Palazzo Versace, Queensland review: Baby, its one plush playpen

Read our writer's views on this property below

It's a 'six-star' hotel but can it cope with kids? Stephen Lacey takes his rug-rat for a test drive.

Henry sits on the little sandy beach at the edge of the pool, the water lapping at his feet. He fashions a handsome castle with his bucket and spade; it's a castle fit for a king, I tell him. He smiles. My 16-month-old son is oblivious to his glamorous surroundings, which are also fit for a king (or at least the odd sheikh or two).

The Palazzo Versace might not exactly be a castle – there are no ramparts from which to fire arrows at the Surfers Paradise riff-raff – but it sure does a very good impression of a palace.

Palazzo Versace opened in 2000 and rather cheekily referred to itself as the world's first six-star hotel (rather like football players who give their team 110 per cent).

Despite the celestial hubris, there's no denying the level of opulence and service, which is why, during the past decade, the hotel has picked up a trophy cabinet full of silverware.

Last year it added to that collection, snaring the gong as the best hotel in the region at the annual HotelClub Awards.

But is it child-friendly?

Australia is in the midst of the biggest baby boom since World War II and, with more of us having children later in life, when we're more financially secure, some folk don't want to forsake the finer things in life – those things to which they have grown accustomed – just because they have a family.

Let's face it; most so-called "family" accommodation is bloody awful.

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You're left with the choice of staying in a holiday park, with god-awful cabins that always smell like Pine-O-Cleen, whingeing pensioners in Winnebagos and draughty games rooms featuring Charlie's Angels pinball machines that haven't worked since 1982 and pool tables with dodgy legs. Or it's camping, which is kind of like childbirth in that you forget how painful it is the first time around. You want to sleep under the stars? Try five stars (or six, in Palazzo Versace's case).

Anyway, we're happy to report that, yes, Palazzo Versace is surprisingly adept when it comes to catering for children, even really little ones like Henry.

First, there are the rooms themselves, which can be booked side-by-side and interconnected for extended families.

The Versace people provide a cot, booster seat (for the restaurants), activity books, children's DVDs and even the all-important PlayStation in every room.

Most of the furnishings are also kid-proof. Henry enjoyed jumping up and down on the kind of bed Caligula would have partied in and burrowing beneath the uber-expensive Versace cushions.

Speaking of which, everything at the Palazzo, from the drinking glasses to the soft upholstery, is etched with the Versace logo – the Medusa – which looks like a woman having a very bad hair day (although she could probably get it fixed at the posh salon downstairs).

The aforementioned beach at the edge of the heated 65-metre lagoon pool is also safe for children. And Versace provides beach toys such as buckets and spades (mercifully devoid of the snakes-in-the-head logo).

Even the swanky restaurants (and there are four) cater for the little ones, with special children's menus at Il Borocco and a children's high tea in Le Jardin.

One of the few problems we encountered with Henry was getting him in for a dip in the salubrious Salus per Aquum spa bath, in the mosaic-clad bowels of the hotel.

The minimum age is 12, which is fair enough, too, because folk wanting to chill out in a spa don't appreciate your offspring splashing around and peeing in the Evian water.

We even tried sneaking him into the spa under our fluffy towels at 6.30 in the morning but were sprung by the vigilant woman on the reception desk and cordially asked to leave.

Of course, the other problem with taking your kids to a place such as Versace is the fact they might get used to the luxury. And that luxury isn't exactly inexpensive, as a visit to the boutique downstairs attests. Even one of the admittedly beautiful, braided cushions will set you back the price of a small car.

If my nanna were alive, she'd have squirrelled away half the room.

She was a shocker; we still have a terry-towelling bathmat with the words Hotel Echuca emblazoned across it, so the really good stuff at the Palazzo would have proved too hard to resist; bedside lamps, side tables, even the waste-paper baskets – my grandmother would have had it all. "They expect you to take it," she'd explain.

Such an attitude might explain why the hotel's security guards must be ever-vigilant. One staff member told us about a guest who filled one of those stripy bags favoured by homeless people and sauntered out through the lobby with several sets of linen.

Another guest got up from the breakfast table only to have knives, forks and a cup and saucer fall from his trouser leg.

Not wanting to set a bad example for young Henry, we restricted our pilfering to the stuff they actually do expect you to take – such as the toiletries, slippers and the bathrobe ... the big, white, fluffy bathrobe with Medusa's head on the pocket.

The writer was a guest of the Palazzo Versace.

(Photos: Six-star luxury at Palazzo Versace)

TRIP NOTES

WHERE Palazzo Versace is on Sea World Drive, Main Beach, Queensland. Phone (07) 5509 8000, see palazzoversace.com.

HOW MUCH From $345 a room a night, including buffet breakfast for two. (Children under 12 years of age stay for free.)

BLACK MARK The furniture in our room looked a tad tired. However, since visiting the hotel, all the rooms have had a soft-furnishings refurbishment.

TOP MARKS Perhaps the most gorgeous foyer of any hotel in Australia.

DON'T MISS Sea World next door. It's great fun for parents as well as children.