Australia: Natural riches

Sydney and New South Wales’ luxury hotel offering has come on in leaps and bounds, discovers Ellie Fazan

As we wind and bump along the curve of the river in a 4x4, brazen kangaroos sit back on their haunches and cock their heads in greeting. It’s springtime in the Blue Mountains, the air is scented with eucalyptus and clematis, and joeys tumble about. A startled youngster tries to scrabble back into his mother’s pouch, back legs comically sticking out as he delves in head first. 

"We have a policy that if you don’t see a kangaroo here you get your money back,"

 jokes James Wyndham, general manager of Emirates One&Only Wolgan Valley, who picked us up in the resort’s 4x4. About 9,000 kangaroos, wallaroos and wallabies live on this 7,000-acre conservation reserve that just so happens to have an ultra-luxury resort on it.

As we’re talking, James slows the car to let a wombat cross in front of us. And the wildlife doesn’t stop with the aforementioned showstoppers. There are also 96 types of birds and 42 species of reptile, including a two‑metre-long goanna called Gary.

The property’s origins as a cattle ranch date back to 1832, and inform much of its design. The dining room’s chandelier is made from an old cattle trough; the table from a tree felled in a storm. Everything has a story. Legend has it that Charles Darwin visited, taking a platypus home with him. Platypus still live here, a sign of how clean the spring-fed creek is.

Protecting the environment

On arriving at the main homestead – a contemporary ranch with lofty, timber-beamed ceilings, sandstone walls and spectacular panoramic views across the valley – we’re welcomed like treasured friends, and handed a glass of pink fizz. It’s made at the Bimbagden Estate, in the Hunter Valley. In fact, much of the food and wine served here originates in New South Wales.

It’s all part of a philosophy to not only be carbon neutral but also to make a positive impact within the local community. 

Designed to blend into the natural surroundings, the Emirates One&Only Wolgan Valley’s 41 beautiful villas fan out in the lush valley, designed with floor-to-ceiling windows to capture panoramic views yet at the same time offer a sense of seclusion. Beds are so deep and plentiful that it’s not unheard of for guests to buy them. In the summer, colonial-style fans come into use, while log fires sizzle come winter.

On the activities front, there are numerous ways to experience the flora and fauna of the region, with a stables tour, nature walk of Carne Creek, colonial heritage tour and stargazing talk all included in the stay.

This is my final stop on a whirlwind journey that has taken me from Sydney’s glittering harbour, through the rolling hills of the Hunter Valley, and on to the hazy Blue Mountains. There, the views that greet me on my final morning are the perfect balancing act to the view that greeted me on my first morning in Sydney’s Park Hyatt.

In the city

Located among the cobbled laneways, cafés, art galleries, museums and luxury stores of the Rocks, the Park Hyatt hugs the curve of the harbour giving exceptional views of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and Opera House. But at just three storeys high, you remain so close to the action that you can hear boats churning on the water.

My room is a showstopper, with warm neutral tones of marble, leather and wood, a carpet so deep you could fall into it and a bath so big you could swim. But all this pales in comparison to the view. It’s a striking blue day, and the gleaming sails of the Opera House fill the window frames.

Awake at 4am, jet-lagged and over-excited, I sat on the edge of my vast bed watching the sky change from black to bruised purple to lilac to pink and peach, until the sun burst gold from behind the Opera House. As the sky changed, the harbour came to life, with the Manly Ferry buzzing commuters to and fro, and Sydneysiders running – and Rollerblading – just beneath my window. Everything, from the views to the specially commissioned art by prominent Australian artists in every room, shows this hotel is all about creating a connection to the city.

Being so close to the water has practical benefits too, as we discover when our taxi comes to pick us for lunch. As we board our luxurious Sydney Princess Cruises boat for our Sydney Harbour Long Lunch sailing, we’re handed champagne before setting sail for Doyles. After an afternoon feasting on spectacular seafood, we’re dropped right back at the hotel’s pier, in time for a swim in the rooftop pool before the sun dips behind the mighty bridge. How’s that for door-to-door service?

Winemakers galore

After a dose of city life, we set off to embrace a more rural side of New South Wales. The delightful home comforts of Spicers Guesthouse are less than two hours away in the heart of the Hunter Valley. Yet sitting on the veranda, surrounded by the sweet smell of jasmine, with a glass of the Hunter’s trademark semillon in hand and a peaceful mob of kangaroos grazing on the lawn in front of us, Sydney feels a world away.

Spicers first opened in 1984 as Peppers. It’s where legendary families of wine – the De Bortolis and Tyrrells – would come to eat and share stories of winemaking. And wine is still as important today. Behind us in the private dining room is a wall of wine collected from the valley. In front of us the valley drops away revealing rolling views of vineyards. The table is laden with its finest produce.

This area is renowned for its delicious local food and wine, and it delivers on all counts. It would be impossible to come here and not delve into the destination through your taste buds, while the epic views are also an assault on the senses.

The wonderful thing about this part of the world, just two hours from Sydney, is that there’s plenty to do: wildlife walks, bike riding, wine tasting, horse riding and – at Wolgan Valley – even tree planting.

In New South Wales, you’d find it hard not to embrace the local wellbeing ethos. Once you do, you ensure you’ll leave relaxed, well-fed and buzzing with a new lease of life.

Book it

Prices for a King Room at Spicers Guesthouse start at $329, and includes an à la carte breakfast for two.spicersretreats.com/retreats/spicers-guesthouse

A 73sq m Cove Suite at Park Hyatt Sydney features a king-sized bed, two balconies with city views, and separate seating area. Prices from £1,247 based on a minimum two-night stay.hyatt.com/en-US/hotel/australia/park-hyatt-sydney/sydph

A Heritage Villa at Emirates One&Only Wolgan Valley – with a private pool and veranda – starts at £1,128 for two nights, and is all-inclusive.oneandonlyresorts.com/one-and-only-wolgan-valley-australia

 

Hollie-Rae Brader

Hollie is editor of Aspire’s print and online products. She is responsible for the running of the club and ensuring the content produced and the events organised are relevant to the Aspire audience. She was previously deputy news editor and cruise writer for sister title Travel Weekly. She loves exploring new destinations and is gradually ticking new countries off her list. She most enjoys writing about cruise, South America and Japan. Before working in the travel industry she held news reporting roles at the East Anglian Daily Times and Ipswich Star.

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