Discover the most unique stays in Queensland…
We’ve revealed our pick of 100 unique stays across Australia and below you’ll find the 14 unique stays in Queensland that made it into our coveted list. Head here to read the full list and start planning your next escape.
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
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 (includingLongitude 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
Ask to stay in the room that Gough Whitlam, the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester, pioneering pilot Amy Johnson and Slim Dusty all slept in before you. Hotel Corones is the fanciest pub built anywhere west of Toowoomba. Almost 100 years old, you can feel the history oozing right out of these walls; there are newer motel rooms built next door, but settle in upstairs instead in rooms that have barely changed in a century. If you’re itching for conversation, the bar downstairs (the longest bar in the southern hemisphere at the time it was built) is the place to meet Charleville’s most eccentric locals. – Craig Tansley
If it weren’t for owner Cathy Fitzgerald leading the way, I’d be oblivious as to where I’d be sleeping tonight. After following my GPS to this address near Eumundi, provided just the day before, I’m yet to see anything that resembles accommodation. And it all just adds to the deliciousness of the experience. We wander down a mowed track that peters out to a steeper, slightly rocky incline. I can hear water trickling around the bend. Then suddenly, in a clearing illuminated by the waning daylight, there she stands. I follow Cathy’s footsteps across the creek and marvel at the oasis she and partner Carlos Sanchez have built here.
Secret Cabin Society is exactly what it says on the label – a little-known club built for one or two at a time. It’s been crafted with consciousness for the soil, the creek, the birds. Masses of lantana were hacked away by hand, every building element carried in. I’ve stayed in off-grid places before, but this is different. It exists not just in harmony with the rainforest, but feels a living, breathing part of it.
From outside, the cabin resembles an old tobacco kiln, clad in corrugated iron with a wooden deck where a hammock invites repose. With solar lighting inside, the space glows like that indeterminate space between sleep and dream. A writing desk sits by the wood fired heater in one corner. Beside that, two cosy armchairs, where candles drip inside lanterns above. I climb the ladder to the bed, tucked into the eaves with butter-soft linens and views into the treetops. Outside, I imagine marshmallows toasted over the campfire later; coffee brewed on the gas stove come morning. I pad barefoot across to the (composting) loo with a view that compels me to linger longer than necessary and, as the light ekes away, shower with the kiss of the rainforest on my skin. – Celeste Mitchell
Wilson Island, positioned blissfully in the waters of the Great Barrier Reef, might just be the ultimate embodiment of all our castaway fantasies. The adults-only island can accommodate just 18 guests in its nine luxe Reef Safari Tents, which are set at the edge of the sands with water views forever. Ensuring the island stays idyllic, it is powered by solar and batteries, there’s a ‘no touch, no take’ policy when in the water, there are no single-use plastics, and organic and sustainable are used whenever possible. With no TV or phones and nowhere else to be, days here are measured out in eating, snorkelling, swinging in hammocks, sunset drinks and stargazing, all on repeat.
The Latin word ‘qualia’ has a mercurial translation that befits its namesake destination – the exact essence of which is hard to pin down. This luxury resort, situated on the northernmost part of Hamilton Island, wears its meaning of ‘a collection of deeper sensory experiences’ well.
Since it opened in 2007, qualia has consistently been ranked among the world’s best resorts and is an exemplar of Australian laid-back luxury. It is recognised for its environmentally intuitive architecture, sympathetic landscaping, impeccable service, deeply tranquil day spa and exceptional food and drink offering (dining on a six-course degustation bursting with local flavours at Pebble Beach as the sun goes down is something you won’t forget in a hurry). And not to mention its dazzling location, surrounded by the Great Barrier Reef and with views across the impossible blues of the Coral Sea and Whitsundays.
A stay here is worth it alone for the private plunge pool, complete with those aforementioned views, which you’ll find in a flawlessly designed Windward Pavilion: all understated decor, hardwood timber floors and floor-to-ceiling glass. Leeward Pavilions combine tropical bushland and sea views while the exclusive Beach House goes a notch further with 12-metre infinity pool and private guesthouse. Awarded as one of the most romantic destinations in the world, the island retreat makes for a luxurious launch pad for everyone from yachties to those drawn to exploring the Great Barrier Reef and the eucalyptus-scented trails that crisscross the island. While mornings might begin with sun salutations on the deck, it’s compulsory for afternoons to include a lychee martini cocktail by the pool. It all conspires to create a unique Australian hideaway.
