This is the second post of an ongoing partnership I have with trivago. In case you’re not familiar, trivago is a travel metasearch site that specializes in hotels and compares prices for over 730,700 hotels from more than 200 booking sites. I’ve worked with them as a consulting editor for their Checkin Blog more than a year and I’m very excited to share this new series with you all highlighting unique and unusual hotels around the world. This series is only about truly exceptional and unique hotels and resorts, and I think today’s addition more than qualifies. Trivago didn’t pay for the hotels, but this post is part of an ongoing partnership I have with them.
I’ve stayed in a lot of hotels and assorted accommodations; it’s one of the aspects of my job that I love the most. There’s nothing like a truly excellent hotel, where style, luxury and service all blend into a perfect mix and create a truly memorable stay. Properties that tick all of those boxes are relatively rare though, when you think about the thousands of hotels that exist around the world and the few that are exceptional, it’s a small percentage. I managed to find one of these very special retreats though on a trip to Tropical North Queensland at the luxury eco-resort Silky Oaks Lodge.
Tropical North Queensland is perhaps best known for two things – the Great Barrier Reef and the primeval rainforests. It was the later that brought me to this area just a few minutes from Port Douglas and an easy drive from Cairns. The Daintree Rainforest is part of the UNESCO recognized wet tropics and is one of the oldest rainforests in the world. It’s a lush and adventurous place, where plants and animals found nowhere else in the world exist here in abundance, just as they have for millions of years. Set not against but within this unique backdrop are the treehouses of the Silky Oaks Lodge.
Originally built on old farmland adjacent to the rainforest, for the last 25 years Silky Oaks has replanted and in the process regenerated the original rainforest habitat, creating one of the most unique hotels in the world – one that has the look and feel of living in this very special UNESCO World Heritage Site. I’m used to hotels promising a lot but delivering only a fraction of those grandiose claims, but Silky Oaks Lodge is one of those rare properties that not only lives up to its promises, but far exceeds them.
Driving through quiet farmland and sugar cane fields, it seemed impossible to me that one of Australia’s top luxury retreats was tucked away nearby, and yet almost out of nowhere I turned a bend and entered the rainforest wonderland of the lodge. Immediately I was reminded of resorts I have visited in Thailand and Laos, the rainforest immediately envelops new guests creating a feeling not only of privacy, but sophisticated relaxation. That is the core theme I think of any stay at Silky Oaks Lodge, one that is pervasive from the hotel’s famous treehouses to the service and food and every aspect of the resort itself.
The term treehouse may be a bit misleading. The accommodations at Silky Oaks are made up of a series of small lodges, private and stand-alone and each perched in the massive living rainforest itself. So forgot those notions of something rustic or climbing ladders – neither exists here. Instead, the rooms themselves fulfill every promise of luxury living that guests would expect. Our lodge, The Sunbird, was perched high above a quiet valley in the rainforest, our back deck opening up to the ancient jungle itself. The only sounds were the mysterious animals living nearby and the suite’s natural perfume was provided by the heady musk of the rainforest. It was perfect, and I quickly fell under the lodge’s spell.
It’s a spell of detachment and relaxation; everything in the individual treehouse is designed to help guests get away from it all in every sense of the term. Not only do you live in an ancient rainforest, but the views are the main entertainment; the lack of TVs guaranteeing that visitors force themselves to spend some time escaping the real world, if only for a few days.
Staying at the lodge though isn’t a boring experience, far from it. It’s well located close to not only Daintree, but a town I fell in love with – Port Douglas. At the lodge itself, a private stream and billabong offer opportunities to escape the heat and humidity of the tropics by swimming or kayaking while the main lodge offers public spaces to relax in and to enjoy the world-class food served at the retreat.
The food in particular was a pleasant surprise, creating locally sourced and seasonal dishes that speak to the region itself. Served in an open dining room facing the jungle stream, everything from the exotic fruits in the morning to the contemporary dinners at night added a level of enjoyment to my stay that I hadn’t expected, but which became a personal highlight.
Before arriving, many people advised me to book a spa appointment at the legendary Silk Oaks Healing Waters Spa. Never one to miss an opportunity to pamper myself, I followed that advice and the result was honestly one of the best spa experiences I’ve enjoyed anywhere. Although not a large facility, that same feeling of relaxed luxury follows into the spa itself where it seems to multiple. The result was one of the most relaxing massages I’ve ever had, leaving me in a peaceful daze. When you visit, don’t miss the opportunity to further your relaxation a little more at this world-class spa.
Walking along the jungle paths from my treehouse to the main lodge for breakfast, I caught sight of exotic birds overhead and trees and plants next to the trail that I’d never seen before, let alone was able to identify. I felt connected not only to the rainforest, but to Queensland and Australia itself in a way I’m not sure I’d experienced before. It was a beautiful moment and one that I think best exemplifies what staying at this luxury but experiential resort is really like.
When you travel to Tropical North Queensland, seeing and experiencing as much of the ancient rainforest as possible is an important part of the adventure. It’s essential to let it envelop you and to feel the power of nature take control. There’s really no better way to do this than to stay within the mighty jungle itself, and Silky Oaks Lodge is the best way to do that. So much more than just a nice place to stay, it is an experience unto itself and as important a part of the Queensland story, I think, as is the reef and jungle mountains.