Our first tour of boutique hotels of the Pacific starts in Fiji. Seawinds Villas on the Fijian island of Vitu Levu offers just four cabins centred on a pool with a top of ridge view of the Coral Coast. Rooms in this intimate resort display Fijian handicrafts including patterned tapa cloth made from the mulberry tree.
The Coral Coast is supposed to be one of Fiji’s most popular tourist strips but protection of traditional lands means it feels undeveloped compared with many other tropical getaway destinations.
Four hours flight west of Fiji is Australia’s third largest city, Brisbane, situated on the Brisbane River. Overlooking the skyline are the old inner city suburbs of Fortitude Valley and New Farm. Situated among distinctive weatherboard cottages which are still common in this sub-tropical city is Spicers Balfour Inn, a small boutique hotel, perfectly located in a quiet backstreet to take advantage of the nearby city, galleries and shops.
Two hours drive south of Brisbane we reach Bryon Bay, Australia’s eastern most point, marked by the historic lighthouse at Cape Bryon and location of some of the country’s most spectacular beaches on its Pacific coast.
Here the ecolodge, Bryon at Bryon, is situated in the midst of a rainforest. Wooden walkways allow you to explore the forest, waterways and to meet wildlife. Enclosed outdoor balconies allow you listen and take in the sights and sounds. Bryon at Bryon backs onto the seven mile long and often almost deserted Tallows Beach, which can be accessed directly from the resort.
Canberra, Australia’s young capital city, is a full day’s drive south of Bryon Bay. Situated at 2,000 feet above sea level in an inland valley, this relatively new city has embraced some of Australia’s most cutting-edge architectural styles. Hotel Hotel situated in the trendy New Acton district showcases this modernist movement. The building incorporates a variety of materials, particularly wood, and spacial forms. Not surprisingly, Hotel Hotel has won numerous architectural and design awards.
For the next boutique hotel in our tour we travel to Melbourne, long a claimant to be Australia’s most cultured city. Melbourne is a Victorian city heavy on British colonial architecture when it boomed during the gold rush in the second half of the 19th Century. Nowadays its Victorian past complete with an unrivalled tram network, is overshadowed as Melbourne showcases artistic and cultural credentials.
Situated in inner city Prahan, near Chapel Street, a famous shopping district, we find Cullens Art Hotel, one of a growing number of concept hotels featuring the work of well known Australian artists. Cullens features the work of Adam Cullen, a winner of Australia’s foremost portraiture prize, the Archibald. Situated in Commercial Road, a major tram route, Cullens offers easy and convenient access to Melbourne’s cultural and artistic delights, like the National Gallery of Art in Federation Square. Here you can find a fabulous collection not only of colonial art reflecting Melbourne’s past, but also examples of Australia’s burgeoning Aboriginal art movement and the contemporary scene as well.
For our final boutique hotel we head to Bali and its artistic HQ, Ubud.
The Balinese love of the natural; the importance they attach to aesthetics, beauty and craftsmanship has captivated the creative industries worldwide, and Bali has become a global leader of everything boutique. In the process, places like Ubud have become overrun with tourists and traffic jams. Businesses based here focused on design, interiors, architecture, furnishings and art now supply boutique hotels around the world on an industrial scale.
Away from this madness in Ubud and the surrounding area there is no shortage of beautiful boutique hotels and resorts that showcase the so-called ‘Bali style’.
The Agung Raka resort offers thatched bungalows set among rice terraces, water and gardens. The bungalows are modeled on traditional Balinese dwellings known as bale – open-sided pavilions with steep pitched roofs. As well as adapting these concepts, Balinese designers pioneered the outside bathroom, now ever present in eco resorts in tropical climates.
In Bali’s boutique hotels, as in Bali, a connection with nature is constant. For the traveller, this is an experience centred on rest and escape.
Presenter/voice/producer: Ian Cross
Photography: Robin Constable
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