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Best Eco Escapes in Australia: From Luxury to Budget

Boasting some of the best eco lodges in the world, Australia has a range of green getaways to suit all budgets. From exploring rainforests with indigenous Aboriginal people to nursing orphaned joeys at award-winning conservation centres, the land of Dreamtime offers more than just beach babes at Bondi.

1. Paradise Bay Eco Escape, South Long Island, Whitsunday Islands

best eco hotels

Built on the edge of an island in the middle of the Great Barrier Reef, Paradise Bay Eco Escape incorporates the ideals of an environmentally-responsible development without giving up the trimmings of a secluded luxury resort. Open to only 16 guests at any one time the owners believe that to be sustainable means imposing as little as possible on the surrounding area.

The lodge uses 100% alternative energy and everything that can be is recycled. Simple but elegantly decorated waterside bungalows boast uninterrupted views of the bay and because it’s close to a National Park native wallabies and curlews freely wander around the site as if they belong there; well, it is their back yard. Guests are free to go snorkelling, sailing and trekking or can just laze around in a hammock overlooking the tropical warm waters. Although touted as a honeymoon destination it’s a sociable spot, all meals and boat trips are communal, so loved-up couples should be happy to mingle and singles will find it easy to meet new mates.

Pricing: Minimum stay of 3 nights starts at $1,494 pp in the low season. Prices are all-inclusive.

2. Sal Salis Ningaloo Reef, WA

eco retreat WA

Get away from it all, quite literally, at this low impact eco-camp on a barren stretch of coast in north Western Australia. Lying 70km from the nearest town of Exmouth, in Cape Range National Park, Sal Salis is as about as posh as bush camping can be. Private tents have double beds, sofas, en-suite composting toilets and solar powered showers. The hub of the camp has a lounge area, dining tent and sun deck so campers won’t be slumming it.

Guests are free to explore the coral reef mere metres from the shore, where turtles live and breed; take an energetic hike to the summit of nearby Mandu Mandu Gorge or enjoy some serious R&R swinging in a tent-side hammock. Everyone gets involved in cooking communal meals so it’s not for those who like to be waited on hand and foot. For a true eco experience why not join one of the camp’s tour guides on a two week volunteer program where you’ll learn about WA’s rich biodiversity as well as the hospitality business. It’s ecotourism at its best.

Pricing: Double tent from $730 for one night, Single, $1095. Guided snorkelling, kayak tours, boat trip on Yardie Creek, National Park entry and meals included in the price. Minimum two night stay.

3. Daintree Eco Lodge and Spa, Daintree, QLD

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If you’re looking for a genuinely green spa that treats the surrounding environment as well as you, then look no further than Daintree Eco Lodge and Spa. Nestled within lush ancient rainforests 65 million years older than the Amazon, are secluded wooden villas perched high on stilts. It’s a unique setting for the ultimate in nature breaks.

The in-house cuisine carries a heavy Aboriginal influence as the area once belonged to the Kuku Yalanji people, a heritage that the eco lodge is keen to impart on visitors in the guise of bush walks and art classes, which prove highly popular year round. Various deals are available, including spa treatments, Aboriginal art workshops and a range of wedding packages.

Pricing: Rates vary according to number of nights booked. A 3 night culture package costs $1,788 for two, including breakfasts, indigenous guided rainforest walk, Aboriginal art workshop and one hour massage.

4. Great Ocean Ecolodge, Cape Otway, VIC

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Four hours drive from Melbourne, on the edge of Great Otway National Park, sits a model example of a sustainable eco lodge. The five-bedroom luxury lodge and ecology centre is constructed to be 100% carbon neutral, using passive solar energy for all electricity and hot water and was self-built using mud brick and recycled wood by co-founders, and husband and wife team, Shayne Neal and Lizzie Corke.

Shayne, a natural resource manager, leads guided walks through the bush at dusk, offering explanations of the habits and habitats of koalas clinging to tips of the tall gum trees and the mob of munching kangaroos on the open grassy plains. While Lizzie, awarded Prime Minister’s Environmentalist of the Year in 2005, plays mother to abandoned and orphaned wildlife, nursing them back to health before their return to the wild. A visit to this Advanced Eco-Certified lodge offers the chance to be at one with nature while being pampered just as much as the animals.

Pricing: Doubles start at $160 pp a night including afternoon tea, guided dusk walk and continental breakfast. Evening meals are available on site at extra cost.

5. YHA Eco Beach Backpackers, Apollo Bay, VIC

best eco escapes australia

A far cry from the usual cockroach infested hell-holes many travellers on a budget have to deal with, YHA Eco Beach Backpackers stands out from the crowd. Set behind the main drag of Apollo Bay and only a few blocks from the shore, this custom built hostel was designed to meet specific environmental criteria. What’s more, they’ve done it without compromising on aesthetics.

The hostel is equipped with designer-quality furnishings and fittings normally reserved for boutique hotels, apart from the bedrooms, which are more reminiscent of Prisoner Cell Block H than The Beach – their concrete walls are not the prettiest to look at but even these have a conserving quality; through passive solar design they retain heat in the winter and stay cool in the summer so the need for carbon-emitting air con is reduced. The kitchens on both floors are high spec stainless steel throughout and recycling bins for anything and everything line one wall, together with instructions for proper disposal. The 72 bed hostel employs strict water conservation measures and saves energy by closing off certain sections when running at 50% capacity. One visit will change your view of hostels forever.

Pricing: Dorm beds from $28 a night, doubles from $80 per room.

Images courtesy of respective hotels, and my own.

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