We’ve been driving for a few hours, singing along with the radio, eating chips and playing games to pass the time. Slowly but surely, the spread of Sydney’s houses has started to fade and we’re slipping further into open spaces, greenery and blue skies. I take a deep breath and realise how relaxed I feel, even though I’ve never been in this part of the world before.
We turn the car off the main road, drive past four of the sweetest Alpaca’s I’ve ever seen then take a left turn onto a winding road. A hare hops off into the bushes and I do some quick mental math trying to work out if I stand a shot at catching it and making it my new best friend. We keep driving, past horses lazily chewing in paddocks, up and up, through bushland and lush greenery, up and up further, until the trees give way to our left and we see the view for the first time.
It’s breathtaking and we aren’t even at the top yet. We can see all the way out to the ocean, bright and blue, set against a vibrant sky dotted with puffs of white cotton-candy clouds. The hills are rolling and a million different shades of green, birds fluttering past and the town of Berry nestled below. I can’t quite explain it, but I feel oddly at home here, there’s just something about the relaxed, welcome vibe of the place that’s putting me at ease.
We get to the top, arriving at Mt Hay Retreat, and park our car and are immediately greeted with the big smiling face of Teal, the red and white spotted pooch with the super-wet nose. Owners Anthony and Louise are not far behind, welcoming us with a firm handshake and a broad smile. They help us grab our gear out of the car and guide us toward our suite.
I’m not quite sure what I was expecting, but when I step through the front door the only word I can manage is, “Wow!”
The suite has deceived me. The front entrance is lined with citrus trees bursting with fresh kaffir limes, oranges and lemons. Tree stumps, stones and a few sculptures sit among succulents slowing taking over the garden, twisting and creeping between bushes, flowers and trees. The entry to the suite sits at the end of the path and it isn’t until you walk through the doorway that you see the huge glass doors and windows taking up the entire back wall.
On the other side of the glass, a deck with two very comfortable look chairs, one heck of a bath-tub then a rolling green hill that leads down to more bushland. Beyond that, more and more bushland, houses and mountains until it reaches the sea. The view is staggering and it takes me a moment to process it. I have a sneaking suspicion Anthony and Louise love this part of welcoming guests.
Everything about the suite is luxurious, but it’s still welcoming and completely comfortable. There’s no air of pretentiousness or snooty-ness, it’s just beautifully and thoughtfully put together to make guests feel like they can relax and enjoy themselves in the space. I’m so relieved we have two nights here, even though I know it isn’t going to be enough.
There are plenty of things to do at Mt Hay Retreat and Anthony, Louise and Teal are the perfect hosts. They have a paddock full of very peaceful cows, most of whom are pregnant with their first calves. We buzz up in the ATVs and into the paddock to see a newly born calf and hand feed the girls (and lone bull) some oranges picked from the garden. We visit Kit and Caboodle, the friendliest goats, and feed them apples and a few branches of their favourite tree while the chooks cluck at our feet.
Anthony and Louise arrange a picnic for us, dropping us up at the secluded top paddock for a lazy afternoon spent sprawled out on a picnic rug overlooking the water-hole. We sit in the sunshine and drink a few cold beers, picking at fresh fruit and vegetables, dips, nuts and chocolate prepared by the lovely team at Creative Catering. Louise tells us she quite often pops up to this spot with her girlfriends to do just the same thing.
We wake up early one morning to catch the sunrise. The first glimpses of golden light peeking over the mountains and illuminating the valley. We sit with coffee in hand, wrapped up in soft blankets, watching the colours change from dark orange to bright gold and sparkling yellow.
Rather than being trapped in the middle of nowhere, we discover we’re incredibly close to a million great things to do. We pop down to town for breakfast, lunch and dinner when we feel like it. We make friends with the locals and discover an incredible local winery. We take a drive out to the beach, spending a few hours with our feet in the water and jumping off sand dunes.
Our stay at Mt Hay Retreat comes to an end all too fast and we’re already making plans for when we can come back again. Being so close to Sydney, it’s easy to steal a weekend getaway here and, like a lot of people, fall in love with the place and never want to leave. I’m blown away by how unexpectedly beautiful Mt Hay was and how luxurious and comfortable the suite was too. Everything about the retreat felt so genuine and welcoming, which I think comes from Anthony and Louise and the amount of love and care they’ve put into making it the incredible place it is.
If you’re looking for a really beautiful part of Australia to visit, that offers top-notch accommodation, incredible views and a relaxed atmosphere, as well as plenty of things to see, do and eat in the local area, Mt Hay Retreat is your spot. I’d recommend flying into Sydney, if you aren’t local, and hiring a car to drive down there and explore with. It’s a very special place and one I cannot wait to visit again. You’ve left a big mark on my wanderlust-ing heart, Berry & Mt Hay!