Brisbane-based company EarthCheck works with tourism businesses to benchmark and boost their green credentials and here CEO Stewart Moore lists his picks of Queensland getaways that provide great holiday experiences while treading lightly on their local environment.
Lady Elliot Island, Southern Great Barrier Reef
Located 80km east of Bundaberg this coral cay was once stripped bare for its prized haul of bird poo used to make fertiliser. For the last 40 years conservation efforts have brought back the birds and Lady Elliot Island once again supports thousands of nesting boobies and terns whose colours and chatter match the underwater magic off shore. Owner and environmental warrior, Peter Gash, has built hybrid solar power stations to replace diesel and created a climate change walk to improve reef education. The resort is also the first in Australia to ban the use of disposable water bottles.
Tangalooma Island Resort, Moreton Bay
Hand-feeding dolphins from the pier each evening brings a lot of visitors to Tangalooma but behind the scenes resident Marine Education Centre staff have also helped save many wounded creatures that wash ashore tangled in nets or choked with plastic. Inside, the centre offers guests an interpretive snapshot of the local environment and outdoors staff lead a program of informative eco walks. The resort is also breeding a young generation of ‘eco marines’ among primary school students who initiate projects to help clean up Moreton Bay. The resort has installed a state-of-the-art water treatment system, recycles and reuses almost everything it can and has cut energy consumption by about 40 per cent to minimise its impact. Snorkelling at the wrecks in turquoise waters just metres from the resort is just one of the payoffs for visitors to Queensland’s second largest sand island.
Nightfall Wilderness Camp, Lamington National Park
Hosts Steve and Heidi Ross have created a carbon-neutral getaway in what is known fittingly as the Lost World in the Scenic Rim about 90 minutes south west of Brisbane. Nightfall’s ‘leanomic’ environmental practices include on-site waste water treatment, waste reduction, solar power, and restoration and conservation of the 100-odd hectares of local bushland it occupies. Guests can join the owners as they forage for produce among wild bush tucker plants and sample local organic food which includes ingredients from the camp’s own kitchen garden. Accommodation is in glamping style safari tents with fires, showers and baths.
Hidden Valley Cabins, near Townsville
Hidden Valley Cabins was Australia's first carbon neutral resort and is fully solar powered. Cabins are built largely from recycled or selectively logged local timber (including the rustic furniture in the rooms). Over a home-cooked dinner with guests owners Ian and Bonnie McLennan are happy to share stories about where to spot the local wildlife – Australian Geographic once voted this the number one place to see platypus in the wild so no surprise the most popular activity is the sunset tour to spot this elusive creature.
Silky Oaks Lodge, Mossman, Tropical North Queensland
The Lodge was built on a 34-hectare parcel of land that had been farmed and cleared, adjoining the Daintree National Park. For the past 25 years the land has been regenerated and replanted back to the original rainforest habitat. The lodge has its own World Heritage-standard sewerage treatment plant, maintains a policy of reduce, reuse and recycle throughout and uses local produce and products from the kitchen to the Healing Waters Spa.
Thala Beach Nature Reserve, Port Douglas
A collection of low-impact bungalows are surrounded by more than 60 hectares of private bushland. Over the last three decades the owners have rehabilitated the former sugar plantation with thousands of indigenous plants. Wildlife specialists guide guests through the forest and collaborate with local indigenous elders to enhance cultural understanding.
Kingfisher Bay Resort, Fraser Island
Queensland's original eco getaway on the world’s largest sand island blazed the trail in sustainability when it opened in 1992. Kingfisher Bay Resort showed its eco-credentials from the ground up with buildings designed around trees and thousands of plants were removed prior to construction to be replanted later. An on-site nursery continues to provide native plants for landscaping and the success of revegetation is obvious in the abundance of wildflowers, native birds and wildlife nesting and feeding in the bush around the resort. The resort design also keeps power use to a minimum. Beyond the resort, though, a ‘Beauty Spot’ tour of pristine locations such as Lake Mackenzie and the Stonetool Sand Blow or a ranger guided tour to hunt out bush tucker are ways to get close to nature.
Narrows Escape Rainforest Retreat, Montville
Green is all around the six self-contained pavilions that make up this award-winning retreat and everything from expansive windows, large open verandas and skylights combine to maximise the view of the rainforest. On its doorstep the short walk from Baroon Pocket Dam to Baroon Lookout is just one of the spectacular treks on the Sunshine Coast Hinterland Great Walk.
O’Reilly’s, Lamington National Park
The Discovery Program at O'Reilly's is legendary – from the uplifting Tree Top Walk and Flying Fox to the guided walks and wildlife spotlighting – and special events contribute to conservation research in conjunction with local authorities. There are no TVs or phones in the rainforest retreat rooms where viewing is strictly focused on the stunning surrounds.
Bungalow Bay Koala Village, Magnetic Island
This eco-tourism accredited backpacker resort also has 25 private bungalows, buildings are eco-friendly (high ceilings, open plan, raised off the ground) and the team plays a key role in wildlife rescues, land regeneration and bush tours that offer an insight into the wonder of the environment.