October 14, 2021
15 mins Read
We’ve revealed our pick of 100 unique stays across Australia and below you’ll find the top 13 unique stays in Western Australia that made it into our coveted list. Head here to read the full list and start planning your next escape.
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.
No other shower I’ve been in has ever compared to the one at Faraway Bay. The corrugated iron tank – with open front and top – is best used under night’s inky cloak, when an unhampered Milky Way glows overhead. Standing naked in the dark, spring water flowing and stars beaming, I sense both awe and joy. It typifies the dedication to wonder and simplicity at this remote speck in the Kimberley, from the handcrafted dipping pool to the communal dinner table and airy bush cabins. Striking views spring from every angle: turquoise ocean, rusty red cliffs, pale beach with croc tracks to boot. Wilderness expeditions to black swimming holes, hidden rock art and the majestic King George Falls only sweeten the deal. – Fleur Bainger
All misty mornings and gently rolling hills, Northam is a popular weekend getaway from Perth made even more inviting with the addition of a destination hotel that keys right into the town’s unique heritage. Blending country living with boutique luxury, Farmers’ Home Hotel is the inspired reinvention of a 150-year-old hotel that celebrates the pub’s (sometimes chequered) history. Its opening last year comes after the Dome Group gave the same treatment to the town of Katanning, three hours’ drive south. There, at the Premier Mill Hotel, you can choose to sleep inside an old grain silo, or maybe a packing room, in a boutique hotel that captures the spirit of the building’s industrial heritage.
The Kimberley has no shortage of eco-friendly wilderness camps, but for the beach-seeker, Indigenous-owned Kooljaman trumps them all. Tucked at the tip of Cape Leveque, 200 kilometres north of Broome, its location means I’m never far from a tantalising tract of shoreline. Each day, I have fun choosing the east or west. Laid-back vibes at the eastern beaches for swimming and snorkelling? Or fishing, walks and a dramatic sunset against the backdrop of pindan cliffs on the western beaches? A cute log cabin amid the trees; a surprisingly high-quality restaurant (for such a remote location); and tours with local Bardi Jawi guides have me staying for much longer than I intended. – Leah McLennan
I’d heard the solar-powered safari tents on Woody Island had been given a spit and polish, but I wasn’t expecting such a dreamy transformation beneath the canvas. Now called ‘luxury retreat’ tents, each has been styled with textured bedspreads (on real beds), fluffy sheepskins strewn across comfy couches and pretty adornments like fairy-lit branches, circular mirrors and square ottomans. Facing Esperance in WA’s far south, the snake-free island is ribboned with hiking trails leading to secluded lookouts, wildlife havens, snorkel spots and granite boulders. Communal areas (shared bathrooms, drop loos, a mess style restaurant) are basic, with nature and tranquillity the focus. – Fleur Bainger
Where else do you catch a kangaroo sipping the water from your foot bath on the deck of your eco tent? Off-grid Sal Salis is like nowhere I’ve ever been: just 16 safari structures hidden in low dunes, boardwalks linking the king beds to the world’s largest, and most accessible, fringing reef. Ningaloo and its turtles, rays, fish and coral are literally a handful of steps from shore; its famous whale sharks only a charter boat tour away. When not snorkelling, I was raising a bubbling glass to the sunset with canapes, then feasting on a multi-course, restaurant-rivalling meal. High environmental cred means lightning-quick showers and eco loos – a fair trade for this wilderness destination. – Fleur Bainger
I found taking a light plane transfer across the Kimberley’s raw, uninhabited wilderness was an excellent way to prepare for the isolated grandeur of Berkeley River Lodge. Fanning out on dune peaks, each cyclone-proof villa gazes across ocean, glimpsing flaming-red cliffs in the distance. I forfeited dips in the 25-metre pool (brought in by a tide-navigating ocean barge) for adventures upriver; boat trips along towering block stacks sprouting tufts of green and paddles in freshwater rockpools made for memorable outings. Fancy food, bulbous outdoor baths and deliciously secluded beach walks prove the effort to get to this glam outpost is generously rewarded. – Fleur Bainger
Arriving at Swell Lodge was one of those true pinch-me moments in life. It was amplified by anticipation after what felt like an intrepid journey to get there: catching a flight from Sydney to Perth, making my way to the international terminal and hopping on a flight bound for Christmas Island before driving through an unfamiliar tropical landscape of jungle and crabs – so many crabs. Swell Lodge is hidden deep in the island’s national park (in fact, one third of the island is protected) and perched dramatically on the edge of one of the soaring sea cliffs that encircle it entirely save for a pearl-like string of bays and beaches.
