Read our writer's views on this property below
Set in the bush and with views across Lake Macquarie, this beautifully realised lodge both delights and frustrates Anna Anderson.
I'M FEELING robbed. A mandatory part of every holiday, since being consigned to the top bunk of our rented Viscount caravan circa 1970, is to cerebrally redesign our quarters. Swap the sofa to frame the view, move the doorway to catch the breeze, heighten the ceilings, lower the breakfast bar ... It's my way of settling into holiday digs but at Bluebell Retreat, I'm stymied. Everything is just as it should be. I can't improve the design or aesthetics so I'm forced to sink back on the sculptured sunbed and contemplate the lake view.
Later, snooping around our two-bedroom cottage, I find a compendium of clues. It was designed by lauded Queensland architect Gabriel Poole. It's the prototype for Stockland's Murrays Beach residential enclave (where only two houses are holiday rentals) and winner of the sustainability and HIA GreenSmart design award. It's so well-planned, I want to hitch the whole eco-happy structure onto a trailer and take it home.
The living area is open to a fabulous kitchen equipped with holiday-home rarities: quality appliances, sharp knives and a pantry stocked with neat rows of olive oil, barbecue sauce and Twinings teas.
Glass doors and insect screens on two sides open to decks overlooking a landscape of lawns dotted with gum trees and native grasses and the lake, 100 metres away.
There's a curious addition to a large alcove in the living room where two smartly upholstered daybeds face a computer station. It's a roller door and it's there to be used when a third bedroom or second living space is needed. Natty! The other bedrooms, both big, bright doubles, one with an en suite, the other next to a large luxury bathroom, are at either end of a hall with enough distance for privacy if you're holidaying with friends. Everything is top-notch, from the Bose sound system to the designer magazines and Molton Brown bathroom amenities. There's a pristine laundry and, in the garage, two kayaks and a trolley to wheel them down to the lake's edge.
We're in chill mode so eschew a paddle and, instead, cool off with a bottle of rose and some salty treats from the Strand's nut shop. We fire up the barbie and dine on the deck, watching the sun set over the lake.
Breakfast on the deck is followed by a walk around the impressive enclave. It makes me wish Sydney's suburbia had been designed by Poole with his lightweight structures hovering over the bush scrub. We take the lakeside track, which is shared with cyclists and walkers. Fine weather lures us for a drive through the Wallarah Peninsula to Caves Beach, five minutes away where Nippers is in full swing but there's plenty of beach and good waves to share. On the way home we duck in to Swansea but decide Murrays Beach is the prime spot on the peninsula.
We lunch late in the airy timber restaurant about 200 paces from our cottage and then spend some time looking through Stockland's sales office. Prices for house and land packages are tempting, especially when we clock our Monday morning commute from Murrays Beach to Sydney's Town Hall at 90 minutes (we left at 10am).
Back on our deck, watching children play in the playground has us thinking this would be the perfect holiday spot for a family of adventurous kids. You could hire some sailing boats and get out on the lake or just paddle about on the kayaks. From the deck, kitchen and leather sofa, you can cast an eye over the big, safe, lakeside playground.
There's a reverse side to this utopia, of course; kids can be noisy and not all boats are silent (damn those bogan jet skiers). But, most of the time, the tranquillity of the bush is only broken by the raucous bird-life: kookaburras, galahs, cockatoos and rosellas are everywhere.
As night falls, little groups gather on the jetty and potter about with fishing lines and bait. It's a pretty scene and draws us out to watch the action. Some tiddlers are thrown back but a couple of flathead find themselves in a portable cooler, destined for a barbecue.
The writer was a guest of Bluebell Retreat and Destination NSW.
Where Bluebell Retreat, 10 Saltwater Row, Murrays Beach, Lake Macquarie. (02) 4921 0740, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Getting there Take the F3 freeway and look for the East Lake Macquarie signs. Take Route 111 (Budgewoi-Swansea-Charlestown exit) and continue on the Pacific Highway to the Murrays Beach exit.
How much High season: midweek $250 a couple, $450 for six people a night; weekends $350 a couple, $500 for six people a night. Minimum two nights.
Style statement Top-notch beach shack with architectural and eco cred.
Perfect for Boaties and fishing enthusiasts and a great spot to start writing your bestseller.
Don't forget Food for the barbecue and your fishing gear.
Shame about No plunge pool.
Kudos For the exceptional architecture, fit-out and naturally landscaped surrounds.
Take the kids And introduce them to the pleasures of throwing a line and paddling a kayak.