When Simone Williams and her husband, Bruce, bought Hillview Farm 17 years ago, they dreamt of renovating the property’s Colonial Queenslander. Restoring the derelict 130-year-old dairy shed down the lane wasn’t exactly part of the plan.
“I worked with a group of lovely old retired or semi-retired builders who thought the project was a bit of fun and they were wonderful in pulling the old shed apart and restoring and retaining everything that was there – including the hooks they used to milk the cows on years ago. Sustainability was key. Absolutely every rusty bolt, nut and screw and piece of timber was sorted, organised and then put back together.”
The result is Hillview Dairy, a rustic character property painstakingly returned to its former glory in the lush Currumbin Valley, 40 minutes south of the Gold Coast. At every turn of this secluded stay, guests will find examples of eclectic, understated luxury: there’s an outdoor bath, wood-burning fireplace, a wine-barrel plunge pool and a fully equipped kitchen (yep, this country charmer comes with Smeg appliances and quality coffee maker).
“Everyone’s talking about Byron Bay and Bangalow and I believe this area has all of that without the crowds, without the hoo-ha and the traffic,” says Simone of the Currumbin Valley. “If you can picture the Byron Bay Hinterland, it is identical. It’s just rolling hills, lush green rainforests and a beautiful crystal-blue ocean right on the doorstep.”
Here, Simone makes the case for a trip to the Currumbin Valley – and why she can’t wait to host you at her pet-friendly heritage home in the hinterland.
“I love old buildings; I love the history, the character and the rich tapestry of the stories that surround them. Before we renovated it, the dairy was a falling-down outbuilding that was made of hand-cut timber from the nearby forest many years ago and I really wanted to bring it back to life.
“What we’ve tried to achieve is a real nod to that history, to that time. When you stay here you’re not just going on a holiday at a beach apartment; you’re really going on a journey. I’ve got the story in the welcome book and guests often tell me they loved reading about the history of this farm and the dairy and the people.
“I’ve been a long-haul international customer service manager for Qantas for 25 years so, I guess from my travel history, I’ve kind of developed a love of interiors and design. I think there’s nothing quite like the feeling of falling into a comfortable bed with beautiful linen.
“The barn has two king bedrooms and both of them are set up with fresh, crisp, white high-quality bedding and really nice mattresses. It’s just pure comfort so you can lie there and enjoy the view of the mountains or look out at cows and calves in the paddock from the same structure that was there many years ago. It really takes you back in history, but comfortably.
“And that was my inspiration for the interior: to create a very plush, luxurious space but a kind of ‘rough luxury’ aesthetic that’s in keeping with the dairy building. There are decorative pieces hanging in the bathroom that were literally in the dairy shed many years ago and these pieces help create that feeling of living in another time. It’s a slower, quieter way of life.
“Most people who come to stay have all these plans and bookings at restaurants and once they arrive, they cancel everything and don’t leave the place. They drink their coffee on the verandah overlooking the wine-barrel plunge pool. When I chat to guests and ask, ‘Where have you been and what have you done?’ they usually say, ‘Oh, we cancelled everything! We had coffee here, we cooked in and we’re not going anywhere.’ I think that’s really nice.”
“I was very lucky to meet my husband, Bruce, who I’m still madly in love with. I convinced him to buy this beautiful Colonial Queenslander in the Currumbin Valley about 18 years ago. We actually got married here in an old church across the road that was on the property then. We’ve since had three kids and, of course, spent a lot of time restoring the original homestead; we did everything from drafting up the design to tiling and painting.”
Where to eat and drink
“If you want top-quality coffee, Pasture and Co at the eco village is a 10-minute drive. Another good one is The Salt Mill at Currumbin Beach, about 10 to 15 minutes north-east of here.
“There’s also Tommy’s Italian at Currumbin Beach. Of course, the Currumbin Surf Club is iconic – with its views north and south of the Gold Coast – and you also have Burleigh Pavilion for a sunny long lunch.”
Things to do nearby
“The first thing is Springbrook National Park. It’s a World Heritage-listed area that’s a 20-minute bike ride from here. I provide two retro bikes with baskets so you can cycle to the national park and hike up to the Cougal Cascades, which are absolutely magic.
“The Currumbin Alley, a famous point-break surf spot, is 12 minutes’ drive down the road or you could ride the bikes – that takes about 50 minutes.
“If you want to go further afield – and the border with NSW is open – I highly recommend a drive over to Murwillumbah and Husk Distillers in the Tweed Valley. The drive there is gorgeous.”
Just for you
“I like to leave all our guests a handwritten welcome note, a bottle of wine and maybe some fresh-cut flowers or seasonal fruit and veg from our farm orchard.
“I’m a failed artist – I’ve done a few courses over the years – and I’ve got so many pots and jars of paint and art books. I decided to leave them in the dairy and people sit on the verandah and paint – I love that. I also leave lots of board games, card games, that sort of thing. It’s that kind of place.”
The Instagram moment
“We’ve got a beautiful tree-lined driveway and the sun sets behind it; that’s pretty special. We’ve had a bunch of fashion shoots and the photographers have captured these iconic moments of couples here. There’s also an elevated aspect looking towards the dairy with a backdrop of all the hand-cut timber. It’s all quite rustic and when the sun sets and the light is dappled, it’s magical.”
For the family
“Calf-feeding is really popular with families. And I always leave carrots in the fridge for guests to feed our horses; the horses love it.
“We also have a border collie puppy called Smudgee. She’s the most friendly pup and she visits everyone at the dairy.
“I leave a note as part of the check-in – ‘Please, if she’s too much, if she’s too bossy, we’ll make sure to keep her away’ – because not everyone’s a dog person. But most everybody loves her. I once got a review on Airbnb that said, ‘We love this, we love that... but we’re really disappointed we didn’t get to meet Smudgee so we’ve rebooked.’”
Soundtrack to your stay
“Highwayman by The Highwaymen. I look at the dairy in winter and sometimes think it looks like a Wyoming ranch cabin with the smoke from the fire coming out of it. I often think it’s very American-Western.”
What guests say
“The first thing I do when guests check out is look at the guest book. I read the words and think, ‘That’s just so touching.’ That they’ve really enjoyed my work, what I’ve done, my generosity and what I provide makes me think, ‘I must be on the right track, then!’
“Marshmallows for the fire are well received in winter, for example. And guests love that we have beach towels and a surfboard for summer stays.
“This lovely feedback is really rewarding for me as a Host. It means more than the money; more than anything.”