“It ought to be mandatory to have a spa in the wilderness,” Mr. Twos says, as we lower ourselves in. With the firepit 3 meters away spitting heat and glowing just so, who could disagree? Being alone in this utterly private 7-acre rainforest paradise, we feel as though we’re in Jurassic Park, secretly listening for scaled leviathans to pop their heads up through the lush green of the surrounding tropical woods and send us scampering away in our birthday suits.
Our destination on this weekend is Lyra, a very new-to-the-market holiday rental which lies in Kangaroo Valley proper, equidistant between Berry and Nowra. Not only is the location practically perfect, but it also overlooks the dreamy Barrengarry Mountain range in a view-tastic setting that teems with birdsong and the hush of the valley walls surrounding it. AND(!) It’s dog-friendly.
Kangaroo Valley lies in the Southern Highlands of NSW, south of Sydney, a 2.5-ish hour drive up the M5 from the CBD. Think of it as your fabulous country retreat in the style of beautiful hospitality, leafy lanes, and locavore food and markets. Members of the bands Midnight Oil and INXS are residents and are among the just 879 people counted in the last census. Kangaroo Valley is reportedly one of only seven fully enclosed valleys in the world, and the entire town has been classified under the National Trust since 1977. This distinction likely influenced the peaceful, non-commercialised vibe, which is what makes coming here such a pleasurable respite. The road up to this sleepy paradise takes you through Mittagong and Bowral, two of my favorite get-out-of-Sydney day destinations. Both are worth a stop to boutique browse. Yes, that’s a verb.
Held by the original owners for 30+ years (it switched hands in late 2018) and painstakingly built from the earth upon which it sits, Lyra honors an ethos of regard for the environment. The large feature bi-fold doors were handmade from felled wood on site, and have a page in the welcome book dedicated to their operation as they’re delightfully quirky and fiddly like all truly bespoke things should be. The kitchen ceiling of discarded corrugated metal sheets, salvaged from the Kangaroo Valley Public Hall, still bears the original makers marks and delivers some truly authentic Australiana. Using mud, rocks, and boulders from the land to form the walls, the home has grown into a handmade retreat that feels like a warm hug despite its spaciousness.
The new owners were looking for a property where they could come together as a family and eventually retire to, dreaming of 100 acres to use as a sanctuary for rescue animals.
“But Lyra threw us a curveball. It was so peaceful and spiritual, we fell in love with it.”
As collectors of mid-century ceramics and furniture, and one of the proprietors a self-professed lover of interiors, the care in which the décor is curated is evident in the cozy yet sophisticated aesthetic. Not yet ready for a permanent tree-change, “making Lyra into a holiday home we shared with others made sense. Most of all, I delight in other people’s delight of the place.” Lyra has 3 bedrooms and 2.5 baths, so if you come with friends, you won’t be on top of each other.
If you’re feeling in need of some restoration from nature, and want to put the car keys down once you arrive and leave them there, you’ll not experience one iota of boredom here. I know this because other than going out for lunch, and to buy dinner supplies and ahem, WINE, this is exactly what we did.
If spas under the stars aren’t your cup of tea, you may like the ping pong table, large outdoor living room with pizza oven and firepit, bush trails galore, selection of recent magazines, BBQ, Netflix, Wifi and the sweetest cat called Fluffy who will make you want to take her home. You’ll be surprised at how meditative it is to collect fallen branches to use for firewood. No trees are cut for burning.
“It would seem from this fact, that man is naturally a wild animal, and that when taken from the woods, he is never happy in his natural state, ’till he returns to them again.”-Dr. Benjamin Rush
What to pack for Autumn:
- Food for snacks and meals (if you plan to cook)
- Robe for spa
- Mid-weight jacket
- Shoes for bushwalking
- Candle for ambience
- A book- I took Like Lions by Brian Panowich
What you’ll love:
- Big open rooms
- Beautiful views
- Comfy beds with electric blankets and premium sheets
- Outdoor living room
- The quiet of collecting firewood from the paths and bush
- Fruit trees
- Welcome gift of a fresh loaf and free-range chook eggs
- Incredibly well-stocked pantry
- Ping pong table
- Spic and span- CLEAN!
- Private, situated on 7 acres
- Outdoor Spa
- The echidnas snuffling through the underbrush above the pizza oven
- Indoor combustion fireplace
- Bi-fold doors throughout
- Outdoor pizza oven and all supplies to make pizza bases(!)
- Netflix / Apple TV
- And of course, Fluffy
- King-sized beds
Accommodations were independently paid for.
Lyra, Kangaroo Valley, NSW
Rates from $280 (weeknights) to $350 weekends.
Book on Kangaroo Valley Getaways, Airbnb or Stayz.