Just an hour and a half north of Sydney, Bells at Killcare are perfectly placed for a short winter break.
Their luxury cottages and villas are well spaced across a rambling, landscaped property that ends in a manicured lake.
We pull up just as the afternoon shadows are beginning to lengthen.
Check in is done in the blue and white striped surrounds of the main house, which also houses their restaurant.
Arriving guests are quickly ushered into a comfortable sitting room to get the lowdown on the property.
If you’re not the planning type, here you’ll also find a well-stocked larder where freshly baked breads, crackers, cheeses, cured meats and dips can be purchased to accompany your in-room mini bar selection.
Most of the products, from Little Creek cheeses to Pukara Estate caramelised onion jam to sweet treats by Luka Chocolates, who occupy the redeveloped Wyong Milk Factory, are gathered from local producers.
Our host takes us through things to do in the local area. With the hotel located so close to the sea, coastal walks are popular, and there’s an array of only-accessible-by-foot beaches to choose from.
Feeling lazy, we check out the one part of the Bouddi National Park that is accessible by vehicle and get in a very pleasant last swim of the season at Putty Beach.
Only a five-minute drive down the hill from the hotel, it has an attractive bushland setting, golden sand and gently lapping waves.
You can also swim onsite in the azure blue in-ground pool.
While the water might be a bit chilly, the blue and white striped pool lounges get a lovely dose of golden late afternoon light.
Don’t worry about bringing up drinks from your cottage, since my last visit the hotel has added on a self-service pool bar, housed in a 1960s inspired deep blue caravan.
Jump inside to mix up your own gin or vodka-based beverage or grab a beer or wine.
You can also use the phone in there to order a poolside snack, from panini to freshly shucked oysters to a bowl of gnocchi if the weather is on the cooler side, before strolling back to your cottage through the wintery gardens.
We’re staying in a deluxe two-storey cottage towards the rear of the property. It’ll set you back $480 per night from Sunday to Thursday, or $1174 for a Friday and Saturday night stay when there is a two-night minimum.
If you can sneak away from Sydney for a Sunday night, Bells at Killcare are currently running a Sneaky Sunday Package ($635) that includes a four-course seasonal dinner in the restaurant, plus the full hot breakfast that I’ll get to later.
With comfy well-cushioned couches set in front of a gas fireplace with flat-screen television and a full movie package, the two-storey cottage has your cosy winter break needs covered.
The colour palette of washed out blues and raw linen keeps it soft and organic, and loosely connected to the sea.
What you’ll like most about Bells at Killcare are the little touches.
You'll find local B & K mineral water in the kitchenette’s fridge, quality Ironbark Distillery booze in the woven basket of in-room treats, and an intriguing, well-illustrated book on the Bouddi Peninsula sitting on the coffee table, all of which add to a strong sense of place.
Upstairs it’s all about carpet you can sink your toes into and linen. Expect to find lovely thick white sheets, fluffy pillows and a comfortable mattress your body will enjoy sinking into so much, you’ll be hard pressed to stay awake once you try it out.
If you can drag yourself away for long enough to enjoy the deep bath and signature Bouddi-branded toiletries, they have cleverly ensured there will be no-one knocking on the door, as the cottage has a downstairs toilet (with extractor fan) to preserve the sanctity of your bedroom and bathroom smellscape.
The outside is brought in through French doors that open onto two separate wooden decks; the lower one covered so it’s still useful if it happens to rain during your stay.
And, unlike so many regional getaways I go on, the Wi-Fi in the rooms here is excellent, so you can ‘gram the shit out of everything, if that is your wont.
When you wake up, breakfast is just a short walk up the gravel driveway, back in the main house.
Most guests opt to take their locally roasted Bouddi blend coffees on the fully enclosed patio.
Coffees here are made to order, and super robust with good crema that sits right on the edge of being burnt without going over.
Juices come courtesy of Eastcoast in Kulnura, a citrus growing area in the Central Coast. Now, if you wake up starving, you can get stuck into the Continental breakfast items right away.
Along with cheese, nuts, dried fruit and charcuterie, there are also a range of items that are made inhouse, like excellent buttery, blueberry Danishes and chia puddings.
Don’t peak too soon, there’s a full hot breakfast included in the overnight rate, though sensibly the kitchen doesn’t overload these plates. My dining companion opted for toasted sourdough adorned with tomatoes and herbs from the Bells garden, grilled chorizo and torn mozzarella, but said he missed eggs, so I shared my house-made labna with poached eggs, chilli oil and almond crumb.
Daily newspapers are available if you’d like to stay connected to the rest of the world, though the real charm of Bells at Killcare is that it actually seems possible to ignore its existence for the course of your stay.
Bells at Killcare
107 The Scenic Road, Killcare Heights
Ph: (02) 4349 7000