Boundary-pushing design, impeccable service, unparalleled luxury – great hospitality makes a holiday extra special. NSW’s hotels, resorts and retreats have all this and more – here are 2023’s award-winning stays to check into.
Best city luxury: The Fullerton Hotel, Sydney
Check into this 19th-century former post office in the middle of Sydney and be greeted with five-star luxury. There’s a six-storey glass atrium as you enter and every room features modern touches like Harman Kardon speakers, Nespresso machines and Atkinsons or Balmain toiletries. The Fullerton was voted no. 1 in Conde Nast Traveller’s 2023 Readers’ Choice Awards for Australia and New Zealand, with a specific call-out for its Heritage Long Suite. Occupying the former postmaster’s office, it’s decked out with two marble fireplaces, a master and guest bathroom, and the postmaster's original writing desk from 1874.
Best regional luxury: Kalinya Estate, Bargo
Just an hour’s drive south of Sydney, this impressive escape in the Wollondilly Shire has won more awards over the past few years than it has bedrooms, and with three separate accommodations across the property’s six acres, that's a lot of bedrooms. Choose from the five-bedroom lodge that sleeps 10 (featuring indoor and outdoor fireplaces), the converted three-bedroom barn (complete with pool and ping pong tables), the eight-bedroom colonial homestead sleeping up to 16 guests (with outdoor kitchen and woodfire pizza oven), or book the entire property for your next big event. With function spaces, stunning gardens, a tennis pavilion and even a luxury cinema, it’s no surprise it scored its most recent award: gold at the 2023 NSW Tourism Awards for best five-star luxury accommodation.
Best unique accommodation: Diamond Waters Treehouse Retreat, Camden Haven River
Sleep right in the rainforest and wake to the sound of birdsong and lapping shores in your very own tree house perched on the Camden Haven River – a stay so special it won gold in the 2023 NSW Tourism Awards for unique accommodation. Just a short drive south of Port Macquarie, this revitalising retreat truly immerses you in nature, with expansive decks overlooking the river, access to a private wetland walkway and bird hide, plus creeks, dams and pockets of forest for you to explore at your leisure. Each tree house features a spacious queen bedroom, sofa beds, kitchen and dining spaces and a luxuriously appointed bathroom.
Best place for caravan and camping: Tiona Holiday Park, Forster
With sparkling Wallis Lake on one side and the golden sands of Seven Mile Beach on the other, this Central Coast holiday park couldn’t be in a better position. But it’s not just the utopian location that won this spot gold in the 2023 NSW Tourism Awards for caravan and holiday parks, the sleeping options are idyllic too. The pet-friendly park offers recently refurbished beach, lake and forest sites for caravans and tents, as well as a range of modern cabins and treehouse glamping tents. Kayak the lake one day, surf the beach the next, and explore in between.
Best design: Ace Hotel, Sydney
One of the buzziest additions to the Sydney hotel scene, Ace Hotel breezed into the city in 2022 and immediately caused a stir for its personality-filled design, incredible dining offerings in Loam and Kiln, and thoughtful touches like in-room guitars and choose-your-own vinyl in some suites. The 2023 Eat Drink Design awards recognised the hotel's rooftop eatery, Kiln, for Best Restaurant Design, and in the 2022 awards it won top honour in the category of Best Hotel Design, with the jury noting how integral the mix of food and beverage options were to the overall experience. “This seems like a venue that will be embraced by locals as a breakfast spot, as well as by guests and travellers from far and wide enjoying these versatile spaces late into the evening – an excellent outcome for residents and visitors alike.”
Best green getaway: Kestrel Nest EcoHut, Mount Adrah
This luxurious Snowy Valleys retreat is located on a small-scale sustainable farm that occupies just one-third of a sprawling 830-acre property; the remainder is a conservation for box gum grassy woodlands. Blissfully disconnect in the off-grid accommodation perched above a rocky mountain stream, complete with fireplace, wraparound verandah and outdoor bath. The hut was built with recycled materials, is solar- and battery-powered, naturally insulated, and stocked with hand-made soap and tree-free toilet paper – all reasons that won it the bronze trophy for ecotourism at the 2023 NSW Tourism Awards.
Best hotel restaurant: The Kyah, Blackheath
What do you get when you combine an award-winning chef, an award-winning wine list and an Outstanding Accommodation finalist? You best book The Kyah to find out. The owners transformed an old Blue Mountains motel into a modern, Palm Springs-inspired wonder, and Blaq, the on-site restaurant, became the talk of the town. With executive chef and Mountains local Mate Herceg (crowned Tourism Accommodation Chef of the Year in 2016) at the helm, Blaq has a garden-to-plate philosophy, taking pride in hyper-local and sustainable produce. The all-NSW wine list has a similar ethos, and won the property the accolade of Best NSW Wine List in a Regional NSW hotel for two years in a row in 2022 and 2023.
Best self-sufficient cottage: Contained in Nimbin
Eco-friendly is often an overused term, but for these two self-sufficient cottages on a permaculture farm on the North Coast, it couldn’t be more appropriate. Located on the banks of the pristine Goolmangar Creek, the cottages are made with sustainably sourced hardwood and recycled shipping containers, have bathrooms and kitchens powered by solar and filtered water tank systems, and offer a cosy place to take in the natural surrounds and spend the night staring at the stars. Contained won Best New Business at the 2023 NSW Tourism Awards, and similar awards at the 2023 North Coast Tourism Awards – the Outstanding Tourism Start-Up award and also Business of the Year, a huge achievement for a property less than one year old.
Best boutique stay: Peppertree Collection, Mudgee
Enjoy wine time, your way, with a stay at one of Peppertree Collection’s boutique properties across Mudgee’s glorious wine country. Book into rustic cottages on sprawling farmland, a boutique hotel in an 1862 restored Victorian building or a serviced terrace apartment in the heart of Mudgee town. The breadth of the Peppertree Collection offering helped it win gold for the self-contained cottage category in the 2023 NSW Tourism Awards.
Best glamping: Myall River Camp, Hawks Nest
Tucked between a river and a beach within the Newcastle – is an outdoor adventurer’s dream, with fishing, quad biking, sandboarding, cycling, bushwalking and boating literally on your doorstep. Along with campsites and tiny houses, there are three spacious canvas and recycled timber safari-style glamping tents sleeping between four and six guests. Each tent has its own four-poster bed, full ensuite, undercover barbecue and sunken outdoor lounge on the verandah. To complete the experience, find private river access for swims, kayaking or spotting the resident dolphins. It’s no wonder the camp won the gold award for glamping in the 2023 North Coast Tourism Awards., this secluded nature retreat – just an hour’s drive from