Going off-grid doesn’t have to mean sacrificing luxury at these ruggedly beautiful eco retreats voted as the best in the world by Luxury Travel readers.
1. El Questro, WA
Perched on a clifftop above the Chamberlain Gorge in the East Kimberly, El Questro Homestead is part of a 700,000-acre property encompassing mountains, thermal springs, mud and salt-flats, rainforests and waterfalls. Guests can spend their days swimming in crystal-clear streams, hiking though rugged bushland, taking a helicopter tour over the expansive estate and watching the resident saltwater crocodiles devour their dinner. Suites at El Questro homestead look directly out over the Chamberlain Gorge and some also have private outdoor free-standing bathtubs where guests can bathe under the stars.
2. Sals Salis Ningaloo Reef, WA
Another Western Australian gem, Sals Salis consists of just sixteen safari-style tents dotting the coastline of Cape Range National Park. With direct beach access to Ningaloo Reef, guests can snorkel with some of the reef’s 500 species of fish and 250 coral species or venture further out to sea to swim with whale sharks, humpback whales, orcas, manta rays and dolphins. The land is also home to native wildlife including red kangaroos, wallaroos, rock wallabies, goannas and echidnas, while nearby Mandu Mandu Gorge and Yardie Creek Gorge are home to unique ecosystems, stunning views and remarkable evidence of the indigenous groups who have inhabited the land for 30, 000 years.
3. The Brando, French Polynesia
The Tahitian island of Tetiaroa was once an exclusive retreat favoured by the nation’s royalty. It is now home to luxury resort The Brando, a property with a major focus on sustainability. From its pioneering seawater air conditioning system to its solar panels and coconut-oil power station which provide 100 per cent of the resort’s electricity, the Brando is a carbon neutral tropical paradise. In addition to minimising its carbon footprint, The Brando works to actively protect the plant and animal life that surround the island through a dedicated research station, where marine biologists analyse sea temperatures and tides, monitor marine flora and fauna and nurse injured baby turtles back to health. These scientists also act as tour guides, providing expert information on the marine life of the atoll.
4. Gwinganna Lifestyle Retreat, QLD
Set in the lush Tallebudgera Valley on the Gold Coast, Gwinganna Lifestyle Retreat is an ecotourism-certified health and wellness property offering two- to seven-night programs. Between mountain-top yoga and spa treatments surrounded by gumtrees, guests have the opportunity to to learn about organic gardening from Gwinganna’s resident botanist and social ecologist and to dine on fresh, healthy produce sourced from the property’s kitchen garden.
5. One&Only Wolgan Valley, NSW
Set on a 7,000-acre conservancy within the World Heritage-listed Greater Blue Mountains region, One&Only Wolgan Valley offers 40 ultra-luxe accommodations plus a swimming pool with a striking mountain range backdrop. Villas have their own indoor heated lap pool, sky view shower with a glass ceiling and fully enclosed outdoor patio. A range of nature-based activities are on offer including horse riding, mountain biking and guided nature walks and all guests are invited to spend an hour with the property’s conservation team, assisting with tree planting, wildlife surveys, testing of water quality, habitat assessment, feral animal monitoring and wombat surveys.
6. Southern Ocean Lodge, SA
This spectacular luxury lodge on Kangaroo Island off the coast of South Australia is perched on a cliff, looking directly onto the wild coastline, with azure waves crashing dramatically against the rocks below. The luxurious rooms offer heated bathroom floors and bathtubs with views out to sea and the hotel restaurant showcases the very best of Kangaroo Island cuisine. The property offers a number of guided tours including a visit to Seal Bay where guests can get up close and personal with sea lion families, an exploration through the vast wilderness of Flinders Chase National Park and a walk along the limestone cliff tops, offering glimpses of local wildlife and unparalleled views of the rugged coastline.
7. Daintree Wilderness Lodge, QLD
This off-grid eco lodge is hidden in the heart of the world’s oldest rainforest within the World Heritage listed Daintree National Park, adjacent to the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. Daintree National Park is home to ancient plant species and rare wildlife that cannot be found anywhere else in the world, such as the musky rat-kangaroo, spotted-tail quoll and southern cassowary. Cabins sit on stilts to minimise the impact on the rainforest and each offers a sunroof with a direct view up into the canopy.
