Sunday, May 3, 2009

Dream Isles

These posh yet remote offshore hideaways foster romance while celebrating Australia's awesome natural diversity from kangaroos to koalas to giant clams


Why we love it

It's South Pacific meets Crocodile Dundee . Born from a volcanic eruption some 7 million years ago, Lord Howe Island is encircled by the southern-most coral reef in the world but is only a two-hour flight from Sydney. Its 2,870-foot Mt. Gower towers out of the coral-fringed, electric blue water next to Ball's Pyramid (the world's largest rock stack), centerstage amid rugged peaks, lush forests and serene lagoons populated by some of Oz's rarest plants, birds and marine life. Because of the island's unique biodiversity, visitors are restricted to 400 at a timebe sure to book well in advanceand only 350 lucky folks call it home (but each has a personality strong enough to populate it three times over).

How to enjoy it

Climb to paradise. Walk to the base of the imposing twin peaks, Mt. Gower and Mt. Lidgbird, where a trail leads you to what some enthusiasts have claimed is the best hike in the world. Not for the fainthearted, this challenging eight-hour trek (ropes are required) demands fierce determination and a sincere love of heightsyet the breathtaking scenery and the keen knowledge that environmentalist leader Jack Schick imparts make the effort more than worth it.

Put some shrimp on the barbie. Ned's Beach, in the Northeast, has both a shallow reef protected by a sand bank and a section more than 30 feet deep. Snorkel here and spy on schools of kingfish and spangled emperor fish, not to mention the occasional whale shark. Have your hotel pack a cooler of seafood and steak, fire up one of the permanent grills and have fun as you mingle with free-spirited locals.

Where to unwind

Capella Lodge This luxurious nine-room resort combines contemporary tropical decor with light-filled beach house ambience. The open-plan Lidgbird Suite is the one to book for the awe-inspiring 180-degree views of its namesake mountain. When not cocooning there, sample the local kingfish and pork belly tempura in the restaurant, which also has commanding ocean panoramas (doubles from $934, including breakfast and dinner;

Arajilla Its 12 rooms and suites are set under the thick vegetation of banyan trees and kentia palms. Spring for a two-bedroom apartment for both space and style. Enjoy a gold leaf (toning) or silver leaf (soothing) facial and discover the art of ancient Ayurvedic massage in the island's best spa (doubles from $745, all-inclusive;

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Why we love it

It's marsupial safari central. Wallabies, koalas and penguins cavort alongside farmers, fishermen and artisanal food-makers on Kangaroo Island, just off the coast of South Australia. The country's third largest island, it offers the best of the mainland on a more intimate scale. Dramatic vistas of the Southern Ocean (there's nothing between you and Antarctica) and sculptured landscapes lie unspoiledperfect for romantic walks on deserted beaches. In Flinders Chase National Park, seal colonies romp near the Remarkable Rocks, and elusive leafy sea dragons (giant seahorses) bob offshore. Post-sunset enjoy the nocturnal ramble of possums and bandicoots.

How to enjoy it

Go taste-testing. Experience a journey of produce with Exceptional Kangaroo Island Tours' daylong food safari to the island's best farms, wineries and dairies ( Interspersed throughout the tour are a walk amid sea lions and a bush barbecue near koalas. Back at Southern Ocean Lodge, hike for sundown "kocktails, kanapA[c]s and kangaroos" and sip bubbly as marsupials graze on wide-open grasses.

De-stress Down Under. Settle into the sanctuary of The Southern Ocean Lodge couples spa retreat and gaze at the deep blue sea before sampling a Bay of Shoals Mineral Salt Scrub, Ligurian Honey and Almond Polish, or Wild Lavender and Milk Wrap. Kick back in the steam room, then fall into deep relaxation with a Southern Ocean Signature Couples Massage.

Where to unwind

Southern Ocean Lodge Australia's newest and most luxurious resort rests atop cliffs on the island's southwest coast. Rooms feature sandblasted limestone floors, recycled spotted gum walls, lavish king-sized beds and dramatic glass-walled bathrooms. Lodge cuisine focuses on fresh, seasonal and local ingredients, and its impressive wine cellar includes South Australia's best vintages. Sipping an Eden Valley riesling in the clifftop dining room is about as heavenly as it gets (doubles from $1,462;

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Why we love it

It's castaway chic. Lizard's allure is obvious long before it's actually in view. As a charter flight whisks you out of the Queensland tropics and over the Great Barrier Reef, you're captivated by a coral kaleidoscope of ever-shifting greens and blues. When a rocky outcropping appears, there's no denying Lizard's remotenessand that's its ultimate appeal. While boats packed with daytripping snorkelers speed in the distance for the three-hour ride back to Cairns, step onto one of 24 white-powder beaches, where exclusivity reigns. Even the brush, rattled by the scurry of monitor lizards, is bewitching as you relax above lagoons rich with sea life.

How to enjoy it

Dive in. The Day-Glo colors of the Great Barrier Reef will astound snorkelers swimming through a 120-year-old giant clam garden. Lizard's dive boat operates half- and full-day excursions to stunning inner and outer reef dive sites. Those visiting Cod Hole will meet up with nonthreatening 10-foot sharks and one very friendly, cow-sized fish: a potato cod.

Dine beneath the stars. Enjoy the ultimate in gourmet seclusion at one of Voyages Lizard Island's two private beaches. Prior to dinner, you will meet with the chef to discuss your five-course menu and wine pairings: Try the Morton Bay Bugs (small, delicate lobsters) and a bottle of Bollinger.

Take a look. Trek the half mile up to Cook's Look, where in 1770 Captain James Cook gave Lizard its name (because of the many reptiles) and charted his way out of nearby reefs. On the way back, stop at Chinaman's Ridge for sunset views.

Where to unwind

Voyages Lizard Island From the sun-dappled dining room to the 40 elegant suites, everything exudes understated elegance. Magnificent Anchor Bay Suites are set in a broad sweeping arc along the bay, but it's The Pavilion, with its posh plunge pool, daybed and deck, that has the killer panoramic view (doubles from $1,308, all-inclusive;

For more info,


Capella Lodge

Southern Ocean Lodge

Voyages Lizard Island

Source Citation:Goetz, Scott. "Dream Isles Down Under.(Geographic overview)." Modern Bride 60.6 (Dec-Jan 2009): 324. InfoTrac Tourism, Hospitality, and Leisure eCollection. Gale. BROWARD COUNTY LIBRARY. 3 May 2009


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