Not sure where to stay in Australia? The country’s superb natural assets are on display in an array of accommodations from wilderness lodges and boutique sandstone hotels to stunning steel and glass edifices overlooking the sea.
Australia accommodation choices are numerous. Eco-friendly hostels in prime positions suit the young and budget-conscious, while luxury retreats and island resorts cater to the well-heeled and those who like their adventure mixed with comfort. Those who want something to write home about can snuggle into lighthouse keepers’ cottages or bunker down in shearers’ quarters in Outback cattle stations. Read on to learn where to stay in Australia.
Australia Wilderness Lodges and Retreats
There’s a lot of space in Australia, but when folks want to get away from it all they go to the extremes in search of isolated and exclusive sanctuaries. These lodges and retreats are typically quite expensive due to their remoteness or location in environmentally sensitive areas—but meals and some tours are often included in the price. The cheaper accommodations may be in more of the “glamping” (glamorous camping) style, with stylish tents built on timber platforms complete with some modern conveniences. Many retreats are eco-certified by Eco Tourism Australia, the main national body for ecotourism.
Longitude 131 in the Red Centre is one that has it all (including a hefty price tag). Its 16 luxury safari-style tents pop up like white mushrooms in the desert, each with a sensational view of Uluru (formerly known as Ayers Rock) from the terrace and huge bed. Four-course meals and matching wines are served in the “big top” Dune House, and guests can relax at the bar or on-site spa.
Other stylish lodges, several of which are self-catering, are located in rain forests and national parks; the more expensive will have spas and top-notch eateries. See Green Getaways to find many of them.
Australia plays host to all the international chains such as Hyatt, Marriott, InterContinental, and Accor, along with Australia-owned Mantra Group and Rydges. There’s also a heap of hip, funky, and historic boutique and medium-sized hotels that suit those who like to be surprised when they check in.
It may be folklore or it may be fact, but it’s said that Australia invented the concept of tea- and coffee-making facilities in hotel rooms. True or otherwise, it’s hard to find a hotel or motel room without these comfy additions, and in better hotels there’ll be several teas to choose from, as well as plunger coffee. Also standard in most hotels, or at least those deemed three-star and upward, are irons and ironing boards (Australians hate to pay for pressing clothes).
On the downside, some Australian hotels still charge a fee for Wi-Fi, a practice that annoys Australians no end. Breakfast is not usually included unless there’s a special promotional rate or package.
In recent years there’s been a boom in apartment hotels, offering one to three rooms, fully equipped kitchens, and laundry facilities (usually hidden away in a small closet). Apartment hotels have popped up all over the country, including Sydney and Melbourne, and are perfect for families or groups of friends. Purpose-built with more space than established city hotels, they often come with parking but may not have their own on-site restaurants, relying instead on the eateries nearby.
Australia Beach and Island Resorts
Australia and its thousands of offshore islands have a coastline of 59,736 kilometers (37,118 miles), which naturally means lots of beaches and beach resorts. The New South Wales and Queensland coasts have the lion’s share of resorts, due to their closeness to the big cities, good beaches, sunny weather and—in the case of Queensland—proximity to the Great Barrier Reef.
Resorts run the gamut from three- and four-star family-friendly accommodations with multiple pools, kids’ clubs, and a daily schedule of activities, to smaller luxury retreats specifically designed for couples. Accommodations range from hotel rooms with perhaps a sofa bed for the kids to apartment-style and two- to three-bedroom villas. On Queensland’s Gold Coast, a kind of mini-Miami that is still Australia’s most popular holiday destination due to its theme parks and huge supply of accommodation, resorts are most likely to be of the high-rise variety and if not on the beach, then within a few hundred yards.
The Mantra Hotel Group, with four brands in its portfolio, has more than 100 properties that appeal to a wide range of budgets. Its BreakFree brand is targeted at families who want big rooms without the unnecessary fancy facilities; the top-end Peppers brand has small resorts with an emphasis on cuisine and service.
Just over a dozen of the 600 islands that make up the Great Barrier Reef have resorts, ranging from moderately priced to exclusive and expensive. The islands’ main draws are the views, translucent water, and closeness to the reef. The most glamorous islands (many of which have their own resorts) include Hayman in the Whitsunday group and Lizard Island, way up north beyond Cairns, while Hamilton and Daydream are quite a bit more affordable and Heron Island is eco-certified.
