From Kiama to Cairns, with a night to remember in Sydney in between

Full steam ahead on the south coast, and other travel ideas

Step back in time and explore the South Coast by steam train on a trip to Kiama aboard the Kiama Picnic Train. The 1953 Baldwin steam locomotive will make four weekend trips from Central station to Kiama, with stops at Sutherland and Wollongong for guests along the way.

Snap up the last private compartment for the whole family on Sunday, November 1, or book a private compartment or first class duo seats on November 8, 21 or 22.

Guests are encouraged to pack a picnic for the beach or book for lunch at a local cafe. Make the most of the almost four-hour visit with a walk to the blow hole, a swim at a nearby beach or visit the historic terrace-house stores and eateries.

Tickets start from $110 per person.

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Dinner and a show

Bennelong and the Sydney Opera House are joining forces to reopen on a good note. The two-hatted restaurant under the sails will host an intimate dining and performance experience with a new menu by executive chef Peter Gilmore (think, the MasterChef snow egg) and head chef Rob Cockerill.

The program will feature the Sydney Symphony and Australian Chamber orchestras as well as independent classical musicians. A newly created stage will be surrounded by separate dining areas, including The Gallery and The House Seats.

The limited Bennelong Ensembles will be held from October 29 to December 20. The Opera House's full program of live events has also been released.

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Reef cruise sets sail

This week, Cairns-based Coral Expeditions became the first cruise line to resume operations since the coronavirus cruise ban seven months ago.

An excited group of 46 passengers and 20 crew left Cairns' shores on the first of a new series of seven-night voyages that explore the remote islands and reefs of the northern Great Barrier Reef. Most of the guests and crew are Queensland residents, falling in line with the plan to restart cruise locally, with local guests.

Cruise Lines International Association's Australasia managing director, Joel Katz, said: "Coral Discoverer's first departure shows how a carefully controlled operation with strict health protocols in place can help revive tourism in Queensland."

The sailing is the result of months of preparation. Coral Expeditions worked with Dr Ian Norton from Respond Global to develop the line's world-class plan, SailSafe.

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Herbivore hotel chain

In a move Ovolo is calling "Year of the Veg", the designer hotel collection is embracing a plant-based lifestyle and revamping its dining to be meat-free. The vegetarian menus will stay in place for a full 365 days in the group's six Australian properties.

Girish Jhunjhnuwala, Ovolo's founder and CEO, said: "We want to be conscious about what we are consuming and practise environmental sustainability as best as we can, as this leads to a larger impact on humanity, not just the environment."

Ovolo is the first hotel group worldwide to go almost completely vegetarian. The initiative excludes conferencing and events.

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