Lilianfels Blue Mountains Resort & Spa, Katoomba $$$$
Concierge.com's insider take:
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
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