207 Darlinghurst Road
Tel: 61 2 9360 6000
Leafy, arty, shabby-chic Darlinghurst makes the perfect setting for this hip and budget-friendly hotel. Originally a Georgian mansion, the building was remodeled in 2003 with a roof terrace and undulating concrete corridor walls. The rooms now have clean lines and custom stained-wood furniture, remote-control AC, and black-tile bathrooms; the best rooms have small private courtyards. The Loft Room, with its 20-foot ceilings, was once the VIP room of the now-defunct Cauldron nightclub. During its heyday, when it was accessed by a secret retractable stairway, the club's patrons included members of the Rolling Stones—hence the hotel's name (though you'd have thought they would have picked a less haunted reference). Although the literature touts the place as "affordable luxury," don't go expecting five-star treatment: Check-in is casual (expect to be greeted by the two friendly resident dogs), the furnishings are eclectic, and the crowd is young and footloose.
Tel: 61 74 055 3000
Part of the prestigious Banyan Tree chain, this romantic beach resort ten miles north of Cairns is big with honeymooners. This isn't the place to bring a boisterous group; most guests are intent on being couple-y. Those wanting extra privacy can book the lavish Angsana Suite, with its private deck, barbecue, and pool—but the other 66 Asian-colonial-style suites are all plenty idyllic, with gargantuan lounges, wooden shutters, and wide balconies overlooking the three saltwater swimming pools. At the Far Horizons beachside restaurant, the food's elegant but the mood's relaxed—and there's a palm-shaded bar for canoodling over preprandial beers or cocktails. The spa, with its alfresco pavilions and couples' treatment areas, is staffed by gentle Thai therapists on rotation from Banyan Tree Phuket. (Massages are more relaxing than therapeutic, unless you request extra-firm pressure.) Love-bunnies who actually feel like leaving the property can book scenic flights, cruises, dive trips, or day trips to the chic shopping mecca of Palm Cove.
11922 Tasman Highway
Swansea , Tasmania
Tel: 61 1300 36 11 36
Perched alone on a magnificent headland on the rugged east coast, this ethereally elegant three-bedroom glass house is all about the allure of seclusion. Inside, the mood is open and modern: oak beds, witty artwork, furnishings both comfortable and chic. Thoughtful touches include heated stone floors and a refrigerator stocked with treats such as lamb-rosemary sausages and artisanal ice cream. The only sounds are those of the native wildlife and of the waves rolling onto the secluded beach below. It is indeed a retreat—no one under 12, no visitors—with nothing to interrupt the experience.
Wharf at Woolloomooloo
6 Cowper Wharf Road
Tel: 61 2 9331 9000
You can't get much closer to the waterfront than this converted factory: It sits smack-dab on a wharf, with boats tucking into their docks outside the windows. It's the first Australian outpost for Taj Hotels (and was previously the first W hotel outside North America), and the building is superdramatic, with soaring industrial-chic ceilings, stage-set lighting, and a blue- and black-striped indoor pool. The 100 loft-style suites have mezzanine bedrooms, and furnishings are low-key studies in beige and brown (with requisite flashes of electric blue). The aquatic views don't actually encompass the harbor or Opera House, which are too far north to be seen from most rooms, but it's still an entertaining spot for watching the superyachts vie for position. The vibe is less of-the-moment since W moved on, and the excellent Water Bar is closed for renovations, but it's still a good bet for style-conscious travelers craving waterfront status.
Tel: 61 3 5755 2280
This romantic hideaway in the heart of Victoria's Alpine High Country combines comfort with a seclusion so complete that the only passing traffic is likely to be a kangaroo. The four stand-alone studios are built from stone, timber, corrugated iron, and rusted steel and have views across vineyards and grassy plains to the peaks of Mount Buffalo. The eco-chic decor is based on earth tones, and the glass-walled bathrooms with double rain showers (but no tub) overlook a pristine gum-tree forest. Details are cozy, from the mohair throws to the wood-burning stove. While this retreat has a café, there is also an electric barbecue on each studio's deck for grilling your own meal (buy provisions in the nearby town of Bright).
77-97 Broken Head Road
Tel: 61 2 6639 2000
This 60-room resort (soon to be 92) nestles so beautifully into its lush surroundingsa stunning 45-acre patch of coastal rain forestthat it's hard to believe locals ever resisted its creation. Raised wooden walkways meander from the guest quarters, perched above the forest floor, through gum trees to the nearby swimming pool, beach, lake, gym, and restaurant, which offers unusually good food for such rustic surroundings. Don't expect a minibar or too much in the way of room service, but come prepared for a passel of memorable touches: complimentary Nirvana coffee, a luxurious spa offering aromatherapy cocoons, and a rain forest regeneration program that is already paying dividends.
Lord Howe Island
Tel: 800 441 6880
Capella's biggest drawing card is the only one that matters on this World Heritage Site island 485 miles east of Sydney: location. Situated on Lord Howe';s stunning southern end, the nine-room Capella is the island's only luxury lodge with beach, lagoon, and mountain views. What it lacks in opulence (bathrooms are merely functional), it more than makes up for in superb service, loads of beach-shack chic, and an air of absolute privacy. Visitors, who arrive on a Dash-8 twin-propeller plane, will find themselves catapulted back in time: no cell phone reception, no traffic lights, no cats (the scourge of Australasia's birds), a speed limit of 15 miles per hour, and a cap of 393 tourists at a time. This 50-square-mile crescent in the Pacific boasts the southernmost coral reef in the world and a wealth of wilderness walks that include everything from primeval banyan forests to endangered ground-dwelling birds.
