We’re just going to say it: you need to go to Australia more than once. Stacey Sullivan, our Australia expert, is just back. Tomorrow Brooke Garnett, named to Travel + Leisure’s A-List for luxury travel in Australia, heads over. There’s a reason we go again and again. It’s the heart of the South Pacific and a knockout destination: gargantuan reefs with underwater vistas too surreal to comprehend once you surface; artful detours like Islington; swaths of seriously remote territory where airboats zip across flood plains searching for croc pools and islands brimming with ‘roos; a spider’s web of eyes-wide-open hiking trails that just went luxe; a wine region with signature touches you’re not going to find in Europe or South America; sacred sites few travelers have laid eyes on… Simply put: too much for a single visit.
We know you’re a savvy traveler and have the intel on Australia’s heavy-hitters like Sydney, Queensland, and the Great Barrier Reef. So, we asked Stacey to mine her travel tome to share the freshest must-dos and must-sees you may not already know about. She nailed it with her insider picks for Australia’s six regions—for the food-minded, the dive-fanatics, the landscape-chasers and everyone in between.
GO TAKE A (VERY LUXE) HIKE
Our latest Australian obsession is an off-the-radar network of the country’s most spectacular hikes. Each ends with a stay in one of our favorite, luxurious hotels and all are filled with gourmet meal stops. We’ve highlighted our favorites for each region on the map above. (Count yourself lucky if you discover a giant ant nest like the one Stacey found below at Bamurru Plains.)
We are bumping Tasmania to the top of our must-sees because this Australian annex deserves every intrepid traveler’s full attention. Australia’s final frontier, Tasmania is a destination in and of itself. Outrageous landscape and rare wildlife encounters (pademelons, anyone?) are just the start.
Tasmania is producing unfussy, homegrown delicacies in remote regions that are well worth a detour. This is the real deal. Travelers can sit down for conversations with sommeliers and chefs, sample 100-year-old bottles of Shiraz and foraged herbs, harvest their own seafood and drink whiskey straight from the barrel. What’s more, you won’t find the delicacies you sample back at home. Tasmania keeps the good stuff local, meaning their farm-fresh cheeses, sparkling wines from the Tamar Wine Region and Pacific oysters are an at-the-source-only experience.
Saffire Freycinet is a fast favorite. Why we love it: Don a pair of waders to try your hand at collecting prized Pacific oysters, then enjoy your harvest right there, knee deep in the estuary, as you learn about wetland and marine ecology and enjoy breathtaking views of the Hazards. Or, take a private cruise to Schouten Island with a sea captain who is a local legend. You’ll come face-to-face with sea birds, curious marine mammals and the other sea life around the temperate reefs, as well as visit historical and cultural sites along the beautiful Freycinet Peninsula once inhabited by the Oyster Bay Tribe of Tasmanian Aborigines.
Take in as much scenery as possible by driving along the coastline to Hobart for a stay at Islington Hotel. Everything at Islington is photogenic and design-driven (even the Scrabble board is typographic) yet totally functional and more importantly, cozy. Take an eco-adventure by boat to Bruny Island to see Tasmania’s unspoiled coastline from the water. Spot seals, dolphins, whales, albatross and eagles from the boat, then dine on a deserted beach. Or experience the freshest seafood of your life with a day of diving for lobster, collecting sea urchin and mussels, then preparing a gourmet cookout beachside. If you’re in Hobart on a Saturday, you must visit Salamanca Market. Go hungry and ready to buy more for later.
The North is Australia’s most remote region. This is saying a lot for a country notorious for untouched landscape. It’s adventure territory, Australia’s answer to safari.
Sitting amongst the floodplains of the Mary River, Bamurru Plains takes its cues from the luxury safari lodges of Africa. And why not? The Top End—that is the tippy-top finger of Australia—is a bona fide safari destination. Airboats cut through fields of marsh where visitors can spot wallabies, dingos, crocodile, and a gold-medal list of birdlife that will make you a birding convert if you’re not already an enthusiast.
While visiting Bamurru Plains, go where few have been before and visit Arnhem Land. There’s still a sense of discovery here. This sacred aboriginal land holds ancient tradition and captivating landmarks, yet is inaccessible to most.
You’ll need an expert guide to find your way to the wow-stuff. Ours has been exploring the region for over 25 years. He teams with local aboriginal guides and artists who tell the stories embedded in the rock paintings. You’ll find yourself standing in one of the most remote places you’ve ever been, listening to ancient tales come alive as they echo through the stone valleys.
