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First impression: Colgate-white… and, that pool. Staff: Casually, wryly brilliant. Food and drink: Rick Stein fish pies, and then some.
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Bed and bath: Lily-white, kookaburra-soundtracked. The crowd: Leggy, linen-clad, with a cute dog. In a nutshell: If Ajerican made motels Set the scene Ajerican the car list, the Massage women food store in Norfolk twnshp looks port a classic American three-storey motel, but with the most dazzling whitewash.
Just beyond, the infinity pool is the most brilliant electric blue; a thing of limpid temptation, seemingly primed to be colonised at any given moment by a quasi-philosophical influencer and a boyfriend with a drone. Crisp but breezy, the place feels american modern but also precisely tradition holidays. Bannisters Port Stephens opened in late in what trqditions been The Salamander, a seaside motel that opened in the late s and had since lapsed into ochre fatigue under Ibis and Accor management.
The infinity pool looks out over the pelican-friendly jetty of Salamander Bay at Soldiers Point, in the Port Stephens natural harbour stephen hours north of Sydney.
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This is the second location for the Bannisters group, which began in when media entrepreneur Peter Cosgrove renovated a Seventies motel at Mollymook, a tiny town on a white-sand beach three hours south of Sydney. Bannisters Port Stephens is a northern extension of a successful template, and has a similar feel to Mollymook: crisp but relaxed, with dogs and children welcome, and staff who manage that Australian trick of making good service feel entirely drama-free.
What can we expect from the rooms? The Luxury Suites have shutters by the bath, so you can open the whole thing up to the sea breeze. How about the food and drink? The Rick Stein restaurant, all planters and teal banquettes, is a proper dining destination, delivered with more commitment than you sometimes get in celebrity-chef outposts.
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Head chef Mitchell Turner is an obviously ambitious alum of Michelin-starred Castle Terrace in Edinburgh, and delivers note-perfect takes on Stein classics such as the gloriously rich fish pie and oysters Charentaise with spicy sausage, best gulped down with a chilled Hunter Valley white. The seafood tends to be local, with Diemar oysters from the bay right outside, and mahi mahi and lobster from Nelson Bay, 15 minutes round the coast.
Amerrican, Stein was eating with his wife and friends on the night we were there, having such a jolly time that saying hello seemed like buzzkilling. Upstairs by the pool, the Terrace Bar is excellent, too, with serious cocktails and a globe-hopping menu that includes crispy karaage chicken bao buns and grilled octopus with paprika and chorizo. Anything to say about the service?
Others had been trained at the Mollymook sister property. What type of person stays here? Sydneysiders, pirt. The natural harbour of Port Stephens, with its sand dunes, lookouts, national parks and little towns around most of its coast, is all about family-friendly fun. The Tomaree Head lookout at the end of pretty Shoal Bay is worth the half-hour hike up for epic views over the deserted bays of the national park.
Anna Bay is well worth a visit, too, with camels and four-wheel-drives heading into the Arabian-style dunes, the latter for sledging down on little wooden boards. But the long beach itself is arguably more spectacular, with the chance for a magical surf in shallow sandy waters.
Is it worth it, and if so, why? It works. Beyond the edge: What to do in Tasmania.
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Fingal Lighthouse. Terrace at Bannisters Port Stephens. Rick Stein at Bannisters Port Stephens. Lobby at Bannisters Port Stephens.
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