When you think of luxury safaris, Australia may not immediately spring to mind. But with vast landscapes, incredible wildlife and accommodation spots so remote you can only access them by plane, Australia has a host of once-in-a-lifetime wilderness experiences you need to experience when you head Down Under. Here's our pick of the best.
Bamurru Plains, Kakadu, Northern Territory
Kakadu is one of the most magical places in Australia, a country fertile with ancient lore. Bamurru Plains, a lodge surrounded by Kakadu’s northern floodplains, offers access to the magic of this wilderness with added luxury. Built and operated to be as ecologically sensitive as possible, it brings guests into the world of magpie geese, herons, jabiru and thousands of other wetlands species. Bamurru’s ten camp-safari rooms omit distractions such as TVs and telephones to focus on luxuries such as super-comfortable beds and quality Australian cuisine and wines. Fishing trips, crocodile safaris and guided tours further afield in Arnhem Land’s ancient rock-art galleries are only some of many diversions on offer.
El Questro Homestead, Kimberley, Western Australia
First Nation Australians have lived amongst the ancient red rocks of the Kimberley for over 65,000 years. Geologically and culturally ancient, it’s one place you’ll feel you’ve found the true “soul” of Australia. Perched on a dramatic green lawned clifftop at the heart of 700,000 remote acres, El Questro Homestead delivers a luxury experience amongst this unique wilderness. Sacrificing nothing in terms of top-notch food, wine and accommodation, it also offers various ranger-led experiences. Spot rock wallabies and Johnston’s crocodiles (also known as freshwater crocodiles) in the 3km-long (1.8-mile) fresh waterhole of Chamberlain Gorge one day, the next you might snap dancing brolgas, rare Gouldian finches or any of the 100 other bird species that make the park their home.
Saffire, Freycinet National Park, Tasmania
Freycinet, Tasmania’s oldest national park, is also one of its most ecologically significant. Tourists flock to Instagram drawcards such as Wineglass Bay, but if you’re interested in a deeper engagement with the incredible flora, fauna and landscapes here (without sacrificing comfort) book a stay at Saffire. This architecturally stunning resort is nestled in thickly forested Coles Bay. If you can tear yourself away from your luxury suite, complementary experiences include guided walks to Wineglass and other ravishing bays and capes nearby, encounters with the endangered Tasmanian devil, and a “Connection to Country” walk with Mick Quilliam, an expert guide in the culture and history of the Indigenous custodians of Oyster Bay.
Sal Salis, Ningaloo Reef, Western Australia
Ningaloo Reef is synonymous with one of Australia’s most exhilarating wildlife experiences — swimming with whale sharks. Spend a night or two here at Sal Salis and you’ll be staying right on the coast in luxury eco tents with unbroken views of the Indian ocean shore, and the world’s largest Heritage-listed fringing reef, just beyond. Mid-March to July is when the whale sharks – at up to 12m (39ft) long the world’s largest fish – visit Ningaloo. True gentle giants (and plankton feeders), they’ll swim placidly alongside visiting divers, as well as the turtles, dugongs, rays and dolphins that also call the area home. From June to October, thousands of humpback whales migrate north from Antarctica. Keep your eyes on the waterline over breakfast in the central lodge and you may see one breaching the waves.
Lizard Island Lodge, Lizard Island, Queensland
Whose Australia bucket list doesn’t include the Great Barrier Reef? And what better way to see it than from Queensland’s most northerly luxury resort on tropical Lizard Island? Twenty four almost undisturbed, blissful beaches ring the remote island, a short flight from Cairns, that is home to 1000 hectares of national park. Private villas and suites boasting every luxury are often steps from the beach and the reefs beyond. Snorkel straight from the shore or take the dive boat MV Serranidae to see the wider reef and the cod, turtles and colorful reef fish that call it home.
Arkaba, Flinders Ranges, South Australia
A select handful of guests sharing 60,000 acres of gob-smacking South Australian wilderness whilst lapping up luxury? That’s what Arkaba Homestead, a former sheep station dating to the 1850s, offers. Preserving its period beauty hasn’t hampered its luxe development — upcycled Australian fittings are complemented by quality beds, air-conditioning, a wet-edge pool and fine food served under the verandah on an old wool-classing table. Activities such as walks along the Arkaba Creek, 4WD safaris in the Flinders Ranges National Park and cultural tours with local Adnyamathanha guides are just some ways to spend your days. By night, the views of the Milky Way in this remote desert location may well be the best you’ll ever encounter. Prepared to be astonished.
Silky Oaks Lodge, Daintree River, Queensland
The Daintree National Park sits atop Far North Queensland‘s list of “must-sees”. Over 1200 sq km of Heritage-listed rainforest, it’s a teeming trove of natural wonders and Indigenous culture. And what better base to explore it than the luxury treehouses of Silky Oaks Lodge, set on the forested banks of Mossman Gorge River, one of the park’s outstanding attractions. Don’t miss heritage walks with Kuku Yalanji guides, the area’s traditional custodians; sunrise yoga sessions to the sound of native birdsong; and three-to-five-hour guided walks through the virgin Daintree itself witnessing jungle wildlife like treefrogs, snakes, geckos and crocodiles.