We know Australians love to travel. But we also know we’re grounded – at least in terms of flying overseas. So what’s the solution to beating the pandemic blues in cossetted safety? How about private jets, helicopters, island hideaways and secret sanctuaries?
A few sociologists have dubbed it “revenge spending” – after so much anxiety, surely we’re entitled to splash out on a break from Netflix and Zoom meetings.
Where? We’ve done the hard yards for you and picked some of the choicest locations. But check your bank balance before booking. You know what they say: If you have to ask the price, you probably can’t afford it.
Don’t forget to check border restrictions – even your private plane can’t beat quarantine.
Set facing the Freycinet Peninsula’s granite mountain range, The Hazards, the Saffire hotel has mesmerising views. The premier lodge on Tasmania’s east coast is magical and is completely surrounded by native coast bushland. There is no sense of the outside world.
With only 20 suites, staying at Saffire Freycinet allows you to escape daily ordinary life. Service is impeccable and the staff go above and beyond to fulfil your every wish. Well, at $2800 a night, you would hope so. But what’s lovely about the atmosphere here, is the staff are well versed on the area’s flora and fauna and will be happy to help you learn about the surrounding environment.
While the property is considered one of Australia’s best hotels, the interior design of Saffire resembles a beach shack with its timber beams and warm informality. The property has a little gym and a lovely spa. But the experiences are all in the great outdoors.
Put on your wellies and wade out to waters in a nearby estuary where you can learn how to shuck oysters and feast on the succulent molluscs. Take a guided beekeeping tour and watch how Tasmanian honey is made. Under the guidance of horticulturalist Rob Barker, the “Bee Man”, you will see how the honeycomb is extracted and experience one of nature’s sweet wonders.
Price: from $2800 per night
Quiet to the point of silence, except for a few birds, and set in expansive, oceanfront farmland overlooking Werri Beach on NSW’s south coast, Dovecote is the epitome of spacious luxury. The farmstay’s two architecturally designed, beautifully appointed bungalows are built on 60 hectares of undulating countryside in Gerringong, about a two-hour drive south of Sydney and three hours from Canberra.
The accommodation has just the right ingredients for an intimate, romantic getaway: a spacious living area nestles around a modern fireplace and there’s an outdoor heated pool. The property has private access to Werri Beach and is just a coastal walk to Kiama town.
“The Headland” is the more dramatic of the bungalows. Its two spacious wings cater for up to eight family members or friends, with plenty of space and the option to retreat to your own private, self-sufficient wing.
“The Range” two-bedroom bungalow is smaller and suitable for up to four guests. While there is a full kitchen at each accommodation, if you feel like indulging you can order grazing boards of cheese, fresh fruit, nuts and dried fruit or it can be arranged for a local chef to cook your own memorable meal.
Price: from $1550 per night
There’s nothing more adventurous than a private charter trip to snorkel or scuba dive in one of the seven wonders of the natural world – the warm, turquoise waters of the Great Barrier Reef. And you can do so from your barefoot luxury retreat at Queensland’s Bedarra Island, where just 10 private villas are hidden among 45 hectares of tropical rainforest.
You will have your own personal guide to snorkel and view the diversity of corals, reef formations and amazing, colourful marine life. The seven-metre MV Sousa will take you to Otter Reef, which is inaccessible to larger vessels, and you’ll be given a chef-prepared gourmet hamper, complete with champagne and lobster. The fully guided, two-hour snorkelling experience starts from $450 per person.
There’s also a three-hour experience visiting Eddy Reef with its incredible array of sea life and soft and hard corals, and lunch is served at Sandy Cay. Prices start from $550 per person. A stay at Bedarra includes all meals and an extensive selection of beverages including champagne and cocktails.
Price: from $1490 per night
Take off on your own private jet like a rockstar on a weekend away, flying over some of Australia’s Outback towns. Departing from Brisbane on an ATR72-500, which only seats 48 guests, the flight first soars over the mysterious Marree Man which depicts an Indigenous man hunting with a boomerang or a stick. As one of the largest geoglyphs in the world, the origin remains a mystery with no one claiming responsibility for its creation.
