Unique and incredible Australian accommodation: Desert tents, caves, wildlife retreats and old fire stations you can call home while Down Under

Bookmark these unusual, humblebrag-worthy accommodation options for your next Australian holiday

Longitude 131 Uluru
Take your next Australian holiday to new heights with these amazing, unusual and epic places to stay. PHOTO: BAILLIES LONGITUDE 131

sierra escape piambong mudgee
With the great outdoors in your backyard, this glamping resort lets you experience Mother Nature at her finest. PHOTO: GUY WILLIMENT

Be one with nature in the most luxe way

What: Sierra Escape 
Where: Mudgee Region, New South Wales

Perfect for couples, this luxe glamping resort is open to adults only. You will be sleeping among nature –  resident wildlife of birds, kangaroos and deer –  in specially designed “tents” unlike what you recall of your school camping days. Expect indoor (and also outdoor) bathtubs, fireplaces, and insulated walls that keep you toasty in winter, while large windows let sunlight in during summer. 

While you’re there: Explore the rural town of Mudgee. Located west of Sydney in the New South Wales Central Tablelands, this underrated region will certainly delight foodies and nature lovers alike, thanks to its mix of country charm and epicurean delights. Take your pick from over 35 wineries for private wine tasting sessions. For some outdoor adventure, sign up for a helicopter ride, hop onto a horse for a ride in the local bush environment or kayak near the Wollemi National Park.

Reefsuites Whitsundays
Sleep underwater but no oxygen tank required. PHOTO: TOURISM AND EVENTS QUEENSLAND

Feel like you're living inside the world’s largest aquarium

What: Reefsuites
Where: Airlie Beach, Queensland

Said to be Australia’s first underwater suite accommodation, Reefsuites gets you really close to the Great Barrier Reef’s inhabitants. The glass-panelled room is built right in the ocean so you can admire the fascinating activity around you all day and night (while staying dry). The rooms give a whole new meaning to ‘a room with a view’ and you’ll awake to see the marine life going about another day on the world-heritage listed reef they call home.

While you’re there: Swim, dive or snorkel, or take a scenic helicopter ride to the Heart Reef, a formation of coral in the shape of – you guessed it – a heart! Enjoy a starlit dinner at the upper deck before retiring to your underwater accommodation.

Live it up like the Flintstones – but in luxury. PHOTO: LOVE CABINS 

Rough it out (not really!) in a cave

What: Enchanted Cave 
Where: Blue Mountains, New South Wales 

Don’t let its cheeky moniker fool you –  your stay at Love Cabins resort promises a couples-only experience to write home about. It features several unusual accommodation options; book the Wollemi Wilderness Treehouse (it has a  Love Tee Pee!). But if role-playing as Fred and Wilmar Flintstone gets you in a romantic mood, the Enchanted Cave features a queen-sized bed set into the bedrock beside the fireplace, and a ceiling studded with figures and symbols made out of local rock. 

While you’re there: When you are ready to emerge from your cave, go on one of the many Blue Mountains walking tours that will take you to a creek and through rainforest. End the day with a Glow Worm Night Tour for a fascinating glimpse of glow worms that have made their home in a hidden canyon near the Love Cabins grounds.

Wildlife Retreat Taronga Zoo Sydney
Be neighbours with Taronga Zoo's 4,000 animal residents for a night. PHOTO: TARONGA ZOO

Spend a night at the zoo 

What: Taronga Zoo
Where: Sydney, New South Wales 

Imagine waking up to the sounds of wallabies and lyrebirds at play. This experience is yours at Wildlife Retreat at Taronga, an elegant eco-retreat launched by the Taronga Conservation Society Australia. Built within Taronga Zoo, it features 62 rooms situated in five environmentally sensitive and sustainably designed lodges overlooking the nearby Sydney Harbour too. The bonus: your stay will support Taronga’s conservation and research projects in Australia and around the world.

While you’re there: Go on a guided tour through The Sanctuary (a precinct exclusive to Wildlife Retreat guests), which features up-close wildlife experiences. Come dinner time, enjoy a leisurely meal at Me-Gal, Taronga's on-site restaurant, which serves up a modern Australian menu, plus panoramic views of the Sydney Harbour. 

