Ker & Downey’s Escape Down Under itinerary takes guests on the perfect trip to the outback country with adventures in Kangaroo Island, Sydney, the Great Barrier Reef and an experiential 5-room working sheep farm.
From enchanting plains lit each evening by crimson sunsets to beaches with crystal-clear waters and a bevy of animal onlookers, Australia’s diverse experiences stretch beyond the kangaroos and outback. Set off for an unforgettable Escape Down Under on one of Ker & Downey’s most recent additions to a prestigious collection of outside-the-box luxury destinations.
Begin in iconic Sydney and take in the city’s most famous landmarks – the Harbor Bridge and the Sydney Opera House – from the floor-to-ceiling windows of the Park Hyatt. A brief walk to from the hotel to Sydney Harbor nets glimpses into Sydney’s past as a remote port with a rough reputation. The Rocks district, historically a haven for sailors and unsavory characters, features multi-level colonial buildings crafted out of sandstone. Many of the original structures have been lost to demolition, but the survivors, including some of the oldest pubs on the continent, have been renovated and carefully preserved.
Australia’s central red heartland is a playground for adventurous outdoor excursions. When traveling with Ker & Downey, visitors stay in the shadow of UNESCO World Heritage Site Ayers Rock in one of only 15 elevated tents at the luxurious Longitude 131°. Ayers Rock, named Uluru by the Pitjantjatjara aboriginal tribe, is a massive sandstone rock formation with the colorful properties of a chameleon. The changing light reflects brilliant hues of tan, gold, orange and red off the rock throughout the day – watching the sun descend and set the surface ablaze is an experience not soon forgotten. Close inspection of the site reveals numerous caves, ancient rock paintings and tiny streams marked by the growth of black algae on the color- changing stone surface.
Traveling onward to the rolling plains of southern Australia and the Flinders Ranges, Australia’s rugged outback comes to life. Guests of Arkaba Station disembark at this 19th-century homestead, which remains a fully operational sheep station, the laid-back charm of the country with adventurous treks and leisurely farm tours part of the everyday activities. Visitors can inspect the historic woolshed which retains its original corrugated iron roof and struts crafted from Oregon timber – if lucky enough to be traveling in August, guests may also watch the annual sheep shearing. For a hands-on outback experience, participate in a four-day guided walkabout with nightly accommodation in luxury swag tents. The guides will reveal the history of the property on these walks, from the indigenous inhabitants to the early settlers who have each left behind their traces of life in ramshackle shepherd’s huts and hollowed trunks of red gum trees. Scenic flights reveal the diverse topography and while on drives, hikes and mountain biking excursions guides will point out the many residents of the area, among them red and grey kangaroos, wallaroos, emus and yellow-footed rock wallabies.
Kangaroo Island off Australia’s southern coast is a display of outstanding natural beauty and its relative isolation has ensured an abundance of land and marine wildlife in a protected environment. With 21 national and conservation parks covering more than 30% of the island’s total area, Kangaroo Island has established itself as a premiere destination for naturalists, earning such nicknames as “the zoo without borders” and “Australia’s Galapagos.” So too the the sparkling waters and pristine sands of Lizard Island will enchant you on your final days in Australia. Located in the famous Great Barrier Reef, the stunning marine life and coral formations are merely a short dive from the Lizard Island Resort – their beauty can also be marveled from a dry post aboard a glass-bottomed boat. Anglers will find refuge at Ribbon Reefs, renowned for some of the world’s best black marlin and big game fishing.
When transitioning from the idyllic beach back to land, consider extending your stay down under at the Emirates Wolgan Valley Resort and Spa. Roughly three hours south of Sydney, guests will find themselves transported back to a time when the Australian outback was an unexplored enigma, teeming with flora and fauna, thanks in great part to the environmentally-minded development of the luxury resort. A collection of 40 free-standing suites are set amidst the rugged cliffs and ample forests of the valley with a fully-restored 19th-century homestead at its glorious center. Great care was taken in rebuilding the property with local artisans and architects utilizing existing timbers, steel fence posts and other building materials in the process, while simultaneously reintroducing native plants to the acreage. These initiatives, coupled with the use of solar power and other ecologically-sound daily procedures, earned the Wolgan Valley Resort carbon neutral certification from the carboNZero©™ international program.
The resort enjoys the scenery and solitude of the World Heritage-listed Blue Mountain Reserve, flanked by the Wollemi and the Gardens of Stone national parks. These quiet habitats are a wonderland for curious botanists and bird watchers alike, sure to appreciate the diversity of wildlife found throughout the area. A staff of professional Field Guides are at the disposal of guests, offering twice-daily guided excursions and advice for the ideal times and locations to spot any given bush denizen. Track kangaroos, wallaroos, wallabies and native Australian birds as you take in a sundowner on the reserve. Hike through the Wollemi Pine groves at Wollemi National Park – this ancient conifer species has been in existence since the age of the dinosaurs and this is the only known place in the world where this specimen grows freely in the wild. Nocturnal nature walks under a twinkling canopy of stars reveal some of the outback’s animals at their most energetic time of day.
Creature comforts can be found at the resort’s signature Timeless Spa. Pampered guests luxuriate on secluded open-air terraces, or next to blazing rock fireplaces in the cooler months. Expect to find the same highly-acclaimed level of service and opulence in the outback that is afforded to guests of Emirate’s properties around the world. Wolgan Valley is the perfect ending to an Australian getaway, infusing visitors with a final tinge of Aussie spirit.
Ker & Downey’s Escape Down Under is a suggested itinerary for Australia and is a great option for the country’s highlights. Explore the country in-depth or combine with other great destinations like New Zealand by contacting your travel professional.