WORDS BY KRIS ABBEY, PUBLISHING EDITOR SPA LIFE MAGAZINE
Milton – one of those places where the name rings a bell, but you just can’t quite place exactly where it is. Until you go there. Then you never forget it. It casts the Milton spell on you and you just want to keep going back.
It seems that’s what happened to half the people who live in Milton. They were passing through, or had a summer vacation there, and loved the place so much they uprooted and moved back there for good!
That’s exactly what happened for Acacia House owners, Chris and Peter Still. They were looking for acreage out of Sydney and when they stumbled upon Milton, they instantly fell in love with the place. Expansive coastline on one side and lush, rolling hills on the other. What’s not to love? You get the best of both – beach and bush. For Chris and Peter, it was a place they had never considered, but now they wouldn’t consider anywhere else.
So where on earth is Milton? It’s a good three-hour drive from Sydney on the NSW South Coast. The popular summer tourist towns of Mollymook and Ulladulla are just 10 minutes away. It is extremely cosmopolitan, with lots of great little coffee spots, arts and craft shops, fashion boutiques and lovingly restored heritage buildings. You half expect to see a horse-drawn carriage trotting down the main street.
In desperate need of a family weekend away, we pack up the car on Thursday night and head out of the rat race.
For me, being in the country takes me back to my roots. I grew up on a farm, so I immediately relax with the familiarity of the fresh, still air and the sound of silence. It’s a bit like lounging back into an old comfortable chair. We arrive around 10pm, which in itself is a trip down memory lane. One of the things I miss most about living in the country (and there are plenty), but this is a biggy, is the night’s sky. Its black canvas, with a generous sprinkling of stars dancing overhead, is a sight I never get sick of seeing, and I love gazing up and pointing out the Saucepan and the Southern Cross to the kids.
Arriving at Acacia House feels scarily similar to going home to see mum and dad. Peter greets us cheerily at the door, despite the late hour, and welcomes us in, as if our visit is long overdue. It’s a cool night, so the open fire and red wine are both warming and relaxing. This is my first stay at a Bed & Breakfast (or B&B as they are affectionately known), so I feel a little shy about going into someone’s house while they are there and treating it like my own, especially with three kids in tow. But one of the first things Peter says is “make yourself at home” and we immediately do. Well, if only our home was this well appointed!
Acacia House is about seven kilometres out of Milton, perched on a big hill. You can look across the green valley and right out to sea. The house was specially designed as a B&B, with the guest area at one end of the house, while Chris and Peter have their space at the other end. They certainly have this gig down pat, as whenever we need something… voila!… there it is. Yet we still feel like we have the place to ourselves. The rooms are big, the beds are comfy, there are bathrooms galore, magical gardens and there is plenty for the kids to do. So when can we move in for good?
Served in a gorgeously decorated old-style dining room, the Breakfast part of the B&B is incredible. I only hope my kids don’t get too used to this. Chris prepares whatever you want with consummate skill. While she busies herself in the kitchen cooking eggs every possible way, we all sit around the island kitchen bench sipping cups of tea and coffee, chatting and planning the day ahead.
We head into Mollymook and do the ‘One Track for All’ Aboriginal Walk. This short coastal walk outlines the Aboriginal story via images carved into wood strategically placed along the path. It’s an interesting walk and definitely worth a look. We then head to the beach for another walk, still trying to work off breakfast!
Returning to Milton, we stroll the shops and I stumble across Merchants of Milton, which has to be one of the quirkiest shops I’ve seen. It sells everything from body products to home wares and all have an interesting story to tell. Most of the products are fair trade or made by locals. Every piece for sale is someone’s work of art, such as the wall ornaments made from old, melted records. After browsing for ages I buy a little dragonfly made from recycled rubber thongs that had been washed up on the beach of South Africa. My purchase is handed to me in a bag made from recycled newspaper with a string cord. Very cool!
Then it’s off to the Spa, ‘cause I need a bit of down time after my hectic morning! Milton has a couple of great little Day Spas, but the one I’ve been busting to try is Isis Egyptian Day Spa in nearby Burrill Lake. It offers Ayurvedic treatments and uses Subtle Energies products, which I’m loving at the moment. The Spa is eclectic, to say the least. It’s an old country house converted into a Spa. As you walk up the front steps and give the dog a pat on the way by, it’s hard to know what you’ll find once you walk through the door. It makes me think of that TV show ‘Thank God You’re Here’, where someone walks through a door into an unknown setting and has to improvise a scene. Well that’s the moment as I walk through the door of a big old country house into an Egyptian oasis complete with day bed and harem. Wow! It’s so colourful and bold, and that country town scene I was in seconds before is now a continent and culture far, far away.
