You know you’re staying at one of the best hotels in Australia when, at the time of departure, you’re seriously thinking of ways to stage a siege. And at hotels like these you don’t want to do things by halves. I’m thinking a full zombie apocalypse, barricading doors, and possibly digging a moat kind of siege. If this all sounds too hard, you could always leave a polite note on the door saying, “Please go away.”
Choosing a great luxury hotel in Australia is not about choosing the most expensive one or a resort that makes you say, “OMG look at the price!”. In fact, you may not have to spend much at all. Choosing the perfect luxury hotel comes down picking the one that’s right for you. Luxury, to some, is having an ample supply of hot water in the shower and bananas on the breakfast buffet, to other it’s champagne on tap, ducky down pillows on the bed and a butler. For me, it comes down to a few things that are important to me.
The best luxury lodge for me will have “a view”, offer excellent (but not necessarily stuffy) service and have a laid back but luxurious vibe, plus great dining. And last, but certainly not least, it should make me whimper “Nooooo, don’t make me leave” at the end of my stay. With that in mind, here are some of the best hotels in Australia, in no particular order. Some will appeal to everyone, others to just a few select travellers, but they are all worthy of a stay. And, perhaps more importantly, the spend.
1. Pumphouse Point, Tasmania
On the shores of Lake Sinclair you’ll find the Pumphouse, an industrial relic from an early 20th century hydro project that was left to the elements and then reimagined into a luxury hotel called Pumphouse Point in 2015. This is a hotel that delivers on style, comfort, and romance, all located in a landscape that could be from a John Glover painting. There are three different accommodation options to choose from, each of them unique. There is the Pumphouse on Lake Sinclair, the Residence on the shoreline and a hidden nook called the Retreat. Which would you choose? Rest assured they are all are worthy of a night or three.
2. Southern Ocean Lodge, South Australia
Note: Southern Ocean Lodge was extensively damaged by bushfires in January 2020 and is in the process of being rebuilt. Updates are available on the hotel website.
View the video on the Southern Ocean Lodge website and you will definitely want to visit this luxury lodge. Will you be able to afford it? Maybe not, but you will certainly want to go. Located on an escarpment overlooking the Southern Ocean, this luxury property is designed to impress the most jaded of luxury travellers.
A selection of twenty-one suites take full advantage of the natural environment with views of the ocean and the rugged Australian coast. This is an all-inclusive stay with only the finest of South Australian produce and wine on offer to delight your tastebuds and widen your waistline. Combine this with some unique adventures exploring the pristine National Parks of Kangaroo Island, and you have a stay worth bragging about later.
3. Bedarra Island Resort, Queensland
Bedarra Island Resort is all about escaping in style. All you will wish to do is sit back in your hammock and take in the sound of the waves on the shore and the wind in the palm trees. With only ten private villas discreetly located amongst 45 hectares of tropical rainforest, you have the location for romance and relaxation.
Adventurous couples can take a private dinghy and a gourmet picnic hamper to one of the many deserted islands surrounding Bedarra. This all-inclusive lodge takes care of all your dining and beverage desires, from locally inspired seafood to Champagne and cocktails. It’s an escape you will not want to escape from.
4. Park Hyatt Sydney, New South Wales
If you are after a hotel with location, location, location, then the Park Hyatt Sydney is it. Unless you have the money to stay at these types of places all the time, do not book any excursions which take you away from the view. The Park Hyatt Sydney is positioned to take full advantage of its prime spot on Sydney Harbour with breathtaking vistas of the Opera House and Harbour Bridge. This is a view you will not want to leave.
Not all of the rooms have that iconic Opera House view, so be mindful of your expectations and do your research on the best rooms for “that view”, be it of the Opera House or Harbour Bridge. I would encourage you to have breakfast, lunch, and dinner by the window or on the balcony if your room has this iconic view so you can make the most of every minute.
5. Mt Mulligan Lodge, Queensland
In days gone by, the attraction of Mt Mulligan was one of black and gold, black for the coal and gold for the solid gold nuggets from the surrounding mines. Guests at this luxury lodge are now treated to a gold star level of accommodation and luxury with only 16 guests in house at any one time. Located 150kms from Cairns, the all-inclusive Mt Mulligan Lodge offers luxury outback accommodation on a secluded 28,000-hectare heritage cattle property.
