Gippsland, Kiama festivals light up the calendar

Head to the regions for all the festivals your heart desires this year.
Head to the regions for all the festivals your heart desires this year.

East Gippsland's annual Festival of Festivals is back in 2020, and this year there is even more reason to visit the far-east corner of Victoria, which was recently impacted by devastating bushfires.

This weekend is the Paynesville Classic Boat Rally, followed by Mallacoota's Wild Harvest Seafood Festival (April 3-5), the Gippsland Lakes Paddle Challenge (May 2) and Metung's food and wine festival, Feast on East (June 7).

The season wraps up with the East Gippsland Winter Festival, an exciting new celebration to be held throughout the region around the winter solstice (June 20 to July 12). The festival hopes to encourage visitors to towns impacted by the recent fires and drought, over the off-peak months.

The East Gippsland's Festival of Festivals provides the perfect opportunity to discover all the culinary delights and foodie hotspots in the region, while enjoying great music, stunning scenery and a lively atmosphere.

Kiama Jazz and Blues Festival

Returning for the 33rd year, the annual Kiama Jazz and Blues Festival will be held Friday 6 to Sunday 8 March.

More than 80 performances will take place across 35 venues. For the first time ever, there will be a curated jazz lounge featuring internationally renowned performers. The festival will also hold its first pop-up busker trail.

While Kiama's flagship free music festival will be held in the main festival space, Hindmarsh Park Stage, a variety of acts will perform across the region's cafes, bars, clubs and streets. The varied line-up offers something for everyone - with content that tips its hat to the original genres as well as celebrating all forms of contemporary interpretations.

Some of this year's highlights include Blues Arcadia, the Queensland band recently crowned Australian Blues Band of the Year, and the Australian Female Blues Voice of 2019, Milena Barrett from Sydney.

The new buskers trail will be held on Saturday and Sunday mornings, with pop-up performances at some of Kiama's historic spots such as the old fire station, the post office and the circa 1800s police station with none other than the NSW Police Jazz band.

See the festival website for the full program, workshop details and local accommodation offers.

New sightseeing train in Japan

East Japan Railway Company (JR East) has unveiled its newest limited express sightseeing train, Saphir Odoriko.

The train is scheduled to launch this spring running between Tokyo and Shimoda, a resort town situated on the south-eastern coast of the Izu Peninsula.

The new train will have a car with an open-style kitchen serving local noodles, which will make the journey through Izu more enjoyable. Saphir Odoriko will carry 164 passengers in its Green cars with first-class seating.

The leading car, called Premium Green, will have seating with wide reclining seats, a first for JR East trains. The second and third cars will have private compartments for up to six people. The train's name was inspired by the beautiful, bright-blue gem that resembles the ocean and skies of Izu.

The coastline of the Izu Peninsula is popular among locals for its surf, sun and sand. With a handful of wonderful beaches in the area and many hotels and cottages for overnight stays, it is the perfect destination when visiting Japan in summertime.

The train's final stop, Izukyu-Shimoda Station, is home to one of the country's most popular beaches, Shirahama. This 700-metre stretch of pristine white sand and blue water is a prime destination for surfers and beach lovers. From the final stop, you can also easily visit the hot springs area of Shimogamo on the Aono River.

New Westin Resort & Spa in Ubud

Located amidst rice paddies, ancient temples and lush greenery, the new Westin Resort & Spa Ubud, Bali, is designed to be a restorative destination that is devoted to wellness and recovery.

The resort features 120 contemporary guestrooms with the option of infinity pool, garden or resort views. There are two-bedroom family suites and the two villas have private plunge pools and a prime vantage point overlooking the entire resort.

There are wholesome dining options, including Tabia, the resort's all-day diner, and Tall Trees, which serves dishes inspired by ancient Balinese recipes. The Lobby Bar serves bespoke cocktails and nibbles.

The Heavenly Spa by Westin offers Balinese-style treatments such as the couple's spa which draws inspiration from the mythical Balinese dance, Oleg Tamulilingan.

For fitness fanatics who pack light, there's a new program called Gear Lending where you can borrow New Balance shoes and activewear. To keep up your fitness regime, join a group run through the lush forest or try some aqua yoga.

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