Milestone birthdays are a funny thing. I distinctly recall the priority when planning my 21st was that my friends would leave saying "Wow! That was the best party I've ever been to". Success! It was an absolute hit, but I was so concerned about my guests that I forgot to have fun myself. For my 30th birthday I treated a small table of 12 to a celebratory dinner. My preoccupation this time was selecting who to invite and with it, the associated guilt of not being able to invite everyone.
One of the great things that comes with age and finally being comfortable in your own skin is not giving a you know what about what others think; so when my 40th birthday was on the horizon I instantly knew what I wanted to do...
My idea of a perfect birthday is to go somewhere special with my family. Simple. Spending quality time with those I love somewhere utterly awesome. As I've matured, a connection with family is what I value most. To share an inspiring place surrounded by nature, away from mobile phones and distractions.
Ocean Farm is that sort of place. Perched above the lush, green rolling hills that surround the coastal town of Gerringong, the house sits right on the escarpment that overlooks an endless horizon of blue sea.
Don't be mistaken; it's not quite a meditation weekend, we have indeed packed the Golf GTI with plenty of food and champagne.
I knew the two hour trip from Sydney would be enjoyable. The sounds of Fleetwood Mac and Post Malone fill the cabin and outside my windscreen I observe a gentle drifting mist that seems to collect around the undulating valleys. Paddocks of cows lift their heads to watch us meander down the long winding highway and the further we escape the big smoke the more my muscles and thoughts seem to soften.
Our plans are somewhat loose. I want to cook together, laugh together and explore the 320 acres of rainforest and walking tracks. Given there's an impressive infinity pool I envisaged floating on its shimmering surface, and then basking on the deck. Unfortunately, this was not to be the case. We arrive to a looming cloud hovering overhead, threatening storm at any moment. Embracing the hum of rain on the roof and cradling hot chocolates we gather not around the pool but in the warm cocoon of the house’s interior. Playing Charades, our sides ache with laughter and sipping wine and eating cheese temper our moods until our languid bodies match our sleepy eyes.
Accommodating eight in luxury, Ocean Farm is ideal for four couples. Spoilt with four king size beds, all the bedrooms face the view, so no one feels neglected. I'm sure many can relate to when this isn't quite the case - you arrive last to the yearly group vacay and somehow you and your significant other have been left with the room with twin beds and the smallest window overlooking the compost. Boo you, or more aptly boo your friends; but thankfully this doesn’t happen at Ocean Farm. Four generous bedrooms with four equally large, soft clouds of sleeping bliss. Amen.
Mornings here, I decide, are the most spectacular. The rain has subsided and the rising sun turns the sky into an iridescent pastel blanket. Pulling on my sneakers I embark on a walk with my husband. We sneak silently through the house as not to disturb the others, opening the door fresh air fills our lungs and we realise the country air is essential to our bodies. It's not just therapeutic, it's natures caffeine, blasting away the fog of a night’s sleep and instilling our life force.
A stay at Ocean Farm means sharing this slice of heaven with a few horses and a family of grazing cows. Traipsing toward them on our walk I find myself the centre of their gaze. Momentarily distracted from the fresh grass, big round eyes peer at me as they chew methodically – snapping away with my camera I can't think of a more beautiful composition. Silently thanking them for tolerating me and my intruding lens, we head towards the water. Not a soul around, all you can hear are the sounds of birds and the rhythm of the ocean. As the sun peaks above the clouds the dark sea takes on a soft golden glow.
My hubby bounds ahead and I notice there's something childlike about the way he's exploring. We peer out to the watery abyss. The waves crash a fine salty spray into the air. We are mesmerised. Sitting still and taking it all in, we feel like two small beings in one huge world... and that is enough.
You can take the Kiama costal walk another kilometre around to Werri Beach, and we toy with the idea (honestly, we do), but our hungry bellies urge us to return to the house to join our family for a wholesome breakfast. Mid-morning, my brother and I scoot into town for supplies and with a brief visit to the main street we discover two lovely stores. Elka's Garden is full of the most exquisite flowers I've ever seen and adjoins Searching for Sage, which is bursting with homewares and pretty boho dresses. With a few purchases in tow we head back to Ocean Farm where we find the family by the pool and the sun shining brightly. Turns out I will get a chance to bask on the deck! The afternoon drifts into the night, we sing, we dance and we laugh, coming together for our last family dinner at the farm.
I always find the end of a trip a little bit sad, wishing you could start again at the very beginning or just stay another day or two. All good things do come to an end and, wouldn’t you know it, the morning we leave is picture perfect. As soon as we set off we realise we won't be going too far, the road is blocked by our new friends. It seems the cows must feel the same reluctance for us to leave that we do! The GTI gently edges past them and our eyes meet one last time. With a warm heart I promise myself, and the cows, I'll be back.
Angela Shallis is the principle writer and co-founder of weartoeat.com.au. Her career in presenting, producing and writing has formed the perfect foundation for content creation, and Angela has worked with brands such as Dom Perignon, InsiderTV, McGrath and Accor hotels; meaning her working life combines all her passions including travel, property, food and photography.