For every city hotel we love in Australia, there’s a luxury lodge that’s a destination unto itself: an entry point to national parks and natural wonders that are among the world’s most awe-inspiring. That’s not hyperbole: Two of our top 15 hotels and lodges in Australia grant special access to the Great Barrier Reef, one is set next to the world’s oldest rain forest (180 million years and counting), and yet another gives every guest a view of majestic Uluṟu.
For this carefully curated list, part of AFAR’s Hotels We Love series, we’ve visited or consulted with locals on each of the places below. Listed in no particular order, they’re the finest lodgings across Australia, whether you’re traipsing through cities or exploring the continent’s Outback and islands.
1. Southern Ocean Lodge
- Where: Kangaroo Island, South Australia
- Why we love it: For its rugged coastal setting—and comeback story
- Book now
When Southern Ocean Lodge, the flagship property of Australian hotel brand Baillie Lodges, opened in 2008, it was Kangaroo Island’s first true luxury lodge, known for its cinematic spot atop grass-covered limestone cliffs, with curved guest suites facing the namesake seas. Surrounded on three sides by national parks, Southern Ocean Lodge connected travelers with Australia’s powerful natural landscapes. Then in early January 2020, wildfires consumed more than half of Kangaroo Island, reducing the ecological paradise to sandy hills and blackened branches. Southern Ocean Lodge was a casualty of the blaze.
As AFAR’s Katherine LaGrave reported in her feature on the island, rebuilding began in earnest in February 2022, with the goal of becoming more sustainable: “The new lodge will use 25 percent less energy than the original lodge, and diesel fuel consumption will be halved. There will be rainwater harvesting, reliance on a hybrid solar-and-battery system, and elevated boardwalks to minimize impact on the health of coastal plants. Smart landscaping will create a sort of buffer around the lodge.”
Along with the new sustainable choices, the lodge has replicated the footprint of the original property, with 25 guest rooms slightly reoriented to optimize sea views. A new ultra-premium suite, the Ocean Pavilion, has up to four bedrooms and bathrooms (or two separate suites) with an outdoor terrace and private pool. And the ever-popular main lodge still has a Great Room with a suspended fireplace and a deck with a plunge pool that juts toward the sea. From $2,237, all inclusive
2. Pretty Beach House
- Where: Bouddi National Park, New South Wales
- Why we love it: Michelin-worthy dining and total seclusion in a national park
- Book now
On a promontory within Bouddi National Park, overlooking a secluded bay and a short walk to an empty rust-red beach, Pretty Beach House lives up to its (classically understated Aussie) name. It’s hard to believe this intimate retreat is only a 90-minute drive from Sydney city center. Its location is spectacular and historic—spot the 2,000-year-old Aboriginal rock drawings on a nature walk nearby.
There are four guest pavilions, each outfitted with wood-burning fireplaces, deep-soaking clawfoot tubs, and sun-drenched decks overlooking Broken Bay and Angophora treetops (three have their own private plunge pools). Dining is included in the stay, and it’s exceptional: Celebrated chef Dean Jones takes freshly caught seafood and local produce and crafts them into modern Australian dishes, which you can enjoy anytime you like in the Beach House’s safari-chic dining room or poolside beneath the shady gums. From $2,953 for two nights, all inclusive
3. Capella Sydney
- Where: Circular Quay, Sydney, NSW
- Why we love it: Refined interiors with a sense of place
- Book now
When the Singapore-based luxury hotel group Capella opened a Sydney hotel in March 2023, it ushered in a new era of luxury for the city. There’s a lobby laid with marble, a sunny inner courtyard with weeping fig trees and a towering wall of plants, 192 elegant rooms appointed with Frette linens and freestanding tubs, and an indoor pool flanked by more marble. But what really sets the Capella Sydney apart is its strong sense of place. From its setting inside a perfectly restored 1912 sandstone building and its thoughtful collection of Indigenous art, to the friendly “Culturalists” (local guides-slash-concierges) who regale guests with cocktails and stories about the area’s history, the Capella celebrates Sydney in a way that perhaps no other elite hotel in the city does. From $492
4. The Ritz-Carlton, Melbourne
- Where: Central Business District, Melbourne, Victoria
- Why we love it: Sky-high suites with views for days, and a central location
- Loyalty program: Marriott Bonvoy
- Book now
It’s curious that a city as culturally significant as Melbourne doesn’t have more true five-star hotel options—which is why the arrival of the Ritz-Carlton in 2022 was such a boon for Australia’s most populous city. The Ritz-Carlton elevates Melbourne’s offerings, literally. To find it, head to the Central Business District and look up: The hotel occupies the top 17 floors of an 80-floor high-rise, earning it the honor of being the tallest hotel in Australia, with the Sky Lobby check-in on the top floor.
