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In his 1933 novel Lost Horizon, author James Hilton describes Shangri-La as a mystical and harmonious valley. A perfect place synonymous with any paradise found on earth where nature and civilisation coexist in rapturous beauty. He never got the chance to see Executive Retreats’ Shangri-La. But the comfort and sensuous beauty found here probably would have left even him lost for words.
Located in a uniquely beautiful area where two world heritage listed sites collide, Shangri-La’s enviable location is the point at which the Daintree Rainforest and the Great Barrier Reef meet. Founded in 1992 by husband and wife team Hans and Wendy Van der Wolf as part of their Executive Retreats portfolio, and now employing six locals, the aptly named accommodation offers guests a taste of earthly paradise.
Tropical Far North Queensland boasts a pleasant climate all year round with only two distinct seasons marked by a dryer and cooler period in winter and a warm and drenching period in summer. Not really having Spring or Autumn at all, the dry period lasts from May to October with temperatures between 18 – 28 degrees Celsius. This usually means stunning weather with plenty of sunshine and sea breezes and is a perfect time for travellers venturing out of less sunny climates to enjoy the weather and activities.
The tropical summer months reach 29-33 degrees Celsius from November to April and is the time to enjoy the rainforest at its best, when growth and rejuvenation occur, and the jungle erupts with life.
Of course, such fabulous weather comes with many opportunities to swim and enjoy the waters. For this there is a swimming enclosure at Four Mile Beach in Port Douglas, fresh water swimming areas at Mossman Gorge and of course the Great Barrier Reef which is something that cannot be missed.
“We’ve tried them all and swimming, diving, snorkelling and a wealth of other water-based activities can be enjoyed here,” Wendy says, “Nature watching is very recommended and there is a lot of wildlife available to see. These range from birds of paradise to unique native animals and some very wild predators including the estuarine crocodiles which are found in the Daintree River.”
Intimate and private there are four bedrooms and a poolside cabana decorated in a tropical French provincial style. At every turn the natural beauty of the area is highlighted enabling the guest to soak in the scenery.
Executive Retreats have won many architectural and holiday awards over the years including Best Holiday Rental Company in 2017 and Best Holiday House 2018. So, Shangri-La, like all of their properties are held to the highest standards.
“Shangri-La is thoroughly prepared for each guest arrival,” Hans explains, “All linen is supplied including pool towels and a complimentary mid stay service for guests staying eight nights or more. The approach is to prepare everything from the smallest detail to the largest. Perfection is as much about taking the time to carefully clean in the corners as it is about making the most of the luxury and scenery.”
The minimum stay is five nights and the cost is $595 AUS or $416.61 US per night and booking ahead is definitely advised. Local attractions and tours can also be arranged.
About Hans and Wendy
While neither Hans or Wendy originally came from hospitality backgrounds, they were both previously involved in customer focused industries where standards were golden and valued.
Hans was born in Utrecht Holland under a travelling star and spent his youth pursuing a passion for adventure and travel. His younger years were dedicated to hours of sailing and tacking across the many lakes and rivers of Holland and his adult life has been defined by global travels, adventures and stunning, picturesque landscapes. He moved to Sydney with his family in 1955 and established various restaurants in the northern suburbs before joining Qantas Airlines in 1963. This would become a 35-year long career in flying the world and catering for discerning 1st Class Passengers.
Wendy was born in New South Wales on a country property and had dreams of becoming an architect but began her career as a school teacher. This was in a period when technical drawing was seen as a strictly masculine pursuit, so Wendy turned her attention to languages, later studying Linguistics at University level. This choice proved to be advantageous for her own worldwide travels.
When she joined Pam Am Airlines in the early 1970’s Wendy was exposed to the globe and had the opportunity to fly extensively between Europe, the USA and the Middle East. She later joined Qantas Airlines in 1977 and while her passions for travel and adventure grew, she continued to study design and architecture with a particular focus on the international styles and trends she was able to experience.
“I met Hans during this period,” she reveals, “And we shared similar appreciations for design, architecture and a love for the tropical lifestyle and this culminated in 1992 when we launched our business and developed various private luxury retreats following our own unique concept. We call it The Art of Tropical Living.”
The couple themselves have lived in tropical Far North Queensland since 1989. They decided after flying the world together that the tropical region north of Port Douglas was the best kept secret and the most beautiful paradise destination in which to settle. They owned beachfront properties at Four Mile and Newell Beach which gave them the opportunity to develop their passion for interior design and apply a unique approach to tropical architecture.
Wendy reveals that their secret is channelling their love for the area, both in the rainforests and the ocean, and their passions directly into their holiday retreats, “This is much easier when you actually live in the area yourself,” she adds.
What Guests Can Expect
Hans spent much time based in Tahiti and during this time he was personally selected on two separate occasions to care for HM Queen Elizabeth. He is also on a first name basis for many of the world’s celebrities and various movers and shakers of the business community. Applying the same methodology to customer service with Executive Retreats means that he and Wendy have excellent rapport with their clients, many of which are return guests.
“Guests are greeted at each property and guided through the details so that they can feel right at home,” Hans reveals, “We prefer an attentive but unobtrusive customer service and our professional and experienced staff are always available to assist with a guest’s holiday needs without being crowded.”
Executive Retreats. Exclusive Standard
Hans and Wendy have truly achieved something magnificent and Executive Retreats has a well-earned reputation for luxurious and unique holiday accommodations in Tropical Australia. Their portfolio ranges across beachfront properties on the sand gazing out at the glistening Coral Sea, exquisite, palatial homes in Port Douglas and private lifestyle retreats featuring acreage and exotic gardens. All blissfully combining modern conveniences and luxury with secluded paradises just like the mythical Shangri-La.
“We have had the chance to search the world for a place more beautiful and perfect than here,” Wendy says, “But we haven’t found it yet.”
Minimum 5 nights = AUD $2975 (based on 4 guests @ AUD $595 per night)