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Australia’s borders may have been shut to the outside world for the past two years but that doesn’t mean that the travel industry in the country has been dormant. When border restrictions are lifted on February 21st allowing fully vaccinated international travelers to enter, visitors will find a number of new or revitalized hotels in major destinations on display or soon to open and new activities for exploring the island.
The Langham, Gold Coast is on schedule to open this spring in the sun splashed town of Surfers Paradise 50 miles south of Brisbane. Located in an eye-catching tower designed to mimic the facets of crystals, the beachfront property will house both a 169 room hotel and 170 serviced apartments all with panoramic views of the Pacific. Guests of both will also have access to Langham trademark facilities within the hotel such as the Chinese Traditional Medicine inspired Chuan Spa, the Michelin starred Cantonese restaurant T’ang Court and the traditional afternoon tea in the lobby lounge that is a hallmark of the group’s original hotel in London.
The 14 suite Sequoia Lodge opened last August in Adelaide Hills adjacent to Mount Lofty with panoramic hilltop views over the Piccadilly Valley visible through floor to ceiling windows—or the outdoor Artesian springs baths. Named for three California redwoods planted by the property’s original owner and filled with bespoke artisan furnishings, original art and local wood and stone, the property is positioned for prime access to two of Australia’s most elite wine experiences: vineyard visits to producers in McLaren Vale and a day trip into the Barossa Valley where one of the visits is to Henschke Wines Hill of Grace vineyard and a private tasting of the vineyard’s most elite wines.
Silky Oaks Lodge located in the lush Daintree Rainforest in Tropical North Queensland reopened in December after a $20 million, 20-month renovation and construction by new owners Baillie Lodgeswhose other lodges such as Longitude 131 are among the finest in the country. The look in the main lodge and 40 suites is now sleek, contemporary and open air, bringing in the sounds of the rainforest. On site, the Healing Waters Spa offers a range of new treatments, many utilizing local plant and floral essences, mud and marine minerals, while offsite, there are walks through the rainforest with indigenous guides and diving/snorkeling the Great Barrier Reef.
On the island of Tasmania, a personal favorite for its natural beauty, culinary sophistication and ingredients and the residents’ low-key, welcoming charm, there have been developments in various areas starting with two new hotels that opened in December in the capital Hobart. The Tasman, a Luxury Collection Hotel, Hobart is set in three architecturally diverse buildings—a heritage building from the 1840’s, an Art Deco building from the 1940’s and a modern building with views of the waterfront- with a Tasmanian/Italian restaurant Peppina and Mary, Mary, a popular craft cocktail bar. The Rox, located in the lively, trendy MidTown neighborhood, features spacious, modern apartments in a converted historic building with exposed brick walls, original timber, furniture created by local artisans, full kitchens and room service from Sonny, the hard to get into Italian wine bar a block away.
Elsewhere on the island, World Wide Fund for Nature Australia and Tasmanian Walking Company Foundation are partnering to create Walk for Wild trips this October, four to six day walking trips through several of Tasmania’s most famous regions such as Bay of Fires and Cradle Mountain with proceeds directed to WWF’s Regenerate Australia program to restore wildlife and habitats. For guests staying at the wilderness lodge Pumphouse Point, the hotel has introduced another walk, a four day excursionthrough Cradle Mountain-Lake St. Clair National Park showcasing the best of the region.
Taking to the water, Southern Sea Ventures’ Tasman Peninsula Sea Kayak and Whale Watch Escape, launched in October, takes guests on a three day trip to difficult to access stretches of the coastline to observe whales in action along with a resident biologist. A more relaxed trip is Tasmanian Wild Seafood Adventures’ two hour sunset cruise launched in September on the River Derwent on a 55 foot catamaran to sample local oysters and salmon accompanied by Tasmanian sparkling wine. (There is also a 4.5 hour seafood tour, the company’s signature, in which staff catch a variety of extraordinary seafood and prepare it on the boat.)
On the culinary front, the restaurant Van Bone opened last February in the southeast corner of the island and quickly became a critical darling for its 14 course menus with ingredients sourced from local organic farms and its on site orchards and gardens. In the northern part of the island, the city of Launceston was already percolating as a culinary center in my first trip to the island in 2006. Having recently been anointed a UNESCO Creative City of Gastronomy, that development has reached another level with an array of artisan ingredient producers, markets, restaurants, cooking schools and vineyards. It’s definitely worth a visit as is the island overall.