By Kendall Hill
November 14, 2019
The fire pit at Mount Mulligan Lodge, a property in the north Queensland outback.
Jason Ierace/Courtes of Northern Escape

Queensland has defied its laid-back reputation lately with a flurry of hotel activity—more than a dozen new ones or renovations have opened in less than two years, in locations ranging from the tropical Whitsunday islands to cattle ranches near Cairns to the glimmering skyline of Brisbane. Resorts bordering the Great Barrier Reef have undertaken initiatives designed to address recent coral bleaching and restore the reef’s health through marine-biologist-led projects in which guests can participate. It’s paid off, and the state is now a popular option for second- and third-time visitors to the country looking to experience all the best parts of Oz in one go. To do just that, build an itinerary around a trio of stunning hotels—one amid the urban energy of the country’s third-largest city, one on the reef, and the last in the iconic outback.

The City Hotel: The Fantauzzo, Brisbane

A guest room at The Fantauzzo, in Brisbane.
Courtesy of The Fantauzzo

Long eclipsed by Sydney’s glamour and Melbourne’s sophistication, Queensland’s capital is now shining far brighter thanks in part to a $130 million revival of its once-dilapidated Howard Smith Wharves, on the Brisbane River. At their heart is this hotel, named for the Australian portraitist Vincent Fantauzzo, seven of whose hyperrealist paintings hang in the foyer. Backed by steep cliffs, with the cantilevered Story Bridge overhead and the Brisbane River just beyond the entrance, there are spectacular views from almost any vantage point (including the rooftop bar Fiume and the adjoining infinity pool). It’s the perfect perch from which to take in the downtown skyline. Doubles from $195.

The Great Barrier Reef Escape: InterContinental Hayman Island Resort

The InterContinental Hayman Island Resort.
Courtesy of InterContinental Hayman Island Resort

From Brisbane, it’s a two-hour flight north to Hamilton Island, then an hour-long sail on the resort’s sleek catamaran (sparkling wine and Coral Sea whale sightings included) to reach this reimagined tropical getaway. It’s located on Hayman Island, one of the most northerly of the Whitsundays, a postcard-worthy archipelago of 74 islands. The landmark 726-acre property is back after a $90 million rebuild following the devastation of Cyclone Debbie in 2017. Hugging the base of a natural amphitheater of jungle-clad hills at the edge of the island’s lagoon, the resort is divided into three wings, one of which overlooks Hayman’s famous one-acre saltwater pool. Anchored between the mainland and the unesco World Heritage–listed Great Barrier Reef, the InterContinental resort minimizes its impact on fragile marine environments by reducing food waste, recycling wastewater to nourish the lush landscaping, and banning plastic water bottles and miniature amenities. Doubles from $500.

The Outback Adventure: Mount Mulligan Lodge

The 11-mile long conglomerate-and-sandstone escarpment known as Mount Mulligan is the star attraction of this new lodge set on a 69,000-acre working cattle station in the north Queensland outback; it glows like an ember in the first light of day. Primarily solar-powered, Mount Mulligan Lodge comprises eight pavilion suites of red gum timber and corrugated iron facing a waterway and the eponymous mountain. Its indigenous name is Ngarrabullgan, and it has defined some 40,000 years of history for the original inhabitants of the region. A three-hour drive or 40-minute helicopter ride from Cairns, the lodge offers complete serenity amid the sunburned soil. Quarterly herding of the ranch’s 1,400 head of Brahman cattle gives guests the chance to see Australian cowboys in action. There are also tours of abandoned mining townships, ATV adventures, and kayaking on the weir, where wallabies like to cool off on warm afternoons. At night, the sky is covered by a canopy of stars over the ranch, which appear closer, brighter, and more abundant than you’ve ever seen. Doubles from $1,150, all-inclusive.

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