Among the 257 guest rooms and suites below, views of the city and Port Phillip Bay abound; visitors also have easy access to the Yarra River for a walk or bike break three blocks away. Location is a major plus, as historic Flinders Street Station, the Immigration Museum, and Queen Vic Market are all within a 15-minute walk of the hotel. But guests may opt to linger inside, enjoying the serenity of the spa (and sauna, gym, yoga area, and infinity pool with views), or exploring the more than 1,000 works of art by 12 different artists within the hotel, a nod to the city’s dynamic visual arts scene. Everything aside from a painting by modernist Roger Kemp is a new commission, including works by First Nation artists. From $311
5. The Jackalope Hotel
- Where: Mornington Peninsula, Victoria
- Why we love it: A dreamy, eclectic playground for the senses
- Book now
Whimsy meets wine country at the Jackalope, with its Marie Antoinette–inspired boudoirs, neon-lit halls, and eclectic art (case in point: the 23-foot-high sculpture of a jackalope, the hotel’s namesake mythical creature that’s part jackrabbit, part antelope.) Yet it’s the perfect addition to the Mornington Peninsula’s otherwise sleepy, elegant wine region known for its pinot noir (which tastes even better by the outdoor firepit or from a vineyard-facing terrace). Don’t get too distracted by the quirky decor or the sexy infinity pool or sweeping wine country—the Jackalope happens to be a secret haven for gourmands. Melburnians travel the hour’s drive south to try the inventive Aussie-Asian fusion cuisine at Doot Doot Doot, the hotel’s signature restaurant. On this summer’s seasonal menu: tea-smoked local chook (Aussie slang for chicken) and wattleseed chocolate tarts topped with burnt miso ice cream. From $426
- Where: Hamilton Island, Queensland
- Why we love it: A private, front-row seat to the Great Barrier Reef
- Book now
Rather than go way north to tourist-heavy Cairns for the Great Barrier Reef, visitors can get a front-row seat to one of the world’s most beautiful natural wonders in the 74-island Whitsundays, a drop-dead-gorgeous archipelago off the Queensland coast. Qualia is about as secluded and tranquil as it gets, on a private peninsula on Hamilton Island, the largest of the Whitsundays. Although the property’s been open since 2007, it still holds up as one of Australia’s most iconic oceanside retreats.
Qualia’s 60 pavilions are sleek, minimalist, and free-flowing, blurring the lines between indoors and outdoors; many offer private plunge pools and uninterrupted views over the reef. Which, of course, is what you came here for: Days are for snorkeling and diving among technicolor coral and marine life, and nights for savoring the finest local seafood at Pebble Beach, Qualia’s modern Australian restaurant. From $2,289 for two nights, all inclusive
7. Lizard Island
- Where: Lizard Island, Queensland
- Why we love it: Ultra-luxurious villas overlooking the Coral Sea
- Book now
Another are you serious?! experience, Lizard Island is the sole resort on its namesake island, about an hour by charter flight from Cairns in Tropical North Queensland. With just 40 rooms—and 24 (!) private beaches—guests are all but guaranteed their own pristine sliver of paradise. Accommodations include posh villas set apart from one another. They range from a two-bedroom cliff-top villa, with its 26-foot pool and endless views of the Coral Sea, to garden-view rooms with private terraces and pathways leading directly to Anchor Bay beach. Guests also receive their own motorized dinghy, stand-up paddleboards, clear-view sea kayaks, and snorkeling gear for exploring giant clam gardens and the colorful fish and turtles in the surrounding waters. The more adventurous can even arrange for private deep-sea dives to locations accessed exclusively by the Lizard Island Marine and Dive team, ensuring a crowd-free day exploring the Great Barrier Reef. From $2,175, includes all meals, unlimited nonalcoholic drinks, and premium Australian wine
8. Silky Oaks Lodge
- Where: Mossman, Queensland
- Why we love it: Tree-house suites and Indigenous storytelling along the ancient Daintree Rainforest
- Book now
The Daintree Rainforest, 180 million years old, has been home to the Eastern Kuku Yalanji people for more than 50,000 years—and teems with buff-breasted paradise kingfishers, musky rat-kangaroos, and bioluminescent fungi. Sitting on 80 forested acres next to the rain forest in Tropical North Queensland, the recently reimagined Silky Oaks Lodge is an eco-conscious retreat for travelers seeking a deeper understanding of the world’s oldest forest and Indigenous cultures. The 40 guest rooms include tree-house suites with outdoor stone tubs and double hammocks; the open-air restaurant and bar serves coconut waffles and three-course lunches against a soundtrack of cicadas and a flowing river. When guests want to learn about ancient medicinal plants and spot the vibrant blue Ulysses butterfly, Aboriginal-owned tour operator Walkabout Cultural Adventures leads the way, tapping into millennia-old knowledge of the rain forest. From $852
9. The Calile Hotel
- Where: Fortitude Valley, Brisbane, Queensland
- Why we love it: Laid-back luxury and a midcentury Miami style
- Book now
Brisbane, Australia’s third-largest city, has come a long way since its days bearing the ironic nickname “Brisvegas” (for its stodginess and lack of sparkle). As David Prior wrote when we selected the Calile for AFAR’s 2019 Stay List of best new hotels, “In recent years, the subtropical city filled with jacaranda trees and tin-and-timber structures has received a jolt of sophistication. The Calile, a new hotel in the chic James Street precinct [Brisbane’s growing design and dining district], is a bright case in point.”
