This boutique hotel on the Bouddi Peninsula with its own award-winning restaurant is the perfect retreat, as Quentin Long discovered.
Bells at Killcare boutique hotel on the NSW Bouddi Peninsula is a world-class retreat with dreamy rooms, a day spa, bakery, vibrant restaurant and acres of tranquil gardens. Owned by husband-and-wife team Karina and Brian Barry, who bought the stylish retreat from Australian entrepreneur John Singleton in 2016, Bells at Killcare offers all the charm and sophistication you want from a five-star coastal break.
The Central Coast, just an hour’s drive north of Sydney, has evolved to become an incredibly accessible and beautiful seaside destination where some seriously sophisticated retreats and luxury places to stay have sprung up over the years.
The Bouddi Peninsula is located at the southern tip of the Central Coast, across from Sydney’s northernmost suburb, Palm Beach and is dotted with high-end holiday destinations such as McMasters Beach, Pretty Beach, Patonga and Killcare.
The Central Coast has evolved to become an incredibly accessible and beautiful seaside destination.
This is the spiritual heart of the Central Coast – Bouddi means heart in the local Aboriginal language – and there is evidence of rock carvings and middens found in numerous locations around the area’s idyllic national parks.
Pack walking shoes and swimmers as, all up, there are seven pristine beaches and many spectacular walking trails that wind around the coastal headland at Killcare. You can also take the scenic route and visit the sleepy, picturesque seaside villages of Pretty Beach, Hardy’s Bay and Killcare itself, where Bells isn’t. (It’s located up the hill at Killcare Heights.)
Bells’ at Killcare boutique hotel recently refurbished 10 of its most popular rooms to include heated flooring in the marble bathrooms, beautiful brass and copper claw-foot freestanding baths and elegant English tapware.
All up, Bells at Killcare boutique hotel comprises a series of 25 cottages and villas with a main lodge that houses the bar, restaurant, library and event space.
The underlying aesthetic, according to the Bells at Killcare branding, is ‘East Coast Hamptons’, the relaxed, luxurious beach retreat for New York’s well-to-do set.
The exterior of the Garden Villa at Bells at Killcare.
The pool bar
Bells at Killcare has a new garden bar and poolside service so that you can enjoy a cocktail and oysters al fresco as well as an honesty bar tucked into a dinky 1950s caravan where guests can pour their own drinks.
It’s the perfect place for The World’s Most Beautiful Wife and I to relax before visiting family further north. The relaxed pool area, tucked into a private corner of the property, also follows the Hamptons theme, with blue-and-white umbrellas and lounges.
The pool bar is an ‘honesty’ bar tucked into a dinky 1950s caravan, where guests can pour their own drinks.
There’s also a beautiful bakery and larder onsite, which turns out freshly baked pastries and artisan sourdough and offers both guests and locals the chance to pick up picnic goodies to take away or back to their cottage.
Bells Bakery churns out freshly baked pastries and artisan sourdough on the daily. (Image: Dom Cherry)
The Wild Flower Bar & Dining
The onsite restaurant, The Wild Flower Bar & Dining, has been shaped by celebrated executive chef Sean Connolly and is inspired by the theme: Bouddi by the Sea.
The restaurant’s recent redesign includes specially commissioned Kate Swinton wallpaper and cushions and framed etchings of native flora. The light fittings that feature so prominently in the dining room are also woven from local Killcare grasses by local artist Lee Cavendar.
The Wild Flower Bar & Dining has been shaped by celebrated executive chef Sean Connolly and is inspired by the theme: Bouddi by the Sea. (Image: Dom Cherry)
We skip the bakery treats to save some room for dinner and instead start our epicurean experience in the bar with a Bellini and olives. The main dining room here is on the balcony, which overlooks the beautiful, manicured grounds and, thanks to floor-to-ceiling louvres, has an al fresco feel. Connolly’s Mediterranean-inspired food is hard to beat, with lots of local prawns, crayfish and lobster.
The Mediterranean-inspired food features lots of fresh, local seafood. (Image: Dom Cherry)
The wine list is also extensive with a globe-trotting mix of international – particularly Italian – and local wines. TWMBW tucks into the salt-crusted snapper, and spaghetti vongole and both are unfussy and excellent. My scallops crudo with local finger lime is the right balance of flavours and technique.
When Bells opened in 2007 there was much hype about the kitchen garden, and the garden’s harvest is evident in their dishes with about 20 per cent of the just-plucked produce informing the ingredient-led menu.
The manicured garden entrance to The Wild Flower Bar & Dining Restaurant. (Image: Nikki To)
There are also chickens that supply the eggs and beehives that supply the honey within the ever-expanding farm located at the Bells at Killcare boutique hotel. There’s also Lupo, the Italian sheepdog, who protects the chickens and loves visits from the guests.
As with all great destination diners, the accommodation at Bells at Killcare boutique hotel matches the food – casual, relaxed yet totally indulgent and Connolly and his team have brought a bit of theatre into the restaurant, wheeling trolleys to the table in order to toss salads and pasta and exchange a bit of banter with guests.
Bells at Killcare boutique hotel matches the food – casual, relaxed yet totally indulgent. (Image: Dom Cherry)
Our King Suite has a bath as well as a shower. Every room has a fireplace and it’s a lovely touch during a winter escape to curl up beside the fire with a book from the library. The plantation shutters on the windows also accentuate the relaxed feel of the suite and the signature blue-and-white-striped awnings stand the test of time.
TWMBW loves a snooze in front of the TV, and the Smart TVs have on-demand movies that are complimentary, along with the wi-fi. The snooze made stellar due to homespun blankets and oodles of pillows on the massive bed.
Breakfast is served a la carte in the dining room and includes options such as homemade granola, eggs from the resident chickens and thick-cut bacon with tomatoes from the gardens and mushrooms.
The rooms and villas have a Hamptons-inspired touch. (Image: Dom Cherry)
The day spa
Another drawcard at Bells at Killcare is Bells Day Spa, a stylish sanctuary that is anchored to the garden and thoughtfully designed with warmth and intimacy in mind.
The day spa is hugely popular for its botanical iKOU products, which are used in treatments such as the Mindful Wellness Ritual, which involves both a massage and a facial.
Its bespoke beauty and bathroom products are hand-made exclusively for Bells at Killcare and include a beautiful high-end signature candle (in collaboration with Lumira), Botanical Shampoo & Conditioner, hand wash and hand lotion, which are all available for purchase.
The beach is not far away, and there’s magnificent hiking around the Bouddi National Park. But that’s for the next visit – this trip was to relax and recharge.
The Bells Day Spa, a stylish sanctuary thoughtfully designed with warmth and intimacy in mind. (Image: Anson Smart)
What’s the Gossip?
Here’s what other reviewers have said:
“The boutique hotel is a pocket paradise… It feels more like Lake Como than the Central Coast.” The Sydney Morning Herald Traveller
“Bells could be the closest approximation of a European country-house hotel you could reasonably find in an Australian coastal setting.” The Weekend Australian
THE AT Verdict
Quentin Long, who paid his own way and visited anonymously, says:
A magnificent couples’ retreat where the accommodation matches the superb dining.
A little piece of paradise on the Central Coast. (Image: Anson Smart)
Where: 107 The Scenic Road, Killcare Heights.
Notes: We booked the Relax Package; from $1062 for one night’s accommodation in a King Suite, including a three-course dinner, two massages, happy hour drinks nightly and a welcome hamper and daily breakfast. There are loads of packages on the website. Standard rates for a King Suite start at $527 per night midweek.
Contact: (02) 4349 7000; bellsatkillcare.com.au