Queensland places to stay: Best weekends away

Soak up the heat – and the cool vibe of chic getaway retreats – in the Sunshine State. 

LIZARD ISLAND

Lizard Island, Great Barrier Reef; 1800 837 204; lizardisland.com.au

THE LOCATION The resort is 240 kilometres north of Cairns, and a one-hour scenic flight over the Great Barrier Reef and its turquoise waters. Chances are you'll cross paths with scientists based at the Lizard Island Research Station.

THE PLACE Remote luxury at its best sits aside the reef – no trekking necessary. From one of just 40 rooms and villas decked out in neutral tones and natural fibres, take an unhurried stroll to the open-air Driftwood bar and Salt Water restaurant with a menu featuring local seafood, and ingredients flown in daily.

THE EXPERIENCE A few steps from your villa, snorkel in crystalline waters among soft coral that sways gently next to giant clams. Divers can take a 45-minute boat ride to the well-known Cod Hole; for fisher folk, the spoils from your morning's charter – including mackerel and trevally – can be prepared for dinner. With 24 secluded beaches for private picnics, it's a pleasing numbers game.

DON'T MISS A walk around the granite behemoth to Watson's Bay, following the signposts and stories of Indigenous and European people. Follow up with an afternoon on the daybed with a martini in hand that you can prepare from your minibar.

IDEAL FOR Lovers of isolation, the reef and supreme comfort in equal measure.

FROM $1949 a night inclusive; minimum three-night stay applies December 17-January 6. Jane Reddy

W BRISBANE

81 North Quay, Brisbane; (07) 3556 8888; wbrisbane.com

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WET Deck Pool at W Hotel South Bank.

WET Deck Pool at W Hotel South Bank. Photo: Ralf Tooten

THE LOCATION Built alongside the Brisbane River, the W is a five-minute walk from the city's heart – the Queen Street Mall – and its cultural precinct at South Bank.

THE PLACE The first five-star hotel to be built in the Queensland capital in two decades is emblematic of Brisbane's rebirth. The W feels as modern and luxurious as any new hotel in a major capital, without letting guests ever forget they're in Queensland.

THE EXPERIENCE There's a DJ booth by the welcome desk for evening check-ins and a full-time "music curator" picking the tunes you'll hear in every public nook of the hotel (they get louder as the night wears on). But don't despair: there's no pretentiousness here; cheery staff are eager to assist, and designers Nic Graham & Associates have opted for warm, tropical colours and an Indigenous motif throughout. The team from Sydney cafe Three Blue Ducks have also brought their renowned paddock-to-plate principles to a lavish multi-course degustation in the hotel's signature restaurant.

DON'T MISS The sexy open-air Wet Deck bar offers views across the Brisbane River. At day's end, guests gather to toast the sun sinking behind Mount Coot-tha. Sure, Brisbane's CBD is just next door and Fortitude Valley a short jaunt via Uber, but there's always a party here, with DJs playing into the small hours.

IDEAL FOR Travellers seeking style without attitude.

FROM $350 a night. Craig Tansley

LITTLE RED BARN

Doonan, Sunshine Coast; (07) 5447 3097; airbnb.com

Little Red Barn on the Sunshine Coast.

Little Red Barn. Photo: Huw Lambert

THE LOCATION This barn-style home in the Noosa hinterland is a 15-minute drive to Hastings Street, five minutes to the charming market town of Eumundi and 25 minutes to Sunshine Coast Airport.

THE PLACE Owned by Rachel Luchetti, one-half of Sydney-based architecture and interior design firm Luchetti Krelle (whose projects include the Byron at Byron), the newly renovated three-bedroom home oozes rustic farmhouse style. Think soaring ceilings, wood fireplace, barn doors, a sprawling deck and lashings of what the Danes call hygge – that Scandinavian quality of warmth and welcome. There are plush couches as well as a fabulous kitchen with copper splashbacks, concrete benchtops, an antique butcher's block and butler's sink. The master bedroom comes with a monochrome ensuite with alfresco cast-iron bath (which everyone will fight over). The main bathroom, with its handmade encaustic tiles, is lovely, too. The highlight? The dreamy tank pool, framed by Pandanus trees, with views for days.