The pinch-me moment happened as I set foot on the huge deck that opens up to the seemingly infinite expanse of the Indian Ocean. There’s a reason it’s called Swell Lodge. Here, it’s just you, the roar of the ocean and the seabirds swooping overhead. I knew Swell Lodge was special at the time. Surely one of the world’s great eco lodges (between solar power, a carbon-neutral program that includes offsetting all emissions from its crab-safe lodge vehicle and much more besides, its eco credentials really do stack up), you don’t take places like this for granted. But reflecting on it now with a pandemic and overseas travel ban between us, my appreciation for it has only grown.
It’s no understatement to say that a trip to Christmas Island is the closest many of us will get to travelling internationally for a while. Because while you’re here you very much are overseas. An overseas Australian territory, Christmas Island is a pin-drop in the Indian Ocean that, at 2600 kilometres north-west of Perth, is closer to Asia than it is to the Australian mainland. It’s a tropical jungle wilderness where days are spent snorkelling in bath-like waters, finding secret swimming spots and walking through the rainforest undergrowth to hidden grottoes and waterfalls, before checking out temples and mosques and possibly Australia’s most unique golf course.
Evenings at Swell Lodge are spent eating dinner rustled up by your private chef using ingredients they might have foraged that day. The owners of the lodge have travelled the world on sailing expeditions and leading photography tours to its furthest-flung corners; they fell in love with Christmas Island and saw its potential as a luxury ecotourism island destination to rival Lord Howe and now they’re passionately sharing it with others. Since my visit, I’ve also spent considerable time extolling the virtues of Swell Lodge and the island itself. It has that kind of effect on you. – Imogen Eveson
Good things come in small packages, right? The adage certainly rings true for the design-oriented boltholes on wheels that Heyscape Tiny Cabins have placed across rural Western Australia. Sporting lumberjack-vibe wood-panelled interiors, queen beds beside yawning windows and wood fires, the off-grid units are perfect for rebooting. One, named Flynn (after the founder of what is today the Royal Flying Doctor Service, John Flynn) sits surrounded by farmland and vineyards in Margaret River. Edith, after women’s rights activist Edith Cowan, who was also the first Australian female member of parliament, is a dairy paddock or two away. Others sit in quiet, natural environments north of Perth. – Fleur Bainger
Rottnest Island (Wadjemup) is arguably the most locally adored place in Western Australia. Yet the affection is not for selfie-posing quokkas, crystalline bays mimicking blue-green opals and white, sunglasses-essential sands. Rotto, as it’s lovingly addressed, is a haven of childhood joys, which locals – me, included – endeavour to repeat with their own offspring, year after year. Multiple families book out rows of cottages, eager for their children to experience true freedom. Kids can safely roam on pushbikes on the car-free isle, exploring at will, and that means everything to parents.
One of the island’s most coveted accommodations is the historic stone Lighthouse Keeper’s cottage. Fitting 10 people, it allows friends or extended families to bunk in together at one of the only spots devoid of neighbouring properties, other than Bathurst Lighthouse itself (commissioned in 1900). Despite simple interiors, a wraparound verandah, doors flung open to embrace the breeze and windows glimpsing dazzling views make it feel like a wealthy seaside manor. Everyone feels privileged to be there, without worrying about sandy toes.
If you can’t get a booking – and trust me, it takes perseverance – then the motley crew of heritage cottages strung along Vincent Way, in the heart of Thomson Bay settlement, combine historic bones with a convenient location (all bookable via rottnestisland.com). The colonial cottages have been in continuous use as accommodation since the 1840s, on what’s claimed to be the oldest intact streetscape in Australia. Prison guards, wardens and pilots were the first inhabitants. The downside of this utilitarian past is the cottages are spartan and don’t always leverage the ocean outlook. Windows were sent from London; many are small and sparingly used, and no two are the same – there’s character in spades. It draws the kids and me out to the balcony for horizon gazing and quokka spotting. Who wants to stay inside, anyway? – Fleur Bainger
One of the first things I learn about Warders Hotel, after I step into a haven of thick limestone walls and original wooden boards, is that ghosts may lurk here. “We had a ghost buster come through,” says the welcoming staff member. “A lot of people say they see them.” It makes sense. Built in 1851, the terrace houses were home to the warders of nearby Fremantle Prison – oodles of potential for disgruntled ghouls. Yet the space has the feel of a peaceful sanctuary, proof of an elegant transformation into a boutique hotel, which opened late 2020.
