FOR THOSE CLIENTS WHO DESIRE A REMOTE YET LUXURIOUS VACATION IN AUSTRALIA, recommend Moonlight Head Private Lodges (www.moonlighthead.com). When clients see the property, which is a scenic three-hour drive from Melbourne on a peninsula of prime Australian bush and farmland, they will surely thank you.
Designed by iconic Australian architect Glenn Murcutt, Moonlight Head opened in 2005 and will debut a boutique hotel by 2009.
Guests can expect a warm greeting upon arrival by concierge Rick Warneke, who also will arrange activities during their stay, including horseback or Ducati motorbike riding, inland or deep-sea fishing, whale watching, golf at five local courses or informal lectures with renowned experts on architecture, ecology, photography and wildlife. Moonlight Head's New Zealand-born CEO, Mark Banning-Taylor, and his staff will ask your clients to complete a pre-arrival preferences checklist.
Making sure guests have a wide range of options to keep them entertained is just the beginning: The property is teeming with the utmost hospitality. Housekeepers unpack suitcases and draw a bath prior to masseuses working muscle magic, while private chef Paul Ivelja prepares freshly caught seafood with local organic produce, accompanied by an exquisite selection of New World wines.
Moonlight Head's two lodges each sleeps up to eight in four bedrooms that offer magnificent views of the Southern Ocean (as the Antarctic Ocean is called in this part of the world). The most desirable bedroom is the master suite, with awe-inspiring lookouts via floor-to-ceiling windows. A lodge is rented to only one party, so even if your clients are just a couple, they get the whole lodge.
Moonlight Head is one of Australia's few child-friendly, super-luxury properties, welcoming two children under 12 to stay free with two adults. Kids can enjoy such activities as flying kites on the beach, exploring rock pools and anchors, canoeing, feeding the baby animals and milking cows at a neighboring farm.
Clients with an eye for detail will appreciate the tasteful Philippe Starcke chairs, Bang & Olufsen telephone and fluffy Persian rugs. Guests indulge in plush French Descamps towels and bathrobes, Peter Reed bed linens and their choice of Jo Malone, REN or Malin + Goetz toiletries. For those who have to work while they vacation, wireless and optic-fiber connectivity is ready to go in each lodge.
If your clients will want to go off-site for some fun, take note: The resort is 20 minutes from the state of Victoria's most famous attraction, The Twelve Apostles—natural limestone stacks standing just offshore in Port Campbell National Park.
Nightly rates start at AU$3,500 (around US$3,100) double, up to AU$5,000 for eight. Rates include all meals and snacks, cocktails and wine and a choice of services/activities, such as massage, koala encounter, fishing or babysitting. The property has a two-night minimum stay.
Another extraordinary property can be found "across the ditch"—a.k.a., the Tasman Sea—in New Zealand, halfway between Picton and Christchurch on gorgeous State Highway 1, one of the country's most popular scenic coastal drives. Here are the fabulous retreats at Hapuku Lodge & Tree Houses (www.hapukulodge.com), just north of the South Island town of Kaikoura on the Pacific Ocean. Kaikoura is reachable via Sounds Air from Wellington or via the Tranz Coastal railway: Disembark at the "Whale Way Station."
A Plant a Night
This super-eco-conscious property contains a working deer farm and 1,000-tree olive farm and welcomes event groups between 40 and 60 people. The owners plant one New Zealand native plant for every guest night spent there.
Wood takes center stage (think top-quality New Zealand red oak and other hardwoods, including cedar, totra, kwila and manuka), so nesting in one of the five tree houses is the thing to do here. These wooden palaces are perched on stilts 30 feet above ground—and they are not your kids' tree houses: They feature a sunroom with heated tile floors, wood-burning fireplace, iPod with Bose sound system, wide-screen TV, DVD/CD player, large spa bath, air conditioning, rain showerhead and custom-made beds and mattresses. The two bilevel tree houses are especially suitable for families.
Owner brothers Tony and Peter Wilson designed the lodge's furniture, which was crafted by local woodworking friends. Custom-made bedding is also in the guest rooms at the main lodge, which marketing rep Angela Best says agents appreciate for its comfy appeal. The lodge has three king and three queen rooms, high ceilings and a cozy fireplace.
Hapuku's Olive House apartment, which is set over the conference room and the property's olive press, is expansive—ideal for a family of five, or three adults.
Best reports that guests rave about Hapuku's gourmet dinners, created in an open kitchen by three chefs. Diners often request Kaikoura's namesake, the crayfish, or New Zealand rock lobster. Our favorite main course pays culinary homage to the hapuku, or grouper, with lemongrass and chili in a coconut emulsion.
Hapuku Lodge & Tree Houses are perfectly positioned between the spindly, snow-capped Kaikoura ranges and the rugged Marlborough coastline. The generous Pacific yields almost-guaranteed sightings of sperm whales, dusky dolphins and giant albatross, plus supreme deep-sea fishing. "The sense of peace and calm and awe is indescribable," Best says of evenings at Hapuku.
Rates, including continental breakfast, range from NZ$380 to $850 (about US$300-$670) for tree houses. Lodge rooms cost NZ$310-$460, and the apartment is priced at NZ$520-$650.
For inquiries about Hapuku or Moonlight Head, contact stateside marketing representative Angela Best at [email protected] or 310-592-4007.