Couples' Retreat - Luxury Travel Magazine
Blue Mountains Couples' Retreat
|By: David Hickie, Issue 44 – Spring 2010|
|(Wolgan Valley, NSW, Australia)|
|SOME PLACES ARE WELL SET UP FOR IT. WOLGAN VALLEY RESORT & SPA, JUST THREE HOURS FROM SYDNEY BY CAR, OR 45 MINUTES BY HELICOPTER, PROVED TO BE A PERFECT PLACE FOR A COUPLES’ RETREAT.|
|The brief was simple: two busy couples seeking a three-day luxury sojourn to celebrate joint 20th wedding anniversaries a world away from the hustle and bustle of Sydney. Significant physical exertion required: No. Endless adrenalin-charged activities required: No. Peace and quiet and total serenity required: Yes. Yes. Yes. Welcome to Wolgan Valley, where only the kangaroos by day and wombats by night seem on-the-move at all, and even they amble at an extremely leisurely pace.|
Wolgan Valley Resort & Spa is nestled within its own private conservation and nature reserve, beneath the dramatic escarpments of the rugged Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area west of Sydney. It is bordered by the Wollemi and Gardens Of Stone national parks and staff pride themselves on its mantra: “Australia’s most environmentally responsible tourist destination.” On this front, Wolgan Valley proudly trumpets that it received a carbon neutral certificate within three months of opening from carboNZero (an internationally accredited greenhouse gas certification scheme) to become the world’s first hotel to be issued an internationally accredited carbon neutral certificate.
The resort offers 36 individual Heritage Suites, constructed from wood and stone materials and designed in a contemporary take on Federation-style for single guests or couples seeking luxurious surroundings on a stress-free break. Each has a private pool with its own deck, surrounded by a garden of native plants and shrubs, and a spacious adjoining verandah.
The resort also offers three voluminous Wollemi Suites, exactly what we were looking for and perfect for our two-couple shared getaway. These suites operate as mini private lodges, with separate extensive bedroom suites each with king-size beds and their own large ensuite bathrooms (featuring his and hers vanity area, plus separate bath and shower) and walk-in dressing rooms.
The bedrooms sit on either side of a large living room, with a huge double-sided stone fireplace, and separate dining area. The suites are thoughtfully arranged to provide groups with sufficient space as well as separate areas, to be together or find a peaceful nook to curl up and enjoy a good book. They also include LCD TV, DVD player and sound system, international TV channels, high-speed internet access and an iPod docking station.
Each suite has its own private temperature-controlled swimming pool with a secluded sun deck, adjacent to a courtyard garden of native plants and shrubs, and an adjoining outside eating area. And they offer same-day laundry/dry-cleaning service, 24-hour room service and (for those inclined) at-the-door mountain bicycles.
Outside, the sense of tranquillity is all-pervading. By day, guests have access to personal Field Guides, who provide a great opportunity to see the region in complete safety while conversing with trained experts. They advise not only on the most appropriate times to see particular wildlife, but also the best areas and ways to do it (whether on foot or by car, horseback or bike). Guests can choose from relaxing riverside strolls (watch out for the dozens of wombat burrows) or hiking along nature trails, as well as exploring the nearby countryside on horseback, touring by four-wheel drive, mountain biking through forests or stargazing in the dead of night.
The Wildlife and Sundowner tour (two hours) begins approximately 30 minutes before sunset, driving over grassland and across creeks in a four-wheel drive to observe kangaroos, wallaroos and wallabies and a variety of smaller, lesser-known species. The tour concludes with fresh canapés accompanied by a glass of sparkling wine and refreshments as you watch the sun disappear over the horizon.
Since much of Australia’s wildlife is nocturnal, night-spotting activities offer a different perspective to trips during the daylight hours. The Nocturnal Wildlife Spotlighting & Stargazing tour (one and a half hours) departs after dinner via four-wheel drive and (using spotlights) reveals the flashing eyes of large numbers of wombats, possums, wallaroos and wallabies.
For those wishing to undertake a horse riding tour (one and a half hours, varying from beginner to advanced), field guides lead individual or small group excursions and riders remain within radio contact of the resort throughout. For adventurous equestrians, a 12-kilometre ride is available as a half-day excursion including a gourmet picnic lunch.
Back in the main lodge, executive chef Dwane Goodman has developed a food philosophy based on “the seasonal, regional and organic produce of local boutique farms, private growers and vintners.” He boasts the selection of fruits, vegetables and nuts used in his kitchen are from the resort’s own garden, “complemented by organic produce sourced from a radius of no more than 160 kilometres where possible”. His specialties include Ormiston free-range pork, Mandagery Creek Venison and Oberon line trout, as well as a selection of delicious local cheeses.
