Accommodations properties in Australia carry star ratings given by AAA Tourism, which has been awarding ratings since the 1950s. This independent assessment is based on facilities, amenities, maintenance, and cleanliness. Ratings run from one to five stars. Stars are featured in AAA Tourism guides, and recent research shows 70% of travelers use the star ratings when choosing their accommodations (these star ratings are noted below using asterisks). The rating scheme covers over 18,000 accommodations throughout every state and territory.
One-Star -- Offers a basic standard of accommodations, simply furnished, with a resident manager.
Two-Stars -- Similar standard to one star but offers more comfort and value with additional features. These are well-maintained properties offering an average standard of accommodations with average furnishings, bedding, and floor coverings.
Three-Stars -- Well appointed, with a comfortable standard of accommodations, and above-average furnishings and floor coverings.
Four-Stars -- Exceptionally well-appointed establishments with high-quality furnishings, a high degree of comfort, high standard of presentation, and guest services.
Five-Stars -- International standard establishments offering superior appointments, furnishings, and decor, with an extensive range of first-class guest services. Reception, room service, and housekeeping available 18 hours a day, with restaurant/bistro facilities available 7 nights a week. A number and variety of room styles, suites, or both are available. Choice of dining facilities, 24-hour room service, housekeeping, and valet parking. Porter and concierge service available, as well as a dedicated business center and conference facilities.
Note: All accommodations listed in this guide have private bathrooms unless otherwise noted.
It's a rare hotel room that does not have reverse-cycle air-conditioning for heating and cooling, a telephone, a color TV, a clock radio, a minifridge (if not a minibar), an iron and ironing board, and self-serve coffee and tea. Private bathrooms are standard, although they often have only a shower, not a tub.
The largest hotel group in Australia is the French chain Accor, which has more than 100 properties (that's about 15,000 rooms) under its Sofitel, Novotel, Mercure, All Seasons, Ibis, and Formule 1 brands. Many other international chains, such as Marriott, Sheraton, and Hilton, have properties in Australia.
Serviced apartments are favored by many Aussie families and business travelers. You get a fully furnished apartment with one, two, or three bedrooms, a living room, a kitchen or kitchenette, a laundry, and often two bathrooms -- in other words, all the facilities of a hotel suite and more, often for less than the cost of a four-star hotel room. (Not every apartment kitchen has a dishwasher, so check if that's important to you.) A nice two-bedroom apartment's cost can vary a night, depending on your location and the season. Australia's apartment inventory is enormous and ranges from clean and comfortable, if a little dated, to luxurious. Most apartments can be rented for 1 night, especially in cities, but in popular vacation spots, some proprietors will insist on a minimum 3-night stay, or even a week in high season.
Medina Serviced Apartments (tel. 1300/633 462 in Australia, or 02/9356 1000; www.medinaapartments.com.au) has a chain of midrange to upscale properties in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Canberra, Adelaide, and Perth (and a new property to open in Darwin in 2008). Australia's biggest apartment chain, with more than 100 properties, is Quest Serviced Apartments (tel. 1800/334 033 in Australia, or 03/9645 8357, 0800/944 400 in New Zealand; www.questapartments.com.au). It has apartments in every state and territory.
Motels & Motor Inns
Australia's plentiful motels are neat and clean, if often a little dated. You can count on them to provide air-conditioning, a telephone, a color TV, a clock radio, a minifridge or minibar, and self-serve tea and coffee. Most have only showers, not bathtubs. Some have restaurants attached, and many have swimming pools. Motor inns offer a greater range of facilities and a generally higher standard of rooms than motels.
Bed & Breakfast Inns
B&Bs are cheap and plentiful in Australia. It is easy to find charming rooms at a good price for a double. Bathroom facilities are often shared, although more properties now offer private, if not always en-suite (attached), bathrooms.
Travel agents rarely list B&Bs because the establishments are not big enough to pay a commission, so they can be hard to find. A good source is The Australian Bed & Breakfast Book (www.bbbook.com.au), which lists more than 400 B&Bs across Australia. Although the B&Bs pay to be in the book, they have to meet standards set by the editors. The entire book is posted on the website, and in Australia, it's widely available in bookshops and newsdealers, or you can order it direct (tel. 02/6658 5701) plus an extra fee for overseas air-express postage.
What Next? Productions (tel. 0438/600 696 mobile phone; www.beautifulaccommodation.com) publishes a series of Beautiful Accommodation color guides listing around 500 exquisite properties in every state and territory, many in charming country areas. The properties listed are more upscale than most. Each book can be bought in Australian bookstores and can be ordered online.
Another good website is that of Bed & Breakfast and Farmstay Australia (www.australianbedandbreakfast.com.au)which has links to all state B&B organizations.
Aussie pubs are really made for drinking, not spending the night, but many offer rooms upstairs, usually with shared bathroom facilities. Because most pubs are decades old, the rooms may be either old-fashioned or just plain old. Pub accommodations are dying out in the cities but still common in the country. Australians are rowdy drinkers, so sleeping over the bar can be hellishly noisy, but the pub's saving grace is incredibly low rates. Most charge per person, not per room.
The Aussie answer to the dude ranch is a farmstay. Australian farmstays are rarely as well set up for tourists as the dude ranch Billy Crystal's character visited in City Slickers. Most are farms first, tourist operations second, so you may have to find your own fun and know how to take care of yourself, at least to a degree.
Accommodations on farms can be anything from a basic bunkhouse (ask if it's air-conditioned, because most farms are in very hot areas) to rustically luxurious digs. Do some research on your farm -- a lot of activities are seasonal, some farmers will not allow you to get involved in dangerous work, not all will offer horseback riding, and farm means different things in different parts of Australia. If you like green fields and dairy cows, Victoria may be the place for you. If checking fences on a dusty 500,000-hectare (1.2-million-acre) Outback station (ranch) sounds wildly romantic, head to Western Australia, Queensland, or the Northern Territory.
The website of Bed & Breakfast and Farmstay Australia (www.australianbedandbreakfast.com.au) has links to all state farmstay organizations.
Another good contact is Accommodation Getaways Victoria (tel. 1300/132 358 in Australia, or 03/9431 5417; www.agv.net.au). Bed & Breakfast and Farmstay NT (www.bed-and-breakfast.au.com) lists about 20 Northern Territory properties in Darwin, the Top End, and the Red Centre.
Rates vary, but you will find many properties sometimes includes breakfast. Meals are often available as an optional extra.
Swap Your House?
House-swapping is becoming a more popular and viable means of travel; you stay in their place, they stay in yours, and you both get an authentic and personal view of the area, the opposite of the escapist retreat that many hotels offer. Try HomeLink International (Homelink.org), the largest and oldest home-swapping organization, founded in 1952, with over 11,000 listings worldwide (yearly membership available). There is a branch of HomeLink in Australia. Others with lots of Australian properties to choose from are HomeforExchange.com (6 months membership available), InterVac.com (1 year membership), and the U.K.-based Home Base Holidays (www.homebase-hols.com), where you can browse the listings free, but there's a fee a year to view the contact details or to list your own home.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.