Sleepover: Arajilla Retreat
A bed for the night off New South Wales
Sunday 27 February 2005
Lord Howe Island, a gorgeous volcanic spot two hours' flight from Sydney, where the South Pacific meets the Tasman Sea. There's a beautiful, turquoise lagoon, dramatic mountains and a pleasantly consistent climate. It is blissfully quiet because no more than 400 tourists are allowed to stay overnight at any time. Arajilla is located at the northern end of the island, close to the small but charming Old Settlement beach and the idyllic lagoon. The resort consists of 10 exclusive units discreetly constructed from wood and linked to the reception by a boardwalk lined with kentia palms. It is set among a high rainforest canopy with magnificent old banyan trees.
It's worth the effort to get up before dawn and settle into a deckchair on your veranda with a cup of tea. The early light flits through the crooked branches of the banyans while the cicadas crank up to full volume by 6.30am and local birds, such as the pied currawong, start up a melodic chorus.
The comfort factor
The rooms were designed by a leading Sydney interior designer in a minimalist, contemporary South-east Asian style with neutral colours and tones. Some are split-level, mezzanine affairs, with whitewashed walls, wood panelling and huge windows fitted with wooden venetian blinds that make fantastic use of the tropical light. Downstairs, the small lounge is extremely stylish, with beige carpets and a sofa with huge cushions and sleek lamps. There's also a small kitchenette with a fridge well stocked with "stubbies" - tins of Aussie beer. The beds, with inviting pillows and cool linen covers, are perfect to sink into after the long flight from the UK. The furniture is easy on the eye too: beautifully carved Asian wardrobes and ornamental bamboo ladders.
The spotlit bathrooms are thoughtfully and tastefully designed. Most also have a bay window with another venetian blind. The smellies are placed in attractive small green ceramic tubs. As rainwater is a precious resource on the island, you are politely asked not to linger for too long in the bath or shower.
Many Australian couples, a mixture of honeymooners and older, well-to-do types on weekend breaks.
The food and drink
The restaurant features Thai Buddhist statues and high windows to give a graceful conservatory effect. Breakfast consists of fresh tropical fruit and delicious pastries. The evening menu is contemporary Australian with Asian influences: salads of plum tomatoes and Parma ham and main dishes featuring fish or pasta. It is top quality, and beautifully presented. The wine list is extensive with an emphasis on Australian reds, starting at £12 a bottle. Reckon on £70 for three courses for two people including drinks. You'll need to book because the restaurant is popular with all visitors to the island.
You could spend a fortnight here and not run out of things to do. Cycle from beach to beach (the island has only one road with a speed limit of 15mph). Hike to the top of Mount Gower, a day trip that involves some scrambling but offers unrivalled views. Then there's the island's 129 species of bird, from the British blackbird to the woodhen - a small, downy creature pulled back from the edge of extinction.
Arajilla is unsuitable for wheelchairs as there are too many steps and no lifts. It is popular with families, who can use either of the two-bedroom apartments.
It's cheapest to visit Lord Howe Island with a tour operator. Travel Mood (08700 664556; www.travelmood.com) offers flights from the UK to Sydney with Qantas from £575 per person and a package to Lord Howe, which includes Qantas Link flights from Sydney and three nights at Arajilla for £709 per person. Arajilla is closed in August.
Arajilla Retreat, Old Settlement Beach, Lord Howe Island (00 61 2 6563 2002; www.arajilla.com.au).
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