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Northern Escape Collection rebrands as Morris Escapes 

5 Mar, 2024

 

Northern Escape Collection, home to a curated portfolio of boutique sustainable lodges, has today rebranded as Morris Escapes. 

The new identity marks the beginning of an exciting new chapter for the business, building on its strong reputation for creating memorable experiences at one-of-a-kind destinations, including Orpheus Island Lodge, Mt Mulligan Lodge, Beechmont Estate, and the recently opened Pelorus Private Island. 

Morris Group Executive Chairman Chris Morris said the new name aimed to better connect the portfolio with its parent brand, Morris Group. 

The inspiration for the new logo comes from Morris Group’s foundations as a family-owned business, starting with the letter ‘M’ representing Chris Morris and the Morris family. 

“This new identity means our luxury lodges are more closely aligned with the rest of Morris Group and strengthens the connection between Morris Escapes’ unique travel experiences and the rest of our tourism portfolio,” Mr Morris said. 

Morris Group owns and operates a range of tourism experiences across Queensland including The Ville Resort – Casino and the recently opened luxury hotel Ardo in Townsville. 

The portfolio also includes Morris Nautical, which operates a fleet of luxury superyachts out of Port Douglas; and Morris Aviation which includes Nautilus Aviation, North Queensland’s largest private helicopter business, HeliFish, and a newly acquired jet aviation business. 

Mr Morris said while the name and branding might be new, the guest experience at Morris Escapes lodges will stay the same. 

“Our exceptional Morris Escapes team will continue delivering the same outstanding service, and their unique brand of understated luxury that people have come to know and love,” Mr Morris said. 

The closer connection between Morris Escapes with the rest of Morris Group also means that all the exciting career opportunities that go with being part of a large and successful company become clearer for our people who are wanting to build their careers in hospitality and tourism. 

“With today’s rebrand and the recent opening of Pelorus Private Island, there’s never been a more exciting time to be part of Morris Escapes,” Mr Morris said. 

Morris Escape’s new visual identity has been brought to life on the new group website, which is now live and ready to be explored at morrisescapes.com.au 

Mt Mulligan Lodge

About Morris Escapes 

Morris Escapes is a curated portfolio of boutique sustainable lodges and experiences that celebrate Queensland’s diverse natural beauty. Designed to inspire authentic experiences and lasting memories, guests can discover luxury island hideaways on the Great Barrier Reef at Orpheus Island Lodge and Pelorus Private Island, invoke the spirit of adventure in the outback at Mt Mulligan Lodge, and succumb to country elegance in the Scenic Rim at Beechmont Estate. 

Morris Escapes was crafted by Australian family business, Morris Group, with the goal of allowing travellers to experience Northern Australia in its purest form and to contribute to sustainable economies in the region. 

 

About Morris Group 

Morris Group is an independent, family-run business operating a collection of iconic Australian experiences. With businesses in tourism, hospitality, aviation, and technology, we’re on a mission to make a positive impact doing work we love. 

From luxury resorts and lodges to urban beer gardens, elevated dining experiences, and superyacht adventures; everything we do is inspired by our love for good company and the great outdoors. 

It’s not just Lonely Planet that knows the Scenic Rim is the place to be

28 Feb, 2024

Lonely Planet named South East Queensland’s Scenic Rim among the world’s top 10 regions to visit in 2022 and it’s not hard to understand why. 

Surrounded by an arc of national parks, and with its own microclimates (which make summers more comfortable than the coast), this veritable nature and food bowl offers fine dining, luxurious accommodation at the new Beechmont Estate, life-affirming hikes, and authentic farm gate experiences. Consider this your cheat sheet to the 6 best things to do in the Scenic Rim.

EXPLORE SCENIC RIM HIKES

With its ancient landscapes cloaked in Gondwana Rainforest, hiking is undeniably one of the best things to do in the Scenic Rim. Take your pick from short circuits to full-day hikes punctuated by creeks and waterfalls in Lamington National Park – the Binna Burra day use area is a short 10-minute drive from Beechmont Estate.

Also check out the walks and hikes on offer in Main Range National Park and Tamborine National Park, like the popular Curtis Falls Circuit. 

