Turquoise reefs, remote retreats and private hideaways, these places will sweep you off your feet (the plus one is up to you).
Mount Mulligan Lodge, Mount Mulligan
This is the outback done right. Welcoming just 16 guests across four pavilions on a 28,000-hectare property that’s also a working cattle station, Mount Mulligan Lodge appeals to those seeking both indulgent luxury and off-grid isolation. It’s located 100 kilometres north-west of Cairns so take a 35-minute helicopter trip from the coast or travel three hours by 4WD (although the road sometimes closes during the wet season from January to March). Once there, explore your outback surroundings in your own all-terrain vehicle, tour the ghost town of Mount Mulligan, hike the southern face of Mount Mulligan itself (an 18-kilometre-long massif of red sandstone and conglomerate rock) or fish for fat barramundi in the weir. Atherton Tablelands produce is the star in the kitchen, which serves à la carte breakfasts, chef-prepared picnic lunches and dégustation dinners.
Elysian Retreat, Whitsundays
Sun, sand and sea combine to intoxicating effect at this premium eco-resort, set in a three-hectare private cove on the Whitsundays’ Long Island. Catering to a maximum of 20 guests and entirely solar-powered, Elysian Retreat tempts loved-up couples with tailor-made experiences that extend from the dining room and Jala, the Ayurveda-influenced spa, to the surrounding Great Barrier Reef. View the naturally formed proposal backdrop that is Heart Reef from a helicopter before landing at Whitehaven Beach for a picnic or hop on a boat and sail to photogenic Hill Inlet – renowned for its multi-coloured tidal swirls. There’s a magnesium mineral pool, daily yoga and meditation classes and glass-bottomed kayaks for turtle spotting on the reef.
With its hourglass profile, 1000-square-metre network of pools and 311 rooms and suites, Riley is a landmark addition to the waterfront Esplanade. Snack on grilled calamari and clink cocktails while drinking in the 270-degree views at rooftop bar Rocco, before moving on to local barramundi at Asian-inspired eatery Paper Crane. Or be virtuous and order the salmon and avocado poke bowl at clean-eating Greenfields. Pale wood, natural linen and cane impart a coastal vibe in the guest lounge and all rooms have touch-controlled blackout blinds in case last night drifted into the wee hours and you slept through early morning yoga on the pool deck. Book one of the Panoramic Sea rooms for floor-to-ceiling water views.
InterContinental Hayman Island resort, Whitsundays
After a significant renovation in 2019, this fabled private-island resort now offers guests a choice of 166 poolside and lagoon rooms and waterfront villas and suites spread over three wing, including the luxe Beach House, which sleeps up to seven in three suites, each with a secluded pool. Snorkel or scuba among giant Maori wrasse fish and abundant coral at Blue Pearl Bay on the north-western side of the island, search for a sandy cove to call your own or explore the dramatic rainforest. Facilities include five restaurants and bars, two pools, a gym and a spa with steam, sauna and 11 treatment rooms (including one for couples).
Ocean Grove Chalet, Ocean Grove
A mere 120 metres from the surf beach in Ocean Grove, which sits between Barwon Heads and Queenscliff on the Bellarine Peninsula, this boutique hotel’s 15 rooms include five suites with king-sized beds, spa baths and walk-in showers and two penthouses with large spa baths and balconies that look out to sea. Linger over an all-day breakfast at up-the-road The Driftwood Café, play a round of golf at 13th Beach Golf Links, sample the topnotch shiraz and sauvignon blanc at nearby winery Oakdene or book a culinary adventure at Napona, two streets away. Post-dinner, stroll back to the Chalet and unwind in the heated pool.
Campbell Point House, Leopold
Inspired by the grandes maisons of France’s Loire Valley, this elegant Bellarine Peninsula property has accommodation for 30 guests in eight suites with king-sized beds and walk-in showers, on the shore of Lake Connewarre. The guests-only restaurant offers a four-course dégustation experience that reimagines French classics using peninsula produce and organic vegetables and herbs grown onsite, all matched with local and French wines. Fine-tune your serve on the grass tennis court, wander the manicured parterre gardens, relax under a cabana by the infinity pool or indulge in an hour-long restorative aromatherapy massage at Spa Blanc. There’s also a sauna, billiards room, cigar lounge, private jetty and even a helipad if the hour’s drive from Melbourne doesn’t appeal.
The Provincial Hotel, Ballarat
In a 1909 heritage-listed building in the centre of Ballarat, this handsomely renovated hotel manages to be both ultra-smart and serene. There are 23 rooms, suites and apartments – many of them individually styled – offering a contemporary take on traditional country hospitality. Graphic textiles and wooden antiques entice the eye in a palette of blues, browns, pinks and greens set against white walls and plantation shutters. The hotel’s eatery, Lola, is named after saucy Irish dancer Lola Montez, who performed her scandalous Spider Dance in Ballarat to great acclaim in 1856, with hearty dishes around local heroes such as Western Plains pork and Goldfields cheese. An always-changing selection of work by female Australian artists is on display around the hotel and available to buy.
