Temperature: 25-30 degrees Celsius
Humidity: 65-75 per cent
Where is it? A private island 240 kilometres north of Cairns and 27 kilometres off the coast of Far North Queensland. Lizard Island is accessible only by air and guests arrive via a scenic flight from Cairns.
Why go now? It’s prime time for wildlife on the island and in the water. Humpback and minke whales are migrating to warmer waters, the breeding season begins for giant black marlin and goanna, osprey and black flying foxes can be seen around the resort. For diving and snorkelling though the water is a little cooler (around 23 degrees) visibility tends to be better than in the summer months.
What do you do there? Get out on the water. The island is right on the Great Barrier Reef, unlike many islands in the further south in the Whitsundays, and has its own fringing reefs so there are many great dive sites only a few minutes away by boat. Fish for black marlin on the outer reef from September or just cruise around the islands in the resort’s private charter, stopping off at a private beach for a picnic.
Where do you sleep? The resort has rooms, villas, suites and The Pavilion – a large private villa with a plunge pool. All rooms have a private balcony or deck and are tucked in to the gardens or overlook the ocean.
What else is there? Osprey’s restaurant, a bar and lounge, Azure spa, swimming pool, tennis court, gym and library.
What do people love about it? The pristine beaches and incredible reef.
How much? Stay in a garden room from A$1,519 per night, a Sunset Point villa from A$1,879 per night, an Anchor Bay suite from A$2,119 per night or The Pavilion from A$3,419 per night. Rates include all meals (excluding private dining), beverages and non-motorised watersports. Air transfers from Cairns are A$590 per person return.
Berkeley River Lodge
Temperature: 16-38 degrees Celsius
Humidity: 30-40 per cent
Where is it? The Joseph Bonaparte Gulf on Western Australia’s Kimberley Coast. The closest town is Wyndham, 150 kilometres away, but the property is accessible only by sea or air. Guests arrive by sea plane from Kununurra,
Why go now? Berkeley River Lodge is closed from December to March, during the worst of the wet season, and temperatures regularly top 40 degrees in spring and autumn. You are almost guaranteed clear skies and comfortably warm days from July to October. It’s location close to the ocean and high on a sand dune means it is generally a few degrees cooler than surrounding towns like Kununurra and the sea breezes prevent humidity.
What do you do there? Fishing is one of the lodge’s big drawcards with more than 50 species regularly caught in the rivers and ocean around the property. River cruises explore secluded waterways and waterholes safe for swimming. See the area on foot with a guided hike, in a four wheel drive or from above in a private helicopter flight.
Where do you sleep? In one of 20 luxury villas sitting atop a 65-metre high sand dune. Villas have air conditioning, king size beds and open-air ensuites with a freestanding bathtub.
What else is there? A 20-metre swimming pool, library and The Dunes Restaurant.
What do people love about it? The ultra-remote location and the fine dining.
How much? Stay for three nights from A$4,350 per room including all meals, activities (excluding scenic helicopter flights) and air transfers from Kununurra.
Learn about the land with locals
Temperature: 12–27 degrees Celsius
Humidity: 65-75 per cent
Where is it? 80 kilometres north of Tonwsville on the Great Barrier Reef. The island is accessible only by air and guests arrive via a helicopter transfer from Tonwsville.
Why go now? The majority of Orpheus Island’s rain falls between January and March, so the weather will be dry and warm with cooling breezes from the southeast trade winds for the next few months. From August onwards it is also manta ray and humpback whale season in the waters off the island.
What do you do there? The snorkelling and diving are world class, or there’s a glass bottom boat if you don’t fancy getting wet. Take one of the resort’s motorised dinghies out to explore the island’s 11 kilometres of coastline or take a day trip to nearby Hinchinbrook Island, Australia’s largest island national park. Head out to the fringing reef for a half-day fishing expedition and then grill your catch over an open fire in a secluded cove.
