Wolgan Valley

Circular Quay Sydney taken from the Sydney Harbour Bridge just after sunset showing the Sydney Opera House on the left.
Sydney Australia // Photo by BWA_IMAGES/iStock/Getty Images Plus/Getty Images

Heritage Suites at Emirates Wolgan Valley Resort & Spa afford stunning views of the valley.
 

Heritage Suites at Emirates Wolgan Valley Resort & Spa afford stunning views of the valley.

 

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The delicate fronds of the Wollemi pine don’t look like they’d survive a mild frost, but this is a tree like no other. Thought to be extinct until it was rediscovered in an isolated ravine in Australia’s rugged Blue Mountains in 1994, this extraordinary pine is one of the oldest and rarest tree species on Earth.

“This is considered the botanical find of the 20th century,” said our field guide Ben, flashing a “Crocodile” Dundee grin and pointing to a grove of fledgling pines now growing on land surrounding Emirates Wolgan Valley Resort & Spa.  “The discovery of the Wollemi pine is like finding a dinosaur alive today.”

While the exact location of the original find is a closely guarded environmental secret, several cuttings have been planted at Wolgan Valley—Australia’s first conservation-based luxury resort and spa, located three hours’ drive west of Sydney—providing guests with a tantalizing glimpse of a life-form as old as time.

Nestled at the base of an ancient canyon, and surrounded by majestic escarpments eroded over millions of years, the resort is the centerpiece of a 4,000-acre conservancy reserve owned and operated by Emirates and modeled on Al Maha, the airline’s first conservation reserve and resort near Dubai. A world away from desert sands, Wolgan Valley is as Australian as Mick Dundee; an almost pristine wilderness home to kangaroos, wallabies, wallaroos, wombats, and other indigenous fauna and flora being preserved for future generations.

Positioned on a gentle slope to capitalize on the breathtaking valley views, the all-suite resort has 40 individual guest lodges set around a main Homestead, a large free-form swimming pool, and adjacent Timeless Spa.

Wollemi Suites look out on expansive vistas with a backdrop of imposing escarpments.Pictured: Wollemi Suites look out on expansive vistas with a backdrop of imposing escarpments.

Each of the 36 Heritage Suites is a one-bedroom suite that comes with king-sized beds and separate sleeping and living areas divided by a double-sided fireplace, an oversize en suite bathroom and dressing room, a private verandah and an indoor/outdoor swimming pool.

Tip: Suites Nos. 4-16 are slightly elevated with more expansive valley views but also look out to other suites. The lower level suites Nos.17-41 have unobstructed wilderness views.

There are three two-bedroom Wollemi Suites (2, 3 and 17) with much larger living areas and pools, but Luxury Travel Advisor’s pick is the premium Wolgan Suite, a two-bedroom lodge close to the main Homestead, with separate staff quarters, a gourmet kitchen, and elevated panoramic views.

Note: The three suite categories vary in floor-plan size from 550 (Heritage) to 1,090 (Wollemi) and 1,350 (Wolgan) square feet and are larger than presidential suites in many city hotels.

Each suite is also designed to rigorous sustainable building principles, including rainwater collection, waste recycling, and solar panels while maintaining a luxurious country retreat-style interior with bespoke furnishings, indigenous artworks, and a natural color palette inspired by the wilderness. Contact Reservations ([email protected]; 011-61-2-9290-9733) with special requests.

An authentic Australian spirit runs through to the main Homestead with its lofty ceilings, stone fireplaces, and long verandah where guests sip cocktails as the sunset casts a golden glow over the valley and the stars of the Southern Cross rise in the night sky.

The Spa Relaxation Room enables guests to share the experience in its cozy atmosphere.Pictured: The Spa Relaxation Room enables guests to share the experience in its cozy atmosphere.

The Wolgan Dining Room works to a seasonal, regional and organic food philosophy, sourcing farm fresh produce from 300 suppliers within a 100-mile radius of the resort—meat and dairy from the Blue Mountains; fruit, vegetables and herbs from Windsor and the Hawkesbury River; and quality wines from Orange, Mudgee, and the Hunter Valley. Tip: Request table 14 by the window for the best views.

Note: The tariff includes a gourmet breakfast, lunch and dinner each day, select wines and beers, and non-alcoholic beverages. Dining reservations are not required because the resort is for the exclusive use of guests only.

A private dining room seats 12 guests, intimate wine tastings are held in the walk-in wine cellar, and more casual dining is available in The Country Kitchen. Alfresco options include the main Homestead verandah, light poolside meals, and a classic Aussie barbecue, star-gazing and Aboriginal storytelling at the neighboring 1832 Heritage Homestead.

Wolgan Valley is an experience-based resort and guests are encouraged to explore the surrounding wilderness with expert field guides or on self-guided tours.

Tip: Head out on the Wolgan Wildlife four-wheel drive tour soon after arriving for a terrific introduction to the layout of the conservancy reserve and its 1,500-plus species of fauna and flora, then take a bicycle and picnic to one of five private panorama decks.

The resort offers an array of outdoor activities from horseback riding to mountain biking, all of which can be concluded with a relaxing massage in the Timeless Spa featuring six double treatment rooms and exclusive products by Sodashi of Western Australia. Contact Spa Manager Rhonda Wallace ([email protected]; 011-61-2-6350-1895) with queries.

Note: The resort is a wonderfully remote and private retreat—but be aware, the final 30 minutes of the three-hour drive west of Sydney is on unsealed road (although Emirates plans to seal the road this year). Limousine and helicopter transfers from Sydney are available as an alternative.

Emirates Wolgan Valley Resort & Spa is a member of The Leading Hotels of the World. Qantas operates 37 flights a week from the U.S. to Australia, and is the only airline offering A380 service on select non-stop flights from Los Angeles to Sydney and Melbourne.

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