Kings Canyon Resort, Northern Territory
More than 300 kilometres from the nearest town (Alice Springs), Kings Canyon Resort is the definition of remote, but it's parked beside one of the red centre's prize natural features: Kings Canyon. The resort is a 10-kilometre drive from the canyon and looks out onto the George Gill Range, a classic line of low outback mountains topped by a rust-red escarpment. Beyond it, there's a whole lot of spectacular nothing.
The curiosity of Kings Canyon Resort is that its campground, rather than its rooms, has the most spectacular location, peering across the sands to Carmichael's Crag, the George Gill Range's highest point. The 128 rooms, including 32 deluxe spa rooms, run around the inner perimeter of a low sandstone ridge that cuts out views but also reduces the resort's visual impact on the landscape. There's a fine lookout just a few minutes' walk from the rooms.
The grounds are aridly bountiful. About 15,000 plants from 35 local native species have been propagated in nurseries and planted around the resort.
The setting is the kind of fierce outback landscape in which you half expect to find dongas, and while the deluxe spa rooms look unremarkable from the outside, they provide ample bush luxury – nothing too fancy, but they're spacious, with a king-size bed, large couch, table, a couple of chairs and a large bathroom, all mercifully well airconditioned. The prime feature of the rooms is the spa bath, set into a recess with full-length windows looking out onto the red rocks just a few metres away. In the morning it's possible to sit in the bath, sunglasses on, in full sun, while in the evening the orange sandstone is beautifully lit by the low sun. The same view can be enjoyed dry on the small verandah beside the bath alcove.
For a place five hours' drive from the nearest town, with just one truck delivery a week, Kings Canyon Resort dishes up food of the highest quality. At the top end is the a la carte restaurant Carmichael's, where traditional meats are mixed with a few bush ingredients to produce dishes such as crispy skin chicken breast with wild fig puree, and barramundi with macadamia nut crust.
Clustered beside the bar and petrol station, the Outback BBQ and Grill is a more casual offering inside what is effectively a large shed. Chefs barbecue your chosen cut of meat – lamb, chicken, beef sirloin, kangaroo, barramundi – with sides from the salad buffet bar.
It may be the middle of nowhere, but Kings Canyon Resort has enough options to occupy several days. The canyon obviously beckons, particularly its spectacular six-kilometre rim walk, and helicopter flights depart from beside the resort – flights range from an eight-minute peek into the gorge to a lingering 30-minute look along the range. Karrke is a great immersive Indigenous cultural experience in the tiny nearby community of Wanmarra, 30 minutes' drive away. At day's end, stroll from your room to the resort's sunset viewing platform, beneath an enormous desert oak, for a beer or sparkling wine from the drinks cart as last light flares on Carmichael's Crag.
Let's be realistic. You're not going this far off the grid just because there's a lovely, spacious room with a to-die-for bath. What draws people here are the surrounds – Kings Canyon with its enormous cliffs and paradisiacal Garden of Eden. But if you want somewhere superbly comfortable and cool in which to sit out the heat of the day, with a bath-soak worthy of a loftier price bracket, the deluxe spa rooms at Kings Canyon Resort are spot on.
Luritja Road, Watarrka National Park. Deluxe spa room rates from $399, including buffet breakfast. See kingscanyonresort.com.au
Soaking in the spa with a view after hiking the Kings Canyon rim walk.
Alas, digital nomads, Wi-Fi is patchy at best.
Andrew Bain was a guest of Kings Canyon Resort and Tourism NT.