That New South Wales has some of the best accommodation in the world has never been a secret. What, with the kind of landscapes that people save for their entire lives to come and see? You’d expect no less: seriously bucket list resorts sketching indulgence onto rugged scenery, relentlessly charming boutique hotels you’d dream of long after, genuinely private lodges with a strong connection to nature, and city hotels sticking close to alarmingly high standards.
Sure, our neighbouring states boast secrets just as good, but there’s something about NSW that does quintessential Australia on a whole different level. I do live here, so I’m ridiculously biased, but I’m also confident that the country’s oldest state leaves no stone unturned when it comes to the perfect staycation. And we could all use one of those right now.
With NSW travel currently open (although I acknowledge that the situation may change if enough people keep us stuck in a cycle of community transmission and lockdowns), now is a good chance to look into some of the state’s finest. Below you’ll find just a handful of places to pamper, ponder and play your way into forgetting 2020 even exists, if only for awhile.
Though before we get into that, I just want to write that though domestic travel is definitely something that you should be planning right now, even if only for your peace of mind. Please do not take any unnecessary risks and put yourself, and the communities you visit, in harms way during this ongoing global pandemic. If you are waiting for the results of a test, do the right thing and do not potentially put businesses and livelihoods at risk by travelling to these places, some of them remote with limited medical resources. Use this case as an example of the very real risk irresponsible travel can run.
For a Sydney Staycation
Packed with personality, QT Sydney is still one of the most charming and inspired luxury hotels in Sydney. And with it’s ground-floor Italian eatery Parlour Cucina open, as well as its lush SpaQ, and reimagined mini bar with pre-batched cocktails, there’s plenty to pamper yourself with over a few nights to suck you out of that iso-induced slump.
InterContinental Sydney Double Bay
Look to Double Bay if you want to soak up quintessential Sydney living. Breezy bayside village aside, this luxury mansion-style hotel has more than enough to keep you busy over a quick staycay. They’ve just re-opened their gym, rebooted their exquisite High Tea service, and of course have that iconic rooftop waiting for you.
Four Seasons Hotel Sydney
Very few hotel rooms take in Sydney’s two most iconic landmarks – the bridge and the house – all at the same time. Renowned for its enviable location, Four Seasons Sydney is an ideal place to reconnect with Sydney hotspots like The Rocks and Circular Quay, especially valuable now that the Museum of Contemporary Art has reopened (and the Biennale of Sydney has been extended) along with many of The Rocks’ best restaurants. Not that you’d need to head out for quality food, given the luxury hotel’s Mode Kitchen & Bar is at your disposal.
Pier One Sydney Harbour, Autograph Collection
Sydney’s best hotels are directly connected to the city’s defining harbour, and there’s no better example of this than Pier One Sydney Harbour. The hotel has become somewhat of reference point for the staycation crowd, so it’d be unwise to pass this one over when scouting for that post-iso weekend away. Make sure to head out the harbour for a picnic at some point, after picking up one of the hotel’s new gourmet seafood hampers.
Sofitel Sydney Darling Harbour
As one of the most popular hotels in the city, Sofitel Sydney Darling Harbour deserves every ounce of its worldly reputation. Opened only a few years ago, this sleek and modern property dominates the Darling Harbour precinct and has since livened up the otherwise stale tourist area. While Darling Harbour still has its charms (and eternal development), the real kicker here is the infinitely relaxing rooftop pool, which you’ll have unrestricted access to during your stay.
Ghosts be damned. Despite deeply seeded rumours of things to go bump in the night, Q Station in Manly is still one of the most peaceful accommodations you could find in Sydney. And its past as Australia’s quarantine station kind of makes it perfect for 2020, no?
Spread across more than 36 hectares of Sydney Harbour National Park, this heritage listed property has refined all that history and focused it into one of the city’s most unique getaways. Kayaking on a private beach and bushwalking through national park almost always precede one of the station’s famous ghost tours. Plus, resident restaurant Boilerhouse has a new chef and, with the current winter staycation package, you’ll get $100 credit thrown in with your queen deluxe room (and a gourmet breakfast hamper in the morning).
