Destination: Australian Lodges
Capella Lodge, Lord Howe Island
Vibe: Laid-back, chic, eco-retreat
At a Glance: For amazing snorkeling, diving, hiking or lounging on a tiny island in the Pacific that has glorious weather even when it’s cyclone season on the Great Barrier Reef.
Review: The only luxury option on this tiny Pacific island, a two-hour flight from Sydney, Capella Lodge resembles a simple California beach house with a wing of nine understated guest rooms. The windows, though, offer fantasy tropical island views with volcanic peaks, brilliant blue seas and palm trees. Meals are served in the main lodge with every table facing floor-to-ceiling windows that front a stunning view of a turquoise lagoon and massive rock formations Mounts Gower and Lidgbid. Bedrooms have wooden decks and spare beachy furnishings with contemporary touches like wood-cut print fabrics and wicker “Hanging Basket” chairs. The owners, who also developed Southern Ocean Lodge on Kangaroo Island, provide such modern luxuries as delicious food and wine in the all-day dining room and Bose music systems, wireless internet and fine linens in the bedrooms but with a light environmental footprint—no bathtubs, only showers in most rooms. Guests are given bikes to ride to the island’s different beaches, where barbecues can be ordered for lunch. Activities include hikes, golf on a nine-hole course, tennis, fishing, surfing, diving and snorkeling in an atmosphere that could be described as Bora Bora meets Nantucket for its South Pacific splendor and low-key atmosphere.
Guest rooms feature similar timber wood floors, chic modern furniture and outdoor decks for lounging. The largest accommodations are the two lofts (Lagoon and Makambo) with bedrooms upstairs and living rooms below, and the Lidgbird Pavilion, which has wrap-around terraces on the upper level and a plunge pool on the lower deck as well as an outdoor bathtub and indoor fireplace and the lodge’s only electric buggy.
While many of the famous Great Barrier Reef resorts are huge and sprawling, this low-key yet luxury eco-lodge feels like staying at a friends’ beach house on an island almost forgotten by time.
- The snorkel trip to swim with sharks, rays and sea turtles
- The do-it-yourself barbecue that can be ordered down on the beach
- The fact that rates are all-inclusive so you never have to sign a check
Voyages Longitude 131°
The lodge’s fifteen white safari tents rise from the red earth and spinifex grass that surrounds Ayers Rock, also known as Uluru, like futuristic spaceships. Longitude 131° has prime views of the spectacular red sandstone rock formation, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and feels miles removed from civilization—until you see the luxurious accommodations. Each individually decorated tent comes with a king-size bed, air-conditioning and daily maid service. But given the glorious setting, few guests spend time inside. Don’t miss a walk around the base of Uluru (climbing the rock is discouraged by the local Anangu people because it holds great spiritual significance for them) and a trip to Kata Tjuta, a nearby range of large domes that cover 8,649 acres of Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park. Wake up early at least one morning to watch the sun rise over Uluru’s red profile—a thrilling experience. All meals, showcasing contemporary Australian cuisine, are served in the Dune House, which also accommodates an extensive library for those who wish to learn more about this fascinating area’s history and ecology.
Who Should Go: Ideal for couples and active types.
Who Shouldn’t Go: Families, since children under fifteen are not allowed.
Rooms to Get: Each of the fifteen tents is named after an Australian explorer or pioneer, such as 19th-century explorer John O’Hara Burke, but all are the same size and of equal comfort. The best part is a switch beside the bed that opens the blinds, enabling guests to see Ayers Rock upon waking.
Ideal Length of Stay: A three-day weekend.
What to Bring: Hat and sunscreen, light sweaters for evenings (or winter mornings), sturdy footwear for the hiking.
Indagare Tip: Request a private dinner at Table 131. The evening begins with sunset drinks on a sand dune behind the camp followed by a walk into the desert, where a three-course meal, accompanied by fine Australian wines, is served under the stars. The night concludes with a lecture by a resident astronomer.
Getting There: Longitude 131° is a short drive from Ayers Rock’s Connellan Airport, which has plane service from all major Australian cities.
The Basics: The lodge is open all year, although you’d do to best avoid summertime (December through February), when desert temperatures can soar above 100 degrees. Three-night packages from $2,099 per person, including all meals, beverages, airport transfer and entry tickets to Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park.
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