Hinterland holidays are having a moment. “It’s just that feeling of leaving the city or the suburbs and heading back out into nature,” says Bianca Durack of Hillside Carool, a sprawling Airbnb home in Northern NSW’s Tweed Shire, which she co-Hosts with husband James.
“It’s all the wonderful things about being by the coast but you’re that bit higher so the air’s cooler and there are less people around. It’s a completely different feel. You forget all of your worries on the drive out. Just crank the music and start relaxing.”
In a post-lockdown era, a sense of expansiveness is a deeply appreciated luxury. The Carool homestead rests on a hill overlooking a lush valley, less than 30 minutes’ drive inland from the Gold Coast’s southern end. It’s this elevated position that creates a feeling of space – that, and the sheer scale of the property itself.
There’s a place for every purpose: if you fancy curling up with a book, head to the “fire room”. Sharing a sundowner with family? Take a seat on the outdoor patio, next to the fire pit. Or, if you want to enjoy the panoramic view over the surrounding hinterland, pick a sun lounger beside the palm-shaded pool.
“We lived in the house for a year and contemplated the space for so long,” engineer-turned-interiors-buff James explains. “It gave us a chance to refine, refine and refine. We wanted to create a space for family and friends to gather.”
The result is a holiday house that feels distinctly like a home – well, a home that’s large enough to sleep 16 guests, with its own vineyard, 20-metre lap pool and cinema room, that is.
Name it and Hillside Carool probably has it. In addition to seven bedrooms, 3.5 baths and multiple living spaces with two fireplaces, the property features an outdoor BBQ area, pizza oven, generous pool and lawn area, billiard room and ducted air conditioning.
“When we lived in the property, we'd have friends over and it was such a beautiful space, with incredible views out to the ocean but we had nowhere to sit except inside the house,” says Bianca. “So we focused on creating these sort of outdoor rooms that bring people together.”
About the Hosts
“When we found the place, it was an old winery that had a lot of potential,” says James. “It just needed some new life breathed back into it. We wanted it to be our forever home but because we run a business that’s down in Coolangatta, it was easier to move closer to the office, especially after having our two kids.
“So we put it on Airbnb and within two hours, we had bookings that we weren’t even ready for. The demand was enormous, much bigger than we could have ever imagined.”
“I love meeting the guests,” adds Bianca. “I love checking people in. I love hearing their stories. I love the excitement when they see the house. When guests walk into the room with the pool table and they go, ‘Wow, this chandelier is amazing!’ I think to myself, ‘Yeah, we hung every little bead on that chandelier and there’s about 1000!’ The place holds lots of memories for us so it’s nice to generate a special experience for our guests too.”
Just for you
“We provide plenty of firewood for the outdoor fire pit and pizza oven, plus a few packets of dough and flour in the cupboards and often jars of pizza sauce so guests can have a crack at making pizzas in the woodfire oven,” says Bianca.
“We also leave a bottle of red wine for guests. And a kitchen well-stocked with different types of milk, coffee beans, salt — all the necessities so you’re not constantly running to the shops.”
Where to eat and drink (and grab coffee!)
“I’d recommend Bread Social at Tweed Heads for coffee – it’s about 25 minutes from here,” says Bianca. “Cubby Bakehouse in Chinderah is also amazing for coffee.
“Potager at Carool is on the same road as the house – it’s a beautiful little restaurant. They grow their own produce and change the menu every season. It’s super special, I’d highly recommend that one for a long lunch. Husk Distillers is about 20 minutes away. They make Ink Gin and Husk Rum. A lot of people do a day at Husk – a tour and a tasting, then sit down for lunch on the lawn.”
Things to do nearby
“You can’t go past a surf in the morning,” says James. “Snapper Rocks is probably the closest and best – about 30 minutes away – and there’s a really good little surf club there with the best views in the world.
“I would also definitely do the Summit Track at Mount Warning (set to reopen in July after recent flooding) – the outlook is amazing. If you go for sunrise, there’ll be mist and clouds covering the whole valley. Once it clears, you have views that reach the ocean.”
Stay a little longer
“Often we find that once guests get to the house, they realise they don’t need to leave,” says James. “There’s just so much to do here.”
“But if you’re staying more than a couple of days, the drive to Byron Bay is about 45 minutes and there are some beautiful little towns down there,” adds Bianca. “There’s Federal and Newrybar, which has another amazing long-lunch restaurant called Harvest, where you could spend the best part of a day.
“A lot of people work remotely now so we find more guests are extending their weekends and even working for a few days while they’re here. We’ve had a few overnight work retreats at the house, too. Because a lot of work is online now, one group came together to put faces to the names even within their own business. They told us they’d organised things like a Pilates class and a catered lunch.
“Sometimes guests will send us photos after their stay. One family actually made a video for us of their holiday – cooking pizzas and swimming and enjoying the house. Things like that make you go, ‘This is worth it.’”