Top Australian lodges and resorts

Photography: Courtesy of Saffire Freycinet

Set high on a scrubby ridge above Hansons Bay, Southern Ocean Lodge offers arguably the most stunning arrival of any Australian property. Guests have been known to cry on first sight of the Kangaroo Island lodge's aptly named Great Room, but their smiles return when they check in to one of Southern Ocean's 21 wilderness suites. Intrepid outdoor activities only add to the sense of privilege. Fellow super-lodge Saffire has an equally commanding aspect, over Coles Bay on Tasmania's Freycinet Peninsula. There's a sense of glorious isolation here, though there's nothing rustic about Hugh Whitehouse's refined food or the creature comforts that await guests at this 20-suite resort.

It might be tucked out in the wild west of the Blue Mountains but the Emirates Wolgan Valley Resort & Spa, a $125-million, 40-cabin retreat, does not skimp on luxury. Hence the personal swimming pools, the helipad, fireplaces and refined regional fare.

In Queensland, the adults-only Qualia set new standards in beachside luxury when it opened in 2007. Its 60 pavilions are modernist eyries in timber, slate and glass, some with plunge pools above the Coral Sea, others with sunny decks. Inspired special events featuring top chefs and the Australian Ballet ensure Qualia never goes out of style. Australia's most northerly Great Barrier Reef resort, Lizard Island, is also one of its most remarkable (not least for the light-plane trip from Cairns). Its 42 suites, airy and contemporary after a recent renovation, open to World Heritage-listed gardens of soft corals, giant clams and kaleidoscopic fish.

Marooned in the Pacific, 600 kilometres off the northern NSW coast, Capella Lodge is the smaller sister property to Southern Ocean Lodge - a civilised hideaway so far from civilisation. The pace of life is slow on Lord Howe Island, all the better to appreciate its rare beauty and the signature attractions of Capella. Among them, smart suites, terrific dining (love those nightly canapés and cocktails) and a dramatic location at the base of twin volcanic peaks.

Honourable mentions, too, to El Questro Homestead in the Kimberley, now even more impressive with the addition of three cliffside retreats above the Chamberlain Gorge. And to Spicers Peak Lodge, an outpost of Queensland high country luxury that brings dégustation dining to the Great Dividing Range. Like all our favourite lodges, it offers a quintessentially Australian experience.

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