The 175-room hotel evoking midcentury Miami and Australia’s 1960s motels almost instantly became a reason to visit. Its cool-kid breeziness is palpable, from the modernist design in shades of sage and pistachio to the self-proclaimed “bonhomie buzz” of poolside DJ sets. Creating a sense of community, the Calile Culture series invites celebrated writers such as Suzie Miller, playwright behind recent Broadway hit Prima Facie, for a chat. Dinners at Greek restaurant Hellenika or “working” lunches at the Lobby Bar are equally energizing, though the Calile will also encourage guests to visit its neighbors, like Jocelyn’s Provisions (just Jocelyn’s to locals), an iconic Brisbane bakery since the 1990s. From $303
10. Longitude 131°
- Where: Yulara, Northern Territory
- Why we love it: Each luxury tent has its own view of Uluṟu
- Book now
Australian Indigenous groups are among the world’s first astronomers, with thousands of years of starlore and an early understanding of the night sky. With almost no urban development, Uluṟu-Kata Tjuṯa National Park contains some of the most expansive skies on the planet, with unobstructed views from horizon to horizon. Sitting adjacent to the park is Longitude 131°, a luxury tented camp that overlooks the Outback’s vast, dusty Red Centre and the famed monolithic Uluṟu (Ayers Rock) and the Kata Tjuṯa domed rock formations.
The lodge’s 16 tented pavilions are designed to have minimal impact on the delicate, red-dune environment. Tents feature floor-to-ceiling windows with views of Uluṟu, and private outdoor decks have eco-friendly, clean-burning fireplaces and safari beds for sleeping under the stars. Want views of both Uluṟu and Kata Tjuṯa? Book the two-bedroom Dune Pavilion suite, with private outdoor stargazing beds and an outdoor plunge pool to soak up the sky. From $2,480, all inclusive
This lodge was also featured in our roundup of 10 Hotels Where You Can Go Stargazing.
11. The Tasman, a Luxury Collection Hotel
- Where: Hobart, Tasmania
- Why we love it: A design scheme that pays homage to the property’s history, plus cut-above-the-rest service
- Loyalty program: Marriott Bonvoy
- Book now
In 2011, the game-changing MONA (Museum of Old and New Art) arrived in the Hobart suburbs, turning the Tasmanian capital into a see-and-be-seen art-world hub. But it took a decade for the city to welcome a design hotel worthy of its new status. Enter the Tasman, a member of Marriott’s Luxury Collection that opened in 2021 with an imaginative architectural plan that stitched together an 1841 former hospital, a 1937 art deco building, and a new-construction glass annex that juts out dramatically toward the harbor.
Rather than ignoring this heritage and creating uniform interiors throughout, the designers let each wing’s history influence the decor: Think sandstone accents and restored fireplaces in the Georgian wing, blackheart sassafras timber–inlaid ceilings and streamlined geometric light fixtures in the deco wing, and abundant contemporary artwork and natural lighting in the modern extension.
Perhaps the best place in the building to soak up this intersection of history and design is in the St. David’s Park Suite and, more specifically, in its polished Tasmanian blackwood bathtub, crafted by artisan Emanuel Oppliger, who usually makes bespoke surfboard fins. (Beauty and the Bees, a Tasmanian ecofriendly hair and skincare brand, has designed a custom Leatherwood Honey Cream Bath for the suite.) Oppliger is one of the many Aussie makers whose works are represented across the property, which includes pieces by botanical quiltmaker and illustrator Ruth de Vos and Aboriginal painter Polly Ngale. From $276. —Nick DeRenzo
This lodge was also featured in our roundup of the 10 Best Hotels for Architecture and Design.
