Sal Salis, Ningaloo, Western Australia © Sal Salis Ningaloo Reef
Australia’s most unmissable sustainable stays
From outback to city and mountain to coast, Australia offers some of the world’s most extraordinary sustainable accommodation choices.
By Ralph Bestic
One way you can ensure your holiday in Australia contributes to preserving the natural environment and has a positive impact on the communities you visit is by choosing sustainable accommodation.
There are sustainable options to suit all budgets and travel styles. Whether you're looking for an eco-resort or glamping adventure, these stays actively work to reduce energy use, minimise waste, nurture the land, encourage local producers and craftspeople, and work collaboratively with local communities, so you can feel good while having fun on holiday.
Where: a 30-minute drive from Byron Bay
If you’re seeking space and sustainability, this is the place. There are only three guest pavilions at Blackbird, a boutique hideaway in the lush hills of the Byron Bay hinterland in northern New South Wales, a two-hour drive south of Brisbane.
Each pavilion is serviced by rainwater and solar power and has sweeping views over rainforest to the coast. A communal area, built largely from repurposed materials, is centred around an open-space conversation and dining area, and overlooks a chlorine-free magnesium salt pool.
How to experience it: Spend your days immersing yourself in nature and exploring the rainforest and waterfalls in the vicinity of Blackbird, call in on the cafés and markets at the colourful nearby town of Mullumbimby, or head down to Byron Bay for a day of grazing in town or lazing at the beach.
All of Lord Howe Island, off the coast of New South Wales, is UNESCO World Heritage-listed for its pristine environment. Capella Lodge, which sits above a beach at the foot of Mount Gower, operates under strict regulations designed to conserve the island’s spectacular natural beauty and unique ecology. The luxury lodge has a large solar power system, returning excess solar energy to Lord Howe’s power grid.
How to experience it: Get involved in conservation activities like weed eradication and collecting beach debris to help protect the island. Then join Lord Howe's resident naturalist Ian Hutton to learn about the island's ecology and the large flocks of migratory seabirds that visit the island every year.
You’ll find the extraordinary clifftop Alkina Lodge along Victoria’s spectacular Great Ocean Road which starts about a two-hour drive from Melbourne. The three Southern Ocean-facing guest lodges were designed by renowned Australian architects Glenn Murcutt and Wendy Lewin to touch the earth lightly. As part of the passive solar design, “skywindows” provide natural light (and great stargazing) as well as keeping the sun out during summer and letting it in during winter (with gas-fired hydronics as a back-up).
How to experience it: Immersive yourself in the great outdoors that surround Alkina Lodge, or take the time to unwind with a picnic lunch, a soak in your stunning bathtub and a tasting or two from a local brewery.
Where: a two-hour drive from Brisbane
The tented micro-getaway of Nightfall is deep within a rainforest next to Lamington National Park. This Ecotourism Australia-certified forest sanctuary offers glamping accommodation in hand-built, permanent safari tents for just four couples at a time. Each tent has its own fireplace and twin bathtubs for winding down to the sound of birds calling in the surrounding rainforest. Here you can happily immerse yourself in a lush environment and connect with nature knowing that your impact has been carefully minimised.
How to experience it: Keep an eye out for red-necked wallabies, long-nosed bandicoots and even the occasional koala while exploring the rainforest, before returning for dinner featuring wild-harvested and organic fare.
Where: a 90-minute flight from Darwin
The Faraway Bay wilderness retreat, on Western Australia's Kimberley coast, aims to tread lightly in this remarkable landscape, with a gravity-fed water supply, solar energy, natural walking tracks to beaches, and an erosion-control program.
Faraway Bay’s small footprint allows for just eight cabins in a natural bush setting overlooking the turquoise Timor Sea, while the surrounding untouched ancient landscape contains a host of elusive fauna and flora endemic to the Kimberley. Stay here and you’ll experience the beauty of the outback on the retreat’s scenic tours without leaving a trace of your visit when it’s time to depart.
How to experience it: Faraway Bay offers several activities to help you explore the Kimberley. Take a boat trip to view ancient rock art, plunge into a freshwater swimming hole, take a scenic flight that will leave you spellbound and try your hand at fishing.
Where: a 4.5-hour drive from Adelaide
A former sheep station, Arkaba encompasses 24,000 hectares (60,000 acres) of outback terrain in South Australia’s Flinders Ranges. This historic property has been reinvented as a wildlife conservancy, helping to regenerate the land. Staying at the carefully conserved 1851 Arkaba homestead steeps you in pastoral history, while you’ll gain an understanding of the land’s cultural heritage with an interpretive walk with an Adnyamathanha Aboriginal Elder.
Where: a two-hour flight north of Perth
The World Heritage-listed Ningaloo Marine Park and luxury wilderness accommodation are the main attractions of tented lodge Sal Salis. Sitting among the sand dunes of Cape Range National Park, on land leased from Western Australia’s Parks and Wildlife Service, Sal Salis does everything it can to minimise its environmental impact – from producing almost all its own power through solar, to having strict water use limits, to using organic linen and chemical-free products.
How to experience it: Sal Salis’ 16 tents overlook the waters of the Ningaloo Reef, where there's one must-do experience: swimming with whale sharks. The gentle giants of the sea arrive along this coast between March and July. And you can feel good knowing that tourism practices on this reef are some of the most environmentally friendly and sustainable in the world.
Bamurru Plains occupies 30,000 hectares (74,000 acres) of wetland wilderness on the edge of the World Heritage-listed Kakadu National Park. Due to its sensitive location, this lodge is dependent on renewable energy resources and low-impact guest programs. Facing the wildlife-rich Mary River floodplains, each of the 10 elevated tents have mesh walls on three sides and is shaded by native woodland and pandanus trees, while an array of 240 solar panels provides around 75 per cent of the lodge’s power.
How to experience it: For an utterly exhilarating way to experience the floodplains, take an airboat safari. You'll zip across the wetlands, watching as birds take flight and crocodiles slowly float along the water.