Family reunion? Getaway with friends? With mod cons such as tennis courts, bowling alleys and cinemas at your disposal, you’ll be inventing excuses to hang out at these luxury holiday houses. Kendall Hill compiles a state-by-state guide to Australia’s best rental properties for big groups.
Cape Wye, Wye River
On the Great Ocean Road, you want great – no, spectacular – water views. And koalas. Lots of koalas. You may even see one at Cape Wye, a stunning new hillside home in Wye River, about 2.5 hours south-west of Melbourne on Australia’s most famous road. You’re on the sea side of the roadway so only wind-sculpted scrubland stands between you and the iridescent blue of the Southern Ocean. This four-bedroom house – which sleeps 10 – is exposed to the wild side of the state’s south coast but is also insulated from it by open fires, central heating and air conditioning (the weather here can be fickle) and by a blessed north-east aspect that shelters inhabitants from Antarctic busters. Soak in the sublime coastal views from two freestanding baths set against walls of glass or from the wraparound deck, a sanctuary of smart couches, sun lounges, outdoor dining furniture and a designer barbecue. Cape Wye has two living areas and both feature large family sofas, flatscreen TVs, DVD players and Bluetooth music – plus 4G wi-fi throughout – so guests have plenty of reason to laze indoors. But there are also persuasive arguments for stepping out of your comfort zone: surfboards and a surf ski are supplied for guest use; the dining hotspot and beach mecca of Lorne is less than half an hour north; and the resort town of Apollo Bay is 30 minutes south. Remember to keep your eyes peeled for koalas at all times. From $704 per night.
The Ocean Retreat, Falmouth
Bang on the shore, with a deck and pool cantilevered above the coastal rise to capture elevated sea views, this designer seaside “shack” has all you need for the ultimate family beach holiday. The Ocean Retreat, which sleeps 10 people, is a two-hour drive from Launceston and three from Hobart but the hours melt away on arrival at this picturesque spot midway between the Bay of Fires and Freycinet National Park. The setting is all blue sea, white sand, rolling green hills and photogenic orange boulders – visible from almost every quarter of the house. The most dramatic views are from the glass-walled living and dining area and the penthouse suite. Three of the four bedrooms face the sea – as do the deck, the entertainment area and the heated plunge pool at the front of the retreat – so look out for whales and dolphins gambolling in the water below. Home comforts include wi-fi, indoor and outdoor fireplaces and a custom-made 10-seat dining table. The kitchen is well equipped with three dishwashers, a butler’s pantry – butler not supplied – and essential appliances for family happiness such as a coffee machine, wine fridge and toasted-sandwich maker. On the nearby coast, there are plenty of rock pools to investigate and a placid tidal lagoon for family swims in the brisk Tasman. Falmouth is a tiny settlement south of St Helens (the game fishing capital of Tasmania) and is well positioned for exploring Tassie’s east coast. Highlights include the bushwalks and beaches of Freycinet National Park (pop over to Kate’s Berry Farm afterwards for fruit pies and ice-cream) and the nightly penguin parade at Bicheno. $690-$1340 per night.
Hillview Homestead, Currumbin Valley
Behind the skyscrapers and sequins of the Gold Coast is the Currumbin Valley, an idyllic world of farms and fruit stalls, jacarandas and hoop pines, settlers’ cottages and grand homesteads such as Hillview. This five-bedroom mansion has a spectacular perch on the Mount Warning caldera, looking across the valley to the Mount Tallebudgera escarpment in Springbrook National Park – part of the Gondwana Rainforests World Heritage Area. Savour the panoramas from the cushioned comfort of wicker armchairs, a hammock on the wraparound verandah or a sun lounge near the Hollywood-glamorous pool and spa. (Speaking of Hollywood, actress Cate Blanchett and her family stayed here for three months this year while she shot the latest Thor instalment on the Gold Coast.) The 1905 homestead was once a dairy farm but the décor today is luxuriously eclectic and contemporary. Expect a Guzzini arc lamp, Eames lounge chairs and an impeccably equipped entertainer’s kitchen (two ovens, two dishwashers, two coffee machines) complete with a breakfast bar for family corroborees. The homestead sleeps eight; a separate cottage amply accommodates another four. Activities-wise, there are two mountain bikes, a dam with a rowboat, a trampoline, a kids’ toy room and a library – everything a vacationing crowd might desire. The popular Currumbin Rock Pools are just down the road; Currumbin Beach is less than a 15-minute drive away; and it’s just an hour’s drive to the full catastrophe of family-friendly Gold Coast theme parks. Set aside some time to explore your own backyard of Springbrook National Park and its World Heritage-listed rainforest. Just mind the pademelons. From $900 per night.
