Contributing editor Christine McCabe presents finalists in three more categories in TheAustralian’s 2007 Travel & Tourism Awards
ABEST HOSTED ACCOMMODATION
Burrawang West Station, central NSW:
The ultimate Aussie dude ranch, Burrawang sprawls across 4000ha of big-sky Lachlan River country between Parkes and Condobolin and offers guests the chance to experience a working cattle station in style. Life revolves around the handsomely appointed homestead where formal dinners feature produce grown on the farm. Casual meals are taken poolside or under the river gums. Guests are accommodated in 12 suites located within four luxury lodges and spend a stay here bird watching, exploring on quad bike or spinning yarns around the campfire.
BKimberleyCoastal Camp, Western Australia:
CKimsBeach Hideaway, Toowoon Bay, NSW:
A century in the making, this renowned NSW central coast hideaway combines the best of the old and new worlds. From the groaning buffet table (with meals sounded by a ship’s bell) to the luxurious guest villas, some with private pools, Kims has kept pace with the times without sacrificing its disarmingly old-fashioned sense of hospitality. Tucked amid lush gardens beside a sweep of beach and bay, it feels a million miles from anywhere yet Sydney lies barely more than an hour away. This combination of impeccable service and dress-circle locale has been luring regulars for decades.
DNorthBundaleer, Jamestown, South Australia:
Located 30 minutes north of the Clare Valley amid rolling hills, this handsome, listed homestead, rescued from decades of neglect and painstakingly restored by Marianne and Malcolm Booth, continues to garner rave reviews from international visitors astonished to find such an oasis in the middle of nowhere. Bundaleer combines the grandeur of yesteryear (think gentleman’s library and ballroom) with a relaxed friendliness that sees guests congregating by the Aga stove for a cuppa. The four luxurious guestrooms are impeccably appointed, right down to the innovative ensuites that include a converted conservatory.
EPeppersPerched on a small peninsula overlooking the Timor Sea and accessible only by helicopter, this simple but stylish retreat may be anglers’ heaven but it is equally suited for those wishing to explore by boat and on foot (there are no roads) the region’s abundant wildlife and striking rock art. Guest gazebos offer sea views; the communal Shed, with a raked ceiling, is the place to compare fishing notes while tucking into fantastic meals harvested from surrounding waters: barramundi, oysters and mud crab. Budding David Attenboroughs will be in seventh heaven as they encounter crocodiles, turtles, dingoes and cheeky quolls.
Calstock, Deloraine, Tasmania:
Once home to 19th-century Melbourne Cup champions, the charming 1837-built Calstock, 45 minutes from Launceston, is today an up-market guesthouse internationally known for its standout cuisine and refined interiors. This handsome Georgian homestead features seven individually decorated rooms and two suites in French country style. Chef Daniel Tourancheau continues the Gallic theme with seasonal menus built around locally available produce served in a charming restaurant overlooking the garden. Cooking classes are a popular optional extra.
Park Country House, Clare Valley, South Australia:
More than two decades ago, David Hay and Michael Speers transformed a near derelict 1850s homestead into one of Australia’s best-loved country house hotels. Thorn Park is still the rural getaway of choice for bon vivants. Hay is an exceptional chef and runs cooking classes; there’s a convivial breakfast table and cosy guestrooms (catering to a maximum of six couples). The house party vibe extends from open fires and well-thumbed books to long country walks and the occasional postprandial opera recital.
BEST LODGE ACCOMMODATION
Lodge, Lord Howe Island, NSW:
This acclaimed island bolthole sets the standard for a series of up-market properties planned by James and Hayley Baillie who will open a deluxe lodge on Kangaroo Island next March. At Capella a lucky few guests enjoy stylish interiors and mesmerising views of the ocean, the reef, Gower and Lidgbird mountains. There are ample opportunities to explore the stunningly beautiful World Heritage-listed Lord Howe (and the world’s southernmost coral reef in glass-bottomed sea kayaks) or simply relax back at the lodge: in the day spa, on a day bed or over dinner in the restaurant where knockout surrounds vie with acclaimed contemporary cuisine.
BPeppersCasuarina Lodge, Byron hinterland, NSW:
Tucked away in the luxuriant Byron Bay hinterland, this charming retreat, featuring up-market timber cabins perched above the forest, offers the best of both worlds: off-the-map privacy but with ready access to the region’s famous beaches. Lodge life is laid-back, with rainforest walks, a therapeutic massage or picnicking by the creek all on the agenda. The Wilson’s By the Creek restaurant features disarming views and modern Mediterranean cuisine courtesy of Italian chef Dario Milano.
CPeppersSeven Spirit Bay, Arnhem Land, Northern Territory:
Recruited to the rapidly expanding Peppers portfolio a year ago, this pioneering eco lodge, set amid tropical forest metres from the beach on the remote Cobourg Peninsula in Arnhem Land, was one of the first ventures of its kind in the country. Accommodation takes the form of habitats sitting lightly amid the woodland, with floor to ceiling louvres making the most of sea breezes and bush views. Many visitors come simply for world-class sport fishing but nature lovers are well served, too, with guided walks, cruises, safaris and bird watching.
