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Australia Hideaway: Hillcrest Mountain View Retreat

Looking for a real getaway from it all? North American travelers can't get much further away than Australia, which offers a continent full of romantic escapes including one found in the Tweed Valley, 90 minutes from Brisbane. We interviewed Tracy and Clive Parker, owners of the Hillcrest Mountain View Retreat, a two-suite luxury B&B, and a cottage, for their tips for romantic travelers to this region.

What special aspects of your region make it particularly attractive to romantic travelers?

Although it’s only a 90-minute drive from Brisbane and within a five-minute drive of Gold Coast airport, the Tweed Shire is relatively unheard of by large tourist markets in favour of our two more famous neighbours, Byron Bay and the Gold Coast. Although we are tucked in between these two more well-known destinations, the Tweed is completely different from both in terms of natural beauty, peace and romance.

The Tweed region is truly the “jewel in the crown of the Northern Rivers region” as it’s nestled in the worlds largest extinct shield volcano, has the largest sub-tropical rainforest remnant and is the most bio-diverse region in Australia. Many people think of Kakadu in the Northern Territory as the most bio-diverse and are amazed to learn that, in fact, it’s the Tweed that carries that title.

A favourite proposal site is Mt. Warning (photo, right), one of five World Heritage Listed National Parks in the area and the eroded central plug of the 250,000-acre volcano. It’s widely believed that Mt Warning is the spot where the dawn sun first touches Australia, so many people climb it before dawn to be at the summit to watch the first rays of a new morning sun with their Beloved.

The Tweed is also home to some of the best surf beaches in Oz. The coastal region is dotted with small towns and villages with quaint cafes and restaurants. Recently world class resorts such as the Peppers group have built along the coast, however if you prefer fewer people and less development, the hinterland is still untouched by big developers and we plan to keep it that way.

So whether your preference is for resorts and beaches or hinterland valleys with mountains, quaint villages, galleries, arts, crafts and award winning romantic retreats, the Tweed has something to satisfy all tastes and pockets.

What the best time of year to visit your region?

As a semi tropical region, the Tweed also has a climate to suit all tastes depending on the time of year.

Summer can be hot and humid with temperatures in the late 20’s to mid 30’s - Celcius that is, which is the measurement used in Australia - and afternoon summer storms. In summer it’s best to plan your day for an early start, late lunch followed by a siesta. Then once the storm has passed and cooled things down you can re-emerge to enjoy a warm summer evening. Of course if you’re staying at Hillcrest the hottest day won’t worry you as we are fully air-conditioned through-out, with hammocks and pool, summer is the time to sip on champagne and dangle your toes in the water before your massage or silk pamper session.

Autumn and winter are my favourite times of year – particularly from March to July as the bite has gone out of the sun and the humidity drops when the summer storms cease but the country-side is still lush and green. By April the nights are getting a bit chilly by local standards, but day-time temperatures still average 25C which means log fires at night and t-shirts and shorts during the day.

Winter is cool and dry. The country-side has lost its “lush” look to us locals, but to people from outside the area it still looks green and appealing. Day-times can drop to a chilly 5C in the early morning but usually get to at least 18 or 19C during the day, frequently as high as 25C. Winter is a time to enjoy energetic activities such as climbing Mt Warning, horse-riding, golf and tennis as you don’t have to confine yourself to early morning or late afternoons to exert yourself.

By October, sometimes earlier, Spring is in the air. Calves are being born and the deciduous trees are pushing out buds and flowers. Temperatures are pretty much the same as in Winter, with the odd warmer day to let you know Summer is coming.

Are there any local festivals or special events of special interest to romantic travelers?

There are many festivals and events held in the Tweed throughout the year, from the Kingscliffe "Art, Food and All That Jazz" festival in May, the Wintersun Rock and Roll Festival in June and the Banana Festival Street Parade in August, to the Murwillumbah Agricultural Show in November to name a few. However the most spectacular "not to be missed" event on the Tweed calendar would have to be the annual Festival of Speed on Tweed held every year during the third weekend in September.

One for classic car buffs, Speed on Tweed is a classic car race held through the streets of Murwillumbah the third weekend in September by day and street parties, music and entertainment by night. However you don't have to love classic cars to thoroughly enjoy the music and entertainment during Saturday nights' "Street Extravaganza", when the high street is closed to traffic and becomes a giant street restaurant with stages placed at various points and "strolling" players such as members of the Queensland Opera Company moving from stage to stage throughout the evening.

Also in September is the Tyalgum Festival of Classical Music - held in the "acoustically perfect" Tyalgum Town Hall with internationally famous musicians in attendance every year. Diners are entertained by a variety of performers, in 2005 revellers were treated to "Opera on Main" performed by members of Opera Queensland and Vavachi Classic Occasions.

Pretend you are a couple visiting your property for the first time. What would you plan for your special weekend?

For a special occasion or honeymoon either Hillcrest Cottage or the main house Spa Suite would be my venue of choice. Depending on length of stay I would definitely organise a massage for each of us on the same day as we had booked the fairy-lit gazebo for a romantic candle-lit dinner.

A trip to Natural Arch after dinner to see Australia's largest glow-worm colony would be followed next day by a scenic joy-flight around the Mt Warning summit in Barnstorming Australia's replica Super Waco bi-plane.

The next day I'd choose a full day rainforest tour with OutnBack Tours who would collect me from Hillcrest at 8:15am for a private, individually designed full day tour of the best the region has to offer whilst avoiding the "tourist trails" and more crowded places.

Owen, our expert guide would prepare and serve our Aussie BBQ lunch, before continuing our tour and delivering us safely back to Hillcrest by about 4:30pm in time for a swim and perhaps a "Silk Hands and Feet Pamper Package.” This is just what I would choose personally, however we have extensive local knowledge, a range of on-site information, maps and brochures and will gladly help our guests choose the best things to see and do in our beautiful region during their stay with us.

What are some of the most unique and romantic aspects of your property?

Hillcrest is a small, owner-operated private retreat catering for a maximum of only 3 couples at any one time - two couples in a private guest wing of the Main House B&B and one couple in our fully self contained Cottage set in its own private, secluded garden. Both the main house and the Cottage are fully air-conditioned so comfort is assured on even the warmest summer afternoon.

In addition to the peace and privacy as Hillcrest is on 5 acres on the top of a hill in the middle of a 200 acre farm, Hillcrest guests enjoy spectacular views from Mt Warning to the rainforests of Springbrook Ranges, as well as a solar heated salt-water pool, luxury double spa baths, massage, wood fire, split system air-conditioning and jolly good food

Whilst you feel like you’re in the “middle of nowhere” Hillcrest is centrally located to a range of beauty spots and activities including golf, horse-riding, BMW bike tours, Super Waco Bi-plane joy-flights, galleries, markets, national parks and more. So at Hillcrest you can laze by the pool, sip champagne in a hammock, enjoy peace and privacy in spectacular surroundings with top of the range furnishings and facilities, whilst being close to "things to see and do" if you prefer a more active getaway.

Do you host weddings at your property? Is it difficult for foreigners to get married there?

Hillcrest is not insured for and so does not permit children on the property. Therefore we have found it impractical to cater for weddings. However we would be prepared to discuss the possibility of a very small wedding with no children in attendance.

Photos courtesy Hillcrest Mountain View Retreat