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Escape Trails: Bali

Emma Macdonald

Bali has long been a favoured destination for Australians in search of sea and sun.

For our Bali trail, we focus on the increasingly urbane beachside Seminyak and inland cultural capital Ubud.

Choose your destination


Bypassing the Bintang beer-flavoured Kuta, Seminyak has become a hipster haven, delivering an array of restaurants, beach clubs, bars, boutiques and luxurious hotels and villas. Even the coffee is good now, although you may want to check the beans in your latte haven’t been pre-digested by a civet cat.

But with its stocks as a global playground rising, so have the prices. Seminyak may be an easy place for a quick break away, but it is no longer the cheaper option compared with other Asian destinations such as Singapore or Hong Kong.


If quiet time, yoga and bird song is your thing then Ubud is a must. Located north of Seminyak and about 90 minute’s drive from Denpasar Airport, Ubud is surrounded by rice paddies and steep rainforest ravines, promising a more ecologically enriching and less chaotic streetscape than Seminyak.




Abadi Villas offer large self-contained villas if you are travelling with family in tow. Each morning a chef will arrive to cook your breakfast, while an extensive menu can be delivered at any time. Villas all have pools and the mod-cons of a large home including cable, flat screen TVs and a surplus of day beds. There is a certain attraction to having the privacy and security of your own home serviced by beautiful staff and with large walls keeping tropical gardens in, and the bustle of the Seminyak streets out.

Jalan Beraban 110, Seminyak | +62 (0) 361 736624 |  abadivillas.com


Recently opened up as an exclusive hotel behind the famed Potato Head Beach Club, Katamama is distinctive for its mid-century décor and an abundance
 of brick. Lots of brick. A bonus of staying here is preferential access to its “community” of restaurants, bars and cafes. That includes scoring a day bed at Potato Head, which, during some glorious sunsets, is akin to winning Lotto.

Katamama, Jl Petitenget No 51B, Seminyak | +62 (361) 302 9999 | katamama.com



With a long strip of beach and the sorts of cool and arty inclusions that make 
the W chain so wonderful, this place will put you in the middle of all the action. Everything is on point, from the elegantly trained bamboo tunnel upon the entrance to the multi-layered pool and array of incredible restaurants (want your cocktail pre-frosted in a silver bucket of liquid nitrogen? Ice is just so passe…).

Jl. Petitenget, Kerobokan, Seminyak | 1-800-025-525 | wretreatbali.com

Kamandalu Resort

Kamandalu Resort is a luxurious estate set high in the hills of Ubud. The resort is divided into self-contained villas and suites, all set alone tiny cobbled streets. Grand communal areas and the variety of pools are laid out amongst lush vegetation and rows of rice paddies, making you feel like you are in a rustic village with five-star amenities. Practice your yoga in the studio which juts out into a rainforest ravine and freshen up with a dip in the infinity pool. This place is the bomb.

Kamandalu Ubud
| Jalan Andong, Banjar Nagi, Ubud 
| Tel: +62 361 975825 | www.kamandaluresort.com





It’s an oldie but a goodie, providing frazzled and unkempt visitors with untold options to de-stress and beautify themselves. Take an afternoon out and head in for the works: massage, scrub, facial, mani and pedi. It provides incredible value for money.

Jalan Kayu Jati No 2, Petitenget | +62 (0) 361 733317 | bodyworksbali.com


A New Zealand venture that is drawing a strong following for its gorgeously sleek interiors complete with a DJ station, all conveniently located adjacent to the W Hotel. High-end offerings include an oxygen facial or a seat at the blow-dry bar.

100x Jln Petitenget, Seminyak | +62 (852) 391 41775 | springspa.com


Want to do something a little ‘out there’? Why not scale up a volcanic mountain and cook some eggs over fissures steaming from molten lava? Bali Eco-Cycling in Ubud offers guided tours up Mount Batur. It’s a straightforward slog to get up; the ground turns rocky, then sandy, then ashy. In the shadow of a steaming crevice, the eggs, coffee and chocolate cake come out and you can watch the sun set over an extraordinary landscape.

Coming down is the most fun. Torches light the way as you run, slip and slide down the ash dunes, screeching with laughter. Note: White sneakers will never be the same.

Jln. Raya Pengosekan, Peliatan Ubud | +62 (0) 361 975557 | baliecocycling.com

Eat + Drink



Hold onto your belt buckle, the Seminyak food scene is next level. Every week it seems a new hipper-than-hip restaurant has popped up. You’d need to stay a month to sample the top crop, but a seat at the cathedral-like Merah Putih should be booked in advance. It offers inventive Asian fusion food and truly excellent cocktails under soaring perspex rooftops. Turns out, the perspex catches rain for the kitchen garden.

Jl. Petitenget No.100x, Kerobokan | +62 (0) 361 8465950 | merahputihbali.com



A tiny, industrial-themed restaurant, Kilo is pumping out exceptional food. Lunches veer to organic healthy salad bowls, while dinners are more substantial including the miso butter gnocchi. Two words of advice: Truffle fries.

22 Jalan Drupadi, Bali | +62 (812) 4616 7618 | kilokitchen.com/bali



Over a small bridge off a shopping strip you enter the dark underground world of La Favela. Think Mexican Day of the Dead meets a kitsch 60’s junk yard. Once your eyes have adjusted to the glow of a thousand mismatched light bulbs, grab a private dining room or sit in a back courtyard. Food feels secondary to the assault on your senses. But a bowl of the porcini quinoa risotto will bring you back to earth.

Jl. Kayu Aya No. 177X, Seminyak | +62 (0) 361 730603 | lafavela.com


Prime beachfront position and enough seating to ensure everyone gets a glimpse of the ocean, Ku De Ta has earned its position as a legendary Seminyak playground. A huge menu doesn’t detract from the quality of ingredients. The emphasis is on fresh seafood, with even a simple barramundi fillet in an Asian broth rising above the competition.

Jl. Kayu Aya No. 9, Seminyak | +62 (0) 361 736969 | kudeta.com


Funky recycled wood curves into the ultimate three-storey hedonist’s playground at Potato Head Beach Club. No matter what time of day you visit, you may have to wait in line for a table. If you don’t book a day bed then you will likely forgo any chance to cavort around the pool with the other preening jet setters. Potato Head is selfie city, but provides such exemplary food and service that it’s worth taking seriously.

Jl. Petitenget 51B, Seminyak | +62 (361) 473 7979 | ptthead.com


All images by Karleen Minney

This article originally appeared as part of our Escape Trails feature in Magazine: Escape for Summer 2016/17. Find out more about Magazine here

Magazine Edition 7: Escape


Emma Macdonald

Emma Macdonald has been writing about Canberra and its people for more than 20 years, winning numerous awards for her journalism - including a Walkley or two - along the way. Canberra born and bred, she’s fiercely loyal to the city, tribally inner-north, and relieved the rest of the country is finally recognising Canberra’s cool and creative credentials. More about the Author

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