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Northern lights

From a heli-fishing lodge in a remote Kimberley estuary to a sun-drenched penthouse overlooking Queensland’s most famous strip, Australia’s northern coastlines are long on luxe new accommodation.

Self-contained type: 6 Beachfront Mirage

Pack essentials only - everything else you need for a relaxing getaway awaits at 6 Beachfront Mirage, a modern, open-plan sanctuary (pictured above) just a holiday-paced amble from beautiful Four Mile Beach in Port Douglas.

At the heart of things is the sleek kitchen, fitted out with Miele appliances and stocked with accoutrements aplenty (plus a five-burner barbecue on the downstairs deck). Clever use of bifold doors lets you open the house to sea breezes, while tropical gardens shield the outdoor dining spaces from view. There are four bedrooms (the house can sleep 10), with the two huge master bedrooms claiming the entire top floor, their balconies overlooking the cool greenery of the Sheraton Mirage's golf course.
Port Douglas is just a few kilometres away, so make use of the bicycles in the garage and pedal into town for supplies (OTZ Food at the nearby Four Mile Beach shops is a great stopgap if the spirit is willing but the body needs a break).

When it comes to downtime, there's a bar area for sundowners and seclusion, plus a gadget-heavy media room kitted out with bean bags, a plasma screen, Wii, Xbox, books and boardgames.

Another plus: the heated infinity-edged pool, which means it's never stinger season at this address. House from $750 per night for up to six guests; additional guests $50 each per night. 6 Beachfront Mirage, Port Douglas, Qld, 1300 896 627 KAREN REYMENT

Fashionably yours: DVF Penthouse, Hayman
It takes a lot of confidence, and years of experience, to pull off a clash of tribal motifs and overblown monochrome florals. Fashion designer Diane von Furstenberg has both, and she's also famously partial to a print, so it's no great surprise to see that the interiors of her eponymous new Hayman Island penthouse don't play all that safe.

Von Furstenberg's two-bedroom penthouse is the latest chapter in the ongoing refurbishment of Australia's original luxury Whitsundays resort. It joins the eight beach villas (built following Cyclone Yasi's lashing of Hayman) and the private residences currently under construction on the island's eastern headland, all of which were designed by regular Amanresorts architect Kerry Hill.

There are 10 penthouses at Hayman, spread across the top floors of the Lagoon wing that bookends the property with the more family friendly Pool accommodation at the other.

Von Furstenberg's Hayman vision is individualistic - personal photography documenting the designer's travels features on the walls and DVF-print fabrics are on everything from the American oak four-poster bed and bathrobes to the lounges positioned to make the most of its Coral Sea views. The suite's neon-yellow second bedroom is fearless in its use of colour and the overall mix is refreshingly breezy and bright and a touch bohemian. In fact, just what Hayman needed. Penthouse from $5000 per night for up to four guests; transfers extra. The DVF Penthouse at Hayman, Qld, 1800 122 339 FRANCES HIBBARD

Alternative island: Orpheus
Picture-perfect Orpheus Island (pictured above), a short flight from Townsville, was once one of Australia's most exclusive destinations. Minor damage from Cyclone Yasi prompted an $8-million facelift, and today Orpheus has its groove back, with a polished new look bringing luxe to the laid-back air of the island.

Orpheus, the sole resort gracing this 1368-hectare national park island, takes no more than 34 guests at a time, so seclusion is as good as guaranteed. The overhauled beachfront rooms, suites and villas are bright and spacious, complete with iPod docks, LCD screens and private terraces with hammocks where you can soak up the Barrier Reef views.

The more adventurous can dive the island's surrounding World Heritage-listed marine park, explore the island by foot, or motor a private dinghy to one of Orpheus's many isolated beaches.

