An inspired natural setting is the perfect backdrop for romance
by JENNY HEWETT
From the rhythmical purr of the didgeridoo to the rock-hard rasp of Jimmy Barnes, Australia has its own sound. Music continues to shape our culture, but it’s the songs of the wild that so distinctly define our landscape. I feel a strong sense of place when I wake this morning in a luxury lodge surrounded by
360 degrees of protected rainforest.
I hear it once. And then again. The whipcrack-like call reverberates in the forest. This is no one-hit wonder.
The song of the eastern whipbird, native to this part of Australia, is one of our country’s most iconic sounds. And it’s the backing track to my stay at the Crystal Creek Rainforest Retreat, set in the hinterland of the Tweed Valley in northern NSW. An ultra- private, romance-ready escape for loved-up couples, three is typically a crowd here. But the whipbird is one of many residents whose company you’ll want to keep.
Love, actually. With 13 private, self- contained lodges, sunken jacuzzis, private picnic spots and walking trails. Crystal Creek Rainforest Retreat claims to cater to about 200 proposals a year. There are four different accommodation types, from Rainforest Canopy Bungalows to Luxury Mountain View Lodges, with each offering a unique experience.
Lodges are hidden from one another, couples are not committed to dining or activity schedules and staff are purposely scarce, which means you can lie in bed all day without housekeeping knocking. Rather than room service, there’s the option to BYO food or pre-order meals, complete with instructions for reheating. Along with an inspiring natural setting, this give couples the option for uninterrupted privacy.
Nestled between the NSW and Queensland border, Crystal Creek Rainforest Retreat is set on about 100ha and backs onto the protected Numinbah Nature Reserve. Built on a former banana plantation, it’s within an hour’s drive to five World Heritage national parks, including Springbrook National Park, famous for waterfalls, and Wollumbin National Park.
Known as the Gondwana Rainforests of Australia, these protected subtropical rainforests are significant due to the high diversity of flora and fauna. More frog, snake, bird and marsupial species are found here than anywhere in Australia.
Nearby looms Mt Warning, which sprouts from the caldera of an ancient shield volcano thought to have erupted 23 million years ago. It’s also an easy 45 minutes to some of NSW’s hidden coastal gems such as Cabarita Beach, home of Halcyon House, and up-and-coming Kingscliff.
The luxe, architect-designed Byron Lodge I’m flopping about in is one of the retreat’s four top-tier stays and is engulfed by rainforest. Floor-to- ceiling glass and timber bring the outdoors in, while sumptuous leather upholstery, a crackling fireplace and indoor spa bath gear it towards winter romance. As well as a spacious deck and plunge pool for warmer days, a skylight is positioned over the bed for stargazing, and tealights are scattered throughout for mood-lit nights.
Creature comforts greet us on arrival including a complimentary bottle of Moet and Lindt chocolates. The fully equipped kitchen has a Nespresso machine and dish drawer. A heated bathroom floor and automatic loo don’t go unnoticed, either.
Tasteful decor, mainly from Bali, has a bespoke feel, with recycled French oak and Joglo teak, a chaise longue and frog-engraved, wood- frame bed adding to the cosy theme. There’s no Netflix, but there is a huge flatscreen TV and hundreds of DVDs in the games room.
BYO food to cook on the barbecue or in the kitchen, or plan ahead and order from the small menu of breakfast, lunch and dinner options at extra cost. Meals need to be ordered 48 hours in advance and are discreetly placed in the fridge during the day, except for the picnic lunch hampers, which are collected from reception. We enjoy toasted smoked salmon paninis with Greek salad and chocolates on our deck the first day and a late lunch of ham and mustard paninis the next (after a little mix-up with our pre-ordered picnic).
Back in Byron Lodge, instructions on how to reheat our Spanish slow-cooked lamb with couscous dinner have been placed on the bench. The meals are tasty; our only gripe is most dinners are on the heavy side and there’s not much in the way of fresh produce. There is one healthy breakfast option, but a fruit bowl would add local flavour and showcase regional produce.
The energy of ancient cedars and rustling rainforest ferns is almost tangible. So pack workout gear to do some exploring. There are 8km of pristine rainforest walks departing from the property, which range in duration from 45 to 90 minutes.
The four trails are well marked, but make sure you take one of the provided hiking sticks as it can get slippery. With its staghorn ferns, giant strangler figs and fern-lined gullies, the Rainforest Walk is the most pleasant and idyllic, while the Lookout Hike makes for a strenuous, uphill workout, culminating in panoramas all the way to the sea. The property is also home to a colony of glow worms, which light up like a starlit sky near the creek each night.
But the highlight is the series of hammocks strung over emerald-like swimming holes in the creek, shaded by the forest and perfect for reading.
The writer was a guest of Crystal Creek Rainforest Retreat.