Ultratravel U.S.

Summer 2014

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32 ultratravel LIVING ON THE EDGE With a spike in luxury lodging, Queensland is Australia's hottest new destination. BY MARK ELLWOOD ueensland, the state running along Australia's eastern edge, has long been a must-see destination thanks to the UNESCO-endorsed Great Barrier Reef at its northern tip. Until recently, though, overseas visitors rarely ventured southwards in the state towards its brassy, glossy capital Brisbane (local nickname: BrisVegas). For domestic travelers, the beaches nearby on the aptly named Gold and Sunshine Coasts were a lure, but amenities for high-end international visitors were scant. This changed in the wake of the resource boom of the last decade, which helped Australia bypass the economic meltdown that torpedoed the rest of the world. Two states benefited most, including Queensland, which saw the local wealth surplus reinvested in passion projects by energetic entrepreneurs. These included a passel of new luxury lodges, unexpected five star hideouts nestled in overlooked corners of the state. Here are three of the best of those new barefoot luxe boltholes. SPICERS PEAK LODGE The glorious isolation and sweeping hilltop views are the draws at this tiny hotel, with a capacity of just 26 guests in 12 rooms and villas. From the highway, it's a rugged 30-minute drive through cattle fields and forests just to reach reception. Once you arrive, it feels like a Bond villain's vacation home in Alaska, with Oregon pine fixtures and a huge, roaring fireplace in the soaring atrium; the balcony above even has a telescope for nighttime stargazing in the pitch-black sky. There's no conventional check-in—guests are ushered to one of the oversize sofas, where they sip chilled champagne until bags are delivered and their room primed. Those rooms are simple, featuring stone fireplaces and coffin tubs. This is a place of indulgence and inactivity: Sit on the private terrace outside your room to read, or stroll the rolling lawns to work up an appetite before the seven-course degustation dinner. It takes place every night at 7 p.m., and the hotel's guests gather for canapés and cocktails in that fireplace-warmed lobby beforehand; dinner might include local kingfish poached in a ham hock consommé or a chunk of local suckling pig sprinkled with flash-fried brussels sprout leaves and drizzled with sweet vanilla cider. QUALIA Billionaire Bob Oatley, who founded Rosemount Estate Vineyards, bought 1,200-acre Hamilton Island in the Whitsundays cluster in 2003. He then took four years and more than $60 million to create his dream resort on its northernmost tip, qualia (keep the q lower-case, the owners plead, as a nod to the casual, barefoot luxury for which this hotel is known). Oatley tasked his architect with creating 60 villas, inspired by the longhouses of Papua New Guinea and built from imported rosewood and local pine. Book one of the north- facing Windward pavilions: Not only are these suites the largest on the property (almost 1,300 square feet), but they also have private plunge pools and the best views out across the Coral Sea. If beachfront indulgence is too dull, there's a par-71 golf course available on a nearby island. SPICERS TAMARIND RETREAT Fifty-five miles north of Brisbane and a few miles inland from the so-called Sunshine Coast sits Australia's answer to Big Sur, the Blackall Range: rolling, rugged countryside with spectacular trails and a tendency to attract the counterculture; typical is the village of Maleny, largely home to yoga studios and organic cafés. Nestled in a forested valley nearby is the 13-room Spicers Tamarind Retreat. This rustic lodge, suffused with the heady smell of its garden hibiscus, has one- and two-bedroom villas, or pavilions, simply decorated in neutral tones, with sleek bathrooms, wood-burning stoves and private verandas ideal for watching the gentle fog lift every morning. The one-bedroom villas feature cedar outdoor hot tubs; of those, Pavilions 3 and 4 are the most private while still being conveniently close to Gardner's Falls, a local waterfall and swimming hole just a few minutes' walk from the hotel; the rushing water echoes across their verandas. The retreat's namesake Tamarind restaurant specializes in modern Asian fusion, with offerings such as a buttery poached salmon drizzled with ponzu broth and studded with popcorn-like fried quinoa, or a sour cream sorbet dusted with togarashi, a Japanese chili. To book your trip to Queensland, contact your travel agent. Q Queensland's Gold Coast is the second most populous city in the state.

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