Where to stay in Australia

Choose from a luxury spa in the Blue Mountains near Sydney, or an intimate stone lodge in the middle of Western Australia's forests.

Wolgan Valley Resort & Spa, New South Wales

The level of luxury on offer at the Wolgan Valley Resort & Spa is hardly surprising once you know who owns it. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Emir of Dubai, has spent A$125m (£72m) building this resort in the Blue Mountains. It's modelled on Dubai's own Al Maha Desert Resort & Spa.

How they rate it

Cond Nast Traveller has named Wolgan Valley on its Hot List 2010 as one of the best new hotels of the year. It is set in 4,000 acres of wilderness in the "spectacular" Blue Mountains north of Sydney. Cond Nast Traveller recommends the Heritage Suite villas, which are scattered across the valley. Each has its own private veranda, small pool and four-poster beds. The best rooms for views and privacy are suites 17, 18 and 19.

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The menu

Food in the hotel restaurant is "modern Australian at its best", with dishes including fried blue-eye cod on wasabi mash with a rich lobster vierge.

The cost

Suites cost from A$1,950 (£1,124) per night on an all-inclusive basis. For more information on Wolgan Valley, visit www.emirateshotelresorts.com/wolgan-valley, or call 00 61 2 9290 9733.

Stonebarn, Western Australia


This contemporary stone lodge is situated in the middle of Western Australia's forests, surrounded by a 160-acre estate packed full of trees, rivers and dams. It's the ideal location for a luxurious Australian countryside break.

How they rate it

Stonebarn is "an intimate affair, with personable hosts", says The Observer. There are rustic valley and forest views from the six "elegant" suites, says James Crichton-Smith in The Independent. The double-height rooms "feature timeless decor and luxurious furnishings", including four-poster beds and claw-foot baths. If you really want to get back to nature, the hotel has a "bush bath" an outdoor bathroom under the tree canopy.

The menu

This is an "up-and-coming epicurean region", says The Observer. It is renowned for its black truffles, and the Margaret River wine region is on the doorstep. The hotel's restaurant is "intimate", says Crichton-Smith, and serves dishes made from fish from the local rivers, and produce from the hotel's trufferie, vegetable and herb gardens.

The cost

Doubles from A$350 (£210) per night including breakfast. See www.stonebarn.com.au, or call 00 61 8 9773 1002.

What the travel writers are saying

The Louvre in Paris is renowned for its queues and its art. People queue for ages to buy their tickets to the gallery. But you can beat the crowds by purchasing your tickets the day before you plan to visit, says Sean Newsom in The Sunday Times. You can get your tickets at Fnac department stores or Virgin Megastore. Then, on the day of your visit, make sure you get to the Louvre at 9am and visit the most popular galleries before the hordes catch up with you.

St Mark's Basilica in Venice is at its best at 11:30am on weekdays and 2pm on Sundays, says Newsom. That's when the mosaics are illuminated. But it's also when the tourist hot spot is at its most busy. There are three ways to avoid the queues. You could book a timed entrance ticket at www.venetoinside.com/en/basilica_of_san_marco. Or you could book an official guided tour this will allow you to bypass the queue. Call 00 39 041 241 3817 to book. Alternatively, book a tour of Venice with Viator. This gets you priority access to several top sights, including the Basilica.

Ruth Jackson-Kirby

Ruth Jackson-Kirby is a freelance personal finance journalist with 17 years’ experience, writing about everything from savings and credit cards to pensions, property and pet insurance. 

Ruth started her career at MoneyWeek after graduating with an MA from the University of St Andrews, and she continues to contribute regular articles to our personal finance section. After leaving MoneyWeek she went on to become deputy editor of Moneywise before becoming a freelance journalist.

Ruth writes regularly for national publications including The Sunday Times, The Times, The Mail on Sunday and Good Housekeeping among many other titles both online and offline.