Sydney Timeout Magazine

None Finer Than This One

By Angus Fontaine

Here in the tawny thickets of the world’s second-oldest national park, Indonesian rusa deer serenely pad the shadows and bandicoots scoot across lawns marking where the wilds ends and civilisation begins. Both beasts are ever-watchful of that red flicker of flame that is the fox, an interloper making this land his own to the detriment of the locals.

But interlopers also walk on two legs hereabouts. They don’t stalk as stealthily as Mr Fox but they do carry the same irksome pong. Change is coming to Bundeena, and the tide is slowly but surely turning against the gentle pulse of a village life that began when convicts conjured sly grog in the grottoes and caves along Port Hacking in 1818.

The slow crawl of progress – and the stress of city life – is easy to forget when you’re cosily ensconced at Beachhaven, the first and the finest in Bundeena’s booming accommodation market.

Built perversely in a Tudor style ill-befitting its beachfront digs, Beachhaven is two stunningly appointed suites overlooking Port Hacking. Our apartment is set off the beach in what was formerly a saloon-style snooker room, a king-sized bed at its epicentre, a plasma TV on the wall, champagne on ice and cooking facilities there if we need them.

Owners Hans and Maureen are retirees and it shows in the effusive but never invasive hospitality they accord their guests. Having journeyed by train I arrived mired in monsoon rain. Hans though has a 4WD waiting for the 40-minute drive to Beachhaven.

Morning breaks beautifully at Bundeena, all the more for the complimentary breakfast Hans and Maureen have waiting for us on a lawn landscaped in Buddhist sculptures and shaded by towering palms. Bacon, coffee, a dip, some sun on the sand – reborn!

Bundeena is a true village. The real estate shacks might be busy but no one else is. An artists’ studio trail on the first Sunday of every month does a steady trade but the busiest joint in town is Passionfruit Café which does a roaring trade in old school belly fuel – burgers, fish ‘n’ chips and the best beef ‘n’ burgundy pies on the eastern seaboard.

A gentle stroll (or kayak paddle, if you prefer) around the Port Hacking headland on the Bundeena-Otford coastal track reveals the full extent of Bundeena’s charms – secluded beaches, wildflower-studded fields and beetling battlements on high.

At Jibbon Head there are 5,000-year-old Dharawal engravings of whales and canoes and mythical figures standing sentry as the ferry kaputs in from Cronulla on the hour, a traffic flow not frenetic enough to faze the fisherman, snorkellers and families on the beach.

Sipping tea and talking war, terror and Elvis at George Gittoes’ studio, we gaze out to what looks like Hydrofoil beached on the opposite peninsula – one of the million dollar mansions moving in. There’s condos going in behind George next month. The valley park he painted and pondered daily now has a spinifex of wires for tourist kids to play in.

The sun has stooped. We grab steaks at the IGA and stroll back to Beachhaven to barbeque by moonlight. The baby gurgles and the sea burbles back. In the loaming, faint shapes play out. The wildside of Bundeena digging in? Or future phantasms?

There are plenty of other B’n’B style digs in Bundeena but none finer than this one.