SIP YOUR WAY AROUND SCENIC RIM WINERIES

Head to O’Reilly’s Canungra Valley Vineyards – around 30 minutes drive from Beechmont Estate – for wine tasting with a difference. 

Sample the local wines inside at the bar or purchase a bottle to enjoy with a picnic out by the creek, with a friendly alpaca by your side. Mountainview Alpaca Farm shares the property and offers packages where you can take a stroll through the vineyards with two alpacas after enjoying your picnic hamper.

Nearby, Sarabah Estate Vineyard and Witches Falls Winery also have cellar doors worthy of a visit.

TASTE THE REGION AT THE SCENIC RIM FARM SHOP & CAFE

The Scenic Rim is renowned for its produce and a great way to shortcut visiting all the farm gates yourself is to drop into the Scenic Rim Farm Shop & Cafe. 

Sharing grounds with the Elderflower Farm flower shop and flower field, with a cafe set beneath the jacarandas, this is a lovely spot to sit back with a local coffee and a slice of one of the house-baked cakes.

SUMMER LAND CAMELS

If you’re looking for things to do in the Scenic Rim with kids, plan a day trip to Summer Land Camels, 90 minutes’ drive from Beechmont Estate. 

This working camel farm – which produces everything from camel milk hand cream to small batch camel milk and honey vodka – offers farm tours and camel rides, including a beautiful sunrise ride set against the backdrop of Flinders Peak.

STAY AT BEECHMONT ESTATE (FORMERLY HAZELWOOD ESTATE)

The whole family can stay in luxury at this dignified country retreat, set on a 30 hectares of rolling green hills outside the village of Beechmont. After you’ve exhausted your list of things to do in the Scenic Rim, return for the luxe accommodation, day spa and complimentary e-bikes, and come together over sundowners and farm-to-plate meals in the chef-hatted The Paddock restaurant.

5 must-visit Scenic Rim wineries

28 Feb, 2024

If you haven’t heard, the Scenic Rim is where you’ll find savvy oenophiles who know to ignore the naysayers who still claim Queensland doesn’t have a robust wine scene.

This ancient caldera in south-east Queensland with fertile volcanic soil plays host to a growing number of Scenic Rim wineries, all a short drive away when staying at Beechmont Estate.

Sarabah Estate Vineyard

This picturesque family-owned vineyard, just outside Canungra, does a roaring wedding trade but is also a fine spot to grab a wood-fired pizza and bottle of something nice to enjoy amongst the vines while resident alpacas amble by. A 2018 Organic Shiraz or the 2020 Private Reserve Vegan Chardonnay, perhaps?

Witches Falls Winery

Specialising in wild fermented wine with grapes sourced from the Granite Belt (in addition to its 0.4ha of estate pecorino and some fruit from South Australia), the best way to experience what Witches Falls Winery is all about is to book for a personalised tasting. Build a grazing platter of locally-produced cheeses, patés, and relishes to enjoy with six pours of your choosing. Designated driver? Try the non-alcoholic Bird Dog Sparkling Cuvée.

The Overflow Estate 1895

Set on the banks of Lake Wyaralong, this historic grazing property turned small-scale vineyard is one of the best Scenic Rim wineries, especially if you’re partial to a sand crab lasagne served with a glass of Fiano or Vermentino and a side of water and mountain views.

Mason Wines

The sibling to Mason Wines Granite Belt vineyard, this cellar door on Tamborine Mountain offers up classics like Sauvignon Blanc and Shiraz alongside lesser-known varietals like Petit Verdot and Viognier. If the forecast is for sunshine, call ahead to book a spot on the lawn.

Beechmont Estate

Or, if you’d rather leave the car keys in your bag, stay put at Beechmont Estate and enjoy a curated selection of Scenic Rim wineries and local cheeses on the Sunset Terrace at The Paddock restaurant. Curated wine and cheese tastings are held most afternoons at 3pm.

During Eat Local Month in June 2023, Sarabah Estate Vineyard and Witches Falls Winery will guest star in a special collaboration event held at Beechmont Estate (stay tuned to the festival website for more information when it’s released).

Enjoy a dip with a difference at these Gold Coast swimming holes

28 Feb, 2024

The hinterland might not have the white sandy beaches the state is known for, but Gold Coast swimming holes hold their own. From private waterfalls to pristine nature, here are three spots where you can cool off on your next trip.

