Andrew Taylor gets a taste of the good life down the south coast of NSW.
Gerhard and Maria Baden really know how to spoil their guests with panoramic ocean views, massages available 24/7 and classical music serenades. Yet it's hard to tell whether the cattle grazing in the "elite paddock" at Schottlander's Wagyu Beef Farm near Gerringong appreciate the seascape and orchestral sounds.
However, Gerhard says the solar-panelled back scratcher - "the most expensive cow brush in the world" - is used regularly by the cattle, whose marbled beef is sold in the farm's butchery.
Two-legged guests staying at the Schottlander's farmstay (schottlanderswagyu.com.au) can also take advantage of a cheeky back scratch, as long as they avoid the bovine "landmines" strewn around the 93-hectare farm.
The sleepy coastal towns between Wollongong and Nowra have long been a magnet for surfers, sunseekers and sightseers, but the region is fast becoming a culinary destination thanks to a new generation of farmers, many former city dwellers determined to produce food in a sustainable way, and a growing number of cafes and restaurants and farmers' markets.
Hitching a ride with Foodscape Tours (foodscapetours.com.au), hosted by Jacqueline Wiley, provides an opportunity to meet winemakers, farmers and restaurateurs whose eccentricities are as endearing as their passion for producing beautiful food.
Adam and Fiona Walmsley's chicken caravan catches eggs while allowing their chickens to roam free around Buena Vista Farm (buenavistafarm.com.au), which overlooks the ocean on the edge of Gerringong. The couple and their three children moved in in 2011 from Sydney to the farm where Fiona grew up. They have a burgeoning business selling free-range pork, poultry, eggs, organic vegetables, pate, biscuits and cakes. Cooking classes are also offered at the farm.
Jamberoo Valley Farm (jamberoovalleyfarm.com.au) runs workshops in permaculture, sustainable living and cooking led by Tass Schmidt. The Farmer for a Weekend program offers visitors a chance to indulge their McLeod's Daughters fantasies. Mucking out a pigsty might not be everyone's idea of a relaxing holiday, but Tass's cookery and entertaining stories are worth the hard graft.
Kel Grey also returned to the family farm, The Pines (thepineskiama.com.au), with wife Mahlah. You can opt to keep Kel company at the pre-dawn milking of his herd of Holsteins at the farm on Saddleback Mountain, above Kiama, which his family has owned since 1854. Guests can opt instead to feed the calves or soak up the view of the Illawarra coast.
Vines thrive in the area too. The 2011 sparkler at Roselea Vineyard (roseleavineyard.com.au) won gold at the Kiama Wine Show, but winemaker Jeff Lester says the land is ideal for chambourcin.
Brian Johnson's Crooked River Wines (crookedriverwines.com) has also flourished thanks to its Pyjama Vino port. The name was inspired by a 100-year-old lady who told Johnson how well she slept after a glass of the white port.
The writer was a guest of Kiama Tourism.
Kiama is a two-hour drive south of Sydney, longer via the scenic journey by train; see sydneytrains.info.
Schottlanders Wagyu Farm, 96 Rose Valley Road, Gerringong, has doubles starting from $120 a night in the farmhouse (sleeps eight people); see schottlanderswagyu.com.au/farmstay/farmhouse. The Pines, 152 Saddleback Mountain Road, Kiama, has doubles from $440 a night; see thepineskiama.com.au.