Australia Lighthouse Accommodations
A few decades ago almost all of Australia’s lighthouses were fully automated, which meant that the traditional lighthouse keeper was no longer needed. Today the head keeper and assistant keeper’s cottages, usually three-bedroom homes poised within yards of the ocean, are maintained by national parks authorities and rented out.
There are around two dozen lighthouse keepers’ cottages available in Australia, with the majority in Victoria, New South Wales, and South Australia. Cape Byron, at the most easterly point of Australia, and Cape Otway, at the start of Victoria’s Great Ocean Road, are two well worth a visit.
Cottages can sleep from two to more than 12 people in some cases, and range in price from moderate to very expensive in high season. A minimum stay of two to three nights may be required in the most popular locations, and early bookings are essential to secure a stay in the summer holiday period. You can find lighthouse accommodations at Lighthouses.org.au.
For cheap, no-frills accommodation with character, it’s worth checking out an Aussie pub, especially in a country town. While it sounds a little confusing, it’s good to note that Australian pubs have traditionally been called hotels whether or not they offer accommodation. Many older pubs would have started out as bar and accommodation places, but ceased to offer rooms for rent once motels began to spring up along the highways. Fortunately, there are still many in country areas and a handful in the cities.
Sydney has some classic old pubs with affordable rooms in the Rocks district (the area just west of the Harbour Bridge). As pubs are made for drinking, guests shouldn’t expect a totally peaceful stay. Country pubs are significantly cheaper, but are short on luxuries and may not have an attached bathroom. Find accommodations at Pub Rooms Directory.
Australia Sheep and Cattle Stations
They may be rustic and a bit rough around the edges, but sheep and cattle stations make for a unique Aussie getaway. Western Queensland, Western Australia, and parts of NSW and the Northern Territory have several, sitting on thousands of acres of often-harsh cattle country. Some digs include cheaper shearers’ quarters, others include the old homestead, and the more expensive offer purpose-built hotel rooms, although all provide a chance to watch Aussie cowboys at work.
Kilcowera Station in Queensland is a cheap option, while Bullo River Station, in the Northern Territory, is the most luxurious. To find more farm and station stays, see this page for listings in Western Australia and this page for listings across the country.
If you’re looking for affordable accommodations just about anywhere, you’ll find them in Australia’s many motels. Expect free parking, affordable rates, and basic rooms, as well as free (but occasionally slow) Wi-Fi. The Australian-owned Budget Motels chain has properties across the country; you’ll also see familiar international names such as the Choice Hotels brands.
Australia Vacation Rentals
Not into standard hotels or motels? Beachfront houses, sleek urban apartments, and cozy cabins are among the options you’ll find when searching for Australia vacation rentals. These can be a particularly smart choice if you’re traveling as a family or large group, as you’ll often get more space for less than the cost of multiple hotel rooms; plus, you’ll have kitchen and laundry facilities. You can find properties on sites like Tripadvisor (SmarterTravel’s parent company), Airbnb, and HomeAway.
Australia’s YHA group operates some 70 hostels across the country; other hostel chains include Nomads and Base Backpackers. Hostels typically have dorm rooms for up to eight (both single sex rooms and mixed), as well as double rooms and twin rooms and perhaps one or two family rooms that sleep four to five. The private rooms mostly have ensuite bathrooms.
Amenities vary, but nearly all hostels have kitchens, dining areas, and a lounge room or two; others have barbecues, separate TV rooms, computers, food stores, and tour desks. The most upmarket properties will have swimming rooms or terraces with fantastic views over the local area. Sustainable hostels will recycle and be powered by solar energy. You can find more options at Hostelworld.
Australia Holiday Parks
Holiday parks are dotted along Australia’s vast coast in every state. There are sites for camping and motorhomes, but city types may prefer the one- and two-bedroom cabins (which often come with the convenience of free Wi-Fi). Discovery Holiday Parks and Big4 Holiday Parks are two of the biggest operators.
More from SmarterTravel:
- Getting Around Australia: Transportation Tips
- 25 Ways to Save on Australia Travel
- 10 Ways to Survive a Long-Haul Flight
—Original reporting by Caroline Gladstone. Sarah Schlichter contributed to this story.
Editor’s note: This story was originally published in 2017. It has been updated to reflect the most current information.