Cougal Cascade

Only twenty minutes from the coast but a world away from the rat race, the Currumbin Valley is home to waterfalls aplenty, but one of the easiest to access is Cougal Cascade. A 1.6km bitumen track takes you on a leisurely stroll through the rainforest; you’ll hit the cascades around 500 metres in but spare a few minutes more to visit the historic sawmill further down the path. There are plenty of spots for a dip; locals love swimming right in front of the cascade where a rock face is a handy spot for a towel or your gear.

Twin Falls

Looking for a little drama with your dip? The Twin Falls inside Springbook National Park is your answer. Dropping roughly 30 metres down into a gorgeous Gold Coast swimming hole, the falls are spectacular rain, hail or shine. It’s a 4.3km round trip walking into the falls, and you can hop on the trail at either Tallanbana picnic area or the nearby Canyon lookout. Make sure you follow the signs; with the walk taking you behind two waterfalls there are a few slippery spots. It’s worth the care – swimming under the rainforest canopy with the falls as your backdrop is a refresh you won’t find elsewhere.

Lamington National Park Waterfall

The World Heritage-listed Lamington National Park has plenty of secrets, and this one is extra special. Only accessible on a three-hour walking tour hosted by Park Tours, you won’t find a more secluded Gold Coast swimming hole than this one. Guided tours can run with just two people, so it’s just you, your travel partner, the guide and the great Gondwana Rainforests of Australia all around you. And this very secluded swimming spot that only Park Tours can lead you to. https://beechmontestate.com.au/experiences/bushwalking/

One of the Lamington National Park waterfalls
Swap the crowds of the coast for the quiet calm of the rainforest without sacrificing the swim – now that’s a win win.

A local’s guide to Lamington National Park

28 Feb, 2024

When Lamington National Park is your neighbour, you’re blessed with unparalleled access to nature’s playground. Part of the Gondwana Rainforests of Australia World Heritage Area, Lamington National Park covers more than 20,000 hectares. If you’ve only got a few days to explore, here’s a few tips on how to make the most of it.

Plan hikes & walks in advance

The Binna Burra region wraps around the back of Beechmont Estate and has 13 walks for different fitness and experience levels. Quick research into the difficulty of walks will help you find the one just right for you. Whether you’ve only got time for a 30 minute rainforest circuit or a full day trip, you’ll enjoy the walk more if you wake in time for wildlife spotting, and are prepared with the right shoes, insect repellent, sunscreen and water.

Go fall spotting

Make a beeline for Lamington National Park if you want to go waterfall spotting. The Moran Falls are not to be missed. It’s a 4.4km return loop in the Green Mountains section, close to the original O’Reilly’s hut and quite popular with locals for a sunset vista. The two-tier Elabana Falls are on the Box Forest Circuit, another 4 km loop, and are one of the most popular falls in the park. Remember, water levels will vary depending on the season, and a quick check with park authorities can help you avoid disappointment. Looking to have a waterfall to yourself? Beechmont Estate and Park Tours offer a private waterfall hike.

Experience the Rainforest Canopy

When you’re watching your feet it can be easy to forget to look up. The rainforest is all around you, and as light softly filters through the canopy, make sure you take the time to stop and appreciate it. If you want to get a bit closer to the canopy, get a dose of adrenalin along with a birds eye view on a treetop walk across 9 suspension bridges or the flying fox over Moran’s Creek at O’Reilly’s.

Explore the Villages and Local Attractions

The Gold Coast hinterland has not just nature covered. You can rise above the Scenic Rim on a hot air balloon, play a round of golf at Canungra Golf Club, pop into the Binna Burra Tea House, or bliss out at the Beechmont Estate Spa. Or, stay on site at Beechmont Estate and take a Paddock picnic hamper into the rolling hills or book into chef-hatted The Paddock restaurant for lunch. Whatever your speed of sightseeing, there’s something for you.

Nature Hike in Paradise: 5 Must-Do Nature-Based Activities on Orpheus Island

28 Feb, 2024

At 11 kilometres long, and built on volcanic rock, Orpheus Island rises from the Great Barrier Reef in a symphony of granite-studded headlands and sandy arcs. Moreton Bay ash and wattles proliferate across the island while there are also pockets of rainforest, sheltered bays and grasslands.

