Vacations and Travel

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slice of heaven: 21 australian accommodations
Published in the July-September 2008 issue.

Carrie Hutchinson packs her bag to investigate 21 Australian accommodations so fine you may never want to leave.

New South Wales

The toast of Sydney’s hotel scene is the Park Hyatt, which stretches along the waterfront in the historic Rocks area. This is a low-slung, elegant affair that provides guests with the ultimate in luxury: 24-hour butler service, some of the city’s best views and a stunning rooftop pool.

History and hip combine at the Woolloomooloo wharf conversion known as BLUE Sydney. Rooms ooze designer cool, with vibrant blue and grey interiors, Aveda products in the bathrooms and coffee plungers. The revamped Water Bar is one of the city’s coolest cocktail establishments.

Even purists will find it difficult to fault The Observatory Hotel. Its plush rooms are beautifully appointed, service is unparalleled and the house restaurant, Galileo, is one of the city’s best-kept culinary secrets. New to The Observatory is the option of cruising Sydney Harbour in style on the Cambria II, modelled on the hotel’s Globe Bar.

The 17 rooms of Medusa are some of the most artistic in town. Each is individually styled, using vibrant colour and designer furniture to elegant effect. It’s located in hip, urban Darlinghurst. For longer stays, the new Medusa Apartment alongside the hotel has just one bedroom but all the facilities an urbane traveller needs, plus the convenience of the hotel’s services.

Just 25 minutes into the Byron hinterland lies blissfully private retreat Emerald Valley Villa. Owner Michael Robison has created something of a paradise: a four-bedroom Balinese-style abode is set around an infinity-edge pool, all of it clean and green. The views of the lush Emerald Valley are something else. A concierge is on hand to attend to the details, and best of all, you and up to seven friends won’t have to share it with anyone else.

There are views – and then there are the views from Echoes Boutique Hotel perched on a ridge on the edge of the Blue Mountains. The hotel’s 14 rooms are stylish and sophisticated, decked out in neutral tones and contemporary furnishings, with balconies that make the most of the sublime location.


Accommodation options in Brisbane were a tad staid until Emporium Hotel opened its doors last year. There’s a touch of Vegas in the outré foyer with its glossy red walls, glass chandelier and zebra-patterned chairs. Guestrooms are darkly chic. Downstairs is the new Emporium development of shops, restaurants and a stunning cocktail bar.

Absolute luxury landed in the Whitsundays last year with the opening of Qualia on the northern tip of Hamilton Island. The resort’s 60 massive suites set a new benchmark in island getaways: sleek “tropical” architecture features lavish use of timber and stone, individual plunge pools, open floorplans and a strong connection to the outdoors.

If you like your accommodation a little OTT, Palazzo Versace on the Gold Coast is just the ticket, all decked out in Versace-designed furniture and fabrics. Currently, guestrooms are undergoing an upgrade that will see new, state-of-the-art entertainment systems and bedding installed. Spend an evening at the Palazzo’s signature restaurant, Vanita’s, which overlooks the pool.

It might not be beachfront, but Peppers Balé Resort could well be the most luxurious accommodation in Port Douglas. Set in lush rainforest environs, the villas are furnished in contemporary southeast Asian style, with muted colour schemes accented by clever use of timber. Each is designed for indoor/outdoor living and has its own plunge pool. The resort’s Italian restaurant, Sassi at Balé, gets great reviews.


At the quieter river end of South Yarra’s famed style strip, The Como Melbourne is the perfect option for shoppers seeking a chic and convenient abode. Each of The Como’s suites is comfortable and contemporary, equipped with everything a hip urbanite might need, including kitchens, workstations and laundries. The rooftop pool is an excellent place to wind down after a hard day’s pounding Chapel Street pavement.

The epitome of luxury in Melbourne has to be Crown Towers, where every opulent suite enjoys an impressive view. It’s consistently rated as one of the southern hemisphere’s best hotels, it has much to appeal to both business and leisure travellers. Unwind in Crown’s luxury day spa where the signature treatment, Volcanic Rebalance therapy – 120 minutes of pure bliss – will have you floating back to your room.

An enduring member of Melbourne’s high-end boutique hotel enclave is The Lyall, which has a sophisticated charm. The Lyall’s concierge greets returning guests by name each time they enter the hotel to retreat to their immaculately appointed rooms. Located in a tranquil residential area of South Yarra, it’s just a few minutes’ stroll from the designer boutiques and cafés.

The Elenberg Fraser architecture at Huski is based on the random shapes of  snowflakes, and it’s certainly one of Australia’s most individual ski-in, ski-out options. Huski has just 14 apartments, ranging from studios to a four-bedroom penthouse, each decked out with cowhide rungs, knitted blankets, artworks and chic fittings.

Sitting on your deck at The Buckland Studio Retreat, the only neighbour you’re likely to see is the odd kangaroo passing through an adjacent paddock. Just four freestanding, architect-designed studios make up this delightful retreat outside of Bright, in Victoria’s scenic high country. With polished timber floors, pot-belly stoves, custom-made furniture and gorgeous bathrooms, these utterly private studios make the perfect romantic getaway for couples.

South Australia

There are many good reasons to take the trip to Kangaroo Island; now, there’s also Southern Ocean Lodge. Wrapped around a cliff overlooking Hansons Bay, the lodge, designed by local architect Max Pritchard, is contemporary eco-luxury at its best. From the Khai Liew-designed furniture to a menu featuring produce from across the island, every detail has been attended to. Venture out with one of the Lodge’s guides to visit the Australian sea lion colony at Seal Bay.

Western Australia

Located in the Kimberley region, El Questro Homestead could be mistaken for a set from Baz Luhrmann’s new movie Australia. With just six rooms, recently refurbished to the tune of AU$1.9 million, privacy is a priority on this cattle station, but luxury hasn’t been forgotten. But the real glory is in the setting: El Questro perches over Chamberlain Gorge, with the starkly beautiful Australian bush stretched out on every side.

Located in the fertile Margaret River region, Moondance Lodge’s nine immaculate suites are both modern and indulgent, adorned with Jim Thompson silks, individual artworks and other luxe touches. Book in for a massage in the treetop loft, eschew the wine in favour of a grape healing treatment at the lodge spa.


Originally built in 1847, Hobart’s Islington has been updated to match contemporary luxury accommodation standards, without jettisoning its Regency heritage. The Islington’s 11 rooms are individually appointed with fine art and antiques sourced from around Australia and the world, but nothing here feels overdone. The hotel still has oodles of country-manor-style charm, which extends to the glass conservatory, beautifully landscaped gardens, and the attentiveness of managers.

Northern Territory

One of the country’s most remote luxury destinations is Peppers Seven Spirit Bay, on Arnhem Land’s Cobourg Peninsula. Each guest at the outback resort is housed in a freestanding hut with screened and shuttered windows on three sides. The bathrooms are separate outdoor enclosures, in which you may have to share your shower with resident frogs or geckos.
Just outside Kakadu National Park is Bamurru Plains, a luxury safari-style bush camp on a working buffalo station. Each permanent tent is all comfort and style, there are no televisions to disturb the peace. Top of the list of must-do experiences is a trip in the station’s airboat, from which you’ll spot crocodiles, buffaloes, and huge flocks of birds. This is what they mean when they talk about splendid isolation. •


getting there

  • Qantas, phone 13 13 13 or visit
  • Virgin Blue, phone 13 67 89 or visit
  • Jetstar, phone 13 15 38 or visit

getting around

where to stay

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