If you fancy a glam getaway close to home, you’re in luck. Sydney is blessed with loads of dreamy destinations within a credit card’s throw of town, ideal for blissed-out breaks with your partner or posse.
Concrete Playground has teamed up with boutique hotel specialists Mr & Mrs Smith to round up ten of the best luxury hotels and self-catering stays in New South Wales (plus a few detours to Melbourne, Brisbane and Auckland), including everything from sexy city stays to romantic rustic retreats. And don’t worry, we’ve got you covered for spa hedonism, winery wandering and island hopping, too.
So grab your your wallet and your girl or boy, and go.
Where: 2600 Wolgan Valley Road, Blue Mountains, NSW
So, you need a country fix, but don’t want to schlep too far? Lovers of all things rural will go ga-ga for Blue Mountains boutique hotel Wolgan Valley Resort & Spa.
A luxe eco-retreat set in over 4,000 acres of Jurassic Park-style wilderness, it’s less than three hours’ drive from Sydney. Once there, work the cowboy look with a spot of horse-riding, mount a mountain bike or just hit the seductive pool or spa. Then again, it’s hard to tear yourself away from skinny-dipping in your own plunge pool, which come as standard in the 40 swish, standalone suites. Cate Blanchett and The Sartorialist fashion blog crew are all fans of Wolgan’s just-remote-enough charms.
Where: Lagoon Road, Lord Howe Island, off NSW
Set on the closest Aussie island to Sydney, elegant escape Capella Lodge on Lord Howe Island may be a two-hour flight away, but it definitely ticks the ‘getting away from it all’ box.
There are a lot of birds here, but you don’t have to be a binoculars-toting twitcher to get on a natural high. Soak up views of tropical peaks, turquoise lagoons and coral reefs from the hotel’s nine stylish suites, the dreamy infinity pool or the terrace bar, where cocktails and sunset go together like sunglasses and Stevie Wonder. Grab a free bike to tour the island’s beaches before returning for some fine dining and spa pampering.
Where: 164 Commercial Road, Melbourne, VIC
Flex your art muscles at The Cullen boutique hotel in Melbourne, a stylish homage to Aussie art’s 'enfant terrible', Adam Cullen. Hip, modern interiors in the lobby and 119 sleek bedrooms are decked out with Adam’s vibrant, cartoonish paintings and prints, including iconic Ned Kelly bushranger images.
The ground-floor is a sociable spot to hang out, with brunch and casual bites at the Terrace bistro by day, and Chinese dumplings galore at Hutong by night. Prahran Market is right opposite if you feel a Melbourne foodie moment coming on, and Chapel Street’s fashion-savvy shops are a stroll away. For eco-chic exploring, hire one of the bespoke red Swedish pushbikes or a Smart car for the day.
Where: off the Old Hume Highway, near Bowral (address details shared on booking), NSW
Indulge your inner architect with a beyond-cool sojourn at jaw-dropping Southern Highlands self-catering stay The Seidler House, a wave-like wonder suspended over a vertigo-inducing gorge.
It may look like a James Bond pad, but this dramatic sandstone, concrete and glass edifice was built by the late Harry Seidler, Australia’s most renowned architect. Boasting four bedrooms (sleeping eight), two vast living rooms, a dining area and curvy pool cut into the rock, this is the ultimate group getaway. Indoors, the mid-century mix of iconic furniture and Aboriginal art is sure to wow, but it’s hard to beat the va-va-voom views. Enjoy bush rambles, then pop to the South Coast for a surf session.
Where: 251 Talga Road, Lovedale, NSW
It may seem weird to talk of tonic in Australia’s most famous wine belt, but Tonic boutique hotel in the Hunter Valley will cure what ails stressed out Sydneysiders. Design savvy but laid-back, this shabby-chic take on Antipodean style (think iron, timber and glass buildings, flanked by native plants) is home to just eight light and airy rooms, including two in a separate apartment.