The Vineyard Retreat Mclaren Vale Blewitt Springs
This retreat offers more than glasses of vino; expect sweeping views of the scenic McLaren Vale wine country from the comfort of your guesthouse. PHOTO: THE VINEYARD RETREAT MCLAREN VALE

Chill out in wine country

What: The Vineyard Retreat McLaren Vale
Where: Blewitt Springs, South Australia 

You’ve done day trips at a vineyard, so take things to the next level and spend the night at one instead in McLaren Vale. The Vineyard Retreat McLaren Vale’s four luxury guesthouses each come with a private deck promising views of the surrounding valleys and vineyards. Better yet, many cellar doors are located nearby... 

While you’re there: Set aside a day for the highly immersive Ultimate McLaren Vale Tour that takes you to Onkaparinga Gorge, featuring native animals and geology that date back 600 million years. The tour includes wine tasting, winery tours and a lunch of seasonal produce. If you prefer to work for your food (and tipple), burn some calories on a guided eBike tour covering the Shiraz Trail with stops at wineries like Wirra Wirra, Primo Estate and Battle of Bosworth. 

Sal Salis Ningaloo Reef
Have the best of both worlds: the ocean and the outback. PHOTO: SAL SALIS NINGALOO REEF

Doze off next to the ocean and under thousands of stars 

What: Sal Salis Ningaloo Reef
Where: Ningaloo Coast, Western Australia

If a night or two at the Sal Salis Ningaloo Reef beach safari camp doesn’t recharge you, nothing else will. Perfectly situated on the picturesque dunes of the Cape Range National Park near Exmouth in Western Australia, the eco-luxe camp offers the best of both worlds: the sprawling outback and the awe-inspiring reef. From one of 15 eco-luxe tents, you will enjoy views of the surrounding bush and the Indian Ocean. Spend balmy afternoons lounging in a hammock within your tent and cap off each day falling asleep to the sound of the waves.

While you’re there: When you fancy being out and about, swim alongside whale sharks, humpback whales and more than 500 species of colourful fishes in the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Ningaloo Reef. Don’t forget to also visit the Cape Range National Park for its red kangaroos, wallaroos, echidnas and more than 100 types of birds. Come nightfall, prepare to be blown away by the uninterrupted, awe-inspiring views of the Milky Way as the sky lights up with hundreds of thousands of stars. 

Pumphouse Point Lake St Clair, Tasmania
Revel in nature at Pumphouse Point: an adults-only retreat perched on a glacial lake. PHOTO: PUMPHOUSE POINT

Go off-grid in the beautiful Tasmanian wilderness

What: Pumphouse Point
Where: Lake St Clair, Tasmania 

In 1940, the authorities here built a five-storey pumphouse out in the lake to house water turbines. The hydro-electric station was later decommissioned in the early 1990s and transformed into the minimalist Pumphouse Point. You will find 18 rooms spread across two heritage buildings surrounded by the quiet Tasmanian wilderness. Warning: don’t expect Wi-Fi  but this is your opportunity to really go off-grid. And don’t worry, there’s enough to keep you engaged – from enjoying a freshly prepared meal at the communal dining room The Shorehouse, to strolling along the idyllic Lake St Clair

While you’re there: Nestled within the picturesque Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park, Pumphouse Point is the perfect base to explore the surrounding World Heritage-listed Tasmanian Wilderness Area. The activity options are endless: paddle around in the lake on a dinghy and discover secret coves, or try your hand at fly-fishing. If you prefer to stay on dry land, traverse the area on horseback or take an alpine hike through the dramatic wilderness of the iconic The Overland Track. 

Domescapes Glamping Tasmania
Be the first among your friends to stay in a lattice-shell hotel. PHOTO: DOMESCAPES TASMANIA

Be the first among your friends to stay in a lattice-shell hotel

What: Domescapes Tasmania
Where: Tamar Valley, Tasmania

Located on the Tamar Valley Wine Route, Domescapes Tasmania comprises six domes cleverly designed to harness the most of the seasons. Each one is insulated (a welcome respite during winter!) and has windows designed for star-gazing. To elevate your camping experience, take a dip in your private bathtub out on the deck, and roast marshmallows at the firepit. Ah...bliss. 

