From luxe lodges and exclusive eco retreats to paradise islands and all-out six-star style, experience luxury in all its guises.
Here are the eleven most luxurious stays that made it into positions 1 to 11 of our coveted list of 100 unique stays. Head here to read the full list and start planning your next escape.
Being cossetted in absolute luxury and interacting with nature at its most elemental need not be mutually exclusive. Sequoia, the newly revealed luxury lodge sitting on the side of Mt Lofty, high above the Adelaide Hills, definitely proves that. While nothing has been overlooked in the creation of the property, the sophisticated interiors and attention to detail are a complement to the landscape that it is anchored in, and the experiences that its location affords. It’s an approach or philosophy that the brand describes as being “nurtured by nature”.
It is there in the way even the most indulgent aspects of the lodge, things like the deep soaking tubs and the day bed-dressed balconies of the guest suites, all look out to spectacular views to the Piccadilly Valley below. It encompasses the common areas that guests are invited to dwell in: the sunken lounges and expansive deck of the central lodge also look resolutely outwards. And it is intrinsic to the little things that make such a large statement about the property and its focus: the clear artesian spring water used to feed every tap on the property and in the bottled water throughout; the elevation of local produce in the menus created; and the South Australian wines, studiously curated by Sequoia’s sommelier, which are included on the wine list.
Location plays out in its most profound way in the experiences offered to guests as part of. Of course, the focus on nature and their residency. Soaking in artesian spring-fed hot pools, hiking (or opt for an electric bike instead) along the Heysen Trail on a guided walk, with incidental kangaroo, koala and wallaby sightings along the way (and light refreshments at the conclusion), joining a sunrise yoga class as the landscapes awakens, and staying up past bedtime to gaze at the stars through the property’s private telescope.
Guests are also given an insight into the history of the area through millennia, with Aboriginal elders sharing their stories and traditions, and explaining to those visiting for a fleeting moment the significance Mt Lofty holds to them. And, as with everything at Sequoia, nature and privileged access intersect in the more bespoke experiences as well, like hand-feeding cockatoos and learning about koala conservation on a pre-opening tour of Cleland Wildlife Park, or taking in South Australia’s rugged coastline and the ancient Onkaparinga Gorge on a 4WD tour of some of McLaren Vale’s boutique wineries.
My incoming flight descends over rocky outcrops of granite, sparsely vegetated hills and a bareness that is only interrupted by coral-white beaches and aquamarine waters. I can also see the luxury resort I will be sequestered away in for the next few days. While this small, dry atoll is in many ways reminiscent of the Greek Islands, few places in the world can compare to idyllic Lizard Island.
Known as Dyiigurra to the local Dingaal people, Lizard Island forms part of a 1000-hectare national park and houses the country’s northernmost island beach resort. Its promise of privacy and exclusivity is enough to regularly attract A-list visitors, as is its unparalleled proximity to the Great Barrier Reef. Nowhere else can Queensland holidaymakers enjoy its spoils so freely and completely, with gardens of coral accessed moments from your (menu-selected) pillow.
Dealing in understated luxury, accommodation options here range from Oceanview Villas with private plunge pools and Beachfront Suites equipped with giant Day beds, to the Pavilion with its panoramic ocean views and the ultra-exclusive Villa complete with prime cliff-top position. My minimalist room is tropical in design, featuring polished timber floors and a king-size bed. Ceiling fans and a silent air-conditioner keep the temperature constant while afternoons are spent reading on the front verandah.