Cape Tribulation Road
Tel: 61 74 098 0033
Sandwiched between the Daintree Rainforest and the Barrier Reef, this eco-lodge—if you can call the sprawl of bungalows and tree houses, tangled rain-forest scrub, paved paths, and pools a lodge—is ideal for exploring both the bush and the reef. The menu of eco-friendly activities here includes horseback riding, sea-kayaking, crocodile cruises, and diving and snorkeling. Best of all, though, are the naturalist-guided mangrove and rain forest walks (the night walk at nearby Cooper Creek Wilderness, where guests can spot possums, iridescent insects, and sleeping birds, shouldn't be missed). Less strenuous pursuits, like downing tropical cocktails, and lazing on the beach or around one of the two pools, are also popular. The downside: You'll need street smarts and sensible shoes to get from your guestroom to the resort's beachside restaurant and bar, on the far side of a well-trafficked highway. Once there, however, you can dine on Mod-Oz delicacies such as barramundi, kangaroo, and crocodile. The resort's 66 air-conditioned poolside rooms are furnished with Zen-like minimalism, and have rain forest views even from the bathtubs. The 39 Rainforest Retreat tree house rooms, though similarly calming, are fan-cooled.
630 Chapel Street
Tel: 61 3 9825 2222
Visiting rock stars and celebs choose this hip property at the "river end" of the boutique-and-café-sprinkled neighborhood of South Yarra. VIPs get all of the amenities they're used to here: 24-hour room service, a penthouse fitness center (where the 25-meter, generally deserted pool is topped by a retractable roof), in-room massages, attentive service, and tighter-than-average security. The 107 stylishly outfitted rooms and suites come in 25 different floor plans. Some are geared for entertaining, with kitchens, dining areas, and French doors opening onto Japanese-style gardens; others have separate offices. All have sleek modular couches, shag rugs, entertainment systems, oversize baths, and moody lighting, as well as broadband and video-conferencing facilities. The Brasserie, a glass-walled breakfast area, is so bright you might need to wear shades—but the buffets are a great hangover cure.
8 Whiteman Street
Tel: 61 3 9292 8888
There's something pleasingly left field about this gleaming high-rise that, at 658 rooms, is Australia's largest hotel. For one, there's the eye-catching art throughout, including a color-drip mural by Australian Noël Skrzypczak and seven large chestnut-wood spheres by Korean artist Jae Lee Hyo in the lobby. This hotel reflects neither the deep-carpet ultraluxury of the Crown Towers nor the business-like restraint of the Crown Promenade, the other two properties in the glitzy Crown Entertainment Complex. The Metropol verges on funky, with a staff whose professionalism belies the casual jeans-and-hoodies uniform. Rooms are outfitted with fun retro-inspired designer furnishings and have muted color schemes. Even the standard Luxe rooms feel spacious thanks to huge windows; there's no tub, however. Step up to a Loft suite for an enormous soaking tub, a separate living space with a dining table, and (perhaps excessively) three TVs. British chef Gordon Ramsay chose the first floor for the Australian outpost of his Maze empire, but the jewel in this Crown is on the twenty-seventh floor, where the pool and spa grant panoramic views of the city and Port Phillip Bay.
164 Commercial Road
Tel: 61 3 9098 1555
Choosing the painter Adam Cullen, Australian art's angst-ridden enfant terrible, as the inspiration for The Cullen has proved a masterstroke. From the lobby's life-size Cullen-customized fiberglass cows to the array of original canvases scattered throughout this cleverly designed building, visual provocation awaits at every turn. The artist's preoccupations (the Australian psyche and the interplay between beauty and the grotesque) prove a fascinating backdrop for this compact, funky 113-suite hotel in the vibrant, Prahran district, well-placed for galleries and a short tram ride from downtown Melbourne. The hotel has two good restaurants (one Italian-Australian, the other Chinese), and the staff are unfailingly attentive, and the extra touches are artfully well-executedfrom the in-house curator who offers tours of the property's art collection to the cute artist in residence do-not-disturb signs. The first of six properties in Melbourne's planned Art Series Hotel Group, The Cullen has proved a magnet for culture-lovers as well as a novel way to put Australian contemporary artquite literallyon the map.
20 Daintree Road
Tel: 61 74 098 6100
Celebrities including Jane Fonda, Brooke Shields, and Paul Simon have unwound near-incognito at this intimate eco-lodge, on the fringe of the world's oldest rain forest. Owners Cathy and Terry Malone make sure their guests connect with the environment; many of their staff members are from Aboriginal groups indigenous to the region, and the property's 15 tree-house lodgings are set among trees and connected by elevated boardwalks. Each is outfitted with handcrafted wood furnishings, a king-size canopy bed, satellite TV, and personal touches such as traditional handmade "dilly bags" (woven from pounded tree bark); the five Spa Villas have balcony spa tubs. Guests can dine on a deck beneath a tangled canopy of trees, on dishes incorporating berries and herbs harvested from the surrounding forest. The spa provides girls-only treatments at a nearby waterfall, considered a powerful women's healing spot by the local Kuku Yalangi people. Guests not content to soak up spa therapies and pure forest air can sign up for bush walks, wildlife-spotting, indigenous art workshops, and river cruises.
Tel: 61 74 058 4000
The Barrier Reef's priciest private playground, Double Island is just ten minutes by motorized dinghy from Palm Cove Jetty (about a half-hour north of Cairns)—but, as celebs like Keanu Reeves, Brad Pitt, and Charlize Theron know, it's a world unto itself. The entire 46-acre island must be booked at once, and since the value is better for larger groups, bringing friends is a good idea. Up to 40 people can stay in the ten exquisitely appointed garden rooms and ten spacious apartments, all of which have private terraces and abut the 80-foot lagoon pool. Guests get unlimited access to a beachside pavilion, fully stocked bar, air-conditioned gym, and indoor cinema with a 52-inch plasma-screen TV. The island's resident housekeeper, groundskeeper, barman, and renowned chef are on call 24/7, and the food is so superb that many guests do little more than gorge themselves and lounge about. Those who need action can commandeer boats, sailboards, or kayaks, or make use of fishing or snorkeling gear. And guests with special requests (like beachside massages or a guided helicopter trips), need only ask.
