A number of new luxury eco-resorts are combining wilderness experiences with five-star comforts and environmental sensitivity, places where you’ll have a minimum impact on the environment and leave a minimum footprint.
Wolgan Valley Resort & Spa in the heart of the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area is Australia's newest luxury wildlife and conservation based resort and is set to become one of the shining lights of the eco-tourism industry. Opened in October 2009 it has all the right eco-credentials. Where possible all food and beverage is sourced within a 100-mile radius, with regional, seasonal and where possible, local organic produce from the bordering districts of Mudgee and Orange. The Resort planted 25,000 native trees and plants and worked with the local community of artists, potterers, craftsmen, furniture makers, blacksmiths and glass artists to furnish and fit out the property. A two year biodiversity study has involved extensive site investigations, habitat assessment and vegetation surveys, ongoing monitoring of water quality and studies on wildlife species.
A stunning dot in the Great Barrier Reef, Wilson Island is raising its reputation as an eco experience not to be missed, having taken out the highly coveted accolade of Best Eco-Tourism Experience at this year’s annual Gourmet Traveller Awards.
A pin-up for sustainable holidays, guests at the deluxe tented camp share the remote coral cay with green and loggerhead turtles, birds, and an ocean teeming with exotic sea life. To ensure the island’s natives are not impacted by tourism activity, Wilson Island is closed to humans for one month a year (late January to the end of February) so wedge-tailed shearwater mutton bird chicks can hatch in peace. Once the mutton birds have hatched and taken to the sky, the island’s human visitors return to the take up residence in the eco-chic camp with its solar-powered showers and solar-powered designer tents.
There are only 12 guests allowed on the island at one time, plus two hosts who do all the cooking and cleaning. There are no permanent buildings on the island and the tents are scattered to give maximum privacy. The water is brought in and the grey water is shipped back out again. There is no power generator on the island – the hot water and limited electricity in the kitchen and communal long tent all run off solar power. All the garbage is shipped off the island and the bottles and paper are sorted for recycling.
Back on the mainland, Thala Beach Lodge, a stunning luxury eco resort located 15 minutes south of Port Douglas, is fully eco accredited for ecotourism and consists of private deluxe timber bungalows built high on stilts and nestled in the forest canopy. All accommodation has views either to the beachfront or the rainforest mountains.
Time spent relaxing on the timber decked verandahs is well rewarded by sightings of birds, butterflies and at night possums and sugar gliders. Thala proudly boasts that it has achieved the highest accreditation of eco certification through its sustainable practice and environmental sensitivity. Wildlife, native forests and natural beachscapes are protected and guests experience luxury in a private sanctuary sensitively designed to coexist with forests and abundant wildlife. Wilderness luxury is also booming. Australia’s version of a safari camp.
Longitude 131 is one of the best wilderness hotels in the world, in arguably one of the most spectacular campsite in Australia, right in the heart of the Red Centre. Just nine kilometres from Uluru, Longitude 131 has set new standards for eco-tourism in Australia, with 15 luxurious tented sanctuaries on the border of the spiritually powerful, dual world heritage-listed of Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park. This desert resort attracts visitors from around the world who come to experience the very heart of Australia – in style and luxury but with minimal impact on the environment.
On the South Coast of NSW, 3 hours south of Sydney, there’s another eco-resort in the middle of the Australian bush, where the possums will join you for a gourmet dinner in Gunyah restaurant in the treetops. Architect designed with both the environment and guest in mind, Paperbark Camp combines a unique Australian bush experience with great food, tranquil surroundings and wildlife encounters with kangaroos, dolphins, possums and birdlife. Located on the banks of the Currambene Creek, Jervis Bay, the camp is ideal for those who love being close to nature but appreciate life’s little luxuries. With diving, snorkelling, dolphin and whale watching, sea kayaking, bushwalking, birdwatching, sailing, fishing and the Illawarra Fly Treetop Walk, Paperbark Camp is at the forefront of sustainable tourism and has had Advanced Eco Accreditation with the EAA since 2002.
Making waves in Broome over on Australia’s west coast is new eco wilderness retreat Eco Beach which opened its doors in mid 2009. This fully sustainable wilderness retreat is setting a new benchmark in ecologically sustainable tourism. Owner Karl Plunkett says building Eco Beach, located just over an hours journey from Broome by road, fostered an innovative approach to designing sustainable waste management, grey water and solar power options. He’s confident that he has set a global benchmark for ecologically sustainable tourism. “Our aim is to provide guests with an unforgettable and unique wilderness experience while leaving a minimal impact on the surrounding environment.”
With breathtaking views, stunning villas, an infinity pool, fine dining and rejuvenating health facilities, the retreat is also a testimony to how luxury and ecologically sustainable tourism can be successfully married. 25 cyclone-proof luxurious self sustaining Eco Villas and 30 demountable safari style Eco Tents are all solar powered with eco-decking, wilderness based activities and the resort is set up to provide employment for Indigenous communities.
