Shantara Resort and Spa, Queensland

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 30 September, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 30 September, 2007, 12:00am

Where is it? Once a sleepy seaside village, Port Douglas has blossomed into an international holiday destination with an upmarket vibe. As the gateway to two World Heritage areas - the Great Barrier Reef and Daintree National Park - it is a magnet for holidaymakers. Shantara is the area's newest luxury apartment resort.

What's so different about it? While it is unusual for a serviced apartment development to bar children under 16, the developers believe this boutique couples' resort will nevertheless prove popular.

What about the ambience? The environment is unambiguously tropical, with swaying palm trees, lush gardens, water features and plenty of open space. The low-rise resort is designed around two lagoon-style saltwater swimming pools (right).

And the design? Apartments are spacious and decorated in a contemporary style, with cool cream-coloured tiled floors and modern furniture in muted tones. There's none of that tropical bamboo furniture you find in many resorts in the state of Queensland. Apartments are air-conditioned and equipped with ceiling fans. One-bedroom apartments have open-plan living, dining and kitchen areas, with the bedroom separated by sliding Japanese screens. Glass doors open onto poolside verandas furnished with outdoor dining settings. The resort's spa, meanwhile, is home to a Hydrotone Thermal M capsule, which looks like something you would see in a science-fiction movie, but is in fact for steam aromatherapy and Vichy showers.

What's on the menu? Being serviced apartments, there is no mini-bar; instead they have stainless-steel European kitchen appliances, including a family-sized fridge and dishwasher. You can stock the kitchen with supplies from a supermarket and some delicatessens, which are within walking distance - as are cafes, shops and alfresco restaurants.

What else is there to do? Cruise ships, yachts and catamarans sail from Port Douglas to the Great Barrier Reef and tours to Daintree National Park can be arranged. Take a helicopter trip to remote homesteads and little-known Aboriginal sites in the bush or simply pack a picnic and head across the road to Four Mile Beach. Once you've explored the natural treasures of the area, sit back with a cappuccino and people watch in one of the trendy cafes. The town has attracted the likes of Mick Jagger, Bill Clinton and Elle Macpherson.

What's the bottom line? Online rates start at A$240 (HK$1,500) a night.

Shantara Resort and Spa, Davidson Street, Port Douglas, Queensland, Australia, tel: 61 7 4084 1400;