Susie Boswell enjoys a total change of scenery, some fine wines, a challenging 18 holes and a couple of days packed with fun, just a few hours’ drive from home.
I’m playing the first hole at Cypress Lakes Golf and Country Club Resort in the Hunter Valley. It’s a reasonably comfortable, loosen-up par 5 running down to the country road that threads between the nearby big-name wineries and their cellar doors.
But it’s quickly apparent my game is rusty and that I’ve added both a slice and a hook to my repertoire since last I played. As well, I manage to make the bunkers – twice. Happily, I find I can still single-putt a green, bringing my card for the straightforward 450-odd metres back into the realms of respectability.
My mate and I are here to try out the championship course, check out its ambience, inspect the resort’s accommodation, spa and leisure facilities and generally soak up the Cypress Lakes and vineyards atmosphere.
The reason is that Cypress Lakes, around an easy three-hour drive from the Mid-North Coast, is currently offering reduced-price memberships, for just $1000. On top of that, its annual fees packages have been redesigned and include some very attractive features in the way of accommodation choices, cart use, meals, spa discounts, free extra guest stays and transferable credits.
The course is, indeed, an agreeable one – scenically, that is, from my point of view. For, pretty soon, I concentrate more on wielding our electric cart around and marvelling out loud at the panoramic views of the nearby rows of vines and distant hills, than on perfecting my stroke. I hack my way around but I’m not beyond noting the differing characters of the front and back nine on a course that’s truly interesting – with great visual charms as well as skill challenges.
The day’s lengthening as we get around and head back towards the clubhouse and numerous mobs of curious kangaroos come out to watch us – with rather the same puzzled, pricked-ear looks as a serious foursome of blokes playing just ahead of us have been casting back in our direction as they observe me sashaying up the fairways.
All the same it’s a friendly feeling that pervades the village, restaurants, gym and so on – yet with a nice sense of seclusion between the guest villas, built into deep terraced hillsides and with cypress and eucalypt screens between them.
Our two-storey villa, overlooking the steep 15th hole, has the air of a Thredbo ski chalet, with a lovely log-look Jetmaster gas fire to set the mood. We’ve a full-length balcony, table and chairs adjacent to the sitting room with its plasma screen, satellite TV, open plan dining, full kitchen with dishwasher, laundry facilities, downstairs powder room and internet connection.
Up top of the stairs two king bedrooms each with TV and ensuite – one with a big tub and balcony as well – enjoy excellent privacy from each other off the landing and both have superb valley views. (And, notably, effective air-conditioning that warms up instantly on chill nights).
We choose to take it easy, make it casual and cook for ourselves in the evenings, we enjoy lunch around the vineyards, and we accept the fabulous, hearty and abundant Cypress Lakes breakfasts served in the indoor-outdoor dining room next to the big, pretty blue heated swimming pool and bubbling spa.
For those with more disposable income than us, there are a range of restaurant options, from casual to fine dining, both here at the resort and in the immediate vicinity at the vineyards, such as some great Japanese scran at Tempus Two, across the road. And of course there are picnics with many cellar-door stores offering fresh-baked baguettes, cheeses, olives, deli items and other selections – plus, of course a bottle of wine – to take away.
We loved stopping off at whim at half a dozen famous-name label wineries – Brokenwood, McGuigan and so on – tasting the wines, cheese, chocolates and other gourmet goodies. A good option’s to leave your car at your accommodation and travel by hire limo, Cadillac convertible, bicycle, horse and carriage or on a guided tour. Stock up on great wines at genuinely reduced prices.
Our favourite indulgence, however, was the Golden Door Spa located at Elysia, on the edge of the Cypress Lakes compound high on a plateau in the sky, its Brokenback Range views unsurpassed anywhere in NSW.
The spa is part of Australia’s most elite, boutique wellness and fitness group, founded at the legendary original Golden Door Retreat that operates a renowned fun, week-long cleansing boot camp in the Gold Coast hinterland, patronised by the rich and famous (and recommended by lucky ordinary souls who’ve sampled it, like me!).
The Elysia property, so handily situated to and owned by the resort, is a fragrant, spacious, luxurious oasis where male Swedish massage experts who know their stuff weave their magic alongside top-of-the-tree beauty therapists and personal trainers, using advanced facilities such as Vichy showers, mud baths, flotation pools and more.
While my mate enjoyed the full experience, I was content on this occasion merely to soothe my rebelling shoulder blades and leg muscles indulging in the huge bubbling spa pool and alternating between it, the heated lap pool, and the scented, invigorating steam room. Separate spa and saunas operate for women and men, so each sex can lie back and enjoy a cathartic relaxation without worrying about appearances.
The resort’s day-night tennis courts look enticing, for those so inclined, but I was captivated by the gym. There’s a range of the latest equipment and machines – rowing, step, treadmill and so on – all top of the line, all interesting and offering variety of disciplines, all maintained in great order, freely available from dawn to late at night, with a flat-screen TV for entertainment, men’s and women’s shower rooms and a convenient kitchen for snacks. The exercise machines are so good, it feels more like fun than working out. I had a terrific time in this little hideaway.
There are 11 accommodation and non-accommodation packages currently available to Cypress Lakes members, all offering good combinations of inclusions to suit individual requirements. In the first instance, see the resort’s website at www.cypresslakes.com.au or call the membership sales office on 4993 1555.
To give readers a ballpark idea of costs, our two bedroom villa could have been had for $75 a person a night, with four staying, with the full deal, multi-course breakfast-brunch a token extra $10 a head.
We thought it sensational value for a great couple of days away with so many top-flight facilities and inclusions at our command, and a wonderful change of scenery and activity, just a short drive from home.