World famous for its natural wonders and wide open spaces, Australia is also one of the world's most highly urbanized countries. Some 90% of its 26 million inhabitants live on the coast in large cities like Sydney, Melbourne, and Perth, and hundreds of smaller beach towns in-between. But venture away from the big cities and the true nature and substance of Australia takes center stage. Wild and beautiful, Australia beckons to be explored. Best of all, you can do this while enjoying some of the world’s most luxurious accommodations and amenities.

If you love having the sand and sea at your feet, Whitehaven Beach on Whitsunday Island (located off the coast of Central Queensland) is the most photographed beach in Australia. Accessible by boat, seaplane, and helicopter from adjacent Hamilton Island, Whitsunday Island is one of a collection of 74 continental islands lying between the northeast coast of Queensland and the Great Barrier Reef. Most of the islands here are uninhabited with dense rainforests, hiking trails, and white-sand beaches. Hamilton Island is the preferred launching point for fun and exploration of the islands and coral reefs. Situated on its secluded northern-most tip lies qualia, a world-class boutique luxury resort. Designed exclusively for guests aged 16 and older, qualia’s 60 light-filled pavilions, many with their own private infinity edge plunge pools, feature private sundecks and postcard views. Available tours and activities from Hamilton Island include guided scuba dives, snorkeling, catamaran tours, kayaking, parasailing, off-road ATV adventures, golf, bushwalking trail exploration, and of course sunbathing. Sunset cruises, private charters and scenic flights over breathtaking Whitehaven Beach and Great Barrier Reef can also be arranged.

Of Australia’s 8,222 coastal islands,  the largest by far at 24,922 square miles  is the isolated island state of Tasmania,  off Australia’s south coast. The Freycinet Peninsula lies on Tasmania’s eastern shores, a large dramatic land formation carved into the coastline. A towering  pink granite mountain range named  the Hazards shadows the landscape. Below, at the Hazards’ feet, lies iconic Wineglass Bay.  Considered one of the world’s top ten beaches, Wineglass Bay’s coastline includes miles of stunning white sandy beaches, pink cliffs, and rocky shoreline. Australian fur seals like to gather and sunbath here. Offshore, frolicking pods of bottle-nose dolphins pass the day, and during annual migration, southern right and humpback whales join in. Onshore, you’ll find no shortage of wildlife either. Freycinet’s diverse fauna includes an amazing array of land and sea birds, amphibians, reptiles, four-legged creatures including pademelon, echidna, wombat, quoll, possum, and Tasmanian devils, the iconic symbol of Tasmania. An abundant supply of cute red-necked wallaby often mingle with humans. Tucked away onshore with commanding views of the Hazards and Wineglass Bay, Saffire Freycinet, Australia’s premier five-star luxury lodge, blends mankind and nature with breathtaking beauty. The lodge’s accolades include “World’s Best Boutique Hotel,” “World’s Best Luxury Hotel,” and for six years running, “Best Luxury Hotel in Australia.” 

With 20 gorgeous luxury suites, exclusive day spa, the renowned restaurant Palate, stunning guest lounge and bar, inspiring landscape and reflective pools, it’s a magical place to experience. Saffire’s complimentary range of guided tours and immersive activities include a Tasmanian Devil experience, visits to a working oyster farm and honeybee apiary, a two-hour Wineglass lookout walk, archery lessons, and a Pelican Bay kayaking and bird-watching adventure. Additional experiences including quad bike tours, fly fishing, skeet shooting, chartered boat tours, and world-class Barnbougle Dunes Golf Links via helicopter.

For an island experience of a different sort, consider beautiful Kangaroo Island. Located eight miles off South Australia’s mainland, 60 miles southwest of Adelaide, Kangaroo Island is Australia’s third-largest and is considered by many to be its Galapagos. Daily ferry service is available to and from the mainland, as well as 30 minutes by plane or helicopter from Adelaide.  Once occupied by Aboriginal Australians, today over a third of Kangaroo Island is protected by nature reserves. “A zoo without fences,” its abundant wildlife includes sea lions, koalas, and diverse bird species. To the west, Flinders Chase National Park is known for penguin colonies and striking coastal rock formations, most notably the sculpted Remarkable Rocks and stalactite-covered Admirals Arch. For a unique, exclusive Kangaroo Island experience, plan a stay at Southern Ocean Lodge, Australia’s most acclaimed wilderness lodge. Globally celebrated, its 21 suites cantilever along the curves of the wildly beautiful coastal cliffs, appearing to float on the cliff tops. Floorto-ceiling windows offer panoramic views of white-sand beaches, rolling wilderness, and the ocean pounding below. Worldclass dining and a help-yourself premium South Australian wine cellar promise a decadent getaway. Signature experiences include guided tours of magnificent Flinders Chase National Park; Hanson Bay Sanctuary, known for its koalas; Seal Bay, home to Australia’s third largest colony of Australian sea lions; coastal clifftop walks; and bespoke experiences like river kayaking, quad bike safaris, beach fishing, marine tours, and more.

