Want to go bush but have no desire to sleep in a tent? Teresa Ooi finds six spectacular wilderness stays in or near national parks.
You can hole up in a lighthouse keeper's cottage surrounded by jaw-dropping views, stay in a bygone-age heritage building close to the snowfields, rug up in a wooden cottage with goannas and wallabies on your doorstep or luxuriate in a gravity-defying, awe-inspiring house in the middle of the bush. These are holiday homes with a huge difference: all located in NSW's pristine national parks or native bush.
It's an action-packed holiday for anyone craving adventure and will please all members of the family - whatever their age. There is so much to do in Australian national parks and almost all of it is free. You can go swimming, sailing, kayaking, hiking, mountain-biking or fishing at different, magical spots every day and then retreat indoors to sit by an open fire or soak in a claw-foot bathtub when dusk falls.
The added joy is that you are also helping support the upkeep of our national parks and their conservation programs.
The only drawback: you usually have to pack enough food, drinks and essentials to last your stay. You also have to prepare your own meals - but it's no hardship to stoke up the fire when the sun sets and cook up a barbecue with a tinnie in hand.
So here are six of the best places to stay in native bushland that don't involve the seven-letter word - camping.
1. SOUTHERN HIGHLANDS
The Seidler House
Carved into a sandstone cliff just two hours' drive from Sydney, this amazing house defies gravity as it hangs above a deep gorge of the Wingecarribee River.
It is the last house designed by famous architect Harry Seidler - and it is a house built to impress. You will be thunderstruck.
Set in rural bushland the size of 113 football fields, alongside two-kilometres of picturesque river, the house is surrounded by wombats, kangaroos, platypus, koalas and birdlife.
With panoramic views over Mittagong, Bowral and Joadja, this contemporary masterpiece is the ultimate luxury accommodation for discerning travellers.
Designed like a sculpture, it has spacious open-plan living spaces with floor-to-ceiling glass walls and curved roofs that contrast with the sharply cornered, elevated viewing decks.
The four-bedroom house, which can easily sleep eight people, has an abundance of light and warmth. The master bedroom has a generous ensuite while the three remaining king-size bedrooms share a large bathroom. There are several comfortable lounge areas, two stone open fireplaces, a large dining area and a modern kitchen.
Outside, there are plenty of tranquil spaces for lounging around, an outdoor dining area with barbecue and a stunning swimming pool with its own courtyard. There is no wi-fi.
The Seidler House is an ideal place for an escape with local restaurants, cafes, wineries and antique shops close by. The charming villages of Berrima and Robertson, where the film Babe was made, are a short drive away.
Minimum stay: 2-7 nights, depending on season
Price: from $1800 to $2500 per night (cleaning and linen an extra $350)
2. SYDNEY SOUTH
Tucked away about four kilometres from Bundeena, the unique, wooden, two-bedroom Weemalah Cottage sits on the banks of the West Arm Creek, a tributary of Port Hacking River, one of the wildest waterways in the Royal National Park.
It has awesome waterviews and nothing beats sitting on your private verandah with a glass of wine, watching the river flow by. You can swim or fish, and you can also go kayaking or paddle upstream where you may spot sea eagles. Pack a picnic and head up to Winifred Falls to watch the birdlife, wallabies and goannas.
The cottage has three bedrooms and sleeps a total of eight people. There is a television, DVD player and washing machine. It is very popular and accepts bookings up to 12 months in advance.
Minimum stay: 2 nights
Price: from $250 per night (up to $575 in peak season)
3. SAPPHIRE COAST
Perched in a secluded spot on the Bithry Inlet, close to the mouth of Lake Wapengo in Mimosa Rocks National Park, is the historic Myer House, about 400 kilometres south of Sydney. It was built for Kenneth Myer (of the Myer retail family) by renowned architect Sir Ron Grounds, who also designed the National Gallery of Victoria and the Melbourne Arts Centre. The house was donated to the NSW National Parks & Wildlife Service in 1976.
The restored historic building has four bedrooms and can accommodate a maximum of 12 people. There are two bathrooms, one with bath and a bidet, and there's also an outside shower, barbecue, enclosed verandah and a tennis court.
