By Travelin’ Gal Maxine Albert
I had high expectations for my maiden voyage to Australia with its magnificent terrain, spectacular wildlife and foodie cuisine. I did not expect that the land of down under and its kooky kangaroos and koalas, ravishing barrier reef, luxurious lodges, divine food, fine wine and gorgeous Nicole Kidmans and Russell Crowes, would turn out to be the best trip of my life. Put it on your bucket list and head straightaway to the Land of Oz.
Luxury Lodges of Australia is an ideal way to explore the diversity and beauty of the country in the comfort of luxurious surroundings. Each lodge, located near or within one of Australia’s National Landscapes, offers a unique and dazzling experience.
WOLGAN VALLEY RESORT & SPA, New South Wales
A three-hour drive from Sydney takes you through an expansive verdant landscape of sheep stations and charming small towns to Wolgan Valley Resort and Spa. This luxurious lodge is set within its own private conservation and wildlife reserve in the Blue Mountain World Heritage Area. Each sumptuously decorated suite is actually a private house with its own living room, library, double-sided fireplace, indoor/outdoor swimming pool and huge veranda. It is classic country fabulous.
Wolgan delivers local, sustainable, world-class cuisine paired with fine wines. I dined on superb barramundi, squab and duck with field mushroom, sweet corn and pumpkin followed by the enviable cheese course. On a regional food and wine tour with Executive Chef Anston Fivaz, I met Barry, the yabby (langoustine) farmer, and the folks of Lowe Vineyard where I lunched on scrumptious roast pig, great wine and saw the pride the purveyors have in their products.
Whether you loll or explore the stunning scenery by hiking, biking or horseback riding, my favorite, you won’t be disappointed. Afternoon and nocturnal wildlife safaris afford an opportunity to see kangaroos with little joeys jumping out of their pouches, wallaroos, wombats, possum and spotted tail quolls. Take in the endless stars and the Southern Cross in the gorgeously black sky. As I luxuriated with a spa massage using indigenous bush oils, I drifted into a state of bliss.
SOUTHERN OCEAN LODGE, South Australia
A twenty-minute plane ride from Adelaide takes you to Southern Ocean Lodge on Kangaroo Island - known as Australia’s Galapagos for its rugged beauty and abundant wildlife. Glass walled suites and a sunken lounge offer breathtaking views of the ocean in this synthesis of nature and luxury.
Lodge adventures include watching the koalas dozing in eucalyptus trees, walking on the beach with sea lions, visiting a fur seal colony and a canapés and kangaroos outing at sundown. Take the cliff top walk with views of the southern sea that stretches to Antarctica. Then relax with a spa foot treatment using litya native botanicals.
Master chef extraordinaire Tim Bourke performs culinary magic with his local and seasonal menu. Everything, including the exceptional wine, is sourced locally and from South Australia. Both the presentation and cuisine were superlative. Sublime Gawler River quail, yellowtail kingfish, Mt. Compass venison and island caught snapper with the freshest vegetables spiced to perfection, transported me to foodie heaven.
THE LOUISE, South Australia
An hour drive from Adelaide takes you to Australia’s famous wine region, The Barossa, where you’ll find The Louise. This lovely lodge with glorious views boasts the acclaimed restaurant Appellation, where contrary to traditional pairing, the food is matched to the wine. Chef Ryan Edwards wows the well-heeled crowd nightly with locally sourced produce and oysters, lamb, Coorong Angus beef and exquisite wines.
The Barossa is renowned for its scenic countryside, top wine tastings and culinary delights. Saturday morning everyone heads to the farmers market where you’ll sample out of this world cheese, meats, jams, veggies, baked goods and sweets. Hentley Farms and Seppelstfield offer premier wine tastings. Relish an exceptional lunch at the chic restored barn eatery Du Jour, followed by a trek in the national park to glimpse kangaroos.
LIZARD ISLAND, Queensland
An hour plane ride from Cairns in Far North Queensland, Lizard Island is a wonderfully secluded idyllic retreat located right on the Great Barrier Reef. It feels magical here. Luxury suites and villas that open right onto the clear blue water and pristine beach strike the perfect balance of casual elegance and connection to nature. All meals are served al fresco at Osprey’s oceanfront restaurant featuring Chef Anthony Healy’s fresh seafood and local produce.
Pamper yourself at Azure Spa - you deserve it. Enjoy a boat tour and be dropped off at a powdery white beach with a gourmet picnic lunch. Take an excursion to dive or snorkel the barrier reef. Thrill at gorgeous coral, spectacularly colored tropical fish, eels, sharks and giant turtles. It doesn’t get any better than this!
No trip to Australia is complete without visiting cosmopolitan Sydney with its world famous sights, stylish restaurants and sizzling night life. Here are my two favorite hotels. If your taste runs toward hip and cool, you’ll love the five-star Blue with its happening Water Bar in the trendy Woolloomooloo area. The five-star Park Hyatt is the epitome of elegant luxury right on the harbor. As I dined at their glamorous restaurant (the best Aussie brisket) with gobsmacking views of the iconic opera house I thought – this is the life.
Wolgan Valley Resort and Spa, New South Wales
Southern Ocean Lodge, South Australia
The Louise, South Australia
Lizard Island, Queensland