Your private jet will also pass by the vast Kathi Thanda-Lake Eyre, which is the largest lake in Australia. The plane then breezes into the mining town of Broken Hill, where the red sand stretches to the beyond. You will visit the Royal Flying Doctor Service museum and the Miners Memorial, which is dedicated to those who lost their lives in Broken Hill’s mines.
The private plane will also roll up to the Birdsville Hotel, one of our quintessential Australian pubs. The walls are adorned with Akubras and memorabilia left by travellers from around the world. Stay in the cool and calm Desert Cave Hotel in Coober Pedy, the mining town’s only international hotel, and enjoy dinner at the Opal Quest Mine.
Price: from $3750 per person
Located just an hour from Melbourne, the Mornington Peninsula has long attracted the WAGs and local celebrities of Victoria. The idyllic coastal region combines the best Australian wineries, restaurants and boutique stays. One of which is the modern and moody Jackalope.
In contrast to the rural farms and rolling vineyards of the Mornington Peninsula, Jackalope has an imposing presence with its jet-black, zinc-clad interior. The rooms are minimal, with polished concrete floors and modern sleek furniture. If you’re staying in a Vineyard room, from your bed, you will see the green vines of the property’s Willow Creek Vineyard – a stark contrast to the modern interiors. But the Lair rooms, with their penthouse-like layouts, have their own private terrace, indoor-outdoor spaces and even a personal wine cellar so your glass will never run dry.
For dinner, the first thing you will notice walking into Jackalope’s Doot Doot Doot restaurant is the 10,000-globe chandelier. Created by light designer Jan Flook, the chandelier resembles wine bubbles during the fermentation process. Chef Guy Stanaway has created a five-course tasting menu which incorporates ingredients from local producers and artisans, such as beef with black sesame and lamb sweetbreads with shiitake.
The spa menu is compact but includes pregnancy treatments as well as Jackalope’s signature oil-based massage which blends Swedish and deep-tissue techniques. The lovely thing about the property is that it has only 46 rooms, which means a quiet and remote break from the hustle and bustle of daily life.
Price: from $800 per night
One way to truly experience Australia’s spiritual heartland in the rust-red desert landscape is to go glamping in safari-style, tented pavilions at Longitude 131° in the world heritage-listed wilderness of Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park in the Northern Territory.
With all-inspiring views of Uluru, you can see the changing lights play out on the rock from your balcony or bedroom. There are only 15 luxury tents at the eco camp. At the heart of Longitude 131° is the Dune House with its bar and restaurant offering indigenous, fusion cuisine. In the evenings, dinner is served with the sound of a didgeridoo playing in the background while the stars twinkle in the skies above.
To really appreciate the vastness of the desert and natural wonder of Ayers Rock, you can take a helicopter ride for 360-degree views of Uluru and Kata Tjuta. With prices starting at $150 per person for a 15-minute Uluru tour to $320 per person for a 36-minute trip for an unparalleled perspective from above to watch the ever-changing colours of Uluru and Kata Tjuta at sunrise or sunset.
Price: from $3400 per night
Those struggling to switch off should head to Lord Howe Island to explore the world’s southernmost coral reef. You won’t see any high-rise buildings on this tiny island in the Tasman Sea, off Port Macquarie. Renowned for its sandy beaches and crystal clear water, it is also home to colonies of seabirds, including masked boobies.
Perched above the island’s even tinier, secret beach, Lovers Bay, and surrounded by the twin peaks of Mount Gower and Mount Lidgbird, is the chic Capella Lodge. Cleverly designed with a mix of modern sophistication and Australian understatement, the lodge has indoor and outdoor lounge areas that create a relaxed atmosphere with more than a hint of luxury. There are nine contemporary suites with timber floors and custom-built furniture for a seaside chic ambience.
The airy, beach-house styled restaurant and bar has commanding views of the lagoon and mountains and serves regional cuisine with the freshest produce from the island. Or you can order a picnic basket to enjoy on one of your many walks or swimming adventures around the island.
At 11 kilometres long, almost two-thirds of the island is covered in natural forests and Banyan trees and the waters are so clear that marine life abounds.
Price: from $850 per night