The Luxury Travel Bible - LUXURY RESORTS: Arajilla Retreat, NSW, Australia

LUXURY RESORTS: Arajilla Retreat, Lord Howe Island, NSW, Australia
Style: Boho chic
Scene: Set among shady kentia palms and banyan trees
Seen in the lobby: Those who prefer a retreat to a resort
 
Give me freedom, give me space, far beyond the fuss and pace....
Treat me gently, wake me late, tranquillise my shattered state,
Lead me from the track of time and there restore my inner shine."

These are the words of a poem that drifts across the website for Arajilla Retreat on Australia's Lord Howe Island, a dot of green off the New South Wales coast.

They were clearly written especially for me. I am particularly fond of those bottom two lines, considering I can't remember the last time I had a lie-in and my shrieking alarm clock has a horribly insistent and far from gentle ring.

Looking around me on the small plane from Sydney to Lord Howe it is evident I'm not the only shattered soul. In fact, the man two rows in front of me who clutches his mobile phone like a comforter during the whole two-hour flight, even though it is switched off, is obviously in a worse state than me.

Little do we realise we are being transported not only across distance but across time. A fact which becomes evident when the plane lands and a welcoming local bounds onto our Dash-8 aircraft in long socks and 1950s pressed shorts, straight off the film set of Pleasantville. Lord Howe is a reminder of gentler times; before traffic jams (the only cars are owned by locals and tourist numbers are restricted), burglar alarms (hotel rooms are left unlocked), and shopping malls. Even the tiny airport building has a picket fence.
 

arajilla suite deck
arajilla suite deck
arajilla suite
arajilla kentia suite
arajilla lounge armchairs
arajilla spa interior
arajilla restaurant

 
Within a day we settle into the rhythm of island life, breakfasting late and cycling all over the tiny world heritage listed island. We get excited at the prospect of heading into 'town', a tiny collection of weatherboard buildings with a post office-come-café, a hairdresser-come-gift shop and a village store selling shells and sarongs alongside the sliced bread.

We also get used to the trusting island approach and put money into 'honesty boxes' for rounds of golf, and snorkel equipment and wetsuits hanging ready for our use unguarded at the beach. There is no crime on the island," declares the tourism website, a trifle smugly perhaps, and "no hordes of biting insects normally associated with tropical islands . . ." Forget Pleasantville, this is obviously paradise.

If you're going to stay in paradise there is no better place to book into than the tranquil Arajilla Retreat. Arajilla and its friendly rival, Capella Lodge, at the opposite and more remote end of the island, are the two upmarket resorts that give lovely, lazy Lord Howe its sense of style.

The track to our suite meanders through a Kentia palm and Banyan tree forest; here and there light dances through the canopy and makes lacy patterns on the path. All the suites at Arajilla Retreat are nestled in the palms. A wooden boardwalk will take you down towards the gold crescent of deserted Settlement Beach. Other paths twist gently through the trees so that you have no idea of the real distance between A and B, but feel lost in a calming forest of green.

There is a touch of Asia about the main building with its cushioned benches and statues.. This tree-shadowed veranda in the is a great place to escape the heat of the day, and they light he Balinese lamps well before dusk which gives you a great excuse for a very early evening cocktail as the lamps cast a warm glow into the forest. The main sitting area and restaurant have just been refurbished by owner Janne Shead, who has an eye for design and as well as a heart for hospitality.

A wooden walkway will take you to the GOLDEN CRESCENT of deserted Settlement BEACH

There are three types of room on offer. The one-level Kentia suites have turquoise and beige counterpanes in seaside stripes and polished wooden floors. The two-storey Banyan suites there are rich, dark wood Chinese cabinets and even a rattan suitcase artfully placed as if someone had just checked in from the last days of the Raj. But we are clearly in Australia, the colours of the suites - all beige and sage - pick up the colours of the rich Aussie earth and plants outside. A wooden staircase curls to the upper level, making you feel as if you are in a designer tree house.

Also recently refurbished the Arajilla Suites have two bedrooms, separate living room and large outdoor decks. This isn't a traditional family resort but these two-bedroom apartments allow children to ride their bikes up to just outside the rooms and skip down the tree-root tangled path to the almost deserted beach or picnic by the sea without disturbing other guests.

The Arajilla Day Spa is housed in a traditional Mongolian yurt but oddly doesn't specialise in yak milk facials but rather traditional Indian Ayurvedic therapeutic treatments and lifestyle consultations. From which you can deduce that there is an alternative tinge to the spa, bringing just a touch of Byron Bay to Lord Howe - and doing it very well.

On our last night Arajilla Retreat organise a gourmet lamp-lit dinner on the reserve by Settlement Beach. The table is set with a linen cloth, the moon is full, the prawns are plump and the chardonnay is cold. Later, we walk along the beach in the moonlight with glasses of wine in our hands and sand between our toes.

So, has my "inner shine" been restored? Absolutely. I'm positively gleaming. Can't you tell?

Check in: Arajilla Retreat, Old Settlement Beach, Lord Howe Island, NSW, 2898.Tel: +61 6563 2002.
Ultimate Luxury: The two-bedroom Arajilla Suites are more expensive but we like the style of the split level Banyan suites created by Sydney interior designer Bridget Tyer.
Most Indulgent Moment: A private dinner organised on the edge of the sand near Old Settlement beach. The chef wore a chef hat crisp white sock -and board shorts.
Insider Secrets: The retreat has links to The Archibald, Australia's most prestigious portrait prize. Archibald prize-winning artist Gary Shead is the owner's cousin. 2009 Archibald winner Guy Maestri will be also in residence in 2010 to lead a couple of artist's retreats. Contact Arajilla Retreat for details.
The Little Things: Beach towels, beach chairs, fishing gear, snorkel gear and bikes are all included in your room rate so you don't have to come equipped
Junior Luxies: Welcome in the two bedroom Arajilla Suites
Dress code: Barefoot casual, Havanas not Manolos
Perfect luggage: Candy stripped UCHI overnight bag.
Dent in the platinum:

Hilary Doling 20/3/10

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