Australia’s best luxury resorts and lodges
These glamorous escapes are sure to reach the top of your Down Under wish list.
Perfection is hard to achieve, but Australia’s tantalising mix of high end hotels and luxury resorts come pretty close. From private islands on the Great Barrier Reef to five star icons amid the fiery sands of the outback, there’s something for every taste and desire.
To that end, creating a list of the best this Great Southern Land has to offer is no small task. After all, we all have our own definition of luxury. And yet, it’s a challenge worth undertaking.
Because, when the quality is this good, it has to be celebrated.
In no particular order, these are some of the best resorts and lodges in Australia.
- 1. Saffire Freycinet - Coles Bay, Tasmania
- 2. Orpheus Island Lodge - Great Barrier Reef, Queensland
- 3. Longitude 131° - Yulara, Northern Territory
- 4. Emirates One&Only Wolgan Valley - Blue Mountains, NSW
- 5. Jackalope - Mornington Peninsula, Victoria
- 6. Capella Lodge - Lord Howe Island, NSW
- 7. Mt Lofty House and Sequoia Lodge - Adelaide Hills, South Australia
- 8. Sal Salis Ningaloo Reef - Cape Range National Park, Western Australia
- 9. Crystalbrook Byron Bay - Northern Rivers, NSW
- 10. Bamurru Plains - Kakadu National Park, Northern Territory
- 11. Spicers Peak Lodge - Southern Downs, Queensland
- 12. InterContinental Hayman Island Resort - Whitsundays, Queensland
- 13. Berkeley River Lodge - Kimberley, Western Australia
- 14. qualia - Hamilton Island, Queensland
- 15. Hazelwood Estate - Scenic Rim, Queensland
- 16. Niramaya Villas & Spa - Port Douglas, Queensland
- 17. El Questro Homestead - Kimberley, Western Australia
1. Saffire Freycinet - Coles Bay, Tasmania
Discreetly nestled alongside the sweeping curve of Great Oyster Bay, Saffire Freycinet has racked up an enviable list of awards since its 2010 debut. Best luxury hotel in Australia, best luxury hotel in the South Pacific… we could devote an entire article to it. But not today.
Designed by Circa Morris-Nunn Architects, the organic, stingray-shaped main building houses an exclusive day spa, restaurant and lounge, with 20 luxury suites radiating before it like an approaching wave. The experience is all-inclusive too.
Complimentary activities such as guided hikes and kayaking allow you to venture behind the beauty, with signature experiences like a half day cruise to Wineglass, gourmet quad bike tour and shucking oysters fresh from the sea are also available.
2. Orpheus Island Lodge - Great Barrier Reef, Queensland
Welcoming just 28 visitors in 14 luxury guest rooms, villas and suites, Orpheus Island Lodge is one of the Great Barrier Reef’s most exclusive hideaways. Part of the Northern Escape Collection, it boasts a hatted restaurant, pampering day spa, and an inviting infinity pool that mirrors the Coral Sea.
Given its remote location, getting to the private island is an adventure in itself, with a 30-minute helicopter journey from Townsville taking you high above the coral-studded sea.
On arrival, guests can slip into island time with all-inclusive gourmet meals and an assortment of fine wines, beers, and spirits, together with use of water sports equipment and a daily Orpheus experience, from romantic chef picnics to sailing and snorkelling tours.
3. Longitude 131° - Yulara, Northern Territory
In the remote, fiery heart of Australia’s Red Centre is an international icon, a destination which rises above the desert and continues to lure travellers in droves. Next door is Uluru.
Longitude 131° is a resort experience without rival. A sanctuary with 15 luxurious tented suites and a premium Dune Pavilion, each angled to afford views of its monolithic neighbour, and a signature dining experience lit by subtle flames and a canopy of stars.
Whether admiring indigenous artworks and enjoying the view in your air-conditioned tent, gazing at the night sky in a swag on your deck, or listening to the distinct sounds of the desert, the resort aims to offer guests a unique connection with the landscape and its heritage.