And when it comes time for leisure activities, I have my pick: paddleboarding, kayaking, hiking, tennis, snorkelling and diving excursions – all are available at my whim and fancy. I jump at the chance to skipper my own motor-powered dinghy – complete with a picnic lunch – and moor at one of the 24 private island beaches. And later, I watch the sunset from the open verandah at Salt Water Restaurant, wondering what I did right in a past life to enjoy the spoils of such a paradise as Lizard Island. – Eliza Sholly
Real luxury doesn’t need to shout to get attention. It is implied in the quality of experience and impeccable execution. This kind of quiet luxury is the hallmark of Perth’s Como The Treasury, where everything from its neutrals and blond-wood decor to its signature scent is subtle and precise. The grand proportions of the historic state buildings the hotel is housed in are complemented by the clean lines of its 48 rooms and suites, the stylishly relaxed atmosphere of its restaurant, Wildflower, and the discreet allures of its subterranean Como Shambhala spa. As for announcing its accomplishments, it lets others do that, including being named the second-best hotel in the world in Condé Nast Traveler’s Readers’ Choice Awards 2017.
If there is one word to describe how a stay at Crown Towers Sydney makes you feel, it is ‘pampered’. From the moment I arrive at 1 Barangaroo Avenue, I am blown away by the service I receive. The luxury hotel was billed as Sydney’s first six-star hotel and, while the rating doesn’t officially exist, everything about the $2.2 billion hotel makes it feel in a class of its own.
I can’t help but think the entryway to my 15th-floor Executive Harbour Bridge Suite is designed to build anticipation; the long hallway leads into the living area to reveal floor-to-ceiling windows with expansive views of the harbour. It invites you in and leads you on a treasure hunt of discovery through to the bedroom, with its impossibly comfortable king-size bed, and then on to the marble en suite with a deep, egg-shaped, freestanding bathtub and an enormous walk-in rain shower. I am not exaggerating when I say it is hard to pull myself away from the room to continue exploring the property.
One of the most memorable perks of staying in this 275-metre-high hotel (officially the tallest in Sydney) is the views. It’s a surreal moment floating in the surely soon-to-be iconic heated infinity pool overlooking the harbour. Sydney truly is one of the most beautiful cities in the world and this is without a doubt one of the best vantage points to enjoy it from. I perch myself on one of the floating day beds and watch the sun slip lower in the sky as poolside attendants dutifully keep my drink topped up throughout my swim. I decide to round out the pampering experience with a massage at the Crown Spa Sydney.
The designer of the spa, Blainey North, has excelled in creating a dreamy, light-filled space that is as serene as it is pretty. The colour palette is a soothing combination of soft lilacs and candy-floss pink contrasted by marble tiles and brass gold and silver accents. The massage includes the use of the luxuriously decadent Aqua Retreat. I take my time jumping between the Infrared Saunas, Moroccan Steam Room, Experience Shower – which also delivers a water-pressure massage from all angles – and the 37°C-heated Vitality Pool. I emerge feeling like a new person and the post-holiday glow stays with me long after checkout. – Katie Carlin
If you’ve ever wanted to live like a rock star, Dune House – part of Kangaroo Island’s Hamilton & Dune – is the place to do it. The minute I check into this architecturally designed three-bedroom property overlooking Emu Bay and take in the sunken living room overlooking the sea, I begin to swagger like I’ve left my manager and crew outside. Helping my metamorphosis is the meticulous attention to the detail in every room; the fridge and minibar are stocked with boutique goodies, the bed sheets are Weft Textiles and sparkling mineral water pours from the kitchen tap. There’s nothing to complain about and my (imaginary) manager is thrilled. – Dilvin Yasa
I blame the last glass of opulent red drawn from the extensive on-site cellar. And maybe the cavalcade of elevated ‘Barossa comfort food’ that preceded it. Whatever it is, my aim is definitely awry as I watch another ball slide into the Kegelbahn gutter. The traditional German bowling alley is the most unusual aspect of the recent renovations to this stately sandstone manor, but it shows the locals have roots as deep as the vines for which the region is famous. And after a night in one of the elegant new suites dug into the hillside below the homestead, I’ll be ready to dive into the region’s wine, food and culture again tomorrow. –Alexis Buxton-Collins
On the banks of the river Derwent, set amid elms and flower gardens, sits a grand old house with tales to tell. Convict labour and £1000 saw it built in 1825 for the Constable of Elizabeth Town (now New Norfolk), but these days The Woodbridge Tasmania is pure period luxury. After a night in one of its luscious beds, I pull back the window shutters, letting sunlight and garden views flood in, and I’m reminded of a childhood dream to play lady of the manor. All I’m missing is a silk gown with a very large skirt. Stay at The Woodbridge and you can very easily pretend you own the place. Guests of the eight unique rooms and suites are given free rein and the ‘hired help’ only appear when you need them.