Where do you sleep? In one of 17 newly refurbished rooms, suites or villas. All rooms have views of the Coral Sea and the villas have two bedrooms, so are great for families.
What else is there? The main pavilion housing the bar, restaurant with an open-air dining area and reading room, and an oceanfront swimming pool.
What to people love about it? The relaxed atmosphere.
How much? Beachfront rooms are priced from A$1,400 per night for two guests, beachfront suites from A$1,800 per night for two guests and beachfront villas from A$2,800 per night for four guests. Rates include all meals and beverages, unlimited use of motorised dinghies, watercraft and snorkelling equipment, and one nature-based activity per day.
Sal Salis Ningaloo Reef
Temperature: 12-32 degrees Celsius
Humidity: 20 per cent
Where is it? The Cape Range National Park on Western’s Australia’s Ningaloo Coast, 70 kilometres south of Exmouth.
Why go now? August to October is prime humpback whale season on the Ningaloo Reef. The whales are migrating south for the summer and the waters around Sal Salis have some of the highest concentrations of whales per square kilometre of anywhere in the world during these months.
What do you do there? Hop on a cruise to spot humpback whales or kayak around the bay to see manta rays, reef sharks and turtles. The Ningaloo Reef itself starts very close to shore, so you can go snorkelling right off the beach. An area close to the camp, just outside the National Park, is the best place in Australia for bone fishing, a type of shallow water fly fishing.
Where do you sleep? Nine eco-tents are just a few metres from the water’s edge. The tents are comfortable rather than ultra luxe (there’s no television, airconditioning or minibar) but have handmade jarrah beds, ensuites and ecologically sound bathroom amenities.
What else is there? The main camp building has a bar and lounge and is where meals are served.
What do people love about it? The local wildlife – from the aquarium of fish on the reef to kangaroos sleeping on the tent verandahs.
How much? Tents are priced from A$725 per person per night including all meals, beverages, National Park entry fees, snorkelling equipment and guided activities.
Accommodation hidden amongst lush foliage
Wildman Wilderness Lodge
Temperature: 19-37 degrees Celsius
Humidity: 70 per cent
Where is it? In the Mary River Wetlands in the Northern Territory, halfway between Darwin and Kakadu. The property is less than two hour’s drive from Darwin along the sealed Arnhem Highway, or there is a grass airstrip that can take light planes or helicopters.
Why go now? The property is only open during the dry season, from March to November, so now is prime time. As many of the lakes and rivers around the region begin to dry up, the water level in the Mary River Wetlands remains high enough to attract millions of birds to the waterholes – keep an eye out for white bellied sea eagles. The dry season also means that all sites in Kakadu will be open.
What do you do there? Take a cruise up the Mary River and venture into quiet billabongs to see crocodiles and birds or explore the wetlands on foot, walking past huge termite mounds, freshwater mangroves and possibly a buffalo or two. There are also a number of walking tracks a short drive from the camp or there are bicycles available. Kakadu National Park is an absolute must and the famous jumping crocodile cruises on the Adelaide River run daily.
Where do you sleep? 10 air conditioned cabins (called habitats) and 15 permanent safaris tents are spread out along the property. Both the habitats and tents have ensuites, verandahs and five of the tents have additional single beds for families.
What else is there? The main building has a restaurant, bar and air-conditioned lounge as well as a swimming pool in front.
What do people love about it? The friendly and attentive staff.
How much? Habitats are priced from A$250 per person per night and safari tents from A$180 per person per night. Dinner and breakfast can be included for an extra A$80 per person per night.
Kimberley Coastal Camp
Temperature: 12-36 degrees Celsius
Humidity: 25-40 per cent
Where is it? On the remote shores of the Admiralty Gulf in the Kimberley region of Western Australia, opposite the Mitchell Plateau and the famed Mitchell Falls. There are a few ways to reach the camp. Guests can arrive by floatplane or take a light aircraft from Broome, Darby or Kununurra to the plateau and then a helicopter to land directly on the beach. The more adventurous can drive the famous Gibb River Road to the plateau to meet the helicopter.
