Selby Cottage, Lake Macquarie review: Old dame works her charm

Read our writer's views on this property below

On the banks of Lake Macquarie, Selby Cottage warms up the wedded chill for Bellinda Kontominas.

If I'm completely honest, the last thing I want to do is go away for the weekend. It's been a long week at work, deadlines loom and there are countless household chores that won't do themselves. My husband is equally unenthused about missing his weekly round of golf and we're both on the verge of colds.

An argument in the car caps things off nicely, followed by a frosty silence that even 1970s disco tunes on the radio can't fix.

But then we arrive at Selby Cottage. Even in the darkness, the waterfront cottage at Marks Point exudes calm. Water laps just metres from the doorstep and lights from a yacht club across Lake Macquarie sparkle in the distance.

Like a grandmother who refuses to take sides in youngsters' quarrels, the former boatshed then fisherman's cottage takes us both in her arms, burying our heads in her ample chest, and suddenly everything is all right.

We light the pot belly fire in the living room, pour cups of tea and wine and talk late into the night, basking in the homey atmosphere of the turn-of- the-century cottage.

Our favourite spot is the waterfront verandah.

Owners Bob and Pat Armstrong have furnished the charming blue weatherboard with antiques and hand-me-downs from friends and neighbours, giving it a rustic, lived-in feel. There are four rooms: combined kitchen/dining, with original fuel stove plus microwave and electric cooktop, a bathroom with cast-iron claw-foot tub, one bedroom with a gorgeous cotton mosquito net over a queen bed and a cosy lounge room decorated with a wooden oar and a series of black and white family photographs, including Pat and Bob as children. Hardwood floors feature in all but the bathroom.

By far, our favourite spot in the cottage is the waterfront verandah, which provides a front-row seat to the "mullet Olympics" as one guest described the leaping antics of the fish. From here you can also watch blazing sunsets, pelicans gliding by and fishermen in small boats out on the lake, or try your own luck with the rod and cast a line from where you sit.

One wag from Britain wrote in the guest book: "I now wish I had brought a screwdriver. If I did, I would have dismantled the verandah and taken it back with me." We can't help but agree.

The Armstrongs have owned the property since 1983 and have been letting the cottage as holiday accommodation for 19 years.


Friendly and welcoming, without being intrusive, they happily suggest nearby places to eat and beaches to explore. The little post office down past the marina does a good brekkie, Milanos on the Lake (five minutes down the road) is spectacular for dinner and the Lakehouse Cafe at Murrays Beach has a beautiful treetop setting, we're told. Caves Beach, Murrays Beach and Blacksmiths Beach are all within a stone's throw, as is Belmont Golf Course.

Newcastle is about 20 minutes' drive north and historic Catherine Hill Bay is about 10 minutes' south, if you can pull yourself away from the cottage to explore.

We spend our first morning checking out the local area, driving past Caves Beach, where it is too rough and too cold to swim on this blustery day. We drive to Murrays Beach, through a new housing development being built among the bushland, to the Lakehouse Cafe, which is nestled high among the eucalypts, next to the sales office.

My husband orders the signature eggs, sausages, tomatoes, hashbrowns and mushrooms, and I tuck in to the delicious honey-baked ham on toast with sunnyside eggs and house-made tomato relish.

At a supermarket in Belmont, we stock up on newspapers and snacks for the afternoon, steaks for a barbecue dinner and muffins for tomorrow's breakfast, before heading back to the cottage.

The Armstrongs' two-storey home sits high on a hill above the cottage, with commanding views over the lake. It has a private guest suite downstairs that includes a large bedroom with exposed timber beams, modern bathroom with shower, small kitchenette and a separate lounge area opening to a patio with views across the lake.

Pat says the suite is popular among those who don't want to walk down the stairs to the waterfront cottage. It's also useful if two couples want to holiday together but maintain their privacy; one couple can stay in the suite while their friends stay in the cottage.

Descending the 50 or so stairs down to the waterfront, we marvel at the manicured, terraced gardens of frangipani and jasmine, which the owners maintain themselves.

The rest of the afternoon is spent in front of the fire, reading the papers and downing cups of tea. Later we cook dinner on the verandah's electric barbecue and loaf in front of the fire for the rest of the evening.

By morning we're so relaxed after a blissful and silent night's sleep that we can only venture as far as the verandah until it's time to leave.

Work deadlines, household chores and silly arguments are long forgotten. Old dame Selby has worked her charm.

Trip notes

Where 151 Marks Point Road, Marks Point, (02) 4947 7760.

Getting there About 2½ hours' north of Sydney via the F3 freeway. Take the Swansea exit.

How much The cottage is $125 a night midweek or $175 a night on weekends (minimum two-night stay) and the suite costs from $110 a night.

Perfect for Recharging the batteries and reconnecting with your partner.

Don't forget Take the fishing rods, there's mullet to be caught.

Shame about If we had to be picky, the lightbulb on the verandah needed replacing, leaving us to barbecue in the semi-darkness.

Kudos We were offered a very late checkout because no guests were expected immediately after our stay.

Take the kids The cottage really is designed for couples but a single fold-out bed is available at no extra charge if you want to bring a little one.

The writer was a guest of Destination NSW,