Whether you’re after a big-city hotel or fabulous secluded stay in the country, seek out accommodation that offers total immersion in the location.
Journey with our writers as they take you into Australia’s top 10 emerging stays from our 100 Emerging Destinations and Experiences series.
1. Rock on at Orange’s latest luxury stay
Travelling with: Emily Murphy
The aptly named Basalt sitting just below the extinct volcano of Gaanhabula (Mt Canobolas) is the newest luxury accommodation to sprout from Orange in NSW’s Central West. The quaint property overlooking the owner’s cherry orchard has three private studios, each with its own personality and perspective.
I am instantly in awe of the thoughtful design by Mudgee-based architect Cameron Anderson and unique furnishings by Lisa Johnson Design Studio as I open the large timber-framed sliding door and walk into the Drifter Studio.
Settle in your cosy bed at Basalt. (Image: Monique Lovick Photography)
It’s the attention to detail that woos me. There’s a Nood Co Concrete bathtub with a view, native flowers carefully placed throughout the studio, an internal wood fire, outdoor fire pit and Carlotta + Gee French linen for the king-size bed. There’s also a walk-in rainfall shower and a telescope for stargazing.
I pour a glass of local winemaker Swinging Bridge’s pinot noir to enjoy in a hot bath as the afternoon transforms into evening. The kangaroos seem to energise as the sun lowers in the sky, bounding through my view of the cherry orchard.
The stay exudes earthy and rustic charm. (Image: Monique Lovick Photography)
Basalt has partnered with local businesses to offer exclusive experiences for its guests to immerse themselves in the best of the Orange region. We open the fridge to find a suite of preordered delicious baked goods from Racine Bakery, an easy dinner to enjoy in our cosy studio. Then we head outside to join the incredible Stargazing Experience with Rod Somerville, the night-sky expert behind the town’s planned planetarium.
Another must-try diversion is the Heli & Winery Experience, where the pilot picks you up from Basalt and takes you to Printhie Wines for a wine tasting and five-course degustation lunch.
Experience wellness luxury at Basalt. (Image: Monique Lovick Photography)
2. The rise and rise of Kangaroo Island
Travelling with: Imogen Eveson
Baillie Lodges has announced that Southern Ocean Lodge on Kangaroo Island’s wild west coast will reopen in December and anticipations are running high for the re-emergence of the luxury lodge that was razed to the ground in the Black Summer bushfires.
Immerse yourself in the coastal wilderness. (Image: South Australian Tourism Commission)
To stay at Southern Ocean Lodge is to immerse yourself in the South Australian island itself – whether through the food on your plate or the coastal wilderness that surrounds you – and its reopening will be a symbolic line in the sand for the community and its regeneration over the past few years. And with the recent launches of other accommodation options that connect guests to the essence of the island, such as Wander on Kangaroo Island and Island Burrow, KI’s tourism game is going from strength to strength.
Soak up scenic views on Kangaroo Island. (Image: Wander/Remy Brand Creative)
3. The secret’s out on Crescent Head
Travelling with: Lara Picone
NSW’s Crescent Head has blipped onto the radar with a pulsating coolness. The Macleay Valley Coast surf town may still be sleepy-ish, but now there’s much more going on than wave-watching from Kombis. As is evident by the soon-to-open Sea Sea, which has slipped into the disused shell of a once-mediocre holiday resort, pricking the senses of hip holiday hunters everywhere.
Wipe your feet upon entering your humble abode at Sea Sea.
Set to welcome guests in June, Sea Sea was always going to hit with hype, given it’s the project of Ksubi co-founder and culture wunderkind George Gorrow and his wife, Cisco Tschurtschenthaler. The pair have been busy reforging the hotel into a design-led boutique haven. Gone are the budget family holiday vibes and cement frog ornaments. Instead, the original building has inspired a modern interpretation of 1970s-era style.
From the laid-back luxe rooms to the public access Club House, and restaurant and bar, Sea Sea will be the beacon that illuminates Crescent Head’s once low-key appeal.
Meet Cisco Tschurtschenthaler, wife of Ksubi co-founder and culture wunderkind George Gorrow.
4. Wadjemup/Rottnest Island gets a polish
Travelling with: Fleur Bainger
The opening of Samphire Rottnest signalled a shift in gears for Western Australia’s most beloved island, and while Wadjemup/ Rottnest Island remains a sandy feet and slouchy T-shirt kind of place, its outlook is becoming decidedly higher calibre. As Samphire settles into its linen and jute skin – introducing seasonal pool heating, a new pool bar and tranquil day lounge for guests only (with free oyster shucking one day, wine tasting the next), as well as slicker management – the island has been getting a facelift.
Samphire Rottnest has a modern and classy interior.
