The drive up to Pretty Beach House is steep. Very steep. The day we visited our elderly mule of a motor really struggled. It had been raining and, after traversing a beautiful section of rainforest-like bush, the damp road headed steeply upwards.
Low gear is rewarded when you get to the top. You really do feel like you’re up in the clouds, with a breathtaking tapestry of rocky escarpments, bush and beach spread below you.
Pretty Beach House is an intimate and exclusive guesthouse under the same management as Bells at Killcare. It consists of a main house of mud brick, with open living areas and a terrace leading to an infinity pool, and four private pavilions.
Guests can socialise as much, or as little, as they wish. Meals are taken in the stunning central room of the main house, a soaring fabrication featuring roughly hewn timber and local sandstone. The windows push open to embrace the surrounding natural gardens. It feels rather like a huge teepee, with the large central timber support.
These stunning supports are decommissioned railway pylons, brought down from Queensland as part of the rebuild. In 2012 the main house sustained substantial damage in a fire and extensive rebuilding was undertaken. The space is a little bigger and a little better after the remodelling, and extremely luxurious while also incorporating an industrial edge. It gives the space a quintessential Australian feel, especially with the view of ancient angophoras surrounding the room, particularly the giant and fire-scarred tree that stands like a guard on the pool terrace.
An impressive collection of Australian art including works from Sidney Nolan, Arthur Boyd and John Olsen adorn what wall space there is, and beautiful pendant lights by Melbourne designer Christopher Boots (more like an art installation than light fixtures) hang from the towering ceiling. An open fire generously crackles in cooler weather, and the grand piano is often played throughout your meal … It’s an evocative experience with every aspect oozing with comfortable luxury.
And speaking of meals … Pretty Beach House is truly a food lover’s dream, many returning guests do so for more delicious palette pampering.
Stefano Manfredi is responsible for the cuisine at Pretty Beach House and you may sit at the kitchen bench and gaze upon the sophisticated perfection of his kitchen, complete with dramatic, vintage stage lights, as delicious morsels are prepared for you by the staff on hand for your stay. You can even arrange a cooking class during your visit if you’re missing the clang of pans.
You’re welcome to put in requests for your meals. You can even take a packed lunch to one of the beautiful secluded beaches nearby or take your meals by the pool. And freshly baked cake is served daily!
The wine cellar is rather amazing and very picturesque, filled with impressive Old and New World wines. A tour can be arranged and wine tastings are available, and you are welcome to help yourself. Pretty Beach House is generous with the liquid. There is plenty throughout the main house and the villas, alcoholic and non-alcoholic, for your drinking pleasure.
The theme of the main house continues in the four private pavilions – one perched above the main house, the other three scattered discreetly throughout the property, with their own terraces and small pools.
There’s a lot to indulge in. The bathrooms are simply stunning, with deep baths and monsoon shower heads. The beds are sumptuously soft, dressed in refined yet lavish Busatti linen and the outdoor areas offer relaxing day beds with curtains gently blowing in the breeze. And when you’ve had your fill of bathing and dozing, you can utilise each room’s turntable and explore the vinyl collection provided for your auditory pleasure.
Pretty Beach House certainly has a magnificent setting, and it’s well worth exploring. Directly opposite the front door of the main house are some incredible Aboriginal rock carvings known to be at least 2000 years old and quite possibly up to 10 000 years old. The carvings represent Totem figures of fish and a dolphin and would have been used in ceremonies by the original occupants of this part of Bouddi National Park.
The management of the guesthouse take the custodianship of this important site seriously, and a charming and, sometimes emotionally charged, part of your visit is a traditional Indigenous ‘Welcome to Country’ smoking ceremony, performed in a purpose-built area near the massive front door. Well-loved local Darkinjung Elder, Gavi Duncan, often performs the ceremony. He can also tell you many stories of the Dreamtime and details of the history of this site.
A stay at Pretty Beach House is an incredible luxury but as it’s all-inclusive, with everything you could want at your disposal, there are certainly many worse ways to spend your money.
The guesthouse accommodates no more than eight guests at a time and is not suitable for children under 15 years of age. There is an onsite day spa with a full menu of treatments using pure Australian botanical products from the LI’TYA range.
There are also many activities beyond the confines of the property and the obliging staff are happy to organise these for you. So, even for just a short weekend stay I’m sure you will come away from Pretty Beach House feeling that you had absolutely attained that holy grail of the mini-break. Pure escape.