1000 Ann Street
Tel: 61 7 3253 6999
From the fantastically funky red lobby to the zebra-print ironing boards, every trait of the Emporium is by design. Set in the food- and fashion-oriented Emporium precinct a few minutes' drive from Brisbane's city center, the hotel has 106 compact suites in a sleek red-and-silver color scheme, combining business-traveler functionality with exceptional service. The rooftop pool and gym are sleek and user-friendly, the service unobtrusively attentive, and the crowd young and hip. But pride of place goes to the cozy cocktail bar, an eccentric fusion of vintage and custom-designed pieces flown in from locations around the world: The stained glass window is from a Parisian shop front, the chandelier from a German castle, and the wine from all over, handpicked by the owner.
5 Bridge Lane
Central Business District
Tel: 61 2 9240 3100
Home to those who prefer the night. A boutiquey spot that occupies a repurposed warehouse a block from Circular Quay, this hotel has attracted a fabulous young crowd since it opened in 2000. The 33 rooms are decorated in slate and dark wood, with tall beamed ceilings and elegant bathrooms outfitted in marble or bluestone. Only the two penthouses have any views to speak of, but most guests seem content to size one another up at the two nightspots—the loungey Hemmesphere bar and Tank, a pulsing nightclub. If staying at such a sceney joint is too much, but you'd like a sampler, stop in at the foodie-mecca restaurant, est.
199 George Street
Sydney , New South Wales
Tel: 800 819 5053 (toll-free)
Tel: 61 2 9250 3100
Fax: 61 2 9251 2851
Want your heart to leap? Spring for an opera-view room at the Four Seasons Sydney with an iconic vista of the Harbour Bridge and the Sydney Opera House (room numbers ending in 14 are excellent; the higher up, the grander the panorama). It's a splurge at $600 or more, but you'll save on cab fare: The Four Seasons is located next to shops, restaurants, and the open-air Bridge Market. Also nearby: Circular Quay, the Rocks ferry, and the train to the airport. Renovated in early 2009, the 531 guest rooms are layered in rich fabrics and wall coverings in celadon and bronze, with a mix of contemporary and classic furnishings. The effect is that of a plush, sophisticated Sydney studio on the water. Mattresses are excellent and bedding lush. Environmental sensitivity came with the refurb—new systems minimize water use and energy consumption, invisibly to guests—and a skilled housekeeping team keeps the place gleaming. Typical Four Seasons service: The doorman dispenses cool bottled water on hot days. The spa is as good as you'd expect, but the weakest element is a smallish pool area within range of traffic sounds. The Four Seasons may be the quintessential five-star stay in Sydney, but nothing is perfect.—Lea Lane
Tel: 61 74 940 1234
The grand dame of Whitsunday island resorts, Hayman has a 1:1 staff-to-guest ratio, and super-attentive service that sets it apart. That dessert you can't squeeze in at dinner? Have it delivered later to your suite. Want to work out at midnight, go for a private sail, or schedule an intimate surprise supper? No problem. Hayman has been a destination ever since the 1950s and '60s, and today the sprawling resort complex has every imaginable amenity: enormous, lagoonlike swimming pools; a golf driving range; tennis courts; a day spa; four excellent restaurants; and a fleet of gleaming boats ready to whisk guests off to remote beaches, dive sites, and snorkeling spots. The 212 guest rooms and suites are opulent, but though the top-priced penthouse villas all have ocean views, private plunge pools, and round-the-clock butler service, they're relatively small at 300 square feet.
25 Hunter Street
Tel: 61 3 6210 7700
Formerly historic warehouses and a jam factory, this hotel is on the waterfront, backed by Mount Wellington. Guest rooms and public spaces showcase worksall for saleby Tasmanian artists, "you get a real sense of place." In rooms, timber furnishings complement the original sandstone walls, and bathrooms have European elliptical spa baths. Henry's Harbourside serves up European and modern Australian dishes.
488 George Street
Tel: 61 2 9266 2000
Sure, it's a Hilton, and hence a magnet for large groups (especially of the suit-and-tie variety; the hotel boasts more meeting space than any other in the country). But a $150 million renovation in 2005 infused this place with a knockout design, including an open, light-filled glass lobby with a 65-foot ceilingwhich means you can now get cool digs at mid-range business-traveler prices. The 577 rooms are a soothing mix of wood-paneled walls, glass tables, and cream-colored upholstery. If you've had a particularly rough business meeting (or you're just feeling too lazy to turn on the faucets yourself), arrange for a "Bath Master" to fill your tub and add scented herbal oils. For livelier entertainment, the onsite Glass Brasserie and the quite-cool Zeta Bar are good places to loosen up with those zany work colleagues.
Tel: 61 74 066 8270
Australia's largest island national park, 152-square-mile Hinchinbrook has rain forest-covered mountains, mangroves and wetlands, and 11 beautiful beaches, most accessible only by boat or walking track. At the island's northernmost tip, this eco-property comprises 22 boardwalk-linked tree houses and seven simple beachfront bungalows. Though protecting the environment's paramount here (the property generates its own power and water, and takes all garbage off-island), simple comforts abound. The spacious tree houses all have polished wood floors, floor-to-ceiling windows, fridges, fans, and balconies for stargazing and bird-watching. The spartan bathrooms show signs of wear and the water supply can be erratic, but folks who don't mind rusticity (and cheap rates) will find it a small price to pay. Guests can make use of the free canoes, and fishing and snorkeling gear, or take hikes to spot dolphins, dugongs, sea turtles, and tiger sharks from shore. There's a swimming pool and a bar that's open till midnight—but most guests forgo carousing in favor of reading, board games, and quiet conversation.
26 Flinders Street
Tel: 61 3 9668 1111
This red-brick Romanesque revival mansion, built in 1900, served for many decades as the headquarters of the Herald and Weekly Times, Ltd., publisher of Rupert Murdoch's newspaper the Herald Sun. Sheer floor-to-ceiling curtains, cushy couches, a fireplace, and a billiard room make the lobby feel like a bachelor's town house. The 36-seat restaurant, Felt, serves a Euro-influenced seasonal menu, with dishes such as pan-seared barramundi with savoy cabbage and lardoons in a tarragon and saffron cream sauce. The 59 rooms are minimalist-luxe, with angular wood furnishings, plush upholstery in shades of cream and brown, unadorned walls, and clubby ambient lighting. All the usual extras are supplied, plus there are free in-house movie, CD, and pillow menus. Deluxe rooms have deep bay or high-arched windows overlooking Melbourne Park, the Botanic Gardens, and the Melbourne Cricket Ground. Definitely worth the splurge.
