Sunrise colors stain curtains. Morning light reveals a location enveloped by the sea. Tiny islands dot the horizon. The smell of coffee drifts from below. Boats sail silently. Days melt together in a sun-drenched haze. An elixir of salt air, starry nights and seclusion.
Escapism. Sometimes it’s the wildly unfamiliar that we crave. Other cultures, other vantage points, someone else’s normal to make ours feel renewed. Sometimes we need to travel far to feel so removed, to forget for a moment, to be romanced by the newness of it all. But sometimes, that escape need only be a brief moment. A jolt of contrast to our every day.
Countless times we’ve travelled to exotic locations, journeyed half way around the globe for vacations. And sometimes we’ve wandered not too far from home and been in awe of the magic we’ve found that rivals some of the greatest escapes we long for, save for and dream about. Last week, a short 1 hour flight transported us to a little pocket of magic that is Port Stephens – and returned two days later truly invigorated, creatively inspired, soul stirred, senses alight.
A quick drive from Newcastle Airport and we arrived at night to Bannisters, curious about what sunrise would reveal. Warmly lit and perched sea front, this newly renovated hotel is infused with design elements – floor to ceiling glass, chic concrete softened with pastel interior palettes, timber accents and flowing with greenery. Grand in scale, yet boutique in vibe, Bannisters have breathed new life into the space while retaining the character and charm of it’s former days as an iconic motel. Every pocket of the hotel spills with easy elegance. A place of refreshing contrast – the facilities and design of a luxury hotel experienced with effortless ease. Impeccable service delivered with a down-to-earth nature. The real magic though, we knew was waiting for us the next day.
Sunrise colours stain sheer curtains that billow from our penthouse room washed in crisp, all-whites. Outside, morning light illuminates a location enveloped by sea, dotted with tiny islands. A view broken only by gumtrees that edge onto a pristine beach cove. Local fisherman cast from a rustic jetty. The smell of coffee drifts from downstairs. An infinity pool spilling onto the ocean and lined with sun chairs awaits. Bannisters holds a beauty that is so iconically Australian, yet transports you worlds away. A potent tonic to re-awaken over-scheduled minds. A true elixir for the soul.
The Pool Bar
The dreamiest of infinity pools, spilling into an azure sea – The Terrace Bar is where we spent most of our time at Bannisters, and just about had to be pulled from to make our flight. A view that stretches forever, a terrace dining menu of the freshest local seafood; rustic chicken and walnut pot pies, seafood linguine and cinnamon brioche donuts or vanilla hazelnut affogato for desert – not to mention the cocktail list. This is the most heavenly spot for a quick summer escape.
The ocean views from most rooms at Bannisters prelude the million iPhone snaps that we even try to capture and do justice to the dreamy surrounds. The Penthouse however, is another level of indulgence and escapism. Drenched in light, this all-white open plan space has a sprawling balcony with panoramic ocean views. Billowing curtains frame the room, chic contemporary furnishings finish the space, and an oversized bathtub separated with white wooden shutters open to the ocean with nothing but the sound of the sea outside.
For those planning an intimate wedding or event, The Penthouse is perfect for a cocktail setting or tablescape on the balcony outside with the best views in the hotel. (See more below)
Newly opened, the design-infused Spa Bannisters space is drenched in a muted palette of blush and nude tones, while all-white treatment rooms offer a range of divine spa treatments using organic Australian products. Perfect for a girls weekend away, pre-wedding treatments for your bridal party, or a couples massage. See the full treatment menu here.
Rick Stein at Bannisters
A restaurant created by one of the world’s most renowned chefs, famous for his exquisite seafood dishes, dining at Rick Stein at Bannisters could well be worth the entire trip to Port Stephens. Beautifully simple dishes cooked to perfection, the finest local seafood – oysters, sashimi, spanner crab linguini – to dry aged rib eye and decadent deserts, matched with stunning wines.
An expansive space with coastal views, the restaurant combines cool industrial design elements and laid back lounge vibes – and the perfect blank canvas for larger weddings held at Bannisters.
Pre-wedding dinner on The Penthouse Deck
Hold an intimate pre-wedding dinner at dusk with close family and your bridal party, on The Penthouse deck of Bannisters Port Stephens. Style with the concept of fluidity in mind to mirror the ocean surrounds – cover your table in linen that billows and spills in pools of fabric to the floor. Use a palette of pearlescent tints with iridescent pigments – imperfectly shaped glazed ceramics, crystal cut glassware, pearl handled silverware, crystals, finish with dripping candlelight.
Cocktail Style Capacity: 20 min – 80 max
You’re spoilt for choice for wedding locations at Bannisters, but our picks would be a ceremony on the grass lawn overlooking Port Stephens Bay, a barefoot ceremony on the beach down below, or take advantage of the panoramic views from the Penthouse and hold your ceremony on the balcony overlooking the sea.
You would think finding chic reception spaces by the sea in Australia would be an easy task, but we honestly struggle to find but a small few that aren’t either overused and overly expected, dated or filled with terrible decor. Bannisters Terrace Bar is one of the most breathtaking seaside event spaces that ticks every box – stunning waterfront views, light-filled space, billowing white curtains (yes, we have a thing for these) a blank canvas space to make your own or accent with contemporary coastal decor in muted palettes, exquisite food (home of celebrity chef Rick Stein, after all) and beautiful cocktails and wine. The Terrace Bar is our first choice but downstairs, Rick Stein at Bannisters is another open plan option, again right on the water.
Cocktail Style: 80 min – 200 max / Sit Down Style: 80 min – 180 max
For wedding accomodation, a honeymoon or pre-wedding weekend with your bridesmaids, The Penthouse is a perfect space to retreat to with panoramic views of Port Stephens Bay from the room and your sprawling ocean deck. The open plan space features a king sized bed, lounge room and oversized bathroom and bathtub overlooking the ocean.
The perfect room for a weekend away, or your wedding guests, Bannisters Port Stephens Ocean Deck rooms have the dreamiest ocean views from these light-filled rooms that feature their own boutique balcony. Book the upper-levels for the most spectacular ocean vistas.
Breakfast is included with all bookings. See all room options on the Bannisters Port Stephens website.
The Weekend Itinerary
- Arrive for afternoon cocktails at The Terrace Bar and drink in the sunset around the infinity pool.
- Book dinner at Rick Stein at Bannisters, indulge in exquisite seafood and wine.
- Wake up at sunrise and head down to the beach, walk along the jetty before heading to breakfast at Rick Stein at Bannisters. Choose from a gourmet buffet or a-la-carte menu.
- Spend mid-morning at Bannisters’s newly opened spa. Indulge in a hot stone massage, signature facial and deluxe pedicure before retreating back to the pool for a languid afternoon by the sea.
- On day two explore the magic surrounds – a dolphin watching cruise, a yacht sail around the bay, explore the stunning beaches, or head out to the Hunter Valley for wine tasting just an hour drive away.
Find our handpicked edit of Venues from around the world on the Directory.