Whether you're after family time, a romantic escape, a gourmet getaway or even something completely off grid – here are some of the best ways to have a quick long weekend in Queensland.
For wellness: Eden Health Retreat
Eden Retreat in Currumbin Valley in the Gold Coast’s lush hinterland is Australia’s longest-running health resort but after 35 years of guiding guests towards relaxation and restoration, the wellness haven has had its own refresh.
Adding to its boutique 28-suite offering, the property recently unveiled 12 spacious architect-designed cabins, each with elegant interiors of timber and natural stone in a suitably calming neutral palette. The spaces range from Premier Single rooms with deep baths and private balconies to the ultra-luxe Cascade Lodge with a spacious deck and a separate lounge with fireplace.
And there’s been an update on the wellness front, too. Traditionally known for only offering in-depth six-night packages, the retreat launched three-night programs earlier this year. The shorter itineraries include goal-based activities and dietary adjustments planned in consultation with a coordinator on arrival. Want to just relax and re-centre? If you’re more focused on the restorative end of the wellness scale, you can choose to do as little as you like. Book in for a massage or facial, catch up on your reading around the pool or rebrand a walk as forest bathing in the 150 hectares of natural rainforest.
For a new travel package: Reef & Outback
This adventure starts with the calm of the Coral Sea and ends among the breeze-ruffled gum trees and timecarved gullies of outback Queensland. And though the reef and red earth are standouts in Queensland’s travel portfolio, it’s rare the disparate destinations are combined on a single trip. Until now.
The indulgent six-night Reef & Outback itinerary by Northern Escape Collection begins with a helicopter flight across the water from Townsville to the first stop, Orpheus Island on the Great Barrier Reef.
The island resort caters to just 28 guests and while there’s plenty to do – from walking to the isle’s highest point to a leisurely snorkel through vibrant coral gardens – relaxation is just as worthy a pursuit. When even a handful of other guests feels like a crowd, ask the staff to pack you a picnic and take a dinghy to a secluded beach for your own Robinson Crusoe experience.
Three days later, wake from your tropical dream and trade white sand for ancient earth at Mt. Mulligan Lodge, where the scenery is rugged but roughing it is not on the agenda. Located 150 kilometres west of Cairns, it’s one of the newest luxury lodges of Australia – a collection of just 10 rooms and suites set on the banks of a weir on a 28,000 hectare property.
Explore the timeless landscape steeped in Indigenous history on a self-guided nature walk or head to the weir to cast a line and catch your own barramundi, to be prepared by the chef back at the lodge.
Just don’t forget to set aside some time to lounge poolside beneath the broad blue sky by day or take in the splendour of Mother Nature from the comfort of your deep outdoor bath as the setting sun bathes the sandstone mountains in its soft golden glow.
For a place to chill: JW Marriott Gold Coast
Australia does the beach like nowhere else. But the Balinese-style resort, where you while away a day by the pool with food and drinks on tap? Not so much. Enter the JW Marriott Gold Coast Resort & Spa in Surfers Paradise. Yes, I know. Surfers Paradise. Where the apartments are sky-high, the bars are pulsing and the waves are epic. But here, on the northern end of the strip, lies another sort of paradise. It’s five-star, it’s relaxed and it’s incredibly family-friendly. It’s the kind of place where the morning’s biggest decision is what time to amble down to the vast pool area, which offers waterfalls and water slides. The private cabana is booked and the kids are happily debating when they’ll pick up their sea scooters and snorkelling gear to hunt for fish in the saltwater lagoon
Image credit: Justin Nicolas.
For couples: Lamington National Park
It has all the makings of a five-star city hotel – organic linen, three-course dining, rain showerheads, aperitivo hour – but this glamping stay in the Gold Coast Hinterland is an instant antidote to the city. Found at the edge of Lamington National Park, within two hours of both Brisbane and the Gold Coast, Nightfall (pictured) has just four luxuriously appointed safari tents (king-sized beds, freestanding baths), all spaced far enough apart that you’d be forgiven for thinking that you have the bird calls, tree canopy and tranquillity to yourself... and the resident wallabies.
