Splurge or save at Australia's most spectacular spots
Lord Howe is the little island that could. Although it's small in area - only 11km by 2km - Lord Howe is home to the world's most southerly coral reef, as well as an astonishingly diverse range of wildlife.
Real estate's not the only industry where it's all about location, location, location: in travel, there's nothing as important as landing in the right place. However, staying in the best locations in Australia doesn't have to involve spending a fortune.
We've found five holiday hotspots where you can spend as much – or as little – as you like. Happy to pack your own sleeping bags and frypan? Then get ready to enjoy some natural wonders for less than the price of a restaurant meal. Of course, if you want to splash out and stay in style, the choice is yours.
Lord Howe Island, NSW
Why we love it: Lord Howe is the little island that could. Although it's small in area - only 11km by 2km – Lord Howe is home to the world's most southerly coral reef, as well as an astonishingly diverse range of wildlife: 500 species of fish, 90 species of coral, and more than 130 species of bird. There are 11 beaches to explore, and a huge range of walks, from relaxing strolls through palm and banyan forests, up to the challenging hike up Mount Gower – all 875 metres of it.
Splurge: If you want to wake up to the best views on the island, Capella Lodge is the place to stay: its nine suites offer fantastic ocean, reef and mountain views. Your room comes fully equipped with all the necessities, from beach towels to backpacks. If you're not in the mood for exertion, head to the on-site spa instead. Rates include gourmet breakfast, sunset drinks and canapes, and a three-course dinner with selected wines and non-alcoholic beverages.
Save: Happy to cook for yourself and pack your own towels? Then try Hideaway Cottages, which offers a variety of self-catering accommodation, including five two rooms apartments and a secluded cottage. Facilities include fully equipped kitchens, a barbecue and pool table.
How they compare:
Capella Lodge starts at $650 per person per night twin share.
Hideaway Cottages start at $50 per person per night twin share.
Freycinet National Park, Tasmania
Why we love it: With white sand beaches, turquoise waters, eucalypt forests and pink granite peaks Freycinet is simply one of Australia's most scenic national parks. It's also great for those who like to keep active on holiday. You can plunge into water sports, from sea kayaking to strolling along the achingly beautiful Wineglass Bay; or head for the hills, with climbing, abseiling, and hardcore hikes available in the Hazard Ranges. Throw in fabulous wineries nearby, and you have the makings of a great holiday.
Splurge: Saffire Freycinet delivers everything you'd expect of a luxury lodge. Each of the sprawling suites – the smallest is 80sqm – offers magnificent views and plenty of creature comforts, right down to 1000 thread county sheets. Guests can enjoy gourmet meals, the inhouse spa and a range of activities including walks, cooking demonstrations, wine experiences, kayaking, mountain biking, bird watching.
Save: Freycinet National Park Camping Ground has a range of campsites available near Coles Bay, enjoying beautiful views. The main campsite at Richardson's Beach has powered sites; other campsites are unpowered.
How they compare:
Saffire Freycinet rates start at $1800 per suite, twin share, including meals, beverages and activities.
Unserviced campsite $13 for two. You will also need a valid Tasmanian National Parks Pass.
El Questro Wilderness Park, Western Australia
Why we love it: El Questro is a million-acre park in the heart of the Kimberley, where you can explore of sandstone ranges and gorges, pockets of rainforest and broad flats – avoiding the crocodiles along the way. Go horse riding or barramundi fishing, view ancient rock art, or just unwind by a waterhole.
Splurge: The El Questro homestead has a number of accommodation options, but the pick of the bunch is the three new cliffside retreats. Perched on the edge of a sheer escarpment, the floor to ceiling glass walls let you soak up the view across the Chamberlain River and beyond. Complimentary activities include boat tours of Chamberlain Gorge and helicopter trips to remote waterholes, as well as use of the swimming pool and tennis courts.
Save: El Questro also welcomes campers – no booking required. The unpowered Black Cockatoo campground has guest showers, bathrooms and a store. Alternatively, a number of secluded private sites are also available, including waterfront sites located along the Pentecost River.
How they compare:
The cliffside retreats cost $2429 per night twin share. The tariff includes accommodation, meals and beverages, and a personalised itinerary and guided tours within El Questro Valley.
Camping rates start from $20 per night, with a family rate of $60 per night available for two adults and up to three children under 17.
Kangaroo Island, South Australia
Why we love it: Kangaroo Island is Australia the way foreigners imagine it. With endless beaches, pristine bush, and wildlife spotting opportunities that simply don't exist anywhere else, it's a fantastic family destination. From kangaroos and koalas to wallabies, echidnas and platypus – not to mention colonies of penguins, sea lions and fur seals – it's an unforgettable wildlife experience.
Hikers and walkers can explore a variety of landscapes, from dense forest to rugged cliffs and soaring dunes, while fishers, divers and surfers will find plenty to keep them happy. And at the end of the day, you can indulge in the island's glorious produce, from ocean-fresh seafood to locally crafted cheese, honey and even wine.
Splurge: If you like lodgings that have a sense of drama, you'll love Southern Ocean Lodge. The suites are cantilevered over the edge of a cliff, offering breathtaking views – if you can tear your gaze away from the striking rock-and-wood interiors, that is. Add lavish bedrooms, sunken lounges and glass-walled bathrooms, and you'll feel a serious urge to cocoon.
Save: There are plenty of campsites scattered around the island, but the best option may be the sites at Flinders Chase National Park, including Rocky River and West Bay. Here you'll find some of the most spectacular scenery on the island, as well as attractions such as Remarkable Rocks and Admirals Arch. Unlike the council-run campgrounds, the national park takes bookings. Rocky River is the larger campground, and offers hot showers, flushing toilets and barbecues, as well as resident (wild) koalas.
How they compare:
Southern Ocean Lodge rates start at $1980 per suite, twin share, including meals, beverages and activities.
Flinders Chase camping rates are $25 per car per night.
Great Barrier Reef, Queensland
Why we love it: If you've always loved the idea of being able to grab a snorkel, step off the beach and find yourself in an underwater wonderland, the islands along the southern edge of the Great Barrier Reef are the place to go. These coral cays are surrounded by magnificent sea life, including turtles and manta rays – and you don't need to worry about the stingers that can plague swimmers further north.
Splurge: Only 12 people can stay on Wilson Island at any given time – and only if they leave the kids at home. This exclusive adults-only resort consists of six safari tents with timber floors and king-size beds.
Save: Part of the same island chain, Lady Musgrave Island has much in common with Wilson Island, including its flora and fauna – turtles nest on both islands. Camping on Lady Musgrave, however, is a no-frills experience, with prices to match. From the start of the Easter school holidays to the end of the January school holidays, camping is available for up to 40 people. The only facilities are composting toilets, so you will need to supply all other necessities – from the tent, food and water to a stove, medical supplies, a reliable torch or two, and plenty of plastic bags.
How they compare:
Wilson Island $1100 per tent per night, twin share.
Lady Musgrave Island, $5.30 per person per night or $21.30 per family (two adults and up to six children under 18). Children under five are free.