Why go now? The camp is only open from mid March to mid October each year. While temperatures from July onwards still hover around the mid to high 30s, the nights cool down to below 20 degrees – a bonus when the tents have no air conditioning. Spring tides can also bring choppy tides, making fishing from a boat difficult, while the waters tend to be clearer and calmer through winter.
What do you do there? Sadly the beautiful blue ocean is unswimmable because of crocodiles, but it’s still a top spot for fishing and the camp has three boats with knowledgeable guides to take you out into deep water or into the mangroves looking for mud crabs. The camp is also at the centre of one of the world’s most important areas of indigenous rock art dating back more than 25,000 years. Don’t miss a scenic helicopter flight over the Mitchell Falls.
Where do you sleep? Six spacious, tin-roofed gazebos face the Timor Sea. There’s no air conditioning (or even windows) but the flyscreened openings around the walls encourage the breeze. Bathrooms are shared and set against a large rock wall, open to the sky.
What else is there? The aptly named The Shed is the centre of camp life – it’s where meals are eaten, books are read and drinks are drunk. There’s also a small swimming pool.
What do people love about it? The sense that they are on a real adventure.
How much? Stay for two night from A$2,594 per person including all meals non-alcoholic beverages, activities and air transfers from the Mitchell Plateau. Prices increase for transfer from Kununurra, Broome or Darwin.
Wake up in luxury
Temperature: 17-38 degrees Celsius
Humidity: 25-40 per cent
Where is it? El Questro covers over one million acres of The Kimberley region of Western Australia. It’s 110 kilometres west by road from Kununurra (the largest town in Western Australia north of Broome), and the journey includes a stint on the Gibb River Road, which is regarded as one of the great Australian 4WD adventures.
Why go now? El Questro opens on 1 April every year (weather permitting) and closes on 31 October. Most importantly, a trip to El Questro Homestead was awarded to nominees at this year’s Academy Awards, so your chances of running into a celebrity (and perhaps their entourage) just increased tenfold with this being the first season since the ceremony.
What do you do there? It really is wilderness as far as the eye can see. A holiday at El Questro allows you to try your hand at barramundi fishing and horse riding, or explore untouched areas by helicopter. If you spend the day with a local ranger you’ll be introduced to wildlife galore, including a saltwater crocodile, if you’re lucky.
Where do you sleep? El Questro Wilderness Park offers three types of accommodation, with the El Questro Homestead at the heart of the park being the most luxurious. Perched a top Chamberlain Gorge looking over the river, The Homestead caters for a maximum for 18 guests. Each room is air-conditioned and has a private balcony.
What else is there? For those feeling a little wildernessed-out, there is a swimming pool and tennis court, while the food and wine are as much an attraction as the wild country. The Homestead is renowned for its dramatic dining locations, including dinner parties under the stars and tables set on cliff tops.
What do people love about it? It still feels like a real working homestead, so it’s the perfect place to live out those jackaroo fantasies.
How much? There is a minimum two-night stay and rates start from A$1,949 per room, per night, including accommodation, meals and beverages, as well as a personalised itinerary and guided tours within the El Questro Valley.
Davidson’s Arnhemland Safari Lodge
Temperature: 17-34 degrees Celsius
Humidity: 50-70 per cent
Where is it? At Mt Borradaile in the northwest corner of Arnhem Land, around five hours from Darwin by road. The lodge sits within a 700 square kilometre exclusive lease and is a registered Aboriginal sacred site. Access by road is possible only during the dry season and during the wet is by light aircraft from, Darwin.
Why go now? The dry season is the best time for fishing, especially in inland billabongs, estuaries and rivers. It’s also the best time weather wise – Arnhemland can be unpredictable during the wet season with huge storms and much of the region inaccessible.
