It’s been a smooth three-hour drive to our destination at Turon Gates from Sydney and peeling off the main road onto the dirt one that meanders back to this riverside paradise of 6000 acres, we can’t help but stop and gawk at the expanse of pristine green that visually smacks us in the face. We silence our ‘road trip’ playlist, put the windows down, and just… breathe it in. We’ve been here not five minutes, and already, the mountain is working her magic. Kookaburras laugh like maniacs and crimson rosellas flash by as our car creeps along the rutted track crossing the Turon River, and shimmies over cattle grids. Watchful for darting wildlife, we follow the rustic signs – one of which reads, ‘Serenity’.
Turon Gates began as a simple getaway, a family’s city liberty. Soren and Sonya Lunoe, both with pedigrees in the hospitality industry, happened upon the location in 1973 and were entranced by its remote beauty. They built a small house and stables – a place for their children “to have horses and grow vegetables”. Then they invited friends and family and needed places to put them. Before long, more and more people wanted to come for a break in the bush, and it grew. Campers had always used the area and continued to be welcome. Now, years later, the accommodations are regularly booked well in advance by those in the know, many who’ve have been coming here for years.
Campsites by the river remain an in-demand option or guests can choose from 14 comfortable cottages – the originals were designed by a family friend and heralded architect Peter Hall of Sydney Opera House fame. Each one is light, bright, and thoughtfully positioned to soak up the covetous privacy without sacrificing views. But us? We aren’t here for camping or cottaging. We’ve come to claim one of the six swank custom digs, a Glamour Glamping tent.
These canvas abodes, and everything in them, were custom built in Bali, disassembled, transported, and reassembled here by the original craftsmen. Ours is called Starlight. Spacious but retaining a romantic and cosy ambience, these luxe tents are for adults only and do not allow pets.
We open the sturdy wooden door to a vision draped in netting and swathed in white. It’s our bed. King-sized with marshmallow puffy layers of creamy linens – fat pillows, doona, and velveteen throws. The furnishings throughout are lavish, the ceiling a gathered ruche of softening textiles like circus tents in children’s storybooks. A daybed begs to be lounged upon and is piled with embroidered cushions. It faces the glorious deck, and beyond that, the river bank and forest.
There is a table for two, a clever gas burner and sink hidden within a cane cabinet, a roomy refrigerator, and a hot beverage station with Nespresso. And the bathroom. Oh, the bathroom. Think waterfall shower and a round tub for two – luxury glamping, indeed! Our first night we sleep like lambs as the fireplace throws out a radiance that I’ll call the Turon Glow. It rains. Is there anything more enchanting than rain pelting down on a tent when you’re snuggled up and warm inside? I think not.
We awaken to geese honking, opening the tent to welcome in the sunshine, and watch the horses graze. Turon offers horse riding with a stable of about 12, one of whom is a Gai Waterhouse’s ex-racehorse. Suffice it to say that Princess’s racing days are over, and she is quite happy to trot along for an easy ride through the bush. The horses are gentle, but not afraid to stretch their legs if you desire, and it’s exhilarating to wade through the river and climb up the banks as they follow Dom, our guide, and her cheeky lead stallion. We fill our days with hikes and reading and take a drive just an hour away to Mudgee for provisions to bring back and cook on the barbecue.
There are two other small ponies that have the run of the place, mascot-like, and won’t turn down a nice pat (or a carrot if you have one). Called Burt and Nikky (after Nicole Kidman, of course) they are often to be found right outside your tent, yet it’s impossible not to be delighted at their presence. Keep an eye out for roving goats, which run wild here, and if you’re lucky, you’ll snag a cuddle from Cookie, recently rescued at only a few days old.
Guests needn’t fret about taxing the resources here, as the power is solar, the water is from the river and the products used are natural. Turon Gates has never been on the grid and has no need to be. Don’t assume that this green ethos equals an austere experience, as there is comfort in knowing you’ll have powerpoints for your phone to recharge or laptop to power up. Wi-Fi is patchy (take it as an opportunity to have a digital detox) so get outside, look at the stars, and just …breathe.
Ivy Carruth was a guest of Turon Gates Mountain Retreat.
Turon Gates is located in Capertee NSW, which lies about three hours northwest of Sydney, and one hour southeast of Mudgee. The Retreat is self-catering, so come prepared. The Glamour Glamping tents cost $572 midweek and $698 on weekends for a two-night minimum. Horse riding is booked in advance on the website, and massage packages are also available.
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