Quokkas now hop on new paving in the pedestrian mall and snooze beneath new public shade areas (as selfie-hunters pose), while swimmers wash off the salt at new beach showers, finished in 2022. Fabulous, sea breeze-tickled Italian restaurant Isola Bar e Cibo has also opened, and a new $40-million, low-rise, 100-room resort known as The Lodge is on the horizon for late 2024.
Lounge by the pool. (Image: Jillian McHugh Photography)
5. A tree change in Pemberton
Travelling with: Fleur Bainger
A circular Heli pad. Artisanal gin and vodka distilled from reject potatoes. Luxury accommodation only steps from the cellar door. None of these things are what I’ve come to expect from Pemberton, the farm-meets-forest town about 3.5 hours’ drive south of Perth. The rural community loved for the pale-barked, ruler-straight karri trees that edge its winding roads is – many say – like Margaret River before it got busy. Family-run cellar doors, boutique wineries and productive orchards surround the small town with a general store, limited accommodation and a handful of eateries.
Get cosy in your forest luxe accommodation at Ampersand Estates. (Image: Shot by Thom)
I stay most summers, and never have I experienced anything like Ampersand Estates. It may be the bellwether that will flip Pemberton’s quiet reputation. The retirement project for an entrepreneurial pair of 40-somethings who sold their global consultancy business to Deloitte in 2019, Ampersand has risen rapidly from the ashes of the region’s oldest winery. The LGBTQI+ company has transformed three rundown farmhouses into sophisticated white-and-wood-beam accommodations; my kids declare The Homestead “a mansion” after racing between its five bedrooms and enormous tub.
Relax in your whitewashed room. (Image: Shot by Thom)
Stays are elevated with experiences: the chef behind Pemberton’s best winery restaurant serves four courses from our kitchen; we roll down the largest landlocked, mobile dunes in the southern hemisphere on a tour; local cheeses, meats and dips fill an estate picnic hamper.
Enjoy a cheese picnic. (Image: Shot by Thom)
I particularly love walking past roos to the tasting lounge for estate wines, spirits and friendly geese – no driving required.
Ampersand’s base spirit is drawn from local spuds (the lumpy or tiny ones supermarkets won’t take), while their poetically named Rainfall Distillery gins and vodkas are infused with cherries, citrus, honey and macadamia nuts. It’s feel-good, on-trend stuff, accomplished at a standard that’s only going to raise the bar for Pemberton. Margaret River, watch out.
Ducks freely roam around the estate. (Image: Shot by Thom)
6. The Great Ocean Road’s sunny new stay
Travelling with: Laura Waters
“It’s always summer at the Sunnymead,” is the message at the Great Ocean Road’s newest hotel. Picture yellow beach umbrellas by the pool, Palm Springs style breeze-block walls and a curving tiled pool bar. Imagine cocktails and pizzas by the sunken fire pit; rooms stylish yet fun, complete with yoga mats, vintage-style radios, card games and travel books. There’s even a yellow VW Kombi at the ready for excursions.
Settle into the orange-hued minimalist space at Sunnymead.
It’s undoubtedly cool, but Sunnymead Hotel is more than just another retro motel transformation. This is a place to be savoured over several nights or more, a place to surrender yourself for a good time. To relax, eat, be pampered. After all, how often is hotel reception done at a day spa?
Indie Spa feels fancy enough to belong in a world-class wellness resort and big enough to spoil up to a dozen guests at once (ideal for sharing with friends). There’s the Rasul, a wraparound tiled steam room for body scrubs and mud treatments (brace yourself afterwards for the ice shower), and a bathhouse where up to four people can soak in rosemary- and pine-scented mud or bath milk; windows frame Zen-like greenery in both.
Take advantage of the retro-inspired pool.
Then there are the three treatment rooms for massages and Vichy showers. It’s adult hedonism at its best. Wander through the arched glass entrance next door to enter Santara, a stylish and intimate restaurant where the menu weaves Indian influences into a contemporary offering – just try eating the crunchy bite-sized prawn pani puri with Yarra Valley caviar quietly.
Those who do manage to venture beyond the hotel’s perimeter will find no shortage of things to do. Smack bang between the bustling coastal resorts of Torquay and Lorne, Aireys Inlet offers the convenience of proximity to the region’s endless attractions – including perfect beaches and the walks and waterfalls of the Otway Ranges – but with a far quieter and more intimate vibe.
Spot the flora on a walk in the surrounding region.
Regular visitors to Aireys will be well familiar with the popular Aireys Pub (live bands play on the grassy lawn every Saturday) and the iconic Greek restaurant a la grecque, but this little town is on the rise with new additions popping up. Places such as The Gin Kitchen, where you can sample Great Ocean Road Gin and nab a bowl of pipis in XO sauce, or Le Comptoir, which celebrates fi ne French fare and artisanal cheeses. Paintings, sculpture and glass art are among the treasures at Eagles Nest Fine Art Gallery.
