Only one-hour north of Sydney lies the award-winning Calabash Bay Lodge – Berowra Waters’ best kept holiday secret.
Surrounded on all sides by sweeping riverfront national park, Calabash Bay Lodge is only accessible by boat, and has its own private jetty for boating, kayaking and fishing. The sunny, three-level, north-facing lodge features contemporary designer furnishings, a stunning master king suite, and floor-to-ceiling windows throughout, offering stunning views of the Hawkesbury River.
“Luxe Lovers” package
From $1,650 per night
From $455 per night
Famous for its warm hospitality, Ulladulla Guest House is the place to enjoy boutique accommodation, fine regional produce and indulgent pampering. All suites are 5-star, from stylish Executive Suites to divine self-contained units. With various on-site activities and beautiful grounds, you can guarantee a delightfully romantic trip away with your loved one.
From $122 per night, twin share – includes a two-night stay, breakfast daily and one dinner.
Falls Mountain Retreat is a true oasis for the discerning traveller. The contemporary hideaway, nestled amongst acres of secluded and peaceful gardens on the edge of Blue Mountains National Park., is famous for the walking trails, cool waterfalls and breathtaking views right on its doorstep. In a stylish departure from the historic hotels, cottages and B&Bs for which the Blue Mountains is generally renowned, Falls Mountain Retreat offers a choice of modern self-contained apartments including loft studios, one-bedroom suites and two-bedroom apartments.
A romantic, real-flame open fireplace, deep and spacious two-person hydrotherapy massage spa bath and contemporary soft furnishings are standard with whichever option you choose. The style is warm, welcoming and refreshing, and the atmosphere peaceful and private – all the ingredients for a romantic getaway.
With Thredbo’s cobblestone streets reminiscent of an Austrian ski resort, Falls Creek’s chalets set right on the snow, and numerous mountain trails to explore at Perisher, it can be a little overwhelming when deciding which snow resort will be best for you. To help you make the right decision next winter, here’s our Aussie snow guide for two.
When it comes to mountainside romance, you can’t go past a ski holiday at Thredbo in New South Wales’ Snowy Mountains. The European immigrant-influenced village at this quaint resort has an alpine charm that’s easy to fall in love with. After a day schussing down the resort’s signature (intermediate) run, the Supertrail (3.7km), you can rest your weary muscles in a number of bars at “happy hour”. Our pick is Thredbo Alpine Hotel’s Lounge Bar, where you can slump fi reside in a cosy chair with a schnapps in hand, watching the last rays of sun light up the slopes.
Once darkness descends, head up the Kosciuszko Express Chairlift for dinner with a view at Australia’s highest restaurant (1,937m), Eagles Nest.
Dining at one of Thredbo’s oldest lodges, Candlelight Lodge, where couples can share traditional cheese fondue. thredbo.com.au
City slickers will relish the accessibility of Mt Buller, just a three-hour drive from the bright lights of Melbourne.
Mt Buller is great for couples seeking a quick weekend escape or on a first-time snow holiday. The resort’s small size (300ha of skiable terrain) makes it easy for beginners to navigate. You don’t have to click into a pair of skis to have a memorable winter holiday there either; there are plenty of other activities, including sled-dog tours and snowshoeing.
Beneath that Kiwi calm and reserve must throb a vein of derangement. How else to explain why New Zealand is the recognized home of both bungee jumping and jet-boating? The former act of madness originated eons ago as a coming-of-age ritual on the islands of Vanuatu, east of Australia. You may not have realized you had a burning desire to attach a thick rubber cord around your ankles before diving headfirst off a bridge into an apocalyptic void, but Queenstown’s high-energy fun is infectious, and so far – with a 100 percent safety record – everyone has lived to tell about it, including an eighty-four-year-old grandfather.
For an added fee, you can have the escapade filmed and bring the video home to relive your fleeting moment of lunacy. The world’s first bungee site is the Kawarau Suspension Bridge, a 143-foot plunge that has hosted more than 300,000 jumps. But an alternative four-wheel drive to Skippers Canyon Bridge – a soul-shattering 229-foot descent into a rocky gorge – is just as memorable as the jump itself.
For those who’d rather be on the water than over it, the Shotover River’s steep rock walls and white – water rapids are the scene for heart-stopping jet-boat trips that fly you over the shallow waters – sometimes only inches deep – negotiating huge boulders and rushing waters. Flat-bottomed boats perform 360- degree pirouettes within inches of canyon walls.
