A century old beachside retreat that could not be more relevant in 2020.
If seclusion and being socially distant is the thing we want most right now, then Kims Beachside Retreat could not be more desirable. Steeped in history and tradition this once fishermen's campsite is now a retreat that has carved a niche for itself and stands out as a truly unique destination.
Stepping out of your car you are met with a chorus of waves crashing, the cool ocean breeze blowing through the tropical surroundings that would not be out of place in far north Queensland. As we arrive at check-in my phone reception is sketchy, I am immediately offered wi-fi – however the temptation to take the hour to be off the grid and enjoy the seclusion and privacy Kims is renowned for is too much to resist.
Nestled on the absolute beachfront of the Central Coast’s Toowoon Bay, space and social distancing is far from your mind here with the 36 individual bungalows across 10 acres amassed with tropical gardens, guarded by 134-year-old Norfolk Pine trees. Planted in 1886 when Kims was “The Camp” for fishermen to enjoy the spoils of what was then known as “Chinaman’s Bay’ (now Toowoon Bay).
The current owners have been running Kims since 1957 - it is a family run local business that continues to evolve and keep classical guest house style and tradition all at the same time.
The sense of nostalgia is comforting when you explore the pine and Tasmanian oak bungalows, dining room, and bar. The high ceilings and beautiful natural daylight in the rooms give you the sense that, like your mobile phone, electricity could be optional – restraint is what you appreciate most - the temptation to conform to commercial styles is refreshing as you feel you are getting back to basics and switching off is a real possibility.
Speaking with Peter Kershaw the co-manager (his wife Diane completes the partnership) is a snapshot into this special place.
“The eight bungalows on the beachfront have direct access to the Toowoon Bay – a unique aspect of Kims. No roads to cross interfering with the beachfront experience”.
He is right – it is a rare treat along the New South Wales east coast to have a stand-alone bungalow with absolute beach frontage. Four of these have swimming pools, however, the beauty of these special eight is that you can “run out of your bungalow and dive into the ocean”, Peter explains.
The 28 other individual bungalows (14 with external spas) are with beach views and only a short distance to the ocean’s edge. All surrounded by tropical gardens, you feel as if you and your partner are the only ones experiencing this small piece of paradise.
We are in good company knowing how special Kims Beachside Retreat is; past international celebrities who have been known to stay here when touring the East Coast of Australia include Michael Jackson and the Rolling Stones’ Ronnie Woods. We discuss no more names, as discretion is key to the allure of Kims. Peter explains the privacy of each bungalow is paramount to guests knowing their stay at Kim’s is just that – their stay.
Peter explains if someone wants to stay in the villa for their entire stay they will not be disturbed. Especially by children! Kims is an adult-only retreat with children aged 12 and up welcome but a very rare occurrence. It’s a couple’s escape, a place to connect and spend quality time. “Kims was built for lovers” and still today the romance is alive.
Before the COVID-19 restrictions, Kims was renowned for their Saturday night seafood buffet with the strawberry and cream pavlova still on the menu - it has been a feature in the dining room since 1937. Currently, the dining room is not able to welcome external guests which makes Kims even more exclusive. The buffet is suspended and an a la carte menu is available for dinner; and be sure to listen out for the bell ringing in the morning to alert guests they can meander to breakfast when they're ready. The brass bell has rung for breakfast service for over a century and is just another unique tradition of Kims.
Each evening pre-dinner drinks in the bar are partnered by a pianist entertaining guests and you should look closely at the black and white photo collection.
For the photography enthusiasts, you will note they are original works by Australian Modernist Photographer - Max Dupain (AC OBE). It's known that he was quite fond of Kims as a place to stay with his family and the location itself somewhat a geographical muse.
Once you arrive it’s easy to forget the 90-minute drive from Newcastle or Sydney respectively you have taken to get here. For those who don’t want to bring their cars – you can catch a seaplane from Sydney and Peter will collect you at the Long Jetty wharf in the Retreat’s Rolls Royce.
Kim’s Beachside Retreat is experienced in welcoming guests, it’s been doing so for over 100 years. By all accounts, this is the oldest resort in New South Wales and potentially Australia and it is on our doorstep to enjoy in many ways how it was always intended to be.