From holiday homes with serious wow factor to award-winning architecture and rooms with a view, take design notes from these covetable crash pads.
Here are the nine stays with serious wow factor that made it into positions 92 to 100 of our coveted list of 100 unique stays. Head here to read the full list and start planning your next escape.
Is this Australia’s most unique holiday home? Domic is an architectural wonder that represents the highest echelon of sustainable luxury in one of the most stunning locations (featured in image above). Adjoining Noosa National Park and fronting Sunshine Beach, it appears as a collection of expansive shell-like domes that are gently yet boldly recessed into the natural landscape.
It’s the sustainable-living vision of international hemp industrialist Evgeny Skigin and utilises his own eco-friendly invention in its construction: carbon dioxide absorbing Hempcrete. All aspects of Domic have been conceived not only to blend into the landscape, but to maximise energy efficiency at the same time. “The notion of a fluid building form inserted into the landscape and dunes was the natural response to place and provided excellent thermal mass,” says the eminent Australian architect behind it, Noel Robinson. Blurring the lines between building and landscape, its curved roofing is covered in native landscaping, “to further confuse the skyline and to provide insulation and camouflage to the built form”.
Domic harnesses solar power, filters its own rainwater and is designed to be carbon neutral. “The interior also responded to sustainability by the use of Hempcrete thermal insulation in the walls,” says Noel. And it’s special, he says. “The ceilings are vaulted to span long distances without internal columns. So to respond to acoustics and thermal insulation, perforated hoop pine lining over wool insulation was installed, providing the perfect environmental and visual response to the architecture – yes, similar to the Sydney Opera House, Jørn Utzon would be proud of me!” “To look at it from the outside, it’s vast,” says Sue Willis, of Niche Luxury Accommodation, who manages the property. “But you walk in and you’re in this cocoon; it’s warm and it’s intimate.”
And when it comes to features and state-of-the-art technology, it has it all. Covering almost a hectare over four levels, this $24 million build boasts six bedrooms, 10 bathrooms and seven car parks. There’s a 25-metre lap pool, a spa, steam room, sauna and gym, a butler’s pantry and self-contained staff quarters. It offers a full concierge service, private chefs and a guest hamper stocked with local produce and French Champagne. And it houses the same commercial-standard cinema that Oprah Winfrey has in her home. It’s unsurprising that it’s a favourite among celebrities; it’s within chopper distance from the Gold Coast’s Hollywood studio, after all.
“It’s just a really stunning house and priced accordingly,” says Sue. And for a cool few thousand a night, you too can buy into the pure extra of it if only for a while. Domic, which means place of domes in Russian, is a deeply sequestered property that makes the most of its unparalleled location. “This unique and special place is private; the sunrises and the rising moon are the best in the world, watching them come up over the Coral Sea is a life-changing experience,” says Noel. “Not only that, the outlook to the headland and beach is unbeatable.”
With views like this, sometimes the most show-stopping design is all in the glass-to-wall ratio. You’ll find Sky Pods tucked along the Great Ocean Road at Cape Otway on the rugged Shipwreck Coast of south-west Victoria. Just over a decade ago, its owners Maxwell and Lisa, who had lived in inner-city Melbourne for all of their working lives, were seeking a change. With the environment at the forefront of their minds, they set about on a new project: purchasing a property with the intention of restoring the land to its pre-farming state. They would plant trees, establish a wildlife refuge and build a house run on solar and wind power. They happened on a property serendipitously – a magnificent but neglected cattle farm on Gadubanud Country – and saw its potential.
The 80 hectares bordering Great Otway National Park offered sweeping ocean views taking in Moonlight Head and Castle Cove. There was plenty of land to encourage native animals including koalas, kangaroos, echidnas and native birdlife to make their home there. It had an 800-metre walking trail that led to Station Beach, which intercepts the Great Ocean Walk from Apollo Bay to the 12 Apostles, from where you can reach the hidden treasure of Rainbow Falls and see water cascading down cliffs into the ocean.
It also promised sunsets over the ocean nine months of the year. And it was perfect for whale-watching and stargazing. “After completing our project it became evident that this was the perfect property to share with others,” says Maxwell. And so Sky Pods were born. The two pods have been architecturally designed with environmental sustainability at their core, but without compromising on comfort.
