It takes a helicopter ride over Australia’s undulating Blue Mountains, with its peaks, valleys and occasional rivers snaking through, to reach the One&Only Wolgan Valley… And just like that, the stage is set for a remote wildlife escape on a cattle ranch with more than 180 years of history.
Arriving at this resort, set in a 7,000-acre reserve between two national parks, it’s hard to shake off the feeling that you’ve somehow wandered onto the set of Steven Spielberg’s Jurassic Park, but who would want to?
Of course, there is a less dramatic to get here that will only set you back a three-hour drive west of Sydney, but the mountain vistas should more than make up for it. The true challenge with any stay at the One&Only Wolgan Valley is finding time to actually enjoy your carbon-neutral villa, and with their plunge pools and bi-fold windows that open to the wilderness outside, you don’t want to miss out on that.
With just 40 villas occupying less than one percent of the property, the trail to your room at the One&Only Wolgan Valley is one that goes through plains of Wollemi pines, eucalyptus trees and grazing livestock. If that’s not quintessentially Australian enough for you, wait until you get to the smart decor and furniture inside, with a double-sided gas fire that heats both the bedroom and sitting room.
Everything here is rustic and done in stone and wood, as if to complement the dramatic atmosphere outside, but make no mistake, the modern conveniences are there, and maybe better than in many urban environments, from the plump beds to the fast Wi-Fi and spacious bathrooms with their sky-lit showers.
Up at the lodge where the Wolgan Dining Room and Country Kitchen are, more Australiana comes courtesy of executive chef Nancy Kinchela who serves a coconut and scallop ceviche we think is the juiciest we ever had, while the Jerusalem-artichoke risoni is a different beast entirely.
The outdoor scene
Befitting its setting in the Blue Mountains, there is a lot of ground to cover- and discover- at One&Only Wolgan Valley. The best way to go about is a four-wheel safari drive to spot perennial darlings of Australia’s fauna- think wombats, kangaroos, wallabies, and the strange but wonderful wallaroo, which is neither a kangaroo nor a wallaby, but something endearingly in between.
If safaris are not your thing, you can also get close to nature with a horseback ride through the reserve, but once the sun goes down, you want to be at the dining room for the chef’s daily tasting menu. All produce is sourced from within 160 km of the resort, and there is nothing quite like it.