Destination: Australian Lodges
Wolgan Valley Lodge
This luxury eco-resort in the Blue Mountains feels like an Australian version of a high-end dude ranch. The resort sits on 4,000 acres in a valley of the Greater Blue Mountains that is surrounded on both sides by national parks. It is rich in wildlife, with 120 species of vertebrates, including kangaroos, wallabies, koalas and wombats as well close to 100 varieties of birds and many rare plants and trees. Because of this natural bounty, the focus of the resort is on wildlife exploration and appreciation. Field guides greet guests upon arrival, and the nightly rate of each suite includes not only all three meals but two daily activities such as a wildlife tour, a guided walk, trail ride or nocturnal safari. Among the additional adventure options are golf, shooting, fly fishing or heli-flishing, photography expeditions and canyoning and for kids: archery, stunt kite flying, even bushcraft (or wilderness survival). Each of the forty suites, really eco-cottages, comes with mountain bikes and a small private pool.
The term luxury eco-resort is often considered an oxymoron but Wolgan qualifies as carbon neutral, thanks to its sensitive building program, and yet each suite delivers a super pampering experience. Fireplaces flare up at the hit of a switch, and the rain-water filled pools in each suite have windows that transition them from indoor to outdoor options. The owners clearly spent as much attention on developing their solar energy and water conservation program as they did to the property’s extensive spa and wine cellar.
It may seem a bit strange that one of the most stunning eco-resorts in Australia is actually the project of a Middle Eastern sheik, but the Wolgan Valley Lodge in the Blue mountains is owned by Emirates Airline, which began flying to Australia in 1996, and it was created by a mandate from HRH Sheik Ahmed bin Saeed Al-Maktoum, Chairman and CEO of Emirates. (Emirates Hotels also owns eco-properties in the UAE). The company bought two former homesteads that sit between two national reserves in the Greater Blue Mountains and spent nearly $140 million dollars on the resort, including more than $1 million restoring a simple 19th century farmhouse that can be toured to see just how tough life in the bush was for early settlers.
Today, the resort’s main house contains a massive great room reminiscent of those in historic lodges in the Western US with enormous wooden beams and picture windows facing the valley view. Leather club chairs stone fireplaces A blue haze from the vapors of the eucalyptus trees—hence the name Blue Mountains—often hangs along the valley floor.
Why Go:: To experience the Australian wilderness in the Blue Mountains in a supremely comfortable way or for a weekend away from Sydney. Great, too, for avid equestrians; the riding program is first-rate.
Getting There: The resort can arrange transfers by car (three-hour drive) or helicopter (50-minute flight) from Sydney.
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