The Chef's Cottage, Bawley Point review: The Chef's special

Read our writer's views on this property below

Megan Johnston joins an eco community at Bawley Point.

It's sold as a bucolic getaway, a romantic bush escape that is as eco-friendly as it is luxurious. Not long into our stay at Bawley Bush Cottages, we're meandering through the bush skirting the property when my companion suddenly rushes up the hill to the pavilion.

He starts stripping off his clothes and flailing his limbs. It takes a moment but eventually it registers. A gang of tiny leeches has ambushed my beau.

Then the paranoia hits. My skin starts tingling, too, and I scurry up the hill. "Can you see any?" I wail, arms askew like a scarecrow.

He inspects me carefully but it seems I'm safe - for now. We take a minute to recover, examining our adversaries as they writhe around on the pavers.

"Bloody leeches!" is our unanimous refrain.

So ends our first walk around the bush retreat - and any silly illusions about the romance of the bush. Before our leechy encounter, however, things had been going delightfully.

We arrived late the night before. This visit is a romantic occasion, so we've chosen the most upmarket of the six dwellings on the property. The Chef's Cottage is a secluded mud-brick building with ample privacy and an outdoor bath, comfortable rustic wooden furniture and a pot-belly fireplace. It feels cosy and pleasantly barn-like, with a loft, recycled ironbark beams and a straw-lined cathedral roof.

Unlike some of the other cottages on the property, this cottage has a flushing toilet. And as the name suggests, this cottage is designed for entertaining, with a well-stocked kitchen, gas barbecue and dining table.

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All the usual games and gadgets are supplied, including Wi-Fi, and there are a few touches specifically for nature-lovers, such as pictures of wildlife on the wall, thorough bushwalking notes and a deck overlooking a forest of spotted gums, blackbutts and cycads.

It's the type of place a couple could easily hole up in for days or use as a base to explore the nearby national parks. With three bedrooms, it would also be roomy enough for a large family gathering or several couples, especially if combined with the property's other apartments and cottages. With a bit of a squeeze you might even manage the Chef's seven-person capacity.

The cottages are the painstaking project of owners Pip James and Bill Powell to create a 16-hectare eco community. The couple hope to eventually sell parts of the property to like-minded bush lovers.

They live on site but we barely see them during our stay.

An entertaining "R-rated" development diary in the lounge room of our cottage documents the two decades of work they have put into the place, as well as its environmental credentials.

Our first morning is a lazy one. We have such a lovely view from our bedroom window - today of wrens flitting through bushes - that there's virtually nothing to coax us out of bed.

Only when hunger hits do we shuffle towards the kitchen, where we fill up on porridge. We bring our own provisions. Then we embark on our bush stroll. Until the final moments everything is perfectly civilised - we spot a shy grey kangaroo and her joey munching on grass, kookaburras call from the tree tops and sweet smoke wafts through the branches. We follow the track to a nearby coastal lagoon - also known as Lake Willinga — to check out the kayaks provided for our use and admire black swans floating past.

But the reverie is dashed when we emerge on the lawn. Thoroughly de-leeched, we spend the afternoon reading beside the fire, then at dusk drive to nearby Kioloa for ultra-fresh oysters and supper at Merry Street Restaurant and Bar.

On the second morning I summon the courage for an outdoor bath. It's a slightly scary proposition, even surrounded by a clever privacy screen. But once settled it's a novelty to be immersed in bubbles and the great outdoors.

After checking out, we take the short drive to the quiet coastal village of Bawley Point to wander around the headland. From the tip we look down on pristine beaches dotted with surfers and fishermen. Our last stop is the winery and vineyard at Bawley Vale Estate, where we sample a full-bodied purple-red drop called Guillotine Chambourcin - and stock up on locally made jams and olive oils. By now our brush with the blood suckers is all but forgotten.

Weekends Away are reviewed anonymously and paid for by Traveller.

VISITORS' BOOK

Address 101 Willinga Road, Bawley Point.

The verdict Authentic, comfortable eco-retreat surrounded by bush.

Price The Chef's Cottage costs from $240 a night on off-peak weekends (two-night minimum stay). Smaller apartments cost from $165 a night on off-peak weekends (two-night minimum stay).

Bookings Phone 4480 6754, see bawleybushcottages.com.au.

Getting there Take the Princes Highway 3½ hours south to Termeil. Turn left on to Bawley Point Road. Turn right on to Willinga Road.

Perfect for Quiet bush retreats, romantic getaways, large gatherings and bush weddings. It's not far from the beach, either.

Wheelchair access Cafe Cottage only.

While you're there Pack your hiking boots and insect repellent for a bushwalk, most notably to the top of Durras or Pigeon House mountains; kayak to the beach from the banks of Lake Willinga; dine at Merry Street Restaurant and Bar; stroll to Bawley Vale Estate or Mimosa Hill Wildflower Farm; in summer, pick fruit at Clyde River Berry Farm.