Crystal Creek Rainforest Retreat in the Tweed Valley. Image courtesy Destination NSW
From Australia’s first carbon-neutral resort and an outback geodesic dome to a rainforest retreat and secluded bush-glamping nook, these memorable New South Wales eco-retreats prove that high-end luxury and planet-friendly practices really can be natural bedfellows.
Crystal Creek Rainforest Retreat, Tweed Valley
On the edge of two UNESCO World Heritage-listed national parks, Crystal Creek Rainforest Retreat is a haven for naturally curious peace-seekers. An hour’s drive northwest of Byron Bay, the 102-hectare Tweed Valley property’s Gondwana Rainforest teems with rare flora and fauna, including around 150 bird species and 400-year-old giant trees. Sixty per cent of Crystal Creek is a regenerative buffer zone, protected by a Voluntary Conservation Agreement. The rest is yours to explore — hike fern-lined gullies, unfurl a picnic pack in the orchard or recline in creekside hammocks, serenaded by babbling water and birdsong. After a night-time glow-worm safari, retire to your small-footprint Creekside Spa Cabin or the Luxury Rainforest Lodge. Pop lemon-myrtle bath salts into the sunken double-spa bath and admire the floor-to-ceiling forest vista.
Lidgbird Pavilion with scenic ocean views of Mount Gower. Capella Lodge, Lord Howe Island. Image courtesy Destination NSW
Capella Lodge, Lord Howe Island
This premium island escape seems like another world, but it’s only a two-hour flight from Sydney to enchanting Lord Howe Island. Capella Lodge‘s sumptuous suites, lofts and pavilion exude a make-your-self-at-home beach-house vibe. The rooms are naturally air-conditioned — shuttered doors, thick palms and generous verandahs direct the cool sea breezes inside — and decked out in chic Australian-designer furnishings. On the edge of Lord Howe Island’s nature preserve and bookended by Mt Gower and Mt Lidgbird, your view alone is a holiday-long highlight. Capella’s owner, Baillie Lodges, embraces the island’s strict environmental commitment with strong recycling programs, rainfall harvesting and prolific use of solar power. Complimentary mountain bikes encourage you to explore this paradise just like the locals do.
Faraway Domes, Northwest Slopes
Faraway Domes has quickly become one of Australia’s most enchanting properties. The east-facing geodesic dome is strategically perched on a secluded basalt outcrop, overlooking the 3,600-hectare property, a 2.5-hour drive north of country music capital Tamworth. The classic rolling bushscape is best savoured in the stunning standalone bath or balcony plunge pool. A 180-degree bay-window floods light into the airy well-appointed open-plan interior, tailored with lamps made from old farm machinery and a recycled-pine kitchen island. Faraway’s ever-increasing eco credentials include a deluxe composting ‘loo-with-a-view’ and a solar system that handles most reasonable power demands, thanks to the outback’s endless sunny days.
Spicers Sangoma Retreat, Blue Mountains
Making the most of its rarefied bushland outlook in the Blue Mountains foothills, 80 minutes’ drive from Sydney, this eco-certified boutique retreat lives up to its name: Sangoma is a Zulu word for ‘healer’. Spicers Sangoma Retreat’s intimate suites embody no-need-to-leave-your-room luxury with personal plunge pools, cloistered balconies and freestanding Philippe Starck baths for two. Reasons to leave include kicking back in a ‘relaxation pod’ by the solar-heated infinity lap-pool and a restful aromatherapy massage at Spa Anise. Feast on an organic, local and seasonal dinner out on the open-air terrace, Sydney’s lights twinkling on the horizon. Green credentials greet you at every turn. Top up your reusable glass bottle (still or sparkling) from the AQUAchiara microfiltration system. And know that your unused soap is reprocessed into fresh bars for use in disadvantaged communities.
