Ashleigh Bonner is hooked on an old fishing cottage on the Central Coast.
Hardys Bay is the kind of place Palm Beach folk go to escape their McMansions for the weekend and unwind in chic beach shacks. Lining the inlet are pastel-coloured weatherboard homes looking out on to little boats bobbing on the blue bay. It's almost too picture-perfect until the tide crawls out in the afternoon and reveals a muddy seabed, but even then blissfully happy children scurry around chasing crabs in the mangroves. Being only a 90-minute drive north from Sydney you can see why in-the-know Sydneysiders flock here for the weekend.
Aptly named The Writers' Retreat, walls of books line the two bedrooms. With so many to choose from, I reluctantly bypass a 1965 issue of National Geographic and The Guide to Kama Sutra to try my hand at The Art of Feng Shui.
And how does the space fare in terms of feng shui? Well, there's plenty of fresh chi flowing freely into the uncluttered home though the huge balcony doors which open on to bay views. And with houseplants, dark, paint-splattered wooden floorboards, a shiny stainless steel kitchen, fireplace and waterfront location, this former fishing cottage has effortlessly incorporated the five natural elements key to the Chinese art. It would have any feng shui master's tick of approval.
The main house, upstairs, is the place we want to be. From every corner of the large open living space you can ogle at the views so close you may as well be floating on the water. The king-size bedroom has an adjoining sunny nook for a spot of writing, also looking out on to the deck. Downstairs is just as accommodating. The bedroom with en suite feels like a small library with another light-filled writing alcove. Without an internal staircase, each level is your own private suite, perfect for two couples.
Adding to the soothing ambience, softly draped mosquito nets hang over each bed. We presume they are there just to look pretty but as the sun sinks over the bay, sitting on the upstairs deck we hear that all too familiar buzz and know our pretty canopies will come in handy. Not a wink's sleep is lost though under our tented beds and we wake to the sun glistening off the water in the morning.
The kitchen will have you reaching for an apron in no time. But come prepared. The closest large supermarket is 20 minutes away in Woy Woy so best to stock up on your way in and replenish your supplies at the gourmet, albeit overpriced, deli down the road. If you'd rather someone else do the cooking, there are three local restaurants to choose from including a rustic waterfront cafe, Pachamama, serving organic produce plucked from its garden. The themed dinner nights are a hit, just get in early before they stop serving at 8pm.
WORTH STEPPING OUT FOR
In true Sydney weather style, we spent one day blissfully soaking up the sun on Killcare Beach, only a few minutes drive away, and the other with windswept hair and towels tightly wrapped around our shoulders on the cliff-top walk to Maitland Bay. Carpeted with flannel flowers, the track meanders in and out of the bush and along the sheer edge of the headland. Dolphins and whales aplenty too.
A bright and airy home perfect for a relaxing double-date weekend.
HOW TO GET THERE
Hardys Bay is a 90-minute drive from Sydney. Head north for an hour on the F3 Freeway. Take the Gosford exit. Follow signs to Woy Woy and continue to Hardys Bay.
Weekend rates for two nights at The Writers' Retreat start from $500 for two people (upstairs only) or $800 for four people (full house). See stayz.com.au/112992 or phone 4360 2222. No wheelchair access.
The writer was a guest of The Writers' Retreat.