21 October 2021
From Australia’s first carbon-neutral resort and an outback geodesic dome to a rainforest retreat and secluded bush-glamping nook, these memorable New South Wales eco-retreats prove that high-end luxury and planet-friendly practices really can be natural bedfellows.
On the edge of two UNESCO World Heritage-listed national parks, Crystal Creek Rainforest Retreat is a haven for naturally curious peace-seekers. An hour’s drive northwest of Byron Bay, the 102-hectare Tweed Valley property’s Gondwana Rainforest teems with rare flora and fauna, including around 150 bird species and 400-year-old giant trees. Sixty percent of Crystal Creek is a regenerative buffer zone, protected by a Voluntary Conservation Agreement.
The rest is yours to explore — hike fern-lined gullies, unfurl a picnic pack in the orchard or recline in creekside hammocks, serenaded by babbling water and birdsong. After a night-time glow-worm safari, retire to your small-footprint Creekside Spa Cabin or the Luxury Rainforest Lodge. Pop lemon-myrtle bath salts into the sunken double-spa bath and admire the floor-to-ceiling forest vista.
This premium island escape seems like another world, but it’s only a two-hour flight from Sydney to enchanting Lord Howe Island. Capella Lodge‘s sumptuous suites, lofts and pavilion exude a make-your-self-at-home beach-house vibe.
The rooms are naturally air-conditioned — shuttered doors, thick palms, and generous verandahs direct the cool sea breezes inside — and decked out in chic Australian-designer furnishings. On the edge of Lord Howe Island’s nature preserve and bookended by Mt Gower and Mt Lidgbird, your view alone is a holiday-long highlight. Capella’s owner, Baillie Lodges, embraces the island’s strict environmental commitment with strong recycling programs, rainfall harvesting and prolific use of solar power. Complimentary mountain bikes encourage you to explore this paradise just like the locals do.
Faraway Domes has quickly become one of Australia’s most enchanting properties. The east-facing geodesic dome is strategically perched on a secluded basalt outcrop, overlooking the 3,600-hectare property, a 2.5-hour drive north of country music capital Tamworth. The classic rolling bush scape is best savoured in the stunning standalone bath or balcony plunge pool.
A 180-degree bay window floods light into the airy, well-appointed open-plan interior, tailored with lamps made from old farm machinery and a recycled-pine kitchen island. Faraway’s ever-increasing eco-credentials include a deluxe composting loo-with-a-view and a solar system that handles most reasonable power demands, thanks to the outback’s endless sunny days.
Making the most of its rarefied bushland outlook in the Blue Mountains foothills, 80 minutes drive from Sydney, this eco-certified boutique retreat lives up to its name: Sangoma is a Zulu word for healer.
Spicers Sangoma Retreat’s intimate suites embody no-need-to-leave-your-room luxury with private plunge pools, secluded balconies and freestanding Philippe Starck baths for two. Reasons to leave include kicking back in a relaxation pod by the solar-heated infinity lap pool and a relaxing aromatherapy massage at Spa Anise.
Feast on an organic, local and seasonal dinner out on the open-air terrace, with Sydney’s lights twinkling on the horizon. Green credentials greet you at every turn. Top up your reusable glass bottle (still or sparkling) from the AQUAchiara microfiltration system. And know that your unused soap is reprocessed into fresh bars for use in disadvantaged communities.
Paperbark Camp is light-footprint, unplugged glamping at its best, close but not too close to the Jervis Bay hub of Huskisson, a 2.5-hour drive south from Sydney. The bush camp syncs sublimely with its fenceless surroundings, letting echidnas and kangaroos roam unencumbered. The interiors of the elevated canvas tents are sanctuary-like, with polished hardwood floors, luxuriant linen and handmade lotions to use in the open-air bathrooms.
Energy-friendly features such as solar-powered 12-volt lighting, no in-tent power outlets (communal ones are available), and naturally ventilated spaces have earned Paperbark its Advanced Eco Accreditation. A dedicated permaculturist grows bush tucker for the onsite Gunyah restaurant. Complimentary canoes, kayaks and paddleboards are great low-carbon ways to explore Jervis Bay’s sublime waterways.