The island's dining is particularly impressive. Chef Arie Prabowo tailors his menus around local seafood availability and what's growing in the resort's kitchen garden. He puts on an impressive show, preparing everything from beach-side barbecues to eight-course dégustation dinners served on the jetty under the stars. The resort also hosts regular food and wine weekends featuring leading chefs. The next, to be held in April, is with Coda chef Adam D'Sylva. Beachfront rooms from $1400 per night twin-share; transfers extra. Orpheus, Hazard Bay, Orpheus Island, Qld, via Townsville, (07) 4777 7377 MAYA KERTHYASA

Remote access: The Berkeley River Lodge
The Berkeley River Lodge sits on an estuary few have glimpsed, never mind visited. Getting here takes some commitment, and an hour's flight from Kununurra, in the far north-east of the Kimberley Region, by Cessna float plane. We take off from Lake Kununurra (officially designated an inland sea), cross the seared savanna of the Kimberley and land on the Berkeley River. The pilot taxis to a beach and bangs the plane's anchor into the sand.

The new lodge's 20 villas, which from the air look like the deconstructed segments of a pie chart, are strung along the top of a ridge of mighty sand dunes. Their windows are louvred to let in the breeze, their roofs tipped to make the most of the views - either the Berkeley River or the Timor Sea. Alfresco bathrooms, which have both bathtubs and showers, are contained behind brush fences; bedrooms are light and minimalist with limed timber units and pressed bamboo floors. Only the river's auburn canyon of dilapidated rock is ancient. Oh, and the paprika-coloured dust that covers everything.

There are guided nature walks, but the river is the focus of activities. Fifty species of fish are regularly caught in its waters, barramundi, mangrove jack and threadfin salmon among them. You can go fishing via chopper or a powerful 20-seat aluminium tour boat. And if you don't fish, both will land you near waterfalls and rock pools for some relaxation. But forget about swimming, except in the pools; Godzilla, a seven-metre salty, lives up the river and has friends. Villa from $675 per person per night twin-share; transfers extra. The Berkeley River Lodge, Kimberley Coast, via Kununurra, WA, (08) 9169 1330  PETER HUGHES

Excess all areas: Sub-Penthouse, Hilton Surfers Paradise
A prescription for those prone to an eye-roll at the mere mention of the Gold Coast: a night or several in one of the two new sub-penthouses, just opened at the Hilton Surfers Paradise, will challenge anyone unconvinced of the Goldie's attributes, man-made or otherwise. The four-bedroom, five-bathroom sub-penthouses are on the 53rd and 54th floors of the 55-storey hotel (a private penthouse calls level 55 home), and make the most of the building's position in the heart of the glitter strip.

The bedrooms are sun-drenched affairs, with views of either the Broadwater and South Stradbroke Island or jagged hinterland. The windows open - so rare in high-rise hotels - to capture the scent of the sea, and there's a substantial balcony on which to eat whatever you've cooked in the sizeable kitchen, or ordered from chef Luke Mangan's room-service menu or Food Store in the lobby. Interior design is surprisingly non-formulaic for a global hotel brand: Hilton Serenity beds and starched white bed linen, yes, but also original artworks. And views. Did we mention the views?

The hotel itself is something of a game-changer for the Gold Coast, joining the QT and new Sea Temple in spearheading Surfers's reinvention. The foreshore's beautification is complete, with Cavill Mall now open to the beach. Throw in a light-rail project linking Broadbeach to Surfers and Commonwealth Games hosting duties for 2018 and the GC's future looks bright. Sub-penthouse from $6500 per night for up to 10 guests. Hilton Surfers Paradise, 6 Orchid Ave, Surfers Paradise, Qld, (07) 5680 8000 FRANCES HIBBARD


The Fine Print

6 Beachfront Mirage, Port Douglas, Qld, 1300 896 627

The DVF Penthouse at Hayman, Qld, 1800 122 339

Orpheus, Hazard Bay, Orpheus Island, Qld, via Townsville, (07) 4777 7377

The Berkeley River Lodge, Kimberley Coast, via Kununurra, WA, (08) 9169 1330

Hilton Surfers Paradise, 6 Orchid Ave, Surfers Paradise, Qld, (07) 5680 8000

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The Fine Print

6 Beachfront Mirage, Port Douglas, Qld, 1300 896 627

The DVF Penthouse at Hayman, Qld, 1800 122 339

Orpheus, Hazard Bay, Orpheus Island, Qld, via Townsville, (07) 4777 7377

The Berkeley River Lodge, Kimberley Coast, via Kununurra, WA, (08) 9169 1330

Hilton Surfers Paradise, 6 Orchid Ave, Surfers Paradise, Qld, (07) 5680 8000

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