Sometimes, the urge to take a hike, watch ’roos graze or smell the bush the morning after a storm comes over us. It’s the result of city living, perhaps – too much time staring at a screen – and it’s important not to ignore it. Get back to simpler way of being at these peaceful retreats around Australia. Many have no TVs, some have no wifi but all use natural materials such as wood in their design. This encourages guests to switch off and connect with their natural surrounds to reduce stress levels (a concept known as biophilic design). Take a deep breath of start planning your next escape.
Freycinet Lodge Coastal Pavilions, Tasmania
Within the bounds of the spectacular Freycinet National Park, overlooking the deep blue stillness of Great Oyster Bay, is Freycinet Lodge, the only accommodation within the park. The Coastal Pavilions, constructed in front of the older cabins, are linked by timber walkways, the series of unobtrusive Tasmania-oak-clad pods complementing the curve of Wineglass Bay and the bushland setting. There’s more timber inside: curved walls enclose the cubby-like bedroom; offcuts of varying lengths are layered on the walls; and an enormous deck is ringed by netting for hammock-like outdoor lounging. Heaven.
Silky Oaks Lodge, Queensland
The soundtrack is gently flowing water, rustling leaves and birdcall, a symphony that’s especially soothing when heard from the comfort of your own private tree house. Silky Oaks Lodge is located amid the lush green of the Daintree Rainforest, built over the super-clear Mossman River. In addition to the 36 tree houses, there are four ultra-luxurious suites with custom-made rosewood and silky oak (of course) decor, all interconnected by elevated wooden boardwalks. Guests can arise to a morning yoga session then spend the day hiking the rainforest, kayaking down the river or partaking of the spa menu – all in the knowledge that Silky Oaks has Eco-Certified Advanced Ecotourism status.
Great Ocean Ecolodge, Victoria
This not-for-profit lodge is run by the Conservation Ecology Centre with all profits invested back into the preservation of local wildlife. Eco principles have been observed – filtered rainwater, solar power, locally sourced antique furniture and a locavore menu feature – but no comforts have been forgotten. After a day exploring nearby attractions such as the Cape Otway Lighthouse, afternoon tea is served with homemade baked goods fresh from the oven. Afterwards, guided Dusk Walks around the grounds take place with dedicated ecologists to observe native wildlife in its natural habitat and better connect guests with the unique landscape of this stretch of Australia.
Wildman Wilderness Lodge, Northern Territory
For wild-ish men – and women – who don’t want to get too far from comfort, the Wildman Wilderness Lodge is the answer. It’s way out in the bush on the edge of Kakadu in the Mary River National Park, two hours’ drive from Darwin. Guests will feel simultaneously connected to the land and surrounded by creature comforts. The lodge is made up of a central lodge, 10 hardwood cabins (“Habitats”) and 15 timber-floored Safari tents, each with luxurious bedding, spacious ensuite and stylish furnishings. Its eco-cred is flawless: in addition to eco-sensitive practices, the entire lodge itself is recycled. It used to be Wrotham Park Station in Far North Queensland before it was dismantled and transported 2800 kilometres across the country.
Southern Ocean Lodge, South Australia
From a distance, Southern Ocean Lodge is a barely perceptible line just beyond the rugged cliffs on the southwest coast of Kangaroo Island. The apparent simplicity of its design belies the luxury guests experience from the moment of arrival. Rooms take the form of 21 ultra-luxe suites, each with uninterrupted views over the Southern Ocean, accompanied by the soothing sound of pounding surf, to better help guests feel at one with their natural surrounds. Televisions are only available on request – because why watch a screen with the wild beauty of the South Australian island and the horizon visible from the glass frontage of the suite? Tear yourself from the heavenly surrounds inside for self-guided hikes, visits to Cape du Couedic lighthouse and sunset drinks and canapés with grazing kangaroos and wallabies at Grassdale, an historic property nearby.
Billabong Retreat, New South Wales
Just 45 minutes from Sydney is this secluded lodge that’s dedicated to self-care, which means twice-daily yoga, workshops and evening meditation. The food is organic and vegetarian, alcohol is frowned upon and the use of devices isn’t permitted in public spaces (and there’s no wifi). But before you decide it’s a bit too crunchy granola, note the glorious riverside setting to the northwest of the city and the luxurious spa where treatments include facials, massages and reiki are offered. In keeping with the ethos of Billabong Retreat, the environmental practices aim to tread lightly on the land. Fully eco-certified, the retreat uses rainwater and solar power, its design incorporates the surrounding natural world and all food waste is composted.
That’s why they call wood The Ultimate Renewable™. Find out more about Planet Ark’s Make it Wood campaign.