Nestling in a 2.5-hectare sub-tropical rainforest of palms, behind a screen of towering century-old Norfolk Pines and immaculately groomed gardens with friendly Water Eastern Dragons as residents, is Kims Beachside Retreat, a hidden treasure on the NSW Central Coast yet a popular oasis for those in the know.
With the sands of Toowoon Bay at the front door and the waters of the Tasman beyond, this family-owned retreat of 34 private bungalows and luxury villas has been on the radar of holiday seekers for many decades, in its sights a virtual who’s who of Australian celebrities.
Like all the guests, these celebrities – from radio and TV stars to models – checked in for a blissful break in luxurious yet casual surroundings, and to dine in the evening on a seemingly endless serving of fresh seafood and a traditional hot pot of dishes that reflect the retreat’s strong links with tradition; the slow roasted rib eye fillet and Yorkshire pudding a long-established favourite on the menu.
Whether guests stay on the beachfront in the newly refurbished Beachside bungalow or among the treetops in the new-look spa villa, Kims has a nautical feel, not surprising considering the retreat’s owner Andrew Strachan is a yachtsman of note, having competed in the Sydney to Hobart classic on many occasions along with other yachting challenges.
Each morning at 8.30, a ship’s bell will sound, signalling breakfast – sometimes including a traditional dish of Aberdeen kippers and side dish of black pudding. On a grassed area fronting the main restaurant, where diners are seated either inside or outdoors, rests a ship’s anchor, above it, flagpoles decorated in designs signalling the guests’ nationalities.
Kims is managed by Andrew’s niece Diana and husband Peter Kershaw. The villas, with their polished timber floors and tasteful cane furnishings, are highly sought-after for their private pools, outdoor Jacuzzis and saunas. The most notable of these being beachfront Ninth Beach and South Beach spa villas, as well as the Tree Tops Villa at the ‘higher-end’ of the retreat.
Despite the many luxury features and the tantalising dining experience, the retreat’s character was somewhat simple in the early years. Turn the clock back more than 130 years, and Kims was a mere campground, founded by local seafaring merchant Captain Frans Charlson who hastily built a slab-timbered kitchen to double as a simple dining room.
While the building no longer stands, the seeds the founder planted remain evident in what is most notably the welcoming avenue of Norfolk Pines.