You can tumble out of bed and head straight to the beach for breakfast, go for a walk in the eucalypt plantation or follow the walking track to a secluded beach at Moon Bay. The area is a refuge for koalas, wallabies, ringtail possums, long-nosed potoroo and the bar-tailed godwit, a migratory bird that stops briefly in summer during its migration from Alaska to New Zealand.
Here, you can go bushwalking, snorkelling, birdwatching, fishing and surfing. It's customary to end the day with fresh Wapengo oysters while toasting the sunset from the beach with a glass of bubbles.
The house is in a remote location, so it's a good idea to bring supplies for your entire stay. It is very popular and bookings are available from June 2021.
Minimum stay: 7 nights
Price: from about $2400 per week (up to $4100 in peak season)
4. SNOWY MOUNTAINS
Yarrangobilly Caves House
Revel in the wonders of a bygone era at this grand heritage house in the secluded Yarrangobilly Valley in Kosciuszko National Park. There is plenty to do from bushwalking to guided caves tours and fishing in clear mountain streams. It's also a short drive to Selwyn Snowfields.
After the effort of all that activity, you can gently slip into the naturally heated thermal pool. Even in the darkest depths of winter, you'll be immersing in 27-degree waters.
Aside from guestrooms in the main lodge, there are two self-contained wings. The east wing sleeps eight in seven bedrooms and the west wing has two bedrooms to sleep six.
As it is in a remote location, bring all your supplies for your stay. The nearest towns are Tumut and Adaminaby. Book now for stays from 1 February 2021.
Minimum stay: 2 nights
Price: from $190 to $375 a night
5. MYALL LAKES
Seal Rocks Lighthouse Cottages
Built in 1875, these heritage buildings on Sugarloaf Point have been painstakingly restored into the head keeper's cottage and two semi-detached assistant keepers' cottages. They were designed by colonial architect James Barnet, who was responsible for Sydney General Post Office and a wing of the Australian Museum.
In the fishing and surf village of Seal Rocks and within Myall Lakes National Park, the lighthouse is one of only two in the country with an external staircase.
The main cottage has three bedrooms which comfortably sleep eight people. There's an alfresco dining area with a barbecue and sweeping verandahs with expansive views of the rugged coastline.
The two smaller cottages each accommodate six people in their two bedrooms. There's a private outdoor dining area for each cottage with a fully equipped kitchen commanding beach views.
A short walk away is Lighthouse Beach, a high-energy shorefront with pounding waves. Take a walk along the two-kilometre stretch of white sand at sunset and you will be blown away by the stunning scene.
If you continue the walk further through the national park, you'll reach Treachery Beach, a great spot for fishing, surfing and spotting dolphins, whales, white-bellied sea eagles and fairy-wrens.
To the north of Seal Rocks Lighthouse, pleasant Boat Beach is protected from the southerlies and has calm waters.
About a 3.5-hour drive north of Sydney, Seal Rocks is a perfect getaway for a romantic weekend.
Minimum stay: 2 nights
Price: from $475 to $730 per night in peak season
6. SAPPHIRE COAST
Green Cape Lightstation Keepers' Cottages
What about becoming a lighthouse keeper and watching out for ships rounding Green Cape, home to countless shipwrecks over the years?
Perched on the edge of a peninsula, an hours' drive south of Eden, these three charming cottages have been carefully restored with a nautical theme. They also come with claw-foot baths, open fireplaces and comfortable verandahs from which you can enjoy the views and cool sea breezes.
Each cottage sleeps five to six people, in two to three bedrooms. There is no wi-fi and mobile reception is limited.
You can take a guided tour of the lightstation and head out on stunning coastal walks. Visitors regularly spot wombats, kangaroos and seabirds. Look out for bandicoots as you explore.
Ben Boyd National Park has some great beaches and spots for fishing. From May to December it's whale-watching season and you will be astounded by the number of whales cavorting in the ocean.
Best of all, you'll wake up to misty mornings and the sound of pounding waves from the cosy comfort of your lighthouse keeper's cottage.
Minimum stay: 1 night
Price: from $295 to $370 per night
Visit: nationalparks.nsw.gov.au or phone 1300 073 757
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