Part of the Palm Islands group, Orpheus Island was gazetted as a national park in 1960 and during your stay at Orpheus Island Lodge, nature-based experiences co-exist with luxurious accommodation, degustation dinners, and pampering spa treatments.

Make these five nature hikes part of your stay.

#1 – Low-Tide Walk

With the Great Barrier Reef just offshore, you don’t even need to slip into your swimmers to have an encounter with its marine residents. When the tide is low, don a pair of rubber booties to explore the flats and keep an eye out for stingrays and crabs.

#2 – Nature Hike at Pioneer Bay

A short boat ride away from Orpheus Island Lodge, you can join a guided nature hike from Pioneer Bay (tide dependent) up to a viewpoint on the northern end of the island.

#3 – Self-Guided Lookout Nature Hike

Choose your own adventure with an early morning nature hike – climb to a vantage point that looks out over Hazard Bay and the mainland, or to the southeast where you can see the entire Palm Island Group. Look up and you’ll likely spy ospreys and egrets dancing on the breeze.

You’ll also spy the lodge’s 810 glistening solar panels – the eco power source that can save up to 450 litres of diesel fuel in a day.

#4 – Hinchinbrook Island Rainforest Nature Hike

Looking like something out of Jurassic Park, Hinchinbrook Island is known as Munamudanamy by the Bandjin and Girramay peoples – a rugged land of cloud-covered mountains cloaked in rainforest and eucalypt forest.

In its entirety, the 32-kilometre Thorsborne Trail is a challenging hike with only 40 permits handed out at one time. But organise a boat charter from Orpheus Island to Hinchinbrook Island and you can spend half a day on one of Australia’s most renowned nature hikes without lugging all your gear.

Usually guided by Orpheus Island horticulturist, Jen Truasheim (who has lived on the island for 22 years), you’ll experience the diverse topography as you move between lush rainforest, wild swimming holes, waterfalls and lookouts – like the popular Zoe Falls.

#5 – Picnic Bay Beach Clean Up

Combine a nature hike with protecting the Great Barrier Reef when you take part in a beach clean up at Picnic Bay. With over 40,000 pieces of plastic estimated to be floating in every square kilometre of ocean, it’s one of the easiest ways to play your part in preventing injury to marine life.

Occasionally staff will lead group clean ups but you’ll also find a Tangaroa Blue container set up at Picnic Bay for you to pop in any plastics found during your island ambles.

Must-do Eco Friendly Tours on the Great Barrier Reef

28 Feb, 2024

Travelling anywhere comes with a level of responsibility but perhaps nowhere is there a greater need to be environmentally conscious than when visiting the Great Barrier Reef.

Thankfully, eco-friendly tours on the Great Barrier Reef are part of the modus operandi at Orpheus Island Lodge.

With the island playing host to a scientific research station, regular beach cleanups, educational dive and snorkelling trips, and citizen science opportunities, these eco-friendly tours will keep your footprint low and your experiences high.

Research Station Tour

Fascinated by marine scientists and wonder what they get up to all day? The James Cook University Research Station has held an important position in Pioneer Bay on the western side of Goolboodi (Orpheus Island) since the late ‘70s, facilitating more than 600 scientific papers written about corals, fish and seaweed in the area.

On this eco-friendly tour, you’ll all but don a lab coat as you explore the wet and dry laboratories and the live reef touch tanks of the research facility. During specific times of the year, you’ll find marine scientists conducting integral research on climate change, sea level rise and their potential impacts on the local reef and ecosystems.

Picnic Bay Beach Cleanup

The harmful effects of plastics and other debris on marine life is a problem we can all play a part in reversing. Twice a year, the Tangaroa Blue Foundation conducts clean ups on Orpheus Island to remove, sort and record marine debris, entering the tally and details into the Australian Marine Debris Database (AMDI) – and they’ve collected more than 1736 tonnes of rubbish from Australian waters thus far.

Even if a formal beach clean up isn’t scheduled during your stay on the island, you can play your part in the protection of the reef by collecting any rubbish you see and putting it into the Tangaroa Blue container set up at Picnic Bay.