4. Emirates One&Only Wolgan Valley - Blue Mountains, NSW
Australia punches well above its weight in the luxury resort stakes, yet there’s one name that makes it onto every ‘best of’ list without fail: Emirates One&Only Wolgan Valley. And yes, it deserves every bit of the praise it receives.
Set on a 2,800-hectare nature reserve, amid the rustling grassland and olive-green forest of the Blue Mountains, the resort boasts 40 freestanding one-, two- and three-bedroom villas, each with a private pool and cosy fireplace designed for late-night chats over a bottle of red.
Emirates One&Only is a love letter to regional Australia. More than just a nice place to rest your head, immersive activities run to its core. Think horseback rides and wildlife spotting tours, private picnics and lazy, long lunches designed around the chef’s market finds.
5. Jackalope - Mornington Peninsula, Victoria
If we were to sum up Jackalope in one word, it would be ‘daring’. Just a one hour drive from Melbourne, this Mornington Peninsula escape is as whimsical as the mythical rabbit with antlers from which it takes its name.
It’s a bit like MONA on the mainland. Read our review here.
Set amid the 11-hectare Willow Creek vineyard, the avant-garde winery stay was a collaborative affair from some of Australia’s top creatives.
A fusion of art and hospitality, with monochromatic rooms (lairs), it combines a 143-year old homestead with a modern 46-room hotel.
Among its noteworthy features are a seven-metre jackalope sculpture in the courtyard, a black 30-metre infinity pool and spa, and an intimate restaurant lit by a cloud of 10,000 lightbulbs that change intensity to mimic bubbling that occurs during wine fermentation.
6. Capella Lodge - Lord Howe Island, NSW
Lord Howe Island is exclusive by design, yet Capella Lodge raises the exclusivity stakes even higher, with just nine tropically-furnished suites – including the stunning Lidgbird Pavilion and Capella Suite.
Part of the Baillie Lodges family, which also includes Silky Oaks Lodge in the Daintree, it aims to offer guests a connection to the local culture and history, its art and natural heritage, and local food and wine sourced from regional producers.
Rates are mostly inclusive, with breakfast and dinner, an open bar with premium wines and spirits from 6pm, selected in-suite bar, and island airport transfers all part of the deal. For lunch, it’s encouraged to explore some of the local offerings.
Australia’s very own ‘treasure island’, Lord Howe features a heady mix of pristine beaches, lush rainforest, and rugged mountains, not to mention incredible coral reefs. Ball’s Pyramid, just 20kms offshore, is largely considered one of the top dive sites in the country.
7. Mt Lofty House and Sequoia Lodge - Adelaide Hills, South Australia
A leisurely 15 minute drive from the hum of downtown Adelaide, Mount Lofty House and its sister property Sequoia Lodge are two of the best resorts in South Australia. And with four world-class wine regions nearby, they’re a fantastic base for wine lovers too.
Entered via a long drive with a vineyard on the left, trees ablaze in autumn colours on the right, Mount Lofty House is a throwback to a grander time. Character-filled rooms with four-poster beds, the three-Hatted Hardy’s Verandah Restaurant, and a day spa are just the start.
Its newest addition, Sequoia Lodge, is an adult’s only retreat with just 14 suites. Part of its ethos is to connect guests to the land and its people through a range of curated experiences during the stay. Each enjoys access to a private lounge with a heated plunge pool and gardens, as well as the facilities of Mount Lofty.
8. Sal Salis Ningaloo Reef - Cape Range National Park, Western Australia
Low-impact luxury alongside the world’s largest fringing reef. Sal Salis is a place where you can while away the hours in your hammock, stroll 50m down to the beach and be surrounded by a rainbow of marine life, and then feast on five star food and wine.
Featuring 16 off-grid glamping tents, the all-inclusive experience includes meals, an open bar with alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks, and national park fees, together with complimentary kayaks, snorkel gear, guided wilderness activities and more.
