Chalets at Blackheath, NSW: luxe digs that rose from the ashes
When Angela O’Connell first set eyes on the burnt-out ruins of a popular Blue Mountains eco resort, she took a deep breath and thought, this is it.
With the head of a businesswoman and the heart of a dreamer she looked past the blackened earth, burnt buildings and ghostly tree stumps. She could see her long-held plans for her own luxury boutique chalets being realised here, on the edge of the world heritage area, a stroll from some of the mountains’ greatest treasures yet only a short drive to the lovely village of Blackheath. It was the perfect location – in less than perfect condition.
The December 2019 black summer bushfires spared little of the Blue Mountains National Park; by the time the firefront got to Jemby-Rinjah Lodge its ferocity caused firefighters to drop their hoses and run. Most of the accommodation and surrounding land was burnt and it was this sight that greeted O’Connell when the property was offered for sale in 2020. “I’d been looking for land in nature for five years,” O’Connell says, and this spot, once owned by National Parks, is a short walk to Evans Lookout, the deep sandstone cliffs of the Grose Valley with access to some of the Blue Mountains’ most stunning walks. It’s nature as far as the eye can see, but many months of work were needed to repair the 6.8ha site before construction could begin on the four freestanding chalets.
O’Connell assembled a small local army to clear the rubbish and engaged experts to help conserve what was left: ecologists, bush regenerators and landscape designer Richard Unsworth all got involved in identifying and protecting 80 native species sprouting from the charred ground. As building work started, hundreds of seedlings were relocated to Wildplant Rescue’s nursery in Katoomba then brought back, safe from truck tyres and tradie boots. The healthy young saplings now look like all nature’s work rather than strategic replanting. Peer closer and you see the purposefully charred timber walls of the new chalets blending with blackened trees that stand like flagpoles above the vigorous new growth.
O’Connell, a keen traveller who’s worked in luxury hotels, knew what she wanted to achieve and at $1300 per night, the two-person chalets had to be special. Working with an interior designer and builder, the brief was to replicate the colours and textures of nature: internal feature walls made of clay, hemp and stone; oversized bathrooms (with twin showers, double vanity and a bathtub) finished in limestone and clay tiles that mimic the hues of the nearby sandstone cliffs. There’s more stone behind the log fire, and black granite in the kitchenette where an induction cooktop, dishwasher and collection of Elke Lucas ceramic crockery invite simple cooking. Frette linen on the king size bed, a fully stocked mini Subzero wine fridge and Riedel glassware tick the luxury boxes. Many local goodies fill the mini-bar and Blue Mountains wellness brand ikou’s bath salts and aromatherapy roll-on scent, placed on the bed, are nice touches. Light pours through the tall banks of windows and it takes a moment to work out the remote control electric blinds, which can be directed to block the sun but not the view.
Outside, there’s seating on the veranda, a nice spot to supervise your designated cook at work on the barbecue. A circular fire pit surrounded by padded seating, central to all the chalets, allows for communal mingling and is a comfortable way to enjoy the night sky. Guests can come together again in the separate library and reception area where lounges surround a wood fire and breakfast is served around a large table. In the wood shed are two electric bikes that will get you to Blackheath in about 20 minutes.
The property has only been open a few months and bookings are strong, with weekends often selling out. O’Connell is already thinking about the next phase: another six chalets, a spa, and a magnesium pool in an enclosed glasshouse, along with a lodge and reception area. When completed, in years not months, it will be unlike anything in the Blue Mountains and a sought-after top-end offering in a region fast filling up with Airbnbs. This resort is about retreat and escape – once you pass through the large electric gate it’s like entering another world that you might never want to leave.
• Perfect for: Luxury escapes; special occasions.
• Must do: Some of the Blue Mountains’ most stunning walks and lookouts are on your doorstep. The Grand Canyon walking track is a favourite (at the time of writing many walking tracks in the mountains were closed – check national parks website for updates). Evans Lookout (also closed at time of writing) has grand views over the sandstone cliffs of the Grose Valley. It’s a short walk from the resort, perfect for sunrise and sunset visits.
• Dining: Breakfast is served in the lodge; barbecue packs are available to cook your own. Two restaurants in Blackheath, Ates and Blaq, come highly recommended.
• Getting there: Blackheath is less than two hours’ drive from Sydney; the resort is outside town at 394 Evans Lookout Rd.
• Bottom line: From $1300 per night.View Article
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