Thala Beach Lodge, Port Douglas $$$$
Concierge.com's insider take:
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.
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