According to the map this luxurious rainforest retreat is just 130km from the city, but in terms of space and time it is another world away. Words Bruce McMahon
Drifting down the Pacific Motorway, heading south from a week of work and worries, and there are lines of traffic sparkling and glinting in the late Friday sunlight. It could be a long haul down this highway out of town.
It takes a kilometre or three or more to settle down, take a deep breath and let it flow; ignore the random panic of getting out of town before the real rush, forget the traffic and interminable red traffic lights. All het-up and somewhere to go … At least folk in this south-east corner of Queensland have a multiple choice of places to disappear to, quieter places - bush or maybe beach. Places to escape to without guilt. Or kids.
One of these is the Crystal Creek Rainforest Retreat, about 130km the back way from the city but a long, long way from the Brisbane bustle. It’s about 20km out of Murwillumbah, about 40 minutes drive from the Gold Coast and not far enough over the Queensland-NSW border to count as defection.
The retreat (this is not a resort) has been running in this secluded part of the Northern Rivers for some 15 years, the 100-minute drive via Nerang and the Gold Coast hinterland and charming Chillingham itself worth the effort.
The retreat is a thing of quite some natural beauty, with ... self-contained bungalows set in 100 hectares, among the rainforest or alongside those chilled mountain waters of Crystal Creek. It is for couples only, with no kids, no day visitors ... and makes for a very special adult getaway. (Bushwalking is not compulsory, praise the lord of the forest.)
On a winter's evening it is cool, quite cool, among that deep, dark greenery with the sun dropping below Mount Springbrook, the warmth heading west and a breeze picking up. On to Kamala cottage, perched among the trees and ferns, just above a green gully that feeds back to the creek. Race around and close all the louvers, turn on the gas heater big time and open the esky. Rainforest Retreat visitors can bring in supplies or, for various charges, have the ingredients for an evening meal or breakfast ready and waiting ... Tonight, light up the candles for effect, sit back with a drink and a Bob Dylan DVD borrowed from reception.
The bungalow is neat and attractive, with plenty of timber and glass and no curtains. The kitchen runs to all the gear (including microwave), the big bathroom has a two person spa alongside a large glass window which looks back into the scrub. There’s an L-shaped verandah off the living area and one king-sized bed up the stairs.
It is open plan and open. Yet it is the intimate seclusion, the privacy, the business of waking up among trees which rings in the magic. And that is where Crystal Creek Rainforest Retreat has it over many getaway options: that combination of luxury, spectacular mountain country and privacy. At the most there are 14 adults staying here, seven couples in comfort and seclusion.
Some may go bushwalking for the day (and good luck to them), some laze by the creek (in summer), others may explore the area’s towns and markets (there is a long list) or drive back to the beach for a day. Or a guest could just sit back with a good book and nothing but the sounds of nature (mobile phone reception is dodgy).
It’s all about couples doing their own thing in a very private, precious piece of Australia. It’s close to that mayhem of metropolitan Friday afternoon traffic but one squillion kilometres away in space and time.