The journey back in time begins as you descend down the sandstone escarpments into Kangaroo Valley from Berry. The roads become narrower, the vegetation more lush, the houses more quaint and the wombats more abundant. At one turn in the windy road, a small self-serve fridge stacked with gooey homemade fudge running on an old-fashioned honesty system beckons. The clock continues to whiz in reverse as you reach Kangaroo Valley village, a quiet huddle of old-fashioned shops and restaurants on Moss Vale Road. By the time you roll up to historic Halcyon cottage just 100 metres away, you’re firmly ensconced back in 1910.
Halcyon, by definition, suggests calm, peace and tranquillity, and this 1910 cottage immediately delivers on all three. Flanked by picturesque gardens, the timber cottage with its tin roof and colourful leadlight windows is filled with spaces dedicated to relaxing and unwinding. We begin our Friday evening munching Thai takeaway from local favourite Jing Jo by candlelight on the big wooden dining table out the back – glass chandeliers above us, wooden floorboards below, and vintage pictures and advertising signs all around. We progress from postprandial wines on the spacious rear verandah to the comfy white sofas in the front lounge to watch a DVD from the sizeable collection. We wind up in the main bedroom, where we have a sound (if not slightly squished) sleep on the century-old brass bed.
This a space that would delight both your grandma and your hipster friend, every inch being impeccably styled with antique furniture, artwork, collectables, books and crockery, including a particularly gorgeous Royal Doulton dinner set from 1895. Not surprisingly, the owners also run the Nostalgia Factory antique store in town (Halcyon guests receive a 20 per cent discount). There are two TVs and DVD players, a CD player and a small selection of step-back-in-time CDs from the likes of Frank Sinatra, a bookshelf filled with interesting reads and board games, and a laundry for longer stays.
Thanks to central heating, airconditioning, electric blankets and all the kitchen mod cons one might expect, comfort levels are about a century more advanced than the decor. The small fireplace would be perfection during the winter months and the large bathroom, with a white wicker armchair cosied into the corner and a large antique vanity on the wall, is somewhere you just want to be. By 10am on Saturday I’ve already had two soaks in the claw foot bathtub, and not just because the door is, bizarrely, missing from the separate shower.
No trip to Kangaroo Valley would be complete without a pub dinner at the Friendly Inn. Pumping on weekend nights, with generous portions, cheap drinks and chirpy staff, the best seats in the house are in the beer garden out the back. Cafe Bella serves up yummy gourmet pizzas in a homey, lamp-lit atmosphere, and is the place to be as the mist rolls into the valley of a night. Head across the road to Bistro One46 for a knock-your-socks-off apricot bread and butter pudding.
WORTH STEPPING OUT FOR
A trail ride on one of renowned “horse whisperer” Geoff Fearon’s trusty steeds, through lush subtropical rainforest on his 90-hectare mountain property, is the best way to take in the valley’s stunning vistas ($75 for two hours, kangaroovalleyhorseriding.com, 02 4465 1912). A kayak with Kangaroo Valley Safaris along the Kangaroo River is the second best (from $30, see kangaroovalleycanoes.com.au, 1800 805 742). For the less adventurous, Halcyon is next door to four tennis courts and a basketball court, a 15-minute walk from historic Hampden Bridge, and close to the Kangaroo River swimming hole and bush walks through the surrounding Morton and Budderoo national parks.
A cosy, relaxed retreat from the modern world, right in the heart of the valley.
HOW TO GET THERE
From Sydney, head south on the Princes Highway. At Berry, turn right on to Kangaroo Valley Road. After 18 kilometres, turn right on to Moss Vale Road.
Nights at Halcyon start from $180. 127 Moss Vale Road, Kangaroo Valley, phone 0414 425 442, see stayz.com.au.
The writer travelled at her own expense.