My hatred of camping knows no limits, but I would return to this ‘glampsite’ on a 30,000-hectare cattle station in the Queensland outback time and again. First, there’s the spectacular Carnarvon Ranges setting featuring more than 500 species of flora and endless cocky marsupials, just an hour from Carnarvon Gorge. And then there’s the actual Wallaroo offering itself: 10 luxury safari-style tents with Posturepedic beds, bathrooms with hot showers, a timber lodge featuring a full working kitchen, camp oven dinners around the fire and Boobook eco tours that take in local Indigenous art sites. I arrived dreading the camping experience, but I enjoyed my time here so much that I’ve been dreaming of returning ever since. – Dilvin Yasa
You’ve stayed in this room a hundred times in your travels across regional Australia. It’s comfortable and it’s clean, the TV works, it’s there in the corner facing the bed, and there’s the kettle for your cuppa. Simple, yes, but then no five-star hotel anywhere in the country offers the genuine experience that staying at the Birdsville Hotel does. Because the pub next door, a single-storeyed sandstone building built in 1884, is as iconic as any desert pub on Earth.
I fly in by propeller plane – the airport (let’s just call it a runway, shall we?) is 100 metres away, across one of the only roads in this tiny outback settlement. Birdsville is 1600 kilometres west of Brisbane, just above the South Australian border, and right beside one of the world’s harshest environments, the Simpson Desert (drive 38 kilometres and you can have sunset drinks in its biggest sand dune, Big Red/ Nappanerica). Burke and Wills passed through here, and we know what happened to them.
The Birdsville Hotel’s the oasis in this desert. It’s like Cheers in here, everybody knows your name as soon as you drink or eat in it. The town’s barely 115 people, but all of them seem to be in the pub. And all 137 years of history seeps out of this place – there’s the cowboy hats on the walls of local patrons who’ve passed onto greener pastures (‘In recognition of those who have done the hard yards in Birdsville and since passed away’, the sign says), there’s the melancholic moan of bush poets scrawled on its walls and a sign warning baseball caps worn backwards incur a $2 fine – THIS IS AUSTRALIA, it reads… in caps, and italics. Meals are wholesome – steaks as big as your face – but you know you’re not here for the cuisine either. You’re here because you know no matter how far and wide you go, nowhere in Australia’s like the Birdsville Hotel.
History of an Aussie icon
Sitting on the traditional land of the Wangkangurra-Yarluyandi people, the heritage-listed Birdsville Hotel was erected in 1884 by publican William Blair. After his death in 1898, the hotel passed to the Queensland Trustee before being acquired by the Hayden family in 1912, the Gaffney family in 1918 and the Dixon family in 1947. Dick Smith famously purchased the property in 1979, but the day after the contract was signed the hotel burnt down. It was then acquired by David Brooks, a descendant of the Gaffney family, and his friend Kym Fort who ran it until the current owners, Courtney and Talia Ellis, bought it in 2019. The late ’70s fire wasn’t the only drama the hotel has endured (or the only fire; the first was in 1964): the outback outpost was damaged by cyclones in 1905 and again in 1964. – Craig Tansley
Reefsuites transcends being just unique. This eco-stringent underwater hotel floating on giant pontoons in the waters – and amid the kaleidoscopic marine landscape – of the UNESCO Heritage-listed Great Barrier Reef is an experience you can have nowhere else in the world, because nowhere else on the planet has the largest living organism and coral reef system right on its doorstep. The wonder of residing below the surface of the water, watching the comings and goings outside through huge picture windows, is beyond ethereal (you can also camp out on deck in a specially designed Reefbed pod). And when you do finally fall asleep, you can rest assured (literally) knowing that the structure and the practices implemented there are all designed to have minimal impact on the reef and its fantastical inhabitants.
Where can you take a family of four plus mother-in-law (aka the super granny) and her recently widowed friend on a week-long sojourn? I do love a challenge. The specifications are pretty narrow. First, it has to be a suitable reward (read luxurious) for the tireless super granny who has taken on more than her fair share of child-minding duties. Second, my golden rule of multi-generational holidays is everyone has to have a door they can close… and a load of space. Finally, it needs to have enough action for the kids and enough secluded peace and tranquillity for an exhausted mother, granny and gently grieving widow.
And we have a winner. Sunset 4 holiday home on the southern edge of Kingfisher Bay Resort, K’Gari (Fraser Island). The three bedrooms are across three levels, well away from each other. The kids’ wafts of giddy excitement as they play with Granny never reach our top-floor room with a private balcony. In fact everyone has a private balcony. And an en suite. The fully stocked kitchen enables home catering, which puts children in bed at an appropriate time. And to celebrate a sixth birthday we enlist the resort staff to stage a magnificent barbecue feast in the bush. This gold-star parenting moment was an added bonus.