8. Karinji Eco Retreat, WA
The second largest national park in Western Australia, Karijini is famous for its dramatic creeks, spectacular gorges and towering chasms up to 100 metres deep. Karinji Eco Retreat offers deluxe eco tents and cabins as well as an Outback restaurant serving Australian cuisine with specialties such as crocodile skewers and marinated kangaroo tenderloin.
9. Longitude 131º, NT
Located in Australia’s red centre, Longitude 131º is the most luxurious accommodation for those visiting Uluru. Longitude’s 15 luxury tents are pitched at the gateway of the dual World Heritage listed wilderness of Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park and all offer floor to ceiling views of Uluru. The property takes guests on bespoke tours to Kantju and Walpa Gorges accompanied by expert guides who explain the spiritual and historical significance of the sites as well as providing commentary on the ecology and flora and fauna.
10. Arkaba, SA
Located in the Flinders Ranges, this former sheep station spans 60,000 acres but accommodates just ten guests at a time, making it one of the most exclusive outback lodges in Australia. The property offers 4WD safaris through the Flinders Ranges National Park, guided bushwalks following the dry bed of the Arkaba Creek, a four day walking safari and an Elder Range where guests can learn more about the area’s indigenous history.
11. Bay of Fires Lodge, TAS
Perched on a cliffside in Tasmania’s Mount William National Park, this eco-friendly glass and timber pavilion overlooks the picturesque Bay of Fires – the only building on 20 kilometres of coastal wilderness. Built with minimal environmental impact, all materials used in the construction of the lodge were either flown in or carried by hand. Accommodation at the Bay of Fires Lodge is exclusively available to those completing the 4-day Bay of Fires Walk which operates from October to May each year.
12 . Saffire Freycinet, TAS
Overlooking the Hazards mountain chain in Tasmania’s Freycinet National Park, Saffire offers direct access to Wineglass Bay, Swanport estuary and Freycinet marine oyster farm. Animal lovers can visit Saffire’s on-site, open-range Tasmanian devil enclosure, or visit flocks of pelicans and marine life on a guided canoeing adventure. The Freycinet Peninsula also offers a number of scenic nature walks such as a two-hour beach walk to the lookout over Wineglass Bay and a coastal walk led by indigenous guide Mick Quilliam, where guests can hear the history of the Oyster Bay people as well as sample some local bush tucker. The property also offers culinary experiences such as a guided tour of an oyster farm in the Greater Swanport river estuary, where guests sample the oysters along with a glass of local bubbly or Chardonnay.
13. Peppers Cradle Mountain Lodge, TAS
Part of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area, the Cradle Mountain–Lake St Clair National Park is home to ancient rainforests, glacial lakes and diverse native fauna including Tasmanian devils, quolls, platypus and echidna. Peppers Cradle Mountain Lodge overlooks a verdant hinterland, and is located within just a few kilometres of Dove Lake, Crater Lake and Marion’s Lookout, making it a convenient base from which to explore the stunning natural surrounds.
14. O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat, QLD
Just an hour from the Gold Coast, overlooking the western McPherson Ranges, O’Reilly’s Gold Coast Rainforest Retreat offers guests access to the World Heritage listed Lamington National Park. The property offers plenty of family-friendly activities including segway safaris, animal encounters and a flying fox 25 metres above the rainforest floor with views of Morans Creek below.
15. Jean-Michel Cousteau Resort, Fiji
Jean-Michel Cousteau resort is on the northern tip of Fiji’s second-biggest island Vanua Levu, in a region called Savusavu. The family-friendly property places an emphasis on marine conservation and is the only Fijian resort with its own marine biologist on site. As well as working to protect the reef and marine life, the property’s marine biologist leads guided reef walks, presents educational talks and hosts small group snorkelling expeditions.
16. Gaya Island Resort, Malaysia
Gaya Island is one of five islands within the protected Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park. Set on the coast of Malohom Bay, the resort offers snorkelling explorations of the surrounding coral gardens and marine life, guided by a marine biologist. The Gaya Island Resort Marine Centre ensures the conservation of the marine ecosystem through a variety of programs including turtle rescue, coral reef restoration and educational initiatives. On land the exploration continues with on-site naturalists leading guests on walks to visit Proboscis Monkeys, Red Giant Flying Squirrels, Twilight Fireflies and Bearded Pigs in their natural habitat.