Read our writer's views on this property below
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Natasha Wallace relaxes in forest surrounds of a luxury chalet near Taree.
Clarendon Forest Retreat Possum Brush.
Accessed via a narrow dirt track, this is a bush retreat in the true sense of the word. The eight luxury cottages atop green hills are in the 12,000-hectare Kiwarrak State Forest.
Although a couple of cottages are within earshot of each other, there is a sense of seclusion and calm.
One could be forgiven for spending the entire weekend bobbing about in the large hot spa on the expansive decks overlooking the lily-filled dam below. Or on the upstairs verandah with a book while the kids run about on the neat lawn. The cottages vary in style, from eco-cool in recycled timbers and mudbricks to pioneer-style country charm with cathedral ceilings, antique furniture and quaint sitting areas.
All have tranquil forest views from fabulously equipped outdoor entertainment areas. The Sanctuary, a cedar-and-sandstone, split-level couples-only retreat hidden among a stand of trees, is a little different from the rest. It has a four-poster bed and its own bar, and overlooks a flower and herb garden.
The cottages have large, well-equipped modern kitchens with granite benchtops and snazzy appliances, and full laundry facilities. They vary in size, catering for up to four couples (Tara Lodge), and some have a fireplace. Aircon is only available in some of the cottages. The three-bedroom Talawahl ecolodge has a handcrafted stone barbecue and an outdoor table setting big enough for 12. Pets are welcome in some cottages. There is a common-area pool but it is not heated.
The soft furnishings in the Blue Wren chalet, where we stayed, are straight from grandma's place - embroidered bedspreads, tapestry cushions and doilies - but we are impressed by the decanter of port on a side table, and the burnt-red couches are comfortable enough for an evening in front of the TV.
Meals from a nearby restaurant can be delivered for $30. Although ours arrived promptly in a large styrofoam box, the lamb rump and vegetables had the distinct look and texture of a dinner that had been on a road trip. Otherwise, there is a courtesy bus to the Nabiac Hotel, which has a bistro.
The retreat will also provide a breakfast hamper of cereal, bacon, eggs, bread and yoghurt to prepare yourself, for $30-$40 a couple. It does seafood and cheese-and-fruit platters, and "romance packages" with port, chocolate and champagne.
WORTH STEPPING OUT FOR
It's a 25-minute drive to the mid-north coast beaches - there are 43 kilometres of coast between Seal Rocks and Forster.
Otherwise, marked nature trails through wet and dry eucalypt forests and ancient rainforests will keep bushwalkers and birdwatchers happy, and there are mountain-biking tracks. The retreat sometimes hosts food events, yoga weekends and cooking classes, and runs horse-riding trips along forest trails in the Talawahl National Park. We were quite content to kick back on the verandah with a port and play spot the wallaby.
A luxurious, peaceful, secluded spot with bush views that simply don't get any better.
HOW TO GET THERE
The property is between Manning Valley and Forster, about three hours north of Sydney. Take the Pacific Highway towards Newcastle. Continue towards Taree, passing through Bulahdelah, and turn left onto Possum Brush Road, eight kilometres north of Nabiac, and follow the signs to the retreat.
Prices start from $170 (The Sanctuary and the Hideaway) to $240 a night for a minimum five-night stay. See cfr.com.au.