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Clarendon Forest Retreat, NSW

Joanna Hall

Where Is It: Between the Manning Valley and Forster in the Kiwarrak Forest, NSW.

Why Go: It’s a secluded retreat ideal for romantics who love the countryside and quiet.

Best For: Couples who enjoy indulgent spas and country getaways.

Three Things We Loved: The huge spa, the rolling countryside, the friendly local dogs.

The Ultimate Factor: The lodge was amazing with all mod cons.


Although many couples head to full-service resorts for a romantic getaway, sometimes it’s nice to truly leave everything behind, people and traffic included, and to head for the hills to a secluded retreat where you don’t have to do anything - including dress up. This is one of the many pros of a stay at Clarendon Forest Retreat. Tucked away inland between the Manning Valley and Forster, this property has it all; seven individually styled cottages dotted over 100 acres of countryside, gorgeous scenery, and options to be as busy or as chilled as you please with hiking, mountain biking and more on offer. And a bonus for pet owners is that Clarendon is pet friendly.

The Accommodation:

The seven cottages at Clarendon are all very different both in styling and offerings. The Sanctuary, for example, is a split level sandstone and cedar cottage hidden behind the streets with a queen sized four poster bed, a private garden packed with flowers and herbs, and an indoor spa bath for two. In contrast, the Summer House is a much larger split level sandstone and cedar cottage akin to a county home, with 180 degree valley views, a dining room with seating for six, and three bedrooms. This lovely property also has a huge heated spa. Each cottage has its own style, some featuring antiques, and with common facilities including log fires, decks with outdoor furniture to savour the view, a TV, DVD and CD player and more.

Where We Stayed:

Our home for five nights was Talawahl Eco lodge, a gorgeous three-bedroom architect designed lodge suitable for two couples or families, and which welcomes pets. If you don’t bring your own, there are several resident dogs who are respectfully distant if you don’t wish to interact, but they'll happily visit and walk with you if you do. The lodge is set amongst rainforest inspired gardens and rockeries, offering privacy, space and tranquillity, and it has been purpose built to be environmentally friendly, constructed from mud brick and recycled timbers, which makes it warm in winter cool in summer. The large viewing windows and wrap around verandah offer spectacular views of the valley and the lily filled lagoon beyond. There’s an al fresco entertaining area with a table setting for up to 12 people, as well as private sitting areas to relax and read a book or simply soak up the view. The verandah area enables this cottage to be pet friendly with gates to keep your beloved pooch safe and protected from the elements.

When it comes to facilities, features include a hand crafted recycled timber kitchen with state of the art modern contemporary appliances, including a large stainless steel fridge-freezer, a dishwasher, a microwave, an oven and stylish crockery for up to 12 people. The living area is open-plan with a dining area - the handcrafted dining table is a work of art - and a living area with a log fire and TV. The master bedroom is located on the same level near the front door with a private bathroom, and a key feature of Talawahl is the private heated outdoor spa pool, which has a waterfall feature and massage jets. Set on the verandah, and accessible from the master bathroom, you can enjoy 180 degree views of the forest and rolling hills while you soak. You also have exclusive use of a hand crafted stone BBQ, which is great for outdoor entertaining and dining in the summer months, and if you’re travelling with kids, the Teenagers Retreat is located downstairs with two more bedrooms featuring two single beds each, a three-way bathroom and a rumpus room with TV, DVD player.

What Else Is There:

Clarendon is a country retreat so if you’re looking for a spa facility or a restaurant you’ll be disappointed. However for those of us who love seclusion and looking after ourselves, there is plenty to do besides wallowing in your own spa or relaxing on your deck and enjoying the views. Horse riding can be arranged with experienced instructors, with trail rides close to the property. The Kiwarrak State Forest has thousands of trails suitable for mountain bikes or avid hikers, and on property there is also a 12-metre saltwater swimming pool for use in the warmer months, and a tennis court with racquets and balls supplied free of charge. Other services can also be arranged including massage, and if you don’t want to self cater for your entire stay you can pre-order breakfast baskets, and opt for dinner including a seafood platter, or an Italian style dinner supplied by a local restaurant. 

The Verdict:

This gorgeous property won’t suit anyone who needs to be entertained or who wants to dress up and go out for dinner at night, but if you’re looking for a genuinely quiet country retreat with all mod-cons, enjoy country walks, and relaxing in your own private spa you won’t go wrong at Clarendon. And if you enjoy the company of well behaved dogs, that’s a bonus.

Clarendon Forest Retreat is located at 150 Coates Road, Possum Brush, NSW, 02 6554 3162,

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