Eating & Drinking

10 Reasons to Visit Hamilton Island, Australia

There are 908 islands scattered around the Great Barrier Reef off the northeast coast of Australia’s Queensland State.

Of those, 74 islands make up the Whitsunday Archipelago, a national park and one of Australia’s top tourist destinations.

Of those, 11 islands are inhabited.

And, of those, only 1 island has luxury resorts, gourmet restaurants and a sophisticated, yet laid-back, vibe:

Hamilton Island.

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12 Divine Chocolate Shops

Is chocolate good for you? Researchers, conducting highly scientific studies, have found chocolate beneficial in preventing a plethora of ailments including cancer, stroke and heart disease. But Spot Cool Stuff has a more simple theory:

If it makes you smile, it’s health food.

In honor of National Smile Month—and to the dismay of dentists everywhere—here’s our look at 12 wonderful chocolate shops. We hesitate calling them the “best” chocolate shops given how there are easily 60 or more stores that we could have included on this list. All the shops we did include are superlative in some way.

Note that this overview is a companion piece to our equally dentist-horrifying review of the world’s best candy shops.

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The Best Oktoberfest Celebrations
(Outside of Europe)

Have you ever been to a raucous wedding reception that turned into an epic party? Exactly 202 years ago this October, the German Prince Ludwig the First married Princess Therese and afterwards hosted exactly such a celebration. It was so memorable that the attendees wanted to relive it every year. That desire spawned the annual alcohol-filled party known today as Oktoberfest.

Happily for lovers of celebrations and beer, Oktoberfest has very much spread beyond Germany in the last two centuries. Here is Spot Cool Stuff’s roundup of a few great places to enjoy the occasion outside of Europe. These Oktoberfests span the globe and are attended by revelers across the spectrum of race, religion and political affiliation. We see it as proof that one of man’s most universal and fundamental desires is to have fun — while guzzling beer and wearing lederhosen.

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The Ice Cream Parlor of 1000 Flavors

It used to be that 36 flavors was something to brag about. But the days when rocky road starred in a three-dozen flavor line-up have long passed.

Now, ice cream shops worldwide boast long lists of wonderfully unusual flavors.

On the U.S. east coast Boston-area’s Toscanini’s features wort and Guiness ice cream, and on the west coast Bellingham, WA’s Mallard’s makes flavors such as earl grey tea and black pepper. London’s Chin Chin Labs claims to be Europe’s first liquid nitrogen ice cream parlor and Bar Ciao (in Channing Cross) strives to make ice cream dishes that look like other food — such as asparagus or sunny-side up fried eggs. Beef tongue, charcoal, cactus and octopus top the unusual flavors to be found in Japan. To be sure, there are many others experimenting in the art of creative cold concoctions that take us far beyond a round scoop of chocolate, vanilla or strawberry.

But to choose from the widest variety of all, you’ll need to head to Merida, Venezuela.

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The Shard Lifts London Restaurants to New Heights

Like so many others, Spot Cool Stuff first traveled to London as college students. That was more than two decades ago and we still remember falling in love with the British capital for its salty residents, gritty streets and low-rise charm. Back then, we never could we have imagined London as the home of The Shard.

Yet, there it is. At 306 meters (1,004 ft) tall, the gleaming glass and steel skyscraper is the tallest building in the European Union. On a sunny day, The Shard literally casts a shadow on the London Bridge.

The building has been open for a few months now. But only recently has the public been able to eat at one of The Shard’s three main restaurants: Hutong, The Oblix and Aqua Shard. Each restaurant requires taking a non-stop lift to The Shard’s 32 floor. Each restaurant charges sky-high prices though, happily, each also offers views to match.

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Getting Whimsical at Craigie on Main

Look at the bottom right corner of the last page of every fancy restaurant’s menu. If you spot a selection that seems functionally related to what could be labeled the “Chef’s Choice Dinner,” you should gobble it up post-haste.

The last line of the menu available at Craigie on Main, located outside of Boston on the Cambridge Central Square, is: Chef’s Whim — either a US$45 four-course or $57 six-course menu. Six-courses it is!

Let’s take a step back. Obviously, not every night is a six-course meal kinda night. But if you are looking for a special culinary adventure or celebratory feast on a special occasion, Craigie’s is calling.

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Cool Apres Ski Destinations

Imagine a combination of a ski lodge and Animal House.

Golf has it’s 19th hole. Football matches have after parties. And skiing has après ski. That’s when skiers depart the slopes in favor of a bar, tavern, warming hut or igloo (!) for some drinking and dancing and socializing — and then drinking some more.

The après ski concept has taken hold in some places more than others. Here’s Spot Cool Stuff’s rundown of the coolest après ski countries. Read on or click through to your country of choice:


“The Restaurant Near the Sanyou Cave”

There are lots of blogs that repost photos of cool-looking places. Usually these websites give very little information even identifying the location shown in the photo, much less practical tips on how to travel there.

Spot Cool Stuff is a different in this way. We aren’t about spreading memes. Our travel blog is about discovering cool travel ideas. It’s about finding tips for getting out and exploring this amazing planet of ours. Because, a photogenic place is so much more than a piece digital eye candy. It’s a real life destination that anyone (appropriately equipped with a plane ticket, passport and credit card) can to go see.

It’s in that spirit that we previously wrote about visiting an impossibly secluded house in Iceland. And that we now write about the place made famous by the photo, below — a place usually described only as “The Restaurant Near the Sanyou Cave.”

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