Mags King takes a large — and excitable — group of friends to a five-bedroom luxury retreat on the outskirts of Berry.
It takes a range of things these days to truly relax, and peeling back the cover of a 25-metre lap pool and watching a fine layer of mist rise off the surface of the water is a good start.
And the setting doesn't hurt either - Hill End at Jaspers Brush is perched high on a ridge, on a scenic 20-hectare property that is typical of the rural idyll surrounding Berry on the NSW south coast.
When our group of 12 arrived in the dark, we were greeted by human-like stares from a herd of bulls congregating on the driveway who refused to be hurried along by our group of city folk. Our headlights, however, did have a startling effect on a wombat; it scurried out of the way at a pace that belied its build.
The house itself received a round of "wows" instantly.
The house itself received a round of 'wows'.
The entrance, with its high timber cathedral ceiling and glass double doors, set the stylish tone of the rest of the accommodation. Aside from a few steps up to the west wing it is on one level, with the ends separated by an open-plan living area.
From the outside, the five-bedroom house appears a humble-albeit-expansive red-brick bungalow with a few original features, such as aqueduct-like arches, a 1970s fave. Its interior, however, is contemporary - modern furniture, artwork and rugs, partnered with high-end appliances.
We scatter to discover three separate living areas, a gym, a cavernous garage for at least four cars, a laundry, two en suites and a large central bathroom.
Aside from the main kitchen, which appears relatively cosy in relation to the size of the house, there is also a fully equipped kitchenette in the west wing should your legs tire.
The use of glass windows and sliding doors throughout the U-shaped home allows parents relaxing in one side of the house to easily see the children's area on the other, although it's not such a good thing when you're in the main bedroom's en suite, as it backs on to the back driveway.
Both sides of the house open out to the central pool area, where there's a barbecue and a ginormous table to cater for the whole party.
We hear shrieks coming from the children's bedroom; they've discovered the custom-made bunk beds with cute steps leading to the upper deck, their individual reading light, the fun, bright cushions and throws, the soft luxe linen and cloud-like pillows; well perhaps their enthusiasm didn't stretch that far, but I certainly checked it out and considered swapping the main bedroom for a top deck.
More high-pitched noises, this time from the children's entertainment area, which is equipped with DVDs, books, games and a Wii console for several players.
The adults, on the other hand, become excited about unpacking provisions for the weekend, finding a complimentary bottle of Chandon in the fridge, a fresh can of Illy coffee, a beautiful bouquet of flowers and a high-tech entertainment system to boot; clearly, the owners have done the research on how to please guests.
With the little ones distracted, some adults decide to play pool on the billiard table in the living room while others settle for random chatter by the central double-sided fireplace.
The following day, we take languid walks up and down the long tree-lined avenue to the house, taking in the expansive views of the coastline and its hinterland. We swim laps at a gentle pace, and the water feels like ribbons of silk. Berry is an eight-minute drive down the road, so the clan is happy to pop into town for some retail therapy and a scoop or two from the Ice Creamery.
As night falls and nocturnal creatures come alive, the singing and dancing indoors confirms that we are finally relaxed.
The writer was a guest of Destinations NSW. visitnsw.com.
Where Hill End, 171B Strongs Road, Jaspers Brush. (02) 4234 2065, southcoastholidays.com.au.
Getting there Jaspers Brush is about two hours' drive from Sydney. Take the Princes Highway, heading south to Berry. Drive through the centre of Berry. After five kilometres, turn left into Strongs Road. Continue for 1.71 kilometres, turn left into Hill End, up the hill for 900 metres, then turn right.
How much Sleeps 12. From $1000 a night.
Style statement Contemporary interiors with a Tuscan villa charm.
Perfect for Large families and groups of friends.
Don't forget To check out Berry, eight minutes away.
Shame about The lack of privacy in the main bedroom en suite. It faces the the back driveway.
Kudos For the chilled bottle of Chandon in the fridge.
Take the kids Yes, they'll enjoy the entertainment area and the pool.