The ultimate nature escape awaits you in Dungog
This place just calms you. You can’t help it. As I gaze into the fire, listening to the crackle of the wood, I begin to really take in the moment. I am absolutely present. I take in the sounds of whipping birds and the gurgle of the resident Magpies.
My eyes eat up this wonderful valley with the mountains looming all around, trees stretching up so high like they are in a slow race to sweep the dusk blue sky - my mind is calm and I feel so thankful to have found this little slice of private green heaven.
We are staying at The Cottage, part of the Carawirry Forest Escape, just 20mins out of Dungog, NSW (1hr 38mins from Newcastle or 3hrs from Sydney City). It’s a 2 bedroom, 1.5 bathroom log cabin hidden in the little-known town of Main Creek.
The drive up here was spectacular. There were rolling green hills, the cutest little country farmhouses, and adorable animals - we pulled over to gawk as a herd of black and white dairy cows actually sprinted to get fed for the afternoon. A few stopped to check us out and I wondered which of us was actually the spectacle right now?
Turned out, the dairy farm owners are none other than the parents of Johnny, one half of the husband-and-wife Carawirry partnership. That’s a small country town for you.
The other half, Heather, met us as we arrived. She had the indoor and outdoor fires burning - all ready for a cosy night by the fire. The log cabin, which sits in a cleared field, was glowing inside. I was torn between the urge to rush inside squealing with excitement as I checked out our accommodation or down to the outside fire and start-up my best rendition of kumbaya. I restrained myself and gave Heather a barely controlled excited wave.
To expel some of the excited energy, and stretch our legs after the hour and a half drive from Newcastle, we explored the property with Heather.
There are lots of great relatively easy walking tracks around the property. We chose the Waterfall track. Although we were lucky enough to be escorted by Heather, there are discrete little signs to help you keep on track if you are exploring without the expert guide. There are also maps in your cabin.
As we walked, Heather told us a bit about the property. It’s on 250 acres of native hardwood forest and they bought it off the prior owners who’d had it for 40 years. Johnny, having grown up around here, knew them well and used to explore this nature’s playground when he was a kid.
Heather and Johnny have three gorgeous children who, after our stop at the waterfall and natural small swimming hole, joined us for an afternoon bush walk...in their school clothes. And yes the mother in me said, guys, you are going to get your school clothes dirty to which they replied “It’s ok, we do this every day”.
Amazing, this is their backyard and, you’re right kids, who cares about the clothes and getting dirty, it’s about getting out and connecting with nature, staying active and being present with our loved ones. Something they were just doing as part of their every day.
After wandering through the forest, including parts that are classified as a temperate rainforest, we headed back to the cabin, where Heather and the tribe left us to enjoy our stay.
We came well prepared, we’d picked up supplies at the Dungog IGA on our way out, and we also optioned up for the grazing box by Carawirry! We put together a cheese platter, grabbed the bottle of local Hunter Valley wine included with the grazing box and settled in by the fire.
It is a lovely intimate cabin with a comfy lounge and plenty of throws if you’re there in Winter. The TV is off, there is no mobile reception (WiFi though if you wish) and with the fire warming us, it is the perfect recipe to connect with whomever that lucky person is you are sharing this moment with.
After devouring a whole wheel of cheese, we headed down to the outside fire as dusk was settling over the valley. The fairy lights of the house twinkled matching the sky which was full of nature’s fairy lights.
We headed in to get ready for bed. As we walked back in, the whole house was warm from the fire. It’s an easy house to heat in winter as the bedrooms have open upper walls allowing the heat to spread through the cottage.
The bathroom was modern and simply elegant with grey large tiles, a floating deep navy blue cabinet with a wooden benchtop, and fluffy, thick bath towels. After a shower, under a rainfall showerhead, I headed into the bedroom.
Again the room was simply but beautifully styled with fresh white linen, thick soft throws and wooden accents and plants strategically selected to complement the location of this amazing property.
Lying in bed, you can hear the bush awake outside...it was a free and real “Sounds of Nature” track. The bed was uber comfy and we were very warm with the fire lasting through much of the night.
We awoke to sun filtering through the upper windows of the cabin and decided to kick the morning off with a spot of breakfast on the balcony. We purchased an amazing breakie basket full of seasonal items such as tomatoes, avocados, and also a sourdough loaf of bread, local smokey bacon, fresh farm eggs, and milk.
Sitting out on the deck we were able to watch the valley come to life as the sun rose over the mountains. It was a blissful way to enjoy a cuppa.
We enjoyed a lazy morning reading books by the fire and wandering around exploring the surrounding clearing before I stepped up the relaxation to the next level with morning tea in a bath. Yes, and not just any bath.
It was so huge that I felt I could disappear in it and that’s not the best part...it was an outdoor bath cabana. So I sprinkled in the provided natural bath salts and sunk into the bath for a relaxing soak. It was so divine looking out over the traditional Australian bushland.
As I said to Heather, the beauty of Carawirry Forest Escape isn’t just the accommodation but the whole experience and the journey getting here. It is returning to nature and taking the time to be mindful about your surroundings - whilst still enjoying some of the finer things the accommodation has to offer.