Are you listening eco-retreat owners? – We are always searching for and reviewing remote, stunning, wild eco-retreats.
Short-listed candidates in The 2006 Australian’s Travel & Tourism Awards include:
CATEGORY: BEST ECO/WILDERNESS ADVENTURE EXPERIENCE
(Last year’s winner was Cradle Mountain Huts & Bay of Fire Walks )
NINGALOO REEF RETREAT
Set among dunes on the cusp of the astonishingly beautiful Ningaloo Reef in the dramatic Cape Range National Park, this low-impact eco-camp takes travellers back to basics. Tents are simple but comfortable with queen-sized beds, composting loos, solar showers and hammocks strung to make the most of the stunning reef views. Provisions are delivered daily from Exmouth and guests pitch in to cook dinner from The Retreat Recipe book (BYO alcohol) before dining by candlelight. Sunny days are whiled away snorkelling with turtles from deserted beaches (the coral reef is only metres offshore), sea kayaking or swimming, with expert guides on hand to provide advice.
CRADLE MOUNTAIN HUTS & BAY OF FIRE WALKS
The Overland Track between Cradle Valley and Lake St Clair is regarded as one of the finest guided walks in the world. Over six days, and bunking down in comfortable mountain huts, adventurers explore alpine plateaus and glacial tarns, temperate rainforests, rivers, waterfalls and sedgeland moors, traversing an extraordinary variety of unspoiled landscapes. The pace is leisurely, with a range of optional and more rigorous side trips including an ascent of Mt Ossa. The four-day Bay of Fires Walk is no less spectacular, tracking coast and woodland, with beach camps and lodge accommodation in a wilderness setting at the edge of Mt William National Park.
This joint venture between Gunya Tourism and the Titjikala Aboriginal community, 120km south of Alice Springs, provides travellers with an authentic indigenous experience. Accommodation is in three luxury raised safari tents, perched above the dunes of the Simpson Desert, each with polished timber floors, private ensuite and a large deck. Three gourmet meals per day are included in the tariff and feature a fusion of Western and bush tucker (guests may be called on to help collect ingredients). Bespoke itineraries incorporate art, culture and the Dreamtime with guided tours to the fascinating Chambers Pillar. Most staff are indigenous and 50 per cent of profits are donated to a foundation promoting health and education within the community.
KOSCIUSZKO ALPINE GUIDED WALKS
Hosted by the Novotel Lake Crackenback Resort, the Kosciuszko Alpine Guided Walks provide travellers with a tantalising taste of the Australian high country: the glacial lakes, alpine fauna and sweeping views that make up this 675,000ha UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. One-day and overnight treks, including an ascent of Kosciuszko, range from easy to expert with pre-prepared campsites, a dry change of clothing and a hearty meal awaiting walkers at day’s end. Small groups are led by knowledgeable guides (all equipment is carried by walks staff) and the program ensures minimal track and campsite impact. Resort and walk combination accommodation packages are popular.
ANANGU ABORIGINAL TOURS
Uluru, Northern Territory
This innovative, award-winning company is operated by the traditional Anangu owners of Uluru National Park and aims to provide visitors with an insight into Aboriginal culture and customs while explaining the relevance of the Rock in their lives. The company conducts tours visiting special sites around Uluru (including bespoke itineraries for special-interest groups) led by Aboriginal guides. The most popular walks not only feature creation stories but include tool and weapon making as well as spear-throwing demonstrations. A half-day tour with sunset viewing comes highly recommended.
PHILLIP ISLAND NATURE PARK
As much an Aussie holiday icon as the Sydney Opera House, Phillip Island’s nightly parade of little penguins is the country’s most popular wildlife attraction. With boardwalks, viewing stands, an interpretative centre, ranger tours and a variety of sightseeing options including using night-vision technology, the penguin centre also conducts research and education programs. But there’s more to the island than penguins: the Koala Conservation Centre brings visitors up close to them via a series of treetop boardwalks; Churchill Island’s historic farm features a cafe and shop while Phillip Island provides sightseeing opportunities from Pyramid Rock to Cape Woolamai.
