Located 1100 metres above sea level in Queensland’s Scenic Rim region, a stay at this luxury lodge will see you embedded within nature at Australia’s largest private wildlife refuge, writes Katrina Holden.
With excited, nervous energy, I’m wondering about the degree of the incline of our 4WD, as we ascend a steep and bumpy mountain track. Safely strapped into the luxury vehicle, inertia moves me side to side in the front seat. I’m on a sunset 4WD tour at Spicers Peak Lodge, in Queensland’s unspoilt Scenic Rim region, and feeling intrepid as the car squeezes its way through the narrowest of passages, flanked with native shrub, to reach Ryan’s Lookout. I know I’m completely safe not only because my guide, Felicity Handley (‘Flick’), expertly manoeuvres the vehicle along the challenging track, but also because I’ve already learned that Flick grew up on the surrounding lands of this property, Spicers Peak Station, in the World Heritage-listed Main Range National Park.
We come to a clearing and Flick parks the 4WD. “It’s on foot from here,” she says, as she carries a cooler bag filled with gourmet snacks and beverages that I had selected earlier in the afternoon. I reach out my hands to touch some of the hundreds of yellow paper daisies facing the last, golden rays of sun for the day. At Ryan’s Ridge Lookout the view is breathtaking — endless valleys as far as the eye can see. We are 1100 metres above sea level here on Cedar Mountain. We sit on rustic, timber benches while I enjoy cheeses and a glass of sparkling wine to toast the dipping sun.
Spicers Peak Lodge, a member of Luxury Lodges of Australia, is the flagship property of Spicers Retreats — founded by Jude Turner, wife of Graham ‘Skroo’ Turner, co-founder of travel group, Flight Centre. Jude and Skroo, who both grew up in the Scenic Rim region, are passionate environmentalists, building and then opening the lodge in 2004, keen to share this special part of the world with like-minded travellers. Earlier this year, Spicers Retreats was acquired by Salter Brothers, who vow to continue the Turners’ vision to become Australia’s most sustainable tourism organisation.
There are 10 suites located at the main lodge. Right on the escarpment are two, private, standalone lodges — I’m staying in the two-level, two-bedroom lodge with generous outdoor decks, separate living room, a large bathroom and an outdoor Jacuzzi. I happily immerse myself into the warm bubbling water of the Jacuzzi every chance I get — while rock wallabies hop past below.
As a working cattle farm with more than 3200ha to explore, there’s a diverse array of experiences designed to connect guests to their blissful, natural surrounds.
My days start with nourishing breakfasts at the main lodge: the Peak Big Brekkie satisfies on day one; while on day two, my sweet tooth is tempted by the waffles with maple syrup, seasonal fruits, and mascarpone. The weather is warm, and I dine al fresco on the terrace alongside timber beams that are entwined with fragrant white jasmine. Music plays through a sound system and welcome little swallows dart past, occasionally swooping into the pool for a splash. By lunchtime, there are three helicopters positioned on the sprawling green lawn, bringing day-tripper guests from Brisbane for leisurely, scenic lunches.
For the adventurers, there are multiple hiking and mountain biking trails to conquer, presenting endless opportunities for those who wish to set an active pace. I opt for a Can-Am tour which sees Flick wrangling the all-terrain, purpose-built vehicle to take me on a drive throughout the property, visiting its numerous lookouts including the Instagram lovers’ favourite, a simple swing, on one of the ridges. Flick navigates past stubborn Scottish Highland cattle, (some 175 live on site), and I also spot a goanna, cockatoos, and crimson rosellas.
I’m intrigued by the occasional art object that punctuates the landscape unexpectedly, including ‘Tardis’ — a bright blue ‘police public call box’; another red telephone box; and even a giant ‘eight’ black snooker ball positioned in a tree near the entrance to Spa Anise. “Jude likes to invoke people’s curiosity and get them out and about onsite to explore,” explains Flick.
We stop at Bellbird Weir for a ploughman’s lunch by the river. Later, back at the main lodge, damper is just coming out of the oven as Flick is heating up a pot of billy tea on the open fire in the main lounge, set in a spectacular, Scottish bluestone fireplace. The bluestone came to Australia in the late 1900s by tall ship to Adelaide. Sourced specifically for the build, 111 pallets were carted up the mountain.
There’s a genuine thread of sustainability and responsible tourism at the core of this place that’s evident throughout my stay. Spicers Retreats has set a Spicers Sustainability Minimum Standards charter, in alignment with the relevant UN Sustainable Goals, with measurable targets specific to each retreat.
Here, the Spicers Peak Nature Reserve was established in 2006, covering 2428ha, representing Australia’s largest private wildlife refuge and protecting 10 regional ecosystems and 27 fauna species identified as ‘at risk’.
During dinner one evening, restaurant manager Malcolm Darling explains that each Spicers lodge has a dedicated ‘Green Hornet’ — a staff member who leads and guides their individual teams and guests on sustainability initiatives. Regular audits across each of the Spicers lodges track waste and energy use, with a goal to be net-zero waste and net emissions and halve water usage, by 2030.
In my room there is an organic food disposal bin where scraps go to compost; and signs on my slippers encourage guests to take them home, reading: ‘enjoy these slippers at home — at the end of their life, they are biodegradable’. I do as instructed, taking a little slice of Spicers back to Sydney with me.
Spicers Peak Lodge is a two-hour drive from Brisbane Airport. Spicers offers a luxury chauffeured limousine service for guests, for additional fees, with Royal Black Transfers. Private 20-minute helicopter charters can also be arranged from Brisbane Airport. Rates at the all-inclusive luxury lodge start from AUD$1699 per night, for two people, and include all meals, beverages from an inclusive list, an in-suite mini-bar replenished daily, and selected complimentary experiences and activities.