegates away from your presentations.

For example; The Gold Coast is a popular destination with a variety of great conference venues to choose from, it has an International Airport and gets regular flights from most domestic centres. There are venues in the centre of Surfers Paradise like the brand new QT Gold Coast which will give your delegates the opportunity to walk out of the hotel and hit the beaches, the boutiques and the bars. Or, a similar distance from the airport, you have venues like Radisson Resort Gold Coast which is a little bit inland and away from the action, the resort has extensive grounds for team building and relaxing, neighbouring golf courses, pools and restaurants, which means delegates will never need to leave the property. 

How much do you want to spend and what quality do you expect? This of course is the bottom line in all our planning. I would love to conference in beautiful, secluded, quiet beachside locations with golf courses, day spas and fresh seafood on the buffet, where I can gaze out the window and relax. The shareholders or voters would love me to conference next door to the office in a 3 star hotel with no frills and no distractions. So its always a bit of a balancing act. You will need to consider who is at the conference, 3 star food and accommodation might leave senior managers dissatisfied and disengaged, frontline staff might be suitably impressed with a 4 star venue. 

Don't be deterred by out-of-town venues, the conference savings that can be found in regional destinations can frequently offset the extra expense of transfers or airfares. 

For example (we will use the Gold Coast again as our example); Mantra Legends in the centre of Surfers Paradise will probably cost less than A$200 per delegate per day for conference and accommodation, return flights from Sydney will cost around A$200 per delegate (there are heaps of flights and it takes less than an hour). A Conference Hotel in Sydney of a similar standard might cost around A$290 per delegate per day for conference and accommodation (and dont forget the commute, traffic and maybe A$50 per day for parking). So over a 3 day conference it might even be less expensive to conference on the Gold Coast - and an out-of-town destination has the added bonus of feeling a bit special for your delegates.

Here are some other points to consider.....
  • "We must have natural light" - a common request. When I was at school, gazing out a window always seemed more interesting than listening to the teacher, so remember that big windows with views of the world passing by can be a distraction and if you are doing powerpoint presentations you will have the blinds closed most of the time anyway. Delegates will rarely spend more than 2 hours at a time sitting in the room, the day is broken up with coffee breaks and lunch breaks, so it may be better to ensure the areas where you have your breaks feature natural light, fresh air and views. Quay Grand Suites in Sydney is a good example, a couple of good professional conference rooms with no natural light, but coffee breaks held in a  space that has views of Harbour Bridge, The Rocks and Circular Quay.
  • If you are trying to sell an idea or product to a group of clients you may need to consider a venue that is easy to get too. There is nothing worse than having delegates walk into your meeting frustrated because they got lost or couldn't find a parking space.
  • Think about the time of year your conference is being held - cheap or discounted rates might mean that its not a great time of year at that destination. March is a great time of year in Sydney, but probably the worst time of year in North Queensland so you will find highly discounted rates, but there may be some cyclones to contend with. November is perfect in NSW, almost summer and not quite into high season prices, but it is Schoolies time so probably avoid the Gold Coast and Byron Bay. There are always special events on that can affect prices, especially for accommodation. For example, Melbourne hosts the Australian Open tennis during the last 2 weeks of January and at this time accommodation is in high demand and therefore much more expensive than the first week of February. On the other hand big cruise ships visit in Sydney everyday in February which, again, means accommodation is in high demand, hard to find and expensive.
And of course if you haven't got the time to take all this into consideration just visit my web site at and phone or send me an e-mail.

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Conference Venues in Parramatta

Parramatta may not be seen as exotic or scenic destination, but western Sydney is called home by 1 in 10 Australians and the area has over 200 000 businesses, Parramatta is the centre of western Sydney so clearly we need to know a bit more about conference and meeting venues in the area.

Firstly, Parramatta is easy to get to, train from Central takes about 30 minutes and a Taxi from the city cost me about A$50. Parramatta is around 40 minutes drive from Sydney Airport or the CBD. Also, consider that there is a good chance that some of your delegates will live in the area. 

Mantra Parramatta - Conference Room
Conference Room - Mantra Parramatta
Mantra Parramatta has just undergone a big refurbishment, the accommodation is looking fresh and new - spacious rooms, flat screen TV's, comfy beds and work desks with power points - good stuff for business travellers and conference delegates. Mantra Parramatta is just a few minutes walk from Parramatta station public transport interchange and Westfield Shopping centre making it a very convenient location. 

