Winji Jimmi, Chain Valley Bay review: Water, water everywhere

Read our writer's views on this property below

Even the pouring rain couldn't dilute Winji Jimmi's appeal as the perfect place to cool your heels, writes Peter Vincent.

WE HAD ogled the snaps online and nodded in agreement - what a great looking summer house. And once inside, it's clear the stayz.com.au gallery did not exaggerate - Winji Jimmi is secluded, has large light and airy rooms, cool floor tiles, a barbecue and, crucially, your choice of saltwater pool or Lake Macquarie for a cooling dip. Come on, sunshine.

So we are kicking ourselves that we've arrived to stay on one of the wettest weekends of the year. We pull into the drive and while unloading our vehicle are met by the kind of drenching usually reserved for deep-sea fishermen. Or fish. We are already soaked as we edge down a slippery stone pathway to the front door, lugging bags.

Situations like this seem designed to strain couples and we are not immune. Things are testy by the time our luggage is inside and we've changed into dry clothes.

But our grey moods are improved by a bottle of the neighbourhood's finest product, a Hunter semillon. We've come direct from a couple of days staying on a vineyard near Pokolbin - if you haven't done that, it's well worth it.

Back at Winji Jimmi, we begin exploring the serene and roomy interior. We choose the upper lounge room to unwind. It's a handsome and stylish room and has two large and comfy sofas, TV/DVD, a sound system and a white fluffy rug in front of a wide fireplace cut into a red feature wall, which is flanked on either side by full bookshelves. We quickly get the fire roaring and, with glasses in hand, our stresses float up the chimney.

After watching one of the many DVDs left for guests (men's, women's and children's tastes are catered to), we move to the even larger downstairs living room for a Hunter cheese platter. We can only gaze outside longingly at the pool.

Later, when the rain eases, we take a squelchy walk along the lake-front. It's a fantastic spot that in dry weather would be the ideal setting for one of those deliciously slow and lazy weekends, where your most important decisions are when to reapply the sunscreen and what time to fire up the barbecue.

Boaties will love the deep-water public jetty directly in front of the house - the lake is ideal for waterskiing and sailing.

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The area, Chain Valley Bay, has that typically sleepy Lake Macquarie vibe - it has mostly two-storey 1970s and '80s homes with front lawns and wide driveways, and quiet suburban shops. It doesn't feel full of holidaymakers, which in itself is relaxing. Locals can fill you in on the good rock-fishing spots and the Lake Munmorah state recreation park has some pretty coastal walking trails. Historic Catherine Hill Bay is a short drive north and beyond that, Caves Beach and Swansea are worth visiting.

Winji Jimmi is a stylish and comfortable house, sleeping up to seven people in three bedrooms (handily, it has two pristine bathrooms), that would come into its own over a long, hot weekend - but it's not perfect. However, our only complaints could be easily fixed.

Most accommodation above a certain standard recognises that guests will enjoy their stay from the outset with a few welcoming touches. Some places leave guests a bottle of wine, others provide half a dozen eggs and some bacon. But even something as simple as a short handwritten note greeting you does the trick. A couple of robes and some complimentary bathroom products wouldn't hurt either.

So much is locked up (and out of bounds) at Winji Jimmi - kitchen, laundry and bedroom cupboards and drawers, the garage and a conspicuously full wine cabinet - and there are so many personal trinkets on display that you expect the owners to let themselves in at any moment. A lived-in feel is homey but a few concessions are needed here to make guests feel special.

Trip notes

Where Winji Jimmi, Lloyd Avenue. Inquire with First National Lakeshores, (02) 4359 1555, email info@lakeshores.com.au, stayz.com.au/57201.

Getting there Via the F3 freeway, take the Doyalson/Swansea exit and follow the Pacific Highway to the Chain Valley Bay turn-off.

How much High season: midweek $450 a night, weekend $1500 (minimum two nights) and weekly $2750. Low season: midweek $325 a night, weekend $1250 (minimum two nights) and weekly $1750.

Style statement Contemporary lakeside comfort.

Perfect for Relaxing by the pool with an engrossing book.

Don't forget Swimmers and towels. It would be a crime not to make use of all that water.

Shame about The nagging feeling you are in someone else's home. Of course you are — but small tweaks could make visitors feel more welcome.

Kudos For a layout well-suited to entertaining: generous rooms, dining table for eight, barbecue and outdoor setting.

Take the kids Only if they are not overly curious. A lot of fragile curios could easily get broken by little fingers.