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Hotel review: Crane Lodge Whale Beach

Crane Lodge is a design-driven retreat in one of Sydney’s most exclusive suburbs. The lodge offers the chance to reconnect with nature and family, writes Sigourney Cantelo.

Perched aloft a private cul-de-sac in the vertiginous hills behind Sydney’s Whale Beach is an immaculate home that will appeal to even the most design-savvy guests. It’s the second property from the team behind the Hawkesbury River’s Calabash Bay Lodge, and both homes now fall under the new upscale escape brand, Wild Luxury.

From the road below, the sleek, architecturally designed residence – known aptly as Crane Lodge – shoots dizzyingly up into the treetops. There’s an inclinator, or for a real heart-starter you can climb the multitude of steps. Opt for the former and you’re able to marvel at a burgeoning rainforest surrounding the property.

Native gardens at Crane Lodge

During their recent overhaul of the five-bedroom home, Wild Luxury owners Kim and Derek Ellis decided to plant a variety of flora, in line with the property’s biodiversity ruling, to help protect the endangered Pittwater spotted gums that tower above. In their landscaping redesign, the Ellis’ selected an impressive array of natives endemic to the area, including lilly pilly and lemon myrtle, with the intention of creating a ‘forest bathing’ experience.

“In Japanese, it’s called shinrin-yoku,” explains Kim. “The idea that being able to spend some time in nature can be really restoring. Studies show that it lowers heart rate, blood pressure and increases access to theta waves.”

Outdoor living area
Rainforest envelops the lodge, creating a serene, green haven

A home among the trees

This respect for nature was clearly top of mind when creating the ultimate Northern Peninsula getaway, and the result is simply breathtaking. The modern, art-filled space pays homage to its surrounds and heroes local design talent.

As you step off the inclinator, there’s the sense that you are literally home among the trees. A chair swing, hammock, yoga deck and several sitting areas (with fireplaces) at various vantage points throughout, invite you to contemplate the great outdoors, in all its glory. Once inside, high ceilings and sliding louvred windows on each side of the house allow you to open up the space so you can forest bathe while you’re eating dinner.

Interior design

Kim worked with Melbourne-based interior designer Carole Whiting to bring in natural elements such as blonde timber-dowelled and terrazzo-topped benchtops, custom-made ceramics and woollen cushions, all in an earthy palette of cream, grey, gunmetal, salmon and rust.

Above the Mattiazzi dining suite is a light fitting/art installation entitled Seed Rain, which quite literally brings the outdoors in. The collaboration between environmental artist Shona Wilson and industrial designer Celina Clarke features dozens of tiny sealed test tubes and circular lights (“they look like Harry Potter Snitches!” laughs Kim) suspended from a frame. Inside the test tubes are seeds, plant material, soil and pebbles from the surrounding bushland.

iving areas at Crane Lodge invite the outdoors in
Living areas at Crane Lodge invite the outdoors in

All the mod cons

Kim has a background in marketing for the tech industry and Derek has his own UX company. No surprises, then, that the house is wired within an inch of its life. There are smart lights and locks and impressive tech wherever you look. There’s a wine fridge, the latest Fisher & Paykel oven, a Blum servo-drive fridge that pops open with a push, sensor-driven C-Bus lights in the garden, two Apple TVs with every streaming service imaginable, and even a zero-gravity bed.


Despite the high level of design that’s gone into Crane Lodge, Kim insists it’s kid-friendly. “It’s all about making magical memories with your family,” she affirms. There’s an adorable children’s room that features one lower and two top bunk beds. A Murphy bed hidden in the wall can sleep additional family members. With two more rooms on the top floor and a self-contained guesthouse at the bottom of the inclinator, the layout is particularly conducive to multi-generational stays. We take the opportunity to test that and take our children and both sets of grandparents to Crane Lodge for the weekend. Once we’ve had a talk to the kids about not touching the art (there are three Joshua Yeldhams and more stunning Shona Wilson installations), we embark on a seriously relaxing couple of days.

There’s plenty of swimming in the heated pool, the spa and firepit both get a workout, and we spend hours playing board games and cards. As sunset approaches, I sneak up to the master suite for a bath on my enclosed balcony that enjoys epic last-of-the-day views. The bush is bathed in gold, and there’s even a handcrafted wooden paddle for my wine.

The icing on the cake is lunch catered and served by Manuel Affarian of Secret Dining, a bespoke service available to all guests. We linger over platters of antipasto, seafood and dessert late into the afternoon, making magical memories. We don’t even have to clean up afterwards. Surely that’s the ultimate in luxury?

Family time © Sigourney Cantelo

This article originally appeared in volume 38 of Signature Luxury Travel & Style magazine. Subscribe to the latest issue.