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A moment poolside with Jess Blanch at Bannisters Port Stephens


This quintessentially Australian retreat is just a short drive from Sydney. Bannisters Port Stephens is a hotel that retains the mood of an iconic retro motel, but one that has been artfully curated with the interior eye of Romy Alwill.

Views for days, this unique spot is set among a koala habitat.

I travelled with a lover but, this place feels like a wonderful spot for a group weekend with friends.



Always taking inspiration from Joan Didion’s packing list, I usually pack just the bare essentials. But the motel vibe here calls for statement swimmers and elevated accessories for being poolside.

I suggest a piece that looks better out of the water than in like this perfectly impractical bikini.

Of course you'll also need slides, a fancy purse and a basket for day trips.

To put you in a poolside mood, not that I need any help, I turned to Versace's Dylan Turquoise fragrance. I also always have a rose face mist in my bag like this one from Luna Beauty.



In the likely event you’ll tire of margaritas by the pool (I didn’t), take a hike at the nearby Tomaree Head Summit walk.

A visit to the Toboggan Hill Park is a blast.

And camel rides at nearby Oakfield Ranch is something of a must.



Head chef (and Bannisters co-owner) Rick Stein is known across the globe for his seafood restaurants, often residing by-the-sea in places such as Cornwall. His Port Stephens restaurant is no different and along with incorporating local seafood (Stockton pippies and Nelsons Bay Tuna), is home to many of his famous fish recipes and, the iconic and now hard to find, lobster thermidore. The wine list boasts some of Australia’s best loved brands as well as Stein’s own Brokenwood range and a couple of his imported French favourites. But I also love to drink beer with his food.

Also go offsite to Holbert’s Oyster Farm where you can sit on a park bench and take in the views with the produce as fresh as can be.


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