Driving into The Oaks Ranch in Mossy Point, on the NSW South Coast, a little over a four-hour drive from Sydney, one of the first things, well, living creatures, you’ll be greeted with are kangaroos, hopping in a field.
Go past the entrance and down a white pebble driveway, fringed by trees bursting with red, yellow and orange leaves if you happen to be there in autumn like I was, and you’ll see two donkeys, Gloria and Estefan.
It’s this juxtaposition of classic elements of a retreat you might find in the Australian countryside and one you might find in Spain, including bougainvillea and cacti, rust-red tiles and white stucco walls, that makes Oaks Ranch so special.
After check-in, I perch myself on the lounge in the sunken living room, next to the front desk, watching the crackling fire as I finish my welcome drink. Spritzy and non-alcoholic, it makes me feel like I’m embarking on a health retreat stay, which, as it turns out, is not all that unlike what it ended up being.
In the 1800s, the property was a dairy farm where locals would come to collect milk. Then, in 1969, an American bought the dairy farm and turned it into Oaks Ranch, a 1970s-style motel with a golf course. They ran it successfully as a rustic country getaway.
Its now-owners Martin and Lisa Cork bought the property in 2004. They say the fact not much had been done to it since the 1970s was part of the appeal, and that they saw huge potential. They renovated and re-opened it in 2021.
“The beauty of the rural property with all the kangaroos, birdlife and a golf course — and only five minutes from the coast was very appealing,” says Lisa. “Everyone who would visit the property was blown away that it was even there. A South Coast rough diamond that just needed a good polish.”
The property has 14 rooms spread across the sprawling, 121-hectare estate, all with a rustic yet cosy feel achieved with the help of linen bedding and curtains, wool rugs and black metal floor-length mirrors. Lisa says they wanted to retain the Spanish mission architecture while adding a Palm Springs mid-century aesthetic. They collaborated with Sydney-based interior architecture firm Patridge Daniels to install quality finishes and soft touches to enhance and complete the remodel.
With it raining nonstop during my weekend stay, I spent most of the time soaking in the stand-alone bath, tossing in the dried flowers mix I’d found on a wooden stool next to it. I could be found there, in between the soft sheets and doona cover by Cultiver with a book, or on my room’s patio, dressed in a provided linen robe by the same brand. In the evening, the kangaroos would come closer to the hotel, grazing just beyond guest patios.
The room was stocked with snacks, sparkling water in a glass, teas from The Tea Collective and Mecca Coffee, free of charge, and some wines and beer were available for a charge. You can drink from Ridel wine glasses and Maison Balzac glassware.
The rare times I left my room were for meals at the hotel’s restaurant Arlo, which serves fresh South Coast produce and looks out over a magnesium pool, and a brief wander of the property, including a quick “hello!” to Gloria and Estefan. I traipsed around under one of the hotel’s provided big umbrellas. As much as I savoured the time I could relax, knowing there was nowhere I needed to be, I wished it had been sunnier to enjoy more of the hotel’s many activities.
“Guests can play a round on the nine-hole golf course,” says Lisa. “There is river access for guests that includes kayaking, picnic spots and a stunning beach, only five minutes’ drive away.”
Despite the weather, I do feel I got a good picture of what Lisa and Martin aimed to achieve with The Oaks Ranch, which is to provide relaxed luxury and to help guests unwind.
“We want guests to leave feeling rejuvenated, connected from time spent in nature and having experienced the best of what the South Coast has to offer. We want guests to think of The Oaks Ranch as their home away from home.”
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