The name hints at the experience, but it doesn’t quite do it justice. Pretty Beach House is not just pretty; it’s stunning. Nestled into a seven-and-a-half-acre swath of semitropical Bouddi National Park, roughly a 90-minute drive or 20-minute seaplane ride from the Harbor City, Pretty Beach House is an intimate retreat immersed in nature. Four distinctive accommodations, from the copper-sheathed, wood-beamed Bayview to the two-level Retreat pavilion that’s nothing less than its name suggests, encourage guests to disconnect, soak in their bathtubs or outdoor plunge pools, and spin a record from the in-room vinyl collection. That is, if they’re not already out exploring the wild landscapes. Owners Brian and Karina Berry, who run the beloved Bells at Killcare retreat nearby, know a thing or two about hospitality, farm-to-table restaurants, and experiences that offer a sense of place. Every evening at Pretty Beach House, guests witness a traditional welcome ceremony by a member of the Darkinjung Aboriginal tribe, who might share some of the indigenous culture that steeps the land. Afterward, a luxury Italian dinner is served inside the main house—which is crafted from local mud bricks, hand-cut sandstone, and rail pylons from the 1880s. Original works by Australian artists such as Arthur Boyd, Sidney Nolan, and John Olsen frame floor-to-ceiling windows. Outside, the peninsula’s peaks and waterways beckon guests out the next day—to hike, kayak, or ride the resort’s yacht to get closer to land and sea.
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Bouddi National Park was long inhabited by the Darkinjung people, who left their imprints in the form of ancient cave paintings (some dating back 10,000 years), shell middens, and grinding grooves used for cooking. Around 100 Aboriginal sites have been recorded in the vicinity, and many more likely exist. Guests can visit some of them, while learning about native foods and medicines, during a guided bush walk. Other tours visit the Hunter Valley wine country, the Australian Walkabout Wildlife Park, and the resort’s sister property Bells at Killcare. The Bouddi Peninsula is also located near two of the most scenic golf courses, Tuggerah Lakes Golf Club and the Springs, as well as countless outdoor adventures—from mountain bike rides (wheels are complimentary) to kayaking in the Hawkesbury River. Palm Beach is a memorable day trip to the south.
Need to Know
Rooms: 4 luxury pavilions. From $1,000 per person, all-inclusive, two-night minimum stay. Check-in: 2 p.m., check-out: 11 a.m. Dining options: The atrium-style bar and lounge is the domain of renowned Italian chef Stefano Manfredi. At his Ambach Italian kitchen, guests can read the paper and take in views of the Bouddi peninsula while indulging in eggs or housemade yogurt with pastries for breakfast. Lunch ranges from traditional wood-fired pizzas to soups and seafood by the open fireplace. And dinner is a multi-course affair featuring such specialties as risotto and slow-cooked beef cheek, served with perfectly paired Australian wines. Everything, including the cutlery and ceramic dishes (thrown by master potter Leno Alvarez from the former gold-mining town Hill End), is carefully considered. Spa and gym details: Treatments at the day spa use Australian skincare brand Li’tya and draw inspiration from Aboriginal traditions and balancing philosophies. The Ancient Gubbera Stone Therapy, for example, incorporates hand-carved crystals from the Northern reaches of Western Australia. There’s no gym on-site, but Bouddi National Park is threaded by rugged walking tracks—including such famous hikes as the Killcare to Putty Beach Walk and the Maitland Bay track—and secluded surf breaks. A guided bush walk takes in Lobster Beach, Box Head, and Tallow Beach, and instills indigenous knowledge of local flora and fauna.
Who’s it best for: Couples looking for a stay away that doesn’t compromise on food, nature, or culture. Our favorite rooms: Each of the four pavilions has its own unique character and ambience. The choice is a matter of taste—does a guest prefer the earthy wood, bamboo, and pebble-lined vibe of the Bayview, or the soft and smooth luxury of the Hideaway? The Retreat is the most spacious, covering two entire floors, but Treetops has the loftiest vantage point, though it trades the dreamy outdoor plunge pool for an indoor copper tub. All the suites are stocked with a high-quality minibar, iPod playlists, a vinyl collection, and a library of films. Special perks: Lunch or dinner at the resort’s sister property Bells at Killcare is included in the stay, along with private transfers and a tour of Bells’ kitchen gardens.