Jules Lund was a touch sceptical when we asked him to have a look at a new six-star luxury resort which cost $125 million to get off the ground. He travelled along a dirt road at the back of the largely undeveloped Wolgan Valley in the Greater Blue Mountains area west of Sydney and began to think he was on a wild goose chase.
Formed by the Wolgan River, the valley is rugged and mountainous and is known for its historic railway tunnel and former Commonwealth Oil Corporation shale oil-mining operations at Newnes.
Imagine Jules' surprise when a 1600-hectare slice of paradise, now known as Wolgan Valley Resort & Spa, appeared in front of him. It's the first resort built by the Emirates Group outside of Dubai.
The environmentally responsible resort is situated around a fully restored homestead built in 1832 and is nestled within its own conservation and nature reserve. It was designed and built with sustainable materials and runs with optimum energy efficiency in order to conserve its natural environment.
The site came to pass by mistake. It wasn't even on a shortlist. The developers were travelling to a property in the next valley and spotted Wolgan from the air and loved that there was a river running through it. The rest is history.
Thirty-six Heritage Suites, built from wood and stone, are federation-style. Each has a private aspect with views of the valley. A private pool has its own deck and veranda and native garden. A double-sided sandstone fireplace separates the bedroom from the living area. All fixtures and fittings are of the federation period, and warm, earthy tones blend with locally crafted wooden furniture.
The latest in technology and thoughtful extras, such as binoculars for wildlife-watching, are included. The ensuite has two sinks, separate shower and bath and Babor therapies.
Three Wollemi Suites provide the perfect family retreat or each can be shared by two couples. Each has large living room, lounge and dining areas and two spacious bedroom suites with ensuite facilities.
There is just one Wolgan Suite and what a suite it is. It's 410 square metres of totally self-contained space and luxury. It's in a landscaped garden with private terraces and pool. It has a living and dining room and wonderfully equipped gourmet kitchen.
Two spacious bedrooms have ensuites and there are private quarters for staff members.
There are some interesting quirks around the property. A lamp made from a Driza-Bone found on the property, an old tractor axle and so much timber with age and character. Everything has its own story.
The day begins in the dining room with a hearty breakfast. Muesli, seasonal berries, freshly baked pastries and breads served with preserves and cheeses are served. Dinner is the highlight of the day. Tables are elegantly laid with crisp linen and crystal and a lavish five-course meal is served from an à la carte menu. Australian produce stars in the cuisine and the distinct flavours of native quandong, pepperberry, lemon myrtle and wattle seed add that extra something to dishes.
If you aren't into big breakfasts, the Country Kitchen is open for a light breakfast or snacks. Lunch is selected from blackboard specials. The Creekside Room can be set up for 12 for private dining. It's elegant and comfortable and large windows give diners beautiful views.
Room service is available 24 hours and guests are more than welcome to dine in their own suite. Valley Bar & Terrace has a walk-in wine cellar, showcasing 300 wines. Juice, waters, tea and coffee is available throughout the day.
Sodashi, Babor and Timeless Traditions treatments are available in a treatment room or guest suites. Mountain biking, four-wheel-drive safaris, nature walks and horseriding tours are there to be enjoyed.