Pop up with your other half, or some pals (it’s just two- and-a half hours’ drive from town), and knock up a feast in the communal kitchen/lounge, or take a bottle of red out onto the deck. Star-gazing from the perky pool will help slake those hangovers.
Where: 83 High View Road, Pretty Beach, NSW
In an ideal world, we’d all have our own beach house. Don’t despair if your budget doesn’t extend to shoreside real estate, though. Get behind the wheel and sashay up to Pretty Beach House hotel on the Central Coast of New South Wales.
Just 100 kilometres from Sydney, this is a seriously stylish stay with a real feel for the Australian bush. Surrounded by ancient angophoras and silvery eucalypts, this modern-rustic guesthouse on the Bouddi Peninsula offers views out to Brisbane Waters from its dreamy poolside deck. There are just three one-bedroom pavilions and delicious Italian meals and snacks come care of top chef Stefano Manfredi. Make time for a free guided bush walk, or head to crowd-free coves and beaches for a cooling dip.
Where: 2 High Street, Auckland, New Zealand
New Zealand is well within mini-breaking distance, so consider going trans-Tasman when you next get out of town. Just a three-hour flight from Sydney, Hotel DeBrett in Auckland’s CBD is the perfect place to roost, just a skip away from convivial Vulcan Lane and High Street’s fashion-forward stores (handy for scoping NZ labels such as Kate Sylvester, Zambesi or Karen Walker).
This stylish haven has long been popular with in-the-know locals, who throng the intimate, speakeasy-style Housebar come evening. Brunching at in-house restaurant Kitchen has become a hot weekend ticket, too, and as a guest you’ll have first dibs. Bring your shades as the stripy rugs in the 25 rooms are ultra bright; art deco goes Pop.
Where: above Wategos Beach, Byron Bay (address details shared on booking), NSW
Even if it wasn’t languishing above one of Byron Bay’s most blissful beaches (the wonderful Wategos), Byron Bay Villa would get our vote. A double-decked diva of a beach house, this boho pad offers open-plan, white-on-white contemporary interiors with hip retro touches.
Kenzo-striped sofas and cheery patterned cushions stop the styling getting sterile, as do seductive Asian sculptures. Killer Pacific Ocean views are a given (admire them from the lap pool or spa), so look out for dolphins year-round or whales if you’re here between June and November. This glam abode sleeps up to eight, with a knock-out kitchen. Then again Bryon Bay’s mellow cafés and restaurants are always pretty tempting too.
Where: 37 Balfour Street, New Farm, Brisbane, QLD
Nothing says ‘weekend away’ like a lazy brunch and a rooftop bar, and we’re pretty partial to the petite one at Spicers Balfour Hotel in Brisbane. With skyline city views, it’s a sultry spot for an evening rendez-vous – try the Scarlett O’Hara, a moreish mix of Southern Comfort, cranberry and lime.
The Balfour Dining Room is open daily for breakfast and champagne high tea, too, with chef Tyson Buchanan whipping up seasonal, organic fare, best sampled on the breezy Queenslander veranda. Thread counts are high in the nine bedrooms, where tactile sheets by lustworthy Italian label Society ensure a good sleep. Night owls are well catered for, too; New Farm and nearby Fortitude Valley are the Brisbane neighbourhoods du jour, so get out and play.
Where: near Palm Beach (address details shared on booking), NSW
Poised above Palm Beach, fashionable Northern Beaches self-catering stay Pacific Road House offers a licence to chill, just an hour’s drive from Sydney. A glam renovation of a 1950s residence, its groovy interiors were created by hot decorator Greg Natale.
Sleeping groups of up to seven, this natty little number would suit surfers with style or lovers of beach chic. We’re talking three bedrooms, two bathrooms and a media room (oh yes), as well as a smart kitchen, and open-plan living and dining space with a wall of glass doors giving onto the terrace. An outdoor courtyard makes for sun-kissed barbies and the loungers on the deck just plead to be paired with a prosecco. Heck, there’s even a trampoline in the garden.
February 17, 2012 by Rich Fogarty