Where To Stay In


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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.


1. Australia Wilderness Lodges and Retreats

The reef is just off the coast of northern Queensland and well worth seeing. You can swim with whales and snorkel with turtles through a unique underwater world. If you don’t feel like getting wet, you can go island hopping or take a cruise for the day. Once you’ve finished with the reef, Cairns is the perfect place to relax in a tropical paradise with plenty of resorts and hotels to choose from. Don’t forget to check out some of the many rainforest walks in Cairns and, if you’re looking for something a bit more fast-paced, try mountain biking through the forests instead!

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.


2. Australia Hotels

Australia plays host to all the international chains such as HyattMarriott, 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.


3. 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 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.


4. 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.


5. Aussie Pubs

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.


6. 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.


7. Australia Motels

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.


8. 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.


9. Australia Hostels

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.


10. 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.

David Castain Destinations - Australia

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