The fire pit for sundowners, conversation and toasted marshmallows.
The ladder stairway to the loft is fine for kids (4+), tricky for adults and a definite no-no for my 74-year-old mum.
Mansfield on the Manning, Tinonee, NSW
Three-and-a-half hours north of Sydney is the little-known Manning Valley, home to best-selling Australian author Di Morrissey. The magnificent Manning River – the only double delta river in the southern hemisphere – flows through the valley and out to sea. Mansfield on the Manning sits at the end of a country lane, in the hamlet of Tinonee, just off the Pacific Highway near Taree.
The 16-acre, pet-friendly property offers two recently renovated cabins and a vintage Airstream surrounded by soaring gum trees, native shrubs and offering direct river access. There's an abundant vegie garden, a straw bale barbecue area and hammock strung between gum trees. We're staying in one of the hand-built cabins made from reclaimed local hardwoods and furnished with a mix of modern and mid-century pieces, and antiques from the UK and France. French doors lead from the master bedroom and lounge to a generous wraparound deck, with comfy chairs and individual barbecue. In front of the cabin is a fire pit, where we gather to drink wine, toast marshmallows and witness yet another incredible sunset.
The 1978 American Airstream has been cleverly converted and is the embodiment of glamping; a Lotus Belle tent is being fitted out for guest stays. All accommodation offers magnificent views over the Manning River to the Three Brothers Mountains.
Our two-storey cabin features wooden floorboards, cosy rugs, a framed hessian coffee sack from Portobello Market and prints of Brighton Pier. Downstairs, the queen-size bedroom has pure Egyptian cotton linen, "invisible" bookshelves and Grown Alchemist toiletries in the ensuite bathroom. There's a comfy living area and cute, compact kitchen with Smeg oven, microwave, fridge, Nespresso machine, and quality cookware and crockery. Owners Jane and Neil Mackenzie have thought of everything. Feeling artistically inspired, my seven-year-old daughter wanted to draw. Hunting around I found a brand new sketchbook and sharp lead pencils in a drawer beside the bed. A ladder stairway leads to a cute loft space with two single beds – the ideal hideaway for kids.
A freshly baked loaf of bread, homemade passionfruit butter, shortbread biscuits and packet of marshmallows will be available in your cabin. Free-range eggs from the property's 16 hens, bacon, yoghurt, porridge, milk and orange juice are on offer for breakfast. Neil is a chef (he previously worked for Kensington Place, Ottolenghi's and Fishworks before starting his own business, Lovefood, catering for London's photographic industry). He now offers guests meals on arrival, such as beef bourguignon made from local Wingham beef, or a local seafood platter. We're still dreaming about Neil's free-range chicken and leek pie.
While the rural retreat feels a million miles away from city life, it's only a short drive to both the historic township of Wingham – where you'll find the fabulous Bent on Food, quirky vintage shops and Wingham Brush – and Taree for dinner at Fish, Fish, Fish.
This is a fabulous escape to the country, where you won't have to forgo any creature comforts. We didn't want to leave.
Cabins and Airstream are priced from $175 per night midweek: $250 on weekends.
Beauly Road, Tinonee. Phone 02 6653 1800; see mansfieldonthemanning.com.
The writer was a guest of Mansfield on the Manning.