31 December 2009
Luxury experiences lie all around Australia, from chic city restaurants to secluded outback camps and 5-star urban sanctuaries. It’s found in coastal retreats and sumptuous spas, intimate cruise ships and ecofriendly lodges. Touring is the glue that holds them all together. Tailor-made specialists like Wexas are experts in building personalised itineraries for discerning travellers who like to tour in comfort. Luxury touring in Australia is less about gold taps and marble floors and more about the privilege of space, of choice, of peace and quiet and 5-star service, backed up with a smile and a dose of Aussie sparkle. And with some truly astonishing distances to cover, how you get around is at the heart of the Australian experience.
Luxury touring by air Indulge yourself and your loved ones by travelling by private plane. You and your pilot can plot the course ahead and take as much time as you like on a customised itinerary. From your high vantage point, you could see cattle being herded on vast outback properties, kangaroos scattered across open plains or the 74 islands of the sparkling Whitsundays and the Great Barrier Reef. You’ll view natural attractions as they’re meant to be seen, such as Wilpena Pound in the Flinders Ranges – a stunning amphitheatre of mountains, the scale of which is only truly appreciated when seen from the air.
With a smaller plane you can drop in to a working outback sheep station or luxurious and remote bush camp, meet the owners for lunch or stay a while longer and get a taste of what the region has to offer. El Questro Homestead, for example, in Western Australia’s rugged Kimberley, sits in one million acres of spectacular countryside. Enjoy its ever-changing menu of contemporary food and wine, book a table for two on a private cliff top, take a gourmet picnic to a pristine rock pool or share a bottle of champagne by a cascading waterfall.
Alternatively, head out across South Australia on a luxury food safari aboard a nine-seater propjet plane. Meet gourmet chefs, cheese makers, abalone farmers, olive oil producers, wine makers and tuna wranglers as you fly from Kangaroo Island to the Eyre Peninsula and the Barossa Valley, indulging in regional delicacies.
If you’d rather stay closer to Australia’s great cities, try luxury heli-swagging on Sydney’s doorstep. A helicopter flight over the beautiful Blue Mountains leads to a secret bush camp on the southern edge of the national park. You’ll sleep beneath the stars in a traditional Australian swag.
Luxury touring by rail
Rail journeys are seldom more spectacular or luxurious than those aboard The Ghan and the Indian Pacific, two icons of Australian travel. Taking its name from the Afghan Cameleers who carried supplies to remote telegraph stations, The Ghan runs from Adelaide to Darwin (or vice versa) via Alice Springs, through the wilderness of Australia’s outback.
The full 2,979 km historic journey takes two nights, meandering between the fertile wine regions of the south, through the arid lands of the Red Centre to the tropics of Australia’s Top End. Guests have the option to take part in one of the many Whistle Stop Tours that fit around the train’s schedule, like a quad-bike adventure to Australia’s oldest working cattle station.
Alternatively, opt for the Indian Pacific, another of the world’s great train journeys. Spanning a vast 4,352 km, the legendary train has been running between Sydney and Perth through Adelaide for around 40 years, from the spectacular Blue Mountains to the treeless plains of The Nullarbor desert. Whistle Stop Tours are once again available, with choices ranging from a city tour of Adelaide to a lesson in the gold mining history at Kalgoorlie.
To truly travel in style, opt for the Platinum Service, where cabins offer double beds, en suite bathrooms, 24-hour room service, a table and two ottomans, making them ideal for entertaining. Complimentary extras include morning and afternoon tea, a turndown service, a nightcap, three meals a day, onboard entertainment and a useful pair of binoculars.
Luxury touring by sea
Given its near 50,000 km of coastline, it’s no wonder that Australia is perfect for luxury cruising. Private yacht charters, complete with skipper and crew, are an ideal way to explore. Cruise Tasmania’s renowned Bay of Fires, dining out on local oysters and fresh crayfish, washed down with Tasmanian wine, and take advantage of the lingering sunsets with a romantic sail around Georges Bay. Or see the best of Sydney as you sail past the Opera House, tack slowly around Farm Cove or head out through the Heads.
Orion Expedition Cruises offers a luxury cruise of Australia’s Top End, departing from Darwin or Broome. Visit remote locations on the stunning Gove Peninsula, the Arnhem Land coastline and see the magnificent Mitchell Falls on a purpose-built vessel designed to access the inaccessible, all in 5-star luxury. The ship combines the latest in stylish design with maritime and environmental technology. From the icestrengthened hull to the chilled champagne, this is expedition cruising at its finest, with onboard speakers and shoreside expeditions to areas most Australians never see.
Of course, there’s nothing to stop you from being at the helm of your own boat. Leave all your worries behind and take a selfskippered charter in the beautiful Whitsundays, sleeping beneath the stars and stopping off at isolated beaches, where the only footprints are the ones you leave behind.