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Sydney makes an ideal jumping-off point for exploring the remote corners and islands and the lushtemperate rainforest of Northern Queensland. Fly into Cairns, and travel on to a perfect pair of resorts. From both, day trips to dive or snorkel along the spectacular Great Barrier Reef can be arranged. For more information on either resort: 800-225-9849; fax 831-335-5239;

Bedarra Island

WHAT A hideaway with 15 spacious, newly renovated villas on a private island; barefoot comfort, superb cuisine.

WHO SHOULD GO Couples who want to spend tranquil time together (no children under 16, no planned activities, no beach club), perhaps hike or take a dinghy to a nearby island for a picnic.

BEST FEATURES Villas overlooking a pristine sapphire bay, unpeopled islands, the wild blue yonder. A white-sand beach where you'll seldom see another human.

CUISINE Dinner is elegantly orchestrated, beginning with hors d'oeuvres and apéritifs in the open bar. A recent menu included Queensland barramundi with steamed bok choy, seared banana, and Thai green-curry sauce; for dessert, grilled pineapple with caramel sauce and macadamia-nut ice cream.

INSIDER TIP Villa One commands a generous stretch of beach; its bedroom and decks have palm-framed views.

GETTING THERE From Cairns, take a 40-minute flight to Dunk Island, then a ten-minute private launch to Bedarra.

RATES $980 per couple, all-inclusive.

Silky Oaks Lodge

WHAT A 50-cottage resort above the Mossman River Gorge in the Daintree rainforest; unspoiled nature, treetop living.

WHO SHOULD GO Nature lovers, adventurers, hikers. On-site guides conduct mangrove tours in search of crocodiles, four-wheel-drive safari trips into Daintree, and night walks for views of elusive creatures like nocturnal bandicoots and spiny echidnas.

BEST FEATURES The cottages (newly remodeled, with Zen-calm decor) set on stilts above the river; hammocks on the shady verandas where guests loll as sulfur-crested cockatoos and crimson rosellas fly overhead and turkeys skitter in the underbrush; and a new spa offering massages and relaxation treatments.

CUISINE The focus is on extraordinary local seafood and other seasonal ingredients. Ceviche of Moreton Bay "bug tails" (similar to crawfish) is mixed into a salad of glass noodles, pawpaw, and coriander with spicy Thai dressing and fried mango; intensely flavored desserts are made with native fruits like the chocolate-scented black sapote. The restaurant and bar sit high among the trees, overlooking the river; request a table in the Jungle Perch, a secluded candlelit pavilion.

INSIDER TIP Take a crack-of-dawn hot-air balloon trip over the Atherton Tablelands, a verdant jungle preserve, and the dramatic mountains west of Cairns, followed by a hearty Aussie breakfast.

GETTING THERE From Cairns airport, take a limousine to the lodge, an hour north.

RATES Treehouses, $350 per couple, including breakfast and dinner.


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