At Wild Edge Retreat, it seems, you propose. The engagement you celebrate together at Somewhere Unique and some time later you join immediate family at Redleaf for the slap-up wedding. Subsequent anniversaries are passed at the likes of Blair Athol Estate or Capers maybe. In just such a fashion, your every major romantic milestone is catered for at Wollombi.
Just how this heritage-listed little village at the south-east corner of the Hunter Valley became Romance Central nobody knows, but owners of any upmarket accommodation around the valley hamlet tell a similar story. Their luxury offering, which they mostly envisaged as the perfect jumping off point for nearby Hunter wineries, is more often tying knots than packing hampers. Few guests escape to anywhere else and the district reports a permanent shortage of deep red rose petals and tea candles are at a premium.
Maybe it's the nature of the beast; most of the accommodation on offer is "couples only". Maybe it's the setting: the top-of-the-world mountain views from an infinity pool at Wild Edge with waves of receding ridges all the way to the Barrington Tops or the serene pastoral setting of Blair Athol on the valley floor could bring on a bout of tenderness in the most hardened of hearts. And while these venues have their share of high-functioning corporates taking mid-week stress breaks, all four couples at Wild Edge one recent weekend turned up for a proposal.
Maybe it's just somewhere new. A number of these accommodation offerings have come on line only in the past year. Notably Blair Athol Estate, an immaculately rendered project of the Hogan family, 10 years in the making, that has turned a family farm into a prestige bolt hole, and new owners at Redleaf have taken a former home and art gallery and created an exquisite little version of a small European hotel that takes up to 12 guests in its six sumptuous rooms, making it perfect for a wedding couple and family.
Both Wild Edge and Somewhere Unique, 10 and seven years old respectively, also have new owners who are building on the reputations of their venues; both have a high rate of returning guests. Domestic and international guests at Wild Edge have typically stayed at Qualia and Wolgan Valley Resort. Overseas visitors will almost certainly include a trip to the Hunter wineries, either by helicopter or private car.
Less romantic but offering deep comfort and seclusion for three couples or a family group is brand new Gypsy Willows, a well-appointed cottage set in a pretty eight hectares of farmland surrounded by wooded hills. Here, most visitors will include Hunter Valley lunches and wine tours in their itinerary.
There's an emphasis on exclusivity at most of these venues: at Wild Edge you are greeted and taken over to your pavilion then left in privacy; at Somewhere Unique guests head directly to one of two architect-designed eco villas in an elevated bushland setting; at Blair Athol, there's canapes and a local sparkling on arrival at one of the two spa retreats. Over at Redleaf, where parties have the property to themselves, they typically arrive with provisions and take turns at preparing meals in the Tuscan farmhouse kitchen overlooking the parklike gardens.
Fridges everywhere are well stocked with breakfast goodies and nibbles that include local produce, including wines. By arrangement, Wild Edge and Somewhere Unique will provide dinner options, such as gourmet barbecue ingredients such as seafood fresh from the Sydney Fish Markets. And all hosts are ready with nearby dining suggestions, such as the hatted Molines and Margan's (both 25 minutes away) or Panino or Wollombi Cafe in the village.
Only the charming Capers Guesthouse is fully hosted by owners Jane and Michael Young and billed by a number of visitors as a perfect home away from home. The first of Wollombi's upmarket accommodation, now more than a decade old, this gracious sandstone residence overlooks the village fringe and a distant arm of the valley.
Jane Young's breakfasts on the flagstone verandah and fine dinners in the grand country house sitting room are legendary. Capers is a well-known wedding venue, its romantic gardens offering the perfect location to exchange vows.
visitwollombi.com.au. Tariffs range from $300 a night to $840.
Wollombi is a little under two hours from Sydney and just over an hour from Newcastle and the Central Coast.