Every year we scout the country for the very best in hotel stays, delivering to our readers an authoritative guide to the country's top lodgings. We aim to recognise and celebrate the best in the business, naming winners across 11 categories in the Australian Hotel Awards. From best bed to best club sandwich, best regional hotel to the country's hotel of the year, you can be sure that at these 11 addresses there's something truly special in store.
In producing the 2018 Gourmet Traveller Australian Hotel Guide, our reviewers check in unannounced and pay their own way. What we experience at these top Australian addresses is the same as what you, our readers, would experience. No special treatment; no added extras. Just honest, informative reviews of the best hotel experiences around the country.
Start booking. And pick up a copy of our 2018 Australian Hotel Guide, the only national guide to the country's top hotels, with our June issue on sale now.
Hotel of the Year: Paramount House Hotel, Sydney
Old meets new. Bold meets beautiful. Cool meets class. And good taste trumps all. The one-time Pacific HQ of Paramount Pictures has emerged as the country's most exciting hotel of 2018. A four-year renovation of the 1940s landmark has created a 29-room inn of poise and style, but also fun and games. In other words, Paramount House gets the balance of work and play just right.
In-room virtues include pure linen bedding, potted plants, indoor-outdoor spaces and cut-above minibars featuring charcuterie from LP's Quality Meats, cheeses from Formaggi Ocello and wines by maverick makers William Downie and Tom Shobbrook. Soak in Japanese-style wooden tubs or under terrazzo-tiled showers, or plan a chilli-fired night out at Longrain or Chin Chin nearby.
Paramount House is a hub as much as a hotel, surrounded by like-minded projects and tapping into the on-trend notion that hotels should be the conduit to a city's cultural life. The hotel shares its space with the bustling Paramount Coffee Project, a café that takes its coffee seriously; a co-working office; the pint-sized Golden Age Cinema and Bar; and even a regular growers' market. Stretch out with a yoga class or meditation session on the roof terrace of the new Paramount Recreation Club, and fuel up at its kiosk. Or head downstairs to Poly, the highly anticipated restaurant and bar by Ester's Mat Lindsay (GT's 2018 chef of the year), which was taking shape as we went to print. Welcome to the neighbourhood.
80 Commonwealth St, Surry Hills, NSW, paramounthousehotel.com
Large Hotel of the Year: Macq01, Hobart
Large hotels needn't be predictable. Hobart's Macq01 hotel, designed by heritage experts Circa Morris Nunn to resemble a riverside wharf, has a distinctive personality. It is Tasmania writ large in wood, steel and glass; a 114-room hotel that pours its island soul into every detail. The rooms, unusually generous in space and amenities (coffee machines, epic minibars), feature commissioned local art such as Troy Ruffels' landscape photos and Duncan Meerding's timber lampshades, and each room tells the story of a character from Tasmania's past or present. Everything feels custom-made and handpicked for this inn beside the Derwent River.
18 Hunter St, Hobart, Tas, macq01.com.au
Boutique Hotel of the Year: Jackalope, Mornington Peninsula
It's barely a year since the 46-room Jackalope landed like an alien spacecraft in the bucolic hills of the Mornington Peninsula. There's so much to love about this wildly unconventional hotel, starting with its sumptuous rooms and suites, especially those with vineyard views. We also love the avant-garde art, bold furnishings and daring vision that distinguishes Jackalope from other boutique hotels. Its vineyard bistro Rare Hare often has a two-hour wait for tables at weekends and Saturday night stays are booked out months in advance.
166 Balnarring Rd, Merricks North, Vic, jackalopehotels.com
Regional Hotel of the Year: Lake House, Daylesford
Three decades ago, Alla and Allan Wolf-Tasker saw the potential of the quiet central Victorian spa town of Daylesford and opened an ambitious restaurant and country house beside pretty Lake Daylesford. Since then, Lake House has set the benchmark for Australian regional hospitality and helped reposition the town as the state's most indulgent destination. Lake House is continually evolving – expect revamped waterfront studios and a lake-facing horizon pool by year's end – but it's always defined by its gorgeous setting, smart service, indulgent treetop spa and destination restaurant.
4 King St, Daylesford, Vic, lakehouse.com.au
Best service: Spicers Clovelly Estate, Montville
There's a lot to be said for the special brand of hospitality at small regional hotels, especially those with hands-on managers like Spicers Clovelly Estate's GM Stephen McAteer. He's an exemplar in the field of relaxed country hospitality, often greeting guests on arrival, offering them a prosecco on the lawn and a tour of the estate while dispensing tips about morning yoga classes, boules and bikes, or a nearby waterfall walk. Staff are cut from the same hospitable cloth; our request for a phone charger is met with, "I'll bring it straight to your room!" McAteer recently relocated to sister hotel Spicers Hidden Vale, but he leaves behind an impressive service culture.
