Bounded by Brisbane Water National Park on NSW's Central Coast is the secluded village of Pearl Beach. As the crow flies, Sydney is so close you can see it. Pristine beaches, swathes of national park and seaside villages - including nearby Woy Woy, Ettalong, Patonga and Killcare - await.
It's a one hour and 25-minute drive north of Sydney on the M1 (veer off when you see oversized dinosaur Ploddy atop a bushy outcrop - home of the Australian Reptile Park). Alternatively take the 30-minute ferry ride from Palm Beach to the neighbouring village of Patonga. Taxis (Uber is virtually non-existent) and a bus service operate, however you'll need a car for exploring.
Pearl Beach feels like an extension of Sydney's northern beaches and not surprisingly it's known as the Central Coast's Palm Beach. Yet Sydney's traffic and crowds are a world away. Towering gums, wildlife and a sweep of beach with an ocean pool make it popular with holidaymakers and retirees. Lauded fine diner Pearls on the Beach is the village's only restaurant (thankfully it's an exceptional one) while a general store and café serve up breakfast and lunch as well as selling essentials.
It's easy to see why Greenhouse Retreat's owner Carla Luce fell head over heels for this charming beach house a barefoot stroll from the water. Surrounded by palm trees and fragrant frangipanis you slip into holiday mode the moment you arrive.
The previous owner was an interior designer and brought the fibro cottage back from the brink of demolition to become the luxury four-bedroom holiday house it is today. A magnesium outdoor pool (one of the few holiday homes in the area to offer one) was added later, along with lush native gardens.
There are two queen size bedrooms in the main cottage which share a bathroom and a further two queen size guestrooms housed in a converted garage. The external guestrooms are serviced by a contemporary bathroom cum laundry housed in a reconfigured shed. There's also an outdoor shower for rinsing off under lush foliage. A covered deck with oversized rattan lampshade, hurricane lanterns, lounges with throws and outdoor heating is the place to gather with family and friends.
The interiors are best described as rustic luxe with grey linens, white floorboards and a neutral and black colour palette. There's a galley kitchen with retro Smeg fridge, beaded chandeliers, wood fireplace, Designer Boys' artwork, curios, and organic teas, bathroom amenities and Ikou candles. A boardwalk connects the exterior cabin to the main cottage and pool deck lined with sun lounges.
Tackle the Pearl Beach to Patonga walk through Brisbane Water National Park and have a dip afterwards at the southern end of Pearl Beach (avoid swimming in the northern end known as "Dumpers").
Nearby Ettalong offers several good eateries, however it's well worth making the trek to Cabana Café at Copacabana for exceptional nasi goreng, corn fritters and made-to-order fresh juices. Brothers Josh and Daniel (ex Barangaroo House and Icebergs chef) Duffy-Sykes are known for their warm hospitality. If staying put, Greenhouse Retreats (who operate a second property nearby at Green Point) can organise inhouse massages, catering and yoga.
This is the beach house we all dream of owning, reminiscent of carefree childhood holidays by the sea. The once humble fibro shack is now a luxurious seaside retreat where days morph from swims at the beach and in the backyard pool to sundowners on the deck with laughing kookaburras as your soundtrack.
Drifting off to sleep to the sound of waves crashing on Pearl Beach. Thoughtful touches like sun hats, beach towels (you can even use the complimentary SUP boards) cover anything you forget to pack.
The bathroom is smallish, especially if sharing the main house among four people, however the second outdoor bathroom makes it doable. The 10am checkout policy is painful.