Unforgettable places to stay for big groups in NSW
Travelling with a large family, wedding party, work team or big group of friends? It can be tricky finding somewhere not only spacious enough, but special enough, to stay. These places fit the bill.
The wellness option: The Brooklet
This new accommodation in the Byron Bay hinterland is set up to entertain and rejuvenate. In between the luxurious villas and main residence, there’s a stylish, wooden infrared sauna; a beautiful, tiled massage room; an outdoor hot tub, ice bath and shower with views of the countryside; a tennis court and gym; a sleek barn for hangouts and long lunches; and a 25m magnesium pool with forest views. Once you’ve finished your workout, swim or sauna session, you and up to 23 others can lounge in a villa or homestead designed with a modern country style to match the property’s 50 hectares of green countryside.
The coastal option: Soul of Gerringong
Ten minutes' walk to Gerringong’s main beach, five minutes to a beautiful and underrated ocean pool and just a short drive to the famous Seven Mile Beach, Soul of Gerringong is, as it promises, right in the centre of the South Coast town. The refurbished 1800s farmhouse is split in two. There’s the spacious, open-plan Soul Farmhouse with seven ensuite bedrooms, an outdoor deck, pool and garden with accompanying outdoor stone fireplace. Then next door is the Soul Cottage, with an additional three bedrooms, outdoor entertainment space and firepit. Every space is designed with a coastal-inspired approach that maximises natural light and natural materials, making both your post-beach afternoons and Instagram posts feel like you’ve been tossed into the pages of a luxury magazine.
The outback option: Warrawong on the Darling
Wilcannia in northwest NSW was once one of the biggest inland ports in the country. Now, it’s a charming town on the edge of the outback providing travellers with refuge before and after their explorations of the unique red landscape and opal-mining history. Warrawong on the Darling is one such refuge, a sprawling campsite with 21 two-person cabins (four if you use the sofa bed), 60 powered campsites and countless grassy spots to park a caravan. But it’s not just size that makes this humble campsite ideal for big groups – the site backs onto a natural lagoon; there’s a firepit known for impromptu evening gatherings (the manager brings nibbles and sometimes there’s even a bit of music); and you can pick up frozen, home-cooked meals for the group at reception.
The whole village option: Guestlands Italia B&B
If your dream is to stay in a Tuscan village with all your family and friends, you’ve got two options – take the whole group to Italy and try to line up enough hotel rooms, or book Guestlands, a sprawling retreat less than an hour’s drive northwest of Sydney’s CBD. Guestlands has been built so every inch feels like an Italian village: manicured gardens that weave between Italian-style villas and the village’s miniature lake, an open-air dining area with a traditional pizza oven and bar, and rooms with terracotta tiles and balconies that open to a paved main ‘street’ only wide enough to scoot down on a Vespa. On top of that, any booking, whether a single villa or the whole village (fits 12 all up), comes with free mini-bar snacks, and a daily breakfast hamper and antipasti platter.
The adventure option: Banjos Bushland Retreat
Imagine this itinerary of weekend activities: First send the kids to the on-site playground; then set up for a game of tennis, nine holes of mini golf, a game of pool, a round of table tennis or a giant outdoor chess match. Following that, you’ll explore the nearby bushland’s 4WD tracks, yabby fishing ponds, mountain-bike tracks and saltwater pool. Finish the day with a dip in an outdoor spa with forest views and a session in a Scandinavian-style wooden sauna. In between games and spa rejuvenation, hang out in the three cosy lodges nestled in eight hectares of Hunter Valley bush. Together, the lodges house 24 people. But each can be booked independently, too (they accommodate six to 10 people each). If all the home activities aren’t enough to keep you busy, you’ll be less than an hour from Barrington Tops National Park and the region’s acclaimed wineries.
The foodie option: Cadogan Country House
At Cadogan Country House, you have the option of inviting a fine-dining chef into the home. Option one is Richard Learmonth, former head chef of award-winning Sydney restaurant Porteno. And option two is Eat Spanish founder Rubén López Mesa. Chat to either about organising an intimate feast or the fanciest ‘heat-n-eat’ meal you’ve had. If you want to cook, the modern kitchen is equipped with Smeg appliances, there’s an outdoor firepit and barbecue, local wine is provided on arrival and the farm’s wagyu beef is available for purchase, too. The home itself fits up to 10 and sits in the centre of a 1,420-hectare beef farm just between Orange and Bathurst, making you feel like you’ve got the entire estate to yourself... well, along with the cows. Also, just down the road from the stylish country home is an extraordinarily large and well-maintained hedge maze you’re free to explore.
The extreme luxury option: Soma Byron Bay
When we say extreme luxury, we mean it. This Byron Bay sanctuary was custom built for ultra-high-end wellness retreats; you may recognise it as the setting for television series Nine Perfect Strangers. The unique timber-and-concrete design is as astounding as it is unique. Eschewing the usual hotel layout, it’s centred around a wide living space with concrete flooring, an incredible six-metre-long timber table (where you’ll eat your Ayurvedic meals), and floor-to-ceiling windows showing off the Byron rainforest and Soma’s infinity pool. Off the main house is a sauna, two ‘forest treatment rooms’ and an incredible glass dome within a bamboo forest. Bedrooms are split between a luxurious timber cabin sleeping six and the main building housing another 10 guests in beautiful, understated ensuite rooms.
The value option: Bilpin Country Lodge
Where else can you comfortably sleep 20 people plus pets; have breakfast provided daily; have all-hour access to canoes, playgrounds, sporting facilities and giant spa; and pay less than $150 per person per night? Bilpin Country Lodge is top of the list. While the prices are accessible, this Blue Mountains farmstay is by no means a budget experience – the old-school timber design is charming, warm and spacious. And on top of that, most rooms have ensuite bathrooms and are air conditioned/heated. If, somehow, all the included facilities aren’t enough to keep everyone occupied, the lodge is close to fruit-picking opportunities (next door), mountain-biking tracks, and the Blue Mountains Botanic Garden, as well as being just a short drive from Scenic World and Jenolan Caves.