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LUXURY RESORTS: Sheraton Noosa Resort & Spa, Queensland, Australia
Style: Coastal chic with a rockin' '60s twist
Scene: Australia's favourite coastal playground of the rich and famous
Seen in the lobby: Brisbane couples escaping for the weekend; sunseeking Melbournians and Sydneysiders.

The Sheraton Noosa Resort & Spa turned heads when it became the first five-star resort to open in the heart of Noosa Head's popular shopping strip of Hastings Street 23 years ago. While there are now numerous upscale options to choose from, a room at the Sheraton remains envied by many. Even its most loyal fans wouldn't disagree however, that constant traffic had wearied this Noosa icon.

What a difference a year makes!

Without a doubt the biggest clue to the Sheraton's recent $10 million makeover is its white-hot paint job. The pink palace need blush no more. Instead, the Starwood resort oozes coastal cool - more in tune with its sub-tropical surroundings. And when your eyes adjust to the Santorini-inspired glare, you'll notice a host of other changes.

poolside cabanas
poolside cabanas
noosa suite
pool studio
river lounge balcony view
the noosa beach house, public bar

Sheraton's tired '90s marine-themed interiors have also been brought up-to-date thanks to the efforts of global design firm Woods Bagot. Throughout the resort's 176 air-conditioned rooms, suite and villas the contemporary new look still retains a coastal feel bit it's less vibrant coral sea and more reflective of nature's subtle textures and colours - drawing inspiration perhaps from the colours of driftwood or the bark of a eucalypt tree in the nearby national park, and tide lines in the wet sand on nearby Main Beach. Splashes of vibrant orange throughout could easily depict many a glorious sunset over Noosa's serpentine river.

While the views from the balcony of my riverfront suite and the aboriginal artworks on the walls (Dulcie Long Pula's colourful Bush Leaves (of the desert yam) and Bevan Tjampitjinpa's traditional dot-style painting of a woman gathering Honey Ants) are distinctly Australian - the retro style sofa, chairs and tables harks back to the 60s with strong Scandinavian design influences in its simplicity, functionality and partiality for flaxen timbers.

Kitchenettes with sinks, microwaves and toasters add convenience (especially for those travelling with families) and custom beds, marble bathrooms and spa baths boost the luxe stakes.

Formerly called Cato's, the resort's attached restaurant and bar is now the domain of Sri Lankan-born chef Peter Kuruvita. The celebrity chef, who earned rave reviews for his Flying Fish restaurant in Sydney's harbourside suburb of Pyrmont and has since expanded his empire overseas into Fiji with Flying Fish at the Sheraton and the Steakhouse at the Westin on Denarau Island, is now making his mark in one of Australia's most favourite holiday destinations with The Noosa Beach House.

His mission - to change people's idea of a hotel restaurant to a restaurant hotel - has been taken on with open arms, he says.

Kuruvita's food ideally complements the region. The dishes are fresh and vibrant in colour, textures and taste and heavily seafood focussed - features that have won him a legion of fans and helped spawn a television and book career, a guest role as a culinary tour guide for World Expeditions and as an ambassador for the Dilmah tea brand.

Kuruvita's signature Sri Lankan fish curry decked with coconut samba and served with chutney, basmati rice, cucumber riata and curry sauce on the side is a particular favourite.

Other hits are assured such as the entree of Petuna Ocean Trout (cured for 24 hours) with avocado mousse, pressed cucumber and horseradish; and mains of grilled King Reef barramundi or barbecued chipotle spatchcock (filleted), with candied peppers almonds and yoghurt - a tribute to Kuruvita's recent travels through Mexico for his latest television series.

The Noosa Beach House's atmosphere is airy and relaxed. In the public bar area concertina glass windows open out to let the breezes and Hastings Street happenings in. The decor emanates a tropical holiday vibe with its all-white paintwork, ferns in hanging baskets, ceiling fans and mix of bamboo-framed cushioned seating and tall naturally-stained bar tables and stools. A glass wall divides diners in the bar from the main restaurant above - where traditional buffet breakfasts are served to resort guests in the mornings. While the public bar serves snacks and an all-day lunch menu, guests here can choose from Kuruvita's more extensive a la carte menu for lunch (Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays) and dinner seven days. Even with attentive waiters and white tablecloths, the mood upstairs remains equally chilled.

And so is Kuruvita who, like many newcomers before him, was so bowled over by Noosa's holiday lifestyle while setting up the Beach House, that he decided to move up permanently with his wife and three young boys. Famed for its chic-to-cheek restaurants and cafes, designer shopping, cerulean waters and scenic edge-of-the-cliff walks - who can blame him?

Concerns he might be ditching his most loyal fan base were dismissed.

' I'm not disappearing. I'm cooking for people I've cooked for before in Sydney and Melbourne. All those people come here for a holiday,' he told gathered travel media recently.

Cocktails in the bar or cocktails by the pool- the choice is yours. How about in the pool? Here you can even swim up to the bar to order a drink. The multi-tiered resort cocoons the tropical landscaped gardens and pool area (the scene of the star-studded event to celebrate the hotel's reopening ). Book in hand I snapped up one of the private poolside cabana chairs and ordered a Bloody Mary which turned up with an entire bottle of Tabasco.

'Everyone's version of spicy is different," the bar attendant explained as I took my first sip to taste. There was no need for the extra splash of heat but I do like Sheraton's style!

Daily pampering also occurs in the Aqua Day Spa - which is next in line for a makeover (along with the main entrance and car park). While you can choose to indulge from more than 30 beauty and body treatments don't leave without dipping into the Roman-style aqua therapy pool - its signature feature. 

Check in: 14-16 Hastings St, Noosa Heads, Queensland Australia 4567
Ultimate Luxury:  The Sheraton Apartment is designed for extended stays and is suitable for families and friends, providing two separate bedrooms, two bathrooms and has a fully equipped kitchen and laundry. Just steps away, the Sheraton Jetty and Noosa River await via your private access.

The Penthouse suites also offers 95 square metres of spacious living. Situated on the top floor they come with large private balconies and spectacular ocean views.

Also check out the designer Noosa Lifestyle Spa Studios equipped with Bose home theatre systems, Nespresso coffee machines, double spa bath and outdoor Jacuzzi.

Most Indulgent Moment: Dinner at The Noosa Beach House; a Massimo's gelato
Insider Secrets: Guests who opt to avoid daily servicing are rewarded with credits to use in the River Lounge or to put towards in-house dining. Guests can charge liquor purchases at the attached Noosa Wine Cellar& Bottleshop to their resort room.
The Little Things: Complimentary Wi-Fi is available for limited internet and email browsing. The hotel is also going paperless.
Junior Luxies: Mini bar snacks include gingerbread man and jelly snakes. The outdoor pool is heated.
Dress code: S tay casual and cool in a printed Kaftan.
Perfect luggage: Travel light and breezy with a weekend tote
Dent in the platinum: (NOTE: Up to March 31, 2014 rates start from $269 inc breakfasts)         
Luxury Resorts Link: www.sheratonnoosaresort.com
  Debbie Neilson-Hunter 9/12/13    
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