Eco-Educational Dive and Snorkel

When we have a connection to something, we’re more likely to rally to save it, which is why a half-day dive charter or a snorkelling trip to the protected giant clam garden at Pioneer Bay are ideal eco-friendly tours to book during your stay on the Great Barrier Reef.

Planted in the 1980s in an effort to save the species from the brink of extinction, the giant clam nursery is now populated by 300 of the world’s largest bivalve molluscs, weighing up to 200kg each.

DIY Research Volunteering

While not an organised eco friendly tour per se, participating in a citizen science project during your stay at Orpheus Island Lodge is an easy (and free!) way to take action against the climate crisis. Choose from local projects where you can complete surveys, and provide data and photos – in or out of the water – to assist professional scientists and conservation groups.

Download a coral health chart from Coral Watch and you can contribute important information to help scientists understand more about coral bleaching events. With The GBRMPA’s Eye on the Reef app, you can record reef health, animal sightings or incidents to help those who manage the Great Barrier Reef. There are projects covering everything from turtles to manta rays, and mangroves to coral.

The hidden stories behind these stunning Great Barrier Reef islands

28 Feb, 2024

They say, ‘no man is an island’ and no island is alone either, at least in the case of the Palm Island group, which Orpheus Island Lodge calls home.

You’ll play eye spy with the group of 16 Great Barrier Reef islands as you enjoy your helicopter transfer to Orpheus Island – some which have a vivid and chequered history.

Bookended by other Great Barrier Reef islands like Hinchinbrook and Magnetic, there are plenty of stories waiting to be explored.

Pelorus Island

You may have never heard of it, but Pelorus Island – just 15 minutes from Orpheus Island by boat – will soon play host to one of the most exclusive holiday homes in the Great Barrier Reef islands. Opening from October 2023, Pelorus Private Island will feature four luxurious suites on an unspoilt sandy spit, from where you can snorkel straight from the beach, cruise the Palm Island group on an amphibious yacht, and fish for the most sought-after reef species in the world.

Great Palm Island

The largest in the group, Great Palm Island has made the news for not-so-positive reasons in the past. The 1999 edition of the Guinness Book of World Records controversially named it as the most violent place on earth, outside a combat zone. But out of punitive beginnings, strong community and cultural ties have been bound. Known by the name Bwgcolman, meaning ‘one people from many groups’, traditional owners from up to 57 language groups were forcibly moved to the island from 1918. Today, with one pub, a small township and spectacular fringing reef, Lonely Planet has named it as one of the world’s most unique destinations to visit in their book, Offbeat (2022).

Fantome Island

These days, Eumilli Island (Fantome Island) is uninhabited but join a historical tour from Orpheus Island and you’ll be privy to the heritage-listed ruins that remain, offering a glimpse of its less-than-paradisiacal past. In the 1920s-1930s it was home to a lock hospital (for those with venereal disease) and leprosarium, known as the lazaret.

Hinchinbrook Island

You’d need months to begin to penetrate what lies beneath the Jurassic exterior of Munamudanamy (Hinchinbrook Island). North of the Palm Island group, between Cardwell and Lucinda, this is the home of the Thorsborne Trail – a bucket list, self-sufficient hike that traverses 32 ungraded kilometres. You can enjoy a taste tester by joining a half-day charter from Orpheus Island under the masterful guidance of horticulturalist and longtime local, Jen Truasheim, and score the money shot from beautiful Zoe Falls.

Magnetic Island

One of the better known Great Barrier Reef islands, Yunbenun (Magnetic Island) is home to over 2100 residents and even has its own postcode. Blessed with great tracts of national park, boulder-strewn beaches, and the largest colony of free-roaming koalas in Northern Queensland, ‘Maggie’ is becoming increasingly popular as a pre- or post-stay after Orpheus Island. Book a direct helicopter transfer to the island to save time travelling back to Townsville then over on the ferry.

The best times of the year for whale watching, dugongs & manta rays

28 Feb, 2024

Want to whale watch this year? Don’t forget the dugongs and the manta rays! There’s no better place to catch these creatures of the deep than smack bang in the middle of all the action. Here’s when to be on the lookout when staying at Orpheus Island Lodge.

