TALK OF THE TOWNS

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WEST­ERN AUS­TRALIA

SOUTH AUS­TRALIA

THE fes­ti­val state is poised for a mini tourism re­nais­sance with a rush of up­mar­ket re­gional de­vel­op­ments giv­ing the state’s once-sleepy coastal towns the five-star treat­ment.

Bail­lie Lodges leads the charge with its ground­break­ing eco-re­treat on Kan­ga­roo Is­land but de­vel­op­ers are also scan­ning other key ar­eas, in­clud­ing the Flin­ders Ranges.

Hot beds: South­ern Ocean Lodge on Kan­ga­roo Is­land, the latest of­fer­ing from Bail­lie Lodges, is hid­den in bush above Han­son Bay and looks like shap­ing up to be Aus­tralia’s smartest eco-re­treat. Sched­uled to open in March and with rav­ish­ing views of the rugged is­land coast­line and pound­ing south­ern seas, the 21 su­per-savvy guest suites fea­ture lo­cal lime­stone and re­cy­cled tim­bers, some have fire­places and the sig­na­ture suite, Osprey, fea­tures a hot tub can­tilevered over the bush. A day spa perches clifftop while food and wine will have a re­gional flavour.

The Port Lin­coln Ho­tel’s city-smart gue­strooms are dis­trib­uted over seven floors in this just-opened shore­front de­vel­op­ment in Port Lin­coln, the boom­ing tuna cap­i­tal of Aus­tralia. The ho­tel fea­tures a seafood restau­rant, gym, pool and man­age­ment lineup that in­cludes Ade­laide Crows AFL greats.

The Links at Lady Bay, Nor­manville, is a St An­drews-style links golf course com­bined with 42 Grand Mer­cure spa suites of­fer­ing ocean views only one hour south of Ade­laide.

Paul Pruszin­ski, owner of the Boa­tel, Aus­tralia’s most glam­orous house­boat, is plan­ning to open a lux­ury private beach­front villa in Ade­laide’s pretty Semaphore later this year.

What the ex­perts say: South Aus­tralian Tourism Com­mis­sion chief ex­ec­u­tive Andrew McEvoy says the state can ex­pect more up­scale de­vel­op­ment in re­gional ar­eas as in­vestors scout new lo­cales: ‘‘ Trav­ellers want to stay in places ar­chi­tec­turally in keep­ing with their sur­rounds and they want th­ese de­vel­op­ments to be sus­tain­able.’’ McEvoy adds that trend-spot­ters have tipped the state’s seafood-rich and pris­tine west coast (on Eyre Penin­sula) as Aus­tralia’s next hol­i­day play­ground.

www.southaus­tralia.com Chris­tine McCabe FROM big Bri­tish bands to hip ho­tels seems to have been a seam­less tran­si­tion for John Spence. The Bri­tish-born, Perth-based en­tre­pre­neur, one-time man­ager of the Eury­th­mics, Cul­ture Club and Bananarama, heads Karma Re­sorts, an in­ter­na­tional ho­tel chain spe­cial­is­ing in five-star, fam­ily-friendly op­er­a­tions. The group’s first Aus­tralian ven­ture, Karma Mar­garet River, opens later this year, fea­tur­ing 29 vil­las sport­ing 21stcen­tury must-haves such as a hand­crafted kitchen, stone fire­place and sauna.

Among other ac­cou­trements — snooker room, ten­nis courts, boat­ing lake and putting green — the re­sort has its own vine­yard, all the bet­ter to sam­ple the Mar­garet River re­gion’s pri­mary out­put.

Hot beds: The celadon wa­ters of the In­dian Ocean pro­vide the plat­form for the Novo­tel Nin­ga­loo Re­sort, a 44-room com­plex over­look­ing the mag­i­cal marine wilder­ness in the state’s north­west. The four-star Ex­mouth Re­sort, built in rammed earth and lo­cal stone, of­fers one, two and three-bed­room stu­dios and apart­ments, bar, fit­ness cen­tre and two pools. And if you can’t spy a manta ray cruis­ing the reef, you can eat in the epony­mous restau­rant.