Port Elliot Villa, ￼Port Elliot
It’s surprising that the Fleurieu Peninsula remains almost exclusively a holiday destination for South Australians because its blend of beach life, great wines and gastronomy has universal appeal. Port Elliot Villa occupies a dress-circle location overlooking the Southern Ocean, with walls of glass framing dynamic views of the sand, sea and sky. Its four bedrooms and two bathrooms are spaced over two floors of contemporary interiors colour-matched to the coast in whites and blues. It’s a short stroll from the house to Horseshoe Bay, Port Elliot’s ridiculously photogenic main beach, where salt-crusted children leap from rocks into the sea and families congregate at the Flying Fish café for fish ’n’ chips served in a cone. If you can drag yourself away from the lazy, carefree life here, there’s plenty else on the peninsula to occupy happy families. Take a drive to Port Willunga, a popular surf spot that’s also a very family-friendly beach – not least for the cold beer and ice-cream on offer at the Star of Greece kiosk. Up on Sellicks Hill, the Victory Hotel is a magnet for group celebrations; adults catch up at the table while children play in the Victory’s big backyard. It helps that there’s a superb wine collection and, for the under-agers, mini Victory burgers and Golden Gaytimes. Family dinners at your home are also a definite possibility. Go to the Saturday morning Willunga Farmers Market for inspiration – it’s one of the best and most abundant growers’ markets in the country. Also, don’t forget to visit some of the 125 wineries in the region. From $800 per night.
SEE ALSO: A Weekend In… McLaren Vale, SA
Inspiration on Wedgetail, Eagle Bay
Modernist meets naturalistic at the tip of Cape Naturaliste in Western Australia’s wild South West. Featuring a streamlined exterior and monochrome interiors, Inspiration on Wedgetail looms above Geographe Bay in prime viewing position for Indian Ocean sunsets and whales passing by on their annual migration. While the views are something else, the real luxury of this property is space. It sleeps 14 comfortably over three levels and has so many tempting entertainment areas, you’ll need a whistle and search team to round up everyone at mealtimes. Picture the life you could lead in an oceanfront home with seven bedrooms, five ensuites, two kitchens, two powder rooms, two spacious living areas, various balconies and decks, a 20-metre indoor/outdoor swimming pool and a 12-person spa, not to mention the barbecue, pizza oven and poolside cocktail bar. Plus the table tennis and pool tables, 12-seat home cinema and the gym overlooking the pool and spa. The pièce de résistance for family fun? A two-lane bowling alley complete with sportsman’s bar. If house guests could ever bear to leave this property, they’d find a pleasant walk to Cape Naturaliste Lighthouse, exceptional Margaret River vineyards (a 45-minute drive south), caves to explore and sensational surf. If seven bedrooms isn’t big enough for your brood, book sister property The Grand in tandem. It’s just 500 metres away and comes with another seven bedrooms plus a pool, cinema and spa. No bowling alley, sadly. From $1430 per night.
Dantosa House and Cottage, Blue Mountains
Guests, young and old, will warm to the terracotta warriors guarding the front door of this remarkable estate just outside of Katoomba in the World Heritage-listed Blue Mountains National Park. Dantosa accommodates tribe-sized gatherings of up to 17 in the main homestead – with its balcony views over the lake and bedding for nine – and the nearby cottage that sleeps eight. The cottage is the original homestead of this former goat farm. It’s more than 100 years old but the interiors here and in the main house are pleasingly modern. Expect polished timber floors, a restaurateur’s kitchen and fancy gadgets like Apple TV, Miele appliances and built-in coffee machines. A fifth of the 3.5-hectare property is native bush; the rest is elegant parklands and gardens that bloom with daffodils in spring and an 80-metre hedge of hydrangeas in summer. Within the grounds, the young and the restless can shoot hoops, play tennis or boules, go kayaking on the lake and even swim in it in summer. Homebodies can choose to snuggle by the pot-bellied stove in the lake-house pavilion, soak in the spa bath or poke around the triple-vaulted 8000-bottle wine cellar built into the side of the mountain. (Tastings can be arranged on request.) Dantosa is a handy base for bushwalking in the Blue Mountains – the Three Sisters and Echo Point are only a five-minute drive away – and for exploring the region’s quaint towns. But there’s much to be said for staying put, too. From $1200 for two nights.
Top image: Cape Wye