Everything in Aireys is within walking distance, including the endless ocean panoramas presented from the cliff top trails of the Surf Coast Walk. You only need nip up a side street behind Sunnymead to slip onto this 44-kilometre trail, but just 15 minutes is all that’s needed to reach Split Point Lighthouse and several lookouts showcasing the dramatic sandstone stack of Eagle Rock, pounded by the sea.
The scones and cakes at The Lighthouse Tea Rooms, located within the old stables, are worth pausing for. Aireys’ joy lies in its intimate and relaxed vibe. Check in and chill out.
Split Point Lighthouse is perched on Aireys Inlet. (Image: Tourism Australia)
7. A backstage pass to the best bits of the Barossa
Travelling with: Imogen Eveson
Having reopened in September last year following a ‘glamover’ courtesy of new owners Baillie Lodges, Barossa Valley stalwart The Louise is looking better than ever and offering guests a backstage pass to the best bits of the South Australian region. And you don’t have to stray far to find them.
The luxe new Stonewell Suite at The Louise is the ideal luxury escape. (Image: Stepney Studio)
Cross the road for a drink at Tscharke Wines, where Damien Tscharke is turning Barossa traditions on their head. With his single-minded dedication to organic winemaking and innovative development of grape varietals, Tscharke eschews the traditional cellar door experience in favour of a new wine bar concept, The Protagonist.
One of the boons of staying at The Louise – aside from waking in elegant suites to a blanket of vines all around and destination dining at Appellation – is ready access to in-the-know spots like this, with a passionate team enmeshed in the local community on hand to connect guests to personalised experiences.
The modern rooms are sleek and cosy with pops of colour. (Image: Stepney Studio)
8. Outback Queensland lodgings jump up in style
Travelling with: Quentin Long
Outback Queensland has seen a steady stream of ultra-premium experiences and lodgings open in the last three years. At the top of the luxury charts, with six exclusive tents, is Rangelands Outback Camp, just 20 minutes from Winton. The campsite sits on the edge of an outback ‘jump-up’ and each of the tents (and its en suite shower) is positioned to make the most of the astonishing views of the outback Savannah plains. Inside, the indulgent king-size bed creates an oasis of calm and relaxation.
Unwind in the Outback. (Image: Rangelands Outback Camp)
Camp hosts prepare your gourmet dinners and breakfasts from the on-site Airstream with premium wine, spirits and beers included. The ideal stay is three days exploring outback icons in Winton and Longreach including the Waltzing Matilda Centre, the Australian Age of Dinosaurs, the Qantas Founders Museum and Australian Stockman’s Hall of Fame – plus the jump-up and rifts of the campsite. Do it in complete style with a private heli tour. Other new premium accommodation options to consider include Mitchell Grass Retreat in Longreach and Shandonvale Station outside Barcaldine.
Experience luxe camping in Rangelands Outback Camp. (Image: Rangelands Outback Camp)
9. The chic place to be in Mossy Point
Travelling with: Celeste Mitchell
I’ve been seduced south – further south than I’ve ever been – to a land of fairy-tale beaches drawn on mud maps, of shacks set among virgin forest with no official road in. A land where kangaroos mill by the fire pits and cacti gardens, overlooked by those sitting beside a sapphire magnesium pool. Coffee negroni in hand as the soundtrack runs from Angus and Julia Stone to Bill Withers in Arlo restaurant, this scene loops in my mind after staying at The Oaks Ranch in Mossy Point, four hours from Sydney in NSW’s Eurobodalla region.
The ranch is a little bit Palm Springs meets Aussie coastal bushland; it’s a far cry from the purple walls and colourful sheets that used to greet guests at the Spanish Mission-style venue. Twelve additional rooms are to come, alongside self-contained villas and a Greg Norman-designed golf course upgrade. Go before it gets too big.
Dip in the sapphire magnesium pool. (Image: Abbie Melle)
10. Luxury hotels shine a light on Melbourne’s CBD
Travelling with: Carla Grossetti
Melbourne has added a few more jewels to its crown with the opening of three game-changing luxury hotels within the neat grid of the CBD. It’s a strong signal that the city is back in business. Visitors will appreciate the central location of The Ritz-Carlton Melbourne in Lonsdale Street, Le Méridien Melbourne in Bourke Street and Dorsett Melbourne, with its intuitively designed social spaces and beautifully appointed rooms in the hospitality hub that is West Side Place.
The lobby exudes elegance and sophistication. (Image: Diana Snape)
Head out from each hotel to explore hidden laneways, watch the sun go down from a rooftop bar and indulge in the richness of art and history on offer in Australia’s cultural capital.
Dorsett Melbourne is rich in luxury.