For the Wine Lovers
Byng Street Hotel, Orange
If immersing yourself in the vine-covered hills of Orange is your idea of a staycation then bunker down at the 4.5 star Byng Street Hotel. Fitting out a historic homestead with contemporary architecture and modern furnishings, this boutique is the height of Central NSW comfort, giving you a nice base around one of the state’s most consistent (and festive) wine regions. Plus, you can chill in your own private bath and watch the clear sky unfold at night.
If Mudgee is more your style, slide up alongside the Cudgegong River and settle into Evanslea. The sprawl of this definitive country property is perfect for larger groups who want to anchor themselves in true escapism while exploring troves of fine wine like Robert Stein, Lowe, and acclaimed micro-winery Short Sheep. Load up all you’d like and then head on back to your digs to end the night by a fire pit. Perfection.
Sierra Escape, Mudgee
This award-winning eco glamping retreat is just a 20-minute drive from the crisp wines and freshly picked cherries of Mudgee, spreading several tents amongst 113 hectares of lush countryside. Family tents are a popular choice here, but just as highly prized is the super premium Uralla tent with its free-standing bathtub cradled by that picture-perfect landscape. If you really want a treat, scrap that cash together and stay here for the weekend.
Leisure Inn, Pokolbin
Anyone who wants to spread their wine-loving wings in the iconic Hunter Valley should look to the 25-acre splendour of Leisure Inn Pokolbin. You’ll be walking distance from coveted Cellar Doors, and able to maintain as much space as you want with your own stand-alone, self-contained villas which are dotted across this breezy property.
For A Change of Scenery
Emirates One & Only Wolgan Valley, Blue Mountains
Looking for a holistic experience that combines agricultural tourism, wellness, an off-the-grid adventure and the pinnacle of luxury? Sure you are. I mean, if you have the money stashed away for something special of course. If so, head straight to Emirates One & Only Wolgan Valley and indulge yourself with all it has to offer.
The ultra-luxe Blue Mountains resort is immersed in 7,000 acres of pristine bushland. With 40 private villas and an abundance of well-appointed common areas, you can be as isolated or connected as you want. We’re talking horse-riding, nature walks, sound therapy, daily outdoor yoga, gourmet picnics and fireside cocktails, animal surveys, habitat mapping, tree planting, and artisanal dining. It’s expensive, but you’ll get getting a lot for it.
Head on over to the NSW South Coast, just two hours from Sydney, and you can wrap yourself in the dramatic landscape of Gerringong. This small but mighty coastal town is the kind postcards are made out of it, and you’ll want a piece of it to yourself for a few nights. The wise choice here is the super private farm-stay Dovecote, an 150 acre property with just two beautifully appointed accommodations, “The Headland” or “The Range”. Take your pick, both boast private access to Werri Beach, the lagoon and Kiami coastal trail. You’ll pay a premium for the privacy, but the lifestyle it affords doesn’t get much better.
Nimbo Fork Lodge, Snowy Mountains
Take a break to the foothills of the famous Snowy Mountains and check into Nimbo Fork Lodge. These property, of six luxury private cottages and five suites, is the most luxurious base for those who want to explore this important part of NSW. The modest but ever-present team will even help you ease into the most private of escapes, organising picnics by the river or taking care of any local arrangements.
Flash Jacks, Gundagai
The newly reopened Flash Jacks is a 10-room boutique in one of the country’s most storied and emblematic small towns. Gundagai has long been a favourite off-the-grid trip for Aussies, and the historic experience is made even richer with this property, built into an original 1888 school building.
The definition of off-the-grid travel. Unyoked is a collection of tiny house styled cabins across Australia, designed especially to eschew city life and tempt temporal distortion by giving you your own abode in the middle of “nowhere”. If you want to just get away with one other person, without the bells and whistles of a luxury resort, then one of their NSW cabins is perfect for you.
Goonoo Goonoo Station, Tamworth
Surely one of the state’s most legendary small town accommodations, the great Goonoo Goonoo Station in Tamworth is always a good pick. This working cattle station hosts various cottages and homesteads, offering up plenty of variety tied together with a sharp sense of character and luxury.
Feature image: Nimbo Fork Lodge, Killimicat | Photo supplied by Destination NSW.