A girlfriend of mine memorably once quoted that she doesn’t do camping – that the only stars she sleeps under are the five stars of a hotel or resort chain.
I looked up from the deck of my stand-alone suite at Emirates Wolgan Valley Resort and Spa last week and thought she’d be pretty impressed to get the whole Milky Way without nary a tent or camp stove in sight.
In fact there are probably just enough stars in the Milky Way to rate the quality of Wolgan Valley.
I was a guest of the resort and Sodashi skincare – an invitation accepted within approximately 2.4 seconds of receiving.
Why? It’s a place that’s long been on my bucket list – for the beauty, the grandeur and the kind of relaxed luxury that I’d love to accustom myself with on a regular basis.
It is THAT good that I lost the power of using a varied vocabulary from the moment we arrived and had to ban myself from uttering the word “amazing”.
Australia’s first luxury conservation-based resort is situated in a valley in the Greater Blue Mountains surrounded by rocky escarpments that change colour as the sun moves through the sky.
It’s 20 minutes from mobile phone coverage – so a retreat in every sense of the word (don’t worry I survived … there was very reliable free wi-fi 😉 ).
There was even a wombat hanging around on the grass outside my suite to remind me that this was a place of nurturing and nature.
For me, the essentials of a luxury escape are: superior accommodation, memorable food and some serious spa activity.
Wolgan Valley gets a gold star AND a merit stamp for all three.
There are 40 house-size suites dotted around the property – most are designed for single or twin accommodation. There are also some options with two bedroom for families or groups. The style is a modern take on early Australian homesteads. Lots of contrasting textures of timber, leather, slate and soft furnishings.
Each suite has its own heated pool – indoors for winter but can be opened up in the summer months. But too much soaking is never enough – there’s a massive bathtub with a view as well. The bathroom also includes a skylit rain shower. Amenities are by luxury Australian chemical-free skincare brand Sodashi.
I took advantage of the cooler temps and switched on the double sided fireplace. As you do.
There are places to sit at every turn. Luggage is easily stowed in the walk-in robe, meaning that hotel stay suitcase dump and spread (please tell me you do that too!) can still happen but out of sight.
We need to talk about the bed. The essential to any superior hotel/resort stay. This one would have to be the best I’ve ever slept in. The QT came close but I felt completely enveloped into a luxurious nights’ sleep in this four poster bed with the fireplace view. Apparently the bed is the top selling “souvenir” that guests from around the world take home (a Queen-size will set you back about $4000). It’s that good.
Oh and you know how at most hotels you drink from the mini bar at your credit card peril? Not here. All except the French champagne and spirits is included.
From the moment we arrived and sat down to lunch of charcuterie plate, soup and cheeses, I knew we hand landed smack bang in the centre of foodie heaven. If I needed further confirmation it came later that night at the end of the eight-course degustation dinner that saw us standing in the cheese room salivating and shivering at the same time.
Most of the food served is organic produce sourced from within a 100km radius of the property. Much of the fresh produce and herbs are grown on site. I love this paddock-to-plate concept – it supports local producers but I swear you can taste the individual and collective difference. I don’t think I’ve ever oohed and ahh-ed over scrambled eggs like I did over breakfast – truffled and served with king brown mushrooms that did crazy good things to my tastebuds.
All meals, wine, beer and non-alcoholic drinks are included in the price of accommodation – and don’t worry about eating the same thing twice. The offerings change seasonally and the degustation menu changes daily. If eight course sounds too daunting, you can also order from the al a carte menu instead.
The main restaurant is upstairs in the lodge – lunch and snacks are served in the cafe downstairs. Picnic baskets can also be arranged if you want to go exploring on foot or on your included mountain bike.
I’m a spa rat from way back and I’m calling it – this one is on a par with the best I’ve ever experienced. For the record, those on par include Gwinganna Lifestyle Retreat (Gold Coast Hinterland, Queensland) and Six Senses Sila Evasan (Koh Samui, Thailand).
For me, the ultimate in spa experiences combines space and/or vistas, beautiful and relaxing decor, a connection with its surrounds and incredible treatments that leave you blissed out for days.
What clinches the deal for me is the incorporation of stunningly beautiful products. And in that respect Wolgan Valley goes to the top of the class with its Timeless Spa.
Since opening, the resort has used Soadshi skincare products in its treatments. Soadshi is an Australian skincare success story – founder Megan Larsen is considered a pioneer in luxury chemical-free skincare and has grown the company from humble beginnings on her home stove top to having her products stocked in more than 100 luxury spas around the world (18 in Australia).
I first met Megan about five years ago and quickly fell in love with her stunning products that look oh-so-stylish in violet (they appear black) glass jars. So much about so-called natural skincare is just marketing. Sodashi is The Business – and it gets results for your skin.
I was at Wolgan Valley for the launch of Soadshi’s latest product, Samadara Ultimate Age-Defying Elixir. This product is a combination of 15 different plant oils and extracts. Combined with the vibrational qualities of rose quartz (in the bottom of the jar) it works at a cellular level to do amazing things to your skin.
I’ll report back in a couple of weeks but I can tell you just from a few days of applying nightly my skin is singing. It’s not cheap – but it’s nowhere near the price of many luxury skincare options.
As part of my spa visit I was lucky to experience the most amazing facial incorporating this product and another favourite of mine – the Sodashi Brightening Marine Mineral Mask. Smooth rose quartz crystals are also used in the face massage.
A glance at the spa menu showed that the cost of treatments at Wolgan Valley to be almost on a par with your local beauty salon.
The rooms themselves are more suites than rooms – with two beds looking out and up to one of the escarpments. Each suite also has it’s own bathroom and dressing room – no communal change area – and a geisha tub.
I love a relax after a treatment and the large lounge area and deck invites you to bask in your new state of bliss over a herbal tea or fresh juice and yoghurt snack.
Emirates Wolgan Valley Resort and Spa is about three hours drive west from Sydney. Road or helicopter transfers are available for those flying into Sydney.
It books out weekends in advance throughout the year and mid-week is super popular too if our Tuesday night was any indication. It’s a place to bring a partner or a girlfriend. It’s a place to visit by yourself and totally re-charge. It’s a place to add to your bucket list now.
All activities except horse-riding and the spa are included in your accommodation price, as are all your meals and set menu wines and beers (you can buy spirits and select wines).
Cost is from $1560 per suite a night. More info here.
The lasting impression for me was the attention to detail I experienced at every turn. It was like the staff were in my head – every single need was seemingly anticipated in advance.
That kind of over-and-above service comes from a skilled and dedicated team – all of whom when asked I was not surprised to hear loved working there.
Wolgan Valley, I’ll be back. With Mr SY in tow. He’s insisted.
Tell me … who as Wolgan Valley on their bucket list? Have you ever been? What do I need to see and do on my return (much longer) visit?