Solar-powered and fully off the grid with a minimal carbon footprint, they don’t skimp on mod cons. There’s a fully appointed kitchen, spacious bathroom, wood fireplace and reverse cycle heating and cooling, plus a 2.5-metre projector screen for night-time streaming (when you’re not stargazing). And, with floor-to-ceiling windows that take in the sweeping views the property has to offer from your adjustable bed, it’s clear Sky Pods have got that golden ratio just right.
The ‘other side’ of Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula became a weekends-away hotspot to rival its flashy seaside cousins with the opening of Jackalope back in 2017. Surrounded by vineyards, bush and farmland, its arrival in sleepy Merricks North was a shock to the system, given its resolutely modern, high-design visuals and decidedly urban approach.
But the melding of city-slick interiors – think muted tones, statement artworks (including Emily Floyd’s Jackalope sculpture at the entrance), designer furniture and lots of mod cons – with bucolic surrounds of neatly planted grapevines and softly undulating taupe and faded green hills has proved an irresistibly unique hook. Visit to lounge by the pool taking in the surrounds, dine at signature eatery Doot Doot Doot, and sample the wares of the on-site winery over a lazy lunch at Rare Hare.
Designer rugs are thick; the bathroom has an in-wall waterproof television; clean-lined living spaces are decorated with bespoke Tasmanian furniture. Is that a pre-Columbian grinding stone encased in glass – in the kitchen?
Each named after an influential Australian painter or architect, Mona Pavilions’ eight dens have walls adorned with the artwork of their namesake. From the lounge suite of my ‘Brett’ I admire a Whiteley. Is that an original? Of course. The pick of the penthouses is ‘Roy’, in all its three-storey, silver metallic skin glory. With two bedrooms separated by a middle-level living space, two couples (or a family) could go halves and nab themselves the biggest pavilion at a reasonable price. The only drawback? They might fight over who gets the bedroom with the spa bath on the deck.
Next to ‘Roy’ is a sybaritic fitness centre where I enjoyed many hours gazing at the glass-like River Derwent while floating in the infinity pool. A sauna and gymnasium add to the quiet opulence of the exercise zone. The pavilions’ location next to the Museum of Old and New Art, with its on-site winery and cellar door, just 15 minutes from Hobart CBD, only enhances its standing as the epitome of Tasmanian luxury. With breakfast at The Source Restaurant (I had impeccable eggs on wood-fired bread) included in the rate, I didn’t need to road-test many of the European kitchen appliances in my self-contained ‘Brett’. But who could miss a thorough investigation of the fully stocked wine fridge? Life is stylish when I’m staying at Mona. – Leah McLennan
Lon Retreat & Spa has been in the Hanley family for almost 150 years, spanning seven generations. Claire Hanley grew up on the 100-hectare property and, together with her husband, Rob Gemes, transformed the family home into Lon Retreat.
The result is a boutique ‘home hotel’ that comprises seven individually designed suites, a luxurious spa and pool fed by the property’s mineral springs, event spaces and art gallery. And it’s still a family affair. Claire’s parents manage the working farm, which has cattle, a protea plantation and food forest that produces most of the bounty supplied to guests during their stay. Breakfast trays even feature the very popular Lon Honey, available for sale in the Little Shop of Lon, one of many add-ons that surprise and delight.
According to Claire, the vision for Lon, located high on a hill in Point Lonsdale, on the edge of the beautiful Bellarine Peninsula, was to provide a space for people to escape from the hurly-burly of life.
What defines the sandstone retreat is that ‘lived-in’ laid-back luxury aesthetic, with timber, natural stone, linen and native flora reflecting a quintessentially Australian landscape. “We want people to find time to watch the clouds change, the weather roll in and the ships pass by. To be in a place where there is luxury without pretentiousness, where you can walk barefoot in your robe from your suite to the spa and simply relax in your own space,” says Claire. The sandstone retreat brings guests in touch with all of these fundamental pleasures and more. – Carla Grossetti
Is there anything more Australian than a hotel built into a sporting ground? And not just any sporting ground, but the revered Adelaide Oval, home of the Adelaide Crows and the venue for test cricket since way back in 1884. But if you are picturing a space filled with sports-themed memorabilia and giant flat-screens playing endless loops of AFL games, you are way off the mark (sports pun completely intended). The boutique hotel of 138 rooms, which opened its doors in September 2020, is unashamedly luxe in its approach.