Though Kangaroo Island’s widely proclaimed nickname as “Australia’s Galapagos” continues to grow, one could argue the same for the World Heritagelisted Great Blue Mountains region of New South Wales, in eastern Australia. With 4,000 square miles of mostly forested landscape, including eight protected areas and seven outstanding national parks, the Greater Blue Mountains has been described as a natural laboratory for studying the evolution of the eucalyptus tree. In fact, Charles Darwin spent time here in 1836 exploring Wolgan Valley and was amazed by the sheer beauty and diversity of its inhabitants. The area is one of rugged tablelands, sheer cliffs, deep, inaccessible valleys, and rivers and lakes teeming with life. More than 400 different kinds of animals live within this diverse terrain including kangaroos, wallaroos, wallabies, wombats, wild dingos, and many species of birds, reptiles, and frogs. Threatened or rare species include tiger quoll, the koala, yellow-bellied glider, and longnosed potoroo. Sitting in quiet seclusion within Wolgan Valley on 7,000 acres of carbonneutral conservation and wildlife reserve is Emirates One&Only Wolgan Valley, an ultra-luxury, conservation-based resort. Emirates One&Only features 40 elegantly appointed villas, each with its own temperature-controlled swimming pool, double-sided fireplace, private veranda with stunning valley views, along with outstanding garden-to-table cuisine and superb Australian wines. Outdoor activities include horse-trail riding, mountain-biking, tennis, nature walks, wildlife safaris, a Signature Wildlife and Sundowners Tour, and “conservation hour” where guests take part in one of many projects aimed to protect the local species.

If you’ve ever dreamed about living in a treehouse like Tarzan and Jane, but with a few more creature comforts, Silky Oaks Lodge in beautiful tropical North Queensland is for you. Nestled in Kuku Yalangi country, this eco lodge sits high above the crystal-clear waters of Mossman River with lush Daintree Rainforest cloaking the steep mountain sides above its riverbanks. The perfect base to explore the world heritage listed Daintree Rainforest and Great Barrier Reef, Silky Oak’s 40 treehouse-style accommodations are open and inviting, yet secluded and tranquil. Enjoy quiet time in a hammock on your private veranda up high in the rainforest canopy, then dine in style overlooking Mossman River at Treehouse Restaurant. Locally sourced produce, a refined selection of Australian wines, and fresh line-caught fish are in abundance and the chef makes the very best of it, creating both modern and classic Australian fare.

A full itinerary of rainforest experiences and guided adventures include: crossing the Daintree River to explore pristine ancient rainforests; crocodile and bird spotting; enjoying an Australian BBQ beside a secluded forest billabong; snorkeling; scuba diving; kayaking; glass bottom boat tours of Great Barrier Reef; touring the KuKu Yalnji country with a local Aboriginal guide; and setting sail in a catamaran to the Low Isles.

Safari days lead to starry nights and Arkaba Homestead is an oasis of comfort amidst a harsh and rugged landscape. A one-time sheep farming homestead, the 1851-built farmhouse sleeps just 10 guests and retains its original layout and charm. Five delightfully unique guest-rooms feature their own en-suite bathrooms and shady verandas overlooking the surrounding ranges. Gourmet dinners are hosted on the terrace, complete with wine pairings from an all-South Australian cellar. In the heat of summer, the swimming pool overlooking the Arkaba Creek is a welcome retreat. Originally inhabited by the Adnyamathanha (Hill People), important archaeological sites have been found among the hills and valleys of the Flinders. Cave paintings, rock engravings, and other artifacts indicate the Adnyamathanha have lived in the region for tens of thousands of years. Mobs of kangaroos, emus, and other abundant wildlife including shingleback lizards, wedge-tailed eagles, wallabies, and echidnas delight and fascinate guests during safaris through this spectacular ancient landscape. Arkaba’s all-inclusive experience offers full access across the property with seven hours of daily guided exploration. Travel along in a topless four-wheel drive safari jeep exploring the rugged South Australian mountainsides. Take a trip to the exterior Wilpena Pound foothills to witness Adnyamathanha rock art firsthand. Marvel at the exquisite geology and ever-changing palette of the ranges on a stunning 30 minute scenic helicopter flight. Or simply enjoy a sundowner drink atop your own mountain as the sun sinks behind Wilpena Pound.
Australia’s best known natural icons are arguably Uluru and Kata Tjuta. Found in the Northern Territory’s arid “Red Center,” these ancient red rock formations rose high up from the dusty land some 500 million years ago and appear to change colors as the desert sun moves across the sky. As the sun sets, the red hues darken to deep browns and most day visitors leave. But for those who have chosen to stay at Longitude 131°, a five-star tented eco-camp, the adventure has just begun. Longitude 131° is a luxury resort located just outside UNESCO World Heritage-listed Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, within a 6.2 mile direct line of sight to Uluru. Consisting of 15 luxury guest suites (tents) and main communal Dune House with restaurant, bar, library, lounge, and spa boutique, Longitude 131° is a man-made oasis offering uninterrupted views of Uluru. The resort offers an exceptional program of signature and bespoke experiences that include guided tours of Uluru, Kantju Gorge, Wallace Gorge, Valley of the Winds, cave painting sites, and spectacular helicopter tours. Resort guests can feast on sumptuous meals at Table 131° and enjoy an open bar generously stocked.

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