3 Sitzmark Street
Tel: 61 1300 65 22 60
With architecture inspired by the intricate design of snowflakes, Huski Lodge, in the heart of the Australian Alps, is a study in cool, compact snugness. The interior look is frosty, with ice-white walls, jet-black corridors, and slivers of gray marble. Splashes of color come courtesy of red and green throws, cowhide rugs, and fearsome animal photographs. Each of the 14 apartment-style unitsfrom studios to four bedroomsis accessed by a punch code and has a kitchen that guests can stock with items from the property's upmarket café and produce store. The muscle-weary can take advantage of balcony hot tubs (in all but the studios) and the day-spa, but be warned: This is chic utilitarianism. Housekeeping comes only weekly, and you'll need your own shampoo.
495 Collins Street
Tel: 888 424 6835 (toll-free)
Tel: 61 396 209111
As face-lifts go, the $40 million spent to transform this 1891 Melbourne grand dame into a cool city chick has proved to be well spent. Today, although the five-story Rialto is dwarfed by its skyscraper neighbors, it exudes charm on the outside and class within. On the National Heritage List, it is actually two buildings (the older, gothic Rialto and the Romanesque Winfield Building) linked by a soaring glass ceiling that covers what was once a wide lane. The King suites and Deluxe rooms have all the expected mod cons, the wood-paneled roof-top pool and sauna drip with minimalist comfort, and the service is super-snappy. The real star, however, is the enormous atrium, a spectacle of light, angles, marble, mosaic, bluestone, and carefully selected local art. At its base is the Alluvial Restaurant, host to deal-making business-types and Rialto residents. Overlooking it is the Market Lane bar, with its deep leather couches and more than 100 kinds of martinis, including an antipodean array featuring everything from bloodlimes to quandongs.
Bridge and Phillip streets
Tel: 888 424 6835 (toll-free)
Tel: 61 2 9240 1200
You can literally step—and sleep—inside a piece of Australia's past here: Part of the hotel is a historic building site. Three stories of dramatic sandstone arches, all that remains of the 1851 Treasury Building, have been beautifully incorporated into the architecture. The arches surround the interior lobby lounge and café—known as the Cortile—which has recently emerged from a major facelift looking more genteel than ever. The rest of the property, while modern and luxurious, is relatively ordinary in comparison: A major renovation in 2004 updated the 509 rooms in cream and brown fabrics and innocuous contemporary furniture; some have flat-screen TVs and marble bathrooms with spa tubs (and Bulgari toiletries). The best units are those on the rooftop club level with views over the harbor and Royal Botanic Gardens, and an outdoor deck for lingering over breakfast. Staff members have eschewed the polite but distant five-star model for an ebullient friendliness that might take seasoned travelers off-guard.
321 Davey Street
Hobart , Tasmania
Tel: 61 3 6220 2123
Fax: 61 3 6220 2124
Though in an unassuming location just outside the city center, the 11-room Islington is enticing, its mélange of styles resulting from the transformation of a down-at-heels 1847 Regency home into an architectural objet d'art. Beyond the formal reception rooms is a soaring modernist glass conservatory. Every nook and crannyfrom the red-walled cigar study to the chandeliered dining roomshowcases eccentric curios, many of which relate to the history of the house. The bedrooms are understated in their luxury, with heated floors in the bathrooms and locally crafted beds so comfortable you'll leave utterly rested.
229 Darlinghurst Road
Tel: 61 2 9332 2011
Kirketon was once Sydney's, nay, Australia's coolest hotel. Those days may be long past, but the lobby still exudes a raffish air of coolness, and the moody lighting provides a perfectly discreet atmosphere for the occasional celebrity guest. The rooms are small but chicly furnished with mid-century modern classics (Eero Saarinen Tulip chairs, Bertoia Diamond chairs), and the mirrored hallways could be the setting of a music video. There's a new restaurant on-site, Kells Kitchen (where star chef Luke Mangan's acclaimed Salt used to be), serving flavors from around the globe, such as five-spice duck consommmé, Wagyu beef miniburgers, and naan bread baskets. Another thing that's changed: With rooms starting from $205 a night, a stay at the hotel is much kinder on the hip pocket than it used to be.
Tel: 61 3 5348 3329
About 90 minutes west of Melbourne by car, the rural town of Daylesford sits atop a celebrated hot spring. Of the many lodgings that have cropped up in recent years to take advantage of these "healing waters," the best—by leaps and bounds—is the Lake House.
A major favorite among foodies, the six-acre lakefront property is centered on its restaurant, an airy space with picture windows, a wood-burning fireplace, and wall murals by co-owner Allan Wolf-Tasker. His partner and wife, Alla, oversees the kitchen, which turns out rustic, seasonally driven food showcasing the region's best and freshest. Everyone lingers at the table here, whether it's over country-style breakfasts, long lunches, languid afternoon teas, cocktails and canapés, or extravagant dinners with wines from the 750-strong list. Between meals, guests can shoot clay pigeons, take cooking classes, unwind in the spa's treetop mineral-water tubs, or browse through the galleries and new-age shops in Daylesford town. All 33 rooms and suites are elegantly appointed, with cream-colored linens, recessed lighting, and marble baths—but ask for a waterfront unit with inspiring views over the lake.
1 Southgate Avenue
Tel: 61 3 8696 8888
Part of the group that also includes the Langham London and Langham Place Hong Kong, this 387-room hotel is an outpost of old-school elegance in the otherwise flashy neighborhood of Southbank. The opulent foyer, with its sweeping marble staircase, waterfall, and glittering chandeliers, sets the genteel tone, as does the formally solicitous service. Plush guest rooms and suites have modern bells and whistles—cloudlike beds, oversize hot tubs, fluffy robes—and fabulous views over the Yarra River to the city center. Some come with special privileges such as butler service and use of the exclusive Langham Club floor (great for predinner cocktails and canapés). When they aren't exploring nearby sights like Federation Square and the Queen Victoria Gardens, guests laze about on the pool deck or indulge in herbal salt scrubs and hot-stone massages at the on-site Chuan Spa.