BEST DESTINATION SPA EXPERIENCE
(Last year’s winner was Healing Waters Spa)
ELYSIA GOLDEN DOOR HEALTH RETREAT
Hunter Valley, NSW
From the highly regarded Golden Door team comes this plush resort, claimed to be Australia’s first world class, purpose-built health retreat. Set on a hilltop with broad views of the Hunter Valley, Elysia’s state-of-the-art spa heads the retreat’s health-giving inventory. Featuring 26 treatment rooms (including spa suites with courtyard gardens) and a huge array of therapies and activities (from acupuncture to yoga, tai chi to tennis), Elysia offers simpler pleasures as well, such as long country walks or reading by the fire. Guests are accommodated in 72 modern, self-contained villas; cuisine is light (no salt, caffeine or other nasties) and personal trainers and dietitians are on call to help create a new, healthier you.
HEALING WATERS SPA, SILKY OAKS LODGE
Daintree rainforest, Queensland
Located in the ancient Daintree on the edge of the beautiful Mossman Gorge, the Healing Waters Spa, winner of this category in the inaugural The Australian Travel & Tourism Award, is set among leafy tropical gardens where light and airy treatment rooms afford secluded rainforest views. Treatments have a distinct Aussie flavour, using Li’Tya products that draw on ancient Aboriginal traditions and forest flower and plant essences. The resort accommodation fits well with the wilderness setting: treetop rooms come with a hammock on the veranda, the perfect spot for a post-spa snooze. There are five premium river houses, a treehouse bar and an open-sided restaurant with menus changing daily.
IKATAN DAY SPA
This beautiful day spa may be 10 minutes from Noosa but once guests enter the glorious tropical gardens they just as easily could be in Bali. Owners and self-confessed Bali-philes Katrina Thorpe and Nicholas Pilditch have re-created this island paradise down under, providing the perfect sanctuary for guests in need of a little slow time. The spa menu has a tropical feel with hot rock massages, coconut wraps and traditional Balinese treatments. A special villa for two features a hot tub overlooking a courtyard garden; massages may also be taken alfresco. Complimentary transfers are available
from nearby hotels.
SPRINGS RETREAT MINERAL SPA
Hepburn Springs, Victoria
Tucked away in the gardens of a handsome art deco guesthouse in the heart of
Victoria’s famous spa country, this new facility features a contemporary relaxation room, three open-air mineral pools with glorious garden views and a brilliant steam room where red-hot granite rocks are plunged into lavender-infused water. The treatment rooms are state of the art and include the amazing European-made Soft Pak Float beds where clients are cocooned in a cushion of warm water without getting wet. The main guesthouse has an elegant 1930s feel, with handsome art deco restaurant and stylish, uncluttered guestrooms.
SUN SPA, HYATT REGENCY COOLUM
Sunshine Coast, Queensland
Hyatt Regency Coolum was one of the first Australian resorts to introduce a day spa. It enhanced an already impressive list of facilities: championship golf course, tennis complex and dedicated childcare centre set among 150ha of forest and gardens along 2km of glorious Sunshine Coast beach. The enormous Sun Spa features separate areas for men and women, spa suites with private courtyards, 25m heated lap pool, beauty salon, fitness centre, squash courts and yoga studios. Resort accommodation is set in clusters in bush surrounds with the Ambassadors Club offering luxury, double-storey villas.
WALDHEIM ALPINE SPA, CRADLE MOUNTAIN LODGE
Mountain, as opposed to tropical, spas are becoming increasingly popular in Australia. There is no better example than the beautiful Waldheim, combining European elegance and know-how with Australian-produced Sodashi products. Set on the cusp of the World Heritage-listed Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park, the lodge could not offer a more picturesque alpine setting. The spa boasts serene interiors with an enormous stone fireplace, treatment rooms with forest views, steam room, sauna, hot tub and plunge pool. Resort life centres on the clubby lodge and its open fires while scattered cabin accommodation offers relaxing lake, river or bush views.