One of NSW’s most luxurious stays quietly reopened earlier this year. Megan Arkinstall slips in for a blissful weekend retreat.
It’s been two-and-a-half years since Pretty Beach House closed after a devastating electrical fire completely destroyed the retreat’s main house in 2012.
That’s a long time to be out of the accommodation game. But during this enforced hiatus it was never totally forgotten with whispers about its impending reopening gaining momentum as time passed.
It had, after all, been the Central Coast’s pinnacle of understated luxury, an intimate guesthouse nestled in the quiet town of Pretty Beach on an escarpment of the Bouddi Peninsula.
But the beauty of Pretty Beach House (PBH) is, perhaps, that not too many people are actually in the know just yet. We suspect its painstaking two-and-a-half-year rebuild may change that.
From the moment you step out of your car (which is parked for you; luggage also taken care of), a sense of relaxation descends. Staff greet you with a glass of Pol Roger as you’re ushered into the main house to the library and lounge.
Here, a sparkling landscape of Brisbane Water is on brilliant display through floor-to-ceiling windows framed by Angophora trees, giving you a real sense of place. You can’t help but speak in hushed tones, with the only sounds being soft background music and the rustling of trees.
The main house is at once warm, slightly rustic and blends effortlessly with the coastal bush surrounds: it is structured from decommissioned railway timber pylons, handcrafted in 1883, locally sourced mud bricks, artisan-cut sandstone, with the inclusion of brass and copper features throughout.
The house and each of the accommodations (three freestanding pavilions with private pools and one penthouse above the main house, all with spectacular views) are elegantly styled by Sydney-based interior designer Michelle Leslie.
Each piece is carefully considered and effortlessly chic: soft bespoke furnishings in earthy tones, bedding made from hand-loomed luxurious Italian Busatti linen, and original artworks by Arthur Boyd, Sidney Nolan and John Olsen.
Unique pieces such as the exquisite hand-rolled copper bath sitting in the heated Travertine bathroom of the Treetops Penthouse adds a real wow factor.
Indeed, the real hallmark of PBH (and any of the Luxury Lodges of Australia, to which it is part of) is in the detail.
The mini bar does not just include stock-standard treats, but premium beverages (including full-sized bottles of whiskey, vodka and gin), roasted nuts and house-made biscotti in cute La Parfait glass jars, and a wooden case displaying individual Tea Forte pyramid tea bags.
And yes, there is a state-of-the-art entertainment system and an iPod pre-programmed with more than 100 hours of music playlists, but more impressive is the vinyl record player.
In the dining room (with high-vaulted ceilings, a cosy fireplace and a grand piano), meals are not simply served, they are styled to perfection with rustic hand-made pottery plateware by Australian potter Lino Alvarez and French Limoges porcelain dinnerware from Bernardaud and custom-made PBH cutlery imported from England.
There’s a collection of gorgeous books scattered about the place, including The Bouddi Peninsula, which details the history of the area and its many walking tracks.
If you decide to venture out, there are two PBH backpacks in each pavilion with water bottles, maps, bug spray and sunscreen.
Should you get lost, the pavilion’s iPhone is fitted with the ‘Find My Friends’ app so staff can locate you and bring you back to your cushy PBH life, where a massage in the spa or a cruise on the private launch awaits you.
Undeniably, its location within Bouddi National Park is one of its crowning glories. The land of the Darkinjung tribe, the national park is home to around 100 ancient indigenous artworks, three of which are on the PBH property.
The extraordinary artworks are between 8000 and 10,000 years old and are proudly shown and explained to guests every evening during a special Welcome to Country smoking ceremony led by a local Aboriginal elder around the al fresco fire.
The man behind the canapés proffered at this ceremony (and every other delicious morsel served here) is the inimitable Stefano Manfredi, partner of and head chef at Manfredi at Bells, at sister property Bells at Killcare.
The multi-award-winning chef has made his signature mark on the incredible gastronomy journey that guests experience here, from the moment they arrive to their no-doubt reluctant departure.
His custom-designed, open-plan Italianate Ambach kitchen is at the heart of the main house, where exquisitely fresh and artful modern Italian dishes are made with seasonal produce from the kitchen gardens of Bells at Killcare.
While breakfast is more casual (handmade yoghurt, signature PBH eggs, Espresso di Manfredi coffee) and the lunch menu is up for discussion (perhaps pizza fresh from the outdoor Napoli-imported pizza oven), dinner is a more formal affair.
Guests can request a three-course à la carte menu or a seven-course degustation, served with matching wines from the carefully curated help-yourself wine cellar, all handpicked by proprietor Brian Barry and sommelier Adam Lambeth, with whom you can also request a tasting.
Despite the impeccable food and lovely setting, the vibe is relaxed and unpretentious, as is the service. And that is the point: for guests to feel at home… if your home happens to be a ridiculously lavish guesthouse with a team of impeccable staff who are attuned to your every need.
If only. Welcome back, Pretty Beach House.
The details: Pretty Beach House
Getting there: Pretty Beach House is a 90-minute drive north of Sydney on NSW’s Central Coast. A seaplane transfer from Rose Bay can be arranged for $605 per person return.
Staying there: Rates start from $1700 per night inclusive of all meals and beverages. See prettybeachhouse.com