Couple enjoying a romantic glamping getaway at Paperbark Camp, Woollamia. Image courtesy Destination NSW
Paperbark Camp, South Coast
Paperbark Camp is light-footprint, unplugged glamping at its best, close but not too close to the Jervis Bay hub of Huskisson, a 2.5-hour drive south from Sydney. The bush camp syncs sublimely with its fenceless surroundings, letting echidnas and kangaroos roam unencumbered. The interiors of the elevated canvas tents are sanctuary-like, with polished hardwood floors, luxuriant linen and handmade lotions to use in the open-air bathrooms. Energy-friendly features such as solar-powered 12-volt lighting, no in-tent power outlets (communal ones are available), and naturally ventilated spaces have earned Paperbark its Advanced Eco Accreditation. A dedicated permaculturist grows bush tucker for the onsite Gunyah restaurant. Complimentary canoes, kayaks and paddleboards are great low-carbon ways to explore Jervis Bay’s sublime waterways.
Rosa Alpina, Italy – Property Exterior, Summer. Image courtesy of Rosa Alpina
Beneath the majestic peaks of Lavarella and Conturines rests the charming mountain village of San Cassiano. At its heart, Rosa Alpina, an Aman Partner Hotel, provides unparalleled access to the Unesco World Heritage ski destination of the Dolomites Superski and Sella Ronda network of pistes in winter. After a successful summer, and a short annual closure, Rosa Alpina is reopening on 10 December. Offering a range of experiences, the intimate property features just 52 rooms and suites, as well as an exclusive three-bedroom Penthouse, and Chalet Zeno, a spacious private refuge accommodating up to six guests.
Rosa Alpina , Italy – Adults Wellness. Image courtesy of Rosa Alpina
The hotel’s wellness area and Aman Spa features two indoor heated swimming pools with forest views, one for families to enjoy together and the other for adults only, a Jacuzzi, hammam, cold plunge pool, a light-filled yoga studio, a gym, nine treatment rooms and an extensive spa menu. Signature treatments at the spa include the Alpine Herbal Muscle Relief treatment, a deep-tissue massage using arnica oil, known for its anti-inflammatory properties and ability to increase circulation and restore muscle strength, as well as a broad range of massages, facials and specialist treatments.
After a day spent exploring, guests can also enjoy the new A Moment of Peace ritual. This 60 or 90-minute treatment begins with a soothing foot ritual followed by a personalised massage. Techniques such as deep tissue, aromatherapy, Swedish and sports massage can be incorporated as the guest desires, all while using a choice of Aman Skincare’s Grounding, Purifying and Nourishing Body Oils. This can be enhanced with an additional 30-minute body scrub using the brand’s Grounding Amethyst Scrub, Nourishing Jade Body Scrub or Purifying Quartz Scrub to ease physical and emotional tension while restoring the nervous system, stimulating circulation, regenerating skin cells and boosting the lymphatic system.
Italy’s hearty and delectable cuisine has long been revered across the globe and Rosa Alpina’s three-Michelin-starred restaurant, St. Hubertus, is an indulgent foray into the region’s cuisine. The restaurant, which features just nine tables, and two chef’s tables, is open for dinner only, and will celebrate its 25th anniversary this year. St. Hubertus was also recently awarded Michelin’s newest distinction, a ‘green star’ in recognition of its efforts to provide sustainable gastronomy. The Head Chef Norbert Niederkofler’s innovative ‘Cook the Mountain’ philosophy incorporates locally sourced and seasonal ingredients into every dish, and he operates a zero-waste approach within the restaurant with all menus printed on paper made from apple pulp.
Simpler fare can be found within the hotel’s other dining venues; the Wine Bar & Grill features a wood-fired pizza oven, and The Limonaia comprises an outdoor terrace with tranquil views, and the Lobby & Bar plays live piano music every evening.
Rosa Alpina, Italy – Exterior. Image courtesy of Rosa Alpina
Winter Sports Activities
The village of San Cassiano is connected to the Dolomiti Superski area, home to 1200 kilometres of brilliant snow-white slopes and 450 ski lifts, all of which can be covered under one ski pass, providing the ultimate picture-perfect winter ski experience for all levels. The beautifully groomed ski runs also have snow making facilities so there’s always fresh snow.