68 Balmoral Rd, Montville, Qld, spicersretreats.com
Best breakfast: Halcyon House, Cabarita Beach
What could be more Australian than breakfast by the beach? At Halcyon House, the tastefully transformed surfer motel on Cabarita Beach in northern New South Wales, mornings are something to look forward to. At airy in-house restaurant Paper Daisy, days begin with a soundtrack of waves crashing beyond the pandanus grove and gifted chef Ben Devlin's à la carte breakfast spread. There's something for everyone, from coconut and chia pudding with honey and berries to toad in the hole with fried sourdough, egg and lonza. Add daily smoothies and well-made coffee for a morning to remember.
21 Cypress Cres, Cabrita Beach, NSW, halcyonhouse.com.au
Best pool: Elements of Byron, Byron Bay
Adults-only pools are terribly elitist and may even violate UN conventions on the rights of children. But they're perfectly acceptable as a complement to a pool of (almost) equal decadence that's open to all guests, as is the case at Elements of Byron on Belongil Beach in northern New South Wales. The resort's recent expansion added 99 two-bedroom rainforest villas and a separate adults-only pool to complement the existing 850,000-litre infinity lagoon surrounded by daybeds. The new pool's key selling point, apart from its cabanas, is a swim-up tequila bar serving a dazzling range of very good agave spirits, as well as poolside snacks such as tacos stuffed with prawns, Tecate-braised brisket or butternut pumpkin. Way to make a splash.
144 Bayshore Dr, Byron Bay, NSW, elementsofbyron.com.au
Best bar: TWR Bar in Crown Towers Perth
The rather ho-hum name belies the glamorous nature of this bar. TWR, short for The Waiting Room, dazzles with its jewel-coloured furnishings, Moroccan-accented chandeliers and fluted marble in pinks and white. Acres of glass and an elegant terrace afford views over river and city skyline as bar staff prepare modern interpretations of classic cocktails alongside their own extravagant inventions. The list comes with a glossary introducing drinkers to the merits of salmon fat-washed Talisker 10 (as seen in their sriracha-spiked Holy Mary) and activated charcoal "to flush toxins and chemicals from the body". Cocktail hour as detox session? Count us in.
Great Eastern Hwy, Burswood, WA, crowntowersperth.com.au
Best bed: Mayfair Hotel, Adelaide
Almost all our favourite beds this year were made by AH Beard, the custom sleepmaker that has been producing mattresses since 1899. With just one factory responsible for so many of our best nights in, it's not easy to pick the Goldilocks option. What tipped our vote in favour of the Mayfair Hotel's King Koil sleeper was not the fact that the hotel's owner tried 30 beds before choosing this one, or that she had the South Australian supplier make this particular version – officially named the Mayfair Luxury Mattress – exclusively for the hotel. No, what convinced us was discovering one of our reviewers loved the bed so much, she ordered one for herself.
45 King William St, Adelaide, SA, mayfairhotel.com.au
Best club sandwich: Jackalope, Mornington Peninsula
You would think, given this is our fifth year of rating hotel clubs, that we'd be tired of eating sandwiches stuffed with chicken, bacon and bits of salad. But each year at least one hotel kitchen presents a club sandwich that rocks the room-service menu. This year, that kitchen was at Jackalope, and it served our reviewer his best club sandwich ever. It's called Drunk in Da Club (they love a quirky name at Jackalope) – an unholy marriage of drunken chicken, crisp chicken skin, pickled green tomatoes (made on site, with tomatoes from the garden), bacon jam and fresh lettuce on white bread, soft and fluffy but sturdy enough to avoid sogginess. Order one ASAP.
166 Balnarring Rd, Merricks North, Vic, jackalopehotels.com
Best minibar: Macq01, Hobart
This is not a minibar. With 37 items on offer, it's definitely a maxibar. Almost all products are proudly Tasmanian, for an island showcase as authentic as this Hobart hotel. The water is Cape Grim, while the beers are Boags, Cascade and Hobart Brewing Co. The wines are all local, as are the spirits (Sud Polaire, McHenry, Hellyers Road) and the snacks (Cadbury's chocolate and Mountain Pepper beef jerky). But what we love about the Macq01 maxibar are the extra-thoughtful things – the thick woollen Mongrel scarf (two of our reviewers bought them), the Tasmanian Tea Company canisters, sunscreen and Panadol. Anything you might need for a stay in the Tasmanian capital.
18 Hunter St, Hobart, Tas, macq01.com.au