Native New Zealander Sir William Hamilton first created a revolutionary propulsion jet that allowed navigation in shallow or difficult waters where others dared not go, and versions of Hamilton’s jet are now used around the world, though only Shotover Jet is licensed to operate here, guaranteeing a traffic-free experience.
A third of New Zealand’s most dazzling national park consists of permanent snow and ice. It boasts seventy-two named glaciers and twenty-seven mountain peaks that top 10,000 feet, including Mount Cook, which stands head and shoulders above its neighbors. It’s not quite what one expects to find in the South Pacific, on the same island that gives us groves of palm trees and hibiscus plants.
This is the place to splurge on unforgettable flightseeing in, around, and through the Southern Alps. Flights include a snow landing on the 19-mile-long Tasman Glacier, the longest river of ice outside the Himalayas; in the deep silence of the roof-of-the-world panorama, you can occasionally hear the rumble from within as the glacier shifts ever so slightly.
Skiing is the other activity of choice in this entirely alpine park, with heli-skiing, an exhilarating 8-mile-long glacier run (the southern hemisphere’s longest ski run), and downhill ski touring available. A number of guided and unguided walks take anywhere from thirty minutes to three days for the well-known Copland Track.
New Zealander Sir Edmund Hillary used this high-altitude park to train before his record-setting ascent of Mount Everest. The Hermitage, one of the world’s best-sited hotels, offers this magnificent scenery from most of its picture windows.
The Australians may claim the Great Barrier Reef as the Eighth Wonder of the World, but Rudyard Kipling gave the honor to New Zealand’s Milford Sound. Kiwis disagree with both – they rank it first or second. Milford is the most famous of more than a dozen grand fjords that make up majestic Fiordland National Park on the South Island’s southwestern coast.
The 10-mile-long inlet is hemmed in by sheer granite cliffs rising up to 4,000 feet, with waterfalls cascading from the mountain ridges. Playful bottlenose dolphins, fur seals, and gulls call its waters home, and crested penguins nest here in October and November before leaving for Antarctica. Mitre Peak is the centerpiece, a 5,560-foot pinnacle whose reflection in the mirror-calm water is one of the Pacific’s most photographed sites. Flightseeing here is a great option, and boats leave frequently for two-hour cruises through the quiet beauty of the sound.
On land, the Milford Track was once called by a flushed hiker “the finest walk in the world,” a description that has deservedly stuck. It is a four-day, 32-mile trek most serious hikers around the world dream of undertaking, despite the sand flies, at least an inch of daily rainfall, and strenuous stretches demanding as much attention as the awesome scenery. (And don’t miss the scenic 75-mile Milford Road from Te Anau to Milford Sound.)
Getting farther into Fiordland National Park requires four modes of transportation, culminating in your arrival by boat at Doubtful Sound, the deepest and, some say, most beautiful of New Zealand’s fjords. The engines are turned off and you are enveloped in the centuries-old silence of one of the world’s most remote and magical places. Captain Cook wasn’t even sure these waters were a sound, hence its name.
Ten times larger than Milford Sound and less known, Doubtful Sound retains an element of mystery and is void of the aerial tours and boat traffic that can mar a visit to Milford.
Just two boats operate on the sound, at opposite ends and out of each other’s line of sight, giving visitors the sensation of being alone in this exquisite pocket of primeval nature. Rainfall is 300 inches a year and up, but even a rainy day has its beauty, as spontaneous waterfalls sprout out of nowhere, their sound cloaked in mist and intrigue.
In a country where nature is king, it is no surprise that tramping is the national pastime – and what remarkable scenery there is to tramp through. Together, the Routeburn (which trekking connoisseurs compare favorably with the fabled Milford Track) and the Greenstone Valley Walk become the Grand Traverse, New Zealand’s premier trek.
The 24-mile Routeburn Track crosses the Southern Alps by means of the breathtaking Harris Saddle Pass at 3,900 feet and descends through a world of abundant forest, ferns, mountain streams, lakes, and waterfalls within the appropriately named Mount Aspiring National Park. Following an ancient Maori trail through Fiordland National Park, the 25-mile Greenstone Valley Walk crosses the main divide of the Southern Alps, within a beautiful river valley encircled by towering mountains. The six-day trek is not strenuous; the only thing that takes your breath away is the scenery.
Guided treks offer a number of obvious advantages, not least being the use of huts with hot running water. Solo hikers stay in more rudimentary accommodations and must register with the local authorities. The number of hikers is strictly controlled, accompanied or not, so book well in advance.