What do you do there? It’s all about the fishing here. The waters around Arnhemland are some of the best in the world for fishing, largely because so few people fish here. Barramundi are the biggest drawcard and these can be fished year-round. Explore the rock art sites close to the lodge or take a sunset cruise along the billabong.
Where do you sleep? The comfortable ensuite cabins have recently been refurbished and all have private verandahs.
What else is there? The main lodge houses the dining room, lounge, bar, library and large outdoor area, and there is a sandstone paved swimming pool in front.
What do people love about it? It’s the only accommodation of its kind in this remote area, so you’ll be one of only a very limited few to have experienced it.
How much? Cabins are priced from A$750 per person per night including all meals, tours and activities (including fishing) and permits to enter Arnhemland. Air transfers from Darwin are A$525 per person one way and there is a A$50 per person track fee for guests who drive themselves in.
Temperature: 15-35 degrees Celsius
Humidity: 40-50 per cent
Where is it? This luxury bush camp (which is also a working Buffalo Station) is pitched in Australia’s top end, just west of Kakadu National Park on the Mary River floodplains. The best way to get there is via a 20-minute flight from Darwin airport, but if you choose to drive, it’s a three-hour road trip from Darwin.
Why go now? Bamurru Plains is closed each year from 1 November to 31 January and operates as a wilderness lodge between 1 May until 31 October (between February and April it’s a dedicated fishing lodge), ensuring guests escape the storm clouds and Termite nests that settle in the wet season. The odd grassfire in the dry season makes it a great time to spot a variety of raptors, including kites, Brown Falcons and Sea-Eagles, while a bevy of other birds flock to the billabongs as the waterways and floodplains begin to dry out. Just in case that isn’t visual enough, tropical woodland plants flower at this time of year, bringing in the Northern Brushtail Possums and the Black Flying-fox.
What do you do there? Get back to nature. The Mary River region home to one of Australia’s most significant eco-systems, so it’s all about animal watching. River cruises, airboat tours, 4WD safaris and scenic helicopter flights can be arranged to help snap that perfect shot, while the rock art galleries of Kakadu and Arnhem Land are only a short distance away. The surrounding area is home to the Southern Hemisphere’s highest concentration of saltwater crocodiles…so swimming is something you won’t be doing (stick to the pool).
Where do you sleep? There are nine stand-alone safari suites built amongst the savannah bush alongside the floodplains. There are no telephones, TVs, CD players or the typical features of a hotel room, but instead more simple creature comforts prevail, such as large beds, soft sheets and stillness. Three of the suites are air-conditioned (for an additional A$100 per night). For the duration of your stay your morning alarm will be the morning chorus of tens of thousands of magpie geese.
What else is there? Dining is a communal affair with three long tables and an open kitchen, however private meals are availably in your tent if you’d prefer. There’s also a small swimming pool and an open bar.
What do people love about it? The African safari camp feel – wildlife around the camp, morning and evening game drives and millions of birds.
How much? There is a minimum two-night stay with rates starting from A$875 per person per night. Inclusive of all meals, select house beverages and daily-guided activities. Note the camp isn’t suitable for children under eight.
Longitude 131° (reopening in August 2017)
Temperature: 0-30 degrees Celsius
Humidity: 30-70 per cent
Where is it? Right at the heart of Australia, at the gateway of the dual World Heritage listed wilderness of Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park. It’s not technically above the Tropic of Capricorn, but it will still be plenty warm enough. A complimentary return 4WD transfer takes you from Ayers Rock Airport the to luxury tented-camp. Alternatively, a more scenic option is a helicopter transfer.
Why go now? To escape the heat. While the property is open year round, during the summer months, temperatures can soar to 48 degrees Celsius, while in the winter months it only climbs to 30 degrees Celsius, (but can go as low as zero).