It’s a house you don’t want to leave – why would you when you can cosy up by the fire in the drawing room while the pianola plays, retreat to the reading room, or sip a Derwent Valley pinot gris in the garden between dangling your feet in the river? In a real-life Escape to the Chateau story, owners John and Laurelle Grimley lovingly transformed what was a derelict house in 2003 into its current glory, winning HIA Australian Restoration of the Year in 2006. It’s immaculate, oozing with original character and laced with art. The food – served in the Pavilion with its antique birdcage – is something to be savoured. Think pan seared local scallops with cauliflower puree, porcini tortellini, or maple-glazed baked ocean trout. Wines are sourced from the cellar (aka convict lock-up). It’s a taste of genteel country living and it’s a life I could get used to. – Laura Waters
Ok, let’s get this out of the way right from the beginning: I believe Emirates One&Only Wolgan Valley is one of the most amazing accommodation offerings not just in Australia, but in the entire world. I know, it’s a bold (some might even say audacious) statement but it is one I stand by wholeheartedly; if there was a T-shirt to that effect, I’d wear it. As a magazine editor for more years than I am willing to divulge, I have had the good fortune to stay at some unbelievably amazing places, and my belief remains unwavered.
By way of explanation I can provide a long list of merits the resort boasts: its awe-inspiring location in a wide, secluded valley between Wollemi National Park and the Gardens of Stone National Park in the Greater Blue Mountains (the drive in is an experience in itself), surrounded on all sides by soaring sandstone escarpments and thick bush; its world-leading eco credentials; its considered food offering, now helmed by executive chef James Viles (ex-Biota); and its quietly indulgent one-, two- and three-bedroom villas which come with considered inclusions from sketch pads and pencils tucked into drawers to mountain bikes at the front door to their own private seven-metre-long indoor/outdoor pools attached.
And while I love quality linens, sophisticated interiors, what-to-choose wine cellars and attentive staff – all of which I have sampled at Wolgan firsthand more than once – the true luxury here is actually in the simplicity of offering. The resort’s location, secreted away in its own hidden valley and occupying just one per cent of the 2800-hectare conservancy, and the privileged access it provides to the landscape, the wildlife and the history of the area are the benchmarks of its richness.
Waking in the morning as the golden light of sunrise starts to warm the low oatmeal and buff landscape to find mobs of kangaroos and wallabies grazing, unflustered by my presence. Sitting on a shaded viewing deck in the afternoon heat doing little more than looking out over the surrounding rock faces imagining the expanse of time nature and the elements have taken to carve such a wonder. Hearing about but never encroaching on the First Nations history that has played out here over thousands of years. Strolling back to my villa in the inky darkness under a starry sky surrounded by a silence I can almost touch Wolgan Valley a world-class ‘experience’ rather than just a stay.
