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Wild at heart

1 March, 2020

Recently re-opened, the Blue Mountain retreat just a few hours from Sydney offers the perfect escape to the wild

That elusive feeling, of truly leaving the world behind, finds us as soon as we turn right off the Great Western Highway to ‘go bush’ – Aussie slang for running wild. As the landscape changes, one can feel the trappings of civilisation falling away with each passing kilometre. The wombat lazily crossing the road as we enter the gates, as if on cue, seals the deal. It is a wildness that lingers throughout one’s stay at the Emirates One&Only Wolgan Valley resort, countered by ultra-luxurious accommodation and a superlative food and drinks offering. Thoughtful touches abound, from bicycles to complimentary sunscreen, and minibar with locally-produced treats.

Designed in the Federation Bungalow style, the resort – home to 40 private villas as well as the main homestead – is but a mere speck in the 7,000 acre conservation reserve, recently reopened in February after the devastating wildfires.

With conservation a key pillar of the property, numerous programmes are in place to support the area’s regeneration after the bushfires – from collecting fallen timber, restablishing natural habitats, and caring for ancient Wollemi pines.

Inside, city dwellers will seriously contemplate relocating. Each villa features a separate lounge room with fireplace, roomy outdoor decks and private pools, and luxury ranch-style décor continues into social areas including the lobby lounge, library and bar deck.

The warm and friendly service enhances this feeling – not least in The Wolgan Dining Room restaurant, where hyper-local, seasonal produce is used to serve up dishes like duck pastrami with asparagus and garlic chips. A more casual dining experience can be had at Country Kitchen, the deli-style lunch venue and breakfasts can be enjoyed both at the restaurant or in-villa.

The reserve is designed for exploring and several back-to-nature experiences are on offer (some included in the rates, others costing extra). Choices include horse-riding through the reserve, a 4WD wildlife drive followed by sundowners with a view, star- gazing, simply going on a hike through the many trails criss-crossing the reserve or getting hands-on with one of their conservation activities led by field guides. Sustainability is baked into the carbon-neutral property’s DNA, with an environment-friendly ethos applied throughout – from waste and energy management to wildlife conservation.

Whatever you choose to do, the only way to cap a busy morning is with a relaxing signature massage at the luxurious spa, which uses Australian natural skincare brand So- dashi. And the only way to wind down the day is with a dip in the private pool, viewing the mob of kangaroos and wallabies grazing on a grass patch just outside, against a backdrop of bushland stretching out as far as the eye can see – this is peak Australia.

Three activities to try

A horse-trail ride
Trained guides take riders of all levels through a valley fringed by escarpments, where you can explore the unique landscape and see the regrowth of indigenous flora and fauna.

1832 Heritage Homestead
The original home of the property’s owners, which dates back to 1832, has been restored into a mini museum housing a ‘cabinet of curiosities’. Free to visit for all hotel guests, it offers an interesting insight into 19th century life.

Private picnic
A gourmet hamper complete with salads, sandwiches, dessert, drinks and picnic blanket is set up by friendly staff at one of the several panoramic viewpoints for the ultimate alfresco experience. Don’t feel like walking back to the villa? Just radio in for a ride.

Words: Sudeshna Ghosh

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