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Mount Mulligan Lodge: The perfect all-inclusive getaway in the Queensland ‘outback’

In the shadow of mighty Mount Mulligan lies a small outback oasis carved out of a pocket of the bush inland from Cairns. It’s the perfect ‘outback package’ not too far from home. Even better, it’s the luxury version. All-inclusive fine dining, an infinity pool, and chic suites go hand in hand with offroad ATV tours, private waterhole swims, and early morning bird watching at Mount Mulligan Lodge

Traveller: Lisa Perkovic
Room: Outback Room
Address: Mount Mulligan Road, Mount Mulligan, Queensland
Date: October 2022
Price from: $1,200 per night Outback Tents| $2,000 per night Outback Retreat
Best for:
Travellers looking to swap out city life for a slice of outback adventure 

Mount Milligan Lodge pool

The concept

Mount Mulligan Lodge is a sister property to Orpheus Island, one of the bright spots on the Great Barrier Reef’s island line-up. It follows a similar commitment to laid-back luxury and has earned a spot as one of the Luxury Lodges of Australia. Guests are given an itinerary with daily activities, and even if you add in a few optional extras, there’s plenty of time to soak up the scenery around the main lodge grounds. Get as dusty as you want on an ATV adventure, pick up some binoculars and strike out on a sunrise bird-watching hike, or settle onto a day bed and wait for Chef’s daily batch of ANZAC biscuits to arrive. It’s the outback on your own terms.

First impressions

The lodge is a three-hour drive inland from Cairns. Or arrive by helicopter with Nautilus Aviation Cairns to ensure the adventure started immediately. From the air, the lodge is a lush blip among bushlands, snaking around the small cluster of buildings and glamping tents that house just 28 guests (20 in the main Lodge with eight in Outback Tents). Whisked from the helipad to the lodge by golf cart, bubbles are waiting for us at our suite.

The Main Pavilion plays homage to the Australian outback shed, with a pitched roof and iron bark beams salvaged straight from Sydney’s old Pyrmont Bay Wharf. Floor-to-ceiling glass doors are thrown wide so we can bask in the fresh breeze at breakfast or look up at the stars during dinner. And the guest bar is self-serve, always open, and included in the room rate.

The room

With a bedroom, dressing room, bathroom, and a big balcony overlooking the weir, Outback Rooms are much more than their name might suggest. With Alexa, a minibar, binoculars, wildlife guides, and wifi, you won’t for a second miss a TV.  Each suite has a private corrugated iron outdoor bathtub. Repurposed from water tanks and perched on the balcony, the deep tub takes time to fill but is a soothing daily ritual with salts and bathing gel already set up. Take a bath at sunrise to hear the birds wake up. Or spot the wallabies winding down for the day at dusk. Each room also comes with its own golf cart for guests to zip down to the main lodge or up to the sunset bar. 

Highlights from the minibar

Having provided pre-arrival preferences on drinks, I’m not surprised to find a South Australian Pinot Noir and craft beers waiting in our mini bar. Yet I am overjoyed the team has picked my sweet tooth too. A full-sized block of Mission Beach-made artisan Charley’s chocolate is replenished each night. Along with two salted caramel truffle chocolates left by the bed with T2 Sleep Tight tea. It’s my kind of nightcap.

On my plate

We might have gone bush, but the kitchen certainly hasn’t. Sitting down to sumptuous breakfasts, lunches, and three-course dinners, we sample regional produce plated up with finesse each day. The chefs let their international background come into play – you could eat around the world at lunch. With tempura reef fish with Nam Jim slaw, slow-cooked lamb shoulder with house-made naan, Korean fried pork rib, and even a flammkuchen German pizza on the menu. Dinners lean more towards ‘modern Australian’. With delicate house-made mushroom tortellini with broth poured at the table, a rich jerk beef rib with sweet potato puree, and pork fillets atop a bed of lentil ragu. 

Staying in

Put your feet up by the pool or wander down to the weir, and grab a kayak, stand-up paddle board, or fishing rod. There’s chess in the lodge lounge, along with local history books. Binoculars are always within arms reach – in the lodge and your rooms – so if you spot a flurry of movement, grab a pair and use your wildlife spotting guide to get to know the locals. The lines between stepping out and staying in are blurred in such a stunning location.

Stepping out

The Outback is your playground at Mount Mulligan Lodge. Get a proper lay of the land on a scenic helicopter tour that will take you up close to Mount Mulligan. It’s more than ten times the size of Uluru and is known as Ngarrabullgan to the Djungan people. It cannot be climbed, so the aerial view is worth taking. The lodge is located within a 28,000-hectare working cattle station, so you’ll spot Brahman cattle at the dams around the property.

The Signature factor

It’s the infinity pool that steals the show. Ringed by spotted eucalyptus trees, the pool peers at the weir, a manmade billabong where birds skim the surface and bees buzz on lily pads. For my other half, it’s the chance to kick up the red dust on an ATV tour. It explores the neighbouring historic Mount Mulligan mining town and is included in your stay.

Insiders’ tips

The chef doesn’t like anyone going hungry. If you arrive after lunch, he’ll whip up a cheese plate. The thrice-cooked truffle fries are to be ordered anytime they make an appearance on the menu. And have I mentioned the freshly baked ANZAC biscuits?

Also, keep an eye out for Northern Escape Collection multi-lodge packages, where you can explore the reef or the Daintree at a sister lodge and then fly straight on from Cairns for an outback adventure. Seasonal pay four, stay five nights rates at Mount Mulligan Lodge are also worth noting. 

I wish I could take home…

Northern Escape Collection, the parent company of Mount Mulligan Lodge, believes in supporting local, which means the bar is stocked with its own gin and craft beer. Their bespoke ‘Northern Escape Tropical Gin’ from Cairns-based Wolf Lane Distillery is ideal for an afternoon gin and tonic. A Northern Escape x Colonial Brewing lager proves equally refreshing.

Pet peeves

Trying our hands at a spot of gold panning, it’s a pleasant afternoon. However, we don’t come close to earning back the additional $100 per person for the adventure. At an all-inclusive property, it feels a little at odds with the rest of the experience.

If only…

You’re a world away from your troubles when you touch down at Mount Mulligan Lodge. However, the icing on the cake would be a day spa. Or a massage pavilion where you could relax after a day of exploring the adventurous surroundings. 

Where to find it 

The 30-minute helicopter transfer from Cairns is the ultimate rockstar arrival or a three-hour, 160km drive northwest of Cairns.  

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