If you’re lucky enough to visit Sal Salis during the annual whale shark season from mid-March to July, there’s also an opportunity to swim with these slow-moving, gentle giants of the sea.
9. Crystalbrook Byron Bay - Northern Rivers, NSW
Byron Bay has had quite a journey, from whaling town to hippie haven and now playground for the rich and famous. One thing that thankfully remains unchanged is its striking natural beauty.
Crystalbrook Byron Bay, formerly known as Byron at Byron, has been designed to complement that beauty, with each of its 92 newly-revamped suites feeling connected to the forest outside. If you’re keen to get closer, a meandering boardwalk will lead you through the resort’s 45 stunning acres.
Dining venues Forest Byron Bay, Verandah and Blue Pool Bar are also on hand to take your tastebuds on a locally-infused journey, with a core of Crystalbrook’s ‘responsible luxury’ ethos seeing at least 80% of produce sourced within three hours of the resort.
10. Bamurru Plains - Kakadu National Park, Northern Territory
On the edge of the Northern Territory's most famous national park, Bamurru Plains from Wild Bush Luxury is an immersive safari lodge with 10 rustic-chic bungalows, each designed to showcase its breathtaking natural setting and the prolific bird and wildlife that calls it home.
Visiting Bamurru Plains is like a BBC wildlife documentary brought to life, so don’t be surprised if you ‘hear’ the voice Sir David Attenborough narrating as you explore the extensive property.
A mecca for photographers, guests can experience a range of activities, from airboat safaris across the Mary River floodplains to relaxing crocodile-spotting cruises, open-top safari drives in search of wild buffalo and brumbies, and a whole lot more.
More than a celebration of the great outdoors, guests can indulge too, with gourmet canapes and sundowner drinks, and a menu which heroes native ingredients – think kangaroo skewers, crispy barramundi with finger lime salsa and quandong ice-cream.
11. Spicers Peak Lodge - Southern Downs, Queensland
Spicers Retreats is a collection of boutique hideaways and luxury lodges dotted throughout Queensland and New South Wales. Their flagship, Spicers Peak Lodge, is dramatically set amid 8,000 acres in the Scenic Rim, only two hours drive (or a 1 hour chopper ride) from Brisbane.
Dining is an essential part of the experience, with two-Hatted restaurant The Peak – which uses premium, local produce wherever possible – its signature venue. For something a little more romantic, a private picnic with a view can also be arranged.
Whether you choose to stay in a light-filled suite or standalone lodge high up on an escarpment, you have access to the resort’s infinity pool and outdoor spa, as well as the purpose-built Spa Anise, complimentary yoga classes, and a network of scenic hiking trails.
12. InterContinental Hayman Island Resort - Whitsundays, Queensland
Emerald islands, white sands, and luxury resorts spilling to the water’s edge… the call of the Whitsundays is impossible to resist. InterContinental Hayman Island is one of the region’s most celebrated resorts, and it has some impressive technology behind it.
Designed to be as sustainable as possible, with environmental initiatives guests likely don’t even notice, the award-winning hideaway houses 168 rooms across three wings – Beach, Pool and Lagoon – together with two exclusive residences perched on the hilltop.
All-day fare at Pacific, handmade pastas and tapas at Amici, and zesty Asian flavours at Bam Bam are a few of the culinary options available. If you want to take it up a notch, dinners under the stars, gourmet picnics, and a group dining experience where you can go behind the scenes in the kitchen are also on offer.
13. Berkeley River Lodge - Kimberley, Western Australia
It’s often said that reaching your destination is half the fun of going on holiday. For guests heading to Berkeley River Lodge, truer words have never been uttered, with the resort only accessible by air from the town of Kununurra in northern WA.
The property’s small and scattered retreats each feature a king bed and private open-air ensuite, along with a freestanding bathtub inviting guests to literally bathe in the Kimberley moonlight. Balconies overlook the Timor Sea lapping the shoreline, further accentuating the sheer remoteness of your environment.