THE EXPERIENCE This is a house designed for serious relaxation. Soak in the outdoor bath (with privacy screen), enjoy a morning cuppa on the deck overlooking bushland abounding with birdlife, and light the fire on cooler nights. There are games, children's toys, and even a guitar if you're feeling inspired. Look out for the resident wallabies that make an appearance at dusk under the mango tree.

DON'T MISS Stock up on locally grown limes from the Eumundi Market (Wednesdays and Saturdays) for G&Ts on the deck.

IDEAL FOR Relaxed family gatherings or romantic weekends away.

FROM $250 a night; minimum two-night stay. Sheriden Rhodes

OVOLO INCHCOLM​

73 Wickham Tce, Spring Hill; (07) 3226 8888; ovolohotels.com.au

The bar at Ovolo Inchcolm has every spirit brand you can think of.

The bar at Ovolo Inchcolm. Photo: Supplied

THE LOCATION If you want to immerse yourself in Brisbane's best bars, restaurants and nightlife, this hotel's position is hard to beat. It's on the edge of leafy Spring Hill where it meets the CBD, with Queensland's trendiest precinct, Fortitude Valley, right next door.

THE PLACE There are 50 rooms, each taking cues from the 1920s building that was once a combined private residence and medical practice. The design team has retained many original features – including a 100-year-old lift – and instilled an art deco aesthetic with a contemporary vibe. Rich, jewelled tones and eclectic, collectible artworks abound.

THE EXPERIENCE The reception is in front of an enormous, open-walled bar. With enough objets d'art (curated by stylist Anna Roberts to a theme of "The Cabinet of Curiosity") to fill a small museum and the 1980s music on continuous rotation, there's a decidedly cool feel about the place.

DON'T MISS Happy hour – it's free! Every day at 5.30pm, people who have no intention of meeting other guests find themselves deep in conversation with the lovely couple from down the corridor. Now, that's old-fashioned.

IDEAL FOR Those seeking a blast from the past, without the cobwebs. 

FROM $249 a night. Breakfast, happy hour drinks and minibar are included on direct bookings. Craig Tansley

THE CALILE

48 James St, Fortitude Valley; (07) 3607 5888; thecalilehotel.com

The Calile Hotel, Brisbane.

The Calile Hotel. Photo: Sean Fennessy

THE LOCATION Just a five-minute drive from Brisbane's CBD.

THE PLACE This brand new, exciting property brings a fresh, resort-style edge to the city. Balancing sophistication with earthy comfort, the open-to-the-elements design and row of palm trees above the luxurious pool and adjacent cabanas promise a breezy tropical hideaway far from busy city life.

THE EXPERIENCE Rooms in muted pink, blue and brass hues with marble floors are generously sized. Private balconies overlook the pool. Touches of linen, rush matting and organic snacks feature in the rooms, while enthusiastic staff keep the gilt-edged glamour from being overwhelming.

DON'T MISS After a lazy dip in the pool, take an easy half-hour walk to New Farm Park and discover the weekend market for a fresh breakfast and coffee. In the evening, linger over a meal at the Lobby Bar, prepared by head chef Kitak Lee.  

IDEAL FOR Executives seeking an island retreat without the hours of travel.

FROM $271 a night. Lucy Stone

SANCTUARY AT SIRROMET WINERY

850 Mount Cotton Rd, Mount Cotton; (07) 3206 2999; sanctuarybysirromet.com

Sirromet Winery.

Sirromet Winery. Photo: Andrew Thurtell

THE LOCATION Thirty minutes' drive south of central Brisbane and the same distance to the top of the Gold Coast.

