The Blue Mountains had always conjured up images for me of a stark Australian landscape of brush and cliff, dotted with tiny colonial towns and treasure trove antique stores, so I wasn’t prepared for endless kilometres of roadworks and traffic. A scenic drive it was not. In fact, the concierge at the Park Hyatt Sydney had seemed genuinely surprised that we were driving – instead of taking the chopper.
Eventually we turned off the main highway somewhere in between a colliery and a power station, our expectations fairly low by this stage. We had been warned that the last 30 km of road into Wolgan Valley was precarious. Although dirt, it wasn’t bad (compared to the road into Southern Ocean lodge, which was so bumpy you could give yourself a black eye if you weren’t wearing a sports bra).
We wound down from the plateau and emerged from the grey eucalypt forest into the verdant valley floor – 4000 ha of sunlit grassy land in between two towering sandstone escarpments. It was beautiful.
The resort itself is a new venture from Emirates, their first in Australia (they also run Al Maha tented camp in the UAE). Environmental sustainability is much touted by the resort, but as we stopped off at the gatehouse before being collected by 4WD, I had a pang of politically incorrect horror when I was shown to the long drop dunny so that my 2 year old could go. Sure, it had folded handtowels and a tiled floor… but I nearly lost him whilst my back was turned. I still have nightmares in which I hear “mummyyyyyyyyyy…” followed by a plop.
The resort itself is a series of timber cottages of varying sizes. Although quite large themselves, they are close together and there’s not a great deal of privacy. The interiors are deeply inviting – floor to ceiling stone fireplaces, king size four poster beds, leather couches, oatmeal coloured throws, private plunge pools etc etc.
The communal rooms in the main lodge were also lovely – lots of open fires, stonework and grand views of the valley, which is of course the true star (although some in our party would disagree – Rhonda, our charming blonde massage therapist and babysitter was right up there).
Prior to my stay here, I thought that a macropod was a type of Japanese soybean beloved of supermodels. Not so. Apparently they are kangaroos, potaroos and wallabies, of which we spotted many on our educational sunset tour of the property by four wheel drive. Dinner was an open air barbecue at the old homestead – with the moon rising over the escarpment and the stars gleaming above a large bonfire, it was a magical experience.
- the spa, with its soaring windows and stunning views, was one of the most beautiful I’ve been in.
- The rooms – easy to cosy up in winter and never emerge. Hooray also for free in house movies, personal nespresso machine, and fresh paper and pencils for our little one. Thoughtful and unexpected.
- Activities – plenty put on, from laser shooting to wildlife tours. Children are catered for with pony rides, kite flying and a whole lot of space.
- the food. Our two dinners were excellent, but breakfast and lunch were a little disappointing – for example, the fruit at breakfast was supermarket standard, and a greasy, semi burnt lobster spring roll was just not good enough.
- The tariff – I know the Australian superlodge movement is charging around $2g a night, but honestly, and comparative to what’s available in Asia, I don’t think it’s good value for money.
- The self locking doors to the villa pool – one of our friends who was flying solo for the weekend went for a dawn skinny dip, only to find she had locked herself out of the cottage and had to sneak furtively across the pampas in the frosty morning to get a key from reception. Ouch.
Would I go back? Yes, probably, because the setting was stunning, and quintessentially Australian. But I’d be much happier if it was half the price