Feature

Resting place

Green Lifestyle

Noonaweena retreat sits atop a mountain with a stunning outlook of national parks as far as the eye can see – just an hour from Sydney, it's the ideal spot for your next group get-together.

Noonaweena

Credit: Caitlin Howlett

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It's not often that you get to spend some quality time with your work mates, or that you get a chance to get away with a group you've been volunteering with for the last few years, or even some quality time with your closest friends and family.

But just imagine getting away to just about the most idyllic location you could think of with those people. Storms circling around as you're listening to the thunder and brainstorming the new direction for your company for the next year. Watching the sheets of rain getting closer and closer as you reflect on lessons learnt from the past. Or sitting back to watch a magnificent sunset with a glass of wine and a meal of fresh, organic produce.

The aptly named Noonaweena means 'resting place' in the native Indigenous language of the area. It's a retreat-style accommodation about an hour north of Sydney, aimed at groups for conferences, weddings, art exhibitions, or just about any kind of event you can imagine.

The 110-acre property has a neat little bushwalk with gnarled gum trees, prehistoric-looking Gymea lillies, and a quaint little waterfall, complete with yabbies – it's so lush you're advised to look out for snakes, and take salt on your walk in case a leech decides to hitch a ride (we were fortunate to only see birds, wallabys, and the new warré beehive and its inhabitants).

The ambience:
Sitting atop a high ridge overlooking the Yengo National Park, the grand the scale of nature's blessings are clear. The confident Mt Yengo dominates the landscape of layers upon layers of mountains, some higher in altitude, but none quite as unique – all gradually fading from green, to blue, to grey, with a constantly changing horizon of clouds, storms, and rising mist.

There's pristine wilderness, as far as the eye can see – just as it would have been over 200 years ago before European settlement. At sunrise and sunset, the cacophony of cockatoos and other birds go about their daily ritual.

With all of this impressive expanse around you, part of the charm is that you can feel quite isolated.

I can't help but think what the first Europeans would have thought when they first heard the cackling laugh of a kookaburra... they must have been scared more than they were intrigued, wondering what strange creature it belonged to. Despite feeling so remote, Noonaweena gives all the creature comforts, so there's no need for you to 'rough it' to get close to nature.

The amenities:
Noonaweena is certified ECO IV level by Ecotourism Australia, and at the end of last year had a bit of an award winning streak, taking out Gold at the Hunter/Central Coast Tourism Awards, and Bronze in the same category at the NSW Tourism Awards. It’s great to see eco-tourism initiatives like the ones here being rewarded in the mainstream industry.

There's an impressive 33 kilowatt array of around 60 solar panels, so the gas and electric heating is mainly run off these with only minimal use for the mains power.

Each of the four villas is a fair distance from the others, so groups can choose to have their own private sections. The site can host up to 32 people in total, so a range of group sizes can be easily accommodated.

No matter the group size, it won't be hard to find common ground while watching the clouds roll in as you float in a shimmering salt-water pool. Or as it gets a little cooler, there's always the solar-powered jacuzzi.

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There's a pretty exciting weekend coming up at Noonaweena at the end of March – a gourmet weekend, complete with a meet & greet of Masterchef winner Kate Bracks, a cooking class, and delicious 3-course dinner. Click here for more info. The author of this article stayed overnight courtesy of Noonaweena.