Of course, no short break is complete without a relaxing spa treatment. Wolgan Valley’s Timeless Spa is open every day between 8am and 8pm, with six double-treatment rooms enabling guests to share the spa experience; each room has its own changing area and private bathroom featuring a shower and Japanese-style soaking tub to complete the luxurious experience.
The spa specialises in a seemingly endless range of exotic treatments. Importantly, guests can choose to be treated in the calming spa environment or arrange for a Spa Therapist to provide treatments in the privacy of guest suites. Along with the Timeless Spa, a fully equipped gym, swimming pool, sauna and steam rooms are also available.
In the end, our three days involved endless hours chatting and laughing and reminiscing and gossiping as each meal turned into a three-hour gabfest amid the complete tranquillity of the balmy surroundings.
Throw in a session in the spa, a leisurely (and surprisingly informative) riverbank walk with an enthusiastic field guide, an evening excursion of nocturnal wildlife spotlighting and nightcaps around the massive stone fireplaces, and Wolgan Valley offered exactly what we were seeking: a luxury couples retreat (with no pressure to participate in anything strenuous unless we chose) and all within three hours of Sydney.
|The rates for a Wollemi Suite, with a maximum capacity of four people, is A$3,500 per night for the suite. There is a less expensive per night rate for a three night stay. During your stay your breakfast, daily lunch and dinner, non-alcoholic beverages and a selected range of regional alcoholic beverages with meals are included in the tariff. You can also take advantage of two on-site nature-based activities per day.|
|HERE ARE SOME OTHER PROPERTIES GREAT FOR FRIENDS GETTING TOGETHER|
VILLA ELISABETTA TUSCANY
|If you want to get out and explore the attractions of Tuscany with a group of friends, at Villa Elisabetta they are on your doorstep. The ancient walled city of Lucca is ten minutes away and Florence, Italy’s capital of art, is just over an hour away. Open-air markets, vineyards, horseback riding, mountain biking, golfing, and shopping are all found in the area. Villa Elisabetta is a 19th century Tuscan villa with six bedrooms and four and a half bathrooms, a spacious terrace for al fresco dining, manicured gardens, swimming pool, and the tarrif includes maid service and a cook. Four legged friends are also welcome and there’s a special stone dog house for them to stay in.|
For ten guests, the cost is A$11,000 per week during peak season and A$9,205 during low season.
|For more Tuscan villas visit www.italianvillavacations.com.au |
|VILLA MOONLIGHT BALI|
|Suspended above a river gorge at Uluwatu and overlooking the Indian Ocean, the four-bedroom Villa Moonlight is a great place for a group of friends to holiday in Bali. Complete with villa attendants, cooks, guards and a waitress, the villa also features Jacuzzis for two located in each ensuite and terraced gardens alongside a 15-metre swimming pool. Each bedroom is on its own floor for privacy and all living areas can be opened up for a truly tropical experience. The beach is a mere few minutes drive from the villa, but if guests crave the nightlife, Kuta and Seminyak are only 45 minutes away. The island also offers golf, tennis, horseback riding, dive schools and sailing cruises. |
The villa is A$900 a night in peak season and A$645 in low season.
|For more luxury Bali villas with staff visit www.bhmvillas.com|
|ALA MOANA HAMILTON ISLAND|
|This private house is located on Hamilton Island in the heart of the Great Barrier Reef with views of the Pacific Ocean. With five bedrooms, spa, and infinity-pool, the aim is to relax, and Ala Moana provides that with housekeeping, a personal chef and a beauty and massage therapist. The private residence also comes with a 48ft flybridge yacht if a cruise is up your alley, and Hamilton Island also offers fishing, kayaking, sailing, scuba-diving, helicopter charters, jet-skiing and world famous beaches – all activities that can be arranged by the staff. |
Price per night is from A$5,500.
|LAKE OKAREKA LODGE ROTORUA NEW ZEALAND|
|Rotorua, New Zealand is home to this five-star lodge nestled on the shores of Lake Okareka accessible by car, helicopter and watercraft. The three-suite lodge comes with a gym, massage room, wine cellar, outdoor hot spa and library and is equipped with a boat, floatplane jetty, kayaks and jetskis to enjoy the surrounding private beaches. All suites have lake views, plasma televisions, sumptuous bathrooms, and Bulgari toiletries. A stay at the lodge provides guests with exclusive access to the gated estate as well as an internationally trained chef and 24 hour butler service. |
The price per night for the entire lodge is A$8,102 during peak season and A$4,720 during low season.