Top 3 Tranquil luxury getaways in Australia

It’s the end of the year, time to reminisce, and I’ve been thinking about luxury, tranquility, getting away from it all. Not my normal mode of travel I must admit, that is usually more about comfort, interest and convenience, but every now and then I break out and indulge. Here’s my three favourites (so far) in Australia.

Calabash Bay luxury villa, Berowra Waters, Australia

  • Calabash Bay Lodge Accessible only by boat, surrounded by the azure waters of Berowra Waters, the eucalypt bush and limestone cliffs, this luxury holiday house is perfect for a weekend with friends, food, drink, books and music. I can sit on one of the balconies with a glass of wine and watch the jetty below for hours as the sky and water change colour.

    Seven Spirit Bay wilderness lodge, Arnhem Land

    • Seven Spirit Bay Lodge. In the upper reaches of Arnhem Land, Northern Territory, is one of the original luxury outback lodges of Australia, a plane ride and 4-wheel drive trek past Darwin. I remember sitting by the spectacular pool on the first night, looking over the bay below, with three shark fins circling and crocodile tracks up the sandy beach – this may look like a tropical paradise but this sea is not for swimming in – the pool is fantastic though. As is the ancient rock art, the bush walks, the crocodile spotting, the deep sea fishing, the flora and fauna. All while being spoilt in my “habitat”, an individual private octagonal suite set into the bush, five of the walls are glass louvres to take in the view.

    a glamping

    • Paperbark Camp, Jervis Bay. I think these guys invented glamping – the most luxurious form of camping I’ve ever had. My ‘room’ is a raised platform with a huge two roomed “tent” set amongst the paperbark trees. There’s an excellant bar and restaurant in the golden glowing two-storey ‘treehouse’ that is the center of the camp. In the morning we borrow a canoe from the camp and float down the tranquil river to one of the many beaches and bays on the nearby coastline. My tip for tranquility is to check what time the tide turns before heading off in the kayak, otherwise tranquil can quickly become adventure seeking bonding experience!

    Which other luxury get-away-from-it-all spots have you enjoyed – what should I have on my wishlist?

      PhotoFriday: Street: The eye-popping Folsom Street Leather Fair, San Francisco

      There’s no shortage of colourful neighbourhood street festivals in San Francisco every summer, but the most eye-popping is definitely the Folsom Street Leather Fair – and no, this is not some industry apparel convention!
      Folsom St Leather Fair

      I wondered whether the festival patrons might be a bit annoyed having a camera toting tourist in their midst, but I didn’t have to worry, this was a friendly crowd – very friendly! They welcome anyone, any gender, any age, any dress code, and people come from round the world to join in. And there’s not too many shrinking violets in this crowd, most people were very happy to be photographed and very offended if they weren’t! These photos in no way give a real picture of the festival, these are the most tame photos of the day – the rest are better suited to a XXX-rated site.

      Photo Friday – Blooming in the Auckland Wintergarden

      2009 Epicurean walk, Brewery, Portland, Oregon

      Even though it’s started to rain outside, it is stickily humid here in the glasshouses of the Wintergarden in Auckland Domain. Its a riot of native ferns, bright bold orchids and fuschia’s, ponds full of flowering lilies, and even vegetables – not sure what the aubergines are there for but even they look like art as they glow in this humidity. The kids (borrowed – not mine) really like the flowers that close up if you brush against them, and since they are not going to stick to the official pathways anyway, it isn’t hard to persuade them to clamber among the ferns and emerge blooming from the fronds.

      We started at the Auckland museum, high on the hill in the Domain, views out across Auckland city and harbour. A great place to reconnect with my kiwiness, as it is has brilliant exhibits of Maori and Polynesian history, art , carving and culture. I like that there is plenty of ability to get in amongst it and interact, not just look through the glass – museums were nowhere near this interesting when I was a kid. There’s also a nice section of nostalgia – the lolly wall of the old classic sweets, the mid 20th century Crown Lynn pottery – I bet there’s many a family regretting throwing out the old dinner set a few decades ago – naff then, valuable now. Once museum’ed out, the Domain grounds are a great spot for a picnic, with amazing old trees with a huge spread of branches that had every child in the vicinity climbing happily for hours – and provides a good umbrella when the rains starts lightly. As it gets heavier, we dash for the glasshouses to sit it out.