In the not-so-far-away Pil­bara, the Kar­i­jini Eco Re­treat is the first high-end tented ac­com­mo­da­tion in the Kar­i­jini Na­tional Park, a ta­pes­try of ochre gorges, pris­tine rock pools and wa­ter­falls. With 40 deluxe en­suite eco-tents, the re­treat al­lows easy ac­cess to Weano, Han­cock, Knox and Jof­fre gorges.

Down south, Chan­de­liers on Abbey is a grown-up get­away of three adults-only re­treats (with four more on the draw­ing board) within a 20ha prop­erty close to the surf­ing beaches at Yallingup, Mar­garet River.

What the ex­perts say: Kate La­mont, chair­woman of Tourism WA, be­lieves 2008 will see a fo­cus on in­dige­nous tourism, prod­ucts and ex­pe­ri­ences. ‘‘ West­ern Aus­tralia can be­come the place where vis­i­tors from all over the world come to cel­e­brate and ex­pe­ri­ence tra­di­tional and con­tem­po­rary Abo­rig­i­nal cul­ture.’’

www.west­er­naus­tralia.com Lor­raine Iron­side

QUEENS­LAND

RE­SORTS, at­trac­tions and tourism de­vel­op­ments never cease to spring up along the Queens­land coast. Among the most re­cent are the $7 mil­lion facelift for Noosa’s Hast­ings Street, with added ac­cess points to the beach, and the multi-mil­lion-dol­lar re­de­vel­op­ment of the Strad­broke Is­land Beach Ho­tel.

For ac­tive vis­i­tors, the Sun­shine Coast’s new 26km Caloun­dra Board­walk links Golden Beach in the south and Point Cartwright in the north. For those who pre­fer the bush, spec­tac­u­lar views and thun­der­ing wa­ter­falls are part of the new 54km Gold Coast Hin­ter­land Great Walk through Lam­ing­ton Na­tional Park, the Nu­min­bah Val­ley and Spring­brook Na­tional Park.

Hot beds: Flank­ing the ferry ter­mi­nal at Mag­netic Is­land, 25 min­utes from Townsville, are two new apart­ment de­vel­op­ments: Pep­pers Blue on Blue Re­sort, with 157 apart­ments, and Mantra One Bright Point which has 125 one, two and three-bed­room beach­house style apart­ments on the edge of the Coral Sea.

The five-star, adults-only Qualia on Hamil­ton Is­land is the last word in ex­clu­siv­ity for vis­i­tors to the Whit­sun­days while the $10 mil­lion-plus Hunt Re­sort, ex­pected to open in mid-March on Fitzroy Is­land, off Cairns, will of­fer eight lux­ury beach­front vil­las and 48 one-bed­room apart­ments.

Back on the main­land, the open-plan sanc­tu­ar­ies at the new Pep­pers Bale Port Douglas are set in 15ha of lush veg­e­ta­tion and de­signed to catch trop­i­cal breezes. Guests can choose from one to four-bed­room vil­las with private plunge pools and cus­tom-made Asian furniture.

What the ex­perts say: Tourism Queens- land chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer An­thony Hayes tells Travel & In­dul­gence that hav­ing an ex­pe­ri­ence and learn­ing or dis­cov­er­ing some­thing new is as im­por­tant as re­lax­ation time to an in­creas­ing num­ber of vis­i­tors to the sun­shine state.

‘‘ Peo­ple want to im­merse them­selves in our lifestyle or an ex­pe­ri­ence, be it walk­ing in the tree canopy of a rain­for­est, learn­ing to sail in the Whit­sun­days or dis­cov­er­ing our her­itage in Queens­land’s out­back.’’

www.queens­land­hol­i­days.com.au Lee Mylne

TAS­MA­NIA

NEW tourism ven­tures in Tas­ma­nia this year in­clude top-flight ac­com­mo­da­tion de­vel­op­ments, in­no­va­tive cruises and bou­tique spe­cial-in­ter­est at­trac­tions. The Cen­tral High­lands town of Both­well will be the site of a new sis­ter ho­tel for an award-win­ning Ho­bart prop­erty. Ni­cholas and Amy Parkin­son-Bates, the hote­liers whose skill and flair saw The Is­ling­ton short-listed as a can­di­date in the lux­ury ac­com­mo­da­tion cat­e­gory of The Aus­tralian’s Travel & Tourism Awards in 2006 and ’ 07, are trans­form­ing a her­itage man­sion into the Pri­ory Coun­try Lodge.

