With just four refined, wood-panelled lodges, Pretty Beach House is an intimate coastal guesthouse open to the elements in the best possible way. The native eucalypts and ancient angophoras of Bouddi National Park brush against each private terrace and there are sweeping views down to Broken Bay. Soak in your private plunge pool until the stars come out, enjoy all-inclusive dishes or try a local flower-and herb-infused spa treatment.
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A welcome glass each of French Champagne on arrival
11am, but flexible, subject to availability. On arrival day, guests are invited to take a leisurely lunch from noon, before checking in to their pavilion at 2pm.
Double rooms from £1273.88 (AU$2,250), including tax at 10 per cent.
Rates include all meals, selected soft and alcoholic drinks, a free minibar, snacks, a 'welcome to the country' didgeridoo-smoking ceremony (with canapés and cocktails), and mountain bike hire.
Don’t miss the day-bed perched high out of sight on the edge of the property. Take Pretty Beach House’s skippered Cabo 38 Express fishing boat for a spin on Brisbane Water or seek out hidden, empty beaches where you can swim, snorkel and fish. Best of all, you can take a picnic hamper from the restaurant with you. To stretch your pins, try a guided walk through the Bouddi Peninsula or stroll over to private Tallow Beach and its tempting surf break. Keep your eyes peeled for works by renowned Aussie artists Sidney Nolan and John Olsen in the main house too.
At the hotel
Spa, lounge, parking, free WiFi throughout. In rooms: flatscreen TV and DVD player, iPod dock, minibar, coffee maker and kettle with a selection of teas, Li’tya toiletries.
Our favourite rooms
Shielded by gardens and gum trees, the Hideaway Pavilion lives up to its name as a secluded den decked out in natural fabrics, recycled timbers, bespoke furnishings and local art. For more elbow-room, check in to the Retreat, a two-floor stay with his ’n’ hers bathrooms.
Gaze over the treetops from the unheated infinity pool outside the main building, or stretch out on a day-bed with a good book and only the gentle rustle of branches to disturb you.
Bouddi Spa is small and serene with a dedicated couples’ treatment room and all-natural Li’tya products. You and your amour can be buffed with hand-carved crystals, slathered with aromatic native plant oils and revived with traditional aboriginal healing methods. Mani-pedis and a special massage for mums-to-be are offered too.
A penknife for whittling fallen angophora branches.
Guests must stay for two nights or more. Smoking is allowed outside only.
The air of romantic seclusion the guesthouse creates isn’t best suited to rugrats; children under 15 are not allowed.
A table on the timber deck by the infinity pool offers dress-circle views.
Go au naturel – in a fashion – in floaty cotton dresses and cosy cashmere shawls. Pack a linen blazer if Mr Smith feels the need to smarten up.
Meals at Pretty Beach House revolve around elegant, seasonal Italian dishes, such as quail and mushroom ravioli and zucchini flowers stuffed with taleggio. Handmade pizzas are cooked in the on-site Stefano Ferrera pizza oven. The main dining area, which holds the open kitchen, has vintage leather chairs, fine Belgian linen, Riedel glassware and a huge Arthur Boyd painting. Guests can ask for a candlelit table in the sultry wine cellar or take in the views from a spot in the landscaped grounds. Breakfasts are something of an occasion too, with handmade sausages, house-cured ocean trout and eggs from the hotel’s own hens, alongside granola, bread, pastries, jam and locally sourced honey.
The owners have amassed an impressive collection of Old and New World wines in their cellar. They’re happy to show guests around and there’s daily wine-tasting with the hotel’s sommelier.
Evening meals run till 9pm. If you’re peckish after hours, just ask the staff, they’ll happily bend to guest whims.
Not available, but mouthwatering meals are just a few footsteps from your door.
Pretty Beach House is set on a hilltop in the verdant forests of Bouddi National Park, overlooking Broken Bay.
Sydney Airport (www.sydneyairport.com.au), a 90-minute drive from Pretty Beach House, has international and domestic flights arriving and departing daily. The hotel can arrange transfers, or you can hire a car from the Avis booth at the airport.
Woy Woy Station is a 20 minute drive away, serviced by City Rail (www.cityrail.info). Take the North Shore and Western Line from Sydney’s Central Station. The journey takes about 70 minutes on the express train or 90 minutes on slower trains. From Woy Woy, catch a taxi from the rank at the front of the station.
Head up the Pacific Highway from Sydney, taking the F3/M1 Pacific Motorway and exit at Gosford.
The Palm Beach Ferry Service (www.palmbeachferry.com.au) runs 10 times a day (with a reduced service on weekends). The ferry departs from Palm Beach. Hop off at Wagstaff for Pretty Beach House. Seaplane and helicopter transfers from Rose bay in Sydney can be arranged by Seaplanes Sydney. (www.seaplanes.com.au).
Worth getting out of bed for
It's hard to think why you'd tear yourself away from the food and the views, but if you do get the urge to stretch your pins, try a guided walk through the Bouddi Peninsula, bomb through the bush on a mountain bike, or head past the great old sandstone rock at the back of the property – with its very own Aboriginal carvings – to private Tallow Beach and its surf break. For the full Jackie Onassis treatment, take the Cabo 38 Express fishing boat for a spin (with crew) in Brisbane Water or round to the hidden, empty beaches of the peninsula. Serious Ernest Hemingways can try the Blood & Thunder Game Fishing Charter and wrestle with the kings of the ocean – marlin, tuna, shark. With a top speed of 38 knots and the latest thermal-imaging kit on your boat, the fish don't stand a chance. Bespoke expeditions are available on request, including a helicopter ride to nearby vineyards, and staff can also advise you on other local destinations, from Lobster Beach and Box Head (within walking distance), to Maitland Bay beaches, and the seaside villages of Killcare, Wagstaffe and Hardy's Bay, all a short drive away.
With fabulous all-inclusive food and non-alcoholic drinks, you may not wander too far beyond Pretty Beach House. But the restaurant at the nearby boutique hotel Bells at Killcare, is a worthy exception. Food is seasonal – featuring fresh local oysters and seafood – Italian-inspired, and has already bagged accolades (+61 (0)2 4349 7000).
Every hotel featured is visited personally by our team, given the Smith seal of approval, and then anonymously reviewed. As soon as our reviewers have returned from this intimate boutique hotel in Bouddi National Park and unpacked their pressed eucalyptus leaves and newfound sense of inner peace, a full account of their luxury bushland break will be with you. In the meantime, to encourage your outdoorsy side, here’s a quick peek inside Pretty Beach House on the Central Coast…
Whether your nature-loving side extends as far as skimming National Geographic or you own a rainbow set of North Face gilets, Pretty Beach House beckons. Its Bouddi National park setting offers luxuriant forest, unspoilt beaches, Liesegang-ringed rocks to clamber over and aboriginal carvings, as well as the chance to spot breaching whales. Or, you can enjoy the Cliff’s Notes experience and peek from your pavilion’s floor-to-ceiling windows at the grin-coaxing views. That way, you’ll have more time for platters of cold cuts and sticky fig and almond tarts, playing footsy in your plunge pool and rumpling the Belgian linens of your beautiful branch-framed bed. We understand the call of the wild, but with a wine menu that changes daily and a delightfully quiet adults-only ethos, we know where we’d rather spend our time…