Ideal for the most discriminating incentive groups and accessible only by plane, Lizard Island Resort in the Great Barrier Reef just reopened after a year-long, $50 million renovation. The resort’s 40 elegant rooms and suites were renovated, a wine and cheese room was added and the Salt Water Restaurant now includes an open air kitchen that allows groups to view the chefs and the sweeping ocean views simultaneously.
In North Queensland, The Feathered Nest is a luxury eco- resort with one- and two-bedroom retreats featuring Aboriginal art, as well as their own infinity pools and gourmet kitchens. Owner Gordon Lockie is a registered breeder of the cockatoos and has his own collection in residence. Boutique hotels are opening throughout Sydney, with the 62-room Old Clare, part of the Singapore–based Unlisted Collection, in two protected historic downtown buildings in the redeveloped Kensington Street district. It has three restaurants and a meeting room that accommodates 16.
The Langham Hotel Sydney, which reopened last December, has it all when it comes to location. Situated in central Kent Street, it’s less than a mile from the Opera House. No space was left untouched in its $30 million renovation. The lobby exudes elegance, with floors of Calacatta marble a large central reception desk of gold leaf crackled porcelain. Its Palm Court restaurant now offers an exclusive afternoon tea experience—a Langham tradition.
Coming in 2017 is the 35-story, 600-room Sofitel Sydney, which will be a centerpiece of the $2.5 billion Darling Harbour redevelopment and located adjacent to the International Convention Centre, opening in December of 2016. Also located here, The Four Points by Sheraton, Sydney, is in the midst of a huge $200 million transformation, to be completed in June of 2016, that will include new convention facilities with 23 meeting rooms and two large ballrooms.
Planners looking for a creative, off-the-beaten track venue in Sydney for their next special event need go no further than the Sydney Unique Venues Association, a collection of 60 venues with an online database that’s searchable by group size and type of event, as well as other, more specific parameters such as natural daylight and water views. Venues include the Australian Centre for Photography, a Paddington gallery that’s ideal for intimate events such as product launches and wine tastings, to the newest member, the Qantas Centre of Service Excellence, a state-of-the-art training space.
In Brisbane, the proposed waterfront mega-development, Queen’s Wharf, will be anchored by a casino and 5 hotels, and include 50 restaurants and bars. Plans also call for a sky deck; a water and light show, playing several times each night; and an event space the size of 12 football fields.
Cairns’ indigenous tourism experience, Tjapukai, underwent a $13 million upgrade. The new ‘Night Fire by Tjapukai’ program combines dinner, performances and campfire stories, ending with the lighting of a 131-ft fireball.