THE PLACE On weekends, Sirromet Winery heaves with functions and events. On the flip side, Sanctuary at Sirromet lives up to its name: five minutes' walk away, you'll find 18 tented platforms scattered across a grassy slope looking out to paperbarks, scribbly gums and a quiet billabong. Each comprises a bathroom, kitchenette and balconies and is furnished with plump armchairs and queen-sized beds. Eco-warriors note: the sanctuary is off the grid, with solar power, recycled water and biodegradable toiletries supplied.

THE EXPERIENCE In the misty mornings, fat-bottomed wallabies lollop fearlessly between the tents, while the night chimes with waterfowl calling across the water. Golfers will need to shoo said wallabies off the nine-hole course before tee-off, while keen joggers can join them on a Parkrun each Saturday at 7am.

DON'T MISS The bountiful breakfast hamper, even if it means waking earlier than you'd like. Hot waffles, poached fruits and salmon-stuffed bagels are delivered to your door. Tuck in.

IDEAL FOR Winery aficionados who don't want to go home.

FROM $280 a night, including a breakfast hamper. Belinda Jackson

THE DARLING AT THE STAR

1 Casino Dr, Broadbeach; 1800 074 344; star.com.au

The view from the Darling's pool is spectacular.

The Darling's pool. Photo: Supplied

THE LOCATION The latest addition to The Star complex was finished just in time for this year's Commonwealth Games, and features an elevator that will take you right to the casino floor from your room. If you fancy the restaurants and bars of Broadbeach, they are a short walk away, and Surfers Paradise is a five-minute drive.

THE PLACE There are elements of Vegas and Monte Carlo throughout the hotel, where guests are privy to just 57 suites spread across 19 floors. The entry level suites measure 70 square metres, while premium suites are well over 300. You'll sleep in the same brand of sheets favoured by the Pope, and rest your head on one of five options from the pillow menu.

THE EXPERIENCE This is a high-roller's world. Guests are greeted by name at reception, and escorted to suites with floor-to-ceiling windows looking across the beaches and hinterland. From there, it's an elevator ride to the fine-dining Nineteen At The Star on the top floor, the creation of Gold Coast power couple Billy and Jackie Cross. Caviar is on offer here, served in increments of 30 or 50 grams.

DON'T MISS The Gold Coast's restaurant scene has come along in recent times, with award-winning eateries setting up in suburbs just south of The Darling. Hit local favourite, Etsu, in Mermaid Beach and Hellenika in trendy Nobby Beach.

IDEAL FOR Anyone wanting a quick taste of the high life.

FROM $1288 a night. Craig Tansley

TANGALOOMA ISLAND RESORT

Moreton Island National Park; 1300 652 250; tangalooma.com

Tangalooma Island Resort.

Moreton Island, home to Tangalooma Island Resort. Photo: Supplied

THE LOCATION It's probably the most easily reached island off the Queensland coast, but Moreton Island – an hour east of Brisbane by fast ferry – isn't often the one that first comes to mind. That's a pity, because its mix of nature and activities make it a great option for families.

THE PLACE Built over the four decades since its inception in the 1980s, the resort is a mix of rooms, units, apartments, and villas, all clean and comfortable. It's best to think of them as beach houses with activity benefits, rather than resort luxury. The beachfront villas, each with kitchen, laundry, spacious living area and west-facing deck, are the pick for families. Family-sized rooms have family-sized fridges, handy for BYO food. 

THE EXPERIENCE Tangalooma's activities are the main draw. These include sand-duning (low-tech and thrilling), dolphin feeding, glass-bottom kayaking (including with the dolphins at sunset), snorkelling on the wrecks that form a breakwater just off the beach, Segways on the beach, tennis, trampolining and helicopter rides. Or you could just hang on the fine-sand beach where, instead of finding shells, you'll see starfish.

DON'T MISS The spectacular whale-watching season from June to October.

IDEAL FOR Families mixing beach time with plenty of activities.

FROM $399 a night for a standard Beachfront Villa. Anne Hyland


​Looking for escapes further afield? We have you covered: VIC, NSW/ACTTAS, WA, SA, NT

To read more from Good Weekend magazine, visit our page at The Sydney Morning Herald or The Age.

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