Also in Both­well, the his­toric prop­erty Nant will house a whisky dis­tillery in the beau­ti­fully re­stored wa­ter-driven flour mill, which dates from 1823. On the wa­ter, Rob Pen­ni­cott of Bruny Is­land Char­ters fame, has de­vel­oped a sec­ond eco-cruise, this time be­tween Port Arthur and Ea­gle­hawk Neck: high­lights in­clude pro­lific marine wildlife, Aus­tralia’s high­est sea cliffs and a close en­counter with Tas­man Is­land.

Fr­eycinet Penin­sula on the is­land’s east coast is the scene of Pure Tas­ma­nia’s new sig­na­ture ex­pe­ri­ence, Wine­glass to Wine Glass, which in­volves a guided walk over the Haz­ards to the fa­mous bay, a splen­did ope­nair lunch be­neath shady sheoaks then a trip by wa­ter taxi back to Fr­eycinet Lodge.

Hot beds: In the north, Flora de Kant­zow, cre­ator of the ac­claimed Henry Jones Art Ho­tel in Ho­bart and Launce­s­ton’s hip Hatherley House, is open­ing her third ac­com­mo­da­tion ven­ture in the colo­nial man­sion, Quamby, with its own golf course.

What the ex­perts say: Tourism Tas­ma­nia chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer Feli­cia Mar­i­ani says that Aus­tralia’s ‘‘ is­land of in­spi­ra­tion’’ wel­comes 2008 with open arms. ‘‘ As well as awe-in­spir­ing wilder­ness and amaz­ing wildlife, Tas­ma­nia has so­phis­ti­cated small cities, gourmet food and wine, unique arts and crafts and sen­sa­tional coastal ex­pe­ri­ences, all within easy reach of the is­land’s gate­ways. Th­ese new ini­tia­tives are just some of the de­vel­op­ments that show­case all that Tas­ma­nia has to of­fer.’’

www.dis­cover­tas­ma­nia.com.au Chris Viney

NORTH­ERN TER­RI­TORY

WILD bush lux­ury is the hot theme for 2008. Prop­er­ties with tented cab­ins and sa­fari suites are spring­ing up from the Top End to the Red Cen­tre, clos­ing the dis­tance be­tween trav­ellers and the nat­u­ral world, but with­out ever quite sur­ren­der­ing their sense of in­dul­gence.

Hot beds: On the edge of the lily-car­peted Mary River flood­plain near Kakadu’s west­ern fringe, Ba­murru Plains is like a col­li­sion be­tween Belle mag­a­zine, an R. M. Wil­liams cat­a­logue, a David At­ten­bor­ough doc­u­men­tary and the scrum­mi­est menu you can imag­ine. Guests are pam­pered with nine sa­fari suites (with cor­ru­gated-iron bath­rooms fea­tur­ing un­lim­ited wa­ter), along with an open bar, an un­end­ing stream of del­i­ca­cies (oys­ters or buf­falo skew­ers, any­one?) and an in­fin­ity pool with a deliri­ous view across a flood­plain that can be ex­plored in air­boats that zip lightly among the mag­pie geese, croc­o­diles and wa­ter buf­falo.

Sur­rounded by the loom­ing Ge­orge Gill Ranges, Kings Canyon Wilder­ness Lodge is in the mid­dle of a work­ing cat­tle and camel sta­tion 36km from Kings Canyon. Ac­com­mo­da­tion is in the form of 10 air-con­di­tioned tented cab­ins among the desert oaks, and din­ing out means the finest gourmet tucker by the fire be­neath the stars.