My room, 23U, is one of just 11. My door opens to a little sign proclaiming, “All the contents of this bar fridge are complimentary”. Happy days. I continue past a spacious, marble-clad en suite, walking over restored timber boards that gently creak a reminder of the history underfoot. In the bedroom, calming blue accents meet tightly tucked white linen, a high ceiling and white walls traced with copper piping – an artful retrofit hiding electricity cords that ensure ample illumination.
The little details win me over. Still and sparkling water taps crafted from aged brass, fresh lime and lemon and a QR code on the wall allowing me to order room service via my smartphone. Dinner – lobster and truffle dumplings; smoky beef hofun noodles – arrives furnace-hot from the hotel’s adjoining restaurant, Emily Taylor. It’s named after a spice trading ship that came to grief off Fremantle in 1830. I feast propped with pillows, glass of malbec in hand, hit go on a romantic movie and settle in. It’s Cheshire-cat-level glorious.
I wake in the night and do a room scan: no ghosts. I’m disappointed. Well, almost disappointed. Complimentary breakfast is held in the venue’s bijou bar, Gimlet; excellent coffee and a crisp Portuguese tart both rise above expectations. I depart reluctantly, engulfed by the aromas and energy of the neighbouring Fremantle Markets, literally about 10 steps away.
The port of Fremantle, on the fringes of Perth, is on the up and up. Freo, as it’s affectionately known, is equally scruffy and smart and the gateway to one of WA’s coolest street scenes. The working port is located at the mouth of the Swan River and it’s where you will still find legit lobster boats pulling into the boatyards, one of which has become Little Creatures brewery and a prime perch for a pale ale. In addition to those endless ocean views, Freo (Walyalup) has less in-your-face charms such as its Indigenous history, walls of street art, and food and drink scene that nods to the diversity of cultures here. While the low-key port had previously attracted a boho-cool crowd, it’s now a place to go for everyone from families to couples drawn to the bakeries, bars, brewpubs and boutique shopping. –Fleur Bainger
Think of it like a bijou farm stay: the chance to hole up in a gorgeous two-bedroom guesthouse on your own private sanctuary on 43 hectares of cattle farmland. This architecturally designed stay at Upland Farm is located on the outskirts of the coastal town of Denmark in WA’s Great Southern region. It was built, along with the family home, by Tyrone and Shelley Kennedy of Alcove Engineering and Construction who were seeking something of a getaway themselves: the chance to live an uncomplicated lifestyle away from the city; to enjoy simple pleasures in a rural setting. Clad in Victorian ash and under the watch of towering karri trees, the guesthouse gives the impression of a cosy cabin, but once inside the light organic materials and a calming neutral palette of timber, mossy green and cream betray your proximity not only to farmland and vineyard but also rugged coastline.
While here, you’re free to explore the property, but we’ll probably find you curled up with a glass of local wine in a cosy window seat soaking in the views. At night you can stoke the fire pit as you watch the sun set over rolling hills or cook up a storm in the kitchen. And there’s plenty to do on the doorstep besides. “Don’t forget to stop by Greens Pool and Elephant Rock for a morning dip, a walk along the Bibbulmun Track, followed by a visit to the local wineries with a packed picnic basket from our grazing menu,” suggests Shelley. “With wineries, famous walking trails and idyllic beaches just a short drive away, what more could you need to recharge?”
At night you might hear a dingo howl above the desert wind and share your open-air shower with a green frog. There may be more luxurious glampsites around, but few connect to the outback landscape the way that Karijini Eco Retreat does with the deep-red Pilbara earth. The Gumala Aboriginal Corporation-owned property nestles in the nape of one of Australia’s lesser- travelled natural wonders: Karijini’s gorges. Canyoning tours drop you deep into subterranean slot gorges that harbour rock rainbows and gemstone-green waterholes. Outdoor yoga classes drag you back into equilibrium afterwards. In pursuit of eco-credentials, the safari tents are relatively simple (no or low power and no air-con), but generously spaced enough to let you sense this landscape’s tangible energy in peace. –Steve Madgwick
Read all 100 unique stays around Australia here.
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