9 Stays That Put The 'Unique' Into Unique Boutique
Posted by Stephanie Mikkelsen on Thursday, May 17, 2018
Forget cookie-cutter accommodation, and throw same-same stays out the window.
It's time to spice things up. Booking a place that's heavy on the unique feels gives you the opportunity to explore a whole new level of boutique accommodation, whether it's somewhere with an interesting history, a property in an amazing location or a home with eclectic interiors and design. You just need to know where to look, and luckily, we do. We've rounded up 9 of our favourites, each with their own quirks and unique offerings. From an exclusive island lodge to revamped shipping containers and a vibrant relaxation retreat, there's something for everyone in this collection.
Carpe Diem Houseboats, Riverlands SA
Dust off your boat shoes because you’re taking to the high seas. Or rather, the waters of the winding Murray River. While some getaways promise proximity to the water, Carpe Diem Houseboats does one better: it puts you on the water. These floating stays ferry travellers between riverfront towns and places of interest. Each of the vessels in Carpe Diem’s fleet is two storeys and comes with three good bedrooms, a large kitchen, dining area and upper deck area. When the sun is out and the air is warm, the deck space is where you will want to spend most of your time either soaking up the Vitamin D, reading a book or scouring the water to decide the location of your next swim stop. Travellers also don’t need the experience of a past Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race entrant to take the helm of one of these houseboats. Lessons are provided upon arrival.
NOTEL, Melbourne VIC
‘Unique’ almost doesn’t seem enough to accurately describe NOTEL Melbourne. Perhaps ‘first of its kind’, ‘inimitable’, and ‘unmatched’ do more justice to this secret city stay, hidden atop of a carpark in Flinders Lane. Access to this exclusive escape requires guests to bypass a roller door using a code sent to their smartphone. It is then up several flights of stairs before you emerge out onto the pink Astroturf-clad rooftop, greeted by a set of six gleaming Airstream trailers. You would be forgiven for reminding yourself that yes, you are indeed still in Melbourne and you didn’t fall down a rabbit hole and land in Palm Springs. Each trailer has been yanked out of the 1970s and given a facelift, now featuring a mod white-and-pink interior, huge bathroom, free minibar and a deck made from timber pallets. The alley-facing trailer also has a sunken hot tub; dubbed the Airstream with Benefits.
Jamala Wildlife Lodge, Canberra ACT
An experience worthy of a National Geographic documentary awaits at Jamala Wildlife Lodge in Canberra. This five-star retreat is in the heart of the National Zoo and Aquarium, and gives you the chance to get up close and personal with animals you’d normally have to travel abroad to see. And the ‘up close’ is no exaggeration. Think soaking in a bathtub with bears just beyond a pane of glass, dining alongside lions or reading a book in bed while Bengal tigers look on. Oh yes, the David Attenborough vibe is strong. Take your pick from one of three accommodation ‘hubs’, with each offering a different experience. The elevated Giraffe Treehouses have balconies where you can sip champagne and lock eyes with long-legged neighbours. The Jungle Bungalows wind through habitats of lions, cheetahs and brown bears, and the uShaka Lodge has rooms where you’ll sleep next to hyenas, lemurs and even sharks.
St Claire Country House, Trentham VIC
Don’t know your ‘bonjour’ from your ‘bienvenue’? There is no need to fret because even if you don’t want to flash your passport, you can still get your fix of French fancy at St Claire Country House. It is easy to imagine this stately pile sitting pretty in the countryside of Bordeaux or on the outskirts of Paris. There are two parts to St Claire. The first is the Guest House, home to three sumptuous suites that are all bedecked with floral wallpaper, elegant furnishings and a soft colour palette. Outside each suite is a verandah, set with table and chairs and perfect for morning tea. A common room is just as lavishly appointed with a kitchen, dining table and lounges clustered around a decorative fireplace. The second aspect of this getaway is the Salon, available to be booked exclusively by guests travelling in a group or for a special occasion.
Picnic Island, Freycinet TAS
Dip your toes into the world of island escapes minus palm trees and coconuts at Picnic Island. This family-owned lodge sits on an isle just off the coast of Tasmania’s Freycinet Peninsula, meaning this break is a change of pace for travellers that more commonly associate an island getaway with a tropic location. Picnic Island’s locale gives it a one-of-a-kind clout that travellers will want to experience more than once. The lodge has five bedrooms and a central living space, named the Birdhouse, and all come with breathtaking water views and uninterrupted outlooks to Freycinet National Park. All of the usual island pursuits are here: swimming (albeit you may want to put on a wetsuit), snorkelling, fishing and shoreline combing. The island is also home to a penguin colony.
Coastal Pods Wynyard, Wynyard TAS
For a new take on accommodation, seek out Coastal Pods Wynyard in Tasmania. This boutique stay proves that shipping containers don’t just belong in dockyards, and the owners have upcycled two decommissioned containers to create this unique property. While the façades of the pods – aptly named Starboard and Port – are industrial-chic, the interiors are all contemporary living. Expect modern kitchens, plush furnishings, two bedrooms, two bathrooms and timber decks leading to a small garden area. It’s more like a visit to an insanely stylish friend’s house than a holiday escape – and that’s exactly why you’ll love it. You’ll instantly feel at home, and chances are photos on your Facebook feed will quickly follow.
Byron Blisshouse, Byron Bay NSW
Three getaways in one? Byron Blisshouse is a triple threat, thanks to its garden villa, studio and penthouse. For guests, that means having the chance to experience this beautiful Byron Bay base in a way that suits your numbers and budget. For couples, this may mean snapping up the one-bedroom studio. This private haven has a king bed, small kitchenette, marble bathroom and compact alfresco area. Up a notch is the garden villa, a three-bedroom retreat where the master is housed in a separate loft and comes with a double spa bath. The crowning jewel at Byron Blisshouse is the three-bedroom penthouse, a natural choice for families and groups (and maybe even couples) that want to inject a bit of glamour into their Byron Bay getaway. A secluded and sunny deck is for penthouse guest use only and includes a plunge pool.
Squeakywindmill Boutique Tent B&B, Alice Springs NT
Take one peak at the inside of the tents at Squeakywindmill Boutique Tent B&B and the safari vibes are clear, but this getaway isn’t located in the African bush. Look outside to your tent’s surroundings to recognise this setting is unmistakeably Australian; a fact made only more irrefutable once you see the landscape light up with reds, yellows and burnt oranges at sunrise and sunset. There are only two tents at Squeakywindmill, meaning you could have the place entirely to yourself. Or, a couple might invite friends to book the second tent; a truly special group trip. Both tents have queen beds, ensuite, kitchenette and timber deck. Arrange ahead to have a barbecue hamper delivered by your host, Michelle, and enjoy its gourmet contents while savouring the stillness of the Australian outback.
Qii House Eco Retreat, Lorne VIC
For fans of the bold, bright and beautiful, Qii House Eco Retreat will be heaven. This personality-laden house was designed by Edgard Pirrotta and will challenge your expectations of a Great Ocean Road getaway. Walls are splashed with vivid primary hues and this obsession with colour extends throughout the retreat, from the wardrobes in the bedrooms to patterned linens and even the kitchen appliances. Outside, the house offers a calmer, more tranquil setting. Explore the tracks that wind through the Great Otway National Park, or find a favourite spot in the Japanese-inspired gardens to meditate and unwind. Take a soak in the outdoor bathtub, relax out on one of the daybeds or stoke the wood-fired pizza oven to bring it to perfect dinner-cooking temperature.