What do you do there? Explore the spectacular geography and biodiversity of the Central deserts. Longitude 131° offers a range of complimentary tours that includes an Uluru Sunrise Walk, tours of the wind-swept Kata Jjuta and Walpa Gorge, and an Uluru and Tjuta Gorge Sunset drive. Helicopter tours, camel rides and Harley Davidson rides can be arranged at an additional cost.
Where do you sleep? Awake to your own private view of the sun rising over Uluru from one of the 15 luxury tents. Each tent pays homage to an early Australian pioneer or explorer with visual narratives adorning the walls and an eclectic mix of classical colonial and contemporary furniture pieces. Wardrobes and vanity basin, for example, replicate turn-of-the-century Australian food chests and wash troughs.
What else is there? There’s a swimming pool, restaurant, library and 24-hour bar. You can’t miss dining under a canopy of stars at Table Longitude 131°, where dinner is served with the finest wines.
What do people love about it? You can’t get much closer to Australia’s most famous natural landmark.
How much? Stay for two nights from A$1,780 per night, per room, single occupancy and A$2,200 per room, per night, double occupancy. All meals, beverages, touring program and airport transfers are included. Children under 12 are not catered for.
Bask in the beautiful sunset skies
Temperature: 12-37 degrees Celsius
Humidity: 30-60 per cent
Where is it? You’ll find the lodge nestled on the riverfront of the Katherine River at Nitmiluk Gorge, 300 kilometres south of Darwin and 32 kilometres from Katherine town centre. Guests can drive there themselves from Darwin or Katherine on the (well sealed) Stuart Highway or organise a private air transfer. The Ghan also stops in Katherine twice a week with transfers from Katherine Railway Terminal available.
Why go now? For the wildlife! The floodplains you see during the wet season reduce to isolated billabongs that attract huge numbers of birds and other wildlife while crocodiles tend to be more visible in colder weather (this is a good thing), as they warm themselves up in the sun. While the lodge is open year round, May to October is best for securing clear, blue skies and ensuring you can partake in all adventure activities. The Katherine River is prone to flooding in the wet season, which restricts the range of activities and sometimes access to the park.
What do you do there? The property is 100 per cent indigenous owned so expect to be drawn into the Dreaming world of the Jawoyn People and their customs. Aside from feasting on crocodile tail (Cicada Lodge’s specialty by indigenous Chef Mark Olive) you can fly by helicopter to a remote location for a (skinny) dip in a private waterfall, view remote ancient Jawoyn rock art sites, or be dropped off along the gorge system to canoe down.
Where do you sleep? The lodge has 18 air-conditioned rooms that reflect their natural, outback surrounds while the panoramic windows and private balcony makes it hard to escape them. If you like the local Indigenous art that decorates the walls, you’re in luck! They’re available for purchase.
What else is there? A fine dining restaurant and a swimming pool – the spot for the daily sunset canapés.
What do people love about it? It’s the only property of its kind in Australia that is fully indigenous owned.
How much? Stay there from A$645 per night including breakfast, and sunset canapés and drinks.
Temperature: 16-34 degrees Celsius
Humidity: 25-40 per cent
Where is it? On the Kimberley Coast in Western Australia, 280 kilometres northwest of Kununurra. The camp faces out over the Timor Sea and is close to the tallest waterfall in the state, King George Falls. Guests arrive on a 70-minute scenic flight from Kununurra to the camp’s private airstrip.
Why go now? The camp is closed from November to March. It can still be rainy at the start of the season, but by the middle of the year the weather is perfect – 30 degrees during the day, blue sky and cool evenings. Two of Faraway Bay’s signature events are also held in July and August – the Rock Art Retreat and the Wine in the Wilderness weekend with winemaker Larry Cherubino.
What do you do there? Take a boat cruise up the King George River to the base of the falls, visit untouched beaches and swim in freshwater pools. Fish for barramundi, mangrove jack or black bream in the rivers or head to the outer reef in search of coral trout and mackerel. There are a number of indigenous rock art sites near the camp that can be reached on foot or in a four wheel drive.