Katoomba , New South Wales
Tel: 800 237 1236 (toll-free)
Tel: 61 2 4780 1200
Fax: 61 2 4780 1300
With its Victorian architecture, high tea with scones, and yards of pink toile fabric, Lilianfels looks for all the world like a proper English country-house hotel. But its menu of outdoorsy activities and low-key vibe remind guests that they're only 90 minutes from central Sydney. Set on two acres of manicured gardens in the charming town of Katoomba, Lilianfels occupies a dramatic headland overlooking the heritage-protected Blue Mountains (so called for their characteristic blue haze), where you can bushwalk along cliffs, valleys, and rain forest; go rappelling or mountain biking; or take a scenic trip up what claims to be the world's steepest funicular. The resort is part of the Orient-Express group and a country cousin of Sydney's opulent Observatory Hotel; it's popular as a romantic getaway, a weekend escape for locals, and a luxury base for nature lovers. But it's no adventure camp: The 85 individually decorated rooms are elegant and traditional, with organza and silk fabrics; canopied beds; and pink, green, and lilac tones. Apart from exploring the mountains, activities are informal: a "barbie" on the lawn (catered or cooked by guests themselves), a game of Aussie billiards, or just gaping at the views from the lounge. The spa is large for a resort this size and has an indoor pool to augment the heated outdoor one. There are two restaurants: Darley's, with seasonal Australian food (expensive, but worth booking at least one night), and a more casual grill.—Lea Lane
Tel: 61 3 9413 6288
The northernmost island resort on the Reef, Lizard lies 149 miles off the coastal city of Cairns. It's worth the hour-long flight, though—especially for divers. Some of the best-known dive sites in the world are nearby, including the famous Cod Hole (where visitors can hand-feed enormous, friendly potato cod). For those who'd rather stay semi-dry, snorkeling lessons and equipment, glass-bottom boat trips, and the use of motorized dinghies are all complimentary here. And guests who want to keep soaking in sea minerals even on land can visit the excellent Pavilion Spa, where marine ingredients are used in many of the treatments. The 40 villas are simply furnished, with gleaming wood floors and private verandas with hammocks. (For complete privacy, stay in the Pavilion; it has its own plunge pool.) The meals are stupendous, with plenty of fresh fish and tropical fruit—and they're all included in the rate.
Wild River Road
Tarraleah , Tasmania
Tel: 61 3 6289 1199
Set on a remote plateau overlooking central Tasmania's highland wilderness, The Lodge was originally created in the 1930s, along with the rest of Tarraleah, a purpose-built village, to house the executives of a huge hydroelectric system that still runs through these valleys. Today the village is a privately owned tourist attraction, and the totally redone nine-room Art Deco–esque Lodge is the sparkling jewel in its crown. Most visit this region for its pristine scenery, abundant wildlife, and trout fishing. For those seeking less strenuous pursuits, The Lodge—restored in a classic black, red, and silver color scheme—offers comfort rather than serious luxury. Even so, its indulgences include a clifftop hot tub and a library containing one of the largest collections of malt whiskeys in the country.
14 Murphy Street
Tel: 61 3 9868 8222
The all-suite Lyall opened in 2002 in Melbourne's most designer-heavy neighborhood, South Yarra, but it draws high-end travelers of every stripe. Every floor of this plush home-away-from-home has its own mini art gallery, lined with works by local French-born artist Thierry B. Fashionistas love the location, the bathrooms with no-fog mirrors, the Champagne bar, and the holistic Lyall Spa, while business types can use the tranquil library with wood-burning fireplaces, the all-day bistro, and the full-service office/lounge. Everyone appreciates the well-appointed suites, whose gold-toned soft furnishings are as luxurious as the in-room amenities (private balconies, DVD players, and Wi-Fi). Some rooms offer spa baths, laundry facilities, and full kitchens. The latter could be useful, since this leafy neighborhood, roughly equidistant from St. Kilda and the City Centre, is home to superior delis and bottle shops.
33 Mounts Bay Road
Tel: 61 8 9217 8000
Perth's apartment-style Medina Grand is a welcome departure from the sob-inducing sameness of most big city hotels: 138 chic, high-ceilinged suites and studio apartments with private laundry facilities and well-equipped kitchens that, thanks to the Medina's Metro Bar and Bistro, you can happily ignore. Rooms are all clean lines and funky details, like cowhide-covered armchairs and faux-leopard stools. Aerial images of the harsh Australian landscape provide a beautiful counterpoint to the corrugated contours of the Perth Convention Exhibition Centre next door. Getting to the small pool, gym, and sauna involves braving the lobby, but if that doesn't bother you, plunge in.
2974 Northern Grampians Road
Grampians National Park
Tel: 61 3 5383 6363
The latest luxe lodge overlooking the spectacular sandstone ridges of Grampians National Park is all about soaking up the experience. Perched on a hill, all four freestanding villas (along with two standard doubles tucked inside the main lodge) have panoramic sunrise-to-sunset mountain views, as does the lodge's restaurant and its aptly named Sunset Bar. The villas' relative austerity (utterly unadorned bedrooms, kitchenettes cum living rooms, wood-burning fireplaces, private decks) ensure that nothing detracts from the viewsexcept the gloriously sybaritic bathrooms. The Grampians, three hours west of Melbourne, are chockablock with ancient Aboriginal rock art and roads more often obstructed by ambling echidnas than traffic. Meringa, too, is full of surpriseslike its ability to deliver top-notch service and a rare sense of intimacy amid this epic landscape.