The exterior has been designed to meld seamlessly into the outer shell of the Oval, allowing for the full impact of its sophisticated styling to be revealed upon crossing the threshold, with clean lines and a restive colour palette of neutrals and muted greys utilised throughout, and light drenching the rooms, suites and public areas via floor-to-ceiling walls of windows. The hotel’s uniquely South Australian identity plays out in everything from the local amenities in the sleek en suite bathrooms to the artworks on the walls to the produce and wines featured on the menus of its Five Regions Restaurant and Bespoke Wine Bar & Kitchen.
While there are no windows overlooking the grounds, as the hotel looks resolutely towards the city it is anchored in, come game day the roar of the crowd will let you know how the home team is doing while you relax in altogether more salubrious surrounds.
It’s hard to divert attention from the rugged beauty of Tasmania’s Freycinet Peninsula, given just how jaw-on-the-floor dramatic the area is, but a collection of blissfully situated pavilions are managing to rival the impossibly blue waters of Wineglass Bay and the soaring heights of The Hazards. Part of the eco-focused Freycinet Lodge, situated within Freycinet National Park, the Coastal Pavilions, dotted within bushland at the water’s edge, are strikingly stylish.
Outside it’s all curved picture windows and charred Red Ironbark, with generous decks (complete with outside bathtubs) to relax on, while inside the effect is irresistibly cocooning, with patch-worked Tasmanian oak, blackwood and plywood throughout (finding the hidden toilet and games-stacked cupboard is hide-and-seek fun), a stunning bathroom, huge king bed and cosy lounge area complete with a modern fireplace. Bet all that got your attention, didn’t it? – Leigh-Ann Pow
When guests first walk into the Paris Villa at Clifftop at Hepburn they are often moved to tears. Nature has never seemed more alluring than when standing in front of the three floor-to-ceiling windows that frame the view of Breakneck Gorge. The organic-shaped hideaway comprises seven stacked shipping containers made of Corten weathering steel, some of which are cantilevered out over the edge of a clifftop overlooking the Elevated Plains. Once inside, everything, from the gentle grain of the reclaimed floorboards, to the soft feel of a French linen throw, or the comforting scent of timber and cowhide leather cries out to be seen, felt and touched.
Owner David Penman says in a world dominated by technology, a haven such as Clifftop at Hepburn demands its guests switch off. Sure, wi-fi is available. But he says he and his wife Manolita’s vision was “to provide everything people don’t have at home and nothing that they do have”. Those ‘extras’ include the world’s best massage chair, a Tasmanian blackwood bath, antique pinball machines, waterfalls that cascade right near to the front door and solar-powered Tesla charging stations. “I’m a big, gruff 6 ft two bloke with a sleeve tattoo and I might hear a song on the radio and start to cry. I relate that back to when people come in and see the view. They’ve read the reviews, they’ve seen the pictures on Instagram and then they walk in and are moved to tears. That makes me know we have got it right,” says David.
“It thrills me to see them step inside these rusted old shipping containers and just stop dead still and stare at the view. It’s all part of the drama. After absorbing the view they move around wanting to touch everything. Every texture is a sensual experience. They run their hands over the hand-woven Moroccan floor rugs, the beautiful fireplace, the recycled hardwood floors and tactile benchtops,” he says.
The shipping containers at Clifftop at Hepburn are named after four of the world’s romantic cities – Paris, Rome, Vienna and Venice – and regularly rank as one of Australia’s most romantic getaways. But the clifftop villas, located near to natural springs and world-class restaurants in Daylesford, are also family friendly. David says the steel structures also feature a bulletproof glass floor that adds an element of surprise. Principal of Robin Larsen Design, architect Robin Larsen, says when you look at his design of Clifftop at Hepburn from below it resembles a primordial creature crawling across a slope. “It’s organic. It has multiple eyes and a sense of movement. It’s in quite a dramatic location and we have completely capitalised on that,” he says. – Carla Grossetti
Gauze separates my sleeping self from the coastal heathland. The domed ceiling and wallaby throw across my body are inspired by the traditional homes and lifestyles of the palawa – First Nations peoples of lutruwita (Tasmania). Fittingly, krakani lumi means resting place. Storytelling is interwoven in the award-winning design of these freestanding sleeping shelters.
Warm tones and curved lines extend to the communal building where, after all hiking here together, guides grilled up muttonbird on the fire pit and performed a Smoking Ceremony. This low impact off-grid standing camp in the state’s North East areas of wukalina (Mt William National Park) and larapuna (Bay of Fires) is home for two wukalina Walk nights. There is no other place or overnight experience like this in the world. – Elspeth Callender