This remote resort is a 60-minute flight north of Cairns. Damaged by cyclones Ita and Nathan in the past two years, Lizard Island reopened in October 2015. There are 40 open-plan suites decked out by interior design firm Hecker Guthrie and now a villa sits atop Sunset Beach. Expect a plunge pool and stunning views over the Coral Sea; unmatched diving is also assured so bring a snorkel but don’t bother with a phone: absent coverage adds to the blissful isolation.
Bryon Bay’s free-spirited feel has grown up a little of late. The change is in part thanks to hotels such as Elements of Byron Bay, which opened in early February amid the mature trees and lush rainforest that skirt the Tasman Sea. This eco-friendly joint still chimes with the city’s laidback reputation but the 103 villas centred on a low-slung central pavilion speak to a growing market of increasingly design-minded travellers. Intrepid guests can potter through nature trails amid the shady creeks and wetlands, recline on the white sand of the hotel’s private beach or catch a vintage steam train into Byron Bay proper, just 3km away.
Once home to the Sydney Water Board, the Primus Hotel flooded the CBD with smart new rooms when it opened in December 2015. Inside, the vast lobby is all marble, terrazzo and art deco frills; at the centre eight imposing pillars point to the reception’s dazzling skylight. If its grand first impressions don’t faze you then the 172 Woods Bagot-designed rooms might: flush finishes are standard and the city-centre location means views of the CBD are too. The roof used to be a rifle range but today shots are only available from the poolside bar, an airy affair that seems a world away from the streets below. The Wilmot restaurant and Lobby bar are in keeping with the hotel’s golden-age feel but a lounger next to the pool is our favourite spot to recline.
Canberra isn’t renowned for its lodgings but Hotel Hotel has been a focal point for hospitality and design in the Australian capital since 2014. Think industrial materials including concrete, clay and copper lighting. There’s plenty of mid-century furniture too and the interiors are impressive installations made from thousands of planks of reclaimed wood.
Sixty designers were involved in the 68-room stopover in the concertina-shaped Nishi building. Now the hotel is encouraging its guests to think more carefully about the city’s craftsmen with its Fix & Make workshops that invite guests to learn about – or take part in – the construction of whittled chopsticks or foraged-wood furniture.
Classic timber-and-marble finishes dress a handsome new addition to a growing corner for men’s specialists at Sydney’s stately Strand Arcade. Men’s Biz focuses on providing the best in men’s grooming products and the brand’s second shop delivers a polished product mix, presented by on-point staff and an in-house barber.
Razors from Merkur Solingen and scrubs from Jack Black sit among more contemporary offerings from Aussie brand Triumph & Disaster. “Many of our brands have been making their shave creams the same way for the past 100 years yet people still want to discover them today,” says owner Nathan Jancauskas. He has spent a decade growing the brand from its online roots to its spaces in Melbourne and Sydney.
Hobart-based ceramicist Ben Richardson’s rustic tableware is made at the hilltop Ridgeline Pottery workshop but guests wanting to explore the Tasmanian wilderness can also hunker down in his adjacent guesthouse. Designed by architect James Jones, it overlooks Pipeclay Lagoon on the South Arm Peninsula.
Two types of people tend to stay here – crockery connoisseurs and beachgoers – but the line between the two can be a fine one: stories abound of guests who have abandoned their surfboards to spend a weekend at the pottery wheel. The two-bedroom accommodation features views of the lagoon, a kitchen stocked with fresh produce and morning wake-up calls courtesy of Ridgeline’s kookaburras, parrots and wrens.
East of Canberra at Mollymook Beach – or a three-hour drive south from Sydney – Bannisters Pavillion is a 32-room hotel boasting views across the Tasman Sea and a backdrop of eucalyptus trees. It’s a collaboration between architect Tony Freeman, interior designers Romy Alwill and Mia Ward and landscape designer William Dangar. The rooms are smart with white slipcovered chairs, olive-green rugs, oak furniture and abstract prints of nature by artists Johnny McCormack and Cressida Beale.
Guests can relax on the rooftop in private lounge spaces around the infinity pool, complete with striped yellow-and-white parasols. Alternatively, indulge in some fresh calamari and a glass of Willowglen chardonnay from Bilbul.
Vivonne Bay on Kangaroo Island is one of our favourite Aussie beaches: long, sandy and perfect for surfing the Southern Ocean’s boisterous waves. Kangaroo Island is a remote and sparsely populated place 30 minutes by plane from Adelaide. The island has more than 500km of coastline and 50 beaches.
Then there’s the Southern Ocean Lodge – situated at Hanson Bay and skirted by national park – with 21 suites and ocean views. Owners James and Hayley Baillie developed only 1 per cent of their total acreage on the wildlife-filled isle, leaving the rest of the land and beaches for nature to populate. “When guests look out of their window they get this ‘It’s just me and the big blue ocean’ feeling, with the occasional dolphin, whale, sea lion or seal included,” says Hayley.
A former boozy refuge for sailors and so-called “wharfies”, this four-storey 19th-century space reopened as one of the city’s hippest hotels in late 2015. With views of leafy Barangaroo Reserve and Sydney Harbour, the pink-hued top-floor Henry Deane bar stand outs. Its Sibella Court-designed interiors make it a must-visit regardless of whether you’re staying the night in one of the nine guest rooms below, each of which is named after an Anzac veteran – the Australians and New Zealanders who fought in the First World War. On the ground floor there’s an atmospheric pub that’s all rough-hewn wooden finishes, brass lights and green banquette seating. The building also has four private-function rooms for those seeking respite from the evening set.
- QT Bondi, Sydney The young chain’s latest beach-side berth.
- One&Only Hayman Island In the Great Barrier Reef, at the tip of the Whitsunday archipelago.
- Halcyon House, Cabarita A renovated 21-room 1960s hotel with Spanish mission-style exteriors and an enviable pool.
- Spicers Balfour Hotel, Brisbane A Queenslander-style stay a few minutes from Brisbane. The view of Story Bridge is a bonus.
- Park Hyatt Sydney A hallmark of five-star harbour-side hospitality.
We meet the Hong Kong-based hotelier whose two new Sydney properties at Darling Harbour and Wooloomooloo are setting a high benchmark for hospitality down under.
What is it that makes your hotels special?
Each property is unique. The wharf on which the Wooloomooloo property sits recently celebrated its 100th anniversary and it’s the longest wooden wharf in the world. We don’t follow a cookie-cutter approach where each hotel needs to follow a certain guideline.
How important is design to your philosophy?
It’s about understanding the customer in the little things we do. We have two plug points on either side of our beds for you and your partner to be able to charge your devices. It’s just simple, smart thinking.
Is there room for growth in Australia?
For the properties we have here the numbers are about 65 per cent domestic guests and 35 per cent international. The domestic market has taken to it and I believe the international market will pick up too. We’d like to open one more in Sydney and another in Melbourne. We also plan to look at Brisbane, the Gold Coast, Canberra, Adelaide and possibly Perth.