Luxurious Wining, Dining, And Sleeping — Glamping, Anyone? — In Southeast Queensland, Australia
by Ken Gargett
Queensland, known locally as the Sunshine State, is a mecca for tourists from around the world. The Great Barrier Reef and its islands, the Gold Coast, northern rainforests, endless beaches, the outback, and Fraser Island all draw many tens of thousands each year.
Located on the western side of the Great Divide, the range of mountains running the length of the eastern coast of Australia, this is a wonderfully photographic region and one that defies the conventional wisdom about Queensland.
It can get seriously cold in winter – minus 9.2 degrees Celsius at one winery last week, for example. This is partly due to its elevated altitude, around 800-1,200 meters.
It is the leading wine region in Queensland. And although production is small, meaning that the wines are rarely seen outside the state, there are some tasty bottles.
There is much to do: several nearby national parks have amazing walks, scenery, and wildlife – there is a reason the region is called the Granite Belt: it is littered with huge granite boulders as though the gods forgot to pack up their marbles after a game. There are farmers’ markets, cafés, cheese factories, olive oil farms, galleries, and so much more.
And there is all manner of accommodation. The Granite Belt has one of the highest densities of bed & breakfasts in Australia (try the wonderful Grovely House), and there are some fabulous options for vineyard stays, one of the best being Ridgemill Estate. And don’t miss its brilliant Chardonnays while there.
For luxury, however, two places stand out.
Mention camping to some people and there is horror and shock, but these people have never experienced “glamping” (luxury/glamorous camping) and certainly never spent a night in a tent like this.
Alure, which offers both luxury villas and glamping (two villas and one “tent,” so overcrowding is never a problem), is right in the middle of the Granite Belt, just south of Stanthorpe, on a lovely 50-acre property with bushland, large dams, and plenty of local wildlife.
This is tranquility personified. If you have never woken up with kangaroos and wallabies just outside, this is your chance. You might even spot a koala. But first, there is much to enjoy.
The Granite Belt might be cold on occasion (summer is much warmer, naturally, though still cool by Queensland standards), but settling back in your outdoor hot spa, gazing up at the star-filled sky with a glass of Queensland’s finest in your hand, you quickly realize it does not get much better. You can even order a massage.
For dinner, it is easy to prepare something you have picked up during the day – this is one of the nation’s finest fruit bowls – if you want to stay home or just duck into one of the many local restaurants. Or take advantage of the barbeque facilities on your deck. Alternatively, the team at Alure can arrange all manner of dishes and you can even have an in-villa chef for the evening.
Inside, there is everything one would not expect – fireplace (or air conditioning, depending on the season), four-poster bed, widescreen television, wifi (not always as easy as you’d think out there), dishwasher, refrigerator, laundry, modern bathroom, and a kitchen.
Alure is a brilliant place to spend a few days while you explore the region. But before you set off, a full breakfast with some of the fantastic local produce is waiting for you to enjoy on the large wooden deck.
You’ll never go back to camping again.
About an hour short of the Granite Belt, a perfect spot to break the journey (or just enjoy what is one of Queensland’s finest resorts), is Spicer’s Peak Lodge. Spicer’s has a few first-class establishments in Queensland and is now venturing into New South Wales. But this was the first (and my favorite).
Spicers Peak Lodge is more than 1,100 meters above sea level. Drive up through the mists and the surrounding World Heritage-listed national park, remembering that this is also a working 8,000-acre nature refuge and cattle property, and emerge near the top to a beautiful lodge. Be greeted with a glass of Perrier-Jouët champagne or a gin and tonic.
You’ll be checked in as you warm up by the fire, if you happen to be there on a foggy winter’s day, or enjoy the spectacular views (most days) back toward the coast. You can admire the artwork – I was immediately a fan as there hangs a wonderful piece by one of my favorite artists, New York-based Aussie David Rankin.
Stays are all inclusive, so a refreshing lunch and glass of wine awaits. Take advantage of the many activities before a degustation dinner with a fine range of accompanying wines selected by the sommelier. It changes every evening, so you will not have to endure repeating. Not that this would be a chore.
There are a variety of suites and rooms, starting at $999 per room per night, all inclusive of meals and drinks. Activities include tennis, billiards, croquet, a pool, bush walks, picnics, mountain biking, or relaxing with a spa or massage. Helicopter rides might be extra.
This is ultimate luxury in a magic setting. It is a bucket list destination.
For more information, please visit www.spicersretreats.com.