A perfect girls' weekend destination, this holiday rental has five bedrooms, 3½ bathrooms and lots of areas to relax, chat and drink cocktails. There are myriad dining spots, including the verandah, and we loved the fire-pit encircled by Adirondack chairs. If the temperature was in the 20s, or above, we would have used the swimming pool.
About 10 minutes' drive south of Berry, the spacious single-storey house is set in more than four hectares of farmland and splendid mature gardens. A large, lush lawn at the front of the house slopes off in the distance and there's the prettiest corner with circular seat embracing a huge tree. The property, about two kilometres off the main road, is approached by a beautiful, long avenue of liquid amber trees. Sited on the escarpment between Cambewarra Range and beaches north of Shoalhaven Heads, there are sweeping views from the garden and living rooms. On our Sunday morning walk we encounter cattle, sheep, free-ranging hens and alpacas.
The fireplace's brick chimney divides a large, open-plan dining, living and kitchen areas set beneath a tall cathedral roof. Two of the five queen-sized bedrooms, and bathroom, are in a courtyard studio, a few metres from the main house, but everywhere is light and bright and the furnishings and fittings throughout the house and studio are good quality, contemporary and new. This is especially true for the bathrooms. There are heaters in the bedrooms, so no complaints about the winter cold, and reverse airconditioning in the living area. In the living area, there's a large flat screen TV and if this wasn't a girls-only getaway, the kids would love the separate nook with day bed and TV with DVD. (So would the parents). And the Wi-Fi works really well.
"Anything except nanna hour," was the plea from a five-year-old's mum when we planned dinner out. So we book 8.15pm at Asian-style Hungry Duck in Berry and, as mid-afternoon tea with cake is quickly followed by cocktail hour, we catch a cab. Like the return journey, it arrives promptly and costs about $30 each way. Food wise, breakfast at Berry Sourdough Cafe is a better experience. Otherwise, we stay in and cook, something of a joy using the six burner Falcon Elan stove and oven. The kitchen and butler's pantry are really well equipped and include holiday ''essentials'' like an espresso coffee machine and wine fridge.
Is there a town in Australia with more scented candles than Berry? Those and a multitude of other home accessories you never knew you needed until this moment. In seriousness, it's a lovely place to wander and watch and browse shops full of home-wares. It's also easy to get a good coffee.
We could not have been happier with our weekend getaway. The house is spacious, comfortable and stylish but not so tricked up you don't want to kick off your shoes, sit back and relax.
Rivendell, 195 Devitts Lane, Meroo Meadow, NSW. Price: From $585 a night Sun-Thurs (minimum two-night stay) and from $1015 a night Fri-Sat (minimum two-night stay). There's currently a mid-week promotion: Stay two nights for $800, or three nights for $900 during non-peak periods. See www.rivendellberry.com.au
The house and studio are spacious, stylishly furnished and warm in winter. It's country quiet but a short drive to shops, cafes and restaurants.
Being incapable of lighting open fires in the living room and outdoor fire-pit. Roasted marshmallows would have been nice …
Sue Bennett was a guest of Rivendell.