DPeppersSpicers Peak Lodge, Scenic Rim, Queensland:
Perched mountaintop in southeast Queensland’s World Heritagelisted Main Range National Park, Spicers
ETheLodge at Tarraleah, Tasmania:
Overlooking the Tasmanian wilderness two hours from Hobart, this contemporary lodge, set within the shell of an elegant 1930s art deco building, is anglers’ heaven. A 2007 CondeNastTraveler Hot List contender, Tarraleah offers access to some of the finest trout fishing in the world (across 30 lakes and six mountain streams). Luxury guestrooms featuring bespoke beds; four-course dinners (included in the tariff), a monumental wine list and more than 120 malts are complemented by a broad array of outdoor activities. Kayaking, golfing and guided walks are all on the agenda. Or simply lounge in the clifftop hot tub.
FVoyagesFThornACapellaPeak Lodge features just 10 suites and wonderful views of an astonishingly beautiful landscape. Lying at the end of several kilometres of unsealed road (four-wheel-drive transfers are available) but only 90 minutes from Brisbane, Spicers is built in traditional mountain lodge style with high ceilings, timber trim and open fires. Dinner is a leisurely affair featuring five or seven-course degustation menus. Bushwalking, mountain biking, tennis or a dip in the pool followed by a massage are the order of the day.
Wrotham Park Lodge, north Queensland:
Sprawling across 600,000 ha of remote savanna country, 300km west of Cairns, Wrotham promises urbanites a slice of outback living minus the discomfort. Guests are housed in 10 contemporary Pike Withersdesigned quarters perched above the dramatic ochre-hued cliffs of the Mitchell River. With timber decks, shady verandas and comfy day beds, these postmodern farm buildings are more suggestive of siesta than smoko. The main homestead, with elevated swimming pool, feels like a private club. Every evening begins with sunset canapes followed by a fourcourse sit-down dinner or gourmet barbecue.
BEST FAMILY FOCUSED TOURISM
Zoo, Monarto, South Australia:
AMonartoAn easy 45 minutes from Adelaide, this pioneering open range zoo, set on the scrubby plains bordering South Australia’s Murraylands, plays a significant role in international breeding programs and features Australia’s only drive-through cheetah habitat and the country’s largest herd of giraffes. From white rhinos to Mongolian wild horses and one of the world’s largest zoo packs of the critically endangered African painted dog, Monarto is home to some of the most threatened species. Join an exciting behind-the-scenes tour to feed lions, pat cheetahs or work as a zookeeper for the day.
BPhillipIsland Nature Park, Victoria:
Phillip Island’s nightly parade of little penguins is an Aussie holiday favourite and ranks as the country’s most popular wildlife attraction. With a sophisticated interpretative centre and ranger-guided tours, the Penguin Parade is also home to a world-leading research facility. The island’s newest drawcard, located on Nobbies cliffs, features state-of-the-art facilities for viewing one of Australia’s largest fur seal colonies, with cameras beaming back footage from above and below water. The multimillion-dollar Nobbies Centre rounds out Victoria’s leading ecotourism attraction, which also includes the popular Koala Conservation Centre and Churchill Island historic farm.
CSpaceWalker,Gold Coast, Queensland:
SpaceWalker, which closed earlier this year, has been nominated in recognition of its contribution to the Gold Coast tourism industry and its popularity among readers of TheAustralian . Visitors found it one of the most innovative family attractions in the country, deploying a range of clever, special effects-laden techniques to take children on a journey to the end of the universe. Few attractions have combined such an entertaining approach to what was essentially an educational experience.
DSydneyCelebrating its first birthday, this exciting attraction enables children to experience down under’s varied wildlife in the urban environment of Sydney’s Darling Harbour. With three floors of exhibits (and about 1km of walkway space), Wildlife World includes a range of habitats, from the two-storey Flight Canyon, with its colourful population of lorikeets and parrots, to semiarid grasslands, both recently expanded to become walk-through attractions. The nocturnal and butterfly houses are a hit but at the koala sanctuary guests can pat the cuddly marsupials. Daily bird and reptile shows add to the fun.
EWarnerBros Movie World, Gold Coast, Queensland:
This highly popular theme park continues to enchant young (and not so young) visitors with a special brand of movie magic. From the hilarious Police Academy Stunt Show to the new Shrek stage production, there’s action aplenty. Rides cater for all ages, from the revamped and expanded Looney Tunes Village for tots (relaunched this month as the Kids WB! Fun Zone!) to the $13 million Scooby Doo Spooky indoor rollercoaster and the new Batwing Spaceshot, a 4.5-G launch up a 60m tower. Parents can catch their breath at Rick’s Cafe Americain or grab Make My Day nachos at the Dirty Harry Bar.
FWerribeeOpen Range Zoo, Victoria:
Werribee Open Range Zoo provides children with a first-hand glimpse of the dark continent only 30 minutes from Melbourne. Clever landscaping featuring towering reeds and grasses, hidden paths and scary soundscapes make visitors feel they’re in deepest Africa. Observe lions feeding in a natural setting or get up close and personal with hippos in their special river habitat. Best of all, families can sleep over in a specially constructed camp perched above the wildliferich savanna. Bunk down in stylish tents, then tuck into dinner around the campfire while zebras, rhinos and giraffes graze nearby.
www.zoo.org.au Next week: Best Eco/Wilderness Experience, Best Adventure Tour Operator, Best Indigenous Tourism Experience
Wild and wonderful: Clockwise from top left, Monarto Zoo; Seven Spirit Bay; slumber safari tents at Werribee Open Range Zoo; Kimberley Coastal Camp; Spicers Peak Lodge; Peppers Calstock