'Just look at the "picture-skew" view from our balcony,' Peter exclaimed, as he drew back the curtains in our room. He had been longing for us to stay at the Sebel Harbourside in Kiama - among his favourite hotels in the region and one he had frequented when travelling as a Search and Rescue Training Officer with the Australian Maritime Safety Authority. 'I love this place, it's such a nice hotel' he added. 'And wait until you see the outlook from the breakfast bistro!'
He was right. The property is situated in the perfect location in the CBD of Kiama, overlooking the pretty Harbour and out further to the Pacific Ocean. If ever I was fortunate enough to win the lottery, I would realise my dream and buy a block of land in close proximity to this hotel.
Our 'Superior Balcony' room was a good size: open plan, spacious and comfortable, with a King-sized bed (always a luxury as far as I am concerned); a firm mattress and crisp linen.
Shortly after checking in, there was a knock at the door and we were further welcomed by a smiling porter, who delivered a chilled bottle of Zeppelin Eden Valley Riesling from the Barossa and a handwritten greeting from Hotel Manager, Craig Hardy. A nice touch indeed.
In addition to the table and chairs out on the balcony, there was a small table and chairs, strategically placed by the window. A good spot to sit with the laptop, I thought. There was also a settee along the wall by the bed... not that we were going to spend much time sitting in the hotel room.
The bathroom was clean and modern, with very good water pressure. The only bug bear was having to step into the shower via a high-sided bathtub. To my mind, this can be risky business, particularly for those who (like us) are no longer "spring chickens". On investigation I learned that all the rooms on level one have this setup in the bathroom, whereas the rooms on levels two and three have walk-in showers. A much better option. Bear this in mind if you plan to make a booking.
The lovely old stone building on the right of the picture above is the 1871 heritage-listed Infants’ School, which is used by the Hotel as a conference centre. Weddings and other functions are also held in the courtyard area (pictured below).
Even on a rainy day, Kiama offers plenty to see and do. A short walk around the corner from the Hotel on Collins Street, you'll find a row of historic terrace cottages, which house a range of quirky little shops and eateries. Classified by the National Trust, the cottages were originally built in 1886 for the quarry workers in the district. For even more retail therapy, hit the main thoroughfare, Terralong Street, and explore Manning Street as well. There you can browse in bookshops, art galleries and boutiques. There's also a bakery, ice creameries, a range of cafes and eateries. Oh, and let's not forget that there's a few good op shops, too.
Pop on a pair of walking shoes and make your way around the harbour and up the hill to the lighthouse and beyond. Or towards the Bombo headland in the opposite direction. Be sure take your camera, because no matter where you look, there's always an image waiting to be captured.
The Quarry breakfast bistro at the Sebel...
Having heard all about The Quarry Bistro, I was looking forward to breakfast the following morning. Plenty of fresh fruit and a selection of newspapers greeted us on arrival. While Peter found us a table by the window, I made a beeline for the Bircher muesli, served in martini glasses. It's one of my favourite breakfast offerings and I must say that the one sampled here was very good.
My next stop was the gluten-free Tuscan apple cake which, as you can see (below), was rich, moist and more-ish. Indeed, it was so good, I think I may have devoured half a dozen or more slices. Ssssssh. Don't tell anyone!
On a tour of his farm, local wagyu producer, Gerhard Baden, from Schottlander's in Gerringong, advised that he supplied the hotel with beef, so I was also keen to try the house-made chipolata sausages. These were easily as tasty as my "benchmark" pork chipolatas, enjoyed in huge quantity at a hotel on the Kensington High Street in London.
I was fortunate enough to sit down for a chat with Daniel James, Executive Chef for the hotel (pictured below). Having trained in Sydney and worked at hotels in the NSW southern highlands, as well as Melbourne and Fiji, Daniel says he is happy to have made the sea change to Kiama.
'All my family lives nearby, and it's a great place to raise my kids,' he explained. 'Besides,' he said pointing to the view and smiling broadly, 'this is the best office a person could wish for.'
Executive Chef Daniel is in command of a dozen chefs and ten kitchen hands, catering for the Blue Diamond Bar & Bistro, as well as the breakfast bistro, and several very busy function rooms. 'Sometimes we have three weddings on the one night,' he said.
His philosophy is "paddock to plate" and he works around a seasonal menu, using produce from local suppliers.
'Working in Fiji, with a ready supply of snapping fresh produce, was a real eye opener for me as a young chef. When you have the opportunity to catch a fresh fish, cook it and serve it, it makes all the difference.'
'Soon we'll be growing herbs on the rooftop of the hotel, but we can't grow everything here. The fresh fruit and vegetables come from guys in Bowral and Wollongong. The cheese is from Nowra Farmhouse and the waygu beef comes from Schottlander's. I also feature locally-produced wines from Two Figs (near Berry), and Crooked River (at Gerringong)', he explained.
'With meat, I take the "nose to tail" approach, hence we use secondary cuts of the wagyu beef in things like the chipolata sausages and burgers. We also make corned beef for our sandwiches, and the beef ribs are hugely popular as well.'
The Sebel Harbourside Kiama is on the corner of Shoalhaven and Minnamurra Streets. For bookings call +61 2 4230 7500. The Blue Diamond Bar and Bistro is part of the hotel and is open for lunch and dinner seven days a week. Both the breakfast bistro and the Blue Diamond are open to the public.
In the basement of the hotel, you'll find One Fitness 24/5 gymnasium, offering first class gym facilities as well as an offsite boot camp. A bonus for fitness buffs.
Kiama is in the Illawarra region of New South Wales, accessible via car, motorcycle, coach or train. By car, the journey is 90 minutes from Sydney, 40 minutes from the Southern Highlands, and approximately two and a half hours from Canberra. You can also travel via train along a scenic coastline.
Attractions in and around the Kiama district include the Kiama Blowhole; Saddleback Mountain lookout; Cathedral Rocks; Minnamurra Rainforest; Kiama Coast Walk; Illawarra Fly Treetop Walk; Jamberoo Action Park; the Little Blowhole; Seven Mile Beach National Park; and ocean baths at either end of Kiama Harbour. There's also a whalewatching platform at Minnamurra Headland (accessed via Eureka Avenue).
For more information about where to stay; and what to see and do, visit Kiama Tourism. Stay tuned for more about our adventures in upcoming an feature, in which I will showcase the region's foodie trail (including our visit to Schottlander's Wagyu Farm.
The Good Things team enjoyed a short break in the Kiama district as guests of the Kiama Municipal Council and the Sebel Harbourside Kiama (thank you again). We made our own way to and from the coast via private vehicle. This is not a sponsored post and all opinions expressed are our own.
Over to you dear readers, do you enjoy short breaks by the seaside and breakfast with a view? What about sausages? Do you have a benchmark? And have you ever been to Kiama?
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