For family: Currumbin
You want a beachside holiday like the ones you had as a kid – but with better options for dinner than just the local fish and chippery. Currumbin on the Gold Coast has been a family holiday haven for decades but a recent makeover of Burleigh Heads, 15 minutes drive north, means it now also delivers on the dining front. Stay directly across the road from the waves at The Pacific Pearl, where the neutral Hamptons-esque aesthetic ensures the expansive blue views are the main event. There are four bedrooms across its three floors; bags the one with its own sea-view balcony. Then you can quickly settle into the eat-sand-surf-eat-sleep-repeat rhythm of a classic Australian holiday or look for adventures further afield, such as kayaking nearby Tallebudgera Creek and discovering the photogenic rock formation and waterfall known as Natural Bridge in Springbrook National Park – it’s a local favourite. Find wonders of the culinary variety at pan-Asian eatery Rick Shores and Vietnamese crowd- pleaser Jimmy Wah’s (pictured) in Burleigh, or head to Palm Beach’s popular Balboa Italian Restaurant.
For going off-grid: Lizard Island
There are 40 villas and suites at Lizard Island Resort, which lies an hour by plane from Cairns. If that doesn’t sound exclusive enough, try this: there are 24 beaches. And Lizard is just the right size – at a whisker under 10 square kilometres – that you could set out to play Goldilocks and try them all but then you might miss the opportunity to snorkel with turtles, paddle in a glass- bottomed kayak, try to spot humpback or minke whales or visit the spa for a hot stone massage. The weather is warm year-round so pack a summer wardrobe. Leave your phone charger – there’s no coverage – but the resort has limited wi-fi.
For nature: Cape Tribulation
Find your balance among the treetops of the world’s oldest rainforest. There are three elevated pavilions at Mist at Cape Tribulation, a solar-powered eco escape, where the Daintree National Park meets the Great Barrier Reef. Laze on your private deck as you tune into the chatter of wildlife, swing in a hammock for two, wander the forest or snorkel Undine Reef. Cassowaries, crocs and stingers call this region home so pay attention to the signposted warnings.
For a farm stay: Sunshine Coast Hinterland
Misty mornings, grazing cows, national park and state forest... if life came with a remote control, this would be the pause button. The Cottage at Condondale Station cattle farm sleeps six and comes with all the right details – clawfoot bath with mountain views, cosy leather couches, farm-fresh eggs for breakfast, fireplace to warm yourself by.
For the new cool: Noosa
Noosa and its surroundings serve up much more than just sand and surf these days. In fact, this region is a modern urbanite’s dream in a quintessentially coastal setting thanks to craft breweries, organic produce and cool coffee spots; base yourself at Tingirana Noosa and you’re well placed to tour it. Venture to Noosaville for lagers and buddha bowls, to Noosa Junction for inventive vegan dishes you’ll want to re-create at home and to the calm waters of the north-facing Main Beach because, well, you are in Noosa.
For coast: Oak Beach
Just 15 minutes south of Port Douglas, Oak Beach is more secluded than its popular neighbour but still has easy access to the town’s dining and entertainment scene (Cairns is a further 50 minutes away). Settle in at Thirty-One Degrees, a three-bedroom property that sleeps six, where palm trees frame the private pathway that leads you down to the Coral Sea.
For food: Scenic Rim
This region of south-east Queensland is becoming one of the state’s most talked-about food bowls but its expanse means discovering those treasures takes more than a weekend. Give yourself a head start at the luxury Spicers Peak Lodge, which sits on a 3200-hectare property against the backdrop of the Main Range National Park. Here, head chef Dean Alsford creates menus that celebrate the rich local terroir as well as the country’s unique regional flavours.