Located in the Kimberleys, El Questro Homestead is within hiking distance of sideways waterfalls, natural hot springs, dramatic gorges and rugged ranges. The views are so stare-worthy that no opportunity to absorb them is missed—even the bathtubs are surrounded with panoramic windows.
Go for the quirky winelands paired with wild ocean landscapes and some really great wildlife spotting.
Cascading down the cliffside, Southern Ocean Lodge’s architecture adds to Kangaroo Island’s raw beauty. Sometimes called Australia’s Galápagos because of its pristine eco-system, this island teams with life. Watch the sunrise over beaches scattered with lounging seals, hike coastal cliffs for kangaroo encounters, and meditate on grazing wild wallabies while you enjoy breakfast.
Journey from the untamed to the cultivated with a stop in the Barossa Valley—one of Australia’s most famed, and certainly most charming, wine region. This is a popular spot, but there are a few hideaways for those who seek the lesser-known. Our favorite is The Louise. Definitely indulge with wine tastings, but take it to the next level and create your own signature blend. After, the chefs at The Louise will work with you and the sommelier to create a dinner perfectly matched to your vintage.
Those who love to cook will want to connect with the local blacksmith. Together you will handcraft your own chef’s knife—it will truly be one-of-a-kind, designed to exactly fit your grip, heft, and chopping style. You’ll actually get to do the blacksmithing yourself.
You know it for the Great Barrier Reef. We’re here to tell you it really is as spectacular as it seems. When we head to the world’s southern-most coral reef, we’ll only stay at Capella Lodge. It’s right in the bay on Lord Howe Island, a UNESCO World Heritage site, so we can run back and forth from the doorstep to the water for snorkeling, scuba, kayaking and boating all day long. Between water sessions we hike through the Banyan forests and up stunning peaks.
The water and forests are pristine, thriving and crawling with colorful creatures. There’s an astounding array of birds, including the Lord Howe woodhen, considered to be one of the rarest birds in the world. Take a bike ride, hop in a glass-bottomed boat or just quietly observe and you’ll be astounded by nature again.
From April to July the West cannot be missed. This is your chance to swim alongside whale sharks in a UNESCO World Heritage site. The rest of the year the scenery is just as impressive and shallow snorkeling spots promise all the appeal of a National Geographic spread—think clownfish peeking out from forests of deep purple, iridescent sea horses bobbing by and dancing schools of neon fish. Bring an underwater camera.
A birds-eye-view of Sal Salis shows the scrubby outback easing into diamond-white beach buffered by bands of pure turquoise waters, then emerald where the reefs creep toward the shore. Throw back the flaps of your luxury tent, take a step outside and start exploring. The reefs host over 500 species of fish, 250 coral species and 600 species of mollusk.
Then there are the whale sharks. They’ll dwarf a bus yet you can safely glide alongside them, catching their current. Get out of the water to hike to deep gorges speckled with ancient fossils and the traces of 30,000 years of human habitation.
Few destinations have more lasting cache than the Australian outback. The rugged, rust red landscape will be exactly what you’ve imagined, but what you may not have pictured are ancient sacred aboriginal sites and a taste of dreamy living at a homestead-come-luxury hotel.
The Flinders Ranges have been molded by hundreds of millions of years of geological activity. Today they are some of the Outback’s most spectacular scenery. Soak them in with a “real-deal” experience at Arkaba, a 60,000-acre former sheep station turned wildlife conservation land.
After rough-and-tumble adventures through craggy sandstone bluffs, dry creek beds lined with River Red Gums (a quintessential Australian scene) and the natural amphitheater of Wilpena Pound, you can fall into deep leather armchairs in the library, kick back on the broad, white-washed porch or simply enjoy a gourmet meal in the open bush.
Ready to go? Get in touch with Stacey to begin planning your Australian journey.
Most visitors to Australia want to capture views of Ayers Rock, Uluru and Kata Tjuta. Stay at Longitude 131° to steer yourself a bit farther from the typical tourist zones. From your private, tented guesthouse you can sit on your porch and watch the red landscape flare and subside with the changing light throughout the day. The beauty of Longitude 131° is that you’ll be removed from the crowds when you want to be, yet easily able to see all the sites including the famed Ayers Rock.
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