The property also offers apartment style accommodation for long stay guests (if you have enquiries about long stay accommodation in Sydney visit these guys offer lots of experience, great service and great rates). 

The conference room at Mantra Parramatta does not offer natural light, so no need to close the curtains if you have data projector and powerpoint presentations, but the room is elegant and can seat 100 in a Cabaret setting. The meeting room can be split into 3 sections if you have smaller groups or need break-out sessions. Of course the catering at Mantra is always good - I love being invited to dine with these guys!

Rydges Parramatta Conference and Convention Venue
Rydges Parramatta - Hotel and Conference Venue
Rydges Parramatta is located opposite Rosehill Racecourse, so its a little out of the Parramatta town centre but there are plenty of reasons to hold your next conference at Rydges. The hotel has a ballroom that can seat 200 in a cabaret setting and can be broken down into 3 sections, the ballroom also has vehicle access and built in Data projectors and screens. Complimenting the ballroom and just 1 level up are a selection of boardrooms and small meeting rooms that are perfect for breakout or training sessions and smaller conferences. Rydges Parramatta has a selection of on-site dining venues, if you have delegates in conference for several days its great to mix it up a bit and give them some different dinner venues. One of the options is an on-site informal public sports bar that can host a wide variety of themed private functions but also gives delegates a place for a quiet drink where they can have punt or just sit back and watch the footy. Another popular feature of Rydges Parramatta is the free on-site parking.

The Sebel Parramatta - Ballroom Theatre Style
Ballroom - Sebel Parramatta
The Sebel Parramatta is located opposite Prince Alfred Park and The Riverside Theatre, and being on Church Street is just a few metres from Parramatta's restaurant strip. The Sebel Parramatta features the areas largest pillarless ballroom, capable of seating 500 delegates in a Theatre style setting, the venue also offers several smaller rooms that are good for break-outs etc. The Conference rooms at The Sebel Parramatta are set over 2 levels around a central atrium, catering can be provided in the same area, the floor space can be used for trade displays and can fit around 12 standard exhibition booths. The delegate accommodation is of a recognisable Sebel standard, well suited to business travellers offering cable TV, work desks, internet access.

In summary, Parramatta and western Sydney is a rapidly growing destination for conference and events, the variety of good quality meeting facilities and accommodation along with the convenient location is proving popular with conference organisers. Parramatta offers meeting planners some great value with prices much lower than venues of a similar quality in the CBD.

If you would like quotes or more information visit or contact me 

Sunday, 27 May 2012

Stephen goes to Port Macquarie

.... and i'm off to visit Kate from Rydges Port Macquaire, one of those 'put a face to a name' experiences that fascinate me, accompanied by a few events industry cohorts and the illustrious Maggie D. The Rydges Port Macquarie has just finished a major refurbishment and they are keen to show it off, and I'm keen to see it. 

My abiding memory of Port Macqaurie, in fact my only memory, is from visiting with a wonderful girlfriend many years ago and spending time drinking cheap wine a nice hotel room and eating takeaway from the Maccas that was across the road, I think the hotel was Sails. I am sure both myself and Port Macquarie are a little more sophisticated these days.

I've learned that Port Macquarie is easy to get to, just a 1 hour flight and 7-10 flights every day from Sydney and a couple from Brisbane. Both Qantas & Virgin fly into Port Macquarie and although prices vary you will probably pay just over A$100 each way. There are plans to expand the airport and take direct flights from Melbourne. 

.... something to consider when you are thinking about costs of a regional destination, any time airfares are mentioned it always sounds expensive, but savings on accommodation, conference package and parking in Port Macquarie (compared to a similar Sydney CBD venue) probably equal at least A$90 per person per day. Which makes a 2 or 3 day conference in Port Macquarie very financially viable.

Conference Room

Rydges is premier conference hotel in Port Macquarie. The new conference rooms have an expanded capacity and they can now seat around 300 people for a Gala Dinner, with 120 accommodation rooms they are very comfortable hosting a residential conference of around 100 people. The conference space has heaps of natural light and can be divided into smaller sections for break-out groups, workshops or smaller meetings. 

River View Room

The room I stayed in was spacious with a balcony and great views of the Hastings river, but most importantly, a work desk with plenty of power points, a comfortable bed and great shower. I just wish they had some herbal teas in the mini bar.

Visit for some more information about the property.