While you’re there: Domescapes Tasmania is the perfect gateway to the famed Tamar wine region, so plan your itinerary to include visits to the many cellar doors. Otherwise, find your way out of the Glengarry Bush Maze, watch artisans turn lavender flowers into perfumes and toiletries at Lavender House – The Perfumery, and get acquainted with local flora and fauna at the Tamar Island Wetlands. 

Spicers Peak Lodge Maryvale, Queensland
Chill out amidst tranquil surroundings in Queensland’s high country. PHOTO: TOURISM AND EVENTS QUEENSLAND

Plan a mountain lodge vacay – and wear your best boots   

What: Spicers Peak Lodge 
Where: Maryvale, Queensland 

This may just be one of the most coveted addresses in the area, since it is surrounded by the Main Range National Park and The Great Dividing Range. Situated 1,100m above sea level on a mountain in Queensland’s high country, Spicers Peak Lodge is also close to the Granite Belt wine region, a short three-hour drive from Brisbane.

While you’re there: Make time for a two-day Scenic Rim trail walk. Small-group tours are available, and you can also opt for Spicers Canopy accommodation – a glamping tent site in a huge private nature refuge with a farm-style kitchen, hot tubs offering mountain views and fuss-free luggage transportation.

Live out your hipster fantasies in the hippest trailer park ever. PHOTO: NOTEL

Glamp it up in a “trailer park” on a rooftop carpark

What: Notel
Where: Melbourne, Victoria 

Despite its quirky name, Notel is anything but a hotel. Situated on a rooftop car park in Melbourne’s CBD area, this man-made trailer park is kitted out with six vintage Airstream trailer camper vans. To prove how hipster it is, each comes with a photo printer for your selfies. The “premium” Airstream With Benefits has a private jacuzzi that overlooks Flinders Lane, home to many restaurants, bars, boutiques and art galleries.

While you’re there: As Notel is conveniently located in the heart of town, you’ll have a wide selection of lifestyle hotspots at your doorstep – including award-winning restaurants and bars, contemporary art galleries and local designer boutiques in the Flinders Lane area. For a behind-the-scenes look at Melbourne's incredible urban art scene, sign up for a street art tour that'll take you to hidden laneways, arcades and outdoor galleries around the city.

The Pole House Great Ocean Road, Victoria
This designer house sits 40m above Fairhaven Beach. PHOTO: GREAT OCEAN ROAD TOURISM

Check into the most photographed house in Australia

What: The Pole House
Where: Great Ocean Road, Victoria

Don’t just join the hordes of Instagrammers snapping photos of this Great Ocean Road landmark; stay in The Pole House instead. Built more than 40 years ago, it has since been renovated by its new owners, and is now accessed by an almost-surreal floating walkway, and sits 40m above Fairhaven Beach.

While you’re there: The Pole House is only less than two hours by car from the famed collection of limestone stacks 12 Apostles,  and accessible to countless beaches, from Sandy Gully Beach to Sunnymeade Beach. Suntan lotion is essential.

Catch the stunning Uluru sunrise from your luxe "tent". PHOTO: BAILLIES LONGITUDE 131°

Enjoy sweeping views of red sand dunes

What: Longitude 131° 
Where: Uluru-Kata Tjuta, Northern Territory 

In the comfort of your bed, you can take in unblocked views of Uluru and its instantly-recognisable red sand dunes. All 16 luxury tents at Longitude 131° come with floor-to-ceiling glass windows. Even more exclusive: the Dune Pavilion is said to be Australia’s only accommodation to offer views of both Uluru and Kata Tjuta.  

While you’re there: The resort is situated in The Red Centre – a colloquial name given to the southern desert region – where local operators will introduce you to Dot Painting or take you on outback cycling trips. Make your visit even more memorable with a sunrise or sunset camel ride through the stunning red dune landscape. 

