The Priory, Bingie review: Escape artists' master creation

Read our writer's views on this property below

Nicola Walker discovers treasures inside and out at the Priory.

The architecture of coastal towns can be drearily utilitarian. But as we climb the drive of the Priory at Bingie and pass a wriggly iron sculpture that the children dub the "Dr Seuss windmill", it's clear we're in for something different.

Bingie is a scattering of homes just north of Tuross Head, and the Priory is the work of Barbara and Nick Romalis. The couple built their home about 20 years ago and ran it as a boutique B&B. Now both in their 80s, they have since moved into Barbara's nearby studio, with the house available as a self-contained stay.

The Priory's double-storey stone section, with its Mediterranean wooden shutters and balcony, has bedrooms, an exhibition gallery and an enormous bathroom. Adjoining the side of the building is the kitchen and living room, built in a shape Barbara describes as being like "the hull of a boat". It has a barrel-shaped roof and circular ends with floor-to-ceiling windows. The acoustics in this vast space are such that even if you speak in a whisper at the kitchen table, people can hear you at the other end of the room.

The living room comfortably includes a long trestle table, grand piano, sofa and chairs near a fireplace and another table for afternoon tea. Our weekend party takes up positions according to talents: mother sits at the tea table to read while my sister and I head to the excellent kitchen.

The Priory is a treasure trove in and out. Barbara is an accomplished artist so a trip to the main bathroom takes guests along the gallery, past a cabinet of curiosities, bronze sculptures, ceramic heads, masks, assorted jewellery and pictures of all kinds; some of it for sale. The Romalises have held 50 exhibitions here and many of the works are from these shows. We swoon over the objects.

My sister and her family occupy the three bedrooms at this end of the house; the rest of us, including our mother, move in upstairs where there are two double bedrooms and another bathroom. Each morning, I throw open the shutters to greet the stolid cows dotted across a paddock that sweeps down to the sea. I would quite like to burst into song.

The Priory's lovely garden has formal plantings and a clipped lawn, ideal for an impromptu volleyball game with a net brought from home. In a wilder bit under the trees, a table and chairs face the view. My plan is to hide here with a book. Who am I kidding?

The thing about the Priory is that it's hard to leave. A group of us finally pile into the car and head to nearby Meringo beach, fringed by bush, the sand glowing and the emerald rollers breaking evenly. Not another person is in sight. While we frolic, the blokes find the coast's Bingie Dreaming Track. Bingie means stomach in the language of the Brinja-Yuin people because food was so plentiful here.


We buy provisions in Moruya. On Saturday mornings, the town is taken over by a busy market on the riverbank. Moruya is an Aboriginal word for black swan. They were once prolific, as were trees such as woollybutt, blackbutt and ironbark. European settlers cut down the forest and shipped it out. (The Moruya and District Historical Society has published a fascinating memoir by Josephine Kelly, born here in 1875. It's on the bookshelves of the Priory's main upstairs bedroom.) Also upstairs is a roof terrace with a view of the sea. We have a barbecue there one evening; thick shrubs shelter us from the wind and a Pullman is used to bring crockery from the kitchen. Next day, when we bump into Nick in the garden, he shows us the chooks and an old grey roo that has taken refuge at the back of the property. One rainy afternoon, a group of eastern greys, bold as brass, munch on the grass outside the lounge, near a bonsai cypress planted in the 1860s.

Past and present entwine here, as they do everywhere, but something funny happens to time at the Priory. It has whizzed past in a flash and we've barely left the house.

Weekends Away are reviewed anonymously and paid for by Traveller.


The Priory

Address 67 Priory Lane, Bingie, NSW.

The verdict A large comfortable house for those who appreciate beautiful things; the garden is an added pleasure.

Price From $600 a night, minimum two-night stay between September-May. Linen packs $15 a person. Closed from June-August, so book for spring.

Bookings Phone 4473 8881, see

Getting there Bingie is about four hours from Sydney by car. Rex Airlines flies to Moruya airport, a 30-minute drive from the Priory. Return fares from $350; see

Perfect for Lounging, cooking and walks; it's a drive to the sea and is not a beach house.

Wheelchair access Possible on the ground floor.

While you're there Watch for seals at Grey Rocks in Eurobodalla National Park; swim at Meringo; gallery goers should try the Mossy Point ARTery and Congo Crafts; kayak, surf and go stand-up paddling with Total Eco Adventures at Broulee; lunch at the Pickled Octopus seafood cafe at Tuross Head; dine at the River Moruya, where a five-course degustation menu with wine is from $105; walk it off on the Bingie Dreaming track, pamphlets available at the Priory.