Boats, helicopters and plunge pools… the brand new Crystalbrook Lodge is where James Bond meets the outback, writes Patrick Higgins (photos: Elisse Hassey)
The name’s Brook, Crystalbrook.
OK, so it doesn’t quite have the same delivery as that of the world’s most beloved super-spy, but outback Queensland’s latest luxury offering definitely has the opulence to ensure Bond himself wouldn’t look out of place (minus the exploding pens).
In 2011, two gentlemen by the names of John Morris and Jim Noli purchased a station from cattleman Gary Hill for $2.2 million (bargain) and decided to turn the on-site homestead into a secluded boutique offering.
The result: this eye-catching, five-suite lodge located on the edge of Crystalbrook Lake, catering for a maximum of 10 guests at a time. A movie-worthy setting that’ll have you craving a vodka martini in two shakes (not stirs) of a grass-fed lamb’s tail, in other words.
Your mission begins with a choice between aircraft to transport you to the 35,000-hectare station, located around 180 kilometres west of Cairns. Come via helicopter and you’ll arrive in around an hour or, for the agent with no time to kill, a private-charter flight will have you landing on their own airstrip in about 40 minutes – though 007 would definitely choose the former (it makes for quite a dramatic entrance).
The property still runs as a working cattle station with 2,000 head currently roaming the grounds, and you’re free to saddle up and join in on a muster should you feel inclined – though once you settle into your lavish environs, simply viewing the surrounds may be enough.
The champagne is popped as you arrive (be prepared to gawk on cue at the floating lilies and freshwater crocs that dot the top of the glass-sheet lake hugging the feet of the lodgings). Head to the Balinese-style hut that juts out over the water’s edge, and you might even come across a cat-stroking Bond villain, swinging around in his chair to greet you (“Greetings, how nice of you to join us. I wouldn’t fuss over our freshwater friends; they’re the least of your worries…”).
Make sure you kick him out of that comfy outdoor couch setting, though, to settle yourself in for a viewing of one of the Fanta-orange sunsets that burns up the horizon most afternoons (cold beverage accompaniment recommended).
One could imagine that James would end up in the lake at some stage during his visit here, wrestling one of those leather-skinned friends – it’s got movie-scene drama all over it. If you’re interested in cooling off sans crocodilian accompaniment, the magnesium wet-edge pool here (thoughtfully added to help soothe sore muscles – the magnesium that is) makes for a viable alternative.
It’s absurdly photogenic, even without Ursula Andress emerging from its waters, and most afternoons can be well spent here, soaking away in the natural healing aqua. If the sun gets too much, you can always take refuge in the lodge’s state-of-the-art theatre room, complete with full Apple TV connections (or super gadgets, as we like to call them in the field).
Laying about and supping on three-course meals featuring the region’s finest would be more than adequate for an international man of mystery, but it’s not a real adventure without a little action, is it?
To get the blood pumping, and for a bird’s-eye view of the dusty-red terrain, you can hire a helicopter for the day and head out over the vast property. Your pilot will sweep his way around rivers, over cattle and wild horses, near and far to crocs and birds.
Throw a line in at one of the local hot spots brimming with barra, or just find a picnic spot to tip back the Bollinger (with a side of Beluga, naturally). Returning to headquarters, grab a kayak and glide along the lake, making friends with jabirus and lotus birds. If luck favours you, a herd of brumbies may even make an appearance.
There are plenty more opportunities for the active (guided walking trails are our pick, with magical limestone caves and indigenous art-riddled rock formations to explore) but all the wanderings will most likely encourage a thirst, so a quick stop at the local Chillagoe pub slash post office maybe on the cards. (Not really fitting the sexy-spy theme, but still worthy of a call to converse with some of the characters here, and sample their claim to the ‘best hamburger in the world’.)
Bellies full, landscape explored, luxury lapped up… It seems like a well-rounded extravagant escape, but a Bond movie wouldn’t be finished without a slight twist, would it?
The owners have thought of that, too – finish here, and you can choose to extend your holiday on board one of their two six-person motor yachts, which will take you exploring the Great Barrier Reef.
All you need now is a sunset to sail into.
The Details: Crystalbrook Lodge
If you don’t fancy flight transfers, travelling by road will take three hours (4WD) from Cairns.
Prices for Crystalbrook Lodge start from $900 per person, per night including accommodation, all meals, drinks and some activities. Motor yachts are additional.
For more info