Kings Canyon Resort, Petermann
Three of the six luxurious, homestead-style tents at Kings Canyon Resort are perfect for couples, with air-con, king-sized bed, lounge and dining areas, an ensuite and a verandah. Wake to the chirp of crested bellbirds before tackling the six-kilometre Kings Canyon Rim Walk, which takes in the pillars and outcrops of the Lost City, the Garden of Eden waterhole – sacred to the region’s traditional owners, the Martutjarra Luritja people – and Priscilla’s Crack, a spot made famous by the hit Australian movie Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. A five-course dégustation of upscale tucker tempts with tastes including Territory barra with roasted beets and a dill and roquette creme fraiche. Book a heli-tour of Kings Canyon, Carmichaels Crag and George Gill Range for bubble-window views of this geological wonderland.
Bannisters, Port Stephens
Following on from the success of Bannisters in Mollymook, Rick Stein’s northern NSW eat-and-stay venture occupies a refurbished late-’60s motel at Soldiers Point. The 80-room waterside retreat includes four suites with separate living areas and a penthouse with an enormous terrace that affords millionaire views of Salamander Bay. Rick Stein restaurant serves up oysters harvested from just a kilometre away and rock lobster from neighbouring Nelson Bay; the casual Terrace Bar and The Tavern complete the food offering. Book a couple’s room in the day spa, doze by the infinity pool, swim with bottlenose dolphins or charter a yacht for a sunset cruise.
Nimbo Fork Lodge, Killimicat
On a hill overlooking the juncture of the Tumut River and Nimbo Creek – equidistant from Tumut and Gundagai – this property (pictured top) comprises six weatherboard cottages, each with a river-view ensuite bathroom and rear terrace, as well as four rooms with ensuites in the main lodge. The in-house restaurant’s farm-to-table ethos, under the eye of the Three Blue Ducks team, makes much of Riverina and Snowy Valley produce, the wine list includes top drops by regional faves Simão & Co. and Nick Spencer Wines. Follow the river on foot, borrow a bike and map the wider landscape or go horseriding in the foothills of the Snowy Mountains.
Spicers Guesthouse, Hunter Valley
Warm and welcoming with a low-key luxe aesthetic, this Hunter Valley stalwart has 45 rooms (plus a self-contained four-bedroom cottage) decorated in neutral tones, each featuring a king-sized bed and ensuite with rainfall shower. Opt for the Avido (Italian for “greedy”) menu at in-house restaurant Éremo and let executive chef Cameron Matthews spoil you with an always-changing selection of modern Italian dishes, from fresh spaghetti to minestrone. As you would expect from a property smack dab in the middle of Australia’s oldest continuous wine region, there’s a wall of the valley’s finest drops for you and your partner to work through while relaxing by the open fireplace in the guest lounge or bar.
Barrenjoey House, Palm Beach
Palm Beach’s only guesthouse impresses with seven light-filled ensuite rooms upstairs and a restaurant at street level bedecked with palms, coral and seashell mirrors, all housed in a 1923 heritage-listed building that looks out to Pittwater. Unwind with complimentary champagne in the guest lounge or garden terrace then head downstairs to the restaurant for coastal staples such as kingfish ceviche or the extremely good beer-battered flathead with extra-thick chips. The property is airy and appealing, punctuated with pops of colour from the tropical prints adorning cushions and pendant lampshades. Afterwards, a walk along the beach made famous by Home and Away is virtually compulsory.
Situated on the Esplanade, Quay Perth looks out on the $2.6-billion waterfront precinct of Elizabeth Quay. The 80 rooms are sleek and minimalist, decorated in a neutral palette of blond wood and pale- grey slate with black accents. Best for couples are the Elizabeth Quay Luxury Studios on the upper levels, with window-seat views of the Quay and Swan River. Rooftop HQ Bar + Kitchen goes mod on traditional Chinese cuisine in an industrial-chic setting that mixes exposed brick with reclaimed wood and tan-leather seating. All-day lobby café Community at Quay serves Margaret River Roasters coffee and baked goods from Maison St Honore. Glide down the Swan on a gondola cruise, which departs only a short walk from the hotel.
Mount Lofty House, Adelaide Hills
Stay on a 12-hectare estate in the Adelaide Hills with views over the verdant Piccadilly Valley. Built by pastoralist and barrister Arthur Hardy in 1852, the stately sandstone manor house is looking splendid after a refurbishment. There are 32 guest rooms and suites, all with king-sized beds and most with outdoor areas and original work by local artist Stephen Trebilcock on the walls, as well as four self-contained and 14 suites in its soon-to-open luxury lodge, Sequoia. Meanwhile, three-hatted restaurant Hardy’s Verandah continues to dazzle under the direction of head chef Jin Choi, whose menu infuses the valley’s best produce with flavours from Asia. The original wine cellar has also been renovated and guests can enjoy a private tasting from among the 3500 bottles. Want more grapes? Treatments at Gatekeepers Day Spa include seasonal winter and summer facial that utilise healingh ingredients that will put the rosiness back in your cheeks.
This article was originally published in 2019 and has been updated.