|by Sean O'Neill||Australia & South Pacific||3|
Alessi is the hip housewares brand that features supercute designs, such as corkscrews shaped like colorful parrots.
I had a theory that the employees of this Italian-owned company are pretty hip. I contacted one of them, executive vice-president Jan Vingerhoets, and asked him for his idea of a great vacation spot. Jan travels about six months a year to meet with innovative designers, marketers, and shop owners, and he has seen some of the world's coolest places.
Jan's top recommendation is Heron Island, Australia. "I visited once during a 2004 trip to Australia," he says. "I wish my family could go every year!"
Why Heron Island?
"It must be paradise on Earth. The island is about 800 metres long and 300 metres at its widest and one-third of the island is taken by the University of Queensland, where they operate a Coral Research Station. The island has just one resort, no further buildings.
You can swim straight off the beach to an endless garden of coral where the waters are literally teeming with beautifully coloured fish and marine life."
Q: What makes the place you recommend different from other places you've seen?
Amazing nature, especially the reef which you can enjoy by snorkeling and diving. The best part of the trip was the diving experience. It's very professionally run. And it's one of the best places to learn diving because there's no need for day trips to the Reef because you're already there. Even for the experienced diver there is lot's to see with over twenty different dive sites within 15 minutes from the resort. You can easily enjoy up to three full dives a day. You won't bump into any day-trippers, the reef experience on Heron is exclusively for guests.
Q: Thoughts on lodging?
There is no choice since there is just one hotel on the island, the Heron Island Resort. Rates start at $155 a night. The rooms are basic; don't expect the latest design or gadgets, but you don't need that here. The amazing sunset or the baby sharks (they are not dangerous and avoid you) at Shark Bay beach are so much better than your favourite movie or TV show ....
Q: Can you recommend a restaurant on the island?
The resort has 2 restaurants: the Shearwater Restaurant and the Pandanus Lounge & Baillie's Bar. Because this is a remote island, food is only brought in once a week and the menu is limited but meals are served plenty and it was hard not to find something we liked.
[Read Budget Travel's coverage of Australia.]