Dinner in the new hotel restaurant, Zebu, was lovely and exceeded my expectations, I'm no gastronome, but sometimes it seems that hotel restaurants are satisfied with being adequate. Zebu is not that type of restaurant and does not feel like a traditional regional hotel restaurant and bar. The space is modern and engaging with some gentle live music, and with plenty of locals enjoying themselves the place had a lively yet comfortable atmosphere. The food was delicious, the service was professional and friendly. Rydges have made an effort and it shows..... and I love that the General Manager and Sales people are locals who are knowledgeable, enthusiastic and involved with the community. 

Port Macquarie has a variety of venues that can be utilised. Rydges is the largest Conference Hotel and is a great base for any residential conference in the area, but we all know that getting delegates out of the hotel for an activity or dinner can give them some interesting local experiences to remember and talk about. 

Town Beach
We visited the Glasshouse just 1 minute walk from Rydges Port Macquarie. The Glasshouse is a modern multi-purpose arts centre that the locals should be proud of. The venue offers a fully equipped, professional, 600 seat Theatre,  great spaces for meetings, activities, exhibitions and cocktail functions along with a permanent Art Gallery (some amazing Tracey Moffatt photographs were hanging at the time of my visit) The Glasshouse works closely with Rydges and provides a great off-site venue for a variety of events.

Another excellent local venue and tourist attraction is Cassegrain Winery. This is a favorite wedding venue for locals and a popular banquet venue for conference organisers, with an indoor space that can seat around 100 people for a dinner with great views of the winery and gardens or outdoor spaces that can be set up for sit down dining and cocktail functions. We were lucky enough to enjoy a sit down lunch in the elegant gardens, bathed in sunshine and surrounded by the Australian bush, great food and local wines in a beautiful setting.

In the evening we were taken on a Port Macquarie Ghost Tour, a fascinating and entertaining night walk through the town during which we were introduced the the brutal history of Port Macquarie's early days, the tour can take up to 30 people and culminated in the local cemetery which left us a little jittery, clearly in need of a good feed and a glass of wine! Fortunately The Stunned Mullet was on hand and provided an amazing dinner, the Thai Syle Broth and  Braised Beef Cheek were stand out dishes for me, but my colleagues were equally effusive about other items on the menu along with the extensive and high quality wine list. The Stunned Mullet is less than 10 minutes walk from Rydges and can up to seat 80 delegates.

View from North Brother Mountain
View from Rydges Port Macquarie

Rydges Port Macquarie is right on the edge of the Hastings River and has a wharf on the front doorstep opening up the opportunity for a wide variety of water based activities. We got on a Chinese Junk for an afternoon cruise with drinks, delicious canapes and dolphins to watch. Conference delegates can enjoy cocktail cruises, dinner cruises and, I'm reliably informed, the least expensive Whale Watching Cruises on east coast of Australia. For the more adventurous Port Macquarie offers Ocean Jet Boating, high speed action with 360's, power brakes, slides and fish tails in the ocean swell. We also slowed down for some sightseeing along the rugged picturesque coastline and we all kept our eyes peeled for any sign of the whales that pass by Port Macquarie, although the reality is that we were a month early for Whale Watching season.

In conclusion, Port Macquarie is a well equipped conference destination, good quality conference hotel, a variety of alternative venues, great food and beverage, plenty of opportunity for Team Building Activities, a rich local history and, of course, the natural beauty of the area with lots of beautiful unpopulated beaches, the Hastings River and picturesque hinterland. For the more pragmatic it is a destination that is affordable and easy to access. A thoroughly recommendable destination with Rydges Port Macquarie at the epicentre.

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Conference Venues in Palm Cove

So, Palm Cove is a beautiful destination with some amazing environments and engaging attractions to keep your delegates busy, and sumptuous fresh local produce to keep them well fed - and we all know that no matter how exciting the speakers are, delegates will remember the food. Palm Cove also has some amazing hotels, here are a few of my favourites; Reef House, Peppers Beach Club, Sea Temple, Novotel Palm Cove & Paradise Palms.

I know it seems like I spent all my time working slavishly to bring you the news about Palm Cove conference venues, but rest assured I spent several delightfully lazy moments soaking up the tropical ambience, cup of tea, good book, t-shirt and shorts, reclining by the pool - even managed to squeeze in a gentle stroll along the beach. All part of the Palm Cove experience!

Reef House - Restaurant
Reef House Resort & Spa is built around the oldest guest house in Palm Cove, it has been renovated and extended over the years but retains the old world charm and guest house ambience, it has a great story and a welcoming embrace that allows you to feel comfortable from the moment you arrive. I hate using the word 'boutique' as i'm not exactly sure what it means, but staying at Reef House was special, a bit like house sitting for your favourite rich old uncle. 