I’m having the Subtle Energies Signature Abhyang treatment. It’s a two-hour, full body Indian Massage ($225). It begins with a foot soak of Rasayana salts & lime foot scrub. Then I lay down on a comfy table and am given a warm Facial Compress of Kewda Flower. Have I mentioned how much I love a warm facial compress? This sets the tone for the next two hours, where the ‘love this!’ continues. It’s an interesting style of massage that uses a variety of techniques, not just rubbing and pressing, but shaking and pounding too. It is quite invigorating, if a little unnerving, what with the amount of jiggle going on around my thighs. Marma points are addressed, as well as reflexology and lymphatic drainage. Boy, if I thought walking through the front door was a transition, I am now a whole world away.
My only criticism would be that the music wasn’t quite to my taste and I would have preferred to go without music, especially since so many of my other senses were being so stimulated.
The treatment concludes with a refreshing Egyptian-style tea made with ground coriander, cumin and ginger, a splash of lemon and a hint of honey. The smell takes me to a spice bizarre somewhere in Jordan. As I step out the door to leave this wonderful little oasis, I make a mental note to try more Egyptian everything. Good enough for Cleopatra, good enough for me.
Eating in Milton is quite a treat, with plenty of wholesome country fare on offer. We have dinner at a great restaurant on the main street called Coastal Indulgence, which turns out to be a very fitting name. The owner chef, Adam Quealey, trained in some of the top restaurants in Sydney before returning here to his home town (oh yes, the people who do leave Milton mostly try to come back). For $99 per couple, you have a seafood banquet fit for a king, or in my case Egyptian Princess! Adam also puts a ‘grown-up’ twist on the kids’ meals, so they feel very adult and special too. The seafood is spectacular and we overindulge. Again.
After a relaxing couple of days, we start thinking about heading home. One last country night’s sky, one last sleep in, only to be woken by the birds, and one last late breakfast. I opt for Peter’s porridge, which is rated pretty high and I soon see why.
We make the most of our last few hours at Acacia House. We go and say goodbye to Peter’s pet emu. I’ve never known anyone to have a pet emu. He lets us cuddle and tickle him, much to the envy of the pony. We grab a few extra lemons from the lemon tree (to make some Egyptian tea), have a look at the waratah farm (I’ve never seen waratahs still in the ground either), then have our last cuppa before heading off.
As we drive out of Milton, we feel a hint of sadness. It’s funny how some places just get under your skin.
Acacia House – Chris and Peter are the most gracious hosts. A little out of town, which is nice as you get the full country experience.
Enjoy modern Australian cuisine in a relaxed, friendly atmosphere. The dinner menu caters for all dietary requirements, including vegetarian.
From Sydney, you can travel via picturesque Kangaroo Valley, or via the coast road. If you follow the coast, you bypass the scenic town of Kiama and, shortly after, can choose to stay on the highway through the historic town of Berry to Nowra, or else leave the highway and continue along the coast, travelling through the charming towns of Gerringong and Gerroa, passing through Seven Mile Beach National Park and past the award-wining wineries Coolangatta Estate and Two Figs Winery, before rejoining the highway at Nowra. Travel a further 60km through rich rural pasturelands until you arrive in historic Milton.
Lunch or dinner at Cupitt’s Winery. Be sure to arrive early enough to visit the cellar door and taste some award-winning wines made the traditional way in an underground cave. Take in the stunning views while you dine in The Vineyard Kitchen, which serves seasonal food with French influences using the freshest local produce.
The founder and manager of The Vineyard Kitchen, Rosie Cupitt, is the Shoalhaven representative for Slow Food International. The Slow Food movement originated in Italy in the late 1980s to counteract fast food and fast life. Its members strongly believe in dining as a source of pleasure, and encourage local, fresh produce that has been produced in an environmentally friendly way. The Vineyard Kitchen’s cuisine and atmosphere is based on this philosophy, encouraging people to rediscover the joys of eating.
Walk along one of the many walking tracks in Morton National Park.
Thank you to Jane Milocevic for organising the trip. For Chris and Peter Still, who are the hosts with the most, Adam Queally and Rosie Cupitt. You all made our stay in Milton memorable. We think we are under the spell!