12. Saffire Freycinet
- Where: Freycinet Peninsula, Tasmania
- Why we love it: Proximity to Wineglass Bay and other Tassie adventures (with plenty of creature comforts)
- Book now
Saffire Freycinet wows from the outset with its jaw-dropping architecture: the lodge resembles a giant metallic stingray that’s made itself comfy in the pristine wilderness of Freycinet National Park on Tasmania’s east coast (a 2.5-hour drive from Hobart). Saffire is just as stunning from the inside, with its curved cathedral ceilings and floor-to-ceiling windows that frame the granite mountains and emerald waters of Instagram darling Wineglass Bay. There are 20 suites, all with deep soaking tubs, plush king-size beds, and scenic sundecks—a rare kind of luxury in rugged Tassie. That’s precisely what sets this place apart: that marriage of untamed adventure and next-level comfort. Guests can spend their days kayaking to turquoise coves and trekking through ancient forests, then come home to a glass of Tassie bubbles in their steamy private plunge pool. Bliss. From $1,966
13. COMO the Treasury
- Where: Central Business District, Perth, Western Australia
- Why we love it: High design in an historic building with a delightful rooftop restaurant
- Book now
Perth is one of Oz’s best-kept secrets (from Americans, at least): The Western Australia hub is a waterfront treat, with sprawling parks, beaches, and more sunny days than any other city in Australia. And within one of the city’s 19th-century State Buildings is another treasure: COMO the Treasury, a sophisticated yet relaxed hotel designed by award-winning architect Kerry Hill. Its 48 guest rooms are done in a spa palette—natural wood, travertine stone tiles—with extra-large windows letting in all that good sunshine. Heritage Balcony Rooms come with a view of Cathedral Square, named for Anglican focal point St. George’s Cathedral, and some suites overlook the Swan River. It’s a centrally located, luxurious home base for city exploration (the spa and rooftop restaurant, Wildflower, are also worth the stay). From $520
14. Sal Salis
- Where: Ningaloo Reef, Western Australia
- Why we love it: Glamping right on the beach with whale sightings from your tent
- Book now
The UNESCO World Heritage–listed fringing Ningaloo Reef is a hallmark of the Coral Coast, an epic road trip north from Perth to Exmouth along 700 miles of white-sand beaches and azure water. Just beyond here is the start of Ningaloo Marine Park, whose star residents are whale sharks (March–July), manta rays (year-round), and humpback whales (July–September).
Guests of glamping site Sal Salis can embark on their own coastal safari with guides who will lead sea kayaking, wildlife and bird spotting, guided gorge walks, and (for an additional charge) whale shark swims. After all that adventure, guests settle into any of the 16 luxury tents among the sand dunes of Cape Range National Park—the “honeymoon tent” is even more secluded—and can look out to the nearby coastline from their deck or hammock. Tents come with eco-ensuite bathrooms stocked with organic shampoo and native herb soap, drinking water, and daily tent-keeping. The lodge acts as the community center, where travelers can swap stories while enjoying sundowners and three-course dinners. From $1,575 for two nights, all inclusive
15. Emirates One&Only Wolgan Valley
- Where: Wolgan Valley, New South Wales
- Why we love it: A conservation-conscious homestead with lots of room to play in the Blue Mountains
- Book now
It doesn’t get more quintessentially Australian than this: waking up to a symphony of kookaburras and the heady scent of eucalyptus, the sight of kangaroos roaming freely about the 7,000-acre nature reserve. You might be tricked into thinking you’d slept under the stars—if it weren’t for the four-poster bed, flicker of a warm fire, and sunrise reflected from the glittering private pool. A three hours’ drive west of Sydney, this luxury ecolodge feels worlds away, surrounded by sandstone bluffs and sweeping plains filled with leafy gumtrees and Wollemi pines. It has 40 homestead-style villas that are as eco-friendly as they are indulgent: materials sourced within a 60-mile radius, solar panels for hot water and lighting. Highlights include the Aussie cuisine, mostly grown and sourced within 100 miles of the resort (and included in the all-inclusive rate, along with a premium minibar). A fruit orchard and edible garden supplies organic herbs, vegetables, fruits, and nuts.
The most intriguing aspect of the property is an original farmhouse, built around 1832, that hosted Charles Darwin in 1836. Today, the homestead functions as a museum that highlights the Indigenous, settler, and agricultural history of the valley. The comprehensive program of activities gets guests off the homestead: There are peaks to climb, glowworms to ogle, and horses to ride. Following a landslide in 2022, Emirates One&Only Wolgan Valley has faced access issues. It is temporarily closed.
Additional reporting by Megan Eaves.