Ulladulla Guest House, review: Doing the time warp

Read our writer's views on this property below

A decade later, Bruce Elder returns to find an unchanged niche of central Europe in Ulladulla.

There is something strange and disorienting about returning to a destination you first visited and reviewed more than 12 years ago. It is even stranger when the owner, Andrew Nowosad, is still as bright and cheerful as he was all those years ago.

Although he doesn't recognise me (why should he? How many have passed through the place since my last visit?), he leads us through the same lounge, along the same corridor with the walls covered densely in original works of art, down the narrow stairs and into room No. 3 - the room I had in 1999.

Nothing has changed at the Ulladulla Guest House. Time has stood still.

Although it is walking distance from the Pacific Ocean, the room still looks like it's in a guesthouse in Poland, Austria or Germany.

In our room, grandly named an Executive Room, the two-seat couch, an occasional chair and the bedhead are covered in matching burgundy velveteen. The blanket on the comfortable king-sized bed is, you guessed it, burgundy, under a floral quilt. The spacious bathroom has a spa bath, pink floor tiles, black marble wall tiles and pink shower fittings and taps.

The furniture - a wardrobe, small desk, blanket box, chest of drawers and occasional table - is stained pine. This strange mix of furniture gives the room a dark, old-fashioned air. Although the guesthouse has a certain dated feel - in fact, I can't recall it looking much different the last time I was here - the place has been well maintained and does not look tired.

The communal pool and spa in the garden, which burble away constantly during the day, can be blocked off by drawing the heavy cream brocade curtains. The gardens, almost an incongruous counterpoint to the room, are verdantly tropical with ferns, staghorns and palms.

Nowosad was born in Poland and grew up in Germany. His wife, Elizabeth, was born in South Africa and grew up in England. Somehow they have taken a building that looks like it was once a 1970s motel in a location overlooking the harbour in Ulladulla and turned it into an almost perfect replica of a central European pension with 10 rooms.

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The lounge-reception has floral couches, a friendly communal ambience, some African and South Pacific carvings and masks and an entire wall holding a library of holiday reading. Breakfast, which is not included in the tariff, is served in the guesthouse's Elizans Restaurant.

It is rated five-star but it is worth remembering this is a five-star guest house rating, not a five-star hotel or motel rating. The standards are different. While the room is dark, the key features required for a five-star guest house rating are present: hairdryer in the bathroom; large, flat-screen television; dressing gowns in the wardrobe; good airconditioning; a large and comfortable spa bath in the bathroom; glass of champagne on arrival; glass of port and a chocolate beside the bed at turndown.

To continue the European theme, the obvious restaurant in the area is Rick Stein at Bannisters, a five-minute drive north at Mollymook. While Stein makes an occasional nod to Asian and Australian cuisine, the restaurant's perfectly cooked seafood is, with rare exceptions, decidedly English. This is fish, fish and more fish as you'd find in an upmarket restaurant in Europe, not in a "mod Oz" establishment. The escalopes of Tasmanian salmon ($50), for example, are served with sorrel, cream and Noilly Prat sauce, beans, potatoes and a mash of potato and carrots. It is swimming well outside the mainstream of fashionable Australian cuisine.

Main courses are $36-$56; the average price for wine by the glass is $15. But for Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday lunch, there is a set-price three-course meal for $60 a head.

To top off the European experience, Ulladulla's biggest tourist attraction, which occurs every Easter, is the Blessing of the Fleet Festival, a Mediterranean celebration with strong Italian-Roman Catholic origins. The local fishing fleet is blessed on Easter Sunday under the watchful eye of a statue of St Peter, the patron saint of fishermen, in the hope of a "safe and bountiful season". The festival begins with a street parade.

Being somewhat overwhelmed by our Europe-by-the-Pacific experience and needing a little "true blue" exercise after Stein's lunch, we're drawn to Ulladulla's two most impressive attractions. To the north of the town's harbour is the remarkable One Track for All. This comprises two circular tracks, both about a kilometre in length and suitable for wheelchairs, which pass through stands of casuarinas (many knocked flat by recent high winds) on sealed paths. Apart from being a pleasant headland walk, One Track for All features relief carvings and paintings on huge pieces of timber placed every 20 metres or so along the paths. The carvings and paintings are the work of Noel Butler, an artist from the local Dhurga language group. His work tells the story of the Aboriginal and European settlement of the area, while commenting on some of the follies after the arrival of Europeans.

Equally interesting is a visit to the lighthouse (drive to the top of Ulladulla's main street and turn east). The area has dramatically beautiful ocean vistas and, in season, there are vantage points for spotting whales and dolphins.

For a weekend break out of the ordinary - and if you can't afford the Austrian countryside - the Ulladulla Guest House is a little piece of Europe, wrapped in burgundy, beside the Pacific.

Weekends Away are reviewed anonymously and paid for by Traveller.

VISITORS' BOOK

Ulladulla Guest House

Address 39 Burrill Street, Ulladulla.

The verdict A comfortable European-style guest house within walking distance of Ulladulla Harbour and the Pacific Ocean.

Price From $214 for a garden suite to $298 for an executive room, although these rooms are commonly discounted. We paid $198 for a night in an executive room.

Bookings Phone 1800 700 905 or 4455 1796, see www.guesthouse.com.au.

Getting there Ulladulla is 220 kilometres or about 3 ½ hours' drive from Sydney. Drive into town on the Princes Highway, turn east into Wason Street and right into Burrill Street.

Perfect for Those who like the idea of old-style European hospitality in an Australian beachside town.

Wheelchair access Yes.

While you're there Take walks around the coast, watch for whales and dolphins.