This is where luxury meets history surrounded by a landscape of stunning vistas of mountains, billabongs, and bushland which melds with the region’s fascinating gold mining history. Imagine a day spent exploring ghost towns and picnicking by a billabong followed by fine wine at sunset and an evening by an open firepit under the milky way.
6. Capella Lodge, New South Wales
I have a very fond place in my heart for Capella Lodge as this was where Tiana and I stayed when we got married on Lord Howe Island back in the early 1990s. Back then, Capella offered modest luxury “beach shack” style rooms and was MUCH more affordable than it is now. It was the best place to stay on the island and some would say it still is. Since being taken over by Ballie Lodges, it has become one of the most picturesque luxury lodges not only in Australia, but also the world, and has won multiple awards.
UNESCO-listed Lord Howe Island takes exclusivity to new heights as the island itself can only accommodate 400 guests at any one time. The all-inclusive Cappella Lodge delivers on not only luxury but also on the experience of visiting a place that is truly paradise on earth. Perhaps surprisingly, it’s not the cost of staying at Capella Lodge that is likely to be your biggest barrier to affording a stay here. It’s the cost of getting to Lord Howe Island itself.
7. Longitude 131, Northern Territory
I’m still amazed by the fact that each year more international tourists visit Uluru then Australians. Perhaps it’s the distance or the sense that it’s a nice rock but still just a rock. I can assure you that Uluru is much more than “just a rock”. It is the spiritual home of the native Anangu people and a place of stunning natural beauty that will touch your heart and soul. If you wish to take in this ancient monolith and luxury is on your wish list, then go no further than Longitude 131.
This luxury lodge takes glamping to the next level. The tents are more like luxurious suites and the view of Uluru from your room will have you reaching for your camera (and your friends howling with jealousy if you post on Instagram). If you can smell the scent of melting plastic, that might be your credit card. Longitude 131 is one of the most expensive luxury lodges in Australia. However, it is arguably worth every cent.
8. Emirates One&Only Wolgan Valley, New South Wales
This Blue Mountains lodge ticks all the boxes with mountain vistas, multiple suite options, a choice of high-end dining, and a gin distillery. The latter may not excite some people but it works for me. Take in the stunning landscape, add a nice touch of colonial history, and you have a luxury abode worth crashing at for a night or two. Also on offer at Emirates One&Only Wolgan Valley is a selection of adventures and retreat packages that range from horse riding and bushwalking to the hard-core Wolgan Warrior Adventure Challenge. This 21-kilometre trail run is available exclusively to only ten runners per month. Hmmm, I think I will go to the spa instead. Or maybe the gin distillery. Or both.
9. El Questro, Western Australia
El Questro is a remote homestead oasis that is only available to visit during the cooler months from April to mid-October, and for good reason. If you visited in the height of summer you would probably feel like you were about to spontaneously combust as temperatures climb to the high 40s, or even higher on some extremely hot days. Located on a clifftop overlooking the Chamberlain River, El Questro offers a superb stay which combines the beauty of Australia’s Kimberley with a big dose of luxury.
Think bathing in your private tub overlooking the river with the sun making the colours change on the multi-coloured ranges on the Kimberley, perhaps with a nice refreshing glass of sparkling wine. Dinner is hosted under the stars, at either the communal table or at a private table at one of three locations overlooking the Gorge. This is a quintessential outback Australian experience at its best.
10. Qualia Resort, Queensland
Qualia (pronounced kwah-lee-ah) in Latin means “a collection of deeper sensory experiences.” Located on Hamilton Island in the Whitsundays, this is one of those “hiding under the bed at checkout time” kind of places. Comprised of multiple private pavilions that capture the stunning views of the Whitsundays and blend in with the native tropical rainforest, Qualia is all about luxury and relaxation. The pavilions themselves are designed around privacy from the daybed to the rain showers with lots of exquisite details added throughout. Dining is also a highlight with a focus on fresh local ingredients and laid back yet luxe dining venues which come with a fabulous view.
