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Australia's best beach hotels

Watsons Bay Boutique Hotel, Sydney, NSW

Watsons Bay Boutique Hotel, Sydney, NSW

Some of Australia's greatest beach hotels reside in the sunshine state, Queensland - the tropical north excels at barefoot luxury. Getaway options don't come much glitzier than the opulent Palazzo Versace, a $300-million Italian designer hotel on the Gold Coast's Broadwater. The Pacific is just over the back fence, but bedazzled guests might find it hard to quit the gilded confines of this neoclassical sand castle.

Lovers of the high life also head for Soul Surfers Paradise, which towers 77 storeys above the ocean. The vibe is seaside glam, hence the elegantly appointed apartments with expansive sea views, destination restaurant Seaduction, and a dramatic tiered pool facing The Esplanade and Main Beach.

Further north, we like Alamanda Palm Cove, formerly the Angsana, not simply for its prime seaside position but also because the highly regarded Nu Nu's restaurant has just moved in, serving Asian-accented seafood beneath the palms. A short drive up the coast road leads to another likeable beach property, the Port Douglas Peninsula Boutique Hotel. Tucked at the end of Macrossan Street, most of its 34 one-bedroom suites have views over Four Mile Beach to the Coral Sea. A few days lazing on a private terrace here is a surefire remedy for city stresses.

Gun-barrel views down Port Jackson to the Harbour Bridge and Sydney CBD skyline are a drawcard at the renovated, 32-room Watsons Bay Boutique Hotel, but we also love getting sand between our toes at pretty Camp Cove and long, lazy lunches at the hotel's retro-styled Beach Club.

Out of town, we like Bannisters, the made-over '70s motel at Mollymook, three hours south of Sydney. Partly for the plunge pool and private deck of the Terrace penthouse, partly for the spa, the Pool Bar and Rick Stein's in-house restaurant, but mostly for the genuine charm of the NSW South Coast.

In the west, the Cable Beach Club Resort and Spa at Broome has long defined our dreams of Indian Ocean escapes, but other less celebrated West Australian beach addresses are taking our fancy, too. With its ocean outlook and striking architecture, Novotel Ningaloo Resort on Exmouth's Town Beach is a sophisticated gateway to the submarine wonders of Ningaloo Reef. We're also fans of Smiths Beach Resort, down south in the Margaret River wine region.

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