By day, guests can indulge in the area’s ancient Indigenous history and culture outside their door, with daily activities including river cruising and visits to secluded rock pools and waterfalls - a perfect way to cool down with river swimming not possible due to abundant local crocodile populations. Other activities include scenic helicopter flights and guided nature walks.
After the sun sets, guests can indulge in some rich flavours at Dunes Restaurant with evening degustation menus complementing the daily a la carte breakfast and lunch offerings.
14. qualia - Hamilton Island, Queensland
At the northernmost tip of Hamilton Island, qualia regularly graces lists of Australia’s best hotels and resorts. It’s the benchmark by which almost all others are measured, with impressive guest rooms, intuitive service, and mouth-watering dining, plus a sleek day spa to match.
No matter which room type you choose, a Leeward or Windward Pavilion or the secluded Beach House, they all offer exceptional views of the Whitsunday islands and Coral Sea. If we had to pick though, the Windward Pavilion would be the one.
While staying you can snorkel from the beach, enjoy gourmet picnics, lick your lips with a ‘Talk and Taste’ paired dining experience, or just relax and soak up the sunshine by the pool.
15. Hazelwood Estate - Scenic Rim, Queensland
What do you get when you combine a premium wagyu beef farm with a 'polo club and a five star retreat? Hazelwood Estate. Set on 75-acres outside Beechmont, in the Scenic Rim of southeast Queensland, it’s a new experience that’s quickly making a name for itself.
Each of its chic pavilions and cabins feature a cosy fireplace, private deck and deep bath angled to enjoy views of rolling hills, with the estate’s restaurant and bar The Paddock is its social hub. A unique ‘wagyu tasting cellar door’ is expected to open soon.
Visitors are well placed to explore the Gold Coast Hinterland’s scenic walking trails, with the neighbouring Lamington National Park a must-see, or can choose to relax with a pampering treatment at the Spa by Hazelwood Estate.
16. Niramaya Villas & Spa - Port Douglas, Queensland
Tucked away in a corner of Port Douglas is one of its hidden treasures. Surrounded by leafy, tropical gardens, amidst the tranquil aromas of calming frangipani ponds, is the beautiful, Balinese-inspired Niramaya Villas & Spa.
Suited as a private couples hideaway or a group retreat, villas range from one to five bedrooms, each designed as an oasis where the weight of the world can be left behind. Each villa boasts tranquil gardens and a heavenly private pool.
Port Douglas is enveloped by two World Heritage sites: the Daintree Rainforest and the Great Barrier Reef. Niramaya offers daily opportunities to explore both with activities including reef snorkelling and island cruises or guided 4WD forest adventures.
If culinary experimentation is more your speed, the resort also offers daily visits to local farms with the head chef to taste locally-grown and caught produce as a sumptuous BBQ lunch.
17. El Questro Homestead - Kimberley, Western Australia
The exclusivity of El Questro, deep in the wild Kimberly, cannot be understated. Perched on the edge of Chamberlain Gorge and River, the remote retreat caters to just 20 guests at a time – and only during the dry season, as it becomes inaccessible when the annual rains arrive.
Homestead accommodations are truly stunning, with striking features such as private decks and even a cantilevered bath overlooking the gorge in the Chamberlain Suite. Catering to guests 16 years and above, the resort includes gourmet meals daily, as well as a selection of wine, beer, basic spirits and sparkling wine (for the adults, that is).
Throughout their stay, guests have access to complimentary activities designed to help them connect with their surroundings. These include helicopter flights above the mystical mountain ranges, serene river cruising, wildlife watching, exclusive access to nearby thermal springs, and guided walks.
Looking for a regional recharge or perhaps something a little more active? These are stunning Australian country retreats and luxury walking tours are worth adding to your hitlist.
Additional reporting by Matt Lennon
Hi Guest, join in the discussion on Australia’s best luxury resorts and lodges
11 Jul 2014
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Glad I booked Saffire Freycinet for my April Birthday and Anniversary, just needed a seaplane rather than a car.