Bannisters Port Stephens is the unbelievably chic home away from home you (and your pet) have been waiting for.
I can’t tell you how often I’ve had this long weekend-related chat with my partner. It goes something like this…
Me: “Come on, let’s go somewhere nice for a weekend away!”
Him: “Sure, Bowral or Kiama?”
I’m ashamed to say Port Stephens was never on my radar. But as I (finally) discovered, it’s an incredible beachside haven just over two hours north of Sydney, which is why the brains behind Bannisters may well have decided to set up one of their all-star accommodations there.
Standing waterside, the 80-room Bannisters fits right into the vista with a Mediterranean vibe that instantly bestows a feeling of utter relaxation upon you. I think it’s the blue-and-white umbrellas, or possibly the trendy interiors… actually, it’s probably the infinity pool. These things aside, it’s obviously impressive enough for Rick Stein to lend his name (and amazing food) to the accommodation’s signature restaurant – so needless to say my interest was well and truly piqued.
Address: 147 Soldiers Point Rd, Soldiers Point, NSW
Phone: 02 4919 3800
Room rate: rooms start at $160 per night.
When I booked my stay, I was a little late to the party: this meant all that was left open to me was a ‘pet-friendly’ room. I was a little concerned I’d have a room scented with ‘eau de dog’, but as I was pleased to discover, the cleanliness was 10/10 and it smelled just like any other hotel room I’ve ever stayed in (I was pregnant during my stay, so I could pick up a stench like the very best of them!)
The ground floor digs are decked out with white linen, impressive wooden beachy touches, and a hint of industrial flair. Opening out to a private mini terrace, those who choose a pet-friendly room will get to soak in the view of the beach as man’s best friend does his business on the lawn.
Alas, I am without a pet, so couldn’t experience the full splendor of not having to seek alternate accommodation for my furry friend when setting off for a weekend away, but what a breath of fresh air (and I mean fresh) for those who do have a pet they can’t bear to leave behind.
Special mention must go to the beds, which were plush and roomy, as well as the Netflix-abled television, which was very comforting when we climbed into bed after a big and satisfying meal.
Speaking of food, Bannisters knocked it out of the park. On the first night we ate at the main terrace bar by the pool, and the modern Australian menu with an Italian twist got my attention straight away. I went for the steak, and let me tell you, it was no mis-steak.
But the real star of the show was dessert. We decided very nonchalantly to try the cinnamon brioche doughnuts and well… they were absolute perfection. So much so that after dining at Rick Stein’s restaurant the following evening, we raced back to the terrace restaurant to devour another serve of those delectable sweet treats. They were that good.
However, the race back to the Terrace bar was by no means a reflection of the food at Rick Stein’s seafood restaurant. Oh no. The real dilemma was choosing between the famous fish pie, madras fish curry and the black cuttlefish risotto – I went for the latter, and I’m so pleased I did: it was inky black and absolutely delicious. But whatever you do make sure to order the sashimi or the fish and shellfish soup to start. You won’t regret it.
Four-star Bannisters Port Stephens embraces its roots as a retro motel (the iconic Salamander) in adopting a laid-back style: while you’re here it’s all about leisurely dining and taking a dip in the incredible infinity pool. If you can bear to drag yourself away, then head into town: Port Stephens is a great place to explore, with picturesque Nelson Bay just around the corner.
The emerging town features an array of inspiring homewares stores as well as the self-proclaimed ‘best fish and chips in New South Wales’ (Bub’s Famous Fish & Chips). A must.
My advice? After fueling up at the impressive buffet breakfast hosted in Rick Stein’s restaurant, go off and explore the area before getting back in time for lunch and a lazy afternoon by the pool with a few cocktails before enjoying a siesta and then re-emerging for a hearty seafood dinner… and some brioche cinnamon doughnuts. Just do it… for me.