Similar to the summer, the Dolomites are a wonderous place to hike in the winter months. Guests of Rosa Alpina can hike on the well-marked trails of fresh groomed snow, surrounded by dramatic rocky cliffs and stunning open wide views. Guests can also try out snowshoeing, seen as an extension to hiking with the assistance of snowshoes – outer footwear featuring a wide frame to distribute the weight of the person over a larger area. This great winter exercise makes a great alternative to traditional or cross-country skiing or snowboarding.
A popular destination for cyclists in any season, the Dolomites comes into its own in the winter in a memorable way, with spikey biking. The spikey bike has oversized tyres designed for snow that allow cyclists to tackle the hugely popular winter hiking trails at a much more adventurous speed. The Dolomites can be explored safely with expert biking guides, so that guests can enjoy a unique cycling challenge at their own pace. Spikey biking is a fun way to enjoy training in the altitude of the Pale Mountains whilst taking in the dramatically beautiful landscapes. Guests are also invited to try winter running, starting from Rosa Alpina, through snowy woods and up to Störes 2200 metres. Wearing spiked running shoes guests can run the 14-kilometre trail with a 500-metre climb or take the shorter option of 7 kilometres and a 100 metre climb.
For the more adventurous, Rosa Alpina offers the experience of ice climbing, assisted by a professional mountain guide. With consistent ice, a variety of grades and a large number of routes, Serrai di Sottoguda is a deep slash through the base of Val Pettorina, formed during the ice ages as glacial meltwater gouged down through the rock. Marmolada towers above the gorge, which is so narrow in some places that the walls almost meet, making it an ideal spot for ice climbers. For those looking to try something different, Rosa Alpina also welcomes guests to experience Snurfing, the humble predecessor of the snowboard. A mix between a monoski and a surfboard with no bindings for the feet, the board has a short rope handle at the front to help snurfers to steer. This activity can be performed without ski lifts and is ideal for groups of friends, teenagers and those looking for an exciting new challenge.
While the scenery and views from the ground are unlike any other in the world, the region can also be enjoyed by air, with helicopter tours departing directly from the helipad just three-minutes by car from Rosa Alpina. New for 2021, The Silver Mirror Tour visits a location known by very few. A vast ice wall rising from the ground, guests can reach this secret place with a knowledgeable guide, rising over nearby peaks before landing to enjoy an aperitivo. Afterwards, guests can choose to return to Rosa Alpina or visit Plan de Corones for lunch at AlpiNN, an innovative restaurant concept by Chef Norbert Niederkofler.
Rosa Alpina, Italy – Exterior. Image courtesy of Rosa Alpina
Guests can experience Chef Norbert’s culinary vision with a one-night stay at the hotel, spending the evening at St. Hubertus revelling in a 10-course tasting menu for two. The Starry Night experience also includes breakfast served in Limonaia.
Now guests can also enjoy the Mindful Skiing experience, a sport open to everyone, providing low impact exercise whilst helping to raise self-awareness, reduce stress and improve general health. Offered just outside the village of San Cassiano, a ring with breathtaking scenery, this three-night stay includes daily breakfast served in Limonaia, one yoga and stretching session for two, two private cross-country ski lessons, a two-day entry pass to the cross-country ski training circuit and trails, two days rental of skis, ski shoes and poles and shuttle service to and from the ski slopes at Piz Sorega. Also available this season is the Peace of Mind exclusive package, offering guests an all-inclusive experience of the hotel during the winter months.
The hotel’s guides know multiple secret spots in the mountains where sundowners and canapés can be enjoyed in consummate privacy with awe-inspiring views. As the famous Dolomites sunset paints the sky a myriad of pinks and the snowy mountains blush the softest rose, guests can relax with their drink of choice and tantalising traditional snacks in a mountain hut, known as a Rifugio dotted across the mountainscape.
Rosa Alpina reopens for the winter season 10 December until 3 April 2022.
For more personalised information tips and advice, or to book an incredible holiday, contact your local TravelManagers’ personal travel manager.