Unlike most of the world’s revered wine-growing regions, which are celebrated for their grapes alone, the Marlborough region of the South Island combines two distinctive reasons to visit: the grandeur of the unspoiled coastal Marlborough Sounds, with dozens of secluded bays and beaches, and to the south, the vineyards encircling the town of Blenheim.
Surrounded by mountains, this rolling area of former sheep farms became a wine district little more than twenty years ago, but today it’s one of the country’s largest and best known, with fifteen area vineyards producing sauvignon blanc and chardonnay that are making their mark internationally. The area is still dominated by industry giant Montana, but the wineries of Cloudy Bay and Hunters are also recognizable names, and worth a visit.
Eight lucky guests will call Timara Lodge their home while here; the elegant but cozy Tudor-style manor house was built in the 1920s, and its English-style gardens and small lake (complete with two black swans) make as lovely a setting as one could wish to find. Excellent food is, of course, complemented by an excellent cellar stocked with the best local and national wines, all passionately overseen by your delightful hosts.
At steamy Rotorua, center of the intense thermal field of the Taupo Volcanic Plateau, mud pools bubble and sulfurous fumaroles hiss up through crevices in the earth’s surface, creating a bizarre geothermal spectacle that George Bernard Shaw called “the most hellish scene” he had ever witnessed.
There are bubbly “Champagne cauldrons,” hot and cold rivers, otherwordly-looking natural silica terraces, and the unpredictable Pohutu Geyser, which sprays up to 100 feet in the air – sometimes for just a few minutes, sometimes for several hours at a time. Rotorua is home to one third of New Zealand’s Maoris, whose legends explain the geothermal activity as a gift of fire from the gods. The area first boomed as a spa town in the 1840s, and although it’s become commercialized and unashamedly touristy, visitors have been drawn to its sometimes frightening natural wonders ever since.
If the ubiquitous smell of sulfur becomes too much, escape to the astonishingly beautiful countryside or to Solitaire Lodge, one of New Zealand’s most beautifully sited hotels: It’s built on the elevated tip of a forested promontory overlooking the magnificent, rainbow trout-rich Lake Tarawera and an extinct volcano of the same name.
A dramatic and remote coastal setting is not the first thing that comes to mind when you think “sheep station,” and sheep station is not the first thing that comes to mind when you think “luxurious getaway,” but Wharekauhau is all about confounding expectations.
A sprawling 5,000-acre farm that includes miles of secluded black volcanic sand beaches, emerald green pastures, and dense forests rich with red deer, wild boar, and mountain goats, Wharekauhau provides a true New Zealand experience and exudes a genuine tradition of rural hospitality.
Guests can roll up their sleeves and help with the dipping, shearing, and docking, ride horses or stroll along the beach, do a little surf casting, visit nearby seal rookeries, and explore historic Maori sites and local wineries – then recount it all over dinners of simple but elegantly presented home-cooked country fare. In the Maori language, Wharekauhau means “the place where the gods meet.” They, too, must have loved the spirit of the place.
Bumper stickers call Lake Taupo the Rainbow Trout Capital of the Universe, and they’re not exaggerating: Even by New Zealand standards, these trout are monsters, with the average catch weighing in at 4 pounds and 20-pounders causing barely a stir.
The nation’s largest lake, measuring 20 miles by 25 miles (with a depth of 600 feet in some places), Taupo is the crater of an ancient volcano and is located near the center of the North Island, framed by three active volcanoes in nearby Tongariro National Park. All kinds of craft, from vintage steamers to modern catamarans, are available to take fishermen and sun-seekers out onto its cool, clear waters, and in the town of Taupo, your hotel’s chef will prepare your catch to your liking.
Located 3 miles south of Taupo, Huka Lodge is the ne plus ultra of European-flavored country sporting lodges – it’s where James Michener found the inspiration for parts of Return to Paradise. With its proximity to Lake Taupo, and with the frisky Waikato River running through its serene, parklike grounds, Huka’s name is spoken with reverence in anglers’ circles around the world.
Spacious private villas are located along the serene, willow-draped banks of the river, redwoods tower over the glass roof of your bathroom, and sliding glass doors bring the outdoors in. You can ask for a gourmet lunch hamper and make an afternoon at mighty Huka Falls. As New Zealand’s most exclusive hideaway, the quality of wining and dining is never less than superb.