The singular appeal of solo-use resorts
In January this year, the luxury &Beyond Phinda Zuka safari lodge in South Africa made an important change to its status. No longer would guests be able book one of the four deluxe bush cottages that look out onto the waterhole in the middle of the camp; if you want one deluxe bush cottage, you’ll have to take them all.
Starting from about $4500 a night (with discounts for longer stays), you do get the run of the place, which includes the main lodge, a personal game ranger, game drive vehicle, a dedicated chef and a butler. And when the elephants, zebra, giraffe or rhino come to drink at the waterhole (and trust me, they do), there will be no strangers to get in the way of your perfect picture.
In Australia, sole-use resorts are few and far between. Of course, with enough money, it’s probably true that any accommodation can be booked out exclusively. But as yet, there aren’t too many that must be booked out.
One such is Makepeace Island, a private, heart-shaped (we kid you not) island in the Noosa River, on the Sunshine Coast. The 10-hectare island was bought by Sir Richard Branson and Virgin Australia co-founder Brett Godfrey in 2001 and opened for private hire in 2011. It can take up to 20 guests in what they call “barefoot luxury”.
But while you and 19 good friends might saunter around barefoot, it’s not exactly the Robinson Crusoe lifestyle. There are several two-bedroom villas with waterfall and fishpond foyers, private decks and carved volcanic boulder bathtubs, and a four-bedroom Bali House wing, all connected by wooden walkways to the main entertainment areas, pool, 15-person hot tub and outdoor cinema. Naturally, you have your own chef. For the more sporting types there are also Hobie cats, kayaks, stand-up paddle boards, a tennis court and equipment for wakeboarding, water skiing and fishing. But whether you’re one, two or 20, you must book it all, at $5500 a night for up to four guests and $600 per extra person, per night.
A relative newcomer to the sole-use family is Satellite Island, tucked away in the D’Entrecasteaux Channel off Tasmania’s Bruny Island. Owners Kate and Will Alstergren inherited it from a relative and decided to open it in 2013/14 as a sole-use resort. Midweek rates start at $1450 a night for two guests, with extra guests at $250 a night each.
Satellite Island sleeps a maximum of eight in the Summer House, set high up on the cliff on the northern-most tip of the island; the Boathouse, just below the Summer House and boasting overwater bedrooms opening onto a private deck; and, during summer months, in a luxury bell tent on a cliff top.