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  • Writer's pictureRhonda Norman

“Gourmet dining, mountain peaks, tranquility... an award-winning Bed & Breakfast awaits”.

Wandering spirits, travelling wilburys & curious nomads. We are all grounded at the moment and so the planning of the iconic Aussie road trip, has never been more front of mind. If home is New South Wales, then a trip to the north east is no doubt part of that planning process.

Image Credit: @wheresbrigid

The Tweed is on the far northern NSW coast, bordering Queensland. If it’s an uncrowded and relaxed recharge that you’re after, then this region has it all. Pristine, world class beaches (without the crowds of its northern Gold Coast cousin), cute coastal towns, vibrant hinterland villages & boutique distilleries, bakeries & art galleries scattered in between.

The meandering Tweed River flows down from the lush sub-tropical rainforest region – one of the oldest and largest still left on earth – with Wollumbin, or Mt Warning as Captain Cook named her, towering over the area as a breathtaking backdrop and a climb that’s not for the faint hearted. Wollumbin means cloud-catcher or ‘fighting chief of the mountains’ and was traditionally a very sacred initiation site for men. Clearly visible from here, on the Springbrook side of this ancient caldera, are the twin peaks of Mt Cougal, reputed to be the traditional initiation site for aboriginal women. Nestled in between, in the lush green valley of Upper Crystal Creek, rests Hillcrest Mountain View Retreat Bed & Breakfast.

Being voted into the top 25 B&B’s in Australia, for the last two years by Tripadvisor, was reason enough for me to head on a wee adventure and see what these reviews were all about. Thankfully I live in the Queensland border bubble, and only one hour from this idyllic spot.

Upon arrival, and after checking I was a dog lover, I had the best welcoming party ever! Five gorgeous Labradors came bounding across the front lawn and raced over to greet me! Their smiles and energy only equalled by that of one of their owners, Craig, as he followed in their wake to welcome me – at a much more leisurely pace I might add!!

Image Credit: @wheresbrigid

Positioned on a rise, in the middle of this ancient volcano, the energy from the surrounding mountains is palpable. It’s like a soft blanket that envelops you and there’s a sense of instant calm and peace – why did I only book one night? Hillcrest Bed & Breakfast consists of 5 beautifully landscaped acres that lie in the middle of 165 acres of lush farmland and the cows graze, almost trancelike, in the paddock just across from me.

The property has a private, fully self-contained spa cottage, that is also dog friendly, and two separate en-suited rooms in the main house in a private wing. Even from my room I can look out at Mt Warning and the rolling hills in between. It’s a hard decision whether to lie on my bed and do just that, or whether to move to my day bed, outside on the deck and do the same. I choose the latter and it’s here I stay, reading my book, feeling the warm spring breeze and listening to the chirping birds in the trees. The Wisteria is about to be in full bloom and soon the home will be draped by this spectacular purple curtain.

Sometime later, Paul, the other owner and in a previous life “chef extraordinaire”, comes by asking if I’d like to join him while he collects the eggs and says hi to the chickens. We wander down to the orchard, where the chickens live, and collect dozens of eggs from the coops. Paul leaves the gate open and the chickens then literally wander all around the property, up to the house and wherever their little chicken hearts’ desire – this is free-range at its absolute best! What I also found intriguing is that they take themselves back into the orchard around sunset and off to bed. Clever chooks… and I know what I’ll be having for breakfast tomorrow!

Before arriving, Craig emailed me the menu, so I could order my dinner. This was probably the hardest decision I’ve had to make in a long time and reason enough to stay a few nights, just to indulge my love and passion for food! For a cheese lover, how do you go past the “Twice cooked three cheese souffle” and then there’s the “Field mushroom & black truffle arancini”. For the main course, a tender and tasty “Daube of beef in red wine, pureed potatoes & roasted winter veggies” has my name on it, however all food tastes are catered for, as well as delicious vegetarian options...and did someone say “Sticky Date and Banana Pudding with Butterscotch Sauce”?

Image Credit: @wheresbrigid

Paul makes a point of showcasing local produce from the region and keeping things sustainable. What Paul creates for their guests is truly outstanding and surpasses meals I’ve eaten in some of the top restaurants around the world, but this is not surprising, considering he’s worked in Michelin Star restaurants. To have this world class standard of cheffing available, in Upper Crystal Creek Valley, in a wee Bed & Breakfast, is almost unfathomable, but without a doubt, one of the main reasons Hillcrest B&B is consistently rated so highly.

Before I know it, my alarm sounds, but plans to go for an early morning walk soon disappear as I lie in my bed gazing out over the fog filled gulleys to the mountains in the distance & I decide to snooze for another half hour. Still full from dinner, I wonder how I’m going to manage the gourmet breakfast that I know is going to be created for me, but having collected those eggs myself, any doubt I had soon dissipates as the thought of having ‘real’ eggs for breakfast sees me heading towards the kitchen and dining area. Homemade muesli, fresh fruit salad and perfectly poached eggs on sourdough from the local markets – what a start to my day!

Sadly, soon after breakfast, I say goodbye to Craig and Paul and their furry family and head back up to the hustle and bustle of the Gold Coast. But, without any doubt in my mind, I know I’ll be back down to stay. Hillcrest Mountain View Retreat, truly is a gem of a Bed & Breakfast and I’m just so grateful to have made it, and their, acquaintance. Until next time!

Written by Brigid Avery - founder & lead advisor, Wild World Travel

September 2020

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