Camp in style on a World Heritage-listed coastline, call a five-star private island home or escape to a wilderness retreat that can only be accessed by helicopter. These extraordinary hotels are designed to make your holiday a magical experience.
Extraordinary swim: Sal Salis Ningaloo Reef, Cape Range National Park, WA
Life’s most precious moments can happen at Ningaloo Reef. Swimming with the whale sharks and humpbacks that congregate in this marine park on their annual migration is unforgettable – perhaps even life-changing – for those lucky enough to experience it. You’ll see them from mid-March to late September but even when the gentle giants are roaming elsewhere, the World Heritage-listed coastline is a natural wonderland teeming with sea turtles, rays and shoals of colourful fish.
It’s not difficult to feel at one with nature at the luxury camp of Sal Salis, especially when the nearest town is 60 minutes drive away and Perth is about 14 hours south. Nestled in sand dunes between Cape Range National Park and the Indian Ocean at the north-western tip of WA, this retreat makes a virtue of its remote location without compromising on comfort.
Sixteen safari tents, each one just 50 metres from your first toe-dip into the sea, amp up the glamp with high-thread-count linen, organic toiletries and Out of Africa-style hurricane lamps. But there’s no beating the uninterrupted coastal views from the hammock on each private deck and the enveloping sense of glorious isolation, give or take a mob of kangaroos bouncing through the dunes.
There’s no wi-fi but you’ll go off the grid without missing a thing, enjoying the day’s end with your fellow travellers in the central lodge, where haute bush-tucker dinners are enjoyed under a twinkling million-star canopy.
Extraordinary excursions: InterContinental Hayman Island Resort, Whitsundays, Qld
It’s one of the most luxurious addresses in the Whitsundays: a five-star private island resort that caters to every whim, from poolside cabanas and funky eateries (like the pan-Asian Bam Bam) to a deluxe day spa (try the detoxifying marine wrap).
But Hayman Island also makes the most of its perfect position on the edge of the Great Barrier Reef’s World Heritage wilderness with tours exploring the reef in spectacular style on board a private boat or even a seaplane, offering a mind-blowing perspective on the vast turquoise expanse.
Here’s the chance to be shipwrecked on a nearby island – transferred by speedboat to one of Hayman’s uninhabited neighbours, where you can enjoy a picnic and swim and snorkel to your heart’s content – or maximise the romance with a sunset experience, complete with champagne.
Head further afield to world-famous Whitehaven Beach, a stretch of powder-white sand so beautiful that it should have its own agent. Or stick to on-land adventure with a guided hike through rugged bushland to Blue Pearl Bay, on the island’s western side, for a swim in a secret cove.
Don’t fancy straying too far from home? We can’t blame you. The Coral Sea gently laps the palm-fringed sand just metres from the resort but if that’s too far, book a breezy modern suite that gives direct access to the enormous resort pool from the double balcony.
Extraordinary immersion: Marramarra Lodge, Hawkesbury River, NSW
The destination begins with the journey. Whether flying in by seaplane or helicopter or pulling up on a boat to the private jetty, the road-free mode of arrival sets the tone for this uniquely secluded Hawkesbury River wilderness retreat.
Just an hour from Sydney, big-city cares feel far away from the private peninsula near Marramarra National Park, where nothing but nature interrupts the serenity of 14 safari tents and bungalows. Each has a water-facing deck and tree-framed views but, for the utmost seclusion, the larger Bay Bungalow – set apart on the water’s edge – is a world unto itself.
The lodge makes sure to tick the indulgent day-spa and swimming-pool boxes but the river is the focal point here. Take to the water on kayaks, canoes and SUP boards and immerse yourself in the area’s rich heritage with a First Nations cultural tour. Prepare to get dirty hunting for mud crab in the mangroves, while a sunset champagne-and-oyster cruise offers the perfect opportunity to pack that all-white outfit.
Marramarra is prepared to break its seclusion to ferry its guests to nearby Berowra Waters Inn for dinner but its own guest-only restaurant isn’t to be missed. A dégustation menu with Hawkesbury produce will deliver a taste of the surroundings that’s as unforgettable as the scenery.