Emirates One&Only Wolgan Valley is only two and half hours’ drive from Sydney, Australia, yet seems a world away. Situated between two national parks in the majestic Blue Mountains region, the resort occupies just 1 percent of the 7,000 unspoiled acres around it, lending an awe-inspiring feeling of seclusion. From the moment we arrived, we didn’t want our stay to end — it’s a truly special place.
The resort has only 40 freestanding suites, giving guests lots of privacy. Each has its own swimming pool and stunning views of the Wolgan Valley and escarpments. The design is reminiscent of traditional Australian homesteads blending seamlessly into the rugged landscape. No detail is left unattended to; my kids especially enjoyed the bottomless minibar, stocked with everything from coconut water to local artisan potato chips and chocolate.
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Our suite had a double-sided fireplace, beside which we could enjoy playing board games in the living room on the chilly evenings or reading a book in bed. The most incredible thing was waking up with wildlife at our doorstep. Having my morning coffee on the veranda while watching kangaroos and wallabies was amazing, and seeing a mama kangaroo with a joey in her pouch is something we’ll never forget.
Food is included in the rate, and it’s fantastic. Meals are served at the lodge — breakfast and dinner upstairs, lunch downstairs, inside or out with views of the pool and the breathtaking landscape. The menus change every few days. There is also the option of a daily-changing degustation menu, also included in the room rate. Keep in mind that this is a longer dining experience, so the kids may not be up for it after a long day of activities, but it’s a must-try at least one night!
We also really enjoyed having dinner in our villa one evening. The kids could swim as we waited for the food and I enjoyed a glass of wine while watching the sunset.
Wolgan Valley is all about the outdoor activities — there is something for everyone. Bicycles are included with the villas, and I highly recommend exploring the property on bike. Riding through the valley and watching a group of kangaroos hop across the vast open land was off the charts on my teen daughter’s coolness scale.
Scheduled activities are included, whereas signature activities have an extra cost. The ones we tried were worth it. Our first night, we took the nocturnal wildlife spotlighting and stargazing tour. The tour was in an open safari-type vehicle driving around the reserve with infrared spotlights looking for creatures such as wombats. It was quite chilly, but we were given cozy blankets, and we stopped for hot chocolate and stargazing. The night sky was spectacular and seeing the Southern Cross for the first time was awesome.
Our Polaris Tour was a highlight of the entire trip. The all-terrain vehicles can access areas of the reserve that are off limits to larger vehicles. At one point, we were riding right alongside a large group of kangaroos hopping across the valley … they are fast! The adventure also included a campfire rest stop, where our guide showed us how to build and start a fire without matches. Then we made Aussie damper (a simple, traditional bread) and Billy tea for a true Australian Outback experience. The guide also brought a beautiful picnic lunch in case we did not like the damper.
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The horseback tour allowed us to see a part of the property that we had not yet explored, and both the horses and our guides were wonderful. As a bonus, we did not have to bring any gear — the equestrian center had everything we needed.
Wolgan Valley is fortunate to have a wonderful group of passionate guides who share their expertise about the wildlife and surroundings. Their commitment to the resort and their work is what really made our stay so special.
The Spa looks heavenly and even has a spa menu for “joeys” (kids ages 12 to 16), but unfortunately, we did not have time to experience it. Another reason we’ll have to come back!
The beautiful outdoor pool overlooks the escarpments. The fitness center has large windows with wonderful views as well as a steam room and plunge pool, and the complimentary protein bars and coconut water are a nice touch. There’s also tennis, archery and yoga onsite.
The Junior Rangers program, a.k.a. kids’ club, is fabulous. The Australian wild is a terrific playground. Depending on their ages, kids participate in activities such as bush survival, adventure hikes, fossil hunting and archery.
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Emirates Airlines and Emirates One&Only Wolgan Valley should be congratulated on their commitment to the environment in Wolgan Valley. They are the world’s first carbon-zero resort, and they work with wombat researchers to raise awareness about the devastating impact of sarcoptic mange and other threats to wombats. The resort offers guests the opportunity to join in conservation activities (not offered every day, so check the schedule).
I know Australians may tire of seeing kangaroos like we Americans tire of seeing deer, but my daughters and I sure loved them. After this trip, Australia will always have a special place in our hearts. The landscape, the wildlife, the food and wine, the people … what’s not to love?
Editor’s Note: Emirates One&Only provided a media package in order for us to review the property for families. As always, all opinions are our own on Ciao Bambino. Photos by Sandy Pappas except where noted.
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