Stanwell Park is a small village north of Wollongong on the unspoilt, blast-from-the-past, 1960s-feel coastal road that winds its way from the 'Gong up to the vast Royal National Park, on Sydney's southern fringe. Cabbage Tree Cottage is located just a 10-minute walk from the small collection of shops at the corner of Station Street and Lawrence Hargrave Drive and it takes less than five minutes to reach Stanwell Park's beach and reserve.
The cottage is a cosy, three-bedroom home atop a steep driveway with lovely bush outlook, plus fenced pool and BBQ facilities. It's beautifully furnished with brilliant attention to detail and the owners leave it spotlessly clean. Thoughtfully, they rang to check that we'd arrived okay and left their number in case of any queries.
Think coastal chic a stone's throw from Sydney. It poured the weekend we stayed, but it didn't matter: we simply fired up the pot-belly stove with supplied wood. Later, we ventured out to Kiama for lunch, then went for a stroll along Thirroul's lively cafe and boutique shopping strip. Returning to the cottage, we kicked the ball around on the beach for an hour or so with our dog. Wollongong City Council has zoned its beaches, so it's easy to work out if you can have your pet on or off its leash.
Nearby Scarborough Hotel, overlooking the wildness of the coast, is a great spot for a coffee or pale ale. Thirroul and its surrounds have plenty of creative vibe: D. H. Lawrence wrote Kangaroo here in the winter of 1922 (he and his wife, Frieda, stayed at Wyewurk cottage). He wrote of the area: "The sea talked and talked all the time, in its disintegrative, elemental language."
Need to know
Cost: From $600 for a two-night weekend.
Distance: 1 hour's drive (60km) south of Sydney.
Beach Road, Stanwell Park, NSW
PHONE: (02) 9955 4064 or 0418 455 867