2352 Coles Bay Rd., Tasmania; 03-6256-7888; www.saffire-freycinet.com.au. From $1,250. No eco-rating.
Tasmania has never seen anything like the Saffire Freycinet resort, which opened this summer. Built at a cost of more than $33-million, it was designed to draw tourists with an appetite for five-star luxury to the often-overlooked island off mainland Australia's south coast. Although it's in the heart of the Freycinet peninsula's wine country, Saffire is a bit off the beaten track - the closest town, Coles Bay, has fewer than 200 year-round residents. Perched like a giant stingray on the edge of Great Oyster Bay, it's a jewel of a hotel in a stunning setting.
The main building that houses the resort's restaurant and spa hugs the landscape above a modest string of suites with wave-inspired roofs. The design is a gracious homage to the view of the Hazards mountains across the water. Interiors are cool and contemporary, with a nod to mid-century modern design. Sandblasted marble provides a classic backdrop for the extensive use of native Australian woods.
The suites are so luxurious you'll be tempted not to leave except for meals. The chairs are cushy and the views even better in the top-floor reading room and the second-floor lounge, which has an open bar until 6 p.m. daily. And since every room rate includes between one and two hours of spa treatments, you'll also want to book yourself a massage or facial. The resort has no pool, but there is a small exercise room in the spa. A number of activities - including a visit and tasting at an oyster farm, guided walks and kayak trips - are included with your stay; guided boat trips are extra.
Don't bother asking for a room with a view - all 20 have the same floor-to-ceiling vista of cerulean water and ruddy granite cliffs. The deluxe and luxury suites are similar, but the latter gets you more space (1,033 instead of 860 square feet), a picture window beside the bathtub and a private veranda. Premium suites are a big leap in size and price - you'll pay $1,000 (Australian) more than for a deluxe suite, but for that you get 1,506 square feet, including your own kitchen and dining area, separate bedroom and plunge pool. Every room has a sunken living area with a retractable flat-screen television, an iPod music system and a complimentary bar.
It was a pleasant surprise to have housekeeping call ahead to ask when it would be convenient to make up the room, rather than being interrupted by a knock on the door when you're in the shower. And little things, like a hot water bottle tucked under the bedcovers at night, were nice touches. If you're in a premium suite, service is even more special - you can get one of the resort's chefs to prepare and serve dinner in your room.
Breakfast starts with an amuse-bouche, and it just gets better as the day goes on. Head chef Hugh Whitehouse relies heavily on local ingredients to craft an impressive seasonal menu that features dishes such as ragout of rabbit with roasted chestnuts and Tasmanian scallop carpaccio with baby fennel. His five-course tasting menu with wine pairings is an exercise in self-indulgence. Breakfast and lunch are included in the room rate; dinner is extra. The restaurant is serious about wine - every glass is rinsed with a splash of vino before it touches your lips.
Room rates are undeniably heart-stopping - it would be hard for most mere mortals to justify spending the equivalent of a mortgage payment on a one-night stay. But for a once-in-a-lifetime vacation, Saffire Freycinet is hard to beat.
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