      Photo Friday -Motionless Monster at Seven Spirit Bay

      Croc at Seven Spirit Bay

      At first I don’t see it – although it is big, it is very well camoflaged, lying motionless and sun-dappled in the mud, in the  mangroves on the edge of the small stream. It’s length is more than twice my height, and longer then the little three metre tinny with outboard motor that we are putting along in. Our guide kills the engine, and we float in place, watching (and photographing) this crocodile who doesn’t move, although his eye seems focused on us unblinkingly as we slowly cruise by.

      He is only about ten metres away from us, and we are sitting about a foot above water level. “Do they ever attack boats” I ask the guide, “given that he is almost bigger than our boat?” “Yes, not often but sometimes that happens if he thinks you are a threat, we’ve known them to come in and bump the boat, try and take a bite out of it.” No doubt seeing the look on my face, the guide adds “But see how his legs are stretched out behind him like that, that means he’s relaxed, if he starts pulling them forward and up, to position them to give himself a powerful push-off to launch at something, thats when you want to get out of there.” He still hasn’t moved a muscle, but I am happy when the guide decides its time to restart the outboard and chug a bit further along the riverbank.

      The remote Coburg Peninsula, far north Australia

      We are in the tidal estuaries, on the northernmost edge of Australia, the Coburg peninsula, looking north over the Arafura sea towards Indonesia. To get here I took a small plane ride from Darwin for forty five minutes to a tiny airstrip, where I am picked up in a jeep and driven through to Seven Spirit Bay Resort, an amazing luxury eco-resort in an almost completely unpopulated remote tropical area.

      On the first evening, I am sitting on a bench on the top of a small cliff, watching the sunset over the sea with a glass of champagne in my hand, watching three shark fins circle in the bay below, near the large crocodile track where a local inhabitant supposedly drags himself in and out of the sea. So no beach walking or swimming for me then! – this is a national park in Far North Australia and there’s a lot more danger in the water here than there is on Bondi.

      So a couple of days later I find myself drifting through the mangroves in this little tinny, looking for big crocs. Its only when we find them that I start to realise how much I don’t like them close up, all that prehistoric power is quite a chilling thing to see when its not behind a fence in a zoo. A hundred metres past the big motionless one we find a couple more, one even larger and older, sunbaking on the bank.

      When one of them slides forward into the water and starts to head toward us quite quickly, I am glad that the guide moves us out of there, and also glad that the river is a lot wider here as it starts to merge into the sea. The bit I like the least is when the one in the water sinks completely below the surface while heading towards us, so I know he’s under there somewhere but we cant see him. I don’t completely relax until back at the lodge enjoying a degustation dinner under the stars.

      The Bondi Beach Drag (Queen) Races – Photo Friday – Stand Out

      Bondi Beach Drag Queen Races

      In a sea of bright spandex and stiletto heels, the competitors prepare for the main events of the afternoon – the handbag discus, the 3-legged stiletto race, the feminine posing section, and then the big finale (for any contestants that haven’t already twisted their ankles wearing stiletto’s in wet sand) the Dainty Dune Dash.

      The Sydney Mardi Gras reintroduced the Drag Queen Races for 2010, and a crowd has gathered to cheer on their favourites. Unusually for this summer’s day on Bondi Beach, the grey clouds have rolled in and it has started to rain, which may make a mess of the carefully applied makeup. I can’t help but think that running in stiletto’s in wet sand must be even more difficult than in dry powdery sand, not that I am likely to try either. But these are professionals, and they are not going to let the weather interfere with their plans to outlast their competitors.

      It looks like the contestants’ favourite event is the feminine posing, as they each get their 60 seconds of fame in the spotlight, posing and voguing as only Madonna fans can. So who ended up winning? I have  no idea, as the skies opened and the mild rain turned into a torrential downpour, the audience sprinted for shelter and the contestants sprinted for the after-party.

      Photo Friday: Aqua

      Ningaloo Reef

      Snorkeling in Turquoise Bay, Ningaloo Reef

      With its clear turquoise water contrasting with its red sand beach and cliffs, Turquoise Bay is a beautiful landscape, and thats before you even get in the water. The secret here is to  start at the southern end of the bay, and drift with the current which will carry you gently over the colourful reef, shallow sandy bottom and abundant fish life which makes up a breathtaking underwater landscape. After about 45 minutes you will have floated around the crescent of the bay and its time to head back inshore before the current takes you past the end of the sand bar and out to sea. In this photo the school of silvery fish appear almost transparent against the sandy backdrop and clear turquoise waters. This is one of the bays on the West Australian coastline that butts right up against Ningaloo Reef, making the reef exceptionally accessible from the beach, but infrequently visited due to its remote location, truly a hidden paradise.