If you've recently found yourself snapping at shop attendants, screaming at your computer and road raging at fellow drivers, then it could well be time for a break. And what better way to do it than by stealing away to a secret country retreat, where clean air, green grass and birdsong abound. We've scoured New South Wales for its cutest cottages, freshest farms and prettiest pastures. Head off to one of these bucolic beauties for a weekend and you'll be calmer than Ghandi in no time.
COTTONWOOD COTTAGE, BELLINGEN
Set on 61 acres in lovely Gleniffer Valley, just north of Bellingen, Cottonwood Cottage is surrounded by landscaped gardens, mountain panoramas and wildlife. There's also 400 metres of river frontage, which is all yours for adventuring along. The cottage is a light-filled, high-ceilinged, Hamptons-style barn, decorated in whites and wood, with posh linen spread over a king-sized bed, a woodfired heater, splashes of marble and a cracking sound system. And just beyond your front door there's an outdoor bathroom in a private courtyard. A bottle of wine, cheeses and brekkie are all complimentary.
How far? Bellingen is a six-hour drive from Sydney. Take a four-day weekend if you can.
THE CHAPEL, MANNING VALLEY
The Chapel is one of seven cottages scattered across Clarendon Forest Retreat, an undulating, 100-acre property in the Kiwarrak State Forest, which lies between Forster and Manning Valley. Behind the sandstone walls and gothic windows hides a split-level escape. Upstairs is devoted to a loft bedroom, complete with a four-poster, queen-sized bed, while downstairs you'll find a jarrah-granite country kitchen and a comfy sofa in front of a log fire. There's also a spa, surrounded by terracotta and affording valley views, and, for warm weather, a shady deck.
How far? Manning Valley is a three-and-a-half-hour drive from Sydney. Take a day of leave if you've got it.
KOOKAWOOD, BLUE MOUNTAINS
Reckon your dog deserves a good old break, too? His fur, slobbery kisses and overwhelming enthusiasm are welcome at Kookawoood, a two-bedroom 100-year-old farmhouse on a 200-acre property a half-hour west of Katoomba. What's more, the two of you can bond over epic views from both bedrooms, eight-metre-high ceilings, a huge stone fireplace, an old-school country kitchen and two baths: one indoor and one outdoor. In winter, snuggle in your king-sized bed and hope for snow; in summer, hang out with a G&T in the sculpture-dotted gardens.
How far? Kookawood is a three-hour drive from Sydney. Could do itin a weekend, but take a day of leave if you've got it.
Cedar Grove Estate
SECRETS AT CEDAR GROVE ESTATE, KANGAROO VALLEY
Secrets, a cottage on Cedar Grove Estate, is encircled by the Ireland-green pastures of Kangaroo Valley, dotted with lazy cattle and backdropped by rugged escarpments. Take in all the views from your oversized bathroom — complete with stand-alone tub, double shower and underfloor heating — or king-sized bed. There's also an open fireplace to keep you warm on chilly evenings and reverse-cycle air-con for unusually balmy nights. If you can muster up the energy to leave, our weekender's guide to Kangaroo Valley will come in handy.
How far? The Kangaroo Valley is a two-and-a-half-hour drive from Sydney. You could do one night easily.
JR'S HUT AT KIMO ESTATE, GUNDAGAI
This architect-designed, A-frame hut sits atop a hill with 360-degree views of Kimo Estate, a 7000-acre working farm and beyond. Without getting out of bed, soak up morning mist, wandering sheep, meandering Murrumbidgee River and far-off mountain ranges. At night the stars are countless. The hut is entirely off-grid, with a solar-powered shower, a fire and a barbecue. Also on the property are 19th century cottages and shearers' quarters, which have been transformed into cosy accommodation.
How far? Gundagai is a four-and-a-half-hour drive from Sydney. Take Friday off work.