Bamurru Plains Kakadu National Park
Have the classic bush experience at this safari lodge. PHOTO: BAMURRU PLAINS

Be one of only 20 guests on 300km of floodplains and woodland

What: Bamurru Plains
Where: Kakadu National Park, Northern Territory 

Imagine being within 300km of floodplains and savanna woodland that span the horizon as far as the eye can see, as you enjoy the exclusivity of being just one of 20 guests. Just three hours from Darwin, this picturesque safari lodge is sited at the edge of Kakadu National Park, so don’t be surprised to spot native birds and other wildlife as you relax by the pool.

While you’re there: The Bamurru Plains property itself is so sprawling that you will be kept busy exploring its four distinct habitats: floodplains and wetlands with magpie geese and crocodiles, melaleuca forests, savannah woodlands and a riverine environment with sunbathing crocs. Go on the signature airboat safari that takes you through open grasslands or enjoy a relaxing river cruise along the Sampan Creek. There are also open-top game drives, safari-style, quad bike tours and guided walks. 

Jamala Wildlife Lodge
Rub shoulders with Jamala's wild residents as they “visit” you in your room. PHOTO: VISIT CANBERRA

Do your part for animal conservation as you live among some of the world’s most exotic creatures

What: Jamala Wildlife Lodge 
Where: CanberraAustralian Capital Territory

Back in the 1990s, Jamala’s owners purchased an aquarium and a small wildlife park, turning it into a zoo with bigger-than-usual enclosures to house retired circus animals. Still family-owned and -operated today, Jamala Wildlife Lodge is run by the National Zoo & Aquarium, which contributes to breeding programmes to save animals from extinction. A variety of suites are located right in the zoo itself, including six Giraffe Treehouse suites where you may welcome unexpected visitors: resident giraffes Hummer and Skye (rumoured to be an item) who like to pop their necks into your balcony. 

While you’re there: Discover some of Canberra’s family-friendly experiences. Visit the Cockington Green Gardens which is home to handcrafted miniature buildings from around the world and hop onto the miniature steam train too. If fossils are more your thing, check out the National Dinosaur Museum. 

You won’t earn any air miles, but a good night’s rest is guaranteed. PHOTO: THE LILY

Sleep in a plane…without taking off

What: The Dakota at The Lily
Where: Amelup, Western Australia 

Sleeping in a first-class cabin is so 2020. Give your latest social media humblebrag post the most amazing backdrop to date, at The Dakota at The Lily. The Dakota is a restored 1944 plane that has been transformed into living quarters for two. Survey the surrounds from the cockpit before enjoying the rest of the plane; the space has been ingeniously converted into a bedroom (formerly half of the passenger section), a bathroom (the previous navigator’s room) and a fully equipped kitchen.

While you’re there: The small rural town of Amelup has only 64 residents, making it an ideal getaway from the hustle and bustle of bigger cities. As you explore the area, look out for the iconic “Caution Nudists Crossing” sign on the main street! Raring to explore the rest of the South West? Take a self-drive tour of the region's must-visit spots: Margaret River's renowned wineries, the 1,000 km-long Bibbulmun Track, an alpaca stud farm, and many more.

The Fire Station Inn Adelaide South Australia
Ever wanted to have a real fire engine and fireman’s pole in your room? Wish granted. PHOTO: THE FIRE STATION INN

Spend the night in one hot accommodation

What: The Fire Station Inn
Where: Adelaide, South Australia

Adelaide’s first fire station, this 155 year-old heritage building has been transformed into a whimsical boutique accommodation. A family of four will love the Fire Engine Spa Suite, complete with a 1942 fire engine – featuring pumps and ladders – located at the foot of your bed. While the kids entertain themselves, Mum and Dad can take advantage of the king size bed and luxurious bathroom with a corner spa bath.

While you’re there: The Fire Station Inn is located in North Adelaide and is within walking distance to the neighbourhood’s cafes, restaurants and shops. Stroll down O’Connell Street to discover an eclectic mix of alfresco cafés, historic pubs and live music bars. Further down south is Adelaide Oval, the city’s beloved sporting arena that hosts football and cricket matches, and concerts.

Hungry for more travel inspiration? Get inspired and keep your wanderlust alive with these Australian holiday ideas.