The luxury of going green
When it comes to thinking, and more importantly, acting green, there are few places more entitled to boast about their bona fides than Emirates One&Only Wolgan Valley. The bar was set high from the beginning, when it became the first internationally accredited carbon-neutral resort in the world upon opening in 2009. Since then the exacting standards it sets have never been compromised. Every element of its day-to-day activities, and its ongoing presence in the valley, are measured in the good that can be done, from recycling and waste minimisation to energy and water conservation to revegetation and wildlife preservation. It also plays out in the subtle hearts- and-minds education of its guests, giving them the opportunity to take part in daily conservation work that will leave a lasting impression long after your visit here ends. – Leigh-Ann Pow
As the first guest of The Coach House at Hillenvale, let me just say, it’s a miracle there have been subsequent guests. Not because of any problems. Oh no, quite the opposite. I had a good mind to lock the door and never leave. Brought to you by the team behind Hither & Yon wines, this one-bedroom stone cottage is an impeccable retreat, from the dreamy interior design (hat tip: Kate Harry, of Fabrikate) and considered floor plan right down to the gourmet provisions. Set on 40 hectares at the juncture of the Adelaide Hills and McLaren Vale, you won’t run short of premium wine experiences. But a Hither & Yon grenache on The Coach House deck, with little more than birdsong to keep you company, and you too might find yourself protesting departure. – Kate Symons
Already renowned as one of Australia’s enduring luxury escapes, Silky Oaks Lodge is set to reopen in November 2021 with a new look and revitalised guest experience courtesy of Baillie Lodges: purveyors of experiential luxury in tune with nature across all of its wish-list-worthy properties (including Longitude 131° and Capella Lodge). And this one’s high on mine.
Silky Oaks enjoys a prized position overlooking the Mossman River on the border of the Daintree Rainforest in Tropical North Queensland. I’m already dreaming of holing up high in the canopy in a stylish treehouse retreat or sipping a botanical gin and tonic from the open-air bar in the reimagined riverbank area. But not before I’ve padded down to the Healing Waters Spa set among lush rainforest gardens for a treatment that promises to scrub me up into a whole new person: a mineral-rich bath, detoxifying marine wrap or green tea salt therapy perhaps?
The whole time enveloped by the sights and sounds of the world’s most ancient rainforest. From the local native ingredients worked into the tropical menu to a range of experiences such as a guided tour through Mossman Gorge with renowned local operator Walkabout Adventures, central to a stay here is a meaningful engagement with this extraordinary natural theatre and its Traditional Owners, the Kuku Yalanji people. – Imogen Eveson
I must admit, I actually got slightly giddy upon first entering Halcyon House. My momentary swoon was brought on by a vintage brass reception bell sitting nonchalantly on a flea market-sourced table that constitutes the front desk there. You see, I have the heart of a collector (one of my friends prefers the word ‘hoarder’) and these first few elements – along with the bright-white retro exterior emblazoned with its distinctive royal blue logo – were an irresistible preview of what was to come.
Sitting at the edge of a deep sandy beach in the sleepy seaside town of Cabarita Beach on the NSW Far North Coast, Halcyon House created quite the fuss when it opened its doors back in 2015. The former mid-century surfing motel, a riot of Besser Blocks and brick, had been transformed by its owners, sisters Siobhan and Elisha Bickle, who purchased the property with vague plans to use it as a holiday home for their large combined family. But they very quickly devised a different plan: to create a bright and chic retreat the likes of which no regional town had ever really seen before.
Engaging the assistance of Brisbane-based designer Anna Spiro, the pair set about revitalising the tired old building, adding an additional floor, refocusing the outlook of the rooms and, most importantly, fitting it out in delightful vintage furniture, boldly patterned tiles, luxe upholstered walls, interesting vignettes and eclectic assemblages of artworks that have come to be known as ‘Halcyon hangs’. Add a general manager imported from Italy, a destination dining space, Paper Daisy, where the equally considered decor was as Instagrammed as the food, and it was an instant hit.
During my time there, my initial delight was continuously surpassed by the details that make Halcyon House such a delicious experience. There is something to look at, and love, everywhere you turn, from the welcome treats and handwritten card upon entering your room to the tactile walls you want to constantly stroke to the beach bag tucked away in the wardrobe (illustrated by New York-based artist Wayne Pate), to the well-loved treasures sourced from the likes of Brimfield Antique Flea Markets in the US (my version of Disneyland) to the local staff who are small-town friendly amid the luxury. For me, the true success of Halcyon House, above and beyond the ‘I want it all’ design, including in the adjoining spa, is that it still possesses a sand-between-your-toes summer holiday vibe that saves it from feeling too perfect or contrived. And that’s definitely something to swoon about. – Leigh-Ann Pow