There is a place, just outside the city, where Mother Nature meets mankind’s madness and finds a perfect balance. The Retreat Port Stephens is a holiday park like no other. Think summer camp from your childhood, but with all the comforts of home.
Picture this: You wake up and step outside to take in a deep breath of fresh, clean air. The first thing you notice is the stillness around. Not that there’s no movement, but the birds and the breeze through the trees are moving and singing in time, like there’s some unseen maestro who has orchestrated this morning just for you. You sit down with your cup of coffee (or in my case, bowl of muesli) and allow yourself to be swept up in the morning serenade, shortening the distance between yourself and Mother Nature, becoming one with the natural world around you. It feels like ages since you’ve felt this connected with the earth and disconnected from the helter-skelter rat race you left behind.
A sound interrupts your musings, the front door has just come flying open and three wide-eyed and energetic kids come running out, wasting no time, as they take off toward the playground, just steps from your front porch. Will this ruin your morning reverie? Oh no. You notice that even the laughter and squeals of delight fit magically into this morning melody. You close your eyes and breathe in these precious moments of harmony while you can- harmony between your kids and harmony between man and nature.
The Spirit of The Retreat
I”m not exaggerating when I say there’s a perfect balance between man and nature. After spending a few days in Sydney, arriving at The Retreat felt like we could breath again. The park is set off the road, providing a sound buffer from the sounds of traffic and civilization. If I didn’t know any better, I’d have guessed we were miles away from anything else, when in reality we were just down the road.
The park is landscaped with all sorts of native Australian plants. The plants are manicured just to the point of keeping control, while still keeping the wild and natural appeal. I felt like we were really getting our first taste of what Australia had to offer.
We saw many types of animals we’d never seen before. We saw the famous kookaburra and listened to his song. There were lizards of all different sizes. At night, we saw a brush-tailed possum mama, with her baby on her back. I had been sitting on the back porch, enjoying the stillness of the night, when I heard something in the trees. I shone a light to check what it was (you know, all those scary things that live in Australia, I couldn’t be too safe) and saw them, there in the tree. Quietly, I called to Nate and the kids and we all got to see the sweet scene of mum and baby, heading out for a night of adventure and maybe a little mischief.
Lodging at The Retreat
The Retreat has 11 buildings with five accommodations styles. They offer cabins, bungalows, duplexes, The Lodge, and The Ranch. Walking around the grounds, I imagined getting a few families together or hosting a family reunion here, where there’s more than enough room and ways for everyone to spread out and have space to themselves, or go in together on The Lodge and have a blast all holed up together.
We stayed in a bungalow, which was comfortable and understated. There were two bedrooms, one with a queen-sized bed and the other, with two sets of bunk beds (which our kids LOVED!). The beds were clean and comfortable, with plenty of pillows, and extra blankets, folded up in wicker baskets in each room. In the bathroom, was a good sized shower with plenty of fresh towels and basic toiletries.
The main living area of the cabin was an open living/dining/kitchen area. The kitchen was fully stocked with plates, bowls, glasses, utensils, and pots and pans. There was a 32” TV with plenty of soft, cushy seating around the living room, with more chairs around the dining table.
This might sound funny, but you know how sometimes you walk into a hotel/lodging and there’s a smell? Our cabin had none. Everything about it was fresh and clean, nothing flashy, but comfortable.
Amenities at the Retreat
On the grounds of the Retreat were a playground, saltwater pool, camp fire rings, and plenty of lawn space for volleyball, soccer, or whatever you might want to get up to. There was also a game room with tables for playing pool, ping-pong, and fuse ball, respectively. Paddles, balls, and cues are all available at the main reception desk. Pool and fuse ball were coin operated, costing just 50 cents per game.
There are also BBQ areas, with flat top grills, complete with fridge, microwave, sink, and two large picnic tables with benches. After putting the kids to bed, Nate and I stole away to grill up some steaks as a midnight snack, using the utensils from our kitchen. Then, kicked back to enjoy more of the serene night, outdoors.
Adventures Around The Retreat
What The Retreat Port Stephens might be most well-known for are the sand dunes, right outside the gate. At the back of the property is a gate that leads to a short trail, that winds through some wild bush-lands, and opens up to rolling dunes of lightly caramel-colored sand. And just beyond the dunes, the sand meets the sea, as ocean collides with earth.
How I wish we’d had more time to enjoy this place!
The sand dunes were the first thing we did upon our arrival at The Retreat. We didn’t want to waste any time. We took the short walk from the gate and then spent over an hour climbing and playing. The kids made sand angels and got increasingly daring as they raced, feet-first, or head-first, or tumbling head-over-heel, down the dunes. By the time we were leaving, pulled away only by the coming dusk and growling of our stomachs, they had sand in all the wrong places. (TMI? Sorry.) If we’d had more time, we would have loved to make the hike all the way to the ocean.
Around The Retreat are loads of things to do while on your holiday. Here’s a list of Things to Do in Port Stephens from VisitNSW.com or if you’re looking to stay in a budget but still have fun, 10 Free Things to Do in Port Stephens from The RetreatPortStephens.com.
Things to Note About the The Retreat
There were a few things to note about staying at The Retreat:
- It’s a bit of a drive to get back to it, not right off the main motorway. For us, this was perfect. We decided to road-trip from Sydney to Brisbane so we could see Australia. And we saw it on our way to The Retreat. We drove through a national park, over rivers, beside the ocean, and saw the greatest beach (Caves Beach). We went out of our way to see more of this incredible country, but it did take time, which not everyone might have.
- There is a cleaning checklist that you are requested to complete before you checkout. The list was simple and quick- wash your dishes, sweep the floors, refold and replace extra blankets, I think we had it finished in under 30 minutes. This certainly wasn’t a deal breaker for us, especially considering all the sand the kids left on the floors. The things we loved about our stay at The Retreat far outweighed the required effort, but it was unexpected.
One Last Thing
Before I finish, let me just add one more reason we loved The Retreat Port Stephens. The reception we received upon arrival, as well as all our encounters with staff and guests were friendly and helpful. Not just friendly, but outstanding! The staff at reception were chatty, while still being professional and respectful of our time. They asked where we’d come from and where we were going. They had recommendations of things to do and see through the coming days of our road trip. When informed that our 4 y/o had broken a glass, they were nothing but understanding and forgiving. We couldn’t have asked for better hosts.
If you’re planning a road trip along the Eastern Australian Coast or just a weekend get-away from Sydney, I couldn’t recommend The Retreat Port Stephens any more highly. The Retreat will keep you entertained, while providing a tranquil setting. You can come away relaxed and ready to take on the world again.
So tell me, are you ready to discover The Retreat?