Luxury

Whether it's a private speedboat or a golf course at your back door, you know you deserve it.

CALABASH BAY LODGE
HAWKESBURY RIVER, NSW

Calabash road, Berowra Waters
Phone: (02) 9365 1238
Email: relax@calabashbaylodge.com.au
Web: calabashbaylodge.com.au

The location Bounded by sandstone gorges, tranquil waterways and lush eucalypt forests, Berowra Waters is a tributary at the south-east edge of the Hawkesbury River. Calabash Bay Lodge, tucked snugly into the folds of the bay and accessible only by water, offers complimentary boat transfers from the Berowra Waters public jetty, or there's the (rather pricey) option of arriving by seaplane.

The place Lounging on the deck while taking in the sun-speckled waters that surround the lodge, you'd be forgiven for thinking you were aboard a particularly swish houseboat. This self-contained luxury retreat sleeps eight in four sumptuous queen bedrooms, all with balconies and kitted out with 500-count organic cotton bedlinen and Missoni bath towels. The sleek, atrium-style living room is furnished with all the mod cons, including an LCD flat screen and a MiniMac loaded with movies and music for those content to just bliss out on the couch.

The experience If hedonism in the form of in-house massages, yoga on the top deck or champagne-swilling on the private pontoon leaves you feeling a little slothful, there's plenty of action-packed adventure to be had, too. Hop into the lodge's double kayak to explore the nearby mangrove creeks, discover the ruins of the abandoned Federation-era Calabash Bay Hotel just metres from the back door, bushwalk through the adjoining Marramarra National Park, take a turn about the river in the lodge's four-seater runabout or drop one of the supplied fishing lines into waters teeming with bream and flathead.

Don't miss … For a lengthy pit stop on the way to the lodge, slip across from the Berowra Waters public jetty in a flat-bottomed skiff to the two-hatted Berowra Waters Inn (berowrawatersinn.com; 02 9456 1027). Louvred floor-to-ceiling windows proffer views of the river and surrounding rugged gums that are almost as delectable as the signature degustation menu concocted by chef Dietmar Sawyere.   Nina Karnikowski

Cost: $1800 for a weekend (low season; prices vary from season to season).
Distance:
40km north of Sydney.
Sleeps:
1-8.
Children: yes.
Pets:
by prior arrangement.
Wheelchair access:
no.

GAIA RETREAT AND SPA
NORTH COAST HINTERLAND, NSW

933 Fernleigh Road, Brooklet
Phone: (02) 6687 1216
Email: info@gaiaretreat.com.au
Web: gaiaretreat.com.au

The location Everyone's heard of Byron Bay, but the green subtropical hinterland just inland from the coast is equally alluring. Drive along winding roads through lush hills and valleys dotted with macadamia and banana farms to find Gaia, a gloriously relaxed haven set amid its own ample gardens.

The place Olivia Newton-John and three partners bought the spa resort seven years ago, then greatly enhanced its Balinese ambience; its pavilions range from entry-level to super-luxury, while paths lead to the languid pool and spa setting, the generous communal dining room, and gym and yoga studio.

The experience Enjoy time out in a beautiful setting to pamper your body and mind, slow down and perhaps rethink your life. A long menu of spa treatments and lifestyle consultations is available, along with swimming, bike riding, tennis, yoga, Pilates and a daily lecture on anything from art to meditation. Meals are sensationally good. The morning hilltop yoga sessions, overlooking peaceful bird-swooping valleys, are enough to inspire you to seek solace here forever.

Don't miss … the nearby village of Bangalow, with its cafes, clothes, antiques and handicrafts.   Janet Hawley

Cost: the Revive Package for two adults for two nights, $1915, includes all meals, two daily group activities, full use of resort facilities, a one-hour massage each and transfers from Ballina Airport (at set times).
Distance: about 850km north of Sydney.
Sleeps: 1-2.
Children: no.
Wheelchair access: no.

JONAH'S
NORTHERN BEACHES, NSW

69 Bynya Road, Whale Beach
Phone: (02) 9974 5599
Email: enquiries@jonahs.com.au
Web: jonahs.com.au

The location The view is what you come to Jonah's for - oh, and the food, of course. And the wine list. And while we're at it, there's also a pretty big drawcard in the king-size beds in their very private rooms, with their adjoining very private balconies with their own sweeping views of the waves rolling in to Whale Beach far below. And if you are very lucky, you can see the whales themselves, cresting in an ocean that stretches to an impossibly far, blue horizon.

The place Jonah's began its life in 1929 as a roadhouse servicing the main route from Sydney to Palm Beach and, several incarnations later, it has kept its intimate, guesthouse feel (it's Australia's only inclusion in the prestigious Relais & Châteaux luxury hotel group). There are just 11 rooms, each with its own balcony and bathroom. There is also Jonah's Private, a separate three-bedroom house with pool and deck in the gardens.

The experience Once here, stay put. You don't come to Jonah's to explore your surrounds - you come to gaze at them. The rooms are five-star but feel relaxed with their beach-influenced decor and seamless segues between bedroom, bathroom and balcony. Hours can go by as you watch the deep blue sea to the sound of breakers below. Then it's drinks in the bar and dinner, before more views of the moon on the water at night.

Don't miss … dinner: Mediterranean-influenced deliciousness from chef Alfonso Alés, supported by a great wine list. The weekend package makes dinner mandatory. And the problem is? Well, the cost, maybe. But this is a special treat, at a very special place.   Judith Whelan

Cost: $845 a night for two for dinner, bed and breakfast (compulsory on a Friday or Saturday night).
Distance:
40km north of Sydney CBD.
Sleeps: 1-2.
Children: yes.
Wheelchair access:
to one room only, on reception level.