It's not a huge conference venue, the conference room is quiet and does have natural light and they offer complimentary WiFi through out the hotel. Reef House is well suited to small residential conferences or training seminars. One of the highlights of this venue is sitting in the restaurant gazing out over the palm trees, beach and coral sea - breakfast with home made scones, a cup of tea with glorious sunrise was my favourite.

Peppers Palm Cove - Pool
Peppers Beach Club & Spa, again sitting right on the beach in the centre of Palm Cove with the restaurant at the front of the hotel so that you can sit and eat and watch the tropical beach scenery drift by. Peppers is a modern high quality conference venue with a couple of elegant meeting rooms that offer natural light. The conference room can seat up to around 80 delegates in a Classroom setting and can be split into 2 smaller rooms. 

The conference centre opens onto a deck that fronts the pool, so I suggest delegates wear their swimmers and take a quick refreshing dip in the pool during morning and afternoon breaks, the pool is a large resort style lagoon with a 'beach' section which is just great for the partners and kids.
Peppers Palm Cove - Meeting Room
If you need something a bit special try a suite that opens onto The Serenity Pool, a quiet swimming pool that is shrouded with rainforest plants, imagine waking up in the morning and stepping off your balcony and into the cool water before heading off to the conference - refreshed, relaxed and invigorated! Peppers also offers a selection of Penthouses that are suitable for your VIP's or Apartment style accommodation if your delegates are bringing their family.

Novotel Palm Cove - Pool
Novotel Palm Cove Resort is the largest of the conference venues in Palm Cove, located a short walk from the Palm Cove Beachfront, it is a great venue for a conference or event. They have just opened up an on-site outdoor venue under the Rainforest canopy, Staging Connections provided lighting and theming and a little music to create a magical atmosphere, I attended a dinner for around 20 people in this space  and it was a memorable evening - this would also be a great space for a cocktail event.

Novotel Palm Cove - Conference Room
Novotel Palm Cove can host events of a few hundred people in a conference centre that offers rooms with natural light and a conference foyer that can be used for morning and afternoon tea breaks, the room can also be split into smaller sections for break-out groups or work shops. The Resort is well laid out with the conference centre located a short walk from accommodation and reception, meaning that noise and privacy are not big issues. There is space next door to the Conference Centre where a large marquee can be set up for Dinners or trade displays. And for conference organisers to note - I have had some great feedback about the staff and service on offer at Novotel Palm Cove, everyone from Director of Sales to frontline and technical staff.

Novotel Palm Cove is a great place for conferences where delegates will bring partners and families, there are plenty of on-site activities - a couple of pools (one with a really cool Crocodile Water Slide), games room, kids club, 9 hole golf course, tennis courts and Day Spa. 

Sea Temple - Conference Room
Sea Temple Resort and Spa Palm Cove is a luxurious resort and conference centre, located at the southern end of the Palm Cove beachfront strip, this is another Palm Cove property that is well suited to small and medium sized conferences, currently the main meeting space does not offer natural light (there is a lovely boardroom with natural light that looks out over the pool) , but the resort is due to open some new conference rooms in early June that do offer plenty of natural light, although unfinished when we visited last weekend, you can see that these will be sought after meeting rooms.
Sea Temple Palm Cove - Pool
Sea Temple Palm Cove offers elegant apartment style accommodation giving delegates a home away from home feel - and having stayed in Sea Temple you might be tempted to not go back to your other home! A massive central pool with sections suitable for kids is another highlight.

Must also mention getting an amazing massage in the Sea Temple Day Spa, and I had a several people telling me that this is the best Day Spa in Palm Cove. 

Paradise Palms - Conference Room
Paradise Palms Resort and Country Club is a conference venue that I was completely unfamiliar with prior to my visit, only information I had was that a mate of mine had played golf there and loved the course. I know now that this is a great conference venue as well as a great golf course!

Paradise Palms Resort & Country Club

Paradise Palms is a 5 minute drive south of centre of Palm Cove, near Kewarra Beach, it offers a championship golf course, driving range and 18 hole mini putt-putt as well as high quality accommodation and a couple of excellent light filled conference rooms. The largest of the conference rooms can seat around 200 people in a theatre style setting. These conference rooms offer large undercover balconies and it is possible to have lunch or even set up your conference on the balcony.

Conference Hotel Venues web site has more in-depth information - visit our web site at Conference Hotel Venues - Tropical North Queensland