Spencer Road, off Caves Road
Tel: 61 8 9750 1777
The nine-suite Moondance is hidden away from the gentle bustle of the Margaret River wine region, a three-hour drive from Perth, on 33 acres of bush. Nothing but birdsong will disturb you unless you initiate it. The lakefront main lodge, which contains a restaurant, a lounge, massage facilities, and a single suite, is a high-ceilinged Balinese-inflected affair. Two villas, with four suites each, have their own communal decks and lounges, along with power showers, roomy whirlpool baths, Internet access, and swiveling flat-screen TVs. Shortcomingscramped kitchenettes and "private" decks overlooking one anotherare outweighed by an attentive staff and the surrounding oasis of natural beauty.
89113 Kent Street
Tel: 61 2 9256 2222
An antiminimalist's godsend with its gleaming marble floors, overstuffed sofas, and velvet upholstery, this hotel's lobby could serve as the set for an Agatha Christie adaptation. Part of the Orient-Express chain, six suites here are named for carriages on the British Pullman train; the other 88 luxurious rooms are furnished in country-estate style, with brocade curtains, mahogany furniture, and botanical etchings. The lush Anglophilia, the day spa and pool (its ceiling painted and lit like the night sky), and the out-of-the-way location (it's about a 15-minute walk to the Harbour) help to explain why celebs like Gwyneth Paltrow and Hugh Jackman hole up here when they're in town.
637–641 Chapel Street
Tel: 61 3 9040 1222
The second and largest of three artist-themed digs from Art Series Hotels, the 229-room Olsen is also the most aesthetically accessible, standing firmly between the bad-boy boldness of The Cullen (Hot List 2010) and the garden-party whimsy of The Blackman. The colorful abstracts of Australian artist Dr. John Olsen include the striking 18-foot-long Yellow Sun over the Yarra in the foyer (guest rooms have reproductions, except for the Penthouse). Room design is appropriately serene against Olsen's strong creative statements: a pale champagne and silver palette, contemporary furnishings, and beds you hate to get out of. One of Olsen's signature images, the tree frog, is etched onto the translucent bathroom wall, and a chocolate frog adorns pillows at turndown. Built on fashionable Chapel Street, the Olsen contributes its share of fun to the hip suburb of South Yarraa sundeck and glass-bottom pool that hang over the street; and two fine restaurants, one Brazilian-inspired, the other Mediterranean.
Tel: 61 74 777 7377
No room phones or TVs, no day-tripping visitors, and no kids under 15 mean that Orpheus, in the Palm Island group, is a haven for quiet types. The resort, on the western coast of the seven-mile-long island, accommodates just 42 people in 21 rooms and suites, all of which have cool tile floors, basic wood and rattan furnishings, muted color schemes, and private patios for enjoying the ocean view. The four Nautilus suites take it up a notch, with expansive lounges and double spa tubs (two have outdoor showers). Rates include all activities and equipment (including catamarans, motorized dinghies, and fishing and snorkeling gear), and—best of all—meals. The restaurant here has its own following, and justifiably: Your dinner entrée might be baked redclaw (a kind of small crayfish) with a Malay citrus and mango chutney—just one of seven elegant courses. The kitchen staff will also pack lunch for guided nature walks or picnics on the beach.
Tel: 61 74 946 9777
Just a dozen people at a time can stay at this rustic, comfy little eco-lodge, which offers the same seclusion as others in the Whitsunday Islands—minus the showiness. Low-key is the watchword here; the ten waterfront bungalows, which overlook Paradise Bay at the island's southern tip, are basic, solar-powered, and fan-cooled, and there are no phones, TVs, data ports, or children under 12. Instead, there's a common gazebo dining area where guests gather for meals (solo travelers are made especially welcome here—there's no extra charge for single occupancy), and a friendly staff that will point you toward the best hiking, kayaking, and wildlife-viewing spots. The lodge also has its own 34-foot sailboat, and rates include private yacht cruises (during which skipper Ian Stone imparts his extensive knowledge of local flora and fauna). Also included in the five-day minimum rate are snorkel equipment, helicopter transfers, and all meals and snacks. You'll have nothing to worry about…other than returning from a day of snorkeling in time to catch the sunset while you eat dinner.
1 Parliament Square
Tel: 61 3 9224 1234
The city's most luxurious large hotel, the 240-room Park Hyatt, really is on a park—Fitzroy Gardens—just opposite St. Patrick's Cathedral and a stroll from the city center. The towering building allows for extra-large rooms with floor-to-ceiling windows, some opening onto balconies. Even the modest units (Park kings or twins) are 500-plus square feet, with marble bathrooms with TVs and deep tubs, walk-in closets, and, in some, gas fireplaces. All are done up in a palette of beiges and taupes, with Madroña wood paneling and modern takes on Art Deco furnishings. The signature restaurant, Radii, has cascading staircases, polished wood, and gleaming chrome in a brasher rendition of the Deco theme. Forget the brassy decor and focus on the menu, a mix of Mediterranean-Antipodean dishes like smoked ocean trout with king prawn rémoulade, avocado, capers, and quail eggs. The Tea Lounge, which overlooks the lobby and Tuscan-inspired gardens, provides a mellower dining alternative.
7 Hickson Road
Tel: 61 2 9256 1234
There are other hotels on the Sydney waterfront, but this low-rise building is the only one that sits right at water level, with a straight-on view of the Opera House and its sweeping cockle-shaped peaks. (To make the most of the location, book an Opera King, Opera Deluxe King, or Opera Deluxe Twin room.) A late-2004 renovation gave the 158 rooms a sumptuous if neutral style—lots of chrome, creamy leather, and earth-toned chenille—plus marble bathrooms. The on-site modern Australian restaurant, harbourkitchen&bar, has won accolades for its mod-Oz cuisine, there's a rooftop pool (more harbor views), and it's within walking distance of Circular Quay's very popular (though rather touristy) shops and restaurants.