In Western Australia you’re spoilt for choice with eco-luxury accommodation and experiences on the Kimberley Coast such as the fully self contained luxury safari tents at Kooljaman at Cape Leveque and the remote bush camp at Faraway Bay on a remote part of the Kimberley Coast.
Karijini Eco Retreat in the Karijini National Park, Western Australia is an ecologically friendly and environmentally aware retreat. It’s the only permanent up-market, luxury accommodation in the breathtaking Karijini National Park, offering quality environmentally friendly accommodation and facilities, with a touch of eco-luxury. It’s owned by the local Gumala Aboriginal Corporation, and with its smart safari style tents has a smattering of glamping elements.
Sal Salis Ningaloo Reef is located in the Cape Range National Park, hidden amongst the low lying white coastal sand dunes, with only five tents, each with its en-suite complete with composting toilet. This is an ecologically sensitive luxury camping venue so there is no air-conditioning, telephones or televisions.
Sal Salis is an exclusive safari camp. The spacious wilderness tents are just metres from the water’s edge and the world’s greatest fringing coastal coral reef. Sal Salis describes its accommodation and hosting style as ‘Wild Bush Luxury’ and the guides here deliver an extraordinary insight to one of Australia’s best kept natural secrets – Ningaloo Reef. Sal Salis’s ecological principles also ensure that your stay generates a minimal environmental footprint.
South Australia has its eco-cap firmly on as well. Located just outside the 165,000 hectares of unspoilt bushland that makes up the Gawler Ranges National Park, the Gawler Ranges Wilderness Safaris’ permanent African safari-style tents, known as Kangaluna Camp, offer an eco-friendly, comfortable way to get back to nature and have been designed to have minimal impact on the region’s environment.
In North East Tasmania, set on a hilltop, 40 metres above the pounding of the sea and surrounded by National Park, Bay of Fires Lodge is the only building on 20km of outstanding coastal wilderness. A truly ecologically-aware building has been gently let into the landscape here and enjoys views up and down the pristine white sandy beaches in an area of great significance to the Aboriginal community. The lodge is located in Mount William National Park, a haven for some of Australia’s most unique flora and fauna. This area is home to a large population of eastern grey kangaroos, as well as echidnas, brush-tail possums, wombats, wallabies and Tasmanian devils. Birdlife too is abundant, with over 100 species occurring in the park, including many varieties of sea and shore birds.
Freycinet Lodge sits at the foot of the pink granite mountain peaks of the Hazard Mountain Range and looks out over spectacular Great Oyster Bay. To protect the delicate environment, the 60 timber cabins, hidden in the casuarinas and tea tree forest, are linked by raised boardwalks. Nearby, you can explore a local oyster farm, walk to the famous Wineglass Bay lookout, or visit the seaside villages of Bicheno and Swansea and the acclaimed cool-climate wineries.
Daintree Eco-Lodge is a boutique eco-lodge, situated in the cool of the world's oldest living rainforest in tropical North Queensland, reinforcing the impression of being 'at one with nature', while still providing all the necessary creature comforts you would expect from a luxury resort. Julaymba Restaurant serves up tastes of the tropics including bushtucker or you can have an Aboriginal inspired massage or spa therapy in the world renowned Daintree Spa. This is a place where you can breathe in the fresh rainforest air and fell reconnected to nature.
At Bamurru Plains in the Northern Territory, individual safari suites are designed to blend with the surrounding bush and expose guests to the sights and the sounds of the bush. Soak up the atmosphere from your secluded suite or get amongst it with an airboat tour, river cruise, fishing trip or four-wheel drive safari. For a more relaxed experience, there are many walking tracks and superb bird watching opportunities available.
Moonlight Head Lodge on the Great Ocean Road in Victoria, the highest coastal headland in Australia was designed by Glenn Murcutt one of Australia’s leading architects, with consideration for the environment, this is a retreat that creates the impression of time almost standing still….”Our aim is to touch the earth lightly…float above the landscape, says Murcutt. This designer lodge uses no air-conditioning and water is harvested from rooftops and the building is non-invasive in its environment.
Also in Victoria, Bothfeet Walking Lodge, Australia's first dedicated walking lodge, opened in December 2008 on the Great Ocean Road Walking Trail. Both the walks and the new lodge are already Advanced Eco-Certified by Eco Tourism Australia, and are committed to sustainable operation. Designed by a sustainable architect, Stephen Sainsbury, to create a minimal impact, this retreat is near Johanna Beach on the Great Ocean Road at the midpoint of the Great Ocean Walk.
Building materials were chosen based on their sustainability and emissions during production and impact on the site was kept minimal. The building utilises passive solar design and cross ventilation to reduce heating and cooling requirements, harvested spring water and rain water and the sun for heating. Interior fabrics use natural hemp, vegetable and plant dyes and guests are supplied with natural soaps and tea tree based shampoos that are kind to the grey water system and garden.
Wake up to bird song, take breakfast in a setting that glows in the morning light, and return each night to put both feet in a custom foot spa, a massage, a glass of red in hand and the best walking cuisine in the world.