Where do you sleep? In a secluded, elevated cabin surrounded by bushland and with 180-degree views over the bay. The cabins are fan cooled and have and ensuite with an outdoor solar heated shower.
What else is there? Eagle Lodge is the centre of the camp and houses the restaurant and bar. There’s a spring-fed plunge pool and a one-hole golf course at the top of the cliff.
What do people love about it? The exclusivity – there’s just eight cabins, so you’ll be one of a maximum of 16 guests.
How much? Stay for two nights from A$3,700 per person including all meals, drinks, activities and scenic air transfers from Kununurra.
Silky Oaks Lodge
Temperature: 17-30 degrees Celsius
Humidity: 75 per cent
Where is it? On the edge of the Daintree National Park, just over 20 kilometres north of Port Douglas.
Why go now? The Daintree is notoriously humid, but the winter months are noticeably cooler and there is much less rain. Winter is also the best time to see crocodiles sunning themselves on the banks of the region’s river. As spring starts in September the rainforest comes alive with flowers, particularly native orchids.
What do you do there? The lodge overlooks the Mossman River, which is great for swimming, kayaking or snorkelling. There are a number of trails through the rainforest for guided or self-guided walks, and the lodge has mountain bikes for guests to use. If that all sounds too strenuous, relax with a day of treatments in the lodge’s excellent Healing Waters Spa.
Where do you sleep? Choose between treehouses set in amongst the rainforest or the more spacious riverhouses over looking the water. The best rooms are the two new Billabong Suites – set on the river they have double balconies, floor to ceiling windows and double spa baths.
What else is there? The Treehouse restaurant and bar, spa, tennis courts, gym and yoga classes held in the pavilion.
What do people love about it? The lodge feels like a calm and tranquil retreat.
How much? Stay in a treehouse from A$498 per night, a riverhouse from A$798 per night and a Billabong Suite from A$998 per night including breakfast.
Temperature: 19-35 degrees Celsius
Humidity: 65-75 per cent
Where is it? The 100-acre Haggerstone Island sits off the tip of Cape York in Far (Far) North Queensland, 600 kilometres north of Cairns. The only way to reach the island is on a two-hour charter flight from Cairns to nearby Hicks Island followed by a 20-minute boat transfer. Unfortunately, the six-seat aircraft used on the route means you’ll have to limit your luggage to 12 kilograms.
Why go now? Despite having been open (in one form or another) for more than 20 years, this island has managed to stay off the luxury travel radar. But that could be about to change – in the last six months it has appeared in feature articles in major Australian newspapers and bespoke tour companies are starting to add it to their itineraries. The weather is best in winter and this could be the last season before it goes crazy.
What do you do there? Live out your own Robinson Crusoe fantasies. Go fishing with rod, reel or spear in the ocean or rivers, go skin diving and snorkelling in one of the two lagoons or over an 1840s shipwreck in the nearby reef garden, or explore the untouched jungle of the island’s interior. Haggerstone is virtually untouched and the owner’s, Anna and Roy Turner, still a little wild so sit back and embrace island living.
Where do you sleep? There are four huts spread around the property – the three-bedroom House Mawu up on the hillside and three smaller huts fanned around the beach. Facilities are a little basic, but there are ensuites with hot and cold water and large decks.
What else is there? Not much. The main pavilion has a large communal table for meals, a fireplace, library and outdoor daybeds. There is also a resident dog and some chickens.
What do people love about it? It’s the closest you can get to your own deserted island.
How much? The huts are priced from A$830 per person per night and House Mawu from A$950 per person per night including all meals, non-alcoholic beverages and water activities. You can rent the whole island exclusively for up to 10 people for A$720 per person per night. Air transfers from Cairns are A$1,050 per person.