Bouddi Peninsula , New South Wales
Tel: 61 2 4360 1933
An hour's drive north of Sydney, Pretty Beach House is a small retreat that caters to your every whim. Want lunch under the trees at 4 p.m.? No problem: Chef Stefano Manfredi's outstanding Italian-influenced menu is available anytime. In the main house, which has an infinity pool, sandstone structural details are complemented by recycled timber furniture and leather club chairs. Shaded by huge gum trees, each of the three guest pavilions has an extensive deck and plunge pool and comes with a fully loaded iPod (no TV, however). Although guests can walk through Bouddi National Park to deserted Tallow Beach, or charter the property's boat for a fishing trip, this place is all about relaxing. Look out for the resident eastern water dragon, nicknamed Eric, that visits the main house at meal times in case soft-hearted guests decide to share their food.
2 Acland Street
Tel: 61 9536 1111
The Prince has not one but multiple watering holes, the better to serve its über-hip, night-owl clientele. There's the pub-style Prince of Wales Bar; the Prince Band Room, with live acts most nights; and the boho-luxe Mink, where you can order decadent cocktails, assorted vodkas, and a diverse array of platter food. There's also the fantastic bakery-café Il Fornaio; a well-stocked wine shop; a Mod-Oz restaurant, Circa, with its own bar—oh, and 40 rooms. Enter the tall lobby, awash in Schiaparelli-pink light, climb the glossy black staircase to black-painted hallways, and prepare for a surprise: Behind the chocolate-brown doors lie sunny, comfortable rooms. The decor pairs brown mohair-and-angora-blend blankets with crisp white sheets, abstract art and Arne Jacobsen chairs, and wooden towel ladders in spare, slate bathrooms. Spring for a superior room or premier suite, which have boxy balconies overlooking the foot traffic on Acland Street. Otherwise, you can people-watch from the deck adjoining the hotel's pool and day spa.
Tel: 61 2 9433 3349
Tucked away on 30 acres of Hamilton Island's northernmost point, this adults-only retreat has rocked the Great Barrier Reef when it comes to island comfort. The 60 pavilionselegantly constructed in native timber, limestone, and slatehave floor-to-ceiling windows, plus (in the Windward Pavilions) infinity-edge plunge pools overlooking glorious tropical surroundings. While this resort is all about nature's beautyexemplified by abundant tropical foliage and the warm ocean watersthere's fun to be had, too. Pavilions come with an electric golf cart for tooling around the island, and room rates include non-motorized water sports, on-site meals (though not alcohol), and dining at Hamilton Island's best restaurantsperhaps wise, as Qualia's island-time service can be spotty.
61 Macquarie Street
Tel: 62 2 9256 4000
If comfort is more important to you than hipness, this place is an excellent pick. The suites are blandly and beigely decorated, but they also have their own kitchens, balconies, whirlpool tubs, andcome on, admit you want iteven private washerdryers. There are one- and two-bedroom options, both of which have dramatic floor-to-ceiling windows. The best look directly onto the Harbour, with full-frontal Bridge vistas; others overlook the bustle of Circular Quay; and the least expensive (but not necessarily the least desirable) have views of the Royal Botanic Gardens across the street. The Opera House is a few steps away; you can jog in the park, hop on a ferry, or stroll across to The Rocks in no time flat.
2352 Coles Bay Road
Tel: 61 3 6256 7888
There's no point in trying to compete with a setting as majestic as the Freycinet Peninsula, with its powder-white beaches and iridescent-blue bays. Instead, the Saffire pays homage to its surroundings with a sweeping entrancea jetty-like walkway flanked by waterfalls and rose-hued marble walls; an airy, stingray-shaped main building that mimics the undulating landscape; and 20 timber-paneled suites arrayed in a line, evoking waves breaking on the shore. The suites meld muted colors and clean lines with smart technology. Electronically operated blinds, for example, reveal floor-to-ceiling windows that frame views of picturesque Oyster Bay and the Hazard Mountains; Luxury Suites even have views from the bathtub. The service is a blend of informality and attentiveness, and guided activities include kayaking, quad biking, and visits to an oyster farm. Nearby are Freycinet National Park's walking trails; one leads to the ivory sands of Wineglass Bay, which ranks among the world's finest beaches. It's also tempting to stay within the Saffire's cosseting embrace, indulging at the spa (guests get one treatment gratis), building sand castles on Muirs Beach (shovels and pails provided), and dining on local seafood creatively prepared by Hugh Whitehouse, formerly of the Darley at Lilianfels, in the Blue Mountains.
Hanson Bay , Kangaroo Island
Tel: 61 2 9918 4355
If Kangaroo Islandan unspoiled 1,700-square-mile haven teeming with native animals is Australia's Galápagos, then the Southern Ocean Lodge is a very natural selection, with its recycled timber floors, soaring glass, and limestone. A thoroughly evolved eco-wilderness lodge, this 21-suite human sanctuary offers panoramic ocean views from the pristine clifftop brushland it inhabits. Rooms come with trekking gear (backpacks and water flasks), but cell phone reception is limited and not all suites have TVs. From the moment you walk into the vast atrium, your attention is drawn to the great outdoors. Over a third of the island is untouched national park land, and the sheer amount of wildlife is bewildering (there are 267 bird species alone). The lodge takes full advantage of the natural abundance, and the rates include treks, evening "Kangaroos and Kanapés" excursions, and half-day tours that take in seal colonies, the island's oldest lighthouse, and remarkable rock formations.
30 Pitt Street
Tel: 61 2 925 97000
Fax: 61 2 925 11122
The location of this broad white toweroverlooking the Sydney Harbour Bridge"couldn't be better." A grand staircase and warm colors contribute to "an attractive lobby that's bright and cheerful." Contemporary rooms, "while not large, are comfortable," and have marble bathrooms. Order wood-fired pizza and beers on tap at the Customs House Bar. "Staff are incredibly friendly."
Private Beach Road, Oak Beach
Tel: 61 74 098 5700
Set on a 145-acre spread of private beach, coconut groves, and forest, this nature lodge 24 miles north of Cairns is all about low-key luxury. The 84 elegantly appointed timber guesthouses, all with polished wood floors, rattan furnishings, and tropical-print fabrics, are linked by meandering, stone-lined paths. A circular communal lounge and reading room has uninterrupted sea views as far as the Barrier Reef islands; at the open-sided Osprey's restaurant, sunset cocktails and buffet breakfasts are accompanied by the calls of kookaburras, sunbirds, lorikeets, and honeyeaters. There are two pools—one split-level, with waterfalls and grottoes—plus bush-walking trails and areas for secluded sunbathing. Borrow binoculars from reception and zoom in on birds, butterflies, possums, gliders, and even the odd whale or dolphin pod from your balcony. Or take advantage of the resort's eco-friendly activities, like turtle-spotting, sea kayaking, and stargazing using the resort's state-of-the-art telescope.
