Whether plunging into pristine primaeval rainforest, dipping into a cooling billabong, or simply sinking into a swaying hammock, a stay at Silky Oaks Lodge is truly immersive. A soundscape of trilling insects, chirruping tropical birds and whooshing river certainly adds to the delightfully multisensory experience. Perfume from the (allegedly aphrodisiacal) ylang-ylang tree hangs heavy in the steamy air, further arousing the senses. An eight-figure makeover also gave the treehouse retreat a self-assured polish, though with an understated aesthetic that always puts its enchanting jungle surrounds centre stage – and immerses you in it.
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A bottle of sparkling wine in your suite on arrival
10.30am, but flexible, subject to availability. Earliest check-in, 2pm.
Double rooms from £950.87 (AU$1,620), including tax at 10 per cent.
Rates include breakfast and dinner with a daily menu paired with premium wine. Also part of the package are evening drinks hour, morning yoga class, exclusive access to Fig Tree Rapids walking trails, and daily transfers to and from Port Douglas. Minimum
If you’re hoping to get a hop on the day, the lodge can arrange breakfast hampers and picnics to be delivered to your room. Backpacks are also provided in rooms for excursions.
At the hotel
Swimming pool, free WiFi throughout, yoga deck, loaner bikes, lounge, concierge, tennis court, gift shop. In rooms: free minibar, music system, hammock terrace, tea- and coffee-maker, premium toiletries.
Our favourite rooms
With its skillion ceilings, wraparound glass walls and two separate bedroom wings, the Daintree Pavilion is an absolute blow-the-budget beauty. Spacious, superbly crafted interiors segue seamlessly into a huge open-air atrium with tiered infinity pool overlooking the lush jungle surrounds. The two ensuite bathrooms even extend to private decks with tubs where you can soak to the sound of the Mossman River passing below. For a lot less outlay, the Treehouse Retreat also offers an outdoor stone tub on the veranda where you can jungle-bathe under the stars.
A lagoon-style pool is lined with boulders and surrounded by jungle, with a small waterfall adding to the illusion of swimming in the wild.
No windowless basement here – the Healing Waters Spa offers a series of sunlight-filled spaces with big rainforest-framing windows. Aromatherapy and botanicals feature in treatments inspired by local native traditions. We recommended the purifying mud bath and invigorating Vichy shower while gazing out over the jungle canopy.
The lodge does provide free eco-friendly spray, but mozzie magnets should consider coming armed with weapons-grade repellent during the rainy season.
Lodge facilities and one room is wheelchair accessible, which also has easy access bathroom facilities. The shuttle van is also wheelchair compatible.
The potentially perilous jungle setting means children under 10 are not allowed; some rooms are big enough for families with kids.
Commendable eco-friendly practices here include no single-use plastics, high-efficiency LED lighting, and water-conserving bathroom fittings. A kitchen garden also helps reduce their food carbon footprint and they only use suppliers with good green credentials.
Nab anywhere jungle-side if you can, for the best of the breeze and more chance of one of the cobalt blue butterflies flitting by your table while you eat. For pre-dinner drinks, head to the Jungle Perch for virtually 360-degree rainforest.
Something floaty but fabulous for sultry sittings.
Perched over the Mossman River, the Treehouse Restaurant is an inviting split-level eatery with an airy, open-sided layout that makes for widescreen jungle views. The menu takes its cue from the huge Kitchen Garden, where the team cultivates dozens of ingredients. This means plenty of native tropical flavours, like finger lime and pandan, bringing zing and exotic notes to colourfully presented dishes. A commitment to locavore dining means everything not grown on site is sourced close by.
The lodge’s Silky Bar has a suitably smooth look and feel, with low-lit green glaze tiling and warm wood. Premium Aussie wines feature on the drinks list, with local Hemingway’s tropical ale standing out among the beers. Spirits, too, are locally sourced and small-batch, with Baillies 9 gin exclusive to the lodge. Sunset cocktails and canapés are served here daily, providing mingling opportunities too.
The lodge is in the Far North Queensland region of Australia, tucked just inside the Daintree National Park. It’s a 25-minute drive from Port Douglas, meaning easy access to beaches and the Great Barrier Reef.