Pos­si­bly the re­motest of the Ter­ri­tory’s plush op­tions, Dugong Beach Re­sort’s bun­ga­lows, suites and lux­ury tents oc­cupy 25ha on the coast of Groote Ey­landt in the Gulf of Car­pen­taria. The re­sort was de­vel­oped in con­sul­ta­tion with the tra­di­tional own­ers and aims to show­case the cul­ture and way of life of the Anindilyakwa peo­ple.

What the ex­perts say: Ac­cord­ing to Tourism NT’s Rita Hard­ing: ‘‘ Wild bush lux­ury is the best way to de­scribe the latest and hottest ad­di­tions to the North­ern Ter­ri­tory’s tourism ac­com­mo­da­tion and at­trac­tions. The NT is well po­si­tioned to con­trib­ute to trav­ellers’ grow­ing in­ter­est in the en­vi­ron­ment and cul­tural ex­pe­ri­ences.’’

www.trav­elnt.com James Jef­frey

AUS­TRALIAN CAP­I­TAL TER­RI­TORY

CAN­BERRA life — bal­anced be­tween cul­ture and na­ture — will blos­som in 2008 with fresh gallery spa­ces, a free-rang­ing wildlife dis­cov­ery ex­pe­ri­ence (from March, at Tid­bin­billa Na­ture Re­serve) and the ap­pear­ance of the Bei­jing Olympic Torch (April 23-24) in the torch re­lay’s only Aus­tralian run.

A new gallery, Con­flicts 1945 to To­day, opens in Fe­bru­ary at the Aus­tralian War Me­mo­rial and in­cludes a multi-me­dia pre­sen­ta­tion within the bridge of HMAS Bris­bane. The Na­tional Por­trait Gallery moves to a pur­pose-built space next to the Na­tional Gallery, open­ing in De­cem­ber, with more than 500 por­traits on per­ma­nent dis­play. Can­berra hosts Aus­tralia’s first na­tional pho­tog­ra­phy fes­ti­val, Vivid, with ex­hi­bi­tions and events, from July to Oc­to­ber.

The Bah, a so­phis­ti­cated cock­tail space, and the Wine & Cheese Provi­dore joined Mecca Bah restau­rant at Manuka at the end of 2007 to give The Ter­race a stylish foodie fu­ture.

Hot beds: Ho­tel Realm Can­berra opened late last year next to the Na­tional Press Club in Bar­ton. It’s an avant-garde five-star prop­erty that by the end of 2010 will be part of a com­plex of apart­ments, re­tail and green space. Ho­tel Dia­mant at 15 Ed­in­burgh Ave is a five-star bou­tique ho­tel within the her­itage­listed Ho­tel Ac­ton build­ing, part of Eight Ho­tels group (which owns Syd­ney’s Kir­ke­ton Ho­tel and in­di­vid­u­al­is­tic bou­tique ho­tels around the coun­try); and part of a de­signer ur­ban vil­lage, a first for Can­berra.

What the ex­perts say: In 2008, Can­berra will be full of un­ex­pected de­lights, says Ian Hill, mar­ket­ing man­ager of Aus­tralian Cap­i­tal Tourism. ‘‘ In­doors? See ex­hi­bi­tions such as Turner to Monet (at the Na­tional Gallery) and the Can­berra exclusive pho­tog­ra­phy fes­ti­val, Vivid. Out­doors, ride the track that will de­fine the world moun­tain bike cham­pi­onships 2009, at the new Stromlo For­est Park recre­ational space.

‘‘ And for a party, don’t miss Flo­ri­ade 21 in mid-Septem­ber cel­e­brat­ing the fes­ti­val of flow­ers’ 21st birth­day.’’

www.vis­it­can­berra.com.au Ju­dith Elen

Great ex­pec­ta­tions: Clock­wise from top left, Kings Canyon Wilder­ness Lodge; Is­ling­ton Ho­tel in Ho­bart ; Kan­ga­roo Is­land’s South­ern Ocean Lodge; Chan­de­liers on Abbey; Pep­pers Salt Re­sort; Ba­murru Plains; Ho­tel Realm Can­berra; Pep­pers Bale Port Douglas (cen­tre)

Chan­de­liers on Abbey pic­ture: Robert Frith

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