Inside Australia’s newest luxury lodge, Mt Mulligan
Could this new Queensland luxury lodge be Australia’s best Outback stay?
Haven’t heard about Mt Mulligan Lodge yet? You’re in for a treat. Australia’s newest six-star stay, located in far north Queensland’s stunning outback, is a beguiling mix of grand landscapes, stunning history and contemporary comforts. Here are four things you need to know.
1. It’s the ultimate in Queensland outback luxury.
Interiors at six-star stay, Mt Mulligan Lodge (supplied).
The spectacular setting, on an 28,000-hectare working cattle station, might sound like an unlikely location for luxury: but that’s exactly what you’ll get at Mt Mulligan. For starters, the most convenient way to reach the resort is by chopper; a 30-minute hop from Cairns over the World Heritage-listed Barron Gorge National Park. The property offers just eight suites (plus two glamping tents to come); with daily life centered around the main pavilion, a palatial open-sided homestead. Convene for meals, mingle with others or tuck into a low sofa by the fire (in cooler months) or on the shade of the veranda (in warmer months). The entire lodge is hugged by a deep, cool weir, with stand-up paddleboards and kayaks waiting in the shade of gums on the lawn for any guests so inclined. Paddle downstream and keep an eye out for agile wallabies nibbling on lilypads on the waterline. Or just stake out a deckchair by that lavish infinity pool and make your day no more strenuous than return trips between the open bar – we won’t judge.
2. It’s watched over by a cursed mountain
View of the mountain from the lodge's sunset bar (courtesy Wilson Archer).
The eponymous Mt Mulligan is the lodge’s totem in name and nature. The ‘Uluru of the Queensland Outback’ is in fact three times the size of our most famous rock, and it seems to loom over the landscape, no matter where you find yourself on the vast station. Also known by its traditional name Ngarrabullgan, Mount Mulligan was inexplicably deserted by the local Kuku Djungan people some 600 years ago (the whispered story is that a malicious spirit Eekoo haunts the mountain, hidden in Lake Koongarra on the summit). But staring up at the vast cliff-face over a gourmet hamper at The Branch picnic spot or from the comfort of your corrugated iron bathtub (yes, there is one on the porch of every room), it’s hard to feel any bad juju coming off this vast guardian. To see it at its best, set the alarm early and putter up to the Sunset Bar in your personal golf buggy at sunrise instead. The rising sun climbs above the mountains and spills over the plains to light the craggy rock a deep red.
3. There’s gold in them there hills!
Mount Mulligan looms over the lodge (courtesy Jason Ierace).
Mt Mulligan might be all about luxury these days, but the property’s beginnings were in the dirt. A party led by Irish colonist James V Mulligan – so set on a life of adventure that he changed his middle name to “Venture” – struck gold at what would become Tyrconnell mine in 1876. Leap forward a decade, and 10,000 settlers had rushed to join Queensland’s little-known gold rush. Both Cairns and Port Douglas were founded by the gold trickling from the region, first established as ports for the haul lugged over the mountains by bullocks. The miners have long since disappeared, but you can visit the ghost town they left behind on one of the lodge’s included day trips, bumping through the red dust in an all-terrain vehicle. An alternative excursion takes guests to the skeleton of Mt Mulligan’s doomed coal mine. The haunting site was the setting of Australia’s third-worst mining disaster, when 75 men lost their lives on a September morning in 1921. Your guide will point out the mysterious ‘1921’ visible on the face of Mt Mulligan – it will give even the most sceptical a chill.
4. The food is seriously incredible.
A sample of Mt Mulligan's food offerings (courtesy Jason Ierace).
You might feel far from the hustle and bustle of everyday life, but don’t worry about skipping on your creature comforts. When you arrive, chef Amanda Healey is likely to be part of your welcoming committee. She’s the talent behind the sublime a la carte breakfasts, lunches and degustation dinners included in your room rate, all of which she whips up with produce sourced from a 200km radius. (We know that distance sounds generous, but in Outback terms that falls safely within the ‘just down the road’ category.) Luckily, just down the road is the Atherton Tablelands food bowl, from which arrive a bounty of tropical fruits and premium meats; lush tropical forests that offer up delicacies such as Daintree vanilla; and the waters that lap the Great Barrier Reef for seafood. Chef Healey and her team have even started a hobby veggie patch at their homestead – their first crops of peppery radish will make you a believer in this humble root vegetable. If you fancy getting more involved, there are fishing rods provided and barramundi in the weir. Land a fish, and it will land on your plate for dinner that same evening.