There’s nothing I love more than a great luxury hotel. For me, it’s a key aspect of any trip that usually makes or breaks the experience. It’s about much more though than fancy sheets or chandeliers in the lobby, it’s about service and a certain level of accessibility. A great hotel, or other type of accommodation, will not just be a place to lay your head, but will go above and beyond to ensure that your travel experience is truly extraordinary. The adventure-filled state of Queensland in Australia seems to have more luxury accommodations than most regions of Australia, thanks in large part to the natural beauty found around every corner. On a long jaunt around this beachy and sun-drenched state I had the chance to try out many of the best luxury hotels and resorts not just in Queensland but in all of Australia and these five in particular are ones every luxury traveler should add to their must-stay list.
Qualia, Hamilton Island
There are some places and hotels so special that they have an aura of travel mythology surrounding them – Qualia is such a place. Located on the popular vacation getaway Hamilton Island in the impossibly beautiful Whitsundays, Qualia isn’t just one of the best hotels in Australia, it’s one of the world’s premier resorts. Like so many other Relais & Châteaux properties, what I found when I visited was food prepared with expert precision, service on a level almost impossible to find and a spa so luxurious it’s worth the trip in itself. People visit for all of these reasons, but also for the resort’s legendary privacy. Guests enjoy their time at the resort in private cottages set deep in the forest, creating an ethereal feel to the stay. The restaurant, open only to guests and invited visitors, has Michelin-caliber meals that the chef fine-tunes to each diner’s unique tastes. Add to that the resort’s amazing location on a private stretch of the island, and this truly is the best way to experience Hamilton Island.
One Oceanview, Airlie Beach
I don’t usually stay in B&Bs, they’re just not my style, but One Oceanview in picturesque Airlie Beach isn’t really a B&B, or a hotel for that matter. It’s its own unique category of accommodation and much to my surprise, was my favorite luxury experience during my time in Queensland. Marita Kemp and her partner built this ultimate luxury homes to enjoy the amazing views of the Coral Sea that only the Whitsundays can provide. At some point in the process they decided that they wanted to invite others to enjoy this gorgeous seaside estate and the concept was hatched. This 2,000 square meter home can accommodate several couples or even families at a time, but each experience is tailored to the guest. After only a few hours I truly did feel like a houseguest in what is probably the most amazing private residence I’ve ever visited. The open and light design takes full advantage of the amazing weather for which this area of Queensland is so very well known, and the service was second to none. Almost by intuition, Marita understood my needs and before I knew it I had coffee ready for me whenever I needed a cup and meals that rank with the best restaurants in the area. It’s also in an amazing location, which means exploring the town of Airlie Beach and the surrounding Whitsundays couldn’t be easier. While not a hotel per se, this is one of the best luxury experiences I’ve been fortunate enough to enjoy and I can’t recommend it enough.
Peppers, Throughout Queensland
While the name may not sound very luxurious, after staying at two of their properties in Queensland I can attest to the fact that Peppers Hotels is most definitely a luxury brand you’ll want to discover for yourself. Part of the Mantra Group, Peppers specializes in refined indulgence that is difficult to find anymore. Staying at their Broadbeach location along Queensland’s Gold Coast, this property offers suites and apartments that feel more like home than a hotel. I was there for a week, and there was nothing better than having a mini-apartment all to myself complete with living room, kitchen and two-bedrooms, not to mention stunning views of the beach. It was also perfectly located next to shops and restaurants and of course the famous seaside itself. I hated to leave their Broadbeach location, which is always a great sign that a hotel is doing almost everything right. My last night in Queensland, fittingly, was spent at another Peppers hotel, this one in another beachside resort town – Palm Cove. Once again, I was impressed by the expansive suites and a prime location along the town’s major thoroughfare. I admit I may have prejudged the entire brand based solely on their name, never a smart thing to do, but I can attest to the fact that this is one of the best luxury brands in Australia.
Silky Oaks Lodge, Mossman
The Tropical North of Queensland is a wild and wooly place, home to the world’s oldest rainforest and prime access points to the massive Great Barrier Reef. Tucked away in those ancient forests is a luxury resort that offers an experience nearly impossible to find anywhere else in the world. Silky Oaks Lodge enjoys an enviable space adjacent to the UNESCO World Heritage protected Daintree Rainforest and Wet Tropics region and this expansive resort incorporates all the best elements of the jungle into its refined and private luxury experience. Not unlike Qualia, Silky Oaks is made up of a series of small cottages that they call tree houses. Perched high on hills overlooking the jungle or nearby river, the tree houses offer a secluded and luxurious experience for every guest. Silky Oaks has also done a great job of embracing its natural surroundings by offering walks through the forest, a private swimming hole, kayaking on the hotel’s river and a spa that is one of the best I’ve ever been to. There is no choice in my opinion; Silky Oaks must be on your to-do list if you’re an admirer of luxury hotels and resorts.
There are a few luxury hotel brands around the world that always guarantee and amazing travel experience, and Shangri-La is amongst those. Their location in downtown Cairns lives up to that promise and thanks to a great position in town coupled with fantastic service, this is the only hotel to consider when visiting this northern outpost city. Inside the hotel, the design is updated and elegant and the rooms are large and furnished with low profile, Asian-inspired décor that made my brief time there relaxing and comfortable. Add to that great marina views and an excellent staff, and I can’t say enough good things about this amazing luxury hotel in Cairns.
Queensland may be blessed with beautiful natural wonders, but it also has a vibrant luxury travel sector that has kept up with the times in ways not seen in all areas of the country. It means that for someone like me, who loves experiential luxury travel, there may be no better place in the world to have a fun, adventurous day but also a calming, luxurious evening in some of the best hotels in the world.