Whale tales

Is there anything quite like the thrill of spotting a whale spout in the distance or seeing a breach right before your eyes? The answer is no. Humpback whales hang out near Orpheus Island during their winter months as they migrate north from Antarctica seeking warmer waters from June through to September. Join a Great Barrier Reef cruise to go humpback whale spotting near Orpheus Island, and if you’re also heading further north this winter you may even spot a minke whale in the Ribbon Reefs off Cairns.

Don’t miss the dugongs

Year round, dugongs like to hang out in the shallow seagrass around Hinchinbrook Island. Hop on a bespoke charter out to the island and keep your eyes peeled for these beasts. They can weigh in at 400 kilos and be as long as three metres but it’s still a rare, special moment when you see one in the wild.

Ray time

Mantas are the largest rays in the world and you’ll find them off Orpheus Island Lodge from May through to August. They are around year-round, but this is when there’ll be larger numbers out and about. Unlike their cousins the sting ray, manta rays have no barb, so you can swim or snorkel with ease, though it’s important to still respect the personal boundaries of these undersea beauties.

Swim with sea turtles

Snorkelling alongside a sea turtle is a rite of passage, or it should be. You’ll find them year-round off Orpheus Island, but it’s later in the year, from November through to January, when the female turtles come out of the water to lay their eggs on sandy shores.

Family-Friendly Outback Adventure: The Ultimate Family Holiday at Mt Mulligan Lodge

28 Feb, 2024

School holidays look a little different when you take the family on adventure holidays in the Australian outback.

Set against the dramatic backdrop of Ngarrabullgan (Mount Mulligan) on a 28,000 hectare outback property 160 kilometres north-west of Cairns, the family-friendly Mt Mulligan Lodge is designed for those who know the best memories are made when you’re on an adventure. As General Manager, Adam Barnett says, “This is the first hotel I have worked at where parents love seeing their kids getting dirty and dusty!”

With gold rush and mining history to be discovered, ATVs to ride, the chance to take part in cattle mustering (in season), and a centrepiece weir calling you to fish, kayak, and stand-up paddleboard, by the time you gather around the fire pit as dusk descends, the kids’ eyelids will be heavier than a first-generation iPad.

Here are just some of the ways you can create the ultimate family-friendly adventure holidays at Mt Mulligan Lodge.

Ditch the devices and embrace adventure

You’re in the outback so it’s time to untether from technology and dose up on family-friendly adventures, lest they suffer any serious withdrawals. With no mobile phone coverage and extremely limited WiFi, this is the chance to introduce the kids to the bush telly (aka fire) and enjoy the expansiveness of each day in (truly) present company.

Forget theme parks and go tubing instead

Spend a VIP afternoon on the Hodgkinson River floating on tubes and taking in the serenity of the outback, just for your family (max. 4 guests). While the kids try their luck panning for gold or catching a red claw, you can enjoy a sundowner on the river bank.

Meet the locals

Adventure holidays are always that little bit richer when there’s wildlife involved. Meet the Brahman that call this cattle station home, go stand-up paddleboarding on the weir to spy elusive platypus, or hop into a kayak and try ‘yak angling’ for barramundi. Riding ATVs also adds to the adventure.

Become a junior ranger (no khakis required)

Children of all ages are welcome at Mt Mulligan Lodge and whether you’ve got toddlers or teens, sign them up to become a junior ranger during your stay. They’ll learn about animal tracks and bush medicine, feed the barramundi in the weir and get schooled on the flora and fauna of this ruggedly beautiful place. Back at base camp, there’s puzzles, colouring, drawing and more to keep them engaged, with content tweaked to suit.

Show them stars you won’t find on TikTok

Stargazing in the Australian outback is unsurpassed and a great family-friendly activity to enjoy together on your holiday. Look through the telescope and use the Mount Mulligan Night Sky Map during the guided Celestial Dreams experience to get acquainted with the infiniteness of the southern sky.

Go outback glamping

Embrace the family camping holiday spirit without roughing it when you book the solar powered Outback Family Tent at Mt Mulligan Lodge. Or if you prefer solid walls to canvas, the Outback Pavilion and Outback Suite both provide ample space for families. The Outback Pavilion has two separate bedrooms, two bathrooms, two outdoor bathtubs and a sitting area which can accommodate a fifth guest.