Hugh Hanson finds three recurring  themes at this NSW Central Coast boutique resort.

“Relax, Unwind, Enjoy”. This gentle mantra permeates my stay at the 5-star Bells at Killcare boutique hotel; and frankly after a couple of hectic work deadlines, it’s exactly what’s needed.

The small village and beach of Killcare is situated on the Bouddi Peninsula, marking the start of the Central Coast of NSW, around one-and-a-half hours drive north of Sydney. Surrounded by the beautiful Bouddi National Park and the pristine aqua blue of the Pacific Ocean, Bells at Killcare resides in a timeless world of its own.

Entering reception from the expansive manicured gardens, my wife and I receive our keycard pass for entry into the gated area of guest cottages, nestled amongst feature gardens and connected by a meandering pebbled stream with small intermittent pools and ponds; the refreshing sound of water adding to the peaceful ambiance.

The boutique resort contains the superb restaurant Manfredi at Bells and a day spa, while accommodation consists of cottages, suites and villas.

The view from the Manor House reveals a beautiful Italianate garden, replete with box hedges, hidden alcoves and numerous water features, all designed to create a relaxed, romantic atmosphere.

The cottage exteriors are painted a deep navy blue, while interiors reveal a cream, white and blue palette. Ralph Lauren furnishings and marine features create an uncontrived, relaxed, comfortable feel. Think New York Hampton’s, a touch of Italy, and a long Aussie day at the beach.

The bedroom reveals a luxurious king size bed, one of the largest pillows I’ve ever seen, embroidered with the words UNWIND – just in case we forget why we’re here! After relaxing and enjoying this idle romantic setting it’s time to head back up to the restaurant for dinner.

Walking through the gardens we pass a Japanese-style pond and bridge. Brightly coloured carp dart through the still waters. A little further on we come to one of the vegetable gardens that help supply the restaurant. A scarecrow stands guard while several ornamental black cats watch out for the abundant birds.

Once inside, the stylish yet friendly waiting staff guide us to the table of our choice, either inside or al fresco on the veranda. All tables have a fine view over the elegantly manicured lawns and gardens.

Stefano Manfredi is the executive chef at Bells, and his menu is designed to reveal the best of modern Italian cuisine married to fresh local produce. Hence also an extensive wine list, incorporating a fine selection of Italian produce.

Our fellow dinner guests were mainly couples who also were “staying in” and this really is the essence of Bells – a discreet romantic retreat for couples wishing to get away from it all… and unwind. Needless to say the food and wine are excellent, but a special mention must go to my wife’s dessert choice – the meringue – she was in seventh heaven! (Layers of textured colours and taste sensations crisp meringue crackling shards of crisp chocolate and segments of caramelised mandarins in a delectable sauce had my wife swooning!)

A short stroll in the balmy spring evening under a canopy of stars and we were back at our cottage and ready for a night in our big bed!

The following day, after a delicious buffet breakfast, my wife booked in to the day spa for the Li’tya treatment whilst I strolled around the grounds and checked out the adjacent swimming pool. The day spa utilises a range of specially blended products.

Li’tya – which means of the earth – combines essential oils, native plants, flowers fruits and muds. When employed with unique Aboriginal healing techniques the result is… well, one happy glowing wife!

There is much to be experienced by exploring the charming local areas. Within easy reach of Bells are numerous bushwalking tracks and access to several beaches. Other activities include cycling, horse riding, tennis, cruising, golf and swimming.

But, hey, you may decide to simply do what we did. Relax, unwind, enjoy!