Exclusive, beyond imagination, a little bit out-there – these are the ultimate one-of-a-kind travel experiences to have in Australia, from a stay at Uluru to crossing the Nullarbor on the Indian Pacific train.
Gaze at Uluru and Kata Tjuta from your pillow
Open your eyes just a blink before sun-up. You’re still in bed in the Dune Pavilion at outback resort Longitude 131°, the only suite with a view encompassing both Uluru and Kata Tjuta. Sunrise here is a spectacle that draws hundreds of thousands of spectators to crowded viewing platforms every year but, for now, there’s nothing but dark sky between you and the massive World Heritage landmarks. As morning spills across the plains, your pavilion’s floor-to-ceiling windows fill with iconic outback scenery: red dirt, green scrub and sky that becomes so bright the blue turns blinding white. Watch as the sun slowly illuminates the sandstone of Uluru and reveals the domes of Kata Tjuta 40 kilometres to the west, exactly as it’s done for more than 300 million years. From this point, your decisions are many. Early dunk in your private plunge pool or in the deep bath (both have the view)? Start the day slow on your terrace or head straight out to explore the red beyond? Take heart – you can’t go wrong.
Feast at Mona with David Walsh
There’s nowhere in the world like Hobart’s “un-museumy” Museum of Old and New Art (Mona), a place that pitches art as a good time and pushes minds to the edge. Now you can “do Mona with the gloves off” and sit down with its elusive owner, David Walsh, at the $50,000 (per person!) Dinner with David experience. The 48-hour event begins with private jet transfers from Sydney or Melbourne then deep dives through the museum with a personalised curatorial tour (note: it’s the only time Mona ever hosts tours). Trust us, you’ll appreciate every explainer. There are almost-priceless Blaeu terrestrial and celestial floor globes staged in chicken wire to consider. Oh, and a Mack truck. Reworked for 2021 with pieces from Walsh’s own collection, the tunnels of Mona now take you on even more of a tumble down the rabbit hole of this professional punter and astrophysics enthusiast’s mind. It’s wise then to meet Conor van der Reest, winemaker at the on-site winery Moorilla, to warm up with a tasting before dinner. There’s no guarantee what drops will be on offer but word is Walsh’s “wine bunker” houses the biggest stash of Grand Cru in Australia so the bar is set high. But just how wild can dinner be? Chef Vince Trim, notorious for his madcap feasts, might serve Walsh’s head cast in chocolate for dessert. The table could be shaped like a human body. When Walsh talks, the conversation could go anywhere – space, mathematical theorems, history… He may challenge you to tennis on the rooftop court (think twice, his game is brutal). After a sleepover in an opulent pavilion, there’s still day two to go. Realise the fantasy – if you’re game.
Cross the Nullarbor Quaffing Champagne
This is a rail voyage of the grandest order. Taking four days to snake 4352 kilometres between Sydney and Perth, the mighty Indian Pacific (journeybeyondrail.com.au) tracks past the Blue Mountains and Flinders Ranges, coasting from arid goldfields to fruit-heavy vineyards to subtropical savannas. It glides across the epic Nullarbor Plain tracing the extremes that separate Australia’s east and west coasts. Upgrade to the Chairman’s Carriage and you’ll feel transported to an era when a train was the only civilised way to travel. All timber, quartzite and brass finishes with leather banquettes, panoramic picture windows and private lounge quarters, the elegant carriage accommodates up to eight in double- and twin-bed cabins. Meals, served in the Platinum Club bar and dining car, sample produce from along the route – think yabbies from the Western Australian wheatbelt, Avon Valley prosciutto and Port Lincoln bluefin tuna – and the Bollinger is kept on flow. Falling asleep to the clickety-clack is assisted by nightcaps left bedside at turndown. The Chairman’s Carriage can only be chartered exclusively (it tips beyond $31,000 in low season) so make the experience count by travelling east to west, when pit stops are timed perfectly. Explore Broken Hill in the cool of the morning and the Barossa’s vineyards by golden afternoon. In the winter, you’ll pull up at the tiny outpost town of Rawlinna for sundowners and an outdoor dinner, with the champagne and seafood served under the lights of a station in the middle of nowhere.
Image credits: George Apostolidis, Jesse Hunnifford, Andrew Gregory, Morne de Klerk.