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Most NSW residents look north to Byron Bay and Yamba when planning luxury beach getaways. But the south coast has plenty to offer, including one locally designed and owned resort with an exquisite onsite restaurant. 

It’s a quintessential Australian holiday scene: the timber boardwalk meandering over scrubby coastal hinterland.
Plonking barefoot over the sun-faded beams at Bangalay Luxury Villas in Shoalhaven Heads transports me back to endless summers I spent exploring the NSW south coast on school holidays. The incessant, deafening whir of cicadas has not dimmed. The main difference this time is I won’t be arriving at a dusty camp site to knock tent pegs into knotted buffalo grass. Instead, Bangalay’s boardwalk delivers me to a private security door fanned by spiky green palm fronds – the entrance to my own uber-luxe, one-bedroom apartment.

I’ve arrived at the Shoalhaven’s most prized boutique luxury accommodation. Bangalay Luxury Villas has 16 one-and two-bedroom abodes, tucked behind the dunes of the renowned Seven Mile Beach with all its fishing, surfing and whale-watching opportunities. Where Bannisters in Mollymook once had a stranglehold on high-end beds on the south coast, new players shimmying in for market share include Cupitt’s Winery in Milton – whose restaurant has so exploded in popularity that the owners needed to bring accommodation onsite for the influx of wedding bookings – and Bangalay. Bangalay opened in 2019 but had to close, reopen, close, and reopen again amid a literal baptism of fire, floods and pandemic. Fortunately, as Australians began to embrace the beauty in our backyards amid international travel bans, bookings have seen a deserved upswing.

I press in the door code sent to me via text message (contactless check-in is one pleasant legacy of the pandemic) and the security door of my apartment clicks open to reveal sweeping modern interiors. Soft-polished oak floorboards encounter clean white walls with monochrome paintings. Linen couches, coir rugs and cane chairs float quietly across the space. But my eye is drawn to a private deck facing north over the bushy greens of Shoalhaven Heads Golf Course. A pair of padded lounge chairs are waiting with a little table to rest my morning coffee; the perfect place to drink in lungfuls of salty south coast air.

Walking the planks of any south coast boardwalk is an exercise in anticipation. How big are the waves that may greet me over the rise of the dunes? What distribution of rockpools and sand await exploration at the unseen beach?

Bangalay is the passion project of husband-and-wife duo Tom and Michelle Bishop, who pulled together their skills as a builder and interior designer respectively to build the resort. Michelle says she pored over choices of every tone and material to maintain a neutral palette – letting the native greens of the outside landscape sing. The couple was also informed by their own experience of travelling with children and were determined to make it easy for families to stay. Hence, every villa is self-contained with full kitchens, Nespresso machines, and even washing and drying machines.

Having your own kitchen to prepare meals is convenient, but a proper holiday includes at least one night off cooking. The Bishops understand this – it’s why Bangalay’s onsite restaurant was no afterthought to the accommodation. They scored multi-hatted chef Simon Evans, former owner of Wollongong stalwart Caveau and trained in Michelin-starred London establishments, to devise a menu of share plates showcasing local and native produce. Evans does not simply pay lip service to the notion: every element down to the edible crisp green ants (yes, those ones with the green butts you can chomp on) standing in suspended animation on chunks of raw snapper has been foraged locally. The kangaroo rolled in wattleseed is a highlight, as is an unexpected champion in a wholly vegan dish: the blackened, garlicky roast cabbage. On the cocktail menu, don’t miss the saltbush margarita.

There are plenty of hikes, bike rides, whale-watching and snorkelling adventures to launch into from Bangalay. The concierge can help you organise horse rides on the beach from the nearby riding school, or surf lessons at Gerroa Surf Camp about 15 minutes’ drive north. The resort also welcomes corporate retreats, with the prim golf course next door just begging for executives to tee off on it. Wine tasting is popular at nearby Coolangatta Estate or Mountain Ridge Wines.

Walking the planks of any south coast boardwalk is an exercise in anticipation. How big are the waves that may greet me over the rise of the dunes? What distribution of rockpools and sand await exploration at the unseen beach? Similar thought processes occur at Bangalay: how does it measure up against the hefty competition of Bannisters Mollymook, and Rick Stein’s glorious treatment of seafood 30 minutes south? I’m quietly confident for Bangalay. This is the place to resurrect bygone Australian summer holidays in an unmatched luxury setting.


Get there: Bangalay Luxury Villas is a two-hour drive south of Sydney. Public transport takes longer but is also possible – catch the South Coast Line to Bomaderry Station, then a 15-minute ride on the 139 Bus can drop you almost at the door.

Stay there: Rates start at $490 per couple per night and include breakfast at the onsite restaurant. 

The writer stayed as a complimentary guest of Bangalay