Australia has plenty of luxury lodges on its east and south coasts and at its red centre. Wallpaper* readers are regulars at Bedarra and Lizard islands, off the Queensland coast; One&Only Wolgan Valley in the Blue Mountains; El Questro in the Kimberley; Longitude 131 at Uluru; and Southern Ocean Lodge on Kangaroo Island in South Australia. The west coast did not get a look in. Until now.
Recent openings offer the chance to do an upscale grand tour – from desert camps to urban sanctuaries and from winelands to beach retreats. Como Hotels has opened its first Australian property in Perth. Best of all, Europeans can get there on a direct flight. Qantas flies non-stop from London and Rome to Perth. Here's the full list of new and improved outposts for those flying east to go west.
Six luxury lodges in Western Australia
Sal Salis in the Ningaloo Coast
Look out to sea at Sal Salis (ignoring the kangaroos), and you could be in Mozambique. The beachfront lodge was set up by enterprising Zimbabweans and South Africans – a Zimbabwean family leased the land. Sixteen canvas bush tents rise from the beach and face the ocean – but at an angle to take advantage of the cooling southerly afternoon winds. Designed to look like dunes, they blend into the landscape. The lights are carefully arranged so that they are not visible from the sea and don't confuse the local turtle population, which uses the light of the moon to navigate back to the water after nesting.
Ningaloo Reef, the largest fringing reef in the world, stretching 200 miles up and over the north-westerly tip of Australia’s coast, is just a few metres offshore. You can admire it – and even see the odd stingray and the fin of a blacktip reef shark – from the beach, or, better yet, snorkel it. Just one mile from the shoreline, deep gorges cut through the Cape Range, where you can kayak and hike through scratchy spinifex grass and play spot the wallaby.
Smiths Beach Resort in Leeuwin-Naturaliste National Park
Smiths Beach Resort looks like one of the homes in Big Little Lies – all clean modern lines, big windows filled with ocean and sky. You can surf and eat and drink as well as in Big Sur. The local surf spots even come with US-style rankings – beginner, rookie, master, and legend. To complement everything from the local venison chorizo to scallops, the restaurant offers the excellent local Margaret River Leeuwin Estate Shiraz and sour beers – much better than the name suggests.
Best of all is the bush tucker. Dan Fontecilla, a local guide, offers the chance to kayak up Margaret River, stopping on the river bank for a picnic of kangaroo, crocodile, and emu, served with bush tomato and jackfruit chutneys and tart desert limes. For vegetarians, there’s local cheese, tomato and wattle seed bread, basil pesto, tomato and capsicum pesto, sea spinach, and Tasmanian pepper berries.
Ampersand Estates in Peerabeelup
Ampersand Estates is the labour of love of Melissa Bell and Corrie Scheepers, two management consultant whizzes who sold their company to Deloitte and bought the winery formerly known as Donnelly River Wines after it had fallen on hard times. They are now devoting themselves to creating western Australia’s answer to Meadowood in Napa Valley, a place where you can stay in traditional houses on a vineyard.
The estate has three houses, each with its own lawn, garden, and orchard, that date back to the 1870s when a Scottish family settled in the Donnelly River valley and built a cattle and sheep farm. Each house has 150-year-old Jarrah wood floorboards and the original wood panelling and fireplaces. The new roofs are made of traditional heritage galvanised corrugated iron panels. ‘We wanted to create a modern Australian outback feel. Hearing the rain on the roof helps guests to feel they are part of the whole landscape while they’re inside the house,’ says Bell.
Como The Treasury in Perth
Como The Treasury is built in and among the late 19th-century buildings of Perth’s State Building – the former seat of local government and administration that was originally – and brilliantly – called the Lands, Titles and Treasury buildings. After it languished empty and unloved for 20 years, property developer Adrian Fini finally got the thumbs up in 2008 to redevelop it. The result, designed by the late, Perth-born Kerry Hill, is the latest addition to Christina Ong’s Como dynasty.
Hill’s design blends Como’s modernist approach into the original buildings’ signature features – corinthian columns, red bricks, and an enormous hall, previously home to the city's post office. With droves of expansive windows, glass walls and ceilings, and soft-coloured travertine stone, its leitmotif is light.
The hotel offers a Shambhala (‘peace’ in Sanskrit) spa experience. Its restaurants also offer Shambhala cuisine – think chia, almond and coconut pudding with mango, passionfruit sauce for breakfast, and ‘farmer and forager driven’ dishes such as nut, seed, and vegetable toast with crushed avocado, tomato, cucumber, lime with pork and sage sausages.
Samphire in Rottnest Island
With its rustic wooden furniture, shabby – but not too shabby – chic Samphire Rottnest has become part of the Rottnest Island’s rugged landscape. The interior palette of cream, brown, beige and white is inspired by the surrounding scenery. The casual outdoor dining spaces are polka-dotted with arctic white parasols. Some rooms are only a few metres from the ocean, with large double doors opening onto Thomson Bay.
Adrenaline junkies can skydive, take helicopter tours, kayak, sail, bike, and take an ‘eco express thrill ride’ – a 45-minute ride around the rugged coastline on an Eco Express boat.
Cape Lodge in the heart of the Margaret River Wine Region
Cape Lodge in Margaret River's Wilyabrup district is home to some of Australia’s oldest and best wineries. The estate has its own eight-acre vineyard, producing wine exclusively for the guests. The white-painted country house, tennis court, lakes, swimming pool, and acres of lawns create a sense that you are staying in a manicured country club. If you’re looking to bring a large party, book the duck-egg blue, four-bedroom private guest house on its own lake.
The hotel offers guided hiking and helicopter tours of some of the world’s most untainted coastline. I recommend the seven-hour Cape to Vine tour. It’s a scenic hike followed by the good bit: a five-course wine-tasting menu and a take-home bottle from the Vasse Felix collection.
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