Five Top NSW Eco Lodges

Rebecca Varidel
22nd Oct 2021

One of the lessons that hit us like a sledgehammer from the trials of 2020 2021 is to look after ourselves. Reclaim our calm! Just as importantly, the LED light bulb also went on (if we didn't see the light already) that we gotta look after the planet. Here's how to do both.

1. Crystal Creek Rainforest Retreat, Tweed Valley

On the edge of two UNESCO World Heritage-listed national parks, Crystal Creek Rainforest Retreat is a haven for naturally curious peace-seekers. An hour’s drive northwest of Byron Bay, the 102-hectare Tweed Valley property’s Gondwana Rainforest teems with rare flora and fauna, including around 150 bird species and 400-year-old giant trees. Sixty per cent of Crystal Creek is a regenerative buffer zone, protected by a Voluntary Conservation Agreement. The rest is yours to explore — hike fern-lined gullies, unfurl a picnic pack in the orchard or recline in creekside hammocks, serenaded by babbling water and birdsong. After a night-time glow-worm safari, retire to your small-footprint Creekside Spa Cabin or the Luxury Rainforest Lodge. Pop lemon-myrtle bath salts into the sunken double-spa bath and admire the floor-to-ceiling forest vista.

2. Emirates One&Only Wolgan Valley, Blue Mountains

Few resorts can match Emirates One&Only Wolgan Valley for its fusion of delightful location, effortless luxury and eco credentials. The first zero-carbon-certified resort in the world sits quietly beneath the towering escarpments of a 2,800-hectare conservation reserve in the Greater Blue Mountains, less than three hours’ drive west of Sydney. Its understated Federation-style sandstone-and-wood villas tread lightly, accounting for just one per cent of the reserve. Inside, the four-poster beds, double-sided fireplaces and bragworthy seven-metre private pools embody refined elegance. Plant native trees or survey the buoyant wombat population to get involved with Wolgan Valley’s conservation activities. Explore the fenceless bush on horseback or on foot or on the bikes parked outside your villa. Or just laze around the jaw-dropping pool, melt into a spa treatment or taste locally made gins.

3. Faraway Domes, Northwest Slopes

Conceived to help pivot a family cattle business out of drought, Faraway Domes has quickly become one of Australia’s most enchanting properties. The east-facing geodesic dome is strategically perched on a secluded basalt outcrop, overlooking the 3,600-hectare property, a 2.5-hour drive north of country music capital Tamworth. The classic rolling bushscape is best savoured in the stunning standalone bath or balcony plunge pool. A 180-degree bay-window floods light into the airy well-appointed open-plan interior, tailored with lamps made from old farm machinery and a recycled-pine kitchen island. Faraway’s ever-increasing eco credentials include a deluxe composting ‘loo-with-a-view’ and a solar system that handles most reasonable power demands, thanks to the outback’s endless sunny days.

4. Paperbark Camp, South Coast

Paperbark Camp is light-footprint, unplugged glamping at its best, close but not too close to the Jervis Bay hub of Huskisson, a 2.5-hour drive south from Sydney. The bush camp syncs sublimely with its fenceless surroundings, letting echidnas and kangaroos roam unencumbered. The interiors of the elevated canvas tents are sanctuary-like, with polished hardwood floors, luxuriant linen and handmade lotions to use in the open-air bathrooms. Energy-friendly features such as solar-powered 12-volt lighting, no in-tent power outlets (communal ones are available), and naturally ventilated spaces have earned Paperbark its Advanced Eco Accreditation. A dedicated permaculturist grows bush tucker for the onsite Gunyah restaurant. Complimentary canoes, kayaks and paddleboards are great low-carbon ways to explore Jervis Bay’s sublime waterways.

5. Spicers Sangoma Retreat, Blue Mountains

Making the most of its rarefied bushland outlook in the Blue Mountains foothills, 80 minutes’ drive from Sydney, this eco-certified boutique retreat lives up to its name: Sangoma is a Zulu word for ‘healer’. Spicers Sangoma Retreat’s intimate suites embody no-need-to-leave-your-room luxury with personal plunge pools, cloistered balconies and freestanding Philippe Starck baths for two. Reasons to leave include kicking back in a ‘relaxation pod’ by the solar-heated infinity lap-pool and a restful aromatherapy massage at Spa Anise. Feast on an organic, local and seasonal dinner out on the open-air terrace, Sydney’s lights twinkling on the horizon. Green credentials greet you at every turn. Top up your reusable glass bottle (still or sparkling) from the AQUAchiara microfiltration system. And know that your unused soap is reprocessed into fresh bars for use in disadvantaged communities.

Photo credit, Crystal Creek Rainforest Retreat in the Tweed Valley