There are countless options for exploring Sydney’s harbour; a short, sharp exciting jet boat ride, a sail boat or the way the locals do it – on board a luxury boat charter with a seafood BBQ, a cool box ‘esky’ of cold beer and wine and a kayak to explore the shallow coves. One of my favourite ways is to take the Manly ferry, one of the green and white commuter ferries that criss-cross the harbour every day. This time however, I was tasked with making sure that the super sports yacht Ghost was up to scratch. With four staterooms, a dining room, two outdoor areas and two lounge areas, I can assure you it is and the Manly ferry will no longer get a look in. I’ll confess that I didn’t actually leave the harbour (it’s not all fun and games), however when you do, your cruise will be tailored to you and you’ll be the envy of everyone.
The Blue Mountains is treated by some as a day trip quick ‘tick box’, but it offers so much more. Granted the Three Sisters and Jamison Valley are stunningly beautiful, however if you want to scratch the surface, tickle your taste buds with a glass of (two, three ?) of wines from boutique vineyards and sample fresh farm to table cuisine, then go no further than Wolgan Valley Resort. In three hours (slightly longer if you wish to take in the scenic ‘plus’ route) you think you’ve come to the end of the road as tarmac gives way to a gravel twisting track, this is the start of the descent in to the valley. Half an hour and a dusty face later (note to self to shut the window on the way back), I reached the gatehouse where I took the 4WD transfer to the main lodge – more gravel, lumps, bumps and a river to cross and I had arrived. An alternative, for those short on time, or simply if you want to fully appreciate the magnitude of this World Heritage National Park, is to take an hour’s helicopter flight.
The resort, set around the slopes of the valley, is dominated by a glorious take on an old outback homestead; albeit on a much larger scale and with an inviting (despite the cool temperature) infinity pool. Individual ‘cottage’ heritage suites are dotted around the resort, each one housing a large lounge area with working fire place, cosy bedroom, ensuite with spa bath and of course the ultimate in luxury, a private plunge pool. A long deck faced the valley and the original old homestead (infinitely smaller than the replica) and a couple of curious kangaroos completed the quintessential Australian scene.
A stay at Wolgan includes different ways to explore its vast back yard. Mountain bikes are provided and there are marked hiking nature tracks, horseback trails or 4WD tours. Since much of Australia’s quirky wildlife is nocturnal and sunset was approaching, I chose to explore with one of the wildlife field guides. Back in the 4WD, we traversed the slopes, crossing the river in several places and then delved deeper in to remote parts of the valley. Wombats scurried around in the bush, wallabies sat bolt upright and engaged in a staring contest and the roo’s seemed to play chicken in front of the vehicle. Heading back to the homestead, a tasting menu was my choice for dinner.
Seasonal produce dominates the menu and many fruits, veggies and herbs are taken from the kitchen garden (feel free to wander down and take a look). The kitchen philosophy is to source as much produce from a radius of no more than 160 kilometres. Every morsel was sublime (an over the top statement? possibly…but true) and each course matched by a local wine – the Logan Pinot, from Orange (130 kilometres away so scraping through that distance limit) to me was the winner, yet the icing on the cake was the cheese room. A heady delicious scent hit me at the entrance and the choices painful to make, I managed, just; although I had more than my fair share I’m sure, or maybe that was the waiter’s way of getting rid of me.