Avion Retreat review: Our romantic escape at The Tweed
I have a checklist for the perfect romantic escape and I’m a bit picky, as my wife will testify. The first thing for me is the location and views, the second is the quality of the bed, the third is the decor, and lastly, that all-important and impossible-to-describe ‘perfect vibe’. My destination today is Avion Retreat, a modern, boutique glasshouse set in a picture-perfect pasture. It looks like my dream stay.
As we pass the township of Murwillumbah in The Tweed, my wife picks out the restaurants, cafes, art galleries and cheese shops she wants to explore. She also spots some other great things to do in Murwillumbah. But not today, for my mission is to get to our accommodation and explore all the delights promised on its website before sunset.
Avion Retreat is a 25 minute drive from Murwillumbah and a few minutes’ drive from the small township of Tyalgum. As we pass lush fields, cows and farm sheds with the imposing and beautiful Border Ranges escarpment filling the windscreen, it’s hard not to be distracted by the wonderful view.
The retreat is nestled into the Tweed Caldera and comprises 150 acres of farmland and regenerated bushland. We spot a fancy sign on the wooden fence and drive up to the historic farmhouse. There’s no signage for reception, so we stop and wander up the path where we are warmly greeted by our host, Shonnea Nicol, who has been looking out for us.
The guest check-in area inside the farmhouse is where we take a seat on comfy couches and go through a brief check-in process where Shonnea fills us in on all the features of the cottages and the property. There’s a convenient wine fridge here with some tasty bubbles and wines for purchase, just in case you forgot to bring some with you. There is also an assortment of tantalising local produce to buy. Not that we are going to need any more food, as we’re about to discover.
Once we’ve been given the run-down on the property, Shonnea shows us the wooden carport where guests can leave their car undercover. We’re given the keys to a private golf buggy that will be our chariot for getting to our glasshouse and around the property. Our bags are placed safely on the back of the cart and Shonnea escorts us in her car to our luxurious abode for the next two nights.
Mooing cows and cicadas announce our arrival as we approach the new architecturally designed glasshouse that reflects the surrounding landscape with its mirrored glass walls. The keys are electronic and open the door to a feature-laden abode that’s furnished with a king bed, luxury bathroom, kitchen, fireplace and deck with an ideally located outdoor stone bath.
A stunning artwork by local First Nations’ artist Nathan Falk, Wollumbin Dreaming, hangs above the bed and tells the story of the Seven Sisters and Kurrumbil who appear as stars above Avion Retreat each night. We are so captivated by the painting that we almost miss the USB points by the bed, coffee pod machine, Bose Bluetooth speaker and other handy features that Shonnea is pointing out.
Each glasshouse, of which there are currently two, is entirely off-grid and has double-glazed floor-to-ceiling windows that mean we can see out, but no one can see in. These can also be completely opened up to let the fresh air and the fresh country air inside. At night, when it’s possible to see inside, electronic blinds can be lowered to create complete privacy.
We’ve ordered the barbeque pack, which is so big it easily feeds us for two nights. The kitchen has a gas stovetop, microwave, and fridge and there’s a compact Beef Eater BBQ on the deck. A continental breakfast hamper including local goodies like homemade banana bread, local berries, Avion’s own honey, Cheeses Loves You yoghurt and more is also provided but the fridge is so brimming with food that we agree a week-long stay would probably be needed to finish it all.
After making sure we’re all set, Shonnea departs with a smile and we’re left to indulge in the view and all the comforts of our glasshouse. My wife is thinking of jumping into the bathtub as it’s incredibly hot and I’m already getting ready for the rain shower and eyeing off all the fancy eco-friendly bath products available for me to enjoy in our shower with a view.
After a refresh, we notice the sun just about to hit the top of the range and quickly organise nibbles and wine on the deck before sunset as it looks like it might rain. The cows, birds and cicadas come together to create a fantastic country chorus that overpowers our chillout tunes on the Bose speaker.
It doesn’t take long before the dark clouds pushing over the mountains start to look more threatening and we agree it might be time for our BBQ before a light show of the natural kind threatens the cooking plans for our dinner.
Instructions for operating everything in the glasshouse are available in an easy to follow booklet, so it only takes a minute before I’m sorted with instructions for mastery of the Beef Eater. We agree that half the BBQ supplies will be more than enough for our first night and set the table for a slightly early dinner as clouds darken the sky.
Rain descends at the perfect time, just as we are cleaning up the outdoor table. The wind is strong and rain is flying inside the open doors, so we finish up and beat a hasty retreat inside where we cocoon in an oversized chair and on the king size bed to enjoy our iPads and books before bed. It’s still crazy hot, despite the rain tumbling down outside.
Like a couple of city slickers, we forget that the glasshouses are completely off-grid and we need to be mindful of our power consumption. Luckily, Shonnea has a solar power battery charge monitoring panel for the glasshouses and gets in touch to let us know that we might run out of power before the sun comes up if we don’t dial our air-con back a bit.
The king size bed is divine and we are enjoying a blissful sleep, until 2 a.m. when a thunderstorm to end all thunderstorms arrives. The earlier ‘big storm’ was nothing compared to this and we lay awake listening to the thunder and the howling wind and watch the lightning flash outside, very grateful for the solid engineering that has gone into our glasshouse’s construction.
The next morning, a chorus of kookaburras and a perfect blue sky day greet us, making our gourmet breakfast extra special as we admire the rolling green fields, mountains and trees. Again, the abundance of produce provided is more than enough for two and after indulging in banana bread, fresh fruit salad, yogurt, bread, honey, juice and coffee, we are soon very full.
Our accommodation is so beautiful that we’re reluctant to leave, so we delay our day trip to Murwillumbah in favour of an excursion around the property in our golf buggy. We venture along the trails to various picnic spots with shady trees and hammocks, and an entertainment area with games and views of Wollumbin (Mount Warning). We also meet our mooing neighbours.
Again, the cows entertain us with enthusiastic greetings but we’re glad their pasture is in a different section of the property and fully fenced so they can’t hang out too close to the glasshouses. We love the cows and their calming country sounds, but their cow pads? Not so much!
A day exploring the delights of Murwillumbah is followed by an afternoon at Tyalgum and coffee and scones at Flutterbies Cottage Café. This little place is a labyrinth of treasures and hidden delights with multiple artist’s studio shops, tables and chairs tucked under a canopy of gracious old trees. You can hide away from the world here, but not the tasty treats which are irresistible and made in-house.
It’s the perfect finale to our day out exploring, and we return to Avion Retreat where we enjoy another fabulous barbeque dinner and, thankfully, a far less eventful night than our first one. Our stunning and unique accommodation has been like nowhere we’ve stayed before, run by some of the nicest hosts we’ve met anywhere during our travels. As for my checklist for romance, all my items have been ticked and thoroughly enjoyed. I think our first visit to Avion Retreat won’t be our last.
Disclosure: The writers stayed as guests of Avion Retreat and would not hesitate to stay at this beautiful accommodation again at their own expense.
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