The heart of the modern light-filled house is the sunken lounge-dining and rumpus room that leads to a huge verandah. Every afternoon we congregate with a glass of bubbles, ‘ohhh’ and ‘ahhh’ as the sun sets across the Great Sandy Strait and recount the day’s adventures: bouncing through the sandy 4WD tracks, swimming at the magnificent lakes, spying whales on scenic flights or just lying by the resort pool with a book. Sunset 4 is the best of both worlds: a luxury holiday home with access to all the benefits of the resort and adventures of Fraser Island. No wonder it was the home for Harry and Meghan on their brief trip in 2018. – Quentin Long
The idea of luxury in Longreach hits different. For travellers like myself, who are drawn to the red dirt and yawning spaces of the Queensland outback, Saltbush Retreat makes an ideal basecamp that is rustic and elegant in equal measure.
The idea behind the low-lying dwellings was to house guests in style while blending into the landscape and the accommodation does just that. I’d go so far as to say they’ve nailed it, but ironmongery was scarce in colonial Australia. The property is dotted with the 4.5-star Homestead Stables, cosy four-star Slab Huts and Outback Cabins that would have pleased the very poshest of pioneers. After an afternoon spent tearing around the countryside on a Cobb & Co. stagecoach experience, dusting my boots off and settling into my homey hut was a dream. The slab huts, which were crafted out of red gum using traditional outback building techniques, are surrounded by the saltbush the retreat is named after. In the outback, where the sky goes on forever, the sunrises are spectacular so I rose at dawn to stroll along the interpretative native flora walk past waterholes and tufts of saltbush, bristling out of the earth like whiskers on a chin.
The outback retreat’s proximity to some of Longreach’s major attractions is definitely a draw: it was an easy walk across the way to the Qantas Founders Museum and through a knot of trees to the Australian Stockman’s Hall of Fame. And while the idea behind the slab huts is to offer guests an old-world charm, I really wanted for nothing when it came to the mod cons. Antiques happily share the room with state-of-the-art espresso machines and premium Appelles amenities and the four-poster bed, barn-style doors and complimentary wi-fi become welcome bedfellows. Outfitted with covered porches and decked out in tasteful hand-crafted furniture, Saltbush Retreat inspires the kind of ‘g’day mate’ conviviality that is the currency in country Australia. During my stay, guests who were not eating out in town took advantage of the barbecue facilities and we shared a bottle of Shaw & Smith wine and platter of Barossa Valley Cheese purchased from reception. My day at Saltbush Retreat ended in a hot bath on the outdoor terrace watching shooting stars streak across a velvety night sky, elevating the outback experience even further. – Carla Grossetti
Get this: there are only four safari-style tents at Nightfall, set up in 104 hectares of private land right beside World Heritage-listed Lamington National Park – which is one of the most species-rich rainforests on Earth. While it smells like I’m camping (and what can beat that smell of canvas, wet rainforest and wood fire?), this tent has hardwood timber floors, a king-size bed and twin galvanised-tin French vintage bathtubs, while gourmet organic meals are served up for me beside a creek that runs through the entire property. In the evenings, dingoes call out from the wild, while red-necked wallabies are my closest neighbour. – Craig Tansley
Brisbane’s dated ‘Brisvegas’ nickname was officially dead the moment The Calile opened its doors back in 2018, signalling a cultural shift in the city that has resulted in a new nomenclature: capital of cool.
The 175 light-drenched rooms and suites (some with expansive private terraces, most with balconies), sleek public spaces and its much photographed pool deck look more to the pastel-hued heyday of Miami than to SinCity’s gaudy excesses.
The hotel’s rounded lines and luxe yet pleasingly restrained interiors (think blond-on-blond wood, cool marble, concrete and high-end finishes) are so irresistibly executed you almost feel the need to reach out and stroke them. You will certainly want to spend as much time in them as possible, which is an easy proposition given the property is fashioned as a lifestyle destination rather than just a hotel, with a collection of seriously hip shopping and dining options gathered together at its James Street entrance further enhancing the stay-and-play vibe of the place.
* While you’re in the neighbourhood, head down the road to check out the recently installed Hotel X, another property adding cachet to Brisbane’s cool new identity. The hyper-designed building’s funky exterior and night-time illuminations, which bathe it in colour, hint at the experience to be had within: think bold colours, jutting sightlines, statement artworks, designer furniture, a destination eatery (Bisou Bisou) and a seriously sexy rooftop bar.
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.”