Crystal Creek Rainforest Retreat
Our little hatchback ploughed through a water crossing, past 400-year-old rainforest trees, while giant strangler figs gnarled and smothered ahead. The recent rains had breathed fresh life into the forest, now flush with birdlife and shades of iridescent green. However, it was Springbrook Mountain, towering on the horizon, that was the salient reminder of whose domain we had entered at Crystal Creek Rainforest Retreat.
Having driven merely an hour north-west from our home in Byron Bay, it was hardly an excursion to get here, yet Crystal Creek Rainforest Retreat feels like another world entirely. A nature lover's Shangri-La, the place is surrounded on three sides by Lamington National Park, Springbrook National Park and Numinbah Nature Reserve, while it hosts over 160 bird species and is frequented by both wallabies and kangaroos.
While the property appears well integrated with its rainforest surrounds, retreat manager Mark Van Renen reveals it wasn't always this way. "The place was initially a big banana farm before it was abandoned to lantana for about 40 years. Lantana strangled everything the bananas hadn't killed. From here it was a slow process of clearing and replanting native varieties of native trees, which took at least 10 years."
Mark and his staff got involved in rehabilitating the area about 17 years ago. So quick has the forest grown, that today it towers profusely overhead, attracting numerous romantics looking for a luxury rainforest retreat. Having arrived with my partner, any tinge of guilt at leaving our two-year-old son with the grandparents disappeared when we were told minors weren't allowed. This was our time.
A quick revision of the words luxury and rainforest, coupled with the conspicuous absence of the word child, caused my partner and I to hasten towards our Luxury Mountain View Lodge, bottles of wine in hand. Entitled Numinbah, our lodge was everything we had visualised for our child-free night and more. Chocolate hearts on bath robes, numerous candles and complete privacy – all perfect for a couple's night only.
Numinbah also contains a capacious deck overlooking the forest, complete with a table, chairs, deck chairs and a solar heated plunge pool. The latter is powered via solar roof panels and set to about 30 degrees Celsius. If you've ever pictured yourself perched on the edge of the forest, loafing in a tepid pool with a glass of wine in hand, here's the place to do it.
Other features included a fireplace, a solid marble bathtub with a view, arguably the finest shower I've experienced (thanks to its gargantuan head), surround sound, an iPhone dock, WiFi and a flat screen TV. There's also an outdoor barbecue – the perfect spot to grill your salmon steaks, prawns and parboiled potatoes if you order the seafood gourmet hamper (which is what we did).
If the urge takes you, there's also a switch that illuminates a sizeable red cedar tree out front for some uber evening ambience. However, what the lodge does cleverly is envelop guests in snug exclusivity while incorporating a number of eco-attributes. The entire structure, while built partly with plantation timber, is elevated above ground to minimise natural disturbance. Furthermore, the floor is made with genuine recycled French oak.
The thick glass, which provides guest with private, yet plenary views of the surrounding environment, offers added insulation, which cools in summer and warms in winter. Mark also tells me the property has "a very high-quality sewerage system – a tertiary system which puts out almost drinking quality water. So we can irrigate with it around people".
If for some reason you get tired of loafing in woodland luxury, you can head down to the retreat's shared hammocks, suspended across rainforest cascades. Or if this doesn't quite cleanse your citified mind, then head over to Crystal Creek's orchard, which is a charming glade with garden benches and views of Mount Springbrook. Otherwise, why not tackle the retreat's 8km of walking trails that traverse fern-lined gullies?
Crystal Creek Rainforest Retreat is a place that provides the perfect escape, then leaves you alone.
It's up to you.