630 Little Collins Street
Tel: 61 3 9622 8888
In 2005, the hip Vibe chain carved their fifth Australian property from the 162-room Savoy Park Plaza, a tired workhorse built in 1929. The hotel caters to youthful business travelers by offering big-hotel amenities at a lower price point. Funky, soft chairs in fire-engine red and lime green help sex up the faded Deco decor in the lobby bar. Guest rooms feel similarly bold, with their red pillows set on black-and-white striped duvets. Rooms have many of the appointments found at pricier establishments: cable and pay TV, fast Internet, safes, bathrobes, minibars, and room service. The spacious suites have separate lounge-dining areas. Vibe Savoy is conveniently located opposite the city's long-distance rail/bus station, a stroll from Docklands and Southbank.
Tel: 61 74 068 8233
It's a bit of a hike to get to Bedarra, a 247-acre, crescent-shaped island in the Family Islands group. You'll have to drive about an hour south of Cairns to the town of Mission Beach, then fly or take a ferry to the sister Voyages resort at Dunk Island, then transfer to another, smaller boat. But if you're feeling grouchy by the time you arrive, you won't stay that way for long; this place is a true sanctuary. The 16 villas—all clean-lined and spacious, with polished timber and giant windows—are tucked among the trees for maximum privacy. When snuggling in your two-person hammock, or surveying the ocean from your private balcony (the pricier villas have plunge pools), you'll feel like the resort's only guests. Meals are included, as is use of the self-service bar. So help yourself to a bottle of Bollinger, ask the staff to pack your meal in a basket, and stroll down to the beach for what could be the world's most romantic picnic. Fishing, snorkeling, and use of sailboats and boards are all complimentary. (Massages and off-island boat trips for fishing and diving cost a little extra). Kids aged 12 and under aren't allowed.
Tel: 61 2 8296 8010
Fax: 61 2 9299 2103
Guests gaze upon "the magical Ayers Rock" from "luxurious elevated tents" on the edge of Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, a perfect-scoring location. The camp's Lilliputian size allows for "personal attention" from "friendly, informative, and instantly likable staff." The Dune House serves contemporary Australian dishes such as peppered kangaroo carpaccio. "The pool is a bit petite, but it's a small price to pay for the overall experience."
Tel: 61 2 8296 8010
Fax: 61 2 9299 2103
A 1.5-million-acre cattle station, Wrotham Park is huge, and the experience is extreme. Even getting there is an adventure: a 40-minute flight from Cairns over the Great Dividing Range in a Cessna twin-prop that lands on a red dirt airstrip. Then it's a short drive to the lodge and ten separate guest quarters perched on a high escarpment, all overlooking the mighty Mitchell River. There's a plunge pool, thoroughly attentive staff, and gourmet country-style meals that can be eaten at a large communal table or in total privacy. This is an authentic working cattle station with jackaroos (Australian cowboys) aplenty, and an opportunity to experience the Outback in all its rugged glory.
205 Collins Street
Tel: 61 3 9635 2222
Well-oiled wheels are set in motion the moment you enter this slick property, where sculptural pendant lights hang from the lobby ceiling and soaring windows look out over the bustle of Melbourne's business district. Courteous staffers sweep you through an express check-in service (which truly merits the name; the process takes just a few minutes) and then escort you to your spacious, streamlined guest quarters. All 262 rooms and suites are outfitted with minimalist wood furnishings, cream-colored fabrics, and bathrooms with double basins and rainfall showerheads. The rooms are some of the largest in the city, ranging from almost 400 to 1,000 square feet. The hotel's common areas—including the Allegro restaurant, a low-lit martini lounge, and a fireside tea "library"—all share the Zen-posh aesthetic. Health is taken seriously here: The fitness room has state-of-the-art weight and cardio machines, and the Wellness Spa has an indoor lap pool, sauna, and steam room.
2600 Wolgan Road
Tel: 61 2 9290 9733
Tel: 61 2 6350 1800
Charles Darwin passed through Wolgan Valley in 1836, and it's tempting to believe that this brand-new $112 million conservation-focused resort in a 4,000-acre nature reserve would impress even him. The Greater Blue Mountains Area is a nature-lover's paradise of eucalyptus forests, jagged sandstone outcrops, ancient flora, and isolated marsupials a three-hour drive from Sydney. Within Wolgan's boundaries, the goal is to augment this natural beauty via a massive tree-planting and a native-fauna-breeding program aimed at returning the land to its condition before ranchers moved in. The price for a stay in one of the 40 close-clustered, free-standing suites is as steep as the nearby escarpments, but this is responsible luxury on an impressive scale. Designed to complement the surroundings, Wolgan nestles into its setting with great sensitivity (recycled materials abound, rainwater powers the showers). A homestead museum has been constructed, and activities include mountain biking and (for experienced riders) horse treksalthough it's wonderful to just relax in a location so idyllic that it soothes the senses and the soul.
111 Marrinup Drive
Tel: 61 4 0097 5123
This complex of five villaseach with two suitesis more a self-contained retreat than a full-service hotel. The larger suite in each villa has a dining area, a living room, and a well-equipped kitchen, while the smaller suite has a compact kitchenette and a generously proportioned whirlpool tub. The emphasis throughout is on comfort and luxury, as epitomized by the crazed profusion of cushions in the master bedroom, which sports an almost absurdly high four-poster bed. A chef can be booked in advance, and beauty treatments and picnic baskets are available upon request, but you are otherwise on your own. A large formal garden and beautiful eucalyptus meadow beckon beyond the glass lounge doors; come sundown, wildlife goes bouncing by.