11. Ovolo Woolloomooloo, New South Wales
Ovolo Woolloomooloo is so damn cool you might just need an arctic overcoat to experience the decor and irresistible funky vibe at this hotel. From the designer bedheads featuring everything from classical paintings to kissing fish to the complimentary mini-bar, there is lots to love here (and loads of freebie inclusions to enjoy as well). Every guest gets to enjoy free wi-fi, free breakfast, free social hour cocktails and wine, and the contents of the mini-bar is also completely free. The other thing we love about Ovolo Woolloomooloo is the price compared to the other accommodation options listed above. Sure, there are no butlers and the wine at the complimentary cocktail hour might be sparkling rather than Champagne, but you certainly won’t hear any complaints from us (or our wallets).
12. Lizard Island Resort, Queensland
We had the pleasure of relaxing on the beach for a few hours at Lizard island while we were on a Coral Expeditions’ cruise exploring the Great Barrier Reef. When we disembarked the small boat which brought us to shore from the ship, what greeted us was a couple sipping Champagne on a picnic rug as they enjoyed a hamper filled with tasty treats. It turned out the gent was a famous US TV star staying at the luxurious Lizard Island Resort, a favourite getaway spot for celebrities and the rich and famous.
After a friendly “G’day” and a chat, the laidback celebrities were collected (or perhaps rescued from the hoi polloi) by a Lizard Island boat which arrived to take them back to the lodge for cocktails. Lizard Island’s luxe resort is world-renowned and rivalled only by the island’s stunning natural beauty with rainforest tumbling down hillsides and crystalline waters that beg to be explored.
Boardwalks meander through thickets of eucalypt and acacia, revealing tantalising glimpses of sparkling ocean while simultaneously hiding the chic individual beachside pavilions. Here you can inhale the soft scent of the sea while sipping champagne on your private daybed and watching colours dance across the water as sunset bathes the sky in pinks and lavender blues. And try not to stare at the movie stars.
13. InterContinental Hayman Island Resort
Hayman Island has always surrounded itself with a sense of luxury and style dating back to the resort’s early era of the 1950s and 1970s. As a child visiting the Whitsundays, I can still remember dreaming of how great it would be to ride on one of the large Ansett helicopters that were the signature feature of Hayman Island Resort. Developed by Sir Reginald Ansett in the 1950s, Hayman was the go to island for the rich and famous. Thankfully the resort is less “movie star exclusive” and more affordable these days.
Perhaps the most surprising thing about the InterContinental Hayman Island Resort is that, unlike many other luxurious accommodation options, this one welcomes families with open arms. It also looks shiny and new thanks to a multi-million dollar refurbishment that has made the resort shine like a jewel in the Queensland sun. If you are after a more affordable luxurious Australian escape, and would like to bring the kids along, InterContinental Hayman Island Resort could be just what you’re looking for.
14. Saffire Freycinet, Tasmania
I have saved my favourite until last. With its sweeping views of The Hazards mountain range, Saffire Freycinet offers guests a truly luxurious experience. However, it’s far from stuffy or snooty. A stay here is all about personal service, from being greeted by name on arrival to remembering your coffee preferences and dining requests. The staff are also fantastic at working out what style of service equates to “luxury” for you and delivering exactly what you want as if by magic.
For example, do you prefer a more formal “Yes, sir” when staying somewhere upmarket or do you like to relax with a laid-back “Sure, no worries” nothing-is-too-much-trouble service style? At Saffire nothing is a bother for the consummately professional staff with guests being treated more like family visiting after a long absence, not least because so many guests are repeat customers. Located near Wineglass Bay on the Freycinet Peninsula on Tasmania’s east coast, Saffire Freycinet offers guests a luxury experience in a pristine Tasmanian wilderness environment.
Combine the stunning views from your suite with complimentary activities such as guided walks of the National Park, tours of the oyster beds with Tasmanian sparkling wine or bee keeping tours and you’ve got the perfect stay. Rest assured, if it’s a luxury experience you’re after, Saffire delivers and then some. The only downside is yearning to return here will always be on your mind after you’ve spent time at this luxury lodge.
Disclosure: The writer loves nothing more than staying in luxury lodges. Unfortunately his credit card is less enthusiastic and has to be cajoled to come along.
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