THE SEIDLER HOUSE
SOUTHERN HIGHLANDS, NSW

Joadja
Phone: (02) 9331 2881
Web: contemporaryhotels.com.au

The location Although The Seidler House is less than two hours' drive from Sydney, that easy proximity belies the remoteness of the setting. The Harry Seidler-designed building is perched dramatically on the edge of a sandstone escarpment on a 60-hectare property, where birdsong echoes through the gum-forest valley. There is literally no sign of human habitation.

The place Better known for the stark 1960s apartment block at McMahons Point that is often described as Sydney's most hated building, Seidler sought to create something "poetic and beautiful" when he built this four-bedroom house for the publisher Peter Berman in the 1990s. With its striking white wave-like roof - and a "catwalk" deck that juts out alarmingly over the Wingecarribee River hundreds of metres below - it is no surprise that the house won the Royal Institute of Architects Blacket Award for regional architecture in 2001.

The experience The front door opens to a glass-walled living room that seems suspended in the air. The interior is all rough sandstone, marble and granite offset by comfortable mid-century furniture. You might spend the weekend reading in the Eero Saarinen "Womb" chair - or inspecting the African art and antiquities that the current owners have collected on their travels. Alternatively, if the weather co-operates, there is a pool that seems to have been carved out of a rock face.

Don't miss … Be sure to trek down to the river in search of wildlife (there are said to be koalas, wombats and kangaroos on the property) or simply for an opportunity to look up and marvel at the structure jutting out far, far above.   Lauren Quaintance

Cost: $1300 a night (two-night minimum stay).
Distance:
150km south of Sydney.
Sleeps: 1-10.
Children: yes.
Wheelchair access:
limited.

CHATEAU ELAN
HUNTER VALLEY, NSW

Vintage Drive, Rothbury
Phone: (02) 4998 2500
Email: enquiries@chateauelan.com.au
Web: chateauelan.com.au

The location Chateau Elan, a luxury 100-room golf and spa resort that opened just last year, is perfectly situated in the heart of the Hunter Valley's vineyards and cellar doors. It lies on an expansive estate, which, on entering, feels like an attractive, semi-rural gated community. To reach your accommodation you must travel along a winding, sealed road, passing a collection of modern holiday homes, neat clubhouses and The Vintage golf course, designed by Greg Norman.

The place From the slightly twee-sounding name, it seems as if this establishment could be somewhere like, say, Georgia, in the United States ... And what do you know? There is a Chateau Elan in Braselton, Georgia, and now there's one Down Under, too. These resorts are the brainchild of Don Panoz, an American pharmaceuticals entrepreneur. Inside, the attractive, spacious spa king rooms are separated by some distance from the main reception and lobby area and are serviced by golf buggies if you prefer not to walk. From the rooms, there are pleasant vistas of the championship golf course and the Hunter Valley.

The experience Aside from all the chipping and putting, Chateau Elan is a good base for eating and drinking at some of the nearby Sydney Morning Herald Good Food Guide-rated eateries, such as Roberts and Nine, although there's also the in-house Legends Grill. If you don't play golf, what with the par-71 golf course literally on your (back) doorstep, you could conceivably feel a little left out. However, a mere buggy ride away there's the Spa at Chateau Elan, with no fewer than 17 rooms offering exclusive French Terrake signature treatments.

Don't miss … Breakfast on Sunday morning can be hectic, with the whole resort seeming to descend on the restaurant simultaneously and apologetic staff asking guests to wait until tables materialise. A more serene breakfast alternative is the excellent deli at Mojo's on Wilderness (84 Wilderness Road, Rothbury; 02 4930 7244; mojos.com.au). Mojo's is just up an unsealed road near Chateau Elan and features scattered bean bags on the grass and big-city-standard coffee.   Anthony Dennis

Cost: about $300 a night (two-night minimum stay) for a spa king room.
Distance:
150km north of Sydney.
Sleeps: 1-2.
Children: yes, but in spa suites guests must be 18 years or above.
Wheelchair access:
yes.

KUDOS VILLAS AND RETREATS, RED HILL
MORNINGTON PENINSULA, VIC

148-150 Red Hill Road, Red Hill
Phone: 1300 579 933
Email: mail@kudosvillas.com.au
Web: kudosatthevines.com.au

The location There's more to the Mornington Peninsula than beaches and holiday homes for the rich. Red Hill has plenty of views of the sea, but it also has an inland, country charm of gentle wooded rises, vineyards and olive plantations.

The place If your idea of heaven is reclining in a spa bath with your beloved and a glass of champagne, Kudos is your place. Set in a vineyard, the luxurious and contemporary studio units are spacious, self-contained and very private, and feature a sauna, open fireplace, outdoor deck and barbecue.

The experience You could easily spend your whole time inside curled up and being romantic (there's a choice of extra packages that provide massages or the chance to dine in your unit). But if you can tear yourselves away, there's a multitude of wineries, cafes, restaurants and galleries to sample in Red Hill, Main Ridge or further afield.

Don't miss … If you're visiting on the first Saturday of the month (September to May), try the tiny pancakes and other goodies at Red Hill's famous Community Market, in beautiful Red Hill reserve on Arthurs Seat Road.   Jane Sullivan

Cost: $680 for two adults (two-night minimum stay).
Distance: 80km south-east of Melbourne.
Sleeps: 1-2.
Children: no.
Wheelchair access:
limited.

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