There’s something incredibly alluring about packing up and escaping to the sunny South Coast with your significant other.
Maybe it’s the thought of leaving the hustle and bustle of Canberra’s city behind for the quiet and quaint seaside towns—or maybe it’s simply the allure of the almost unseasonably warm winter sun, sandy beaches, and endless blue water.
Whatever the reason, as I woke up to orange, pink, and dusky purple hues of the sunrise breaking through the windows of an igloo-shaped glamping dome, I knew that spending two nights at The Jackson Ranch in Bawley Point was one of the most romantic getaways I had been on with my partner in a long time.
No strangers to travelling the South Coast (we spent a wonderful few days in Shoalhaven last year and often try to stop into Batemans Bay), the appeal of The Jackson Ranch was its promise of an unparalleled, private escape just off the pristine coastline—and it’s only two hours away from Canberra, ideal for a weekend away.
Here’s how I spent my perfect romantic winter getaway.
Sitting halfway between Ulladulla and Batemans Bay in Bawley Point, The Jackson Ranch was originally known as the Bawley Point Bush Cabins—until the team behind Bannisters (the home of the iconic Rick Stein restaurants in Mollymook and Port Stephens) took it over and made it their own.
And while it’s now home to 10 renovated cabins, a Saloon Bar, and a dedicated event space (The Ranch spans a massive 37 acres in total), it’s the new two-person Glamping Suite nestled among the trees that made two days wining and dining along the South Coast even more special.
Located at the bottom of the property on the edge of a natural forest, from the outside, the Glamping Suite looks almost unassuming—but from the moment we walked in, Brenton and I felt like the only people in the world.
From plush lounges to a luxurious queen bed complete with a faux fur throw, and an outdoor bathtub (that would be heaven during a hot summer day) on an expansive deck overlooking the sprawling forest, it’s the perfect fusion of luxury and nature for those that want to get lost in the wild without giving up the comforts of home.
Offering every creature comfort, we could want or need (including a small fridge, a two-headed shower with floor-to-ceiling windows so you can look at the stunning scenery, wine glasses, and even a coffee machine) the only thing missing is a TV—minimising our distractions so we actually had to (gasp) talk to each other.
Within walking distance of the Saloon Bar and pool (for those brave enough to take a dip) but far enough from the other guests (The Jackson Ranch can sleep up to 40 people), it acted as a fantastic base to explore pristine beaches, leafy tracks, and delicious food…and to curl up on the bed and do absolutely nothing. Bliss.
Rick Stein Mollymook
Only 20 minutes from Mollymook, leaving our little retreat to visit the iconic Rick Stein Restaurant was a must. And with the bonus of transport organised by The Jackson Ranch team to and from the venue, so was a glass of prosecco (or three). Known for serving fresh seafood cooked simply—it’s worth noting that Ulladulla is one of the biggest fishing ports on the South Coast—we chose a table located outside and enjoyed eating our way through about 90 per cent of the menu.
Starting with Sydney Rock Oysters (freshly shucked and served with eschalot vinegar and lemon), Grilled Shark Bay Scallops with coriander and hazelnut butter as well as a few Fish Croquetas with lemon and mustard mayonnaise, the freshness of the seafood wasn’t lost on us.
Followed by entrees that included possibly the best Wild Mushroom Risotto we’ve tried and Sashimi of Kingfish, Salmon, Swordfish, and Tuna (served with wakame salad, pickled ginger, mind-blowing wasabi, and sashimi dressing) that melted in my mouth, it was hard to choose a favourite. Until the mains.
I ordered a Sri Lankan Pumpkin Curry with Tasmanian Salmon with mango, tomato, and mint chutney, and pilau rice while Brenton choose the Pan-Seared Duck Breast with Duck Leg Confit all enjoyed with sides of addictive Roast Kipfler Potatoes and Grilled Broccoli.
Fresh, decadent, and delicious, every mouthful left a delightful explosion of flavour—there was nothing left on either of our plates by the end of the night meal.
We didn’t have any room left for dessert, but we did have room for more wine, and conversation flowed long after the food had ended.
The Pool Bar at Bannisters
Visiting Bannisters during the evening is special but booking into the Pool Bar during the day is a must. Usually open from 5 pm until 8:30 pm for out-of-house guests, as a visitor at The Jackson Ranch, the amazing team was able to pull a few strings to fit us in for a delicious lunch gazing upon the Pacific Ocean.
And with a menu consisting of classic cocktails, gourmet pizzas, and light bites, a few hours relaxing with the sounds of the ocean was an afternoon very well spent. Skipping the nibbles and bites (because we were still very full of the night before), we went straight for the Garlic Prawn and Roast Pumpkin Pizzas.
Possibly the best gluten-free pizzas I’ve ever had (the Garlic Prawn was bitingly fresh with sundried tomatoes, fresh chilli, feta, herbs, and lemon while the Roast Pumpkin was incredibly moreish with Persian feta, pesto, red onion relish, rocket, and pine nuts), sipping on margaritas and nibbling away as seals frolicked in the ocean right in front of us was the perfect casual and relaxing dining experience.
We had to roll ourselves to the car—again—but it was well worth it.
Winter Pop-Up at The Jackson Ranch
To round out a very food-focused trip, we had a reservation at a very special and limited event—The Jackson Ranch by Bannisters Pop-Up. Open for dinner on Friday and Saturday evenings until early August, after spending a cosy afternoon in the Glamping Suite, we wandered up to The Lodge and Saloon Bar for a three-course menu packed with winter-inspired flavour.
Warming delights like Braised Lamb Belly paired with sweet and sour eggplant, and a falafel crumb and Roasted Pumpkin Curry served with fried tofu, turmeric, and coconut— which was just as flavourful as the curry at Rick Stein—were on the menu along with a buttery Market Fish and fresh BBQ octopus, paying tribute to the Bannisters love of seafood.
For Brenton, the Smoked Ham Hock Croquets were a major highlight while the gluten-free Chocolate Torte served with raspberry and hazelnut practically had me licking the plate (we made sure to save room for dessert this time).
While only on for a limited time (the team holds many different events during the years) dining at the Winter Pop-Up was the ideal way to end two days of eating and drinking, with the short walk back to our accommodation in the crisp night air—saying hello to the local kangaroos and star gazing along the way—really solidifying The Jackson Ranch was the perfect location to eat, play and stay during our a romantic getaway.
The things to do
Wondering what I did on the South Coast apart from eating and drinking? Mostly, just kick off my boots and unwind.
But with so many amazing villages nearby, I also made sure to explore Ulladulla and have a coffee by the sea, stop in at Milton (where the coast meets the country) for some boutique shopping and just enjoy being unplugged with someone I love.
Of course, there are plenty of walking tracks, beaches and more to do if you’re feeling more adventurous (we considered stopping in at the Mollymook Gold Club, but my golf skills are as good as my dancing skills—I can do it, but it’s not pretty), but for Brenton and I, just escaping the big smoke was enough. Because sometimes for the ultimate romantic getaway, you just need to go back to the basics: good food, good wine and reconnecting with nature.
But in luxury of course.
The author stayed courtesy of The Jackson Ranch, however, all opinions are her own.
Feature image supplied.