Located on the Mossman River, in the world’s oldest living rainforest, Silky Oaks Lodge is surrounded by lush greenery. Originally opened in 1985, the luxury accommodation recently changed hands and reopened under Baillie Lodges, owned by husband-and-wife duo James and Hayley Baillie.
The powerhouse couple revolutionised the Australian hotel scene with their portfolio of stylish but sustainable luxury lodges in some of our most coveted corners – including Lord Howe Island, Uluru-Kata Tjuta, Kangaroo Island and the Barossa Valley.
Given an indulgent $20 million refurbishment, Silky Oaks Lodge has been redefined, but it was important to the Baillies that the redevelopment makes the smallest possible footprint on the landscape.
“The experience is all about immersing [yourself] in the rainforest. It’s stripped back so it’s not a busy environment and it allows you to enjoy the surroundings,” says general manager Sonya Boaden.
There are 40 rooms, each with timber furnishings and cloud-like king beds. Some have outdoor bathtubs and fireplaces, and all have views across the Daintree Rainforest. Cleverly designed and sustainably focused, the lodge’s communal spaces are open-air and overlook the gushing Mossman River. There’s no air con, but each space captures the natural forest breeze thanks to a seven-metre-high roof.
“There’s an on-site sewage treatment plant and water treatment plant, so the only thing we get from the mains is electricity,” explains Boaden. “For everything else we’re self-sufficient. We pull directly from the Mossman River, which goes up the back of the hill through our water treatment plant, undergoes treatment and is spread back to the lodge.”
The former tennis court has been transformed into a massive kitchen garden, overseen by head chef Mark Godbeer, who was previously executive chef at Baillie Lodge’s Longitude 131° in the Northern Territory. The goal is to grow and pick as much as possible. “The kitchen is low-waste, and we are trying to propagate and grow small-batch items which are endemic in the area,” says Godbeer.
The pan-Asian menu includes dishes such as confit duck larb salad, tempura reef fish and hibachi pork belly. It’s inspired by the ingredients available in the region, such as Vietnamese mint, lotus root, betel, makrut lime and pandan leaves. As little as possible is wasted. “For example, we might use leek to braise the stock, then we take the leek tops to make a leek ash, the roots go into a dehydrator and then we’ll put that in a stock to rehydrate,” Godbeer says.
Everything is centred around recharging and reconnecting with nature. Boaden tells Broadsheet most guests are blown away as soon as they arrive: “As most people haven’t had the opportunity to experience the Daintree Rainforest. The minute they arrive their shoulders drop and everyone seems to take a deep breath.”
To really immerse yourself in the 180-million-year-old ecosystem, explore beyond the creature comforts offered at the lodge – such as the hotel pool, hammocks and day spa – and book into a tour with expert guides such as Back Country Bliss Adventures to learn about endangered river fish, explore coral life on the Great Barrier Reef (a short drive away), or take a dip in the billabong at the foot of Silky Oaks.
Silky Oaks Lodge is a 75-minute drive north of Cairns. Rooms start from $495 per person, per night. There’s a two-night minimum stay. Rates include breakfast, sunset drinks with canapes, dinner with matched wines, in-suite bar, morning yoga sessions and use of the lodge’s kayaks, mountain bikes and snorkelling gear.