Island escape, outback lodge, wildlife retreat, five-star high-rise connected to Australia's largest shopping centre – these are just some of the wonderfully varied hotels that opened in 2019. And while it doesn’t sound like they’d have much in common, this year’s fresh openings have shown us that luxury and sustainability are not mutually exclusive, no matter what the setting. Aside from eco credentials, though, these newbies offer stylish lodgings and easy access to local experiences.
NEW SOUTH WALES
Blackbird Byron Bay
Set about half an hour inland from Byron Bay’s famous beaches, this boutique bed and breakfast is surrounded by lush green rainforest. From its mountain-top vantage point there are impressive views towards Cape Byron and Mount Chincogan, best enjoyed while floating in the 10-metre-long magnesium mineral swimming pool.
Blackbird is strictly an adults-only affair, where you can be close to nature without having to sacrifice comforts such as a comfy king bed with Egyptian cotton sheets and complimentary wine, cheese and chocolate.
Owners James (formerly of The Rum Diaries and White Revolver, in Bondi) and Stella Hudson are responsible for the accommodation’s eclectic style. They designed and built the place, bringing together polished concrete floors, exposed copper fittings and reclaimed timber cabinetry to create an industrial-chic haven in the hinterland.
Wildlife Retreat at Taronga
The new accommodation at Sydney’s Taronga Zoo combines close encounters of the animal kind with eco-luxe design. There are 62 comfortable rooms spread across five sustainably designed lodges, all connecting to The Nest – a circular lounge bar with panoramic views of the city skyline. Depending on your room, floor-to-ceiling windows could offer views of bushland, Sydney Harbour or koalas chilling in the treetops (tip: go for the Treetop Suite to enjoy a soak in a freestanding bath).
Accommodation includes dinner at the on-site Me-Gal Restaurant, breakfast, exclusive wildlife experiences and admission to the zoo. With profits from the retreat supporting the work of the Taronga Conservation Society, this is a stay you can feel good about.
Tucked away in the hip, semi-industrial suburb of Alexandria is what claims to be Australia’s first co-working space with a “mini hotel” attached. Set across two levels in The Mill business estate, Kafnu packs in 16 compact hotel rooms alongside private meeting rooms, a virtual fitness studio, flexible desks and a media studio for photography, video or podcast production.
Built for the next generation of creatives and business travellers, Kafnu is members-only and additional fees may apply, depending on which facilities you want to access. After hours, the site’s bar serves Australian gins and beers, and The Grounds of Alexandria is next-door when you get hungry.\
The Whitsundays has been slowly rebuilding over the past two years, following the devastation of 2017’s Cyclone Debbie. Some truly outstanding resorts have emerged from the destruction, and Elysian Retreat – the Great Barrier Reef’s first entirely solar-powered resort – is one of them. Claiming perhaps the most secluded cove on Long Island, surrounded by rainforest and accessible only by helicopter, it doesn't get much more exclusive than this.
The retreat welcomes a maximum of 20 guests at a time, offering accommodation in 10 beachfront villas built from Australian hardwood, each with its own private balcony. Guests have access to glass-bottomed kayaks, snorkelling gear and paddleboards, but it’s perfectly acceptable to simply move from hammock, to pool, to daybed, until it’s time for sunset cocktails and complimentary canapés.
Accor’s Art Series Hotels opened its eighth art-inspired property in Brisbane this year (quickly followed by its ninth, in Perth, The Adnate), this time showcasing the photorealistic paintings of Vincent Fantauzzo.
Located under the iconic, heritage-listed Story Bridge in Brissie’s new Howard Smith Wharves cultural precinct, The Fantauzzo has 166 suites and one glamorous rooftop pool and bar with views across the Brisbane River. Interiors are modern and sleek, and the moody colour palette allows Fantauzzo’s art to stand out alongside the occasional jewel-coloured velvet sofa or cushion.
You can take a free art tour of the hotel to admire the work of the four-time Archibald People’s Choice winner. Among the 500 or so giclée prints are some of Fantauzzo’s most recognisable pieces, including portraits of his wife, Asher Keddie, and the late Heath Ledger.
Mount Mulligan Lodge
Located 160 kilometres north-west of Cairns, this luxury eco-lodge is most easily accessed by a 35-minute helicopter transfer over the ancient Daintree Rainforest.
Once you arrive, you’ll be immersed in the rugged Australian bush on a secluded 28,000-hectare working cattle station with accommodation for just 16 guests. The spacious retreats reflect the earthy tones of the surrounding landscape, which you can admire from the Sunset Bar (a quick electric buggy ride away from your room) or from the outdoor tub on your private deck. The tubs are made from repurposed water tanks – just one of many thoughtful touches that put sustainability at the fore. At the on-site restaurant, the chefs use foraged, locally sourced and seasonal produce to cook up a one-of-a-kind dining experience.
This 250-room hotel is part of Chadstone, Australia’s largest shopping centre. It’s just the second hotel in Australia to have achieved a five-star Green Star sustainable design rating.
Glamorous interiors reflect the hotel’s premium status and no detail has been overlooked. Guests can expect brass and leather finishes, a pretty palette of dusty pinks and rich blues, Appelles and Balmain toiletries and a minibar stocked with local snacks.
The jewel in the hotel’s 12th-storey crown however, is the indoor pool overlooking Port Phillip Bay, plus the stylish rooftop bar and restaurant Altus. Downstairs you’ll also find an Italian restaurant, Pastore, run by renowned chef and restaurateur Scott Pickett.
The ninth Art Series hotel is the most contemporary yet, focusing on the work of Melbourne-based muralist Matt Adnate. It’s also the most visually striking to date. The eastern façade is painted with three enormous faces that, between them, encompass 25 of the building’s 27 storeys: an Indigenous Noongar man, an Indian girl and a Middle Eastern woman.
Inside, 650 giclée prints depict more of Adnate’s work. There’s also a gym and small-ish rooftop pool that segues into Hyde Perth Kitchen + Cocktails, the hotel’s own cocktail bar.
As at the Fantauzzo (and all Art Series hotels), each stay includes complimentary art tours and in-room art channels.
If ever a hotel name evoked a sense of timeless luxury, it’s the Ritz-Carlton, and this new opening in Perth marks the brand’s return to Australia, as well as its 100th hotel globally. Located in the landmark Elizabeth Quay development, overlooking the Swan River, this hotel has everything you’d expect of a Ritz-Carlton.
There are 205 elegantly appointed guestrooms, a rooftop pool and bar, a spa with a menu of holistic treatments, and an innovative restaurant showcasing Western Australian produce.
A lot of effort has gone into creating a hotel with a sense of place and you’ll find more than 10,000 pieces of handpicked Kimberley sandstone throughout, as well as 13-metre ceilings and a custom chandelier in the lobby, which is designed to reflect the landscape of Karijini National Park.
AUSTRALIAN CAPITAL TERRITORY
Part of Marriott International’s Autograph Collection, this addition to Australia’s capital is all about pared-back, contemporary style and customer experience. The chic, dimly lit interiors feel like stepping into the future – think black tiling, back-lit mirrors, marble and gold accents, textural furnishings and bespoke art by renowned sculptor Thomas Bucich.
The minibar is complimentary; the plush king-sized beds are dressed in premium linen; and the on-site wellness centre features a 20-metre lap pool, sauna and pool deck. If you’re more interested in what’s outside, you'll be pleased to find the 199-room hotel is set just 15 minutes’ stroll from the city centre in the emerging suburb of Braddon, surrounded by cool cafes, breweries and quirky shops.
Read more: Australia’s Best Hotel Openings of 2018.