The nearest place to fly into is Cairns Airport (CNS), just over an hour by road. It offers direct commercial flights from most of the main national and international hubs.
Self-driving to Silky Oaks is a popular option, thanks to the route through Queensland’s picturesque cane fields and winding coastal roads. Hire a car in Port Douglas or Cairns, and in case you’re wondering, you won’t need a four-by-four to drive around Daintree.
The lodge can arrange chopper transfers from Cairns Airport to Silky Oaks’ helipad – the views are spectacular.
Worth getting out of bed for
With its network of jungle walks, scenic gorges and encyclopaedia of wildlife, getting up close to nature is what this place is all about. A series of marked walking trails means you can explore the Daintree rainforest surroundings independently; we recommend a Walkabout Tour from a First Nations Kuku Yalanji guide to really get the most out of it. The lodge also loans out canoes, kayaks, and snorkel gear for free, depending on how you want to navigate the local waterways – don’t worry, they’re guaranteed croc-free.
Both a top beach resort and gateway to the Great Barrier Reef, Port Douglas is just 20 minutes away and the hotel will drop you there for free. At an hours’ drive, Cape Tribulation is still worth the journey and a spectacular swathe of sandy headland (best explored on horseback). Alternatively, why not just take in the lot from the skies and ask reception to arrange a hot-air-balloon tour.
The closest places to eat outside the lodge are in the small rural town of Mossman, less than 10 minutes’ drive away. For no-frills Aussie grub, The Exchange Hotel offers just that. Occupying a 19th-century local landmark, they specialise in flame-grilled steaks, fish and chips, and other hearty, unpretentious fare. For something a little more sophisticated, you’ll have to head to Port Douglas and the likes of Zinc. Here they offer a contemporary take on Australian cooking, with a menu that draws heavily on local seafood and tropical fruits. If you’ve ever wondered what Australia's national animal tastes like, spring over to the Watergate and try their excellent herb-marinated kangaroo loin. Start with locally farmed crocodile for the full bush-tucker experience.
You’ll find a surprisingly good selection of cafés in neighbouring Mossman, with The Junction a firm favourite. Super-charge your caffeine hit with a jumbo-size coffee here, or mix up your juice with a pick of freshly squeezed local fruits. Locals love the homemade cake at Beechwoods Cafe, which also serves up vegan options and a leafy seating space.
Port Douglas is certainly your best bet for local nightlife, too. Jimmy Rum's Mixing Lounge is a deservedly popular haunt, whipping up what many rate some of the finest cocktails this side of Queensland. Vintage wall art also adds to the retro, speakeasy-esque atmosphere. Hands down the best-loved local beer comes from Hemingway's Brewery. Choose from a long list of artisanal offerings at their Port Douglas waterfront brew pub, overlooking the marina.
Every hotel featured is visited personally by members of our team, given the Smith seal of approval, and then anonymously reviewed. As soon as our reviewers have returned from this jungle-deluxe hotel in Daintree National Park and unpacked their Akubra hat and eucalyptus botanicals, a full account of their rainforest immersion will be with you. In the meantime, to whet your wanderlust, here's a quick peek inside Silky Oaks Lodge in Queensland…
At over 180-million years old, the Daintree is the world’s longest surviving rainforest; but after 35 years, the much loved eco-lodge within was showing its age. In swooped husband-and-wife team and the seasoned hoteliers behind Baillie Lodges, who pumped an eye-watering $20 million into a top-to-toe revamp. And the result is, perhaps unsurprisingly, rather lovely. Of course the setting – lush virgin jungle teeming with a cornucopia of wildlife – remains the star of the show, and the lodge frames and flaunts its splendour at every opportunity.
Taking the form of stilt-built Queenslander-style treehouses, rooms lift you closer to the teeming jungle canopy. The feel is tropical-chic, with polished wood and marble bathrooms the only obvious concession to luxury. Broad open terraces are meant to be lingered in, gently swaying in the big-enough-for-two hammock while tuning in to the forest orchestra.
But getting in among it is what Silky Oaks is really all about. And when you’ve snorkelled a glass-clear billabong, hiked ancient trails, and kayaked jungle rivers, you can squeeze